Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Monday, November 26, 2018 7:12 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    The Healing Medicine of Trees - Elder
    by Susun Weed

    ELDER is the last letter of the ogam alphabet (Ruis). It rarely attains tree status where it grows in North America, but it has taken me by surprise several times in Europe by the height to which it can grow (up to ten meters) and the tough bark it is capable of making.

    Around the world, elder is viewed as a tree that is so sacred and awesome that it is to be feared. In the British Isles, anyone who cut down an elder tree, it was believed, would suffer at the hands of the woman who lives in the elder. She is known by many names, including Elda Mohr, Hylde Moer, Frau Ellhorn, and Frau Holle. And she is found in many stories from many lands.

    She is a guardian of children and is willing to help anyone who asks her nicely. But she takes revenge if she is not honored or respected.

    One year, when I had a job taking juvenile delinquents on weed walks, I took the girls to an elder bush and had them sit under it while I told them a story about Elda Mohr. The counselor told me that many of them went back, over and over again, to sit with the Elda and talk to her. They found a refuge in her branches and ease in her leaves. Yes, elder is indeed the guardian of all children.

    Remedies made from elder flowers and elder berries (Sambucus nigra) are favorites for easing children’s fevers, colds, and flus. Elder flowers may be dried to make a tea, or tinctured fresh to bring down high fevers rapidly. Five to ten drop doses may be repeated every thirty minutes or as needed. Elder berries may be tinctured from fresh or dried berries, or turned into tasty syrups, jams, and jellies. Science confirms their flu-fighting abilities. Elder berries soothe sore throats, quell coughs, relieve asthma, ease bronchitis, and clear chest congestion. Fermented elder berries make a semi-permanent hair dye for those who prefer a their locks dark in color.

    Fresh elder flowers may be fermented into champagne.  One book refers to this brew as “Liquid Light.” It relies on the natural yeast present on the flowers, which must be picked on a bright sunny day. Elder berry wine is justifiably famous; the color and taste are unlike anything I have ever drunk.

    Ruis means “red in the face,” which some authors connect with shame and embarrassment, while others believe it refers to anger. I don’t agree with either of those views. I think it reminds us that elder is used to treat those who have red faces; in fact, I suspect it may be effective against the skin disease rosacea, which reddens the face and causes outbreaks of pustules.

    The “pimples” on the bark are the “signature” to use it against pimples. Elder leaves are steeped into a tea that is used as a wash to clear the complexion of redness and outbreaks.

    Elder leaf poultices are also used to ease sprains, bruises, and headaches. Fresh leaves are the best; I admit to never using elder this way as there as so many common poultice plants and elder, at least where I live, is rather uncommon – certainly not as near at hand as plantain or burdock leaf! An ointment of the bark is used to help heal ulcers, burns and abrasions.

    Elder trees are said to be the home of fairies. If you sleep under an elder at the full moon, you may see the fairies. If the full moon is near the summer solstice, the fairies may invite you home to play with them. An elder wand is the best one to use if you must exorcise something or someone. An elder wand wards off evil so well, the drivers of the hearses used to carry whips fashioned of elder wood.

    Elder is hollow, so it has been used to make functional pipes for transferring liquids as well as musical pipes for transferring emotions. An elder stake is said to outlast iron when put into the ground. Elder grows easily in the temperate regions; it likes cold winters. Plant one and you will enjoy her fragrant flowers, delicious berries, stately grace, and – who knows – you may even become a friend of the fairies.

  • Monday, October 22, 2018 8:55 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    The Healing Medicine Of Trees - Birch
    by Susun Weed

    Trees are some of the most fascinating of all plants and of all herbal medicines. The lore surrounding any one type of tree – even some individual trees – is vast.

    Consider doing a brief meditation with each tree, breathing with it, listening to it, and being open to the messages that it has to share with us. Every breath is a give away dance of joy.

    BIRCH is the tree of beginnings. Birch (Beth) begins the ogam alphabet. Birch was the first tree to take hold in Europe as the glaciers retreated after the last ice age. Birch is one of the first trees to grow in disturbed soils. A birch tree in your dream is a strong indication that you are beginning a new aspect of your life, and that new spiritual understandings await you.

    Birch is Betula to the botanist. In Sanskrit, it is burgha, meaning “that which is good to write upon.” The use of birch bark as a material to write upon is thought to predate paper, and even to be the model for papermaking. Magic spells are often written on a piece of birch bark.

    Birch is the “way shower.”  Birch is safety and warmth in the cold. Birch is the sky ladder of the Siberian shaman. Birch is the cradle for the newborn. Birch twigs are used to whip the skin in Scandinavian saunas; a kind of rebirth. Birch twigs are used to light the sacred fires in Wales. Birch torches were used to “purify” the land, to expel “evil spirits” and maleficent fairies, and to “beat the boundaries” at winter solstice throughout old Europe.

    Birch bark will burn whether wet or dry. This knowledge has saved my life at least once in high mountains when hypothermia threatened. Birch bark is antiseptic. Because it is pliable when fresh, it may be fashioned into containers which preserve food. Strangely enough, a simple birch bark cup can be use over an open fire to boil water without bursting into flames.

    There are many Native American stories in which birch saves the. The European fairy tale we know as Cinderella is based on an older Russian story in which a woman becomes a birch tree in order to take care of her orphaned daughter. (Some versions say it was a beech tree. Walt But the original tale centered on the caring love of the birch. Disney left out the tree, alas.)
    Notice that the wood of birch rots away quickly while the bark remains intact, often in one piece, for many years. Birch bark canoes are justly famous.

    Birch leaves – collected in the spring only – can be used to make a tea which eases sore throats, bleeding gums, sores in the mouth, constipation, gout, rheumatism, kidney stones, and bladder problems. The tea has a slightly sedative effect and eases sore muscles, too.

    Older birch leaves can be added to a hot bath or made into a strong brew and poured into the tub to heal moist, oozing skin conditions.

    Recent studies have found an anticancer compound in birch sap: betulinic acid. Older herbals contain recipes for birch beer made by fermenting the sap; and for birch vinegar, also made by fermentation. I have never tapped a birch tree as they don’t heal easily and can bleed to death. The sweet birch that I use to demonstrate on in the spring often drips sap for several days after I break a small limb.

    Sweet birch is my favorite of the birches. It smells of wintergreen and is used commercially to produce essential oil of wintergreen. A hot water infusion of the twigs gathered before they leaf out is all I use as a household cleanser. A handful of twigs in a quart jar may be rebrewed up to thirty times before they need to be replaced. This cleanser is safe for children to drink, but effectively loosens and removes grease and grime.

    Birch wood is primarily used as a veneer. It is light in weight and light in color. It is favored in the manufacture of electric guitars.

    Who can fail to be moved by the mystery of a white-barked birch shining under the light of the full moon on a snowy winter night?

  • Monday, October 15, 2018 5:41 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Brush Your Teeth the Wise Woman Way, contd.

    My dentist said she could order an organic, essential-oil-free toothpaste from Germany. But it cost so much I figured it would be better to skip toothpaste altogether. (And she said that would actually be fine, as the brushing itself does the majority of the work.)  The druggist at the local pharmacy recommended hydrogen peroxide, and the bottle told me that it would “debride” my teeth. My neighbor said she preferred baking soda and sea salt. Both work well, but I dislike being a consumer and relying on stores to supply my needs.

    I wondered which easy-to-find-or-grow herbs could be used for oral health and well-scrubbed teeth. Antibacterial herbs can help prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Astringent herbs can tighten gum tissues. Three herbs combine these properties and have a long history of use in oral health. Echinacea (Echinacea augustifolia, E. purpura), sage (Salvia officinalis), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). 

    A bottle of my own yarrow tincture, made in 100 proof vodka from fresh flowering plants (white flowers, not yellow or red), now resides in my bathroom. If yarrow doesn’t grow in your area, you can easily grow sage and make a 100 proof vodka tincture of the fresh leaves at any time. You can also easily grow echinacea and make a tincture of the fresh roots, but they have to be at least three years old before you can start your tincture. A drop or two of tincture on my toothbrush is all it takes. 

    After brushing – with or without a dentifrice – a splash of pine needle, mint, rosemary, or sage vinegar in water makes a wonderful antibacterial mouth wash.
    Even my dentist commented on the improvement in my oral health, especially the health of my gums, since I stop using toothpaste.

    Green blessings are everywhere.





  • Monday, October 15, 2018 5:35 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Brush Your Teeth the Wise Woman Way
    c. 2018, Susun Weed

    One good habit that most of us have is brushing our teeth morning and night. And what a large selection of toothbrushes and toothpastes we have to choose from.

    Every time I leave the dentist after my regular tooth cleaning, I am handed a new toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste. The message is clear: “Brush your teeth with toothpaste.”

    Have you ever read the ingredients in toothpaste?  When I did, I realized that I would never consume most of the things I was brushing my teeth with. And I am consuming them if I used toothpaste, even if I don’t swallow. Artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and essential oils are not on my dinner table, why was I putting them on my teeth, in my mouth?

    I often asked myself what my ancestors would do instead what my modern culture does, but I don’t want the teeth of my ancestors, which weren’t actually healthy for very long – it was rare for someone of sixty or older to have any teeth left at all – so that line of inquiry seemed unproductive. Weston Price is famous for showing the beautiful teeth of people who don’t use toothpaste or toothbrushes (though chew sticks are common) and who have no white sugar or white flour nor any processed food of any kind their diet, leading some to believe that eliminating refined foods freed them from oral hygiene. As one dentist pointed out to me: “You don’t have the genetics of those indigenous people. Your ancestors have been living on white flour for generations. You need modern dentistry. You need to brush your teeth. And floss too!

    Many indigenous people use special twigs as “chew sticks” for dental hygiene. They break a twig in half, splay and soften the broken end by chewing on it, then use the splayed end as a brush to remove plaque and invigorate the gums. All the better if the twig is from a tree with antibacterial properties, or an aromatic shrub.

    In my area, the Northeastern part of North American, twigs of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) or twigs of cavity-fighting xylitol-rich sweet birch (Betula nigra) were used. Oak, dogwood, and maple twigs were used in other parts of the Native Americas. In India neem twigs are still used. Bedouins use antiseptic arak twigs. And in Africa, you can brush your teeth with a miswak twig, which is naturally high in anti-cavity fluoride.

    Pine needles and pine twigs make excellent toothbrushes. In addition to removing debris and plaque, they kill bacteria, and freshen the breath. Aromatic shrubs with brushy leaves or twigs – like rosemary, tulsi, thyme, and lavender – and young aromatic tree twigs – like bay, cinnamon, and sassafras – counter bacterial growth in the mouth and scent the breath.

    Modern teeth are brushed with non-electric ionic toothbrushes which attract plaque off the teeth and with electric toothbrushes which do a much better job than even the best manual brushing.

    It isn’t really the toothbrush that bothers me though; it is the toothpaste (and mouthwash) I have an issue with. If I don’t use a naturally antibacterial chew stick, but a toothbrush, what could I put on it to help my teeth stay healthy?

    ~ Page 2 ~

  • Sunday, October 07, 2018 4:52 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    The cold months are approaching and no better way to warm yourself than from the inside out. So get those soup pots out and start cooking. Here is one of my favorite fall/winter soups...

    Winter Squash Soup with Ginger
    by Lori Nicolosi


    • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 - 6 cups water, chicken or vegetable stock
    • 3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
    • 2 - 3 Tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • tamari to taste
    • 1 teaspoon or more to taste celtic sea salt
    • fresh coriander (cilantro) for garnishing

    In a large soup pot, add the olive oil, onions, and sea salt. Cook over low heat until the onions are transparent and soft. Add the garlic. Let that cook for a few minutes until the aroma of cooking garlic fills the air. Raise the heat to high and add the ground coriander, cinnamon and the squash, stir well and cook for a few minutes making sure to stir often so the spices don't burn. Add the water or broth until it is just covers the squash. Bring to a boil over high heat then cover with a lid and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for about 1 hour, until soft.

    Carefully blend the soup until smooth and silky or mash it a little and leave it chunky. Add the ginger... the larger amount if you like it a little spicy. Finish with tamari to taste and sprinkle on top lots of yummy fresh coriander.

  • Saturday, October 06, 2018 10:24 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Glorious Goldenrod
    by Susun Weed

    I love autumn; don't you? The days shorten and fall colors thrill my senses. Perennial roots get busy storing nourishment that will last them through the winter. And the meadows bloom with purple asters and riotous goldenrod flowers.

    Goldenrod (the Solidago genus, Asteracea family) is one of my favorite plants, and hopefully, soon it will be one of your favorites too.

    Before you complain that goldenrod is a pest and you're allergic to it, let me set the record straight: You aren't. No one is, no one can be, allergic to goldenrod pollen. Why? It has virtually none. What little pollen it makes is sticky, all the better to stick onto insects who pollinate the goldenrod. Only wind-pollinated plants -- like ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), which blooms at the same time as goldenrod, and has an especially irritating pollen -- make enough pollen, and spread it widely enough, to cause allergic reactions.

    Set aside your mistaken bad thoughts about lovely goldenrod, and, if you can, visit a patch. Goldenrod is a wide-spread wild plant in North America (found from Florida to New Hampshire and west into Texas), Europe, and Asia. Goldenrod is also treasured as a garden plant from New Zealand to Germany, and has become a highly-successful weed in Japan. So, no matter where you live as you read this article, it is likely that you can find a patch of goldenrod.

    It is rare to see one goldenrod plant growing alone; it multiplies by sending out root runners, so there are usually dozens of plants growing densely together. Notice all the bees and insects happily crawling about on goldenrod's numerous small yellow flowers.

    There are many types of goldenrod, and you are likely to find several kinds if you look around. The species Solidago canadensis and S. odora are considered the most medicinal (and the tastiest), but all species of goldenrod are safe and beneficial and can be used to help the immune system get ready for winter.

    Goldenrod tonics are easy to make. Harvest any goldenrod by cutting the top third of the plant in full flower on a sunny fall day. Or, respectfully pull the entire plant, roots and all, in the late autumn or early winter. Then follow the simple directions below. Note: You can use any size jar when making a vinegar or a tincture, so long as you fill it full.

    To dry flowering goldenrod: Bundle 2-3 stalks together and hang upside down in a cool, shady room until thoroughly dry. When the stalks snap crisply, store the dried herb in brown paper bags. One or two large handfuls of crushed leaves and flowers, steeped in a quart of boiling water for thirty minutes makes a tea that can be used hot, with honey, to counter allergies (especially pollen allergies), fevers, sore throats, coughs, colds and the flu; or taken cold to relieve colic in babies, and gas in adults. Dried mint and/or yarrow are tasty, and useful, additions when making goldenrod flower tea.

    To dry goldenrod roots: Rinse dirt off the roots, then cut away all th estalks, leaves and dead flowers. If possible, hang your roots over a woodstove to dry; if not, place them on racks and put them in a warm place to dry until brittle. Store in glass jars. Depending on the difficulty you are addressing, goldenrod root tea may be made with large or small amounts of the roots brewed or decocted in boiling water. Or the roots may be powdered, alone or mixed with flowers, and applied to hard-to-heal wounds and sore joints.

    To make a goldenrod vinegar: Chop the goldenrod coarsely, filling a jar with chopped flowers, leaves, stalks (and roots if you have them); then fill the jar to the top with room-temperature, pasteurized, apple cider vinegar. Cap it tightly with a plastic lid. (Metal lids will be eroded by the action of the vinegar. If you must use one, protect it with several layers of plastic between it and the vinegar.) Be sure to label your vinegar with the date and contents. Your goldenrod vinegar will be ready to use in six weeks to improve mineral balance, help prevent kidney stones, eliminate flatulance, and improve immune functioning.

    To make a goldenrod tincture: Chop the goldenrod coarsely, filling a jar with chopped flowers, leaves, stalks (and roots if you have them); then add 100 proof vodka, filling the jar to the very top. Cap tightly and label. Your goldenrod tincture will be ready to use in six weeks, by the dropperful, as an anti-inflammatory, a sweat-inducing cold cure, and an astringent digestive aid. Medical herbalists use large doses (up to 4 dropperfuls at a time) of goldenrod tincture several times daily to treat kidney problems -- including nephritis, hemorrhage, kidney stones, and inability to void -- and prostate problems, including frequent urination.

    The colonists called goldenrod tea "Liberty Tea," for they drank it instead of black tea after the Boston Tea Party. In fact, Liberty Tea proved so popular, it was exported to China! Let goldenrod liberate you, too. Herbal medicine is people's medicine, a gift from Mama Earth to us.

    Green Blessings.

  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018 9:27 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Shiso (Perilla frutescens)

    Red-leaved shiso, also known by the awkward name “beefsteak plant,” is wonderfully easy to grow and a delight to the eyes and the palate. Like holy basil (tulsi) – its sister – shiso is an adaptogen with high levels of antioxidants.

    I love shiso in salads, gazpacho, marinated cucumber dishes, and anywhere else a dash of color and an interesting taste is welcome. Right now I am making shiso vinegar, shiso honey, and shiso pesto so I can enjoy it all winter too.

    This pungent, aromatic, warming herb is known for its antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, tonic, carminative, diaphoretic, emollient, expectorant, and pectoral actions. No wonder its considered so useful when dealing with asthma, colds and chills, nausea (a tea of the stalks is traditional in China as a remedy for morning sickness), abdominal pain, food poisoning, allergic reactions (especially from seafood), bronchitis and even constipation. The juice helps heal cuts and wounds.

    The high-protein tasty seeds are antiasthmatic, antitussive, emollient and expectorant. But don’t eat too many, as shiso self-sows readily if sufficient seeds are left on the stalks. As with all mints, there are lots of varieties of shiso available. I prefer the red-leaved shiso because I am into consuming high levels of the antioxidant anthocyanin, found in purple and blue plant parts.

    More info on Shiso:

  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018 8:54 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Good Enough to Live (Not Die) For Stir-Fry \ Serves 3-4

    • 6-8 large cloves garlic, sliced thinly
    • 1 tablespoon/15 ml olive oil
    • 1 cup/250 ml fresh shiitake, sliced or 1 ounce/30 grams dried
    • 2-4 fresh yellow dock roots
    • 1-2 fresh burdock roots
    • 1-2 fresh dandelion roots
    • 1 pound/ 500 grams tofu cut in cubes
    • 2 cups/500 ml cooked fresh stinging nettles
    • 1/2 cup/125 mI almonds
    • 1 tablespoon/15 ml tamari

    Cook garlic briefly in oil at the lowest possible heat. Raise heat a little. Add mushrooms and cook for several minutes, stirring often. Slice roots thinly on the diagonal and add them to the skillet. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add tofu, nettle leaves, and some of the nettle cooking water. Cover tightly and cook at medium-high heat for five minutes. While it cooks, slice and toast almonds. To serve, pour over soba (buckwheat noodles) or brown rice, sprinkle with tamari, and garnish generously with almonds.

  • Tuesday, September 18, 2018 8:18 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Fresh hypericum tincture or oil

    On the sunniest day of the summer, look in fields and along roadsides for the yellow flowers of Hypericum perforatum (aka St. John’s/St. Joan’s wort) and get ready to make two of the Great Remedies. Take both 100 proof vodka and pure olive oil with you when you go out to stalk St. John’s/St. Joan’s wort, bottles of various sizes, and a pair of sharp scissors.

    Depending on the abundance or scarcity of flowers, I harvest anything from just the blossoms to the top third of the Hypericum plant. So long as the day is sunny and the plants dry the tincture will be active and medicinal even if it contains a fair amount of stalk and leaves. I also make a quart of this tincture as I use it frequently, in dropperful doses.

    If you are using tops rather than just flowers, chop as needed. I often harvest Hypericum flowers right into my jar and fill it with vodka or oil while still afield, insuring optimum freshness and maximum fairy blessings.

    Cover tightly. Label. I do not put my oil in the sun, but some people swear by it. Try one each way and see what you think. Your St. J’s tincture and your St. J’s oil will be ready to use in six weeks.

  • Tuesday, September 18, 2018 5:50 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Summer Milkweed Blossom Salad

    Susun Weed

    All parts of the milkweed contain a mild poison. Just as the monarch caterpillar can eat some and survive, so can we. Just don’t overdo it, or you may experience gastrointestinal distress.

    • 2 cups cottage cheese
    • 2 cups fruit of the season
    • ½ cup milkweed flowers
    • ¼ cup roasted nuts

    Prepare the fruit by removing pits or seeds and cutting into bite sized pieces. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and peaches are in my markets when the milkweed is blooming.

    Put the cottage cheese into a serving bowl. Add prepared fruit and milkweed blossoms and stir gently to mix. Sprinkle nuts on top and serve.

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