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  • Wednesday, October 02, 2019 6:58 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Mint Honeys
    by Susun Weed


    Mint honeys are a delicious way to prevent and treat winter miseries: the flu, colds, and coughs especially.


    I usually make mine just before the frost takes down the tender mints, but January is not too late to get some started if you have access to hardy mints. Overwintering rosemary, sage, thyme, and lavender appreciate a haircut about now, for lush spring growth.


    Outdoor hardy mints are best harvested on a warm sunny day with care not to steal too much from the plants; leave them enough to get through the coming cold days.


    To make your honey:

    • Fill a jar with your hardy mint, best if you cut it fairly fine.
    • Pour real honey over the herb in the jar. No need to use raw honey; since you will be using these herbal honeys to make tea with boiling water, it won't be raw after you brew it up. See if you can buy local honey. One of the ways to counter colony collapse in the beehives is to encourage more small scale beekeepers. The best way to encourage them is to buy their honey. (Smile) You may wish to view Vanishing of the Bees, an interesting look at colony collapse by Ellen Page.
    • After you have filled your jar with fresh herb and honey, put a tight lid and a label on it. Then the hard part: Wait for six or more weeks.


    Once your hardy mint honey is ready (in about 4 weeks), you need only scoop a large spoonful of the herb and honey into a cup, fill with boiling water and drink. Wow! Instant herb tea.


    Yes, you can eat the honeyed herbs in your tea cup if you want to, or just add them to your compost pile when you have finished your tea. (The leaves tend to fall to the bottom of the cup.)

  • Wednesday, October 02, 2019 2:52 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk with Susun



    Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea)


    Ground ivy carpets the ground with flowers. We adore the flowering
    tops in our salads.




    Narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata)

    Plantain holds its flowers atop long stiff stems. The whole affair reminds me of a flying saucer. Anytime is a fine time to harvest leaves for salads (chop finely) or infused oil.



    Common speedwell (Veronica officinalis)


    This was once a favored remedy for those with respiratory It is edible, but too bitter and too tiny to be worth foraging for salad.




    Corn speedwell (Veronica arvensis)


    This speedwell is even smaller than her official sister.




    Celandine poppy (Cheladonium majus)


    She is showing off her stunning, abundant yellow flowers. Not to be confused with mustard family plants, though they do have four petals. The yellow sap of this poisonous plant can be used against skin cancer.






    Yellow rocket or Barbara’s cress (Barbarea vulgaris)


    Our winter friend, now brings the sunlight to earth as she spreads her yellow cheer. The leaves are now too bitter for my taste, but I do like the flowers and flower buds in my salads. Note the four-petaled mustard family flowers. Both the “H” and the “X” pattern of the four petals are visible in this close-up photo.

  • Monday, September 16, 2019 9:42 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Sage the Savior
    by Susun S Weed



     

    Does the odor of sage evoke warmth, cheer, and holiday feasts for you? Sage has long been used to add savor, magic, and medicine to winter meals. Culinary sage is available at any grocery store, and sage is one of the easiest of all herbs to grow -- whether in a pot, on a windowsill, or in the garden. So, grab some sage, inhale deeply, and let me tell you more about this old friend.

     

    Sage is Salvia, which means "savior." As a member of the mint family, it has many of the healing properties of its sisters. Of special note are the high levels of calcium and other bone-building minerals in all mints, including sage, and the exceptionally generous amounts of antioxidant vitamins they offer us.

     

    Everywhere sage grows -- from Japan to China, India, Russia, Europe and the Americas -- people have valued it highly and used it as a preservative seasoning for fatty foods and a medicine for a variety of ills. The volatile oils in sage are antimicrobial and antibacterial and capable of countering a variety of food-borne poisons, as well as other infections.

     

    A tea of garden sage can help

    • prevent and eliminate head colds
    • soothe and heal sore throats
    • clear the sinuses
    • speed up immune response to the flu
    • ease asthma and heal the lungs
    • aid digestion, especially of fats
    • improve sleep and ease anxiety
    • insure regularity
    • invigorate the blood
    • strengthen the ability to deal with stress
    • counter periodontal disease and tighten the gums
    • reduce profuse perspiration
    • help wean baby by reducing breast milk

     

    The easiest way to use sage as medicine is to make a tea of it. The addition of honey is traditional and wise, as honey is a powerful antibacterial in its own right and magnifies sage's ability to ward off colds, flus, and breathing problems. If you have dried sage, a teaspoonful brewed in a cup of boiling water for no more than 2-3 minutes, with an added teaspoonful of honey, ought to produce a pleasant, aromatic tea. If it is bitter, the tea was brewed too long, or the sage was old or too-finely powdered, or you have the wrong sage. If you have fresh sage, use a handful of the leaves and stalks, brew for about five minutes, and add a spoonful of honey. Fresh sage tea is rarely bitter. Or, you can make a ready-sweetened sage tea by using your own home-made sage honey.


    As the cold comes on and frosts threaten, I make my major mint-family harvests of the year, including pruning back the sage. Where I live, the frost won't kill the sage, but it will blacken the leaves and cause them to fall off. Before that happens, I take my scissors and cut the plants back by at least half. I coarsely chop the stems and leaves and put them in a jar. (For best results, I choose a jar that will just contain the amount of herb at hand. If there is unused space in the jar, oxidation will occur, and components of the herb can be damaged or altered.) Then, I slowly pour honey over the chopped herb, poking with a chopstick to eliminate air bubbles, until the jar is nearly full. A SAGE HONEY label completes the preparation. All that is left to do is to store it in a cool, dark place and wait for six weeks. From then on, or sooner if you really need it, the sage honey is ready to use. Just dig in! Put a heaping tablespoonful in a big mug of boiling hot water, stir and drink. Or let it brew for a few minutes, strain and drink.


    Be sure to use Salvia sages, the ones with pebbly-fleshed ovate leave, not Artemisia sages which have white hairs on the backs of the ferny leaves. White sage, frequently sold as a "smudge" herb (that is, an herb whose smoke is used to create a protective field around a space) is a Salvia sage but it is too strong for use as a food or medicine.


    I make honeys of other fresh mint family plants, too. (No, dried plants don't make good honeys.) Besides fresh sage honey I often make peppermint honey, lemon balm honey, rosemary honey, thyme honey, oregano honey, marjoram honey, shiso honey, and bergamot honey. They all help me stay healthy throughout the winter, and they all taste ever so good.


    Although the tincture and essential oil of sage are available, I find them too concentrated and too dangerous for general use. Households with children do best when there are no essential oils on hand; fatal accidents have occurred.

    I do make sage vinegar: by pouring room temperature apple cider vinegar over a jar filled with chopped fresh sage. Sage vinegar is not as medicinal as the tea but, with olive oil and tamari, it makes a delicious and healthy salad dressing. Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily can reduce your risk of adult onset diabetes by half; two tablespoons of sage vinegar daily might just keep you alive forever, as the saying goes: "Why die when the Savior grows in your garden?"


    Using herbs as allies to stay healthy and to counter life's ordinary problems is simple and easy, safe and effective. Herbal medicine is people's medicine. Green blessings grow all around you.


    Green Blessings.
    Susun S Weed

  • Monday, August 26, 2019 6:42 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Herbal Adventures with Susun S Weed
    Poke
    (Phytolacca americana)





     

    As you no may recall, I am astride a horse, riding through Provence, singing to the scotch broom, inhaling lavender, rosemary and thyme, drinking teas of elder blossom or linden flowers, swigging St. Joan's wort tincture, rubbing myself with Joan's wort oil, spraying myself with yarrow tincture, and hoarding my osha root in case there's an emergency. What else is in my herbal first-aid kit? With the abundance of herbs around me, what else did I bring to France? What herbs do I carry with me whenever I leave home?


    Of the herbs in my herbal first-aid kit, osha is the rarest one I use. But poke is the most dangerous, and comfrey the most controversial.


    Poke plants (Phytolacca americana) are large, showy perennials. Living as they do year after year, they accumulate a huge, spindle-shaped, root. In southern Virginia I once met an ancient poke plant whose root top was over two feet from one side to the other. The flashy, hot pink stalks, leaves that are big and smooth all over (edges too), and bunches of nearly black berries held at eye level make this weed easy to recognize and remember. All parts of the poke plant can be used: some for medicine, and some for food.

    Yes, even though poke is considered a violent poisoner, people eat it. The leaves, cooked in several changes of water, are a specialty green below the Mason-Dixon line, where supermarkets carry canned poke sallet (or sallat). To make your own sallet: Collect very young poke greens as early as possible in the season (late April to mid-May in the Catskills, as early as February in Georgia). Pour boiling water over the greens and boil them one minute. Discard water. Add more boiling water and again boil the greens for one minute. Discard the water. Do this at least twice more before attempting to eat the greens. If you fail to leach out the poisonous compounds -- or are foolish enough to attempt to eat poke leaves raw -- your mouth and throat will feel like they are on fire, you may vomit, and you will no doubt have copious diarrhea.

    Magenta is the color of crushed poke berries. Good for body paint, and great for ink. (Ammonia, used carefully, is the fixative.) The small seeds in the berries are very poisonous. Lucky for us, they are too hard for our teeth to break open. I have had pokeberry jam (no worse than blackberry jam, that is, seedy) and pokeberry jelly (ah, no seeds) and pokeberry pie (seedy). Since children are attracted to poke plants and since the berries leave telltale stains on children's mouths and since many parents are frightened if their child eats anything wild, and since medical personnel know little about poke except that it is poisonous, lots of kids have their stomach pumped (for no good reason, since they can't break open the seeds either) after investigating the taste of poke berries..

    I keep a supply of dried poke berries on hand. One or two berries, swallowed whole with water, as if you were taking a pill, relieves the pain of rheumatism and arthritis. I always caution students to experiment with poke in the safety of their homes first. What is poisonous in large dose is often psychoactive in smaller doses, and such is certainly the case with poke. You may find yourself seeing the world a little differently after ingesting poke berries. . . nothing so blatant as hallucinations, but definitely an altered state. I pick and dry fresh poke berries each year as they are especially easily infected with insect larva and thus don't keep for a long time.

    But the part of the poke plant that I carry with me in my first-aid kit is the root, tincture of the fresh root, to be exact. That's where the poisons are the most concentrated. Need I say great care in needed in wise use of this remedy? I dig only one poke root every decade or so, for the dose I use is minuscule. I choose a root that is at least three years old (the standard for digging any perennial root), rinse the soil from it, chop it coarsely, and tincture it for a minimum of six weeks in one hundred proof vodka. (No, eighty proof won't work. And, yes, it must be a fresh root, as drying seems to remove the active properties.)

    I take a dose of one drop -- yes, only one drop -- once or twice a day to kick my immune system into high gear. Poke root tincture contains compounds that can harm the kidneys if it is taken continuously. I reserve its use for emergencies and do not consider it especially helpful to the immune system. Isn't it well named? It pokes the immune system and speeds up pokey lymphatic drainage. I have known a single drop to reverse chronic infections that have simmered for years, getting more and more resistant to drugs. Of course, poke root tincture, is used by those with cancer. Sometimes with astonishing results. (See Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way for lots more information on using poke to counter cancer.

    My friend, Isla Burgess, director of the Waikato Center for Herbal Studies, finds poke root tincture a powerful ally for women dealing with fibroids or endometriosis. She used it herself with excellent results. Her doses were larger, but built up gradually over a period of days, as I suggest for those dancing with cancer. In extreme situations, an individual may be able to use doses of 15 drops a day. I know of some instances where doses of 30 drops a day were used, but this usually creates unwelcome side effects.

    I carry poke with me as insurance -- on the off chance that I may be exposed in my travels to some new and potentially deadly bug. Had I been in Beijing when SARS broke out, I would have taken it. I would not take poke as a precaution; it is far too strong to be used that way. Only if I knew that I was likely to have been exposed to the pathogen would I use it (one drop twice a day; if I felt symptoms, I would increase to four times a day or more, as seemed reasonable at the time). How reassuring to know that a simple home-made tincture of a common garden weed can give my immune system the boost it needs when confronted with danger. An herbal first aid kit may seem insignificant in the face of the troubles in our nation and in the world, but it is a step toward health independence and -- I believe -- a step toward peace. Instead of making war on weeds like poke, I love them. Instead of making war on nature, I take her as a guide. Instead of making war on myself when I have an injury or illness, a problem or a pain, I nourish myself toward ever greater health. Green blessings surround us, uplifting our hearts and bringing joy even in trying and uncertain times. May the dancing green woman (thank you Lisa Thiel) fill you with peace.


    Green Blessings

  • Monday, August 26, 2019 5:32 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk with Susun



    Jack/Jill in the pulpit (Ariseama atrorubens)
    AKA Indian turnip, Dragonroot


    There really are both Jacks and Jills in the spathe of this flower. Lift the lid carefully and see for yourself. All parts of the fresh plant are horribly irritating to the mucus surfaces of the digestive system, so this is considered a poisonous plant, though native people did use it for both food and medicine. Milk is the antidote should you decide to try it yourself. Protect this plant.

     



    Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum)


    This is another plant now considered poisonous that native people used medicinally, though mostly externally. All varities (such as P. multiflorum) are considered interchangeable. A European variety (P. odoratum), which contains a constituent that lowers blood sugar, is still in regular use, especially in China. Protect this plant.



    Lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium pubescens)

    AKA Moccasin flower


    Protect this plant. The root of this prized orchid was formerly used is women’s tonics to counter hysteria and headaches. Like most perennials of the forest, it is now in danger and modern herbalists use other plants (such as motherwort) to help women who are anxious and nervous. Protect this plant.

  • Monday, August 26, 2019 1:59 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Healthy Bones The Wise Woman Way
    by Susun S Weed




    Every woman I know is concerned about osteoporosis. Frightening stories equate it with broken hips, bent spines, wheelchairs, and death--things we all want to avoid. What can we do? Should we take calcium supplements? hormones? Fosamax? Can we rely on our green allies?

    The Wise Woman tradition maintains that simple lifestyle choices-- including, but not limited to, regular use of nourishing herbal infusions, medicinal herbal vinegars, yogurt, and seaweed -- are sufficient to preserve bone and prevent breaks. And, further, that these lifestyle choices produce multiple health benefits, including reduction of heart disease and breast cancer, without the problems and risks associated with taking hormones. As for supplements, as we will see, they do more harm than good.


    Forget Osteoporosis

    First, we must rid ourselves of the idea that osteoporosis is important. In the Wise Woman Tradition, we focus on the patient, not the problem. There are no diseases and no cures for diseases. When we focus on osteoporosis, we cannot see the whole woman. The more we focus on disease, even disease prevention, the less likely we are to know how to nourish health/wholeness/holiness.

    In fact, focusing our attention narrowly on the prevention of osteoporosis actually increases the incidence of breast cancer. The postmenopausal women with the highest bone mass are the most likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Women who take estrogen replacement to prevent osteoporosis, even for as little as five years, increase their risk of breast cancer by twenty percent; if they take hormone replacement, the risk increases by forty percent.

    These risks might be vindicated if we could show a correlation between bone density and bone breakage, but there isn't one. When I found myself at dinner last year (2000) with Susan Brown, director of the Osteoporosis Information Clearing House, I asked her to point me in the direction of any study that shows a clear relationship between osteoporosis and broken bones. She smiled. "There are none."

    "In a recent study," she continued. "Researchers measured the bone density of people over 65 who had broken bones. Twenty-five percent had osteoporosis. Twenty-five percent had high bone density. And fifty percent had normal density." Notice that those with high bone density broke their hips as frequently as those with osteoporosis.

    Get Flexible

    If osteoporosis isn't the problem, what is it? In a word: inflexibility. Flexible bones bend; stiff bones break. This holds true even if the flexible bone is thin, even if the stiff bone is thick. Think of a piece of dead pine wood. Though it may be thick, it is brittle and breaks easily. Think of a green pine twig, even a small one is nearly impossible to break. Flexible bones, whether thick or thin, bend rather than break.

    Flexibility is synonymous with health in the Wise Woman Tradition. It is created by nourishing and tonifying. Bone flexibility is created by nourishing the bones and tonifying the muscles around them. Tonifying is as important as nourishing, but because we are herbalists, let's focus on the benefits nourishing herbs offer to women who wish to have strong, flexible bones.


    Nourishing Our Bones

    Old age does not make weak bones. Poor nutrition makes weak bones.

    What are bones made of? Like all tissues, they contain protein. They are rich in minerals, not just calcium, but also potassium, manganese, magnesium, silica, iron, zinc, selenium, boron, phosphorus, sulphur, chromium, and dozens of others. And in order to use those minerals, vitamin D must be present and the diet must contain high-quality fats.

    Bones Need Protein

    I have heard, and no doubt you have too, that animal protein leaches calcium from the bones. This is only half true. All protein, whether from meat, beans, soy, grains, or vegetables, uses calcium in digestion. Protein from soy is especially detrimental to bone health; soy is not only naturally deficient in calcium, it also directly interferes with calcium uptake in the bones. Traditional diets combine protein and calcium (e.g. seaweed with tofu, tortillas made from corn ground on limestone with beans, and melted cheese on a hamburger). Protein-rich herbs such as stinging nettle, oatstraw, red clover, and comfrey leaf provide plenty of calcium too, as do yogurt, cheese, and milk (which also provide the healthy fats needed to utilize the minerals). Limiting protein limits bone health. Increasing mineral-rich proteins increases bone health.

    Bones Need High-Quality Fats

    Hormones are kinds of fats, and cholesterol is the precursor to many of them. Post-menopausal bone problems do not, to my mind, arise from a lack of estrogen, but from a lack of fat. If the diet is deficient in good-quality fats, hormones will be produced in inadequate amounts. And vitamin D, a hormone-like vitamin, will not be utilized well. Further, mineral absorption is dependent on fats. A low-fat diet, in my opinion, makes it quite difficult to have healthy bones.

    Bones Need Minerals

    Bones do need calcium, and they are the last to get it, so our diets need to be very rich in this mineral. But to focus on calcium to the exclusion of other minerals leads to broken bones, for calcium is brittle and inflexible. Think of a piece of chalk, calcium carbonate, and how easily it breaks. A six-and-a-half year study of 10,000 white women over the age of 65 found that "Use of calcium supplements was associated with increased risk of hip and vertebral fracture; use of Tums TM antacid tablets was associated with increased risk of fractures of the proximal humerus." The other minerals found in bone lend it flexibility. When we get our calcium from herbs and foods (containing a multitude of minerals) we nourish healthy bones.

    Extracting Minerals

    From the Wise Woman perspective, the perfect way to maintain bone health, bone flexibility, and resistance to fracture is to use mineral-rich herbs and foods. Because minerals are bulky, and do not compact, we must consume generous amounts to make a difference in our health. Just as eating a teaspoon a carrots is laughable, so is taking mineral-rich herbs in capsule or tincture form. Because minerals are rocklike, we need to break open cell walls to get at them. Raw, fresh foods do not deliver minerals to our bodies.

    To extract minerals, we need heat, time, and generous quantities of plant material. I prefer to extract minerals into water or vinegar. To make a nourishing herbal infusion, I pour one quart/liter boiling water over one ounce/30 grams of dried herb in a canning jar, covering it tightly, and letting it brew overnight. In the morning, I strain out the mineral-rich liquid and drink it -- over ice or heated, with honey or milk, mixed with black tea, seasoned with mint, spiked with rum, however you want it. You can drink the entire quart in one day, but do finish it within two.

    My favorite nourishing herbal infusions are made from oatstraw (Avena sativa) or nettle (Urtica dioica) or red clover (Trifolium pratense) or comfrey leaves (Symphytum uplandica x). I sometimes add a little bit of aromatic herb such as peppermint (Mentha pipperata), lemon balm (Melissa off.), or bergamot (Monarda didyma) to change the flavor.

    To extract minerals from fruits and vegetables, I cook them for long periods of time, or until there is color and texture change, evidence that the cell walls have been broken. Kale cooked for an hour delivers far more mineral to your bones than lightly steamed kale. Fresh juices contain virtually no minerals. Cooking maximizes the nutrients available to us, especially the minerals.

    Herbs Are Mineral Powerhouses

    Eating a cup of cooked greens every day is difficult, even for the most motivated woman. But drinking nourishing herbal infusions, eating seaweeds, and using medicinal herbal vinegars is easy. They are tasty, fun to prepare and use, and add a big nutritional plus with virtually no calories attached. Nourishing herbs and garden weeds are typically far richer in minerals than ordinary foodstuffs. Not only are nourishing herbs exceptional sources of minerals, their minerals are better at preventing bone breaks than supplements.

    The ability of herbs to counter osteoporosis may be more complex than their richness of minerals, however. The minerals in green plants seem to be utilized more readily by the body and to be ideal for keeping bones healthy. Dr. Campbell, professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, has done extensive research in rural China where the lowest known fracture rates for mid-life and older women were found. He says, "The closer people get to a diet based on plant foods and leafy vegetables, the lower the rates of many diseases, including osteoporosis."

    In Summation

    My own experiences in helping women regain and maintain bone density and flexibility have led me to believe that lifestyle modifications work exceptionally well for motivated women who wish to avoid the risks and expense of long-term pill use. Nourishing herbal infusions, mineral-rich herbal vinegars, yogurt, and seaweed, combined with attention to tonification of the muscles, unfailingly increases bone density and creates flexible, healthy bones and women.

    Green blessings to you all.



    8 Keys to Healthy Bones

    • Good nutrition for your mother while pregnant with you.
    • Good nutrition for you during the formation of your bones.
    • Monthly menses throughout your fertile years, especially before 30.
    • Special attention to maintaining high levels of protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins from herbs and foods in your diet when menses cease during pregnancy, lactation, or after menopause.
    • Regular rhythmical movement, the faster the better, daily.
    • Consistent practice of yoga, tai chi, or any strengthening, opening, flexibility-building discipline.
    • Chop wood, carry water.
    • Eat yogurt.
  • Wednesday, August 21, 2019 5:27 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk with Susun...



    Elder (Sambucus canadensis)


    Elder is a mysterious, medicinal, and magical tree said to be inhabited by a spirit, often called “Elda Mohr,” or “Frau Hollender,” who takes revenge on those who do not respect the elder. To cut or burn elder is thought to be such bad luck that a major road works in England was redesigned when the workers refused to destroy a lush stand of elder. Elder berries are anti-viral. The flowers counter fevers. We will make elder remedies later in the year. Elder does just as well in your garden or by the road as it does in the woods.




    Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)


    This creeping plant has a reputation as a medicine plant but is rarely used. I wrote a monograph on it in The United Plant Savers book Saving the Future. The red berries are perfectly safe to eat, though tasteless. Partridge berry is often confused with wintergreen, as they are both small plants with large red berries. The smell is the real identifying mark, which you have to experience in person. Protect this plant.





    Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)


    Horsetail is one of the few non-flowering, non-mushroom plants commonly used by herbalists. My teachers were insistent that it be picked before the end of May, so get out and get it if you are planning to use it this year. Apparently, the silica content gets higher and higher as the plant grows, making the older plants problematic for the kidneys. A pinch of horsetail added to other infusions is said to make the minerals even more active and absorbable. 

  • Wednesday, August 21, 2019 4:27 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Phystoestrogens - Friends or Foe?
    by Susun S. Weed




    Phytoestrogens are weak hormones found in many plants. They are currently being promoted, sometimes in highly refined forms, for relief of the symptoms of menopause. Are they safe~ Can they promote breast cancer~

    We know that increased exposure to hormones - such as those used in the cattle industry, those given to women during menopause, those taken by women engaged in hi-tech pregnancy efforts, and even those naturally produced by our own bodies - increases our risk of being diagnosed with cancer, especially breast cancer. And many believe that hormone-like chemicals - xenoestrogens - increasingly found in our food and water, contribute to cancer as well. Doesn't that imply that phytoestrogens will increase cancer risk too~

    Virtually everything we eat - grains, beans, nuts, seeds, seed oils, berries, fruits, vegetables, and roots - contains phytoestrogens. Scientists measuring the amount of phytoestrogen break-down by-products in the urine of healthy women found that those with the least were four times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than with the most. Phytoestrogens actually appear to protect tissues from the cancer-causing effects of xenoestrogens and other hormonal pollutants.

    This seems simple - eat more phytoestrogens, be healthier - and it is, so long as we restrict ourselves to eating plants. But when the difference between food and medicine is disregarded, when phytoestrogens are isolated and concentrated, sold to us in pills and candy bars, then the equation changes: phytoestrogens become dangerous hormones, quite capable of promoting cancer.

    To get the greatest benefit from phytoestrogenic foods and herbs remember:

    1. Isolated phytoestrogens are not as safe as those "in matrix."
    2. To make use of plant hormones, you need active, healthy gut flora.
    3. Herbs and foods rich in phytoestrogens need to be used in different ways.
    4. Phytoestrogens may have different effects on women who do not have their ovaries.

    1. Plants contain many types of phytoestrogens; additionally, they contain minerals and other constituents which help our bodies modify the phytoestrogens and so we can use them safely. Red clover, for instance, is mineral-rich and contains all four of the major types of phytoestrogens: lignans, coumestans, isoflavones, and resorcylic acid lactones. It is the world's best-known anti-cancer herb. In general, foods and herbs rich in phytoestrogens, with the possible exception of licorice, show anti-cancer abilities. Isoflavone, however, when isolated (usually from soy) has the opposite effect: in the lab it encourages the growth of breast cancer cells (endnote 32 in New Menopausal Years).

    2. Plant hormones, including most phytoestrogens, can't be used by humans. But we can convert them into ones we can use - with the help of our gut bacteria. When women take antibiotics, their excretion of phytoestrogens plummets. Get your gut flora going by eating more yogurt, miso, unpasteurized sauerkraut, homemade beers and wines, picked-by-your-own-hands-and-unwashed fruits and salads, sourdough bread, and whey-fermented vegetables (see Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon for whey-fermented vegetable recipes).

    3. Plants which are exceptionally rich in phytoestrogens are regarded as powerful herbal medicines. Plants which are good sources of phytoestrogens are regarded as foods. While food can certainly be our medicine - a practice I advocate - it is also true that medicines are more dangerous than foods. Foods rich in phytoestrogens are different than medicinal herbs rich in phytoestrogens. They have different places in my life.

    ~ I eat phytoestrogenic foods daily in quantity.
    ~ I use phytoestrogenic food-like herbs regularly but not daily and in moderate quantity.
    ~ I take phytoestrogenic herbs rarely, usually in small amounts and for a limited time.

    Phytoestrogenic foods are the basis for a healthy diet and a long life. The first food listed is the highest in phytoestrogens. The best diet contains not just one but many choices from each list:

    ~ Whole grains (rye, oats, barley, millet, rice, wheat, corn)
    ~ Edible seeds (buckwheat, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, amaranth, quinoa)
    ~ Beans (yellow split peas, black turtle beans, baby limas, Anasazi beans, red kidney beans, red lentils, soy beans)
    ~ Leafy greens and seaweed (parsley, nettle, kelp, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, lamb's quarter)
    ~ Fruits (olives, cherries, grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, salmon berries, apricots, crab apples, quinces, rosehips, blueberries)
    ~ Olive oil and seed oils
    ~ Garlic, onions and their relatives leeks, chives, scallions, ramps, shallot

    The exceptions to the rule that plants don't contain human hormones:

    ~ French beans, rice, apple seeds, licorice, and pomegranate seeds contain the “weak” estrogen estrone.

    Phytoestrogenic food-like herbs are generally considered longevity tonics. For optimum effect, use only one from the list below and to stick with it for at least three months:

    ~ Citrus peel, dandelion leaves and/or roots, fenugreek seeds, flax seeds, green tea, hops, red clover, red wine.

    Phytoestrogenic herbs are usually too powerful for long-term use. From the list below (which is in alphabetical order), it is safest to use only one herb at a time, and use it only when needed, although that may mean daily use for several months. More information about these herbs, including specific dosages and cautions, is in New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

    ~ Agave root, black cohosh root, black currant, black haw, chasteberries, cramp bark, dong quai root, devil's club root, false unicorn root, ginseng root, groundsel herb, licorice, liferoot herb, motherwort herb, peony root, raspberry leaves, rose family plants (most parts), sage leaves, sarsaparilla root, saw palmetto berries, wild yam root, yarrow blossoms.

    4. Most of the warnings about phytoestrogenic herbs center on their proven ability to thicken the uterine wall in animals who have had their ovaries removed. This could encourage cancer, just as taking ERT encourages cancer of the uterus by stimulating cell growth. Women without ovaries are probably safe eating phytoestrogenic foods, but may want to use phytoestrogenic herbs - especially ginseng, dong quai, licorice, red clover, and wild yam - in small amounts and only for short periods.

    Phytoestrogens can be our friends. In a world that seems increasingly hostile and threatening, green allies offer us ways to stay safe and healthy, so long as we use them with wisdom and honor.



    This article is based on information in Susun's book,
    New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

  • Wednesday, August 07, 2019 4:01 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Herbal Adventures with Susun S Weed
    Susun Weed in Provence




    My capable mountain pony and I are following a barely discernible trail -- thank goodness for the lead horse's clearly visible tail -- through the wild mountain passes and lavender fields of Provence, in the south of France. Since morning we have been slowly wending our way up out of the valley and into the high mountain passes, through thickets of oak and pine which grow right to the edge of the trail.


    It is difficult to convince her to turn aside -- and I am loathe to force the issue given the narrowness and the steepness of the trail -- so I just lean forward and plaster myself to my steed's neck as she makes her way under the low-hanging branches. Warmed by the bright sun, the pine needles exude a deep, resinous scent. It seems to fill my skull, leaving no room for the (literally) breath-taking views as we climb up along the mountain spine.


    After hours of switch-backs -- and an ever-increasing intimacy with my horse's neck and the hazards of low branches -- we emerge into a natural clearing. With a rush of joy, and no trees to impede her, my mount flings herself into a gallop. We streak across a meadow densely tufted with low, purple-flowered thyme, and embroidered with stitches of rosemary and clover. On my left, in the far distance, snow-covered peaks rise (the Alps). On my right, far, far below, sequins of sunlight twinkle on an azure backdrop (the Mediterranean).


    When our gallop is over, we stop. I close my eyes and inhale. I smell the actual scents of this mountain peak -- pine and thyme, stone and oak -- and I also smell, in memory, the scents of the flowering plants I have been riding through. Bowers of fragrant roses have scattered their petals across my shoulders (and scratched my arms). Honey-bee-buzzing linden trees heavy with honeyed flowers have brushed my face and left little remembrances in my hair as we clip-clopped across the village cobbles. Huge bushes of foamy-white, deliciously-perfumed elder blossoms have held out their witching arms and enticed me to pick them. The past, the future, and the present combine in one marvelous moment and I am filled with joy. Ah -- to be alive! How perfect! How glorious!


    But what goes up usually comes down, and that is when the fun really begins. As my mountaineering friend Dolores La Chapelle used to remind me: "You can get up almost any mountain; it's getting down that's the problem." The path seems to fling itself off the edge of the world, and my horse follows. There's nothing but sky in front of me and the ground is terribly far below. (And though I am fairly certain that my mountain pony is in touch with the ground, I surely am not.) When I finally stop holding my breath, I realize the air is scented with some fragrance whose name I do not know. What is releasing such an alluring scent? Could it be this shrub with the arching masses of amazing yellow flowers? The mountainside is covered with it. It looks like scotch broom. "No," my guide informs me, "That is genet."

    We are both right, of course. Genet is a kind of scotch broom (Cytisus). As such, it is a member of the bean family: A powerful earth-healing tribe of plants with the amazing ability to fix nitrogen, thus enriching the earth. The bean family (formerly known as the Leguminosa, but now called Fabaceae) includes healing plants such as red clover (Trifolium pratense) and astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) -- both known as immune system builders and anti-cancer helpers -- and harmful plants such as loco weed and scotch broom, both of which are considered poisonous.


    There is a lot to not like about scotch broom. Animals rarely eat it, and with good reason. It causes violent vomiting (emetic), copious urination (diuretic), and purging diarrhea (cathartic). As an herbal medicine it can be more troublesome than helpful. A few adventurous souls who have smoked the flowers confirm the hallucinatory properties of the plant. (And no gut-wrenching side effects; although it may increase the heart beat, sometimes alarmingly). Midwives have a special use for it, too. But most of us wisely leave this plant alone.


    And that is her intention. I understand (and appreciate) scotch broom as an earth-healing plant. When trees are stripped from hillsides, whether by natural disaster or human need, the earth attempts to heal herself by growing special plants which have special healing abilities -- for Her, not us. In fact, one of the main ways these plants heal is by expelling, or, if possible, removing all animals (including humans) from the place that needs healing. Earth-healing plants are good for the earth but are often dangerous to us (even when possessing edible or medicinal parts). Some of the nicer ones include stinging nettle and brambles (including blackberry, raspberry, greenbriar, and wild rose). Some of the nastier ones include poison ivy/poison oak and rhododendrons (even the honey made from rhododendron flowers is poisonous).

    Although native to Europe, Cytisus has made itself at home in the western United States, especially in clear-cut areas. It is generally considered invasive and obnoxious. The French version grows in the same situations (as we crossed the ridge and began our descent, we entered managed forests which are clear cut in rotation), but its fragrance sets it apart.

    The odor of genet is spicy, sweet, and intoxicating. Its bright yellow pea-blossom-like flowers exude an aroma that can only be called "strong" -- not in a cloying sense, but in a penetrating way. The scent seems to permeate all my senses, inviting, no, urging me to enjoy life to the fullest.


    As I rode, the smell of genet turned into a song. As my sure-footed pony walked, trotted, and cantered down the mountain a song burst out of my heart. I didn't feel like I was making it up; I felt like I was receiving it into my body. The words, the melody, the rhythm -- all partook of and gave out the sweetness and beauty of the plants, the mountains, the Earth. Verse after verse took shape and sounded its notes. Yet when I sat down that evening to commit it to paper, most of the verses were gone. I know where they went: the sun ate a bunch of them, and wind took some home to play with, and I left a few as a "thank you" gift to the mountains as well. Since I can't put a "scratch and sniff" in this magazine (and how I would love for you to be able to smell genet), here is my song. Enjoy!


    Chorus: Genet, genet, you smell so sweet;
    Genet you make my senses reel;
    Genet, genet, you have
    The sweetest smell.

    The lavender that grows in rows,
    It scents our clothes and things;
    Has a smell gets up your nose,
    But it's of genet I sing.

    (Chorus)


    The roses bloom in white and pink,
    And every rose has thorns;
    They have a smell that's not a stink,
    But of genet I'll blow my horn.

    (Chorus)


    The irises they sure are fine
    Their colors can't be beat
    And they smell good all of the time
    But let me now repeat.

    (Chorus)

     

     

  • Tuesday, July 30, 2019 5:22 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Nutrition, Part Two
    by Susun Weed




    Vitamins
    Vitamins are small organic compounds made by all living tissues. They are found in whole, fresh foods. Vitamins are absorbed best from dried, fermented, or cooked foods. Some vitamins are fat-soluble (A, E, D); some are water-soluble (B, C). All vitamins are groups of related enzymes that function together. Eighteen hundred carotenes and carotinoids contribute to the liver's production of vitamin A, two dozen tocopherols function together as vitamin E, and only when ascorbic acid is joined by bioflavonoids and carotenes does it function as vitamin C.

     

    Healthy diets supply adequate vitamins so long as refined foods are rarely eaten. "Enriched" flour is really impoverished, as it does not contain the entire complement of B vitamins and minerals found in the whole grain. When vitamins are synthesized in the laboratory, their complexity is reduced to one active ingredient. In situations of impoverishment and famine, supplements have health benefits. They do not replace healthy food, however, and long-term use of vitamin supplements poses health risks including more aggressive cancers (alpha tocopherol), faster growing cancers (ascorbic acid), and increased risk of cancer and heart disease (beta carotene).

     

    Minerals
    Minerals are inorganic compounds found in all plant and animal tissues as well as bones, hair, teeth, finger and toenails, and, of course, rocks. Minerals are also found in, and critical for, optimum functioning of the nervous, immune, and hormonal systems, and all muscles, including the heart. Our need for some minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, manganese, and calcium, is large. But for trace minerals, such as selenium, iodine, molybdenum, boron, silicon, and germanium, our needs are minuscule. (4)

     

    Minerals may be difficult to get, even in a healthy diet. Overuse of chemical fertilizers reduces mineral content. According to US Department of Agriculture figures, during the period 1963-1992, the amount of calcium in fruits and vegetables declined an average of 30 percent. In white rice, calcium declined 62.5 percent, iron 32-45 percent, and magnesium 20-85 percent. (5) Not only are commercially grown grains low in minerals, refining removes what little minerals they do have.

     

    Seaweeds and herbs are dependable mineral sources when eaten, brewed (one ounce dried herbs steeped four hours in a quart of boiling water in a tightly covered jar), or infused into vinegar, rather than taken in capsules or tinctures. Many herbs, such as dandelion l-eaves, peppermint, red clover blossoms, stinging nettle, and oatstraw, are exceptional sources of minerals, according to researchers Mark Pedersen, Paul Bergner, and the USDA. (6,7) For instance, there are 3000 mg of calcium in 100 grams dried nettle.

     

    Phytochemicals
    Individual nutrients can be created in the laboratory, but they are unlikely to have the life-giving, spirit-enhancing properties of real foods. Hundreds of different chemicals occur naturally in foodstuffs, many of which avert cancer, promote cardiovascular health, improve sexual functioning, enhance energy, and promote longevity. Primary among these c-hemicals, especially for w-omen, is the class of compounds known as phytoestrogens.


    When phytoestrogens are plentiful in the diet, breast cancer incidence is lowered significantly. Phytoestrogens probably also help prevent osteoporosis, high blood pressure, congestive heart disease, and senility. Whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits are high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogen-rich diets also protect against the harmful effects of estrogen-mimicking chemicals in the environment and in our food.


    (1) Price, Weston; Nutrition and Physical Degeneration; Keats Publishing, Inc., 1945
    (2) Dunne, Lavon. Nutrition Almanac, 3rd Edition. McGraw Hill, 1990.
    (3) Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions Cookbook. ProMotion Publishing, 1995.
    (4) Ziegler, Ekhard & Filer, LJ. Present Knowledge in Nutrition, 7th Edition. International Life Science Press, 1996.
    (5) Bergner, Paul; The Healing Power of Minerals, and Trace Elements. Prima Publishing, 1997
    (6) Pedersen, Mark; Nutritional Herbology; Pedersen Press, (orig. 1987; republished in 1996)(7) (7)Agriculture Handbook Book # 456: Nutritional Value of Foods in Common Units. Dover reprint, 1986. Original by the USDA, 1975.
    Johnson, Cait; Cooking Like A Goddess; Healing Arts Press, 1997
    Lewallen, Eleanor & John; Sea Vegetable Gourmet Cookbook; Mendocino Sea Veg Co, 1996
    Mollison, Bill; Permaculture Book of Ferment & Human Nutrition; Tagari Publications, 1993
    Sokolov, Raymind. Why We Eat What We Eat: How the encounter between the New World and the Old changed the way everyone on the planet eats. Summit, 1991.
    Weatherford, Jack. Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World. Fawcett Columbine, 1988.
    Weed, Susun. Healing Wise. Ash Tree Publishing, 1989.
    Margen, Sheldon, M.D. & the Editors of the University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter.
    The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition. Rebus, 1992.



    ~ Part One ~

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