Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • 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.
  • Thursday, April 04, 2013 4:21 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Evergreen Oil
    There are so many uses for an antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-tumor oil.

    Collect needles and twigs of any aromatic evergreen: cedar, juniper, hemlock, spruce, pine. You will also need a bone dry jar, some olive oil, and a label or two.

    Fill the jar very full of evergreen needles and twigs. You may leave them whole or cut them. Make sure their uppermost tips are well below the top of the jar.

    Fill the jar to the top with pure olive oil (or other oil of your choice). It is best if there is a “head” of oil floating over the evergreen. Cap well.

    Label, including date, on front and top. Place jar in a bowl to catch overflow. Ready to use in six weeks.
  • Thursday, April 04, 2013 4:00 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk

    Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)
    Looking a little like a wayward, wet-footed, strawberry, the evergreen goldthread is a tiny medicinal plant of the Northeast woodlands. Also known as yellowroot (what else?!) or cankerroot (we will get to that), this coptis is named for its thread-like yellow root, which you can see in my photo. (I ate that entire plant, root and all, in thanks for its allowing me to pull it and photograph it for you.) The yellow coloration indicates the presence of berberine, an antibacterial substance that is especially effective against HPV and other venereal warts, also known as cankers. Goldthread root tea is generally used externally on mucus surfaces of the genital, mouth, and eyes to kill bacteria, counteract swelling, and strengthen the tissues against reinfection. Her Chinese sister, Coptis, is a very important medicine.

    Red Maple Flowers
    Look up and enjoy the fascinating flowers of the deciduous trees. If you see a haze of red, you have found a red maple. Their sap is not sweet enough to be used for sugaring, but their flowers are perfectly edible. We add them to store-bought greens for a rush of wild. In Oregon, I was served them battered and fried. Tempura anything is good, and tempura red maple flowers is divine. The early tree flowers provide an important first food for the bees, who are just coming out to fly and are very (very!) hungry.

    Globe flower (Trollius laxus)
    A beautiful spring shout of buttercup yellow! I wish you could see her en mass, covering a huge swath of ground, from the trash-littered road side up to the edge of the lawn, and thence almost into the forest. She is gold spilled upon the drab leaves of the forest floor and shining through the debris that emerges as winter’s snow melts away. She is probably, like her buttercup sisters, poisonous, but I should like to sit with her a spell and see what she has to say.

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