Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:43 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    B-I-G Plants

    I have endeavored to put my toe into the photo to give you some idea of the size of these huge leaves (and mushroom). Enjoy these giant green blessings!

    Big Mushroom

    Big Burdock (Arctium lappa) Leaf

    Big Pedacites Leaf

    Big Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) Plant

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:28 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Witches' Garden, part 2

    Belladonna (Atropa belladonna)
    Here is a mass of belladonna, literally “beautiful lady” in Italian. In Germany, I was told, it is “crazy cherry” or “death cherry” (tot kirsch). In the pharmacy, it is the pupil-opening drug atropine.

    Here is a close-up of the beautiful lady’s flower. So useful, so deadly. Such an odd color. For thousands of years healers have used belladonna, and it is still available today, though usually only as a homeopathic remedy.

    Roots broom  
    Laying off to the side in the witches’ garden, I found this lovely broom made from gnarly roots. Doesn’t look like it would sweep well, but it would probably be a good flyer, especially with some flying ointment rubbed on strategic places.

    ~ B-I-G Plants ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:24 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Witches’ Garden

    Witches were not afraid to use poisonous plants, for they understood how to moderate the results through careful harvesting and wise preparations. It was a witch who turned doctors onto the use of the poisonous foxglove plant. So Marie has created a spiral of poisons in her Witches’ Garden. Though I often encourage my students to smell and taste plants, I think it best if we take a hands-off approach in this garden.

    Castor bean plant
    This lovely castor bean plant – which may grow up to 12 feet tall in a single season, must be planted anew each year in northern Quebec, but it can grow for years in tropical and sub-tropical gardens, where it easily escapes and becomes a weed. A useful and dangerous weed. Castor oil, a healing favorite of Edgar Casey (the sleeping prophet), is pressed from the seeds, which also contain ricin, a deadly poison. It is said that a needle dipped in ricin can be used as a lethal weapon.

    Plants in the nightshade family – like belladonna, henbane, tobacco and Datura -- are associated with witches. When tomatoes were brought from South America (their home) to Italy, they were considered “poison apples.” (Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers are all nightshades, as are ashwaganda and goji.)  It is true that many plants in the nightshade family do contain poisons which can addle your mind, mess with your eyes, and occasionally kill you. Here are a few in Marie Provost’s garden.

    Datura or Jimson weed grows as a weed all over the world, from Quebec to India and all places in between. It is also known as “loco weed” because it make cows – and people – crazy if they eat it. It is featured as part of a shamanic rite in Clan of the Cave Bear by Jane Auel. As a safeguard, they ingest it only when locked in a small cave inside a larger cave. I have heard that an ointment of the root boiled in fat is probably the safest way to take a definitely unsafe-to-use plant.

    ~ Witches' Garden, Part 2 ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:11 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Herb Walk at Clef des Champs, part 2

    Beautiful Mullein
    Mullein is one of the great remedies. It grows just about everywhere except the tropics, and provides the best remedies for anyone dealing with breathing issues.

    Yellow thistle
    I was struck by the color, the size, and the bees when I approached this planting of thistle. “What an unusual color for a thistle,” I remarked to my guide, Anais. With a chuckle, she admitted that they were surprised too. “We think they sent us the wrong seed. It certainly isn’t milk thistle.” Fortunately for us all, thistles, all thistles, are medicinal, all thistle seeds are medicinal, all thistle roots are edible, all thistle leaves are edible too. Milk thistle has pushed the competition aside mostly because it is so big and easy to work with, but, really, any thistle will do.


    This is the flower of Echinacea augustifolia. I could not walk past. I had to sit and drink in the petals as the fluttered in the breeze, like butterflies resting upside down. I depend on echinacea. Ever since I threw over my disappointing relationship with golden seal (which, I noticed, Marie doesn’t grow), and found Kansas coneflower in an old, old herbal, I have trusted my life and the lives of my animals to Echinacea augustifolia. (Not Echinacea purpurea.)

    “And look at the stalk,” Anais instructed me. “When it isn’t in flower, you can distinguish the augustifolia from the purpurea by the hairs on the stalk and leaves of the former.

    Siberian ginseng
    Oops. We aren't supposed to call it that anymore. Now it is Eleuthero (short for Eleutherococcus senticocus). Marie is quite justifiably proud of her accomplishment in growing a stand of this important adaptogen.

    ~ Witches' Garden ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 3:46 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Herb Walk at Clef des Champs

    Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)

    As we get out of the car at Marie’s house, we are greeted by her and by this amazing patch of one of my favorite plants: Lady’s mantle. It is the alchemical plant (Alchemilla); not to be confused with yarrow (Alchillea).

    This beautiful plant has refused to grow in my stony soil, but is obviously delighted with the soil in Val David. I have also seen it flourish in seaside gardens. It is highly regarded as one of the world’s best tonics for women’s reproductive health.

    The accordion-pleated leaves hold the dew, which was collected by alchemists intent on turning lead into gold, because it was “pure” water, untouched by the earth. Perhaps you sense why I am not so happy about what alchemy did to herbal medicine: Took it away from women. Made the Earth impure. Denied the life of the plant and reduced it to constituents. And started the stampede to drugs. Nonetheless, I love Lady’s mantle.

    Setting the Scene

    As we enter the extensive gardens at Clef des Champes, we are greeted with this lovely trio of useful plants: Bouncing Bet (Saponaria off.), rosehip roses (Rosa rugose), and thyme (Thymus sp.). Wash your hands, your hair, and any antique wall hanging with the soapy foam made by rubbing fresh soapwort (Bouncing Bet) in your hands. Wait a bit and those roses will turn into huge red rosehips ready to help you through the winter. I deseed the hips and boil the flesh with honey for a yummy jam. And what shall we do with the thyme? Dry it to use in soup? Make a wonderful vinegar? Tincture it to help with digestive distress? The bees are making honey from it. Yes. Let’s make thyme honey to ward off winter sore throats.

    ~ Herb Walk, Part 2 ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 3:26 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Hypericum Harvest

    Hypericum on my hands.
    Yes. That red staining is from the oil in the plant. That red oil makes both the tincture and the infused oil a deep delicious red.

    The harvest brewing.
    Here are my tinctures and my oil. In six weeks it will be ready to use. But I will most likely leave these alone until next year as I am still using last year’s harvest. Such beautiful abundance.

    ~ Herb Walk ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 3:03 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    As you recall, part of my August abundance was a trip (in late July) to Clef des Champ -- an amazing herb garden and business headed by Marie Provost in Val David, Quebec. I fell in love with the people and the plants and the Laurentian Mountains. And I promised you a quick peek into the abundance there.

    But first, let’s stop here by the road and take advantage of the journey north to lengthen the season for harvesting Hypericum. It has been so rainy in the Catskills that I’ve fallen behind in making enough Hypericum oil and tincture to give away and use in the coming year. And I have come prepared for the opportunity to stock up by bringing jars, scissors, vodka (in PomWonderful bottles), oil, labels and marker. Want to help?

    Come, let’s take a peek at a few (really, only a few) of the plants in Marie’s gardens.

    At the very end of our climb through fields of herbs, we pass between two huge angelica plants in full flower and duck into an enclosed arbor, from which we emerge into Marie’s “Witches’ Garden.” Join us there, if you dare.

    While we are on the theme of abundance, here are some photos of B-I-G plants that I saw last month.

    Send us photos of big plants you’ve seen. Because abundant green blessings are everywhere. See you soon.


    ~ Hypericum ~

  • Tuesday, June 20, 2017 8:37 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Wild Abandon Salad Greens, part 2

    Five-finger Ivy
    I keep hearing folks claim that five-finger ivy isn’t edible, but we continue to eat it and enjoy it. Perhaps there are various varities about? Ours tastes wonderfully lemony.

    All of the mallows, including Rose of Sharon, are edible. So is every hibiscus. Time to add some soothing leaves to the salad.

    Wild Mustard
    Pepper grasses are setting seeds. They are part of the wild mustard family, which contains only edible species. Some are too bitter to eat, and some are too sharp for some folks, but they are all edible, so find some wild mustards around you and have a taste test. Who knows what amazing salad additions you will discover.

  • Tuesday, June 20, 2017 8:33 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Wild Abandon Salad Greens

    Here are photos of just a few of the many greens we are putting in our wild salads these days. Come harvest with us and we will introduce you to lots of others including wild oregano, chickweed, wild madder, ground ivy, wild mint, bergamot, sorrel, lemon hearts, and garlic mustard.

    Although we prefer to cook amaranth (and the whole stalk is edible, so no preparation is needed), we do add a little to summer salads

    Lamb’s Quarter
    Sister to amaranth, lamb’s quarter needs preparation, as the stalk is too tough to eat no matter how long you cook it. We also prefer the greens cooked, but do add some to our salads.

    ~ Wild Abandon Salad Greens, Part 2 ~

  • Tuesday, June 20, 2017 8:24 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Nettle Nirvana

    Be careful of the nettle. It is fierce this year. The goats don’t mind, but my ankles do.

    Do the goats look like they are getting high from eating nettle? It seems that dried nettle can be smoked for an interesting adventure.

    Some of my nettle has pink flowers and dark red stems. Pretty. Is it a variety or just reacting to the full sun that hits it all day?

    Here is a great view of nettle flowers, showing why the species name is dioica, which means “in two houses.” The male and female flowers are clearly separate and different, in two houses, in fact. The males do their thing and die, while the females go on to make nettle seed, which we harvest and add to our cooking pot when making rice or oatmeal.

    We don’t pick nettle while it is flowering. But we do pick comfrey in flower. Just cut the entire flowering stalk and hang it individually to dry. So lovely.

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