Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, May 06, 2014 4:42 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Smooth yellow wood violet
    (Viola pensylvanica)

    Common Blue Violet (Viola species)

    I was shocked to hear someone asking how she could rid her lawn of the violets that were growing there. All violets are edible and medicinal. They are beautiful and they make us beautiful. Cherish your weedy violets. Don’t mow the lawn until they bloom. Revel in their joy. Toss the flowers into your salad. Later, harvest leaves to make one of the most potent anti-cancer infusions known.

    Motherwort (Leonurus cardiac
    These tender young motherwort leaves are just the right size to use for motherwort vinegar. As a matter of fact, now is a great time to make my celebrated Triple Goddess Vinegar: equal parts maidenwort, motherwort, and cronewort leaves in pasteurized apple cider vinegar.

    Mother’s Day Greetings to All the Mothers
    Praises to You!

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  • Tuesday, May 06, 2014 3:34 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    First Week of May Weed Walk

    Fruiting bodies of horsetail (Equisetuum arvense)
    Horsetail is an ancient plant, more closely related to ferns and mushrooms than to flowering plants. Like ferns and mushrooms, horsetail reproduces via fruiting bodies which release spores. This is a photo  of one of those fruiting bodies. After releasing its spores, the fruiting body dries out and decomposes. The part of the horsetail used by herbalists is the “leafy” stalk, harvested early, usually no later than the beginning of June.

    Blooming red maple trees (Acer rubram)
    Here they are en mass and up close. The beautiful flowers of the red maples. A favorite food of both the bees and the squirrels. When red maple flowers litter the ground, then summer is here. They are edible, if a bit astringent; try a few in salads if you wish.

    Woodland flowers
    Here are some of common woodland flowers we found blooming this week. We snacked on a violet blossom or two as we walked, since they are not the reproductive flowers. But we left all the other flowers alone so they could set seeds and create more beauty for our walks in the future. Please do the same. Resist that temptation to bring some home. Little woodland flowers do best when left alone.

    Rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides)

    Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)

  • Monday, May 05, 2014 4:17 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Greetings of greening to you all.

    I love this time of year. Lots of people visit the Catskills in the fall, for the autumn leaf show, but I think the beginning of the leafing is just as beautiful. You just have to look a lot closer.

    Look for the faint sweeps of colors across the hillsides as the trees bloom: blushes of red maple, sweeps of white willow catkins, tiny pine flowers dropping yellow pollen. Then notice the first glimmers of green – lime green, grassy green, budding green, blue-green, vibrant green – as the leaves emerge from their protective winter sheaths.

    And while you are out looking, bend close to the forest floor. Just before the leaves bring shade, the native perennial plants grab the sun and bloom, bloom, bloom. Every walk in the woods this month offers us a fresh delight of wildflowers. I share some of my recent finds with you in our weed walk, following.

    And every day seems to bring new flowering bulbs into the sun. What rich colors! What fascinating shapes. I envision where I want to plant more this fall for more delight next spring.

    It is not too late to join my new Healthy Heart online class. Our first teleclass was yesterday (May 5), but we recorded it, so you can listen at your convenience. Join me as we explore the delicious foods and healing herbs that can give you a healthy heart, prevent strokes and heart attacks, and help you get off (or never take) hypertensive drugs, statins, and blood thinners. What a perfect arena for us to proclaim: Herbal medicine is people’s medicine!

    This new course – a Healthy Heart the Wise Woman Way – contains three units of four lessons each, for a total of twelve lessons. You are free to take one, two or all three units. Each unit includes four lessons, assignments to complete, twelve herbal monographs, recipes, special bonuses, three teleclasses, and access to an interactive forum with me and the other students. I expect it will take most people 8-10 weeks to finish each unit (four lessons); you are free to do the lessons as slowly or quickly as you desire.

    But for now, get up. Go outside. Take a walk in the woods. Visit a nature preserve. Spend some time in your garden or back yard. Go to a park. Take the dog for a walk. Right now. Get up and get outside and enjoy the green blessings that surround you.
    Green blessings are everywhere!


    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 2:37 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk

    Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
    This bold native wildflower has chosen to grow right next to my door and so is well positioned to bring a smile to my heart every year when it blooms. Who could resist smiling when greeted by such a sunny disposition. Every 5-6 years I dig a rhizome in the fall and make a tincture that is deadly to the bacteria that cause gum disease. But not now. Now, let’s enjoy the flowers and the day.

    Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
    Seems as though every drainage ditch is rimmed with coltsfoot this year. So many little drops of sunlight sprinkled along the road. Coltsfoot is rich is an alkaloid that may congest the liver, so it is little used these days. Previously, the flowers were put up in honey as a cough remedy, and the leaves were dried and smoked by those dealing with asthma, COPD, and pollen allergies. It is unlikely that the problem alkaloids would be transferred by either of these methods, so you may want to give it a try.

    Nettle (Urtica urens)
    I have promised to show you nettle as it grows this year. Here is the second in our series of nettle throughout the seasons. The leaves are larger, the plant is taller, and this is just right for nettle soup. I use a minimum of one ounce fresh nettle to two cups water for a serving. Boil the water and throw the nettle into the boiling water and cook, simmering, for as long as you can, or at least four hours.
  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 2:20 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Innana is home! Persephone is back!! Get ready for summer!!

    Innana came home after being killed by her sister Erishkegal and hung on a meathook for three days.

    Persephone came back after being abducted into the underworld by Hades.

    No matter what you call the holiday, no matter how you celebrate it, it is clear: The green has returned. The Mother is home. The daughter is here. The warmth is steady now. Get ready for summer.

    Fawns. Lambs. Kids. The merry-makers are on the scene. Get ready for summer’s fun.

    Dandelion. Violet. Plantain. The helpers are showing up again. Get ready for summer’s salads.

    Yarrow. Motherwort. Hypericum. The great medicines are moving up from their roots. Get ready to be there when they flower.

    Nettle. Wild chives. Garlic mustard. Get ready to get more “wild” into your diet this year.

    Right now it’s time to make nettle soup. Time to make wild chive butter. Time to throw some garlic mustard into your salad. Get ready for summer.

    Get ready. Summer starts next week. Yes, May Day, May 1 is the first day of summer, followed in six weeks by Mid-Summer’s Night, also known as Summer Solstice on June 22. Get ready for summer.

    There are still spaces in this weekend’s workshops if you want to make nettle soup and wild salads with the apprentices and I before doing it on your own.

    And you can begin the live-out apprenticeship any time. Our first weekend together was wonderful. Charming women and we all look forward to our adventure this year becoming greener ourselves and with you.

    Herbal medicine is people’s medicine.

    Green blessings.

    ~ Weed Walk ~
  • Tuesday, April 08, 2014 9:14 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Cronewort Root Vinegar

    Artemisia vulgaris, often called mugwort, but addressed as cronewort by me, is an invasive plant. Her ability to be pushy works well when she is colonizing roadsides and reclaiming parking lots, but not so well in my herb garden. Every spring I am faced anew with the necessity of containing my thriving cronewort patch.

    One of the ways cronewort invades and claims land is by forming an underground network of crisscrossing rhizomes and roots. To control cronewort, one must pull up as much a s possible of these roots. In the first photo you can clearly see that the roots are just starting to sprout their new leaves. This vinegar can be made when the leaves are large as well.

    Put the rhizomes/roots and sprouting leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water and let soak while you gather: pasteurized apple cider vinegar, a sharp knife, a jar with a plastic lid, a label and a waterproof pen. When I have everything gathered, I swish the roots around in the water to free clinging dirt, then shake them dry in the sink, and chop  them.

    Yes, you can rinse the roots under running water or even use a brush on them to get all the dirt off. But think of this: A little dirt in the vinegar will improve your gut flora. Soil bacteria improve the ability of the body to uptake and use minerals. Any dirt left on the roots will sink to the bottom of the vinegar, so you will not actually ingest it. Keeping the roots parallel while soaking and afterwards makes cutting easier and more uniform.

    The most difficult part of making a vinegar is finding the right jar. It is best if it is filled right up to the top. If you are shy, go back outside and get some more plant material. A little care here will make a big difference in you finished product. Be sure to use a plastic lid as the vinegar will corrode metal.

    Here is the finished vinegar. Well, not finished completely, since it takes about six weeks for the minerals in the roots to be fully extracted into the vinegar. So label your vinegar and find a place for it where you can observe it over the next month or so. I’ll be asking you about it, so be sure to keep it near at hand.

    Green blessings.
  • Monday, April 07, 2014 8:29 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk

    Crocus sativa and variants
    Here is a bouquet of crocuses for you. After the deep, cold winter, the spring bulbs are producing record amounts of blooms. Every day is a feast for the eyes and the bees.

    There were hundreds of honeybees buzzing in the crocuses and snowdrops when I took photos for this week’s ezine.  I managed to catch one of the bees in one of the crocus . . . or did she go home and say: “I got her to take my picture and put it up on the Internet.”

    Saffron is edible, and it is part of a crocus. It is, in fact, the female part (the orangey-yellow bit in the center of the flower). Not of these crocuses though; saffron is from a crocus that blooms in the autumn. Saffron is edible in minute quantities only. Too much can supposedly precipitate a miscarriage, as well as cause symptoms of poisoning. That’s scary to me, since flowers are the least likely place for a plant to put its poisons, I have never ventured to eat my crocuses.

    Though I suspect a few petals in my salad wouldn’t kill me, though eating the bulb might.
    Crocuses, like most of the flowering bulbs of spring, are members of the lily family, which contains some violently poisonous plants, like daffodils, as well as deliciously edible plants, like leeks.


    Cheladonium majus / Celandine   
    She has been waiting, under the snow, this evergreen member of the poppy family. And here she is, a bit flattened, but ready to grab some rays and get up and grow. This early in the year, her cancer-caustic sap is weak and not much use. We will watch her grow for some weeks yet, absorbing the lengthening hours of light, and return when she is at her strength. And that will be soon indeed.

    Leonurus cardiaca / Motherwort
    This mint is also virtually evergreen. You can tell by how large the leaves are. Compare the leaves of the celandine and the motherwort to the leaves of the nettle, which goes completely underground for the cold months. They are big, while the nettle leaves are tiny.
    Take a good look at this motherwort so you won’t weed her from your garden by mistake. It is still several months before we will make medicine with motherwort. She needs to gather her resources and summon her spirit before she covers herself with flowers and seeds packed together in a medicine wheel.

    Urtica dioica / Nettle
    Look at the beautiful purple color of these emerging nettle shoots. I don’t start harvesting the shoots to use in soup until they are dark green, another week or two from now. But if I were to make nettle tincture, which I don’t do, I think I would make it now and see if I could capture some of her royal purple in my vodka.
    Purple nettle vodka, now that’s a drink I could get excited about.
    We will return to nettle and watch her as she grows.

  • Monday, April 07, 2014 4:54 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings and joy to you.

    Are you ready for our first weed walk of the year? Yes, indeedy, spring is sprung and the green is gaining ground each day. It’s time to go out and renew your friendships with the plants that live with you.

    If you had a specific green ally last year, say hello to that plant first. Breathe with that plant for several minutes. Then let your eyes and feet wander to new faces, familiar faces, the same old faces in different places. This is a special time of the year, for so much that will be hidden by summer’s rampant growth lies revealed to us. In the few weeks between the melting of the snow and the coming of the leaves, the land’s secrets are there to see for those who are looking.

    Putting my bare feet on the feet and breathing in the breath of the plants is the best I know to start my day. No matter where I am, the earth is beneath my feet. No matter where I am, the air I breathe is a gift to me from the plants. My life is gift after gift.

    The Wise Woman Center begins the 2014 season with our Easter work-exchange weekend. Who knows what treats the bunny will leave for hard workers? This is also the orientation weekend for a great new group of live-out apprentices. The first of the new live-in apprentices will be here as well. And we’re likely to have new baby goats. You are invited to come and help us get ready for the first workshops of the year.  

    And do join me for Spring Tonics on Saturday April 26 and Hands-on Spring Medicines on Sunday April 27. There is still room and still time to register for these fun workshops. Saturday we’ll take the path to the wild leek patch and learn the story of The Women Who Loved Ramps. We will bite buds, sniff shoots, and discover all sorts of spring treasures. Sunday we’ll harvest young nettle tops and make the first nettle soup of the year, then gather a multitude of greens for a lush wild salad, and, after lunch, make a spring remedy or two. Reserve your place here

    And now for that early spring weed walk I promised you. Let’s go!

    Green blessings.

    ~ Weed Walk ~
  • Monday, March 24, 2014 5:03 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Nuts have nourished people since the early Stone Age when prehistoric nomads mixed ground almonds and pistachios with chopped dates, breadcrumbs, and sesame oil as a hearty travel food. Walnuts are thought to be the first nuts eaten, and almonds one of the first domesticated trees.

    While there are differences between nuts – such as different forms of vitamin E and differing amounts of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats – eating any nuts, even peanuts, regularly, promotes heart health.

    Protect the fats in nuts by storing them in the freezer and by buying non-roasted nuts. Do roast nuts before eating them though, to destroy their anti-nutritional properties. Roast them in a slow oven or toast in a cast iron pan until aromatic and lightly browned. Eat within a few days.

    Don’t just add nuts to your diet. Use them to replace snack foods, chips, cookies, and other junk food. Use them instead of processed meats on your salad. Use thinned nut butter instead of white flour gravy. Add nuts to salads, stir frys, oatmeal, cold cereal, pasta, yogurt, grain dishes. Grind and use to thicken pesto, sauces, and salad dressings. Spread nut butter on toast or down the center of a stalk of celery.

    •    A Harvard study, completed in 2011, which followed 120,000 adults for 20 years, singled out potato chips as the greatest contributor to weight gain. Nuts came in second only to yogurt as the food most linked to weight loss.
    •    Eating peanuts and peanut butter at least five times a week, reduces a woman’s risk of gall bladder disease by 25%.
    •    Eating 1.5 ounces of pistachios daily lowers cholesterol better, and faster, than a low-fat diet.
    •    Nuts are among the plant foods with the highest total antioxidant content. And walnuts, pecans and chestnuts have the highest antioxidant content of them all.
    •    Nuts contain lots of vitamin E plus calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These boost testosterone production in older men, putting a spring in their step and lift elsewhere as well.
    •    Almonds reduce cholesterol levels as much as statin drugs. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
    •    Almonds reduce C-reactive protein as much as statins. (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
    •    Allergies to nuts of all types can be deadly. The best way to prevent nut allergies in children is to introduce nuts into their diet during the first year of life.
    •    Eating nuts has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and blood vessel disease.
    •    Nuts lower LDL cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and improve the lipid profile.
    •    Regular inclusion of nuts in the diet reduces inflammatory marker like C-reactive protein and counters oxidative stress.
    •    The health results from eating nuts have been found in all population groups: including women and men of all ages, African-Americans, and those with diabetes.
    •    Eating nuts helps prevent cognitive decline, preserves and improves memory, and increases alertness, at all ages.
    •    Nuts in the diet help prevent sun damage and lower the risk of skin cancer.
    •    Risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases shows strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decrease 11 percent for nut intake once per week and 19 for consumption 1-4 times per week.
    •    Substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate in an average diet results in a 30 percent reduction in heart disease risk.
    •    Foods that are known to lower cholesterol, when combined, have benefits greater than the sum of their parts. A diet containing almonds and other nuts, plus foods rich in plant sterols (such as beans and peas), plus those rich in soluble fiber (such as whole grains) can reduce cholesterol levels faster than statin drugs can.
    •    Almond skin flavonoids alone enhance LDL's resistance to oxidation by 18%, when almond meat is added, LDL's resistance to oxidation is extended to 52.5%.  (Oxidized LDL leads to plaque and blocked blood vessels.)
    •    Almonds may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
    •    Pecans in the diet slow the decline in motor functioning associated with ALS.
    •    Walnuts may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
    •    Walnuts provide ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid associated with improved bone health.

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  • Monday, March 24, 2014 4:40 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    The Ideal Meal

    Fed up with the growing number of people being told they need to take statin drugs and blood pressure drugs, Dutch researchers reviewed 44 studies connecting diet with heart health. They identified six key foods that, eaten regularly, can cut your risk of heart disease by 76 percent. Men who eat these foods can expect to live an extra 6.5 years; women, who already live longer, get 5 extra years from this diet.

    The foods: garlic, greens, dark chocolate, almonds, salmon, wine or green tea

    The amounts, per week: 7-10 cloves of garlic, 15-20 cups of greens and other vegetables and fruits, 24 ounces of dark chocolate (one 3 ounce bar daily), 5-8 glasses of red wine or 10-16 cups of green tea, one pound salmon (or herring or sardines).

    The amounts, per day
    : ½ teaspoon garlic, four servings of cooked greens/vegs/fruit (not juice), one 3 ounce bar of dark chocolate, one 5-ounce glass of red wine or two cups of green tea, two ounces of almonds (or other nuts), 4 ounces of salmon (at least twice a week).

    It surprises many people that nuts are good for heart health. We tend to think of them as fatty and fattening. Just the opposite is true. Nuts help us lose weight, counter diabetes, lower blood pressure, and even lower cholesterol. Read on for the good news about nuts. (Excerpted from the nut monograph that accompanies Unit 3 of my new online course: Heart Health the Wise Woman Way.)

    ~ Page 3 ~
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