Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Thursday, May 02, 2013 1:21 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green Greetings to you all!

    Are you finding it hard to keep up with all the plants coming into bloom? And all the plants that are ready to harvest? And all the plants you want to plant in your garden? And all the plants that you want to learn about? Me too!

    Remember: it takes seven lifetimes to become an herbalist.
    Be gentle with yourself.

    Start slowly.   
    Identify one new flower a day.   

    Choose a green ally to breathe with every day.  

    Learn all you can about that one plant. 

    Learn as much as you can from the plant itself.  (My correspondence course, Green Ally, and my CD set, Your Green Ally, provide guidance on how to do this.)

    One of the best ways to learn about plants and to bring them into your life is to eat them. This is a great time of the year to eat flowers. And with all the plants in bloom right now, it is the perfect time to make a flower filled Fairy Salad. This Fairy Salad will open your senses to the fairies; you may see them, hear them, feel them, even catch a tendril of their honeyed, pollened, nectared smell. I trust it will encourage you to look for colorful flowers all year to enjoy in your salads.

    May Day is the day the fairy gate opens and the fairies come dancing into the garden.  Lure them to stay with you by providing a wild corner in the garden where people are not allowed (except, perhaps, with need, after the fairies have returned to their underground homes the end of October).  Fairies like variety; they love flowers of course. Fairies are attracted to things that shine and things that move and spin.

    In pursuit of wild salad greens, we looked at three wild greens that are delicious salad plants last week. This  week I offer you three more salad fixin’s, including my dear old friend, shy violet. And there will be three more two weeks after that. In between, we’re going to get out of the gardens and into the forest to check in with some beautiful flowering (and medicinal) plants out in the deep woods. I hope you’ll come along.

    One of my mentored students asked me to write about safe places to harvest salad greens and medicinal plants. She noticed that in my early work I suggest not harvesting within 50 feet of a road, but that in my recent YouTube videos I am sometimes right by the road. It is true, I do feel safe harvesting near roads.

    One of the main exhaust gases from the combustion of gasoline is carbon monoxide. Plants take in carbon dioxide. They then cleave one oxygen atom off the dioxide to make it monoxide. Both forms (carbon dioxide and monoxide) are poisonous to people, but not to plants. (Oxygen is poisonous to plants.) When plants cleave off that one atom of oxygen, it becomes a free radical and causes oxidative stress on the plant.

    Plants near the road thrive in the presence of the high levels of carbon monoxide, which cuts down on oxidative stress, helping them be healthier and better medicine. So, yes, I do harvest near the road if that is where the best plants are growing. Some, like coltsfoot and mullein (herbs that help the lungs) positively thrive in roadside ditches and road cuts. Others, like shy woodland ginseng and skullcap, wouldn’t be caught dead growing beside the road, indeed!

    Use your fairy-enhanced senses to find the best places to harvest plants. Trust your intuition. Have confidence in yourself.

    Green blessings.
  • Thursday, April 25, 2013 7:41 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Dandelion Italiano

    This makes about a quart of intense, delicious marinated greens.

    It keeps in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.
    So I make a lot at once (doubling the recipe) and eat it bit by bit.

    You will need:   

    •     a “bunch” of dandelion leaves
    •     a kettle and a 2-quart (or larger saucepan) or 2 large saucepans
    •     a gallon of water
    •     a stove or other heat source
    •     a 2-quart storage dish with a tight lid
    •     tamari
    •     powdered (or granulated) garlic
    •     or fresh garlic, finely minced
    •     extra virgin olive oil


           Harvest a pound of dandelion (or chicory) leaves.
           Or buy them in the produce department of your favorite store.
           Fill the teakettle (or saucepan) with water and put it on a high heat.
           Pick out any yellow, brown, or blackened leaves. Rinse well. Cut into 1-inch pieces.

           Put the cut dandelion greens into the empty (cold) saucepan.
           When the water boils, pour it over the greens, just enough to cover them.
           Refill the kettle and return it to a high fire.
           Stir the greens in the hot water. You may taste the water if you wish. It is bitter.
           We are leaching the bitterness out (but not the nutrition) out of the dandelion.
           When the kettle boils, drain the greens, then cover them with boiling water.
           Refill the kettle and return it to a high fire.
           Put a fire on under the dandelion greens and bring them to a boil.

           Drain the greens and again cover with boiling water from the kettle.
           You may taste the water if you wish. It is less bitter than the first.
           Cook greens until fairly soft, about 20-30 minutes.
           Put hot greens in storage dish.
           Add 2 tablespoons tamari and stir.
           Add 2 teaspoons garlic powder or 3-4 cloves fresh minced garlic and stir.
           Add ½ cup olive oil and stir.
           Taste. Add more tamari, more garlic, or more oil as your taste buds decree.
           Serve warm or cold. Store, tightly lidded, in the refrigerator.

  • Thursday, April 25, 2013 7:34 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk

    Garlic mustard (Alliaria officinalis)
    Here it is again. Return, return, return. The loathed and loved, hated and heralded, vicious, vibrant garlic mustard. Grab it while it is still young and tender. Once it bolts (sends up a flower stalk), it gets too bitter for many palates. (Not ours, I will admit. I continue to put flowers and little leaves from flowering plants into my salads.) There may be a new YouTube of Monica Jean and I making garlic mustard root (also known as wild horseradish) vinegar. One of my prize vinegars and ever so helpful for clearing the sinuses.

    Baby cronewort (Artemisia vulgaris)
    And here comes Artemis striding back from her winter journey, spreading her silver radiance over the ground. Return, return. The little emerging fronds of cronewort are outstanding in salads, especially when chopped up a bit. When I am clearing an area of cronewort (it is soooo invasive), I keep the roots and leaves, rinse them well, then make a vinegar of them. It is delightful as a salad dressing, especially for invoking dreams of fairies, but I get ahead of myself, Fairy Salad is next week.

    Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
    And now the most famous spring tonic in the world makes her return appearance. Welcome back Dr. Dent-de-lion.  You are a most generous and compliant plant: Any part of you, harvested at any time, and prepared in any way, can be used successfully to benefit the digestive system, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and breasts. You will want to check out the simple recipe for Dandelion Wine (and lots of other dandelion recipes) in my big green book Healing Wise. And do be on the lookout for dandelion greens at farmers’ markets, green grocers, and supermarkets this month. When you find them (or harvest your own), try one of my most cherished recipes, Dandelion Italiano.

  • Thursday, April 25, 2013 7:31 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to you all.

    ‘Tis the season of return. The heron stalks the pond again. The swallows dive bomb the cats once more. All the colors of the tropics have come North and are singing beside my window. Return, return, return. The nettles spring forth, growing inches overnight. The fruit trees are budding. The peepers’ chorus wakes up the sleepy moon. Return, return, return.

    ‘Tis the season of wild salads. At last! Every day some tender new green presents herself to be added to our salad. Those of you who know that I claim there is no nutrition available from raw food may wonder why I bother to make or eat salad. First, I actually do cook my salad. Second, I am getting things other than nutrition from my salad.

    There are five ways to cook our food: by heating, by freezing, by dehydrating, by fermenting, and by covering with oil. And the last is how I cook my salad, by using plenty of olive oil on it. (If you doubt this, let the salad sit for several hours after pouring oil on it and see how cooked it looks.)

    Besides nutrition (which I do get, since I have cooked the salad with oil), I also get soil bacteria and wild DNA from my salads. I get soil bacteria (but not actual soil) since I do not wash my wild greens. I am able to harvest them with dirt, so there is no need to rinse them. They go directly into the salad, soil bacteria and all.

    Soil bacteria are important guardians of our health, helping the immune system, protecting the gut against foreign bacteria, and improving our ability to get nutrients out of all the food we consume.

    Wild plants have wild DNA. And wild DNA nourishes the wildness in me. When I harvest something wild, something I neither planted nor tended, it must be received as a gift, and, as such, it nourishes my connection to Nature. It reminds me, at the deepest heart level, that I am part of the whole, that I am the precious child of my Mother, and that I will always be provided for by Her.

    Adding wild greens to my salads gives me a taste for the variety of life. And it opens my eyes to the abundance all around me.

    Green blessings are everywhere. Even in the supermarket, where big bunches of dandelion are for sale. Grab a bunch or two and try this week’s yummy recipe: Dandelion Italiano.

    And please come join me at Rowe Center for a magical weekend May 3-5, exploring Tree Medicine. We will trance with the trees, walk with the trees, harvest tree parts for medicine, and perhaps even make a magic wand or two.

    Glorious green blessings to you until next week.

  • Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:38 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    New Greens Salad


    • One-third chickweed (Stellaria media), cut in one-inch pieces
    • One-third garlic mustard leaves (Alliaria officinalis), torn in half
    • One-sixth purple dead nettle flowers and leaves (Lamium purpurum)
    • One sixth wild chives or dandelion leaves

  • Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:28 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed walk

    Here are three pretty, and possibly poisonous, wildflowers for you to enjoy. These plants are not for your salads, nor are they to pick for indoor beauty. Leave them alone. Admire them outside in their natural settings. If you do use them, please harvest only tiny amounts for medicine. The earth and the plants thank you.

    Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)   
    Here are the gleaming yellow flowers of coltsfoot, so named because it the shape of its leaf. Note the hairy, white scales on the flower stalk. Dandelion has yellow flowers just like coltsfoot does, but its flower stalk is smooth. Because the flower appears before the leaf (an adaptation that increases pollination chances for small plants of deciduous forests), coltsfoot is sometimes called “son before the father.” The leaves of coltsfoot have been smoked to counter asthma, but are not considered safe for internal use. I have eaten them, with no immediate consequences, but they do contain problematic PAs. Coltsfoot flowers may be preserved in honey and used to counter coughs.

    Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
    As soon as I see the buds of the bloodroot I know that summer is nearly upon us. These charming wildflowers announce the presence of an unusual root. Just beneath the surface of the ground lies a finger-thick rhizome. Cut it and it appears to bleed red blood. Thus, the name. And thus, the belief, supported by science, that bloodroot will heal bleeding gums and counter gum disease. I feel protective of this little plant and only dig one rhizome per year, making just enough tincture (with 100 proof vodka) to put one drop a day on my toothbrush. Remember also, that plants with colored saps are usually poisonous. Large doses of bloodroot are more likely to cause harm than to help.

    Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
    Here’s another pretty, poisonous plant. “Poison” is often a matter of quantity; a large amount of something may be deadly, while a small amount of the same substance may be medicinal. I have, indeed, eaten the small amounts of the stunning blue-purple flowers of wild periwinkle, with no ill effects. I limit myself to no more than 2 per day, though, just to be on the safe side. Her sister, Madagascar periwinkle is poisonous enough to kill cancer. Vincristine is one drug made from periwinkle. Alas, it takes tons of the plant to make a single dose of the drug, so doing this at home is simply not feasible, practical, or safe.

  • Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:24 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to you all, friends, students, and mentor-ees.

    Once again, the little bulbs of Holland burst forth in color to enliven the last days of spring. It sure is nice to sit back and enjoy the work I put in months ago when I planted those bulbs.

    Something new is blooming everyday now. I have chosen some real wildflower beauties to share with you this week. But not to worry, not only are they beautiful (and beautifully dressed in becoming shades of white, yellow, and blue) they are medicinal too.

    It is almost time for my semi-annual workshop at Rowe Center in northwest Massachusetts.  This year it is the first weekend of May and we are gathering to celebrate the trees. Rowe Center is one of those special places where they get everything “right:” the food, the energy, the accommodations, the teaching spaces, the wonderful staff. I guarantee that our weekend together absorbing the medicine of the standing people will be relaxing, renewing, and, as always, filled with stories, songs, recipes, and the magic and mystery of the green nations. I hope you will join me.

    Speaking of workshops, I still have openings available in the Green Goddess Apprentice Week and the Green Witch Intensive this summer at the Wise Woman Center. These events always create a community of women focused on learning to love themselves and learning how to use simple herbal medicine, the Wise Woman Way.

    We’re coming to the end of our core curriculum on cedar. I trust you have found one or more ways to invite Grandmother Cedar into your life. Soon we will switch our focus to plantain, ever useful, ever peaceful plantain, the bandage plant. If you haven’t already, now is the time to choose a mentorship level so you can enjoying the special core curriculum, special teleseminars, videos, and more.

    Here is a recipe for new greens salad, made from plants you already know. Enjoy!

    Green blessings.
  • Thursday, April 11, 2013 5:11 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Cedar Smudge
    Use it to move energy. Use it to change energy. Use it for protection. Use it for healing.
      Please be mindful when playing with fire; it is dangerous.

    A.    Dry small branches of cedar or juniper until crisp. Place in a heat-proof container and light. After a moment, blow out the flame. The dry needles should smolder and smoke. The smoke is the smudge. Whisk it through the air with a small broom or feathers.

    B.    Wrap small branches of cedar or juniper with thin string. (Red is traditional.) I wrap in a crisscrossing spiral up and then down the branches. Feel free to invent your own way of wrapping. Be sure to leave a loose end so you can tie the string. Allow to dry. Light. Use as a wand to cast smoke around windows and doors for protection, or to smudge participants in rituals. (Caution for sparks.)
  • Thursday, April 11, 2013 4:59 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk

    Chickweed (Stellaria media)
    Here is our old friend chickweed, already blooming. Gather her now. She is a tasty addition to salads and ever so much better than sprouts on sandwiches. Or you could put up some chickweed tincture in case you ever need to dissolve cysts or growths in the ovaries or breasts. Or you could make some chickweed oil; so soothing to tender skin. Or you could make chickweed pesto, but be warned: You could wind up with a chickweed pesto habit!

    Purple Dead Nettle (Lamiun purpureum)
    Here is the first mint to flower this year. It is a dead nettle, in the dead nettle genus. A rather confusing appellation, as this is clearly not a nettle. Ah, yes. Thus it is “dead” nettle, or “blind” nettle. This genus is the “typical” genus of the mint family and has given its name to the entire family: Lamiaceae. (This replaces the older name Labiatae, which that naughty boy Linnaeus gave to the family. “Labia” is “lips,” and the flowers in the mint family are lipped. It was a good name, but it had to be changed to follow the form. The form says the family name must be the same as the name of the typical genus with –aceae added to the end.)

    Here’s a close up of the flowers. This will help you recognize the shape and structure of mint flowers. Most herbals that mention dead nettle cite the white-flowered species, Lamiun album. I have no doubt that the purple-flowered one can be used in the same ways: As an astringent, expectorant, antispasmodic, and hemostatic tea that focuses its energies in the belly. It counters profuse menstruation, vaginal discharge, prostate swelling, diarrhea, and intestinal upsets. The tincture of the flowering plant has been used as an aid to sleep. Poultices of the boiled leaves can be used when dealing with gout, varicosities (including hemorrhoids), boils, and bed sores. And, of course, I add it to my spring salads. (Homeopaths use it against sinus congestion, bronchitis, and menstrual pain.)

    Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis)
    What a cute name for this tiny little mustard. I always think: “Eat it,” but am foiled by its miniscule size. Mustard family plants germinate easily in cool soils and prefer to grow in the cooler weather of late spring and early fall. Wild mustards, like this cuckoo flower, ate popping up everywhere. See if you can find at least one where you live. All parts of most wild mustards are tasty and edible: flowers, seeds, leaves, even the roots, which have a horseradishy taste. If the snow has melted, scratch some dirt this week, no matter how cold it is, and plant some cultivated mustard-family plants like kale, collards, or broccoli. (If the snow melted long ago where you are, I hope you planted your kale way back then.) Green blessings are everywhere.

  • Thursday, April 11, 2013 4:56 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to friends old and new. Welcome!

    Spring is almost over. Planting begins in earnest. Baby birds are hatching. Frogs are boldly advertising for mates. The sun is warm and stays so long in the sky. And everywhere, every day, something new is springing up.

    I had a difficult time choosing just three flowering plants for our photo gallery this week. Each new habitat I visited had new delights to share with you. I finally chose plants growing close to houses; plants that all of you, no matter where you live, can find with little effort, right now, in late spring (for most of us), and even late fall (for those down under). Our three plants this week are: something old (our pal chickweed), something new (dead-nettle), and something borrowed (cuckoo flower). (The something blue is the clear blue sky smiling at you.)

    Behind my house is a large (over an acre) depression that floods in the spring. It is a vernal pond. The water stays during the cool spring months, then dries up as summer’s heat pours down. But the weeks of its existence, though few, are enough for the frogs and salamanders who depend on these vernal ponds for mating and breeding. It is a special, magical area. Not cuddly or cozy, but filled with the power and presence of trembling life. It reminds me that life makes the best possible use of every habitat, whether that place is to my liking or not.

    True, vernal ponds can also be breeding places for insects, including mosquitoes. In my experience, however, they dry up before most insects can make use of them. And I am certain that the insects that the amphibians eat later in the summer more than make up for the few extras that enjoy the vernal pond with us.

    Out you go! Into the garden. On a walk. Sitting in the sun. As my dear friend Eaglesong Evans Gardener says: “The best advice my mother ever gave me was ‘Go outside and play.’” Yeah! Go outside and play.

    Green blessings.
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