Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • 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.

  • Thursday, April 04, 2013 3:43 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to you all. Time to spring up in colors! Time to inhale the green.

    Look up! Look up. The trees are blooming. Check them out. Not just the showy ones, like cherries and crabapples, beautiful as they are. Take the time to notice the flowers of the hardwood trees around you. One of the prettiest of the wild, flowering spring trees is the red maple. We are so happy to catch the fine photo of her on the next page.  

    It is still great sugaring weather, with nights below freezing and days warm and sunny, so maples are on our minds. They, like everything else, are responding to the lengthening days. Way back in the beginning of February, on Ground Hog Day or the Day of the Feast of Flames, we noticed the buds that are now flowers slowly beginning to stir, to feel the sap rising.

    After you look up, look down. All the lily family plants – crocus, tulip, daffodil, wild onions, iris, snowdrops – with petals in threes – are spearing through the leaves of last autumn and spreading colorful cheer. Here’s some from my garden.

    And here’s a little picture gallery with two other plants that caught my eye this week: (in addition to the maple flowers). First, the medicinal, evergreen, goldthread. And then a stunning yellow flower in the buttercup family. Not only are the individual flowers stunning, the group of them covers nearly a quarter of an acre and that is quite the sight. Like all buttercups, it is shiny, and so pretty in the spring light.

    I am just finishing up my quarterly article for Plant Healer Magazine on the Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses. And welcoming the first of the year’s apprentices, as well as the first of this year’s nettle. (There is a connection.)

    Look up! Look down! Green blessings are everywhere.

  • Thursday, March 28, 2013 3:29 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Cedar Weed Walk

    Cedars and junipers are everywhere. They grow on rocky river banks. They grow in boggy swampy swales. They grow way out in the woods where no one ever goes, silent and alone. They grow right next to your house, or your apartment building, lending a healing aura and a refreshing fragrance. You’ll find them landscaped in industrial parks.

    You’ll find them thwarting window access at the library. You’ll find them in the midst of things; you’ll find them at the abandoned homestead. You’ll find them in Japan, in Europe, in the West Indies, and in every ecosystem in North America. You’ll find them in the desert Southwest, in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, in deciduous forests of the East, along coastal areas of the Great Lakes, in Southern swamps, in the Arctic north, and even in the prairies of the Heartland. Cedar and juniper are everywhere.

    I’m going on a long walk to visit cedar grandmother. Want to come? Along the way, we can visit some of her sisters and cousins and share some cedar stories and songs.

    Look up. Did you realize we were already sitting under a cedar tree? This is a northern red cedar. Possibly planted here a century ago, possibly a wilding that was cherished and kept when the house was built. Yes, she is very tall, but not so tall as her sisters, the western red cedars, which can tower up to 150 feet/50 meters.

    Come closer and feel her bark. Shut your eyes and run your hands up and down the trunk. Slowly, with care. Then move your hands softly from side to side. We will do this again at the end of our walk when we visit with grandmother cedar.

    I won’t ask you to feel the needles with your eyes shut, as you might get stuck by a sharp point. Open your eyes and stand up. What do you notice? That the branches droop down? That the air is scented with cedar? That there are two kinds of leaves on this cedar? That the leaves are fernlike? That they are held parallel to the ground in flat, spreading sprays? That there are both green berries and purple berries? Good, then you will always be able to identify a cedar.

    Only cedars have both fat, flat, thick needles and slender, sharp, awl-like needles. If you can’t see the pointed ones, I guarantee you can feel them. Ouch! The flat needles are segmented or scaled, like a dragon, but so minutely that it is hard to see without a hand lens. Here, use mine. The leafy portion of cedars and junipers is the part most often used: as smudge, as infused oil, as tea, and even tinctured.
  • Monday, March 18, 2013 2:05 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Greeting to you all, friends, students, apprentices, mentor members, and new faces!

    Bird songs are filling the air around me! Today the red tailed hawks were calling back and forth and flying over the goats and I in wide swoops. A delightful display to entertain us as we all laid about, basking in the sun, soaking up those vitamin D rich rays.

    Did you know? From spring equinox to autumn equinox, fifteen minutes of exposure (arms and face) to the midday sun will net about 60,000 IU of vitamin D. Any excess is stored for up to two years. Yep, right through the winter. So let’s get outside and make some vitamin D, while the sun is shining.

    While we’re outside, we are bound to see a cedar tree or juniper bush. They grow everywhere it seems: city and country, desert and mountain, icy and sweltering. No matter where you are, you can find a cedar or a juniper and follow along as we explore these ancient, mysterious, magical trees in the coming weeks.

    Speaking of coming weeks, apprentices will soon arrive and class will begin. For the past three years I have had spectacular live-out apprentice groups. This year too few of you have chosen this option. So I want to pitch it to you. It’s a great opportunity and so reasonably priced, too. You have two years to complete your live-out apprenticeship: to attend every one of my one-day classes plus at least one moon lodge. Plus you get to stay over Saturday night in between workshops and have dinner and participate in frequent special teaching events scheduled for that evening. And did I mention that you save big time? You get a glorious graduation ceremony, which includes, at your discretion, an initiation as a green witch, too.

    I really want several more special people to participate as live-out apprentices. If you are attracted to do this, it is not too late to apply. I am flexible about payments and your need to skip weekends. If you are inclined, but undecided, come to one or more of the first four workshops this spring and I will apply a credit of up to $300 ($75 per workshop) to your live-out apprentice fees. A bargain, I tell you. No lie.

    Meanwhile, find a cedar or a juniper and read the following poem out loud to it. You will be surprised at the plant’s reaction.

    Green blessings everyone.
  • Saturday, March 16, 2013 8:22 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Longevity of Herbs

    How long an herb can be stored and stay useful depends on many factors, primarily

    1.    The weather when the herb is harvested needs to be dry and sunny to prevent the growth of molds and bacteria on the dried herbs.
    2.    Organic and wild-grown plant seem to last longer than commercial herbs.
    3.    Harvesting the herb at the right time in its growth assures the longest lasting dried herb. Using a sharp cutting tool is also important.
    4.    Herbs need to be dried immediately after they are harvested. Protein-rich herbs are fussy and need to be handled in special ways. Other herbs are tougher and easier to dry.
    5.    Herbs stored in a cool, dry place will retain usefulness for the longest possible time.
    6.    Herbs kept as whole as possible will store for longer than those that have been cut or powdered.

    Elmed Matzo Brie
    for two

    2 whole wheat matzos, broken into small pieces
    4 organic eggs from down the road, beaten with a palmful of water
    1-3 tablespoonfuls of slippery elm powder (or 1 each slippery elm and astragalus powders)
    ½ teaspoonful sea salt
    2 tablespoons organic butter or coconut oil

    Beat slippery elm powder into the eggs. Add broken matzo pieces. Let soak for as long as it takes to read the funny pages in the newspaper or to do the daily crossword. If these are inconceivable luxuries, then soak the matzo in the egg and slippery elm overnight and it will be ready to cook in the morning.

    To cook, melt butter in a heavy (cast iron) skillet. Add soaked matzo and any extra egg to the skillet all at once. Lower heat a bit and cook until it is firm enough to turn over, hopefully as one piece. Continue to cook until the egg is set and the matzo is hot.

    Delicious with fresh fruit and maple syrup or sour cream, though I like a savory version, with herbed tara cheese as the topping.

  • Saturday, March 16, 2013 8:20 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Greetings to all!

    May the breezes of spring open your heart to another season, another cycle, another year of green blessings.

    Thank you all so much for your enthusiastic response to my new mentorship site. I feel so privileged to be allowed to help you find your way in herbalism. There are so many paths and so many opportunities, and so many ways to wander into a path that isn’t really the best for you when sharing the green. “The mentor’s hindsight is the student’s foresight,” a recent fortune cookie told me. May my many mistakes pave the way for your success.

    When my mom died, I noticed that I could no longer call her with my good news. In her honor, I have endeavored to become that glad heart for others. That someone you can feel comfortable with while enjoying sharing your good luck and your accomplishments. May my delight in your growth nourish you.

    As we move into the growing and harvesting seasons, I continue to work in the storeroom, making room. Thus comes the question: “How long can I store herbs?” Or “How long will herbs stay good?”

    The answer is, of course, “That depends.”

    I am continually surprised at the longevity of the herbs I harvest. Dried nettle ten years old still infuses with bright green color and rich deep taste. Red clover blossoms dried five years old are still wonderfully scented and brightly hued. Cronewort harvested twenty years ago fills the room with her scent and tastes reliably bitter.

    That depends on:    

    1.    The weather when the herb was harvested.
    2.    How the plant was grown.
    3.    How the herb was harvested.
    4.    How the herb was dried.
    5.    How the herb was stored.
    6.    How the herb was prepared before and after storage

    I will discuss each of these variables in further detail on the very next page, where you will also find a new slippery elm recipe. Mentorship students will continue their studies of slippery elm throughout this week with lots more slippery elm recipes and info and will find a much longer discussion of the topic of herb longevity in their special ezine pages.

    Wishing you all spring green blessings.
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