Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, January 14, 2014 1:54 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Green greetings and a nourishing New Year to you all.

    I have settled back into my cozy Catskill home, just in time. Our flight out of Costa Rica was one of the last to get out, with the frigid storm vortex just starting to blow in as we landed in New York. As you have heard, temperatures hit all-time lows. Plants can deal with that. But what is really hard on them is for it to get super cold and then thaw suddenly and then freeze again. Yesterday it was 7 degrees Farenheit (-12C) and I was playing with my granddaughter on my frozen pond. Today there is thunder and lightning and torrents of rain, with temperatures in the 40’s. And it will be cold again in a day. It’s hard to adjust quickly if you are a plant!

    The weather in Costa Rica was breezy at night and sunny and warm all day. Not difficult for the plants to adjust to at all. At dawn the howler monkeys get going and so do most of the people, since work in the heat of the day is almost impossible. Our beat-the-heat trick is to get into the deep jungle where the sun can’t get to us, and we found some wild, and some watery, jungle settings that we are excited to share you virtually and with the first participants in our Health and Well Being Adventures in reality next January.

    Of the many questions we have received about the Adventure, one really stands out for me. “How will what we learn about plants in Costa Rica be useful to me when I am at home?” My answer has several parts. 1. We will be learning about plant families as we learn about plants, so what we learn is applicable all over the world. 2. We will not be focusing on learning a lot of herbal medicine in Costa Rica. 3. Many tropical plants that grow in Costa Rica are sold in your local supermarket, including avocado, banana, papaya, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric, to mention but a few.

    There’s a wealth of plants unique to the tropics to learn about, but I am not focused on teaching about them. I continue to devote myself to the weeds, wherever I find myself. Medicinal Plants of Costa Rica, Ed Bernhardt, Zona Tropical, 2008 includes 92 plants. Most of you are probably using, or are familiar with the uses of, more than half of them! Such as aloe vera, arnica, artemisia, avocado, basil, borage, castor bean, cayenne, chamomile, cilantro, cinnamon, citrus, coconut, cornsilk, dandelion, echinacea, elder, eucalyptus, feverfew, garlic, ginger, gotu kola, plantain, hibiscus, horsetail, lemongrass, mimosa, mint, noni, oregano, papaya, parsley, passion flower, peppermint, pokeweed, prickly pear cactus, rosemary, rue, sage, lantana, stevia, singing nettle, thyme, turmeric, vervain, quassia, epazote, yarrow, yellow dock, and yucca. (That’s 51 plants.)

    And imagine my surprise to find medicinal uses for plants I have only known as house plants, such as wander Jew and sansevieria, that grow wild in Costa Rica!

    I promised you a bouquet, and I did stop to pick one for you. Actually, I picked at least two. Here’s the first, with lots of sparking green blessings for you.


    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Tuesday, December 31, 2013 7:50 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    A Bouquet of Wildflowers for You from Florida, contd.

    More pretty flowers for you that are all new to me. The one with the cluster of red flowers is planted as an ornamental around most of the houses. The little white flowers wowed me with their seed pods which are covered with tiny glands. (Enlarge the photos and you will see them.) The long tips on the petals are great too! I have seen a house plant called “shrimp plant” that looks a lot like this red flower. And then there was this shrub, covered with hundreds of tiny blossoms, each with a yellow throat.

    Orange milkweed. I recollect that some orange milkweeds were used medicinally. Who knows this one? How do you use it?

    This plant is jiggling in my memory. I ought to know what it is, but the name has failed to come to me. Sparassis? It is growing in a wet area. Are those round brown things are its seeds? A rather large plant. It was over a meter tall and the flower is bigger than a quarter.

    This stunning yellow flower reminds me of evening primrose, though I don’t think it is.

    And the last flower in my bouquet to you is strong back, a tiny hibiscus found in lawns.

    Green blessings are everywhere!

  • Tuesday, December 31, 2013 7:35 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    A Bouquet of Wildflowers for You from Florida

    The pea and bean family is represented by a large climbing plant with wonderful yellow flowers and a tiny creeper in the lawn with flowers one can barely see.

    Spanish needles, a member of the aster family, is one of the first edible plants I learned in the Miami area, over thirty years ago. It is easy to recognize, really common, and not bad tasting, though I probably wouldn’t call it a favorite of mine. The seeds, which you can see in the photo, have a forked end which hooks onto clothing. After taking these photos, I had to spend five minutes freeing myself from them.

    Here are some pretty flowers for you. The wind was blowing so hard while I was trying to photograph the purple flower that it came out fuzzy despite my best effort. The plant with the tiny white flowers and round leaves was growing right next to the purple one in a wet ditch. The stunning six-pointed flower is actually a light pink and rather small. It reminds me of the flowers of oxalis, but the leaves are wrong for that. It grows in swaths on lawns just about everywhere I have been, from Miami Beach to the Everglades. Who knows her name? Is she useful? Wish I had the time to sit and get to know her.

    Look at this! A wild poinsettia bush. There were lots of them growing at the Anne Kolb Nature Center. I used to think poinsettia was poisonous until I saw my cat eating it. Turns out it has some medicinal uses. Hmmm.

    ~ Weed Walk 2 ~

  • Tuesday, December 31, 2013 7:30 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Happy Holidays to you all.

    I hope you brought some green inside to remind you that we have passed the darkest day. Now the light grows ever stronger and longer, though the cold gets deeper.

    Bundle up and go outside. Winter days are wonderful for communicating with the plants. Pay attention and see if you can feel their response to the growing light.

    I am writing to you from Miami, en route to Costa Rica. I am not sitting inside writing; I am walking on the beach and visiting nature centers and going out in an airboat. Instead of words, I am sending you a bouquet of colorful flowery blessings from Florida. I don’t know the names of all the weeds I am sending to you. If you want to add a name or a comment, please do. I am eager to learn more about tropical plants and how they are used.

    And look for a bouquet coming your way from Costa Rica, soon!

    Marvelous green blessings to all.

    ~ Weed Walk ~
  • Tuesday, December 10, 2013 2:17 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Festive Pomegranate Cordial

    It looks good. It tastes good. And it gets the hormones flowing. Watch out party!!

    Freeze one whole ripe pomegranate for 2-3 hours. Cut in half with a sharp knife.

    Then cut in quarters.

    Remove seeds and arils (the red part) and discard the peel and membrane.

    Freezing does make this step much easier but it also makes it juicier, so have a bowl of warm water handy for dipping your hands into, and keep the counter wiped, as pomegranate juice can stain.

    Choose a jar slightly larger than you think you may need for the amount of pomegranate you have. Fill the jar no more than ¾ full with pomegranate arils and seeds. Add 100 proof vodka. Fill it to the level of the pomegranate, no further.

    Then add 9-12 tablespoonfuls of sugar to the pomegranate/vodka mix. I used evaporated organic cane juice. But any sweetener could be used, including maple syrup, agave syrup, rice syrup, or honey. (Probably not molasses or buckwheat honey.)

    Shake shake shake. Shake your cordial. The sugar does not want to combine with the vodka, so shake, shake, shake. Having Kwan Yin bless the brew helps, I am sure. .

    Label and date. Continue to shake every hour or so, until the sugar finally dissolves. This may take several days of effort.

    Your holiday cordial is ready to drink when you are, but the longer it sits, the better it tastes.

    Mentor Students - Click Here for Core Material Work


    Interested in becoming a mentor student? Learn more here.

  • Tuesday, December 10, 2013 2:05 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

                                 Pomegranate Lore

    The pomegranate is ripe with symbolism. It is round. It is red. It is glossy. It is filled with seeds that bleed. It sports a crown. It has amazing red flowers. It is a tropical plant, but it can tolerate light frosts. And so, around the world, pomegranates are symbolic.

    To insure fertility, throw a pomegranate against a wall.

    In ancient Persia, their birthplace, pomegranates guaranteed fertility and fecundity.

    In Armenia, the pomegranate represents fertility, family, and abundance.

    A pomegranate, placed on the home altar will attract abundance, fertility, and good luck.

    At Greek weddings, it is traditional to stomp a pomegranate into the ground.

    Many praises . . . on the pomegranate. . . the woman’s beauty is likened to its
    beautiful shape, its many seeds symbolize fertility, its delicious red juice figures as the lovers’ nectar, and so lovely and odorous are its blooming flowers that they stand for

    the awakening of spring and all loveliness.” Exodus 28:33

    Isfandiyar, a mythological Persian being, becomes invincible after eating a pomegranate.

    Grooms eat pomegranates to ensure virility and many children.

    October is pomegranate festival time in Tehran (Iran) and Goychay (Azerbaijan).

    The pomegranate represents the sweetness of heaven. According to the Qu’ran, pomegranates

    grow in the gardens of paradise.

    A pomegranate is a mystical experience.

    In ancient Greece, pomegranates were sometimes “the fruit of the dead,” as they sprung, originally, from the blood of Adonis.

    Pomegranates are favored by a great many Goddesses, including Hera, who holds one as an orb of office, the Earth Goddess Rhea, the moon goddess Cybele, the Ancient Ishtar, and, of course, Persephone.

    In Sri Lanka, the pomegranate is said to be like a woman’s mind: what is sweet is hidden, and it is not easy to know what is within the bitter rind.

    ~Pomegranate Recipe ~

  • Tuesday, December 10, 2013 1:48 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings.

    Now that we have brought some evergreens into our homes, and now that we are smelling that refreshing, relaxing piney air, it is time to bring a flash of color in too. What better way to do that than with bright shiny pomegranates.

    Native to the Middle East, but now cultivated all over the world in frost-free areas, pomegranate is said to be the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. It is wise to consume pomegranates, and, because consumption slows aging and improves brain function, it may, indeed make you wise, too. ‘Tis said that the end of the pomegranate represents the crown of knowledge.

    When it comes to pomegranate, it is, paradoxically, better to consume the fruit juice rather than eat the fresh fruit. Many of the polyphenols (powerful antioxidants) of pomegranate, and all of the hormonal elements, are in the seeds and the skin of the fruit, the parts that most people do not consume. Juice makers juice the whole fruit however, so that bottled pomegranate juice, so long as it is 100% pure juice, has all the goodies from the inedible parts rolled into it. Yummy! Mentor students, there’s lots more info on pomegranate for you in the expanded ezine.

    Our last work exchange weekend of the year was a great success. We stacked firewood, cut dried herb into pieces ready to brew into infusion in the coming months (and with major dealers forced to raise prices due to lack, I am glad we worked hard at harvesting this year. We have a great supply of dried nettle to see me through the winter. And we have a great supply of herbal pestos, too. 

    Next up is my trip to Costa Rica. In addition to enjoying myself, Justine and I will be making everything ready for our first Well Being and Healing Adventure in Costa Rica, starting in December 2014.

    Before I leave, I will post my 2014 schedule, which is still, at this date, in the works.

    Due to my trip, my blogtalk show will have a short vacation. This evening will be the last one of the year. I will be back with you January 8 for more blogtalk answers and interviews. Thanks to you all for your tremendous support of my Tuesday evening blogtalk show.

    And I will also take a short break from writing new ezines. You’ll still get wonderful content, and may not even notice I’m gone. I will resume with the Jan 15th ezine. Look for the Costa Rica report and lots more.

    Keep looking for those green blessings. They are still all around you.

    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Tuesday, December 03, 2013 3:49 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Homemade Balsamic Vinegar

    This easy vinegar is a delicious way to ingest natural vitamin C, trace minerals, and anti-infective, anti-oxidant resins. It may be made any day of the year, including in the middle of the winter.

    Fill a jar to the very top with needles from your favorite pine tree.

    In the Northeast, white pine is the tastiest. In the west, pinon pine tops the list. No pine is poisonous, so feel free to experiment with your local pines.

    Pines have long, thin needles, not short, flat needles like poisonous yew. If you are uncertain about the pine you have in mind, make a small amount the first time. Some pines are too resinous to make tasty vinegars.

    Then fill your jar with apple cider vinegar.

    Put a plastic, glass, cork, or other non-metal lid on the jar.

    Wait six weeks, then add to salads, soups, beans, anywhere you would use regular balsamic vinegar.

    If you are particularly impatient you could start using your homemade balsamic vinegar in as little as two weeks. The longer it sits, the better it gets.

  • Tuesday, December 03, 2013 3:30 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk 2

    Back Home

    White pine and spruce are ready to be made into remedies. How I appreciate the vibrancy of their green blessings as the wind whistles through the bare branches outside.

    Monica Jean makes white pine vinegar.

    Here is my granddaughter, Monica Jean Smythe, making white pine vinegar. The wind brought down a branch, and while it was still fresh, we broke off bunches of needles. The bunches included more woody stuff than I would have taken if I were harvesting from a living tree, but it made an exceptionally tasty vinegar. Stuff the jar full of pine needles.

    Then add your (pasteurized) apple cider vinegar. (With or without a little help from your friends.) Technically, the vinegar is ready to use in six weeks. Practically, it can used within the week if desired.

    Pine needles vinegar not only provides lots of active vitamin C, it is also a pulmonary remedy, opening the bronchia, countering colds, and keeping the sinuses in top condition.

    Spruce oil

    Spruce tips fill the jar, then we add olive oil and let it steep. In this case, Justine had combined shea butter and olive oil for an especially healing oil. Watch out joint pain; you have met your match.

    ~ Homemade Balsamic Vinegar Recipe ~

  • Tuesday, December 03, 2013 3:24 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk

    Everyday Evergreens

    Justine, Monica Jean and I went for a walk around the neighborhood looking at the evergreens. Here is what we found.


    Cedar needles are flat and look like scales.

    The cedar tree is loaded with berries this year. (Seems all the trees fruited heavily this year; there was a bumper crop of apples, too.) A handful of juniper or cedar berries in sauerkraut elevates that humble dish to sublimity. Or soak some of the berries in vodka overnight for a taste of homemade gin. Go easy. The resins in these berries pack a wallop.


    Juniper needles are smooth little scales, like cedar, but their stems bristle with sharp needles that fight back when you try to harvest them. These juniper bushes guard the entrance to a path into the woods. Like the berries, the needles of the juniper are often blushed with a whitish bloom.


    Both juniper and cedar have bluish, dark purple berries, often covered in a white bloom. I suspect the micro-organisms of the bloom (yeasts? molds? bacteria?) have a lot to do with their healing properties and so do prefer to use the bloom-iest berries for medicines. (Mentored students: Go here to learn more about the medicinal uses of juniper and cedar berries.)

    ~ Weed Walk 2 ~

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