Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Monday, March 05, 2018 3:51 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Digestive Distress, Part Two
    by Susun Weed

    Step 4. Stimulate/Sedate . . .

    ~ White flour products slow the digestive tract; so does too much grain-fed meat. Whole grain products, well-cooked beans, wild meats, and cooked greens speed it up.

    ~ Add more liquids and soft foods to your diet - applesauce, yogurt, nourishing soups, herbal infusions - to help relieve constipation. Chew your food slowly and savor it. Drink lavishly between meals.

    ~ Menopausal women will want to avoid the use of bran as a laxative, as it interferes with calcium absorption. Instead try prunes, prune juice, rhubarb with maple syrup, or figs. (See "Fruit Fix," page XXX.)

    ~ Ginger tea with honey is a warming, easing drink when your tummy is upset. Ahhh. Try the fresh root grated and steeped in boiling water, or put a tablespoon of the powdered stuff from your spice cupboard in a cup of hot water and enjoy.

    ~ Crushed hemp seed (Cannabis sativa) tea - rich in essential fatty acids - is a specific against menopausal constipation.

    ~ Herbal laxatives such as aloes, cascara sagrada, rhubarb root, and senna are addictive and destructive to normal peristalsis. Except in rare cases (such as relief of constipation for a ninety-year-old woman confined to a bed), I do not advise their use.

    Step 5. Use supplements . . .

    ~ Constipation and digestive distress are common side effects from taking iron supplements. A spoonful of molasses with 10-25 drops of yellow dock root tincture in a glass of warm water is a better way to increase iron, and improve elimination.

    Step 6. Break and enter . . .

    ~ Enemas and colonics are last-resort techniques. They do not promote health and may strip the guts of important flora. Regular use of enemas is highly habit-forming. For the sake of your health, avoid them.

  • Monday, March 05, 2018 3:47 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Digestive Distress, Part One
    by Susun Weed

    Step 1. Collect information . . .

    As the mix of hormones in your blood changes during your premenopausal years, you may notice the effects on your gastrointestinal tract both directly - estrogen is a gastrointestinal stimulant and varying levels may swing you from loose stools to dry ones - and indirectly, as the hormonal load places ever heavier demands on the liver.

    Hormones have a strong effect on the motility of the intestinal tract. When your levels of estrogen and progesterone change (as they do throughout menopause, during pregnancy, and before menstruation and birth), your bowel patterns change, too.

    Your liver is, among other things, a recycling center. It breaks down hormones circulating in the blood when they are no longer needed and makes their "parts" available for the production of more hormones. During the menopausal years some hormones (such as LH and FSH) are produced in such enormous quantities that your liver may struggle to keep up with its recycling work, and have little energy left over for digestive duties. Help yourself with these Wise Woman Ways.

    Step 2. Engage the energy . . .

    ~ Bless your food out loud before you eat; say grace; thank the plants and animals who nourish you; breathe in and feel grateful.

    ~ My mother's favorite way of preventing digestive distress and ensuring regularity was to eat at regular times and go to the toilet at regular times. You'd be surprised how effective this is.

    ~ First thing in the morning, get yourself a cup of hot water (or herbal tea) and bring it back to bed. Sip it slowly, and gnaw gently on your bottom lip. Then lie on your back and bring your knees up, feet flat on the bed; place your palms on your belly and breathe deeply. Gently begin to rub your belly (in spirals): up on the right, across the middle, and down on the left. Soon you will feel the movement gathering momentum. Sit up slowly and head for the toilet.

    Step 3. Nourish and tonify . . .

    ~ Yellow dock root vinegar or tincture is a wonderful ally for menopausal women with digestive distress. Daily doses of 1 teaspoon/5 ml vinegar or 5-10 drops of tincture eliminate constipation, indigestion, and gas. Yellow dock is especially recommended for the woman whose menopausal menses are getting heavier.

    ~ Dandelion is everyone's favorite ally for a happy digestive system and a strong liver. It relieves indigestion, constipation, gas, even gallstone pain. How to use it? Have a glass of dandelion blossom wine. Eat the omega-3-rich leaves in salads. Enjoy the phytoestrogenic roots as a vinegar or tincture (a dose is 1-2 teaspoons/5-10 ml vinegar or 10-20 drops tincture taken with meals) or as a coffee substitute.

    ~ Any rhythmical exercise, especially walking, relieves digestive gas and improves intestinal peristalsis (the movement of feces). Oriental wisdom says the liver loves movement.

    ~ Motherwort, fenugreek, vitex, or black cohosh tinctures, taken daily, strengthen digestion and ease menopausal digestive woes. Or try a cup of garden sage tea.

    ~ If constipation occurs due to a lessening of the moistening, lubricating cells in the colon, slippery foods such as slippery elm bark powder, oats, seaweed, flax seed, and seeds from wild Plantago (or cultivated psyllium) are wonderful allies. Adding a teaspoon/5 ml of any, or better yet, all of them to a cup/250 ml of rolled oats and cooking until thick in 3 cups/750 ml of water is a delicious way to prepare this remedy.

    ~ My favorite remedy to relieve digestive and gas pain is plain yogurt. Sometimes even a tiny mouthful will bring instant relief. Acidophilus capsules work, too. I use both when dealing with chronic constipation or severe diarrhea.

    ~ Part 2 ~

  • Monday, March 05, 2018 12:14 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Usnea (Usnea barbata) is that many-stranded grey lichen hanging out of the branches of your apple trees or the Monterey pines planted in the plantation over there or in almost any native tree in areas of the South Island Alps, where it is known as angiangi to the Maori. If in doubt of your identification: Pull a strand gently apart with your hands, looking for a white fiber inside the fuzzy grey-green outer coat.

    To prepare usnea, harvest at any time of the year, being careful not to take too much. Usnea grows slowly. Put your harvest in a cooking pan and just cover it with cold water. Boil for about 15-25 minutes, or until the water is orange and reduced by at least half. Pour usnea and water into a jar, filling it to the top with plant material. (Water should be no more than half of the jar.) Add the highest proof alcohol you can buy. After 6 weeks this tincture is ready to work for you as a superb antibacterial, countering infection anywhere in the body. A dose is a dropperful (1 ml) as frequently as every two hours in acute situations.

    Usnea, a common lichen, is especially rich in a powerful antibacterial bitter called usnic acid (also usinic acid). I use the tincture of Usnea barbata (a dose is 1-2 dropperfuls), but other lichens show similar immune-enhancing and tonifying properties. There are no side effects reported from use of even large amounts of usnea tincture.

    ~ Susun Weed

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:43 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    B-I-G Plants

    I have endeavored to put my toe into the photo to give you some idea of the size of these huge leaves (and mushroom). Enjoy these giant green blessings!

    Big Mushroom

    Big Burdock (Arctium lappa) Leaf

    Big Pedacites Leaf

    Big Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) Plant

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:28 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Witches' Garden, part 2

    Belladonna (Atropa belladonna)
    Here is a mass of belladonna, literally “beautiful lady” in Italian. In Germany, I was told, it is “crazy cherry” or “death cherry” (tot kirsch). In the pharmacy, it is the pupil-opening drug atropine.

    Here is a close-up of the beautiful lady’s flower. So useful, so deadly. Such an odd color. For thousands of years healers have used belladonna, and it is still available today, though usually only as a homeopathic remedy.

    Roots broom  
    Laying off to the side in the witches’ garden, I found this lovely broom made from gnarly roots. Doesn’t look like it would sweep well, but it would probably be a good flyer, especially with some flying ointment rubbed on strategic places.

    ~ B-I-G Plants ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:24 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Witches’ Garden

    Witches were not afraid to use poisonous plants, for they understood how to moderate the results through careful harvesting and wise preparations. It was a witch who turned doctors onto the use of the poisonous foxglove plant. So Marie has created a spiral of poisons in her Witches’ Garden. Though I often encourage my students to smell and taste plants, I think it best if we take a hands-off approach in this garden.

    Castor bean plant
    This lovely castor bean plant – which may grow up to 12 feet tall in a single season, must be planted anew each year in northern Quebec, but it can grow for years in tropical and sub-tropical gardens, where it easily escapes and becomes a weed. A useful and dangerous weed. Castor oil, a healing favorite of Edgar Casey (the sleeping prophet), is pressed from the seeds, which also contain ricin, a deadly poison. It is said that a needle dipped in ricin can be used as a lethal weapon.

    Plants in the nightshade family – like belladonna, henbane, tobacco and Datura -- are associated with witches. When tomatoes were brought from South America (their home) to Italy, they were considered “poison apples.” (Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers are all nightshades, as are ashwaganda and goji.)  It is true that many plants in the nightshade family do contain poisons which can addle your mind, mess with your eyes, and occasionally kill you. Here are a few in Marie Provost’s garden.

    Datura or Jimson weed grows as a weed all over the world, from Quebec to India and all places in between. It is also known as “loco weed” because it make cows – and people – crazy if they eat it. It is featured as part of a shamanic rite in Clan of the Cave Bear by Jane Auel. As a safeguard, they ingest it only when locked in a small cave inside a larger cave. I have heard that an ointment of the root boiled in fat is probably the safest way to take a definitely unsafe-to-use plant.

    ~ Witches' Garden, Part 2 ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:11 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Herb Walk at Clef des Champs, part 2

    Beautiful Mullein
    Mullein is one of the great remedies. It grows just about everywhere except the tropics, and provides the best remedies for anyone dealing with breathing issues.

    Yellow thistle
    I was struck by the color, the size, and the bees when I approached this planting of thistle. “What an unusual color for a thistle,” I remarked to my guide, Anais. With a chuckle, she admitted that they were surprised too. “We think they sent us the wrong seed. It certainly isn’t milk thistle.” Fortunately for us all, thistles, all thistles, are medicinal, all thistle seeds are medicinal, all thistle roots are edible, all thistle leaves are edible too. Milk thistle has pushed the competition aside mostly because it is so big and easy to work with, but, really, any thistle will do.


    This is the flower of Echinacea augustifolia. I could not walk past. I had to sit and drink in the petals as the fluttered in the breeze, like butterflies resting upside down. I depend on echinacea. Ever since I threw over my disappointing relationship with golden seal (which, I noticed, Marie doesn’t grow), and found Kansas coneflower in an old, old herbal, I have trusted my life and the lives of my animals to Echinacea augustifolia. (Not Echinacea purpurea.)

    “And look at the stalk,” Anais instructed me. “When it isn’t in flower, you can distinguish the augustifolia from the purpurea by the hairs on the stalk and leaves of the former.

    Siberian ginseng
    Oops. We aren't supposed to call it that anymore. Now it is Eleuthero (short for Eleutherococcus senticocus). Marie is quite justifiably proud of her accomplishment in growing a stand of this important adaptogen.

    ~ Witches' Garden ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 3:46 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Herb Walk at Clef des Champs

    Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)

    As we get out of the car at Marie’s house, we are greeted by her and by this amazing patch of one of my favorite plants: Lady’s mantle. It is the alchemical plant (Alchemilla); not to be confused with yarrow (Alchillea).

    This beautiful plant has refused to grow in my stony soil, but is obviously delighted with the soil in Val David. I have also seen it flourish in seaside gardens. It is highly regarded as one of the world’s best tonics for women’s reproductive health.

    The accordion-pleated leaves hold the dew, which was collected by alchemists intent on turning lead into gold, because it was “pure” water, untouched by the earth. Perhaps you sense why I am not so happy about what alchemy did to herbal medicine: Took it away from women. Made the Earth impure. Denied the life of the plant and reduced it to constituents. And started the stampede to drugs. Nonetheless, I love Lady’s mantle.

    Setting the Scene

    As we enter the extensive gardens at Clef des Champes, we are greeted with this lovely trio of useful plants: Bouncing Bet (Saponaria off.), rosehip roses (Rosa rugose), and thyme (Thymus sp.). Wash your hands, your hair, and any antique wall hanging with the soapy foam made by rubbing fresh soapwort (Bouncing Bet) in your hands. Wait a bit and those roses will turn into huge red rosehips ready to help you through the winter. I deseed the hips and boil the flesh with honey for a yummy jam. And what shall we do with the thyme? Dry it to use in soup? Make a wonderful vinegar? Tincture it to help with digestive distress? The bees are making honey from it. Yes. Let’s make thyme honey to ward off winter sore throats.

    ~ Herb Walk, Part 2 ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 3:26 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Hypericum Harvest

    Hypericum on my hands.
    Yes. That red staining is from the oil in the plant. That red oil makes both the tincture and the infused oil a deep delicious red.

    The harvest brewing.
    Here are my tinctures and my oil. In six weeks it will be ready to use. But I will most likely leave these alone until next year as I am still using last year’s harvest. Such beautiful abundance.

    ~ Herb Walk ~

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 3:03 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    As you recall, part of my August abundance was a trip (in late July) to Clef des Champ -- an amazing herb garden and business headed by Marie Provost in Val David, Quebec. I fell in love with the people and the plants and the Laurentian Mountains. And I promised you a quick peek into the abundance there.

    But first, let’s stop here by the road and take advantage of the journey north to lengthen the season for harvesting Hypericum. It has been so rainy in the Catskills that I’ve fallen behind in making enough Hypericum oil and tincture to give away and use in the coming year. And I have come prepared for the opportunity to stock up by bringing jars, scissors, vodka (in PomWonderful bottles), oil, labels and marker. Want to help?

    Come, let’s take a peek at a few (really, only a few) of the plants in Marie’s gardens.

    At the very end of our climb through fields of herbs, we pass between two huge angelica plants in full flower and duck into an enclosed arbor, from which we emerge into Marie’s “Witches’ Garden.” Join us there, if you dare.

    While we are on the theme of abundance, here are some photos of B-I-G plants that I saw last month.

    Send us photos of big plants you’ve seen. Because abundant green blessings are everywhere. See you soon.


    ~ Hypericum ~

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