Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Wednesday, March 05, 2014 10:53 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Warm Greetings to You All from Sunny Florida

    Here’s a shot of me with some of the wonderful, juicy, green folk at the Florida Herb Conference. The yummy ones of Learning Herbs, to be specific: John and his delightful children.

    I had a most glorious time at the conference, though getting there presented a challenge. My plane to Orlando on Thursday was canceled and I had to arise by 3:30am on Friday, the day of my intensive, to catch a 6am flight. (Those who know me well, know I strive to avoid doing anything at those times!) And instead of a direct flight of 2 ½ hours, I was routed through Baltimore to Indianapolis and then on to Orlando, for a total of 6 ½ hours. Oy vey.

    My travel guardian came though. I found a direct flight from Baltimore to Orlando (no offense Indianapolis) and asked to be put on standby.  “No chance. This is a completely full, oversold flight,” I was told. So when all the passengers had boarded, I picked up my bags to walk to the gate for my flight to Indiana. As I walked off, I heard my name. Turned. Was motioned to the gate. And let on the plane!

    My suitcase full of books went to Indianapolis and arrived on Saturday, with the lock was jammed. I unjammed it with a screwdriver, and tore the skin off two fingers. Bloody mess. Really, lots of blood dripping off my hand. I turned around, to the green friends growing behind me, looking for help, and there was Spanish needles, the ubiquitous weed of Florida. Without hesitation, I picked some, chewed it, and applied it to my wounded fingers.

    The bleeding stopped immediately! Faster than yarrow. Someone went in search of, found, and brought to me, some Florida plantain: fuzzy as all get out, with round little protrusions off the edge of the leaf. It tasted just like plantain though when I chewed it for a spit poultice to put under a handy sticky bandage.

    And on the weekend went, with delicious food, a fantastic presentation by David Winston on the history of herbalism in America, lots of classes, singing, and green blessings. Don’t miss next year’s Florida Herbal Conference. It is superbly organized, genial, fun, and a great way to increase your herbal knowledge.

    Herbal medicine is people’s medicine. And green blessings are everywhere.


    We have a shorter ezine this week but enjoy Susun's recipe for homemade balsamic vinegar. It's a great time of the year to make it!

    ~ Page 2 ~

  • Monday, February 24, 2014 12:46 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Simple, common honey is one of the most ancient of herbal medicines and a great ally to a healthy heart. This is in direct contrast to refined white sugar, which many believe is a cause of heart and blood vessel disease.

    Honey is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial agent. Studies have found that regular consumption of honey decreases cholesterol, lowers HDL, reduces homocysteine, and even brings down C-reactive protein. Honey increases the benefits derived from fermented foods and aids in absorption of calcium as well. (Calcium helps muscles, like the heart, not just the bones.)

    An enzyme in bee saliva converts flower nectar to honey. The darker the honey, the more powerful the effects. And one of the very best ways to increase the medicinal activity of honey is to pour it over aromatic herbs and let them steep together for a while.

    In the photograph you can see part of my shelf of medicinal honeys: sage, rosemary, marjoram, dandelion blossom, shiso, mints of all types, lemon balm. A spoonful in a cup of hot water and you have an instant remedy for sore throat, coughs, and mild colds.

    If you live where it is warm, make some medicinal honey today. Just cut any edible aromatic herb fine, stuff a jar full and fill the jar to the top with honey. I poke mine with a chopstick to be certain the honey has gone all the way to the bottom. Check the next day and add more honey if need be.

    If you live where it is cold, perhaps you have a rosemary or a sage plant overwintering in your house. If you do, they would love a trim about now. It will jump start new growth. Just use the trimmings to make your medicinal honey.

    In a placebo-controlled trial, the coughs of children who received honey were relieved twice as fast as those who received the most common over-the-counter medication for coughs. (The placebo group got well at about the same rate as those receiving the OTC cough syrup.)

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  • Monday, February 24, 2014 12:21 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Greetings to you all.

    Whew! What a bunch of snow and ice and weather we have been having. My driveway could be a winter Olympics site: icy and steep and worse now that it is thawing.

    I am reminded that the old timers looked forward to the snow and hard freezes because it made the roads smooth! Traveling by sleigh was much more comfortable than being bounced to death in a carriage.

    Last week I mentioned that snow is poor person’s fertilizer. Every drop of rain and every snowflake starts with a grain of dust. The snow and the rain bring those mineral-rich grains down with them when they fall, fertilizing and aiding the plants. As I said, if rain were purifying, we would live on a sterile planet.

    I can hear the plants breathing a sigh of ease now that their roots are deeply buried in the snow. This will protect them from frost heaves, which occur when the frozen ground is warmed by the sun shining right on it. Frost heaves have torn a large chunk (bigger than a car) out of the paved road that runs by Laughing Rock Farm.

    Live-out apprentices wanted. After a string of years with big groups of live-out apprentices, no one, not a soul, has applied for the live-out program this year. Read all about it here and give me a call (I am in the office on Wednesdays from 11am to 4pm east coast time) if you have questions.
    We also have a few spots left for the Green Goddess Week. White Feather and Yvette and I look forward to spending deep time with you. It is not too late to apply.

    I will be teaching in Orlando this weekend. Hope to see lots of Southern friends there, including you.

    Did you know that honey has lots of benefits for the heart? The teleseminar Robin Rose Bennett and I did on heart health got me interested in the best foods for the heart. My pick of the 13 best foods for your heart includes avocado, berries, chocolate, fatty fish, garlic, honey, kelp, leafy greens, nuts, oats and oatstraw, olive oil, pomegranate juice, and shiitake mushrooms.

    Herbalists, of course, tend to consume a lot of honey. So glad to know it is good for my heart. And even better when combined with herbs. I’ll show you how on the next page.

    Green blessings.

    ~ Page Two ~
  • Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:51 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Wild'n Oats

    If you are pressed for time, gather and measure your ingredients the night before. You will need water, oats, seaweed, wild seeds, sea salt, and potent powders. Everything except the oats and the seaweed is optional, so use what you have. Now’s the time to commit to harvesting some wild seeds this summer for your Wild n’ Oats next winter.

    My favorite seaweed for this breakfast is Nereocystis kelp, also known as bladderwhip kelp. I get mine from Ryan Drum, who confirmed for me recently that it is perfectly safe, better, perfectly health-promoting, to eat west coast seaweeds despite the nuclear accident in Japan.

    It is great fun to have an assortment of wild seeds to choose from. Here are my jars of lamb’s quarter seeds, nettle seeds, amaranth seeds, plantain seeds.

    And here is a close-up of plantain seed, known to reduce cholesterol, improve gut flora, and keep you regular.

    This one is nettle seed. A boon ally to the prostate. If he eats it in his oatmeal, so much the better, don’t you agree? Wink.

    And here is lamb’s quarter seed, or wild quinoa, a highly alkalinizing grain which is super easy to harvest in quantity from nearly any garden or farm.

    Choose from any non-processed powdered herbs or foods. Here is astragalus powder, slippery elm powder, powered medicinal mushrooms, and some new products I was sent to try, powdered chia seed and powdered brown rice bran and germ.

    Measure 3 cups of cold water, place in your pan, add a handful of crushed kelp, and bring to a boil. (Okay to measure the water and add the kelp the night before.)

    While the water is coming to a boil, put a scant cup of oats in a measuring cup. Add 1 tablespoon each of up to three different wild seeds. (Okay to do the night before.)

    Add the oats and seeds to the boiling water/seaweed and stir well. Lower the fire and add 1 tablespoon of one or two potent powders. (Choose and measure these the night before and put them in a small bowl. Add the salt to the powders.)

    Don’t forget to add some sea salt. Without it the oatmeal will taste bland. I find a heaping ¼ teaspoonful is just right.

    Cook, covered, stirring now and then, until all the water is absorbed, which usually takes 15-20 minutes. Be careful it does not boil over, as it will make a sticky, gummy mess.

    Express route instructions: Turn on the fire under the saucepan which already contains three cups of water and a handful of crushed seaweed and go brush your hair and/or your teeth. When you are done, and the water has come to a boil, add the measured oats and seeds. Stir. Add the measured potent powders. Stir. Lower fire. Put a lid on the pot loosely, and get ready for work, stirring your oats once or twice as you pass by. When you are ready, it is too. Eat. Enjoy!

    Green blessings are everywhere, even under the snow.

    Here is my complete breakfast: A large glass of iced infusion (yes, even in the winter, I prefer my infusion iced), a big bowl of Wild n’ Oats garnished with a tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of elderberry jam, and four whole wheat crackers spread with homemade fermented cheese and smoked salmon. Yum!

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  • Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:46 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to you all.
    Perhaps you think I am crazy to have said that spring is here in light of the record snowfalls. Still, it is not the snow nor the cold that defines winter, or any other season, it is the amount of light and dark in the days. And the light is stronger and longer! Just look at the leaves these roots are putting out. A beet top and two pieces of horseradish can’t be wrong. It is indeed spring.

    Next week I’ll share important information about the value of snow, “the poor person’s fertilizer.” But for now, let’s look at breakfast.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Study after study has finds eating breakfast makes your day better, and it makes your whole life better. But it is not part of most of our lifestyles. Eating a big breakfast is easier for a goat herder than for an office worker, granted. Many people push themselves to wake up at hours that are not metabolically healthy for them. Eating a large meal when you don’t want to be awake can be difficult.

    So many people eat something in the morning, because breakfast is important, right? And that something is usually refined carbohydrates – like bagels, donuts, sweetened cereals – washed down with coffee. I actually think it may be better not to eat at all in the morning than to eat like that.

    We need protein at breakfast, so we will have energy all day. We need to consume about half of the calories we need in a day at breakfast. We need fat at breakfast, so we can think well (and so we can produce hormones that make us feel good) all day. The classic bacon, eggs, potatoes, and toast covers the bases. (And eggs have been exonerated; they are heart healthy.)

    But if you can’t – for one reason or another – eat a hearty breakfast, here’s the good news: A glass of nourishing herbal infusion counts as a good breakfast. A glass of nourishing herbal infusion – such as nettle, oatstraw, red clover, or comfrey leaf – provides more protein, vitamins, and minerals than most breakfast cereals.

    Oatmeal is certainly the exception to granolas and other ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. And, with a little bit of attention, but not much time, it can be turned into a magnificently nourishing accompaniment to your glass (or cup) of nourishing herbal infusion in the morning.
    I published the recipe for enhanced oatmeal in my green book Healing Wise (under the name Wild n’ Oats) over twenty years ago. It is still a cold weather mainstay for breakfast at Laughing Rock Farm decades later, so it has indeed stood the test of time.

    Let’s go make some.

    Green blessings.


    p.s. If you missed the great teleseminar on Healthy Hearts with Robin Rose Bennett (one of my first apprentices), you can still listen to the recording here.

  • Tuesday, February 04, 2014 1:01 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Simple horseradish sauce

    Grate horseradish on the very finest screen of a box grater.

    Add a little salt and a little vinegar.

    Eat immediately with cabbage, kale, bread, or meat. If you are brazen, eat it neat.

    Creating this sauce with fresh horseradish will make your eyes stream and clear your head all the way through the crown chakra!

    Fancy Horseradish Sauce
    • Add a little beet juice or grated beet and your Horseradish Sauce will be red.
    • Add a little cream and a tiny bit of sugar and you will have Cream Horseradish Sauce.
    • Add a little astragalus root powder and you will have Horseradish Immunity Sauce.

    A variety of homemade and store-bought horseradish sauces.  From the left:  Cream Horseradish Sauce, Horseradish Sauce, Wild Garlic Root Sauce (one year old and still strong).  Plus two jars from the store each labeled: “Contains horseradish root, vinegar, and salt.” And there’s a bit of  whole horseradish root in the shot too.
  • Tuesday, February 04, 2014 12:54 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Horseradish Tincture

    Makes your eyes water and clears your sinuses. Intense!

    Slice horseradish root into thin even disks. Cut disks into thin even strips. Chop strips into a small dice.

    Fill jar to the top with diced horseradish.

    Add 100 proof vodka and label.

    While it is typical to wait six weeks before using a tincture, if the horseradish is finely chopped, this tincture can be used within 24 hours after preparation. The longer it sits, the stronger it gets. Start with 5-10 drops doses and increase as needed to clear nasal and sinus congestion.

  • Tuesday, February 04, 2014 12:45 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to you all.

    Can you smell spring? Is it green? Is it sweet? Is it wet?

    Before you tell me that winter isn’t over, I want you to go outside. Not just once, but once a day for the next few weeks. Look at the buds on the trees. Watch as they respond to the growing light, swelling and getting ready to unfurl. Be on hand for the real beginning of spring. Now!

    Put your hands on the trunks of trees and see if you can feel the sap rising. When the daytime temperatures are above freezing and the nighttime temperatures are below, the sap surges up the tree. This is when we tap the maples and gather some of their copious sap to boil down into maple syrup. Be on hand this year for the running of the sap. Now!

    Be on hand for the first emerging leaves in the garden. Be there when the purple nettle shoots first break ground. Be looking when the cronewort leaves double in size overnight. This year watch spring from the very beginning. Starting now! Watch it culminate in flowers, not start there.
    In this photo, you can clearly see the sprouting leaves of the horseradish root I bought at the supermarket. There are two strong plants there, as well as all the root I used to make Horseradish Tincture and Horseradish Sauce.

    Cabbage family plants, like horseradish, love the cold weather of very early spring. In some areas, they will overwinter and spring into action with fresh leaves in the coming weeks. As the light grows, so do they. (Since I have temperatures below 0 F, my brassicas do not survive the winter.) In the woods, it is time to look for wild cresses, like Barbara’s cress and watercress, and that most reviled of modern weeds: garlic mustard, also known as wild horseradish.

    This year plant some brassica seeds – radishes or kale, bok choy or collards – in the garden as soon as you can, as soon as the frost is out of the ground. And plant some horseradish too.

    Horseradish. The horse of radishes. The crying radish. Dear friend of my sinuses. And one of the few perennial brassicas. A culinary plant, yes, but a highly medicinal one as well.
    Horseradish is in the markets now and the roots usually have buds on the upper surface. If planted (along with several inches of the root) within 4-6 weeks of being purchased, they generally grow into fine plants. Just one horseradish root will provide you with a plant or two for the garden and plenty left over to try out this week’s recipe.

    Green blessings are everywhere.

  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3:19 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk, contd.

    Here are three cosmopolitan weeds that wind up in my salads no matter where I am. Do they grow where you live too?

    Oxalis (Oxalis stricta?)

    One of my favorite salad plants, growing lushly by the porch at Casa Smythe. I will have to wait for it to flower to be certain of the species, but I can still eat it, even if I don’t know precisely which oxalis it is, as all oxalis leaves, and some of their roots, are edible, and delicious. They add a wonderful sour note to the salad. That means lots of vitamin C.

    Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

    Also one of my favorite salad plants, also growing, though not so lushly, by the porch at Casa Smythe. Double yum. This is a cooling, refreshing plant with plenty of texture, taste, and value in the salad. It is also one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids (PUFAs).

    Sonchus (Sonchus oleraceus)

    The third party to the salad is a slightly bitter green related to lettuce. It is a weed that I have seen everywhere in the world, from the tropics to the northern forests, from city lots to flower gardens. And  it is always adopted and used by the natives. The leaves have a distinctive feel, almost crisp, like endive. Note that the species name of both the edible purslane and the most edible sonchus is the same as the species name of cabbage, which is Brassica oleracea.)

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  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3:14 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk, contd.

    The next two photos are of my own house plants. Though I saw plenty of these plants growing wild in Costa Rica, I didn’t photograph them. Both help heal the skin. And since the combination of tropical sun, salt water, and constant heat fosters and allows many skin problems to develop, I am thrilled to have two new weedy allies that can help me when I am in Central America.

    Sansevieria (Sansevieria trifasciata)   Lengua de suegra

    This is one of the sturdiest of all houseplants, enduring lack of water and light with grace. It is most commonly known as Mother-in-law’s tongue, for its long, tough, pointed tongue-like leaves. In the part of Costa Rica where we will have our Adventrue, it covers the cemetery island just off the coast. (You can walk over when the tide is low.) Lore claims it is a ward against snake bite, perhaps because the leaves look like snakes. Science has uncovered antiviral properties in the juice, which is often used to treat skin rashes and sore.

    Tradescantia (Tradescantia zebrine)   Hoja de Milago

    This common houseplant, which I know as Wandering Jew, or Moses in the Cradle, endures lack of light better than lack of water, but, like the sansevieria, must be kept from freezing. It grows easily, creeping and vining wildly when it has plenty of water. It is an official medicinal plant with anti-herpetic, anti-septic, astringent, hemostatic, and anodyne properties. Who would have thought?! The juice from the crushed leaves is applied directly to cuts, herpes sores, infected cuts, painful bruises, abrasions, and bleeding wounds. “The fresh juice is used to combat . . . neuralgia of the face.”

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