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  • Tuesday, August 06, 2013 10:16 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Scarlet bee balm, Oswego tea (Monarda didyma)
    This is my favorite of the Monardas, and often the most difficult to find. It is considered endangered or threatened in parts of its range. The fragrance is neither minty nor oregano-y, neither citrus nor thyme, but partakes of all these with a soft and subtle sweetness. The long-lasting flower is a clear red with a hint of purple. Scarlet bee balm is my secret ingredient in comfrey infusion. One stalk of dried herb, with leaves and flowers is added to one ounce of dried comfrey leaf and infused in a quart of boiling water overnight. Be sure to use the scarlet bee balm, not the others; they are too rich in volatile oils. Some books suggest that scarlet bee balm gets bitter after it flowers, but I have not found that to be the case. (More on Oswego tea for the mentored students. Click here.)




    Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
    This is the most common wild Monarda. It contains more thymol and oreganol than Oswego tea. This makes it more interesting as a medicine – and much stronger tasting – than its more red-flowered sister. Does this one become bitter if harvested after the flowers open? It is too late this year to test this idea out, but I shall endeavor to do so next year. I’ve always harvested the whole flowering top, dried it until crisp, crumbled the leaves and petals off the stalk and then used it in soups for a powerful antioxidant and a flavor enhancer. A wild bergamot leaf poultice was used by native people’s to dry up pimples and other skin rashes. Herbalists in Colorado tincture their strongly scented, high altitude, powerful tasting wild Monarda and use it as an antiviral and anti-infective.



    Cultivated bergamot (Monarda x)
    The most commonly sold Monarda cultivars seem to be a cross between the lovely lilac fistulosa bergamot and the stately red didyma bergamot, with the resulting plants having far more oreganol and thymol than the pale purple fistulosa and not nearly as nice a taste as the scarlet red didyma. I admit to finding the colors of the cultivars rather off putting as well. Like the scent and the taste, the concentration of oils in cultivated Monardas is over the top. Too much, I say.




    Horsemint (Monarda punctata)
    I have yet to find this Monarda growing near to me, so no photo of it, but this plant is hard to miss. It looks like the other bergamots, but with wide-jawed yellow flowers dotted with small purple spots and held by bright white or lilac bracts. This one is loaded with volatile oils and is prized as a medicine. It contains more thymol than thyme itself does. I think I will buy a few plants of punctata from Richter’s in Ontario and see if I can get it to grow in my garden. (They probably have didyma too, if you are looking for it.)

     

  • Tuesday, August 06, 2013 10:14 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Bee Balm Sisters: the Monardas
    Allow me to introduce you to the beautiful bee balm sisters, also know as the majestic Monardas. They come in many bright colors and have the most amazing scents. Yes, you’re right, they are part of the mint family.


    Gardeners love the bee balm sisters for their study self-reliance. Plant them almost anywhere (from British Columbia to Texas and from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic) and you can forget them . . . until they delight you with masses of aromatic blooms tended to by dozens of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.


    Herbalists love the bee balm sisters for their ability to ease digestive and respiratory woes, and counter inflammation, too. A cup of hot or cold bee balm tea, of the fresh or dried leaves or flowering tops, or several spoonfuls of bee balm vinegar can help release gas from the intestines (carminative), encourage gut flora (digestive), move mucus in the lungs (expectorant), encourage sweating (diaphoretic), counter fevers (antibacterial febrifuge), counter cramps (antispasmodic), strengthen the heart (cardiac tonic), promote health (antioxidant scavenger), help induce sleep (mild sedative), and improve urinary flow (mild diuretic).


    The bee balm sisters help those troubled by indigestion, colic, gas pain, flatulence, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, bloating, colds, sore throat, fever, headache, sinusitis, sore eyes, nosebleed, eczema, chills, bleeding gums, tooth decay, parasites, and backache. Breathe the fragrant steam of any bergamot to open to lungs, promote deeper breathing, counter bronchitis, and relieve lung congestion. Try a poultice against bee stings and headaches, skin eruptions (measles, chicken pox).




  • Tuesday, August 06, 2013 10:01 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Glorious green greetings to you all!

    We saw the first orange leaves this morning as we opened our usual talking stick ceremony by singing “Sacred Corn Mother.” (We love you, we miss you, Lisa Thiel.) The First Harvest Feast is upon us. Autumn has officially begun.

    Have the weeds taken over your garden? Time to harvest, harvest, harvest!

    Is the golden rod threatening to overpopulate the world? Time to harvest, harvest!

    Are you excited to be reclaiming People’s Medicine, the medicine outside your door, as your medicine? Time to harvest, harvest, harvest!

    It’s a great time to harvest mints and make vinegars and honeys: peppermint, sage, rosemary, thyme, shiso, lemon balm, peppermint, and bergamot, also known as bee balm.

    Bee balm is a Monarda, a fascinating genus of the mint family. The apprentices and I made Monarda vinegar in July and will more this month, too. Vinegar preserves the anti-oxidant, anti-infective qualities of all the mints, plus it extracts the minerals that they concentrate. Bergamot vinegar aids digestion, fights infection, and tastes great on my salad or my beans. Herbs I harvest now will keep me well all winter.

    Speaking of winter, I’m also trying out Fancy Auntie Bee’s Bergamot Tincture. There is a lot of talk recently about the antiviral properties of many mints, including bergamot and skullcap. What will happen if I treat bergamot like a medicine instead of a food? I will keep you posted. And look forward to hearing from you. Are you using bergamot? How? Let me know.

    I’ll write again next week after the Green Goddesses are initiated as Green Witches. Until then, may you feel the plant breathing green blessings and may the healing cloak of the Ancients surround you with peace.


    Green blessings.
    Susun



  • Saturday, July 27, 2013 2:16 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Yellow Dock Seed Vinegar  

    The rust-colored seeds of the yellow docks are obvious all over the roadsides now, no matter where you live.
    • Fill a jar about ¾ full of the seeds, then fill it to the top with vinegar.
    • Cap with a plastic, rubber, or cork lid. Label.
    • Wait six weeks and use.
    Tastes good and is good for you, too.

    (A jar filled with yellow dock seeds and vinegar may break as the seeds can absorb the vinegar and expand, so leave room!)

  • Saturday, July 27, 2013 1:56 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Malva (Malva neglecta)
    The leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots of this common weed are all used as medicine. The roots go straight down, far down, in dry areas and find water so they are always succulent and helpful.



    Teasel (Dipsacus species)
    The root of the wild biennial is tinctured and used in tiny doses to help those dealing with Lyme disease. 



    Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
    The flowering tops of this wild perennial are tinctured and used in moderate doses to help those with ADD and ADHD. 



    Multiflora roses (Rosa species)
    The petals of this cultivated perennial are used to make a honey that is considered an aid to longevity.



    Lavender (Lavendula species)
    The flowers of this cultivated perennial are used to prevent moths from chewing on your clothing. They are also a wonderful addition to baths and make an amazing vinegar.



    Purple tree 
    Help me out here green friends. I have never seen anything like this tree covered with tiny purplish, pinky flowers. It is probably cultivated, as this is the only one I saw in a week. Anyone know what it is?


  • Saturday, July 27, 2013 1:46 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Wild Sunflowers
    This photo conveys my impression of Montana: a field of wild sunflowers, wide open spaces backed by comforting mountains, and the bright green of irrigated crops. Sunflower seeds are a favorite of the birds.



    Sagebrush
    (Artemisia tridentata)

    The leaves of this wild perennial are burned as smudge. In the hot sun, the smell is the distinctive smell of the deserts of the West. Like all her sisters, sagebrush brings vivid dreams.


    Mullein (Verbascum species)
    The wild mullein along the road to the ranch where I taught my intensive on Monday was lined with mullein blooming in strange curled forms. I have chosen two of my favorites: the question mark mullein and the mullein lovers. Note the sagebrush in the background. Mullein restores and repairs the lungs. I harvest it in flower, dry it, make an infusion overnight, and then heat it with milk and honey.


    Cedar/juniper (Juniperus)
    The berries of this wild evergreen are eaten, one or two at a time, as a tonic, especially to the urinary tract. Juniper thrives in dry climates. 


    Echinacea (Echinacea species)
    The roots of this wild perennial are famous for their ability to counter infection, especially in a tincture. Echinacea is right at home in Montana, but much of the wild population here has been wiped out by unscrupulous harvesters who seem to care little for the environment.


    Yellow dock (Rumex species)
    The roots and seeds of this wild perennial are ideal for increasing the iron in women’s blood and as a general tonic for the liver and digestion. Dock don’t contain much iron, but they help the iron we have become more active and usable.


  • Saturday, July 27, 2013 1:25 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings from Hot Springs Montana and the Montana Herb Gathering. This week I have a photo gallery for you of some of the plants I have been playing with here in northern MT. And look for more pictures in coming weeks taken by Featherhawk, a perennial student, dear friend, and skilled photographer. Thanks for taking such sweet care of me Featherhawk. I appreciate you.

    The Montana Herb Gathering, like all the herbal conferences and gatherings where I teach, is attended by people who love the earth and are committed to living lightly on Her. This gathering was unique in the great number of elders attending. Lots of healthy vibrant herbalists in their 70’s and 80’s enjoying themselves. Delicious!  

    Saturday night there was an herb costume contest. Everyone from elders (devil’s club) as to babies (as Johnny jump-up) dressed up like herbs and paraded. Herbalists know how to amuse themselves!!

    A wildfire fills the air with smoke today, but I am told we are safe since it is on the other side of the Flat Head River, where I had a great swim to cool off from the relentless 90+ degree temperatures. If you ever have a hankering to visit plant lovers in the wild west, come on out and join the fun at the Montana Herb Gathering.

    I look forward to being home. Next up is the Green Goddess Apprentice Week. And I still have room for one or two more women to join us. Whitefeather will teach the Seven Directions Movement Meditation every morning before breakfast. You will spend the remainder of the morning with the goats and I, connecting deeply with the plants. Lunch and talking stick follow, and then Yvette will be on hand to help us craft our shield of colors. Evenings will range from consultations to yoga, from an all night heartbeat drum to Moon Lodge and then our Goddess pageant. The culmination of our time together is a High Magic Ceremony on Sunday where you may be initiated as a green witch, if you wish. Altogether an amazing week of green blessings. I do hope you can join us. 

    The hot, dry weather of summer is perfect for harvesting herbs to dry. And there are still plenty of tinctures and vinegars to create for the cold months ahead.


    Ah! Green blessings are everywhere.  

    Susun



  • Tuesday, July 16, 2013 4:28 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Fresh Yarrow Tincture
    This is one of the great remedies, so useful in so many ways.


    Look for yarrow growing in fields and meadows. Harvest only the wild white yarrow. And harvest on a sunny day, in the middle of the day if possible, so the yarrow is strongly scented. For tincture, the flowering tops are the best. (For salves, the larger, lower, basal leaves are preferred.)

    I usually cut the top three or four inches of each yarrow plant, doing my best to allow the stalk to reflower by cutting just above a leaf node. I use the stalk, leaves, and flowers in my tincture.

    Using scissors, I cut the yarrow stalks and flowers into pieces and fill a jar with them. Then I add 100 proof vodka right up to the top. Lid it tightly. Stick on a pretty label with at least the name of the plant and the date. And wait. The tincture is ready to use in six weeks.





    I spray yarrow tincture on my ankles to repel ticks.
    I spray it all over myself to refer mosquitoes.
    I spray yarrow tincture on wounds and bug bites.
    I spray it on my toothbrush and use it as a deodorant.
    Yarrow tincture has many more uses. How will you use yours?


  • Tuesday, July 16, 2013 4:17 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    It’s time to delight in the mushrooms and the ferns of the Catskill Mountains. Everywhere we look mushroom caps are pushing up and unfurling. The fern fronds fill every bit of open space and look as though you could float away on them like a magic carpet.

    The Green Witch Intensive was especially delightful this year thanks in part to the gracious of Gretchen Gould, who invited us all to come up to her land: Herb Hill. We harvested wild thyme and Oswego tea, wet our feet in Thirteen Mile Creek, make yarrow tincture and valerian flower oil, absorbed lots of knowledge and stories from Gretchen, ate wild raspberries, and got lost in Tansy City.

    And that was just the beginning. There was a magical moon lodge with the spiral of women, from Maidens through Mothers and into Crones, each sharing her story, her wisdom. And walks with the goats in the forest, to the river, to the meadow, to the secret places with the special plants. Our high magic ritual initiation of new Green Witches up on the mesa, guided and guarded by the Ancient Ones. And the glorious Goddess Pageant, and lots of great food.

    And did I mention that we talked about lots and lots of plants and how to harvest them and prepare them and use them? We did! We harvested wild greens for salads, we made nettle soup with fresh nettle we harvested on the spot (ouch!), we tasted and discussed and used motherwort tincture and yarrow tincture and herbal vinegars and herbal pestos and herbal oils and salves, we ate wild snacks that we picked as we walked, and we sang and sang and sang.

    Of course we drank nourishing herbal infusion every day, all day long. Water is available, but I don’t “serve” it at the Wise Woman Center, preferring that everyone drink nourishing herbal infusion instead: I’s better than water – in every way.

    I am excited and so looking forward to the Montana Herb Gathering. It will take three airplane rides to get me there (and another three to get me home), but well worth it. I hope to get a few photos to share with you in the ezine. Perhaps on the horseback ride I have planned.

    I wish abundance for you. An abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, an abundance of sweet corn, and cucumbers, and beans, and even an abundance of weeds. May you be rich in lamb’s quarter, amaranth, and purslane.

    And may you enjoy the healing, nourishing power of wild green blessings.

    Susun

  • Tuesday, July 09, 2013 1:03 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Fresh Hypericum Tincture



    On the sunniest day of the summer, look in fields and along roadsides for the yellow flowers of Hypericum and get ready to make two of the Great Remedies. Take both 100 proof vodka and pure olive oil with you when you go out to stalk St. John’s/St. Joan’s wort, bottles of various sizes, and a pair of sharp scissors.

    Depending on the abundance or scarcity of flowers, I harvest anything from just the blossoms to the top third of the Hypericum plant. So long as the day is sunny and the plants dry the tincture will be active and medicinal even if it contains a fair amount of stalk and leaves. I also make a quart of this tincture as I use it frequently, in dropperful doses.

    This has been a lush year for St. J’s, so the tincture was made using just flowers.
    If you are using tops rather than just flowers, chop as needed. I often harvest Hypericum flowers right into my jar and fill it with vodka or oil while still afield, insuring optimum freshness and maximum fairy blessings.

    Cover tightly. Label. I do not put my oil in the sun, but some people swear by it. Try one each way and see what you think. Your St. J’s tincture and your St. J’s oil will be ready to use in six weeks.

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