Two simple changes I wish I learned 5 years ago

This is an article I wrote with my husband for eujuicers.com.
gathering in the fields

There is medicine all around us!

I’ve always loved the outdoors. For me, there is nothing better than a warm summer afternoon working in my garden accompanied by the buzzing of the busy bees as they fly from flower to flower. I believe that God gave us plants not only for food and beauty, but also to heal us. I pursued that belief by studying everything I could find about herbalism. I poured through every book I could find, and enrolled in several herbalism courses.  Soon the world around me opened up even more. On my daily hikes with my husband, I began to recognize that we were surrounded by a natural pharmacy. I began gathering herbs from the surrounding forests and fields, as well as ones I would grow in my garden, to make natural treatments. I would experiment with different formulas and used myself and my family as test subjects for a variety of salves, tinctures, and teas. Over the years, I have continued to tinker with and perfect both the ingredients I use and how I process them. I now make over seventy different herbal products, for family, friends and clients, and continue to constantly experiment with them.

Excalibur D502SHD

Good results take time

I have used a dehydrator almost from day one, since with the amount of herbs I gather in the summer would take up too much space in my house and garage to dry. I use an Exclalibur dehydrator like the one in the picture because I needed something that has a lot of space for drying and could run constantly from summer to fall. One day my husband was observing the steps I go through to make salves and tinctures, and had some suggestions. He works for EU Juicers (maybe you’re reading this on their blog), a company specializing in appliances for healthy living like juicers and dehydrators, and he said I could speed up the process and perhaps get better results with some of our appliances. For example, when I make a salve I first gather the herbs, dry them, crush them with a mortar and pestle, infuse them into an oil either by putting a jar in a sunny window for 6-8 weeks or VERY carefully cooking it on the stove for about 30 minutes, then adding melted beeswax and essential oils to the infused herbal oil. It’s a long process, but you can’t cut corners if you want to make effective herbal treatments.

grinding herbs 1

Putting away the mortar and pestle

Grinding herbs with a mortar and pestle takes a lot of time, and tends to leave a very coarse texture. To maximize the medicinal potency of herbs, the most surface area of the plants need to be exposed in the oil. Following my husband’s suggestion, I processed a batch of herbs in our juicer. It is a Sana 707 horizontal juicer, and has this cone that you can use instead of the juicing screen that makes it a grinder. It was fast and the herbs were ground much better than I could do by hand. It was a fine consistency – small enough to have a ton of surface area, but large enough that it wouldn’t dissolve in the oil. I actually make all my teas in this juicer now as well.

oil

A new way to infuse oil

After seeing me pour out a batch of oil I ruined by overheating, my husband asked me about it. I told him that herbal infused oils are very sensitive to temperature. While I still often just let a jar sit in a sunny window, that doesn’t work in the winter, and I often produce so much that time is critical. If you cook it on a stove at too low of a temperature, the medicinal properties aren’t released nearly so well. It you cook it too hot, the oil can burn and destroy the herbs. The “sweet spot” in between the extremes is very small, and depends on the herbs and oils used. He suggested using a dehydrator or our bread machine to infuse the oils, since they are very accurate at keeping a particular temperature. Our dehydrator is always full, so I tried the bread machine. It’s called a Sana Smart Bread Maker, and it lets me set the time and temperature digitally. I put a jar of fresh oil with herbs, and set it for 30 hours at 45C. The next day, I removed the jar and the oil was a rich dark color and smelled amazing. In the photo here (sorry, I used my phone to take it), the new oil is on the left and the one infused in the window is on the right. Notice how it is much darker and richer in color.

before and after

The results

I made some arnica oil and salve (arnica is used mainly for bruises but also muscle soreness and acne) this way, and compared it to my previous batch using the mortar and pestle grinding and the window infusing. I was really surprised at the results. The new one using the juicer and bread maker was deeper in color and smelled richer than the “by hand” batch. Color and smell are good indicators of a product’s potency – the darker the better – as long as it isn’t overheated (which will be dark but smell rancid or burnt.) I’ll put a photo here – sorry it isn’t too clear but I just used my phone – hopefully you can see the difference. The oil and salve on the left are the new batch. Better yet, I tried another product – a “white widow” salve made from a high-CBD stain of cannabis – which my daughter uses for her sore wrists using this method. My daughter told me that the new version made her feel even better than the old one.

I now make almost all my products this way – not only are they more potent, but the time saved lets me spend more time gathering or studying. It is especially time saving with teas, since I make everyone two different herbal teas in the morning and another at night so we go through a LOT of tea. Now I have to convince my husband to buy a bigger dehydrator!

Though I am currently working on my Master’s certification and writing my thesis on phytotherapy, I still find that my passion is being in the garden, harvesting in the fields or making up batches of new salves and tinctures; the joy is in finding a way to help someone else feel better.

Acupuncture: But, I hate needles!

Due to the worsening of my daughter Rebekah’s illness and the unnecessary amount of stress at my work, I have not felt well, mentally or physically, for a long while. Although I’m on a regular dose of St John’s Wort, a stress reducing tea I created called “Enhance Your Calm” and the occasional glass of wine, it has become quite apparent to me that I am in such a state as to require acute outside help.

We had a scare with Rebekah’s health this week that put a lot of things into perspective. I did not handle the situation well. After so many years in a consistent crisis mode the stress has built up within me to a point that I must do something drastic.

I have begun to see a psychologist who helps me look at my childhood, my thinking and why I feel stress and anxiety so often. He is straight with me and just the process of saying everything out loud to another person has helped me to become more self-aware and see what needs to be changed.

After Rebekah came home this week from hospital, I booked us both in with an acupunturist. It is indicated for her particular malady and I have read some compelling texts on its efficacy with stress and anxiety. I was a bit nervous as I had no idea what to expect, the interview would be conducted completely in Czech and my Czech is just adequate and I have usually fallen faint when faced with an injection or blood draw.

The acupuncturist looked as I had imagined, a bit of a cool hippy with a long ponytail. He was mild-mannered and seemed very patient and gentle. He was quite patient with my Czech and the interview went fine apart from me forgetting the word for “sweaty’. Rebekah came in and rescued me on that one.

Once settled in the procedure room, he began to insert the needles into my neck, back, hands and feet. It was not unpleasant at all, only one or two times did I feel a sharp pinch.  After being covered with a blanket, I lay there for about 30 minutes and felt some tingling at many of the insertion points and warmth radiating from them. It was very fine.

Upon his return, he carefully pulled the needles out and then put more into my forehead, wrists, knees, shins and ankles. There were a few spots here that made me gasp, but the pain was quickly over, replaced by a feeling that something was working, something was being done, unlocked, if I may. Another blanket-covered half hour passed.

There was a final consultation where he gave me some herbs, told me to rest and we made another appointment. He said that he planned three appointments and then there should be marked improvement.

I had planned to go to school and work all day on planning and preparation for the new school term. That was not going to happen. I felt so tired. Not just sleepy, exhausted. We went right home and I put on pyjamas and laid on the couch for the rest of the day. I felt heavy, sore at some of the points and incapable of focus or movement. Oh, and I cried on and off for several hours. It was as if a lock had been opened and now things meant to be hidden or shoved to the side were coming out. The stress of the last few weeks (years, really), the things I had stuffed down inside me, it was all surfacing.

I chose to embrace it. I cried, rested, drank lots of water and chilled on the couch watching movies with my girls.

The next day, I felt more put together, less breakable than I have in a while. The points above my kidneys are still a bit tender and I still feel a bit tired. But, I am really looking forward to my next session.

As far as my daughter goes, he recommended, in her delicate state, to start with bioresonance. I am researching this to see what its efficacy is for her issues. Does anyone have any experience with this? I would be glad to know your thoughts.

Feverfew

 

Tanacetum parthenium

Common Name: Feverfew, bachelor’s button, febrifuge plant, wild chamomile, wild quinine
 
Family: Asteraceae
TCM Name: Xiao bai ju
Ayurvedic Name: N/A
Parts Used: Flowers and (primarily) leaves 
Native To: Balkan peninsula

Tanacetum parthenium.jpg

Medicinal Notes

Feverfew is often cultivated in gardens for ornamental purposes. It is easy to grow and propagates well from cuttings. I have found it when walking on paths by meadows and along the forest edge. It has a strong, bitter odor and bees steer clear of it.

Feverfew is a perennial and grows to a height of about 2-3 feet. In summer feverfew bears clusters of numerous white flowers with yellow centers that resemble daisy flowers.

 

Harvesting

The fresh leaves and flowers are harvested and used fresh, ideally, to make tinctures or dried and stored for making teas.

Feverfew is harvested in the herb’s second year of growth in mid-summer or whenever the flowers are in full bloom. Cutting down the herb by about 3-4 inches will also allow feverfew to regrow for a secondary harvest.

Wearing gloves is recommended as there may be contact dermatitis or skin sensitivity to the Asteraceae/Compositae family.

Constituents

Feverfew contains sesquiterpene lactones (parthenolide), volatile oils; bitter resin, pyrethrin, tannins (Holmes, 2006); flavonoids (apigenin, centaureidin, chrysoeriol, jaceidin, luteolin, quercetin, santin) (Pareek et al., 2011)

Uses

According to The Herbarium:

“Throughout history, feverfew has been primarily an ally of women and an aid to conditions specific to congestion in the head. It has also been a notable balancer of the respiratory and nervous systems, a pain reliever, and useful in warding off insects. Recent scientific studies are cropping up for some of these traditional uses as well as for other indications found in historical records such as arthritis and asthma. At the  same time, cancer has become a strong focal point of feverfew research.

Feverfew’s ancient reputation as a woman’s herb was etymologically linked since ancient Greece, where it was known as τό παρθένιον (parthenion) and in Latin as parthenium. Both names have been directly transplanted as the modern Latin botanical name, parthenium.

Herbalist Culpeper (1770) remarked in his contemporaneous herbal:

“Venus has commended this herb to succour her Sisters, to be a general strengthener of their Wombs, and to remedy such Infirmities as a careless Midwife has there caused…and doth a Woman all the Good she can desire of an Herb” (p. 131)

Feverfew was considered an herb specific not just to women, but to mothers (Parkinson, 1640). Indeed, as with a handful of other herbs viewed as especial protectors of women, feverfew has carried the common name of “motherwort.” The idea that feverfew is an herb of women is true of Eastern traditions as well; in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), feverfew—viewed as a uterine spasmolytic in Western traditions—is a uterine qi-regulator.

Although the herb was not introduced to North America until the middle of the 19th century, it is interesting to observe that the Cherokee tribe kept feverfew in their Medicines of the East and the North for issues pertaining to young women’s menstrual cycles (Garrett, 2003). Associated uses in the European tradition include vaginal steams with infusions of the herb (Parkinson, 1640). Feverfew has also been used traditionally for infertility. By the early 19th century it was being indicated for “hysteric” disorders (Hill, 1812).

Today, however, it is feverfew’s affinity for the head that is most well known and widely promoted; scientific research on the herb’s prowess in conquering migraines began relatively early and on a large scale. In the 1970s, newspapers in England were reporting the story of a Welsh woman who was nibbling three fresh feverfew leaves each day and thus rid her self of migraine headaches over a timeframe of several months (Mabey, 1988; Bone & Mills, 2013). Highly successful clinical studies followed, along with popularity in the UK.

As a heat-clearing relaxant, feverfew is also analgesic and anti-inflammatory (Holmes, 2006), which is in part why it has been used for headaches, neuralgia, and fibromyalgia. With respect to its reputation in migraine therapy, it appears that feverfew inhibits granule secretion from platelets and is highly and uniquely anti-inflammatory due partially to the presence of the above-mentioned constituent parthenolide (Bone & Mills, 2013). That being said, feverfew possesses at least 30 other sesquiterpene lactones (Pareek et al., 2011).

With respect to the nervous system, feverfew has been used traditionally for a variety of indications on a spectrum including tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, and vomiting, all of which may have connections to the nerves (Arikan-Ayyildiz et al., 2017). In France feverfew can be found popularly applied to insomnia and herbalist Matthew Wood has mentioned it in relation to panic attacks (Wood, 2008).

Amelioration of low mood is also a recurrent feature of feverfew’s historical profile; Hildegard von Bingen remarked that it drew out bad humors when eaten often, creating good ones instead (von Bingen, 2001), while herbal authors of the Renaissance like Parkinson and Gerard tell us that it was used for melancholy and sadness, as well as for those who are “pensive, and without speech” (Gerard, 1636, p. 653). These indications were generally echoed again in the early 20th century (Grieve, 1971). A very recent scientific study (mice-only) has confirmed these traditional anxiolytic and anti-depressant-like effects of feverfew and positively suggested the herb’s therapeutic potential (Cárdenas et al., 2017).

Feverfew’s analgesic action has also been traditionally used for various types of pain relief, for example, from toothache (Pareek et al., 2001). Grieve suggests an infusion of the flowers left until cold and then taken to dull sensitivity to pain in a nervous disposition (Grieve, 1971). The analgesic properties of feverfew have been recently studied with respect to extracts from the flowers alone and it was concluded that a flower extract is capable of offering a powerful anodyne for various types of pain: inflammatory, articular, neuropathic, and acute (Di-Cesare Mannelli et al., 2015).

Following upon these indications for pain and inflammation is a newfound focus in science upon feverfew and arthritic conditions. As discussed above, feverfew is anti-inflammatory and has been found to inhibit both degranulation and phagocytosis, which indicates that the herb might be used more widely for its anti-inflammatory properties (Bone & Mills, 2013). The fact that feverfew can inhibit phagocytosis as well as degranulation gives it increased potential as an anti-inflammatory agent (this may be why it was also used traditionally for allergies).

Feverfew, which is also a vermifuge as well as antiparasitic, has been traditionally used as an insect repellent. Such an indication may be linked to the presence of pyrethrin in feverfew, a chemical compound that is a naturally-occurring insecticide. This traditional Western use apparently carried over with the herb’s introduction to North America; a tribal elder reminded Cherokee herbalist J. T. Garrett that feverfew was earlier used to ward off insects:

“…[it] was used as a ‘bugbane’ to repel insects. The leaf would be placed in bean bread dough as a way to take it without upsetting the intestines” (Garrett, 2003, p. 72).

Given the popular focus of the last half-century, it is easy to pigeonhole feverfew as “the migraine herb.” Despite an otherwise quieter presence in contemporary practice, the spectrum of feverfew’s many applications—showcased by its multi-faceted history, in which it was once a primary ally for women’s reproductive wellbeing, a key balancer of the nervous and digestive systems, a reliever of pain and the discomfort of infections, an aid for respiratory difficulty, and a useful repellent—leaves the door open to new discoveries.

In addition, we’ll doubtless be hearing more about feverfew as its old folk indications for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma are resurrected in current science and as more of its role in cancer treatments continues to be revealed.”

 

Protocol
Ways to Use: Tincture, Tea, Salve, Compress, Steam
Actions: Analgesic, Anticarcinogenic, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antipyretic, aperient, bitter, Carminative, Decongestant, Diaphoretic, Febrifuge, Relaxant, Mucostatic, Spasmolytic, Tonic, Vasoregulator, Vermifuge
Taste: Bitter, Pungent
Energy: Cool, Dry, Warming
Dosing
Adult Dose

Tea:  8-14 grams; 3-9 grams

Salve:  Use externally as needed.

Tincture: 2-4 ml at 1:4 strength

With respect to migraines in particular, dosage will vary not only with quality of the herb, which can be considerable, but also with severity/frequency of migraine episodes.

 

Safety

 Feverfew should be avoided during pregnancy or if on blood thinning medications, as it can affect the rate of blood clotting. Avoid using Feverfew herb if you are allergic to plants from the Asteraceae (Compositae) family such as daisies, chrysanthemum, marigolds or artichokes.

 

 

Arnica

Arnica montana 

Common Name: Arnica, leopard’s bane, wolfsbane, mountain tobacco
 
Family: Asteraceae
TCM Name: N/A
Ayurvedic Name: N/A
Parts Used: Flowers
Native To: Europe

Arnica_montana_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-015

Medicinal Notes

Arnica is a hardy perennial in the aster family (Asteraceae) which grows at elevation in the subalpine meadows and open forests of mountainous regions. A. montana is native to Europe and also grows in northern Alaska and British Columbia, whereas A. cordifolia and A. latifolia predominate in the Western United States (Gladstar, 2000). Due to overharvesting, A. Montana should not be wild harvested, and harvesting of the North American species should be limited. A. chamissonis is native to the United States and is cultivated as a substitute for A. Montana at low elevations. There are several other species as well, but all seem to have similar medicinal uses.

Arnica has daisy-like yellow flowers consisting of a central disk of florets surrounded by the showy ray florets. The flowers are 1 to 4 inches in diameter and bloom starting the second year (Gladstar & Hirsch, 2000) in June through August. The erect, sturdy stem is up to two feet tall and has a rosette of basal ovate-shaped leaves near the ground and opposite pairs of downy lance-shaped leaves upon the stem. In fact, the name arnica is derived from the Greek word arnakis, meaning “lamb’s skin” (Gladstar & Hirsch, 2000), referring to these downy or wooly leaves. Arnica grows in colonies from a horizontally spreading rhizome.

Harvesting

The fresh flower heads are harvested and used fresh or dried to make a tincture or an infused oil or salve.

Constituents

Arnica contains sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, tannins, volatile oils, resins, and bitters (Hoffmann, 2003). Foster and Tyler (1999) report that sesquiterpenoid lactones (including helenalin) are the active ingredients in arnica, accounting for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antibiotic effects. Energetically, arnica is considered warming and drying. It is a plant of the sun, after all!

Uses

According to The Herbarium:

“Arnica is known as an injury remedy, and has been used for thousands of years in the European Alps and by Native Americans (Holmes, 1997). It is an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, vulnerary, and rubifacient herb used to speed healing and relieve pain, inflammation, swelling, and bruising associated with traumatic injuries such as fractures, sprains, and contusions. It is renowned for treating muscular pain from overexertion and is an invaluable ally for athletes or anyone else who puts in a hard day’s work and has the aches to show for it. Gladstar & Hirsch (2000) also recommend it for back pain, rheumatic pain, dislocations, and varicose veins. For injuries, aches, and pains, it can be used topically on unbroken skin as a poultice, liniment, compress, oil, cream or salve or homeopathically. No first aid kit is complete without arnica!

Homeopathically, arnica is very safe and is used to support healing in the case of shock, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post surgical trauma, invasive dental work, and concussion in addition to its aforementioned use for injuries and muscle strain (Gladstar & Hirsch, 2000).

Arnica was also historically used as a cardiac restorative and coronary circulation stimulant (Holmes, 1997). Those internal uses will not be elaborated here because arnica can be toxic to the heart and circulatory system (Foster & Tyler, 1999) and must either be avoided or used with extreme caution and only under the close supervision of a qualified herbalist.”

 

Protocol
Ways to Use: Poultice, Salve, Infused Oil
Actions: Analgesic, Vulnerary, Rubefacient, Anti-inflammatory
Taste: Bitter, Acrid
Energy: Warm, Drying
Dosing
Adult Dose

Poultice: Use externally as needed.

Salve:  Use externally as needed.

Infused Oil: Use externally as needed.

 

Safety

Externally, arnica is generally safe when applied to unbroken skin, however its constituent helenalin may cause contact dermatitis in some people, causing pain, itchiness, and inflammation. Arnica should not be taken internally. Homeopathic arnica is considered safe.

 

Related Posts

Arnica Salve

 

Calendula

Calendula officinalis

Common Name: Calendula, marigold, pot marigold
 
Family: Asteraceae
TCM Name: Jin zhan ju
Ayurvedic Name: N/A
Parts Used: flowers, ray florets
Native To: South central Europe, North Africa
646da58524eff3a4a3d0680cff8f4100.jpg

Medicinal Notes

Calendula is an annual in the aster family (Asteraceae) which is native to south central Europe North Africa. Today, calendula is planted throughout the world. Calendula has sunny yellow and orange flowers that open in the morning when the sun rises and close as it sets, inspiring Culpeper (1653) to call marigold “an herb of the sun.” Indeed, calendula holds the warmth and spirit of the sun in its flowers.

The flower heads of calendula are one to three inches across and have a central cluster of tubular flowers surrounded by several rows of ray florets (Foster, 1993). The stalk supports many branching stems and oblong medium green leaves from 3 to 6 inches long (Foster, 1993). The plant grows up to 24 inches tall. Calendula joyously blooms nearly continuously from spring through fall (as long as you continuously pick the blossoms), and then produces fat, crescent-shaped seeds that are easy to collect and save for planting next year’s crop. With its bright, uplifting flowers and prodigious bloom, it’s a lovely addition to any garden!

Harvesting

The fresh flower heads are harvested and the ray florets are removed and dried for tea, extracted in a tincture, or infused into oil. The florets are a lively addition to salads and soups. In reality, it’s very time consuming to remove the florets by hand, so often the entire flower head is used when making medicine.

Constituents

Calendula contains flavonoids, triterpenes, saponins, volatile oil, salicylic acid, mucilage and resin (calendulin), among other constituents . The resin gives calendula its characteristic sticky feeling.  Energetically, calendula is warming and slightly drying, but is also a soothing demulcent.

Uses

According to The Herbarium:

“Calendula is a powerful wound and tissue healer (vulnerary) both externally and internally. It has long been used to soothe and heal cuts, burns, bites, sprains, bruises, rashes, sunburns, and abrasions due to its antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, hemostatic, and tissue-healing actions. Calendula also contains salicylic acid so works as an analgesic to help relieve the pain associated with these types of wounds and skin irritations. Calendula also soothes itching. Even persistent wounds and old scars are helped by the tissue healing and regenerative properties of calendula. Many of my clients rave about its affinity for scar tissue removal and for its miraculous help with diaper rash.

Calendula’s slight bitter taste hints at its use for the digestive system. Indeed, calendula is considered a cholagogue, supporting the gallbladder (Hoffmann, 2003), and also the liver and consequently the digestive system. By stimulating these organs, calendula stimulates secretion of bile and digestive enzymes, aiding the digestive process and improving absorption (McIntyre, 1996). Calendula can also be taken internally for inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract such as ulcers (Hoffmann, 2003), esophageal irritation from gastric reflux, and inflammatory bowel disease (Blankenspoor, 2012). Its mucilage content is wonderfully soothing to irritated tissues. Culpeper (1653) councils “the juice of marigold…and any hot swelling bathed with it, instantly gives ease, and assuages it.” As an astringent, calendula will gently relieve diarrhea.

Calendula acts as an immune stimulant as well as being antibacterial and antiviral, so it’s ideal when colds, flu, and other infections take hold. Used internally as an antimicrobial, calendula helps the body resist pathogens. Research has shown that calendula is effective against flu and herpes viruses (McIntyre, 1996). A hot calendula infusion acts as a diaphoretic, moving energy outward by stimulating circulation and promoting sweating. This action helps kill the infectious pathogen (and subsequently reduce fever) as well as removing toxins from the body. McIntyre (1996) suggests that in the case of chickenpox or measles, calendula helps the virus erupt on the skin and expel toxins. Calendula is a lymphagogue, meaning it cleanses the lymph system by moving clogged lymph fluid, removing toxins from the lymph, and decongesting swollen lymph nodes. Keeping the lymph system is moving and functioning as intended is vital for a strong immune system.

Calendula is an anti-fungal herb used both internally and externally for treatment of such conditions as fungal skin infections (e.g. athlete’s foot and jock itch) and yeast overgrowths (e.g. candida in the gut, thrush, and vaginal yeast infections). Calendula’s antimicrobial action is also helpful in the case eye infections such as pink eye/conjunctivitis.

Calendula is an ally for the female reproductive system due to its antispasmodic, emmenogogue, and estrogenic effects which regulate menstruation, resolve delayed menstruation, relieve tension, cramping and pain associated with menstruation, and relieve menopausal symptoms (McIntyre, 1996; Hoffmann, 2003). Herbalist David Hoffmann considers it “a normalizer of the menstrual process.””

 

Protocol
Ways to Use: Vinegar, Tincture, Infusion, Infused Oil
Actions: Vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, immune stimulant, antifungal, antiviral, cholagogue, diaphoretic, lymphatic, antispasmodic, emmanagogue
Taste: Mildly Bitter
Energy: Warm, Drying, soothing demulcent
Dosing
Adult Dose

 Tincture: 1-4 ml (1:5 in 60%) 3x per day.

Tea: 1-2 teaspoons flowers per cup boiling water, steeped for 10-15 minutes, taken three times per day.

External applications: lotion, salve, or wash as needed.

 

Safety

Calendula is considered a very safe herb. It should not be taken during pregnancy as it may promote contractions.

 

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The Great Eight: Wildcrafting in Czechia part 2

There’s treasure everywhere. It only takes eyes to see, a heart open to receiving the gifts of nature and some knowledge with which to discern the way.

In our neck of the woods, South Bohemia, treasure lies all around us. Here are the rest of the top eight medicinal herbs found on any walk around most areas where I live. I use these herbs in my daily life at home with my family, in making remedies for my friends and clients and they are the ones that are most pointed out when I do nature walks with fellow seekers.

 

 

Mullein

mullein.jpg.638x0_q80_crop-smart

Mullein (Verbascum) Divizna

Mullein is a lovely biennial that produces a tall spike of velvety yellow flowers in its second year. First year plants form a rosette of pale green fuzzy leaves that are close to the ground. Mullein likes sunny fields, edges of paths and roads and anywhere that is a little neglected. Mullein has an affinity for respiratory issues and its flowers have been traditionally used in a medicinal ear oil. Pick the first year leaves to combat any cough or respiratory distress. These leaves can be dried, crumbled and used in teas or tinctures. The leaves are covered in fine hairs that could be irritating to the esophagus and lungs if inhaled or ingested, so always use a tea bag or filter of some sort when brewing mullein. The flowers should be harvested the second year, dried for a day and then added to an oil menstruum (I use olive oil) and infused for several weeks (or overnight in a bread maker or oven). This makes an excellent ear oil for ear aches or infections. NEVER use this oil if you have any perforation of the ear drum.

Medicinal Actions: affinity for respiratory system, demulcent, expectorant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, sedative, astringent, emollient. 

St John’s Wort

StJohnWort

St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Třezalka tečkovaná

St John’s Wort when in tincture form has been called “liquid sunshine”. In recent years, it has come out as a glorious help to those suffering from depression, SAD  or anxiety. Historically, it has been used and lauded as an overall powerful vulnerary (wound healer), one that works topically and internally. It seems to me that this vulnerary action works on a broken or wounded mind as well.  It has a special affinity for neuralgia, pain caused by nerve damage or nerve-related issues. While this special herb eases pain, both mental and physical, it has a stellar track record as an antiviral and is useful in combating viruses, especially those focused on the nervous system.

“Liquid sunshine” can be found in certain areas around us. I even found a patch growing by our house. We often travel to Albrechtice nad Vltavou to gather St John’s Wort. It is typically ready around the second week of July. Identify the plant by its perforated leaves, hold one up to the light and see the tiny holes. Smash a bud between your fingers noticing the reddish-purple stain on your fingers. Harvest the flower heads and top leaves, paying special attention to the amount of unopened buds. The most powerful medicinal constituents reside in these unopened buds. Use these flower heads and buds to infuse as an oil or tincture. I use St John’s Wort in my Healing Herbal Salve.

St John’s Wort is contraindicated for those on SSRI antidepressants.

Medicinal Actions: antiviral, vulnerary, nervine, affinity for the nervous system, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory.

Self-Heal

prunella vulgaris_plant

Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) Černohláv obecný

Selfheal can be found from mid to late summer along almost any path in the forest. It is a part of the mint family of plants and is harvested when the flowers are in bloom. The flower heads and top leaves should be harvested when the flowers are a vibrant purple. This herb is used for sore throats, ulcers, wounds on the skin, stabilisation of tissues (demulcent and astringent properties) and drawing out infections.

Medicinal Actions: antiviral, anticancer, anti-oxidant, hemostatic, demulcent, astringent, vulnerary, inflammatory modulator, immunomodulator, diuretic. 

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle- adaptations- ugly flowers

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) Kopřiva dvoudomá

Stinging Nettles are a strange and wonderful mini-miracle to me. I came to the Czech Republic with a healthy fear of them, being taught as a child to avoid them. Then, here in CZ, our Czech neighbours encouraged us to drink nettle tea and hit ourselves with nettles to combat arthritic pain. I thought this was the weirdest thing ever. After many years here and many years of studying herbalism, I see the benefit and wonder in this ubiquitous and sometimes painful plant. When my husband was diagnosed with arthritis in his shoulder, we could be seen tromping to the edge of our forest where Dan would dutifully take off his shirt and I would whip his shoulder with nettles. It really helped. Our family drinks a nourishing nettle tea each morning and nettles are a big part of my Detox Tea.

Nettles are literally everywhere, a jewel to the herbalist.

Medicinal Actions: nourishing (full of vitamins and minerals), diuretic, affinity for gout, affinity for arthritis, laxative, anti-allergy, anti-dandruff, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, affinity for cleansing blood and liver.

Himalayan Balsam

Dan, Rebekah, Roxie and I took a nature hike this weekend to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us as well as the gorgeous early autumn weather. It was clear, sunny and about 20 degrees all weekend. After a few weeks of gray skies and cold weather, it was uplifting to spirit, mind and body.

We live along the Vltava River, which winds its way through all of Bohemia.  Along its banks some truly precious plants grow, filled with good medicine.IMG_20170930_134132862_HDR

I had planned to harvest nettles today, as they are in abundance along this path.  I was fortunate to find a patch of second growth Yarrow as well. This was good luck as we had just finished my last harvest in our Fever Doctor Tea .  We have all been drinking this to battle the cold that has been going around town.

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Harvesting Yarrow Achillea millefolium

 

On the banks of the Vltava, an invasive non-indigenous weed known as Himalayan Balsam can be found in profusion. For many, it is a nightmare. For our family, it is a delight.

Impatiens glandulifera

My children have fond memories of this plant, even before I began gardening and studying herbalism. The seed pods are the best fun for kids and adults alike as they explode with such power as to shock even the most prepared victim. The seeds within, especially the black ones, have a delicious nutty flavour that has been lauded for years in wildcraft cooking.

I love popping the seed pods and shoving the seeds in my mouth. I do not look elegant whilst doing this, believe me.

I have not yet been this fortunate, but I still have a goal of bringing home a bag full of the seeds and using them in a baking of bread.

Impatiens are a mainstay in the Bach flower essence formulas:

According to the Bach Centre

“Impatiens is, as its name suggests, the remedy for impatience and the frustration and irritability that often go with it. Anyone can get into this state of mind, but there are also genuine Impatiens types, who live life at a rush and hate being held back by more methodical people. To avoid this irritation they prefer to work alone: the Impatiens boss is the one who sends staff home early so she can get the job finished quicker.

The remedy helps us be less hasty and more relaxed with others. It is also an ingredient in Dr Bach’s original crisis formula, where it helps calm agitated thoughts and feelings.”

 

 

Himalayan Balsam seed falafel

The Lunchbreak Forager

This quick and easy recipe is a twist on the original falafel recipe, but equally as tasty and perhaps a nice unusual one to serve up at dinner parties.

Ingredients

1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Coriander seeds
1 can of chickpeas- drained
1 cup of Himalayan balsam seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp wholemeal flour
1 carrot finely grated with the moisture squeezed out
1 chilli finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon zest only
Rape seed oil for frying

Method

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan for 1 min then mash in your pestle and mortar or give a quick whizz using the seed bit of your blender/food processor. Blend the rest of the other ingredients. Roll into balls about the half the size of rats head. Heat about 1cm/half an inch of oil in a large frying pan and roll your balls about until browned. Put onto kitchen paper and then serve in a pitta bread.