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.

IMG_20170930_140108887
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.

Organic- Is it just business or the first step to health? by Adolf Jana

Organic food is becoming more and more popular. The sections with organic food in supermarkets grow bigger and in some countries there are even all organic supermarkets.

However, even though the popularity is rising, scientists keep arguing whether organic food actually contains more nutrients than conventional food and whether they are better for us.

Oftentimes I hear that organic is just a business and that there’s no added value to it.

So is organic food better and why? Should you buy it? What should you follow when you buy organics?

Why is there so much confusion around it?

So many studies have been conducted, yet there are big differences in their results.

Findings of several studies which are against the concept of organic food say that consumption of organic cannot be recommended, because there isn’t sufficient evidence that it contains more nutrients (1, 2, 3).

On the other hand a number of researches came to a conclusion that organic food contains for example higher amounts of vitamin C, zinc, iron and antioxidants (4567).

There are many factors which affect the results:

  • When the fruits and vegetables are harvested
  • Weather during the year
  • Quality of soil
  • Animal feed

These and other influences have a big effect on the amount of nutrients in food. In the end it is a very complex topic, which is not simply black and white.

… and we shouldn’t forget the influence of lobby on both sides of the barricade. Even the best scientists make “mistakes”.

However, the study mentioned previously analyzed 343 researches and came to the following conclusion: organic food contains significantly higher amounts of antioxidants, some minerals and vitamins.

Amount of nutrients is only one of the decision points

We don’t buy organic food only because it may contain more nutrients. The amount of pesticide residues and other compounds (e.g. antibiotics) plays a significant role as well.

Regarding this the studies are in agreement – organic food is better.

The well-known Stanford study was careful in its conclusions and stated that by consuming organic food we can decrease the risk of exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria. Very interesting outcomes of this study were further discussed here.

Analysis of a few hundred studies resulted in these intriguing results:

  • Organic food contains 48% less Cadmium. Cadmium is a highly toxic metal, which accumulates in the body. Besides the fact that it is carcinogenic, it also causes many other problems.
  • Pesticide residue occurrence is 4x higher in conventionally produced crops (7).

It is said that the amounts of these residues are still well below the safety limits and there is nothing to be worried about. There are different opinions regarding this.

However, nobody knows what happens when we are exposed to a mixture of different dangerous compounds every day. That’s scientifically hard to prove.

That’s why I think it’s better to be careful.

But not at the cost that you’ll be eating less vegetables or fruits.

And that’s not all

Organic also provides further gains, especially in regards to the environment.

Concept of (eco)logical agriculture is in comparison to conventional agriculture wonderful and provides many benefits to the environment such as:

  • It’s more considerate towards the land
  • Animals live in better conditions
  • It’s more respectful to the surrounding nature.

Organic: to buy or not?

Most of the time organic food is more expensive but you are also getting better quality. As the main advantage I see that in comparison to conventional food it contains only a minimal amount of residues.

That’s especially important for children, pregnant women and also for people who suffer from health problems. If you have an undeveloped or weakened body, then the more you burden it the more stress it has to deal with.

Nevertheless, even if you are healthy the role of good quality food in regards to prevention is no less important.

Another advantage is that producers don’t usually use so many pointless additives for processing the food.

However, at the same time I’m adding – all that glitters is not gold.

Organic doesn’t equal healthy food

People very often buy organic with a good feeling that if it’s organic it must be healthy or that it’s a “healthy snack“. Unfortunately it’s not so simple.

With some products it simply doesn’t matter what kind of quality you buy. Agave nectar is a great example. Whether you buy it organic or not it won’t do good to you.

Another example is processed food. Organic or not junk food is always junk food.

The way the food is processed is also important. When you buy organic milk you get a better quality. However, if it was pasteurized with the UHT (ultra high temperature) method then the gain is not so big anymore, because during the UHT pasteurization all the beneficial bacteria is killed anyway. Therefore, with milk it’s not about organic vs. conventional. It’s about pasteurized vs. non-pasteurized.

At the end of the day it depends on the particular food which you buy.

Which organic food are worth buying?

If you cannot buy everything organic because of limited availability or due to financial reasons, it’s not the end of the world (nor your health).

On the Environmental Working Group website you can find 2 well-arranged lists of fruits and vegetables according to the amount of pesticide residues they contain (Clean fifteen and Dirty dozen).

Dirty dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

Clean fifteen:

  1. Corn
  2. Avocado
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onion
  6. Frozen peas (for the fresh one some preservatives have to be used like e.g. fungicides)
  7. Papaya
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mango
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe melon
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

Those which belong to dirty dozen, buy organic. Especially if they are your favorites and you eat them often.

On the other hand, those which are part of clean fifteen doesn’t have to always be organic.

On the EWG website you can also find a more detailed list containing other kinds of fruits and vegetables.

Other very important food are meat and eggs. In conventional farming animals are usually treated badly. Living space is bad, animal feed is bad and stress is high. All that strongly affects the quality of the meat and eggs. Because of this it is especially important to buy eggs and meat of high quality.

It is definitely better to buy high quality meat less often, rather than buying it often and in a low quality. Every cell in your body will be much happier as a result.

Did I forget anything?

Hopefully not.

Organic food can contribute to our health a lot. But even among organic you can find a whole lot of overpriced products, which don’t have anything in common with healthy food. When choosing it use your common sense.

Whether organic or not the best is to buy whole food (or processed only to a minimal extent) and process them at home. You don’t have to spend a long time reading labels and thinking whether this or that food is good or if it’s bad.

Whether you want to preserve your health or to heal yourself, high quality food forms the basis, which will aid you a lot.

If you already suffer from dis-ease or disease then the next step for you is mainly to choose the right type of food that will support your body and cure it.

Český jazyk

Herbal First Aid Kit: Home Edition

 

IMG_5063
Our First Aid Kit at home is organised in drawers according to ailment.

Here is look at what is in our main First Aid Kit at home:

 

Digestion:

For an upset belly

Rosemary Tincture, Peppermint Tea, Fennel Seeds, Ginger Syrup, Peppermint Oil, Yarrow Tincture

For Constipation

Yellow Dock Tincture, Licorice Root Tea

Allergy:

Nettle Tea, Agrimony Tea, Sneeze Stopper Tincture, Bee Pollen

Diarrhea:

Agrimony Tincture, Agrimony Tea, Cinnamon Tea, Yarrow tea, Licorice Tea, Chamomile Tea

Nausea:

Cinnamon Tea, Ginger Tea, Peppermint Oil, Peppermint Tincture, Turmeric Tincture

Inflammation:

Oregano, Frankincense, Sage, Rosemary, Ginger, Turmeric Tinctures

Licorice Root Tea, Turmeric Tea

Frankincense Oil, Myrrh Oil

Goldenrod Tincture, Salve

Headache:

Valerian, Feverfew Tinctures

Feverfew, Lemonbalm, Peppermint, Lavender Teas

Lavender Oil

Headcase Roll-on applied topically

Headache Relief Tincture

Menstrual:

For PMS Symptoms

Oil of Evening Primrose Capsules

Chaste Tree, Red Clover, Sage Tinctures

For Cramps

Yarrow, Cramp Bark Tinctures

Sage, Cinnamon, Ginger Teas

Yellow Dock Tinctures

Bleeding:

Yarrow Healing Powder  or Cayenne Powder for any cut or scrape that requires a bandage to stop the bleeding

Fever:

Yarrow, Peppermint Tinctures

Fever Doctor Tea

Sore Throat:

Licorice, Marshmallow Root Teas

Cough Be Gone Tea

Sage Lozenges

Thyme Syrup

Echinacea Throat spray

Moods:

Lavender Oil

St John’s Wort, Lemonbalm, Chamomile, Lavender, Mint Teas

Zen Tonic

Valerian, Oregano, St John’s Wort, Rosemary, Sage Tinctures

Ashwagandha Tea

Wake Up Tincture (for Fatigue)

Wound Care:

Plantain Poultice

Arnica Salve, Knit-Together Salve

Healing Herbal Salve

St John’s Wort Oil, Tincture, Salve

Pain Relief:

Nettle Tea

Motherwort, Rosemary, Oregano, Frankincense, Valerian Tinctures

Cayenne Salve

Frankincense Oil

White Willow Bark Tincture

Cold and Flu:

Elderberry Syrup

Immune Harmony Tincture

Sage, Thyme, Cold Relief, Sneeze Stopper, Rose Hip Tinctures

Ginger, Turmeric, Cayenne, Licorice Root, Sage, Thyme Teas

Clear Chest Salve

Fever Doctor Tea

Echinacea Tea, Echinacea Tincture

Infection:

St John’s Wort, Yarrow, Sage, Thyme, Chamomile and Peppermint Poultices

Anti-Fungal Salve

Lavender Oil

Wormwood Tincture

Sleep:

Valerian, Passionflower Tinctures

Sleepytime Tea

Lavender Oil

Skin:

Just Hemp!, Healing Herbal, Anti-Fungal, Skin Solution, Stings and Bites, Calendula, Rash Relief Salves

Heart:

Hawthorn Tea and Tincture

Heartease Tincture

Ginger Tincture and Tea

 

Printable Herbal First Aid Kit Contents:

herbcontent pg1herbcontent pg2herbcontent pg3herbcontent pg4

Clear Chest Salve

During a serious cold or flu, under the right circumstances, things can take a turn for the worse. The flu settles in your chest and you have a decidedly unpleasant cough that crackles, barks and is painful and exhausting. It is important that you see a doctor at this stage to avoid more serious infections.

Two of the more pressing concerns during a cold or flu this severe are how to get rest and be comfortable and how to avoid serious respiratory infections, such as bronchitis. This salve comes to the rescue in this scenario like a rock star!

The components of the Clear Chest Salve provide comfort, pain relief and a wide-spectrum antibacterial action that absorbs slowly and consistently into the chest administering medicinal constituents directly into the respiratory system where they are needed.

White Horehound, the big player in this salve, is a powerful antispasmodic, reducing the severity of the hacking cough, thus allowing you to rest more comfortably. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and has a special affinity for infected respiratory and pulmonary systems. There is documented research on its ability to draw out mucous, phlegm and other humours from the lungs and bronchi.

Horehound_grande
White Horehound Marrubium vulgare

Clear Chest Salve

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) White Horehound-infused olive oil Infused Oil Recipe
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Sage-infused olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Thyme-infused olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) beeswax
  • 20 drops: Eucalyptus essential oil

In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax. 

Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.

Add the essential oils. Stir.

Pour into clean and sterilised jars.

Medicinal Actions:

White Horehound: tonic, aromatic, antispasmodic, anticatarrhal, draws out excess mucous from the lungs and bronchi

Sage: affinity for sore throats and cough, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, relaxant, nervine

Thyme: analgesic, antibacterial, antitussive, antispasmodic, expectorant, nervine

Eucalyptus: antibacterial, decongestant, affinity for respiratory system, anti-inflammatory

Echinacea Throat Spray

During cold and flu season it is important to take care of comfort and avoid secondary infections. This spray is a champion on both counts. We have been using this spray for many years in my family. It is adapted from a recipe in Rosemary Gladstar’s book Medicinal Herbs.

For a dry, scratchy throat, it can be very soothing. For an angry, hot and inflamed throat it can be very cooling. For a painful sore throat, it can relieve that pain quickly. It has the added benefit of three antivirals that go to work on any throat or mouth infection reducing the risk of more serious secondary infections.

I find this throat spray a necessary part of our Herbal First Aid Kit.

 

Echinacea Throat Spray

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) Echinacea Tincture
  • 1/8 cup (30 ml) honey
  • 3 drops peppermint essential oil (more or less to taste)

Mix together the Echinacea tincture and honey.

Add the peppermint oil drop by drop until the spray has the right flavour for your taste. 

Pour the liquid into a spray bottle.

Shake well before each use.

Spray directly into the back of the mouth, toward the throat, once every half hour or as needed. 

Keep in the refrigerator.

This should last up to six weeks refrigerated.

 

Medicinal Actions:

Echinacea: immunostimulant, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. It has an affinity for bronchial and respiratory infections as well as throat and overall oral infections. It has a full complement of polysaccharides, which help protect cells against invasion by viruses and bacteria.

Peppermint: analgesic (pain relief), antiviral, antispasmodic, coolant, antibacterial, antifungal

Honey: vulnerary (wound healing), antiviral, antibacterial, high viscosity provides a barrier protecting against infection