Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:58 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Green Blessings of the Thunderstorm Season

    One of the great delights of autumn in the Catskills is the emergence of mushrooms.

    All colors, all forms, all shapes, in profusion or singly, on the ground and on the trees. Mushrooms are springing up everywhere.

    Mushrooms are magical. No wonder they feature in so many fairy tale illustrations. Like the tiny mushroom here, they have an ethereal quality that sends our imaginations journeying. . . just by looking at them.

    Let me repeat the warning that plants, and mushrooms especially, are not reliably identified by photos. The smell and the texture and the environment are all important in identification. Please don’t eat any mushroom without checking at least three sources. I have been finding and preparing wild mushrooms for over forty years and I still follow that rule when I am contemplating eating a new find. Unlike plants, mushrooms that smell and look lovely can be deadly. After all, dealing with death is the work of the mushrooms.

    All mushrooms help prevent cancer. Some actively counter it. Check out the photo gallery for some of the most interesting specimens of this week. (Mentor students, look for your upcoming tutorial on the latest, greatest anti-cancer mushroom: turkey tails.)

    Take the time this week to go for a walk in the forest and see what mushrooms have paid a visit to your neck of the woods. No need to identify them or eat them or do anything at all except sit and enjoy them.

    Next week I will report on my trip to the First International Goddess Fest in Malibu. Mushrooms? Flowers? Beautiful goddesses and incredible rituals? I am sure I will find all these and more. And coming up really soon is the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference. Come if you can; it is an experience you will never forget.

    And don’t forget to join me every Tuesday evening at my new blogtalk show. Call or email questions and I will answer them.

    Green blessings are everywhere.



    Weed Walk

  • Tuesday, August 27, 2013 12:49 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Lacto-fermented Cucumbers

    I can deal with lots of zucchini, but the recent flood of cucumbers left me grasping for creative ways to use the darn things. I even resorted to serve them as a cooked vegetable. (Not bad.) Then I checked out what Sally Fallon has to say about cucumbers, and lickety-split, I had them all taken care of. If you are awash in cucumbers, try this.

    • Wash cucumbers. Cut into your favorite pieces. I prefer spears. Some like slices.
    • Pack pieces tightly into a wide-mouthed canning jar.
    • If desired, add cloves of peeled raw garlic here and there in the jar.
    • If desired, add fresh dill or mustard seed.
    • Pour one tablespoonful of sea salt on top of the cucumbers in the jar.
    • Add four tablespoonfuls of whey to the jar. (Let some plain yogurt sit in your refrigerator for a while and a clear liquid – whey – will form on the top.) (Sally says do not use powdered whey.)
    • Fill the jar to within an inch of the top with non-chlorinated water.
    • Lid tightly. Very tightly.
    • Let sit in a shady place at room temperature for 48-50 hours, then refrigerate.
    • Your lacto-fermented cucumbers are ready to eat in six weeks but grow better with age.

    Thank you Sally Fallon

    Interested in becoming a mentor student? Learn more here.

  • Tuesday, August 27, 2013 12:45 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Photo Gallery
    Harvest time! Here are some seeds and fruits to harvest now!

    Burdock seed (Arctium lappa)
    Those stick-in-your-hair-and-on-your-dog-and-on-your-sweater-too burdock burrs hold a wealth of seeds revered for their medicinal powers. Many plants have seeds that are easier to harvest than their roots, but burdock is not one of them. Digging first year roots (not yet) is hard work, but getting at the seeds is stickery prickery work. For details on exactly how to handle the seed heads and how to make Burdock Seed Scalp Tonic, please check out the burdock section in Healing Wise.

    Sumac berries (Rhus typhina)
    Reach up for the fruit with the highest vitamin C content: the fuzzy red berries of the sumac tree. Not the smooth red sumac berries (Rhus glabra); they taste bitter. And not the white sumac berries (Rhus vernix); those are poisonous. The fuzzy, velvety, ones. The best ones are dark red and leave a lemony taste on your fingers after you handle them. I put four big heads in a half-gallon jar, fill it to the top with cold water, wait 4-6 hours and enjoy sumac-ade. I keep adding water to the jar of berries until there is no more taste; then I start over with fresh berries. Enjoy!

    Grapes (Vitis aestivalis)
    Wild grapes sting my lips!! Still, I can’t resist them. One of my first teachers was convinced that any problem could be cured with grapes and I, no doubt, internalized her attitude. The “Grape Cure” for cancer was one of the first alternative remedies I found that seemed to work with the body, rather than castigating it. Still very heroic in its though process, nonetheless, I credit grapes with helping to set me on the path of healing by nourishing. If you can’t find wild grapes to eat, do enjoy the cultivated ones showing up now at all the farm stands. (There’s lots more information on grapes for the mentored students. Click here.)


  • Tuesday, August 27, 2013 12:20 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Harvest abundance to you all and green greetings

    My shelves are glowing and groaning with the weight of all the new preparations – vinegars, tinctures, honeys, and oils. (The pestos are in the fridge and the wines are in the cellar.)

    I trust you are adding to your stores as well, remedies both old and new. Experiment!

    Make something you’ve never tried before. Some of the new remedies we made this year include: Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) vinegar, which turned an amazing rosy red and is surprisingly flavorful. Tulsi (sacred basil) honey, ready to use as an instant tea to ward off colds this winter. Creeping Jenny (Glechoma hederacea) wine, which smelled so good when we were bottling it that I can hardly wait until winter solstice to open the first bottle.

    I will be traveling in the coming months to California, North Carolina, Toronto, Costa Rica, and Florida. Join me if you can. If you can’t, join me on the radio. Many years ago my mentor Jean Houston advised me to host my own radio show. Following her advice, I now host five radio shows (and a chat). Listen in at these sites:

    • Pat Lynch’s Womens Radio – weekly half-hour interview show – Women Making Change (These show are archived at Wise Woman Radio)

    HealthyLife.net – monthly one-hour show on herbs and health – Green Blessings (first Monday)

    BlogTalkRadio – weekly two hour show – question and answer on herbs and health (Tuesday eve)

    MainStreet blogtalk – weekly half-hour show on magical plants – Green Magic, Green Medicine

    TimeMonkRadio – weekly half-hour show on herbal and health topics -- The Susun Weed Show

    Enchanted Forrest – third Monday of the month, open chat focused on one herb.

    All the photos in our gallery this week were taken by my daughter Justine, who has a very fine eye for the detail and design of the plants. Enjoy!

    Green blessings.

    Weed Walk

  • Saturday, August 17, 2013 10:28 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Lobelia in the Raw

    Lobelia inflate is my favorite plant for opening the gateway to the fairy realms.
    Eating a single flower, if done in the right frame of mind, can enable you to hear the songs of the green nations. This recipe only works with fresh, raw
    Lobelia inflata, not dried, not other species.
    Pick only one flower, per plant, no more!

    Eating Lobelia is a sacrament to me. The tiny blossom with the enormous taste sits on my tongue and opens my ears to the language of the plants.

    * Find a plant of Lobelia inflata in flower. Sit with it for a while. Breathe.
    * Ask permission to pick a single flower. If there are no flowers left, only inflated seed pods and green leaves, ask permission to pick half of a lower leaf.
    * Place the flower on your tongue. Close your eyes. Breathe.
    * You will feel a slow fire burning its way up into your head. Open your crown chakra so you don’t get a headache.
    * You will feel a queasiness in your throat or your stomach. It is not for nothing this plant is called “puke weed.” But it is unlikely in the extreme that you will actually throw up, don’t worry.
    * I think the ideal thing to do next is to take off your shoes (and your clothes) and go for a walk in the deep dark woods. But sitting in your garden or the park, fully clothed (but barefoot please), works too. The effect is not so strong that you could not drive if you wanted to, or even “operate heavy machinery.”

    If you cannot find a Lobelia inflata plant, you may do this with another shamanic plant of your choice.

    Interested in becoming a mentor student? Learn more here.

  • Saturday, August 17, 2013 10:24 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Here are some of the autumn beauties delighting us these days. Enjoy! (Try using this week’s recipe first and then going on a walk to appreciate the plants.)

    Tiger Lily (Lilium tigrum)
    While it is safe to eat daylilies, or any lily the opens up when it blooms, it is not safe to eat lilies that bloom to the side or down, like this bold tiger lily in my monarda garden.

    No names. Just some lovely forms found in the forest.

    Lobelia in the Raw Recipe - Click Here

  • Saturday, August 17, 2013 10:06 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Shamanic plants
    Here are a few of the many plants used worldwide by shamans to walk between the worlds. Being able to use psychoactive plants is, in fact, a prerequisite in many cultures to being trained as an herbalist or a shaman.

    Fly agaric, the witches’ mushroom (Amanita muscaria) [photo sent to us by Rose Weissman]
    It’s she a beauty?! This is a classic example of the fly agaric mushroom just emerging from its egg. This is the yellow form, the one common here on the east coast. If you live on the west coast, or in Europe, your Amanita muscaria mushrooms will have a red cap. A red cap with white dots, like those you see illustrating fairy stories, especially those featuring witches. (Chuckle.) And like those plaster or plastic ones who hang with plaster or plastic gnomes.

    All Amanita mushrooms emerge from an egg-like sac of white material that clings in dots and dabs to the cap and remains around the base of the flaring stalk. As the cap matures and opens, the veil covering the under surface loosens and falls down around the stalk. (Mentored students, your core material this week includes photos of other Amanitas.)

    Humans have been allied with fly agaric for thousands of years. Some sources claim it is the most ancient of all shamanic plants used by humans; others believe Brugmansia holds that honor. Siberian shaman consume fly agaric mushrooms (and lots of water, presumably). Those of the community who also wish to commune with the spirits don’t eat the mushrooms directly, instead, they drink the shaman’s urine, believing that the mushroom poison has now been rendered safe for those less powerful.

    Modern shamans usually dry fly agaric and smoke it, though it is also taken as a tea, brewed in hot milk or hot water.

    Black Nightshade
    (Solanum nigrum)
    Note the dark purple, almost black, and nearly round, berries of this common weedy nightshade. The small white flowers with yellow beaks and recurved petals occur in clusters of three, but the berries are usually in pairs. The ripe berries are safe to eat; they are often called “garden huckleberry.” The green berries are the psychoactive part. The usual dose is 2-4 berries eaten fresh. Like other nightshades, the effect is similar to flying.

    Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)
    This little plant is found at the edges of the forest or growing wild in the garden. It needs a fair amount of sun, which is quite obvious when you find it has a peppery taste for all its blue flower coolness. Vinegar preparations of the ripe seed pods were a big favorite with the heroic herbalists of the past. Lobelia is considered an adjuvant. That is, it makes any herbal formula it is in more effective. Check out this week’s recipe for my suggested way to use Lobelia to open your ears and eyes to the fairy realm.

    More Weed Walk - Click Here

  • Saturday, August 17, 2013 9:50 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Glorious green greetings to you all.

    And a shy “hello” from the little black bear who joined us for Green Goddess Week.
    A magical, transformative, abundantly nourishing, difficult and delicious time was had by all.

    We worked day and night at our lessons.

    We cried, laughed, raged, surrendered to ecstasy, surrendered to confusion.

    We embraced our shadow selves.

    We took on the “glamour” our Goddess selves.

    We learned to pay attention, and to pay attention to where we go when we aren’t paying attention.

    We walked in the woods with the goats, letting everyday miracles overtake us.

    We learned to listen to our senses instead of our brains.

    We took off our shoes and turned on the eyes in our feet.

    We learned how to gather, move, focus and restore personal energy.

    We developed intimate relationships with the Ancient Ones: the plants.

    We learned to identify, harvest, prepare and use at least half a dozen green blessings every day.

    We picked wild plants for salad for every lunch and every dinner.

    We harvested lamb’s quarter and amaranth and cooked them for our evening meal.

    We collected chanterelles, sautéed them in butter, and enjoyed them with our great goat cheese lasagna.

    We made self-heal vinegar, shiso pesto, Indian pipe tincture, and motherwort tincture, too.

    We cut up herbs that the summer apprentices had harvested and made nourishing herbal infusions of nettle, oatstraw, comfrey, linden, red clover, chickweed, mullein, violet, hibiscus, hawthorn leaf and flower, cleavers, and burdock.

    Yvette Lewis showed us how to created a shamanic power shield.

    White Feather guided us along the Rainbow Path of Peace and into the Seven Direction Movement Meditation.

    Apprentices listened in as Susun recorded four half-hour radio shows on Serenity Medicine at Time Monk Radio. And as Susun answered herbal and health questions for people on her blogtalk radio show.

    We walked between the worlds. Hours seemed like weeks.

    Minutes became years. Moments stretched to infinity and back again.

    We were guided by our dreams, by the plants, by the weather, by our hearts’ longings.

    Plan now to join us next year: August 4-10, 2014 (Monday thru Sunday).
    You can apply at anytime and guarantee your place at this special event for either of the next two years.

    This week’s photo gallery showcases some of the magical plants we worked with during our shamanic training. And this week’s core material focuses on developing alliances with power plants. It is a fascinating topic, and one that more and more people are becoming interested in. Some shamans believe that it is our power plant allies who can teach us how to walk in beauty on our Mother Earth.

    May you walk in beauty, wherever you are.
    May your heart be touched by life.
    May you be surrounded by green blessings.


    Weed Walk - Click Here

  • Tuesday, August 06, 2013 10:21 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

     Fancy Auntie Bee’s Bergamot Tincture

    Auntie Bee: Antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory bergamot!

    Harvest any bergamot when the sun is hot and it has been dry for a while.

    • Chop the leaves and stalks coarsely and fill a jar very full with the plant material.
    • Cover completely with 100 proof vodka.
    • Lid, label, and wait six weeks.
    • Put it up at Lammas, it’s ready by Fall Equinox.

    Start with a dose of 10 drops and increase as needed.

    Try making one tincture before the plant flowers and another that includes the flowers.
    Is there a difference? Which do you prefer?



    Interested in becoming a mentor student? Learn more here.

  • 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.)


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