A Gentle Daily Dose

Bitters:

If you wanted to get your body into good physical fitness, would you choose to exercise vigorously for 1-2 weeks of the year and otherwise remain inactive? If you wanted to live in a clean home, would you obsessively scour every nook and cranny for five straight days and every other 360 days let the mess pile up around you?  Unless you’re a wise-cracker, I’m going to go ahead and guess you answered “no” to those questions. It’s only common sense and, in fact, the model described above can be detrimental. 

Why, then, has our culture become so fond of the high-intensity detox cleanse? While there is certainly a place for narrowing in on specific dietary and lifestyle habits for a short period of time as, say, a gentle Spring cleaning or for particular health-related reasons, our focus on extreme cleanses is in general both misguided and ineffectual. 

If you’re looking to improve your health and feel better in your body, the real key is in making more subtle long-term shifts. Mohamed Ali is quoted as saying, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you down, it’s the pebble in your shoe”. So, let’s take a look at that pebble in your shoe; for addressing that is where you will find a sustained change in your life and in your health. And you’ll feel a marked difference once you do. 

An extreme cleanse could get you to the top of the mountain, but you may very well be hurting once you arrive and it’s unlikely you’ll be making it back up there again anytime soon. Instead, take a reasonable look at that pebble. Focus on moving your body every day and eating good protein, healthy fats and lots of greens. Make time for gratitude, deep breaths, and connection. With these gentle, sustained shifts, the stamina to climb any mountain will always be at your fingertips. 

It is in these simple daily rituals that we call on bitters to do their best work and to keep us in our best shape. While it would be helpful to have a bottle of bitters with you for your yearly sprint up the mountain, they offer the most as a tonic. Taken daily before meals, your body will thank you for all of the health benefits they provide.

Enjoy the liver support bitters offer and expect a clean burning metabolism, clear, healthy skin, and fewer cravings. Appreciate how they support your digestion, and soothe gas and bloating. Note that bitters actually encourage digestive secretions, which in turns helps you absorb the most nourishment available in all that healthy food you are eating. Most of all, take small daily strides for your health and appreciate the energy and clarity that accompanies you each step of the way on your hike through life.

Grow Your Own Patchouli Plant

Family:  Lamiaceae
Hardiness:  Protect from frost
Tropical perennial native to Asia.  May be grown in the temperate zone in pots, brought indoors for the winter.  Plant prefers full to part shade, moist, rich soils, humidity.

patchouli

The plant thrives under good care but fades fast with neglect–it needs watering almost daily, has zero tolerance for frost and will sunburn if not protected by shade.  The seeds are small and are best sown in warm soil, in the light. My favorite method for planting seeds of this sort is to prepare a pot or flat with nice humus potting soil, filling to the lip and leaving the surface rough, not smooth and patted down.  Then, sprinkle the seed over the surface of the soil and tamp firmly.  This allows the seed to fall down between the roughened particles of soil, and then when you tamp it down with the palm of your hand, the seed is nestled into place on the surface or barely sub-surface.  Then, mist with water very carefully so as not to dislodge the seeds, and keep in the light, ever moist,  and nice and warm until germination, which takes between one and three weeks.  Allow the seedlings to grow closely together at first, and when they attain their second set of true leaves, then individuate them carefully and pot up individually to 4-inch pots.  Grow them out that way for awhile, until they fill the pot with roots, and at that point transplant up to gallons. Soon after that, you can make a harvest of the leaves to produce a patchouli sachet, or you can extract your own essential oil if you have a distiller. For all practical purposes, under good growing conditions, you can figure 3 months to harvestable years and 1 year to flowers. As I write this, the pervasive fragrance of Patchouli rises up from the packet before me, and I give thanks for this incredible plant, and wish you to have it!  Also, in cleaning the flowers to obtain the seeds, the scent of patchouli was almost overwhelming, so this leads me to believe that the essential oil content of the dried flowers may be the highest as compared to any other part of the plant.

Patchouli likes a warm, damp climate in fertile, well-draining soil in an area of full to partial sun exposure. This herb is conducive to container growth, or you can plant it directly into the garden. Patchouli herb plant thrives in a soil pH of between 5.5 and 6.2.

Dig a hole matching the depth of the container in which the herb comes in. Place the plant in the hole and tamp the soil down around the herb to eliminate any air pockets. Give the herb 20 inches of room around it to grow into and water it in thoroughly. Thereafter, allow the topsoil to dry before watering. A good layer of mulch around the patchouli herb plant is recommended to retain moisture.

Patchouli Plant Care

Fertilize the herb each spring with an NPK plant food in the amount of 10-10-10 and thereafter once each month until the fall.

Prune any leaves that are dying, diseased or otherwise damaged. Patchouli is susceptible to infection with leaf blight. Prior to pruning the plant, dip the shears in a mix of 70% denatured alcohol and 30% water to retard the spread of the disease.

Caterpillars love patchouli plants as well, so be vigilant about their discovery and removal.

Winter watering should be reduced to allow the plant to go into dormancy. If you grow patchouli plant in containers, they can be moved indoors for protection, especially in areas with harsh winters. First, acclimate the plant by setting it in a shady area for a few days prior to bringing it inside; this will keep it from becoming shocked by the sudden temperature shift. Place the container in a south facing window where it can then receive at least 6 hours of sunlight.

Harvest patchouli on dry mornings when the essential oils have peaked to get the most benefit from the plant.

White Sage {Salvia apiana}

Also, Known As:

  • Bee Sage
  • Sacred Sage
  • White Ceremonial Sage
  • White Sage

Salvia apiana or white sage is a perennially growing evergreen shrub that is indigenous to the southwestern regions of the United States and the adjoining north-western areas of Mexico. This herb is mostly found growing in the wild in the scrub habitat in the coastal regions of Baja California and Southern California, located on the western peripheries of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts.

White sage possibly derives its name from its ashen evergreen leaves, which contain oils and resins. The leaves of white sage emit a potent aroma when they are rubbed. The white to light lavender hued blooms of this plant attract bees, and this is described in the plant’s specific name – apiana. White sage bears many flower stalks, which measure anything between 1 meter and 1.3 meters (3.3 feet to 4.3 feet) in height. Occasionally, the flower stalks of white sage have a pinkish hue and they grow higher than the foliage, especially in spring.

White sage usually grows up to a height of five feet. The plants bloom during the summer. The petals of white sage pucker back, as the stamens dangle on the sides. The white sage flowers are often troublesome for the bees, as they can neither go inside nor get out with ease. However, bumblebees are more apt at dealing with these flowers, while hummingbirds have no trouble at all in collecting nectar from white sage flowers.

Plant Part Used:

Dried leaves.

Herbal Remedy Use:

Native American groups inhabiting the United States’ Pacific coast extensively use white sage or Salvia apiana. The seed of this plant formed the main ingredient of their staple food, locally known as “Pinole”. People belonging to the Cahuilla collected the white sage seeds in large amounts. They pounded the seeds and blended it with wheat flour as well as sugar for preparing biscuits or gruel. Even the leaves and stems of white sage were consumed by members of the Chumash as well as other local tribes.

Many tribes used the seeds of white sage to clear their eyes of foreign objects, much in the same manner as the Europeans used the clary sage seeds. Cahuilla women also used the roots of this plant to prepare a tea, which is reported to provide strength after childbirth, in addition to healing. Several Native American tribes also burnt the leaves of white sage and the smoke was used in various rituals undertaken for purification.

The leaves of this plant were also used to make an infusion, which was employed in the form of a blood tonic as well as to treat colds and coughs. The leaves are also edible. In addition, they are used in the form of a sweat bath and also to treat colds. As aforementioned, the seeds of white sage are used in the form of eye cleaners.

Several native tribes in America, including the Costanoan, Cahuilla, Kawaiisu, Diegeno, and Maidu of California used the seeds of white sage or chia, as known locally, for cleansing as well as healing their eyes. One means of cleaning the eyes was placing a few white sage seeds inside their eyes at bedtime. These seeds became swollen and gelatinous during the night. While the seeds moved around underneath the eyelids during sleep, they pull together foreign substances, if any, on the eyeballs. The seeds were taken out in the morning, cleaning the eyes and also getting rid of all foreign particles.

sacredsmokeFor centuries, various native groups have been using the leaves of white sage in the form of a hair shampoo, hair straightener, and hair dye. They crushed the leaves in water and applied the water to their hair. In addition, freshly crushed leaves were also used to make a poultice, which was applied to the armpits to get rid of foul odors. They also burnt the leaves and used them in the form of an incense to fumigate their homes following the outbreak of infectious ailments like measles.

These native tribes collected the seeds in a flat basket or beater basket. Subsequently, the seeds were dried and pounded into a powdered form for use in meals. In southern California, the Cahuillas used one part of the pounded seeds to blend with three parts wheat flour and a small amount of sugar. This blend was consumed dry, mixed with water in the form of gruel. Alternatively, they baked the powdered seeds into biscuits or cakes.

These tribes harvested the seeds in large quantities and kept them in baskets at home after drying. For instance, the tribes inhabiting north of Santa Barbara stored the dried seeds as well as other foods in small baskets on hand. They especially stored some seeds for the winter, when many other foods were not available. In California, the Chumash, as well as other tribes, also consumed white sage leaves and stems.

Women of the Cahuilla drank an infusion prepared from the roots of white sage after childbirth with a view to getting rid of afterbirth problems as well as support internal healing. Cahuilla people also consumed white sage seeds for treating colds. Similarly, the Diegueno employed the white sage to prepare a tea for curing colds.

These native tribes of America used the white sage leaves in various ways – they smoked the leaves, used them to prepare an herbal tea and also employed the leaves in sweat-houses for treating colds. Members of the Diegueno tribe used the leaves of white sage in the form of a shampoo to cleanse their hair as well as to prevent them from becoming gray untimely. Some tribes also rubbed the leaves against their body or applied the crushed leaves to their body to get rid of any foul smell. In fact, men of the Cahuilla tribe usually did this prior to venturing out for hunting. They also burnt the dry white sage leaves and the smoke was used in the form of an incense during purification rituals. Several native Indian tribes in America hold the white sage in high esteem. This herb is also cherished by many other cultures across the world even to this day. White sage is especially valued for its tender feminine attributes.

White sage is an aromatic herb that has been widely used over the centuries in the form of incense as well as in smudge pots during ceremonies. Hence, this herb is commonly also known as the white ceremonial sage.

Some people also burnt the white sage leaves to fumigate their houses or dwellings following any contagious disease and also for purifying the air during ailments. When drunk in the form of an infusion or tea, white sage offers potent anti-inflammatory properties. White sage tea may also aid in reducing the symptoms of an ulcer.

Culinary Use:

White sage seeds are used for culinary purposes, either raw or after cooking. Native American tribes also mixed the seeds with cereals like wheat or oats, toasted them and subsequently ground them into a fine powder for consuming it dry. Alternatively, they also soaked the white sage seeds in water or fruit juice for the night and drunk the liquid or consumed it along with cereals. Sometimes, the seeds were also used in the form of a spice. On the other hand, white sage leaves are consumed after cooking. The leaves are also used to add flavor to seed mushes. Often, people also consume the young stalks of white sage raw. The tops of ripened or mature stems are peeled and consumed raw.

Native Habitat:

Salvia apiana (white sage) is indigenous to a very small region in southern California as well as the northwestern areas of Mexico. This plant has a preference for the conditions found in this dry, coastal region, which has a sloping milieu on the fringe of the desert. The plants need deep watering only once in two weeks, especially when grown in a sandy soil having proper drainage and a sunny location. Although white sage can endure cool climatic conditions, the performance of the plant will be poor when grown in shade and humid conditions and if they are watered excessively. If you are living in areas where frosting is common, you can grow white sage in pots and keep them indoors. It is best to grow the white sage as annual plants in such areas.

White sage hybridizes very easily with other species belonging to the Salvia genus, especially Salvia clevelandii and Salvia leucophylla.

The ideal conditions for growing white sage include a dry climate. In fact, these plants may be killed if the winter months are too wet. Salvia apiana is unable to endure colder climates and, hence, they die. Plants of this species can only tolerate low temperatures in the range of -5°C and -10°C. White sage seeds are available in health food stores and are usually used to prepare beverages – infusion or tea. White sage is an excellent bee plant. Plants belonging to this genus are seldom disturbed by browsing deer.

For commercial purposes, white sage is usually propagated by its seeds, which are ideally sown in a greenhouse during the March-April period. Normally, it takes about two weeks for the seeds to germinate. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently big to be handled, prick them out and plant them in separate pots. You may transfer the young white sage plants to their permanent positions outdoors during the onset of summer next year. In places where the temperatures hover around the endurance levels of white sage, it is advisable that you grow them in a greenhouse throughout their first winter. You may plant them outdoors during the end of spring in the subsequent year.

White sage can also be propagated from semi-mature wood cuttings. These cuttings can be done at any time during the growing season, as they are generally very successful.

Research:

In 1991, scientists at the University of Arizona undertook a study which showed that white sage (Salvia apiana) possesses potential antibacterial qualities, especially against Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus, Candida brassicae and Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Constituents:

White sage contains triterpenes and diterpenes, including oleanolic acid, carnosic acid, and ursolic acid.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions:

Although white sage is safe for consumption by most people, this herb should be avoided by women during pregnancy.

 Harvesting White Sage:

While harvesting white sage (Salvia apiana) by cutting the stems one needs to be careful to discriminate between the fleshy and woody parts of the stem. Cutting the fleshy top of the white sage stem will produce two stems in the following year. On the other hand, cutting the woody base of the plant will not promote the growth of new leaves or stem. After cutting the stems, hang them upturned to desiccate them and subsequently bundle them in the form of smudge sticks (dried herbs). You may preserve the dry leaves of the herb for preparing tea or, if you prefer, even use them in your food. The seeds can be collected for sowing in the next year. For this, you need to save the brownish fruits, which are akin to nuts, prior to the release of the seeds.

Hawthorn 101

During the month of February, when all marketing seems to center on triumphs of the heart, it’s important to remember that not every heart is celebrating Valentine’s Day; many hearts need physical and emotional nurturing. That’s when we herbalists love to sing the praises of hawthorn, one of the nature’s resilient trees and Western herbalism’s most widely used plants for promoting heart health.* Beloved around the world since the time of the ancient Chinese, Greeks and Native Americans, hawthorn remains a staple in herbal apothecaries as a tonic and natural support for all things related to the heart.

The hardy Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) consists of over 280 species whose dense, thorny, deciduous trees thrive in temperate climates.  A member of the rose family, the plant blooms clusters of pink or white flowers in the late spring, which then give way to red berries, called “haws,” in late summer.

An important species in Traditional European Herbal Medicine. Native to Europe, Asia, and North America, hawthorn often gathers into thick hedgerows, used throughout history for their strength to enclose pastures and meadows. In fact, historians claim that the ancient hedgerows in France’s Normandy region were so robust that they made the D-Day Battles of World War II even more challenging. Some hawthorn plants can live for up to 200 years.

tm_embed_hawthorn101_ssHawthorn lends its innate resilience to the circulatory system in countless ways. As hearty as it is hardy, herbalist Rosemary Gladstar writes that hawthorn’s haws, leaves, and flowers contain beneficial flavonoids and procyanidins “to feed and tone the heart.” Flavonoids help promote everyday wellness and support heart health, while procyanidins, as condensed tannins, add a protective benefit much like red wine grapes. What’s more, herbalists believe that the energetic properties of hawthorn can help lift the spirits from heartbreak and grief.

First praised by the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides in the first century A.D. and in the ancient Chinese herbal, Tang-Ben-Cao, in 659 A.D., hawthorn has since held an affectionate place in herbalists’ hearts. Beyond herbal medicine, hawthorn has also played a role in herbal folklore to ward off evil spirits. To shield newborn babies from harm, the Romans would hang hawthorn sprigs over cradles. Other pagans strung hawthorn flowers into garlands for use in May Day celebrations. Early Christians associated the plant with Jesus’ crown of thorns and hung it over doorways for protection during the Middle Ages.

Whether physical, emotional or spiritual, hawthorn’s herbal powers seek to protect and support matters of the heart.

hawthorn-flowersHawthorn

Crataegus oxyacantha
or
Crataegus monogyna

Also, Known As:

  • English Hawthorn
  • Haw
  • Hawthorn
  • May
  • May Blossom
  • Maybush
  • May Tree
  • Quick-set
  • Shan-cha
  • Whitethorn

The herb called the hawthorn is one of the best herbal remedies to boost the performance of the heart and the human circulatory system in general. A potent vasodilatory action can be induced in the human body by the flowers, leaves and the berries of the hawthorn. When these parts of the herb are consumed, they open up the arteries to promote circulation and improve the blood supply to all the general tissues in the body. Regular supplementation with this herb can thus help bring some balance blood pressure and it is considered to be an excellent remedy for the treatment of high blood pressure – especially when the condition is connected to hardening in the arteries of the person. Problems such as those connected to poor circulation caused by aging arteries, problems of poor circulation towards the lower body and legs as well as problems like poor memory and confusion induced by a poor blood circulation to the brain can all be remedied by supplementation with the hawthorn herb. The herb also has an effective and remedial effect in angina cases, the hawthorn based remedies can help open the coronary arteries in the heart and by so doing aid in the improvement of blood flow to the heart, and this herb also softens deposits in the arterial system. The vagus nerve which influences the cardiac muscles is also beneficially affected by the hawthorn herbal remedies, the consumption of this herb can thus slow down irregularities in the heart and reduce a rapid or fast heart rate in a patient. It can be said that herbal remedies made from the hawthorn are ideal for most heart conditions affecting people.

hawthorn-fruitHawthorn berries possess a potent and effective astringent effect – this is very effective in the treatment of problems such as diarrhea and dysentery in patients. The digestive system also benefits due to the relaxant action possessed by the hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries – the herbal remedy also boosts the appetite. At the same time, it acts in relieving abdominal distension and in the removal of stagnation of food in the intestinal tract. Hawthorn herbal remedies also have an effective relaxing effect on the functioning of the nervous system, the herb aids in relieving excessive stress and anxiety, it helps in calming mental agitation, it lessens restlessness and reduces nervous palpitations. The herb also induces sleepiness in people affected by insomnia. The herbal remedies made from the hawthorn also have a diuretic action on the body, it aids in relieving fluid retention in the body and helps dissolve deposits of kidney stones and gravel. The herb is helpful to women in menopause, as it aids in removing debility or night sweats in those affected by them. The hawthorn berries can be made into an herbal decoction, which can be used as an astringent gargle for sore throats as well as an herbal douche for women affected by excessive vaginal discharges.

hawthorn_tree

The hawthorn family of herbs is represented by a family of one hundred to two hundred related species of small trees and shrubs, found in the North American continent, with huge populations in the eastern part of the United States of America. This family of related plants has a very confusing and difficult taxonomy. Though no longer used for most, the hawthorn herb was initially divided into many species. At least 1,100 specific names were published, most of which are no longer accepted. At the same time, many different varieties of the plant are recognized, and hybrids of the herb do exist in the wild. The hawthorn family serves as an important source of food for wildlife; these plants also serve as foliage and cover for animals. The many species which bear fruits that can persist over the winter are particularly of great value to different animal communities in the forest. The many varieties of the hawthorn are utilized in environmental plantings in many forestation projects. Hawthorn plants are very hardy and can tolerate conditions in many different sites with a variety of climatic and soil conditions, due to this, the plants have been planted for stabilizing river banks, and have also been used to shelter reverie belts, as well as being used for erosion control of the soil.

 

Most members of the hawthorn family of plants are characterized by the presence of thorny twigs and branches, while a few species bear no spines whatsoever. Hawthorn plants bear leaves singly on the branches; these are simple leaves that are borne in alternate rows along the axis of the plant – all of them in different degrees of lobing and varying shapes and serration. The hawthorn family is characterized by bearing very conspicuous flowers, these flowers have five creamy coloreds to pinkish blossoms. The hawthorn flowers are an important part of the history and lore of the United States – for example, the Pilgrims’ ship, the Mayflower, is named after hawthorn flower. The hawthorn flowers normally grow in fragrant clusters during the midsummer, thriving in flattish and terminal groups on the branches. Hawthorn also gives out fruit each season, these are small and resemble apples, and they are characteristically tipped with the remnants of the outermost floral leaves. The fruits are really pomes, which is a fleshy reproductive entity of the plant. Hawthorn pomes have five seeds enclosed in the capsules. These pomes also have a thick outer fleshy layer that is markedly different in taste from one shrub or tree to the other – particularly when the pomes are raw. The size of the each pomes or fruiting body is usually less than half an inch in diameter. The color being reddish, though sometimes yellow and rarely bluish, black or purplish. The hawthorn fruits have a high sugar and low protein, as well as low-fat content pulps.

Bulgarian medical doctors were reportedly treating patients with coronary heart problems using a fluid extract of the hawthorn according to British newspaper reports from 1969. These doctors treated patients over a period of six weeks, the dosage for each patient was fifteen drops of the extract dropped beneath the tongue two times every day, at least three-quarters of the group of sixty-two patients were said to fully recover from the treatment given to them. The use of the hawthorn berries in the treatment of problems such as heart palpitations, conditions like angina, as well as a problem like a stroke was also given in the report by the Sunday times. The presence of organic compounds such as bioflavonoids, like the compound rutin and hesperidin as well as vitamin C, is believed to be responsible for the beneficial effects.

 

There are two major ways in which the hawthorn acts on the human body. The dilation it induces in the blood vessels, particularly the coronary vessels, which leads to a reduction in the peripheral resistance and a consequent lowering of the blood pressure is the considered to be the primary action. This action of the hawthorn is believed to be responsible for beginning about a reduction in the tendency to experience sudden attacks of angina. The secondary action that the hawthorn induces is apparently a direct and favorable effect on the functioning of the heart; this action is very evident particularly in cases of heart damage sustained by a patient. The effect of the hawthorn extract is not immediate and the beneficial actions tend to develop very slowly over a period of time. The hawthorn is also known to be toxic only at abnormally high dosages and is safe in low doses as a heart tonic. Hawthorn can be considered as a relatively harmless heart tonic, which yields beneficial results in many cardiac conditions that can be treated with herbal remedies.

 

The beneficial effects of the hawthorn principally accrue from a mixture of plant organic pigments called flavonoids, these chemicals are present in high quantities in many different parts of the herb body. The greatest chemical and physiological actions seem to be displayed by the compounds known as oligomeric procyanidins – or the dihydro catechins. A strong sedative action is also displayed by these chemicals which suggest a beneficial action on the central nervous system in general. The various hawthorn’s based herbal preparations said to possess significant therapeutic value has been recently defined by the German commission E. In the year 1994, the German commission published a revised monograph that recognizes an herbal preparation containing fixed combinations of hawthorn flowers, leaves, and fruits, the monogram also recognized herbal preparations made from the leaves and flowers for use in various treatments. These two herbal extracts are both formed from water and alcohol mixtures with the herb to extract ratio at approximately 5-7:1 per volume. These two herbal hawthorn preparations have been calculated to deliver from 4 mg to 20 mg of flavonoids – that is based on the hyperoside content – and from 30 to 160 mg of the oligomeric procyanidins – based on the epicatechin content – in a single daily hawthorn extract dosage amount of 160 to 900 mg. The dosages are pre-determined by the physician after examination of the patient. A usual dosage period of these oral forms are extended for at least six weeks and can be longer on a case by case basis. Though unsupported by any major clinical study, the usage of other hawthorn preparations, including a well-known alcoholic extract made using only the leaves or the flowers may also prove effective and useful in many cases. As the effectiveness or safety of some preparations made from hawthorn leaf, berry, or flowers alone in the form of mono-preparations have not been documented – such therapeutic claims must be ignored till further study.

 

These findings may be defeated or substantiated by further scientific studies. As the hawthorn remedies are potentially very valuable in the treatment of many disorders and conditions in the body, the need for immediate scientific studies is apparent and urgently needed. All the side effects and potential dangers of using hawthorn medications must be considered by patients till additional research is carried out, this particularly concerns all prospective users of the hawthorn for serious heart and circulation conditions. Most people who self-prescribe their medications tend to do so following self-diagnosis of the symptoms. There is a great deal of danger involved with this practice particularly when the vital systems of the human body such as the heart and the blood vessels are concerned. Therefore, due to such reasons, the use of hawthorn remedies without the diagnosis of a professional clinician is not suggested – there may be a side effect and other dangers.

Plant Parts Used:

Flowering tops, berries.

Remedy Uses:

Remedies made from the hawthorn plant were traditionally used for all sorts of kidney and bladder stones in Europe. The herbal hawthorn also saw use as a diuretic in the herbal medicine system of medieval Europe. The writings of herbalists such as Culpeper, Gerard, and K’Eogh have all listed the various uses of the herb in herbal literature spanning the 16th to 18th century. An Irish physician successfully used the hawthorn for treating his patients for all kinds of circulatory and cardiac problems near the end of the 19th century – this is the reason that the hawthorn is still used for these particular problems.

Problems such as angina and coronary artery diseases are still treated using the hawthorn remedies today. Hawthorn remedies are also useful for cases of mild congestive heart failure and problems of irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrhythmia. Results usually take some months to show themselves, though the medication is known to work well in a large number of cases. A lot of time is required for the beneficial results to show, similar to the action of many other therapeutic herbs, the hawthorn also works primarily through the body’s own’ physiological processes, changes thus take time and months may go by before results begin to show.

The ability of the hawthorn remedy to reduce high blood pressure is of great therapeutic value, the herbal remedy also raises low blood pressure at the same time. The ability of the hawthorn to restore blood pressure to normal ranges is also highly praised by many herbalists.

Hawthorn is also often used combined with the ginkgo to enhance memory and boost retentive power. The actions of the herb primarily lie in its ability to improve the circulation of blood inside the head, this results in an increase in the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and this also results in improved memory.

Other medical uses
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Intermittent claudication
  • Swollen Ankles
  • Thrombophlebitis

The Habitat of Hawthorn:

In the northern hemisphere, the temperate areas covering pastures and hedges form ideal habitats for hawthorn trees. Cultivation of the hawthorn trees is usually undertaken using cuttings, while the hawthorn seeds take upwards of eighteen months to germinate in plantations. In plantations, harvesting of the flowering tops is carried out during the late spring, while the hawthorn berries are usually gathered in the late summer to the early autumn each year.

Research:

There has been a fair amount of scientific research conducted on the hawthorn herb. The bioflavonoid content of the herb is considered to be the main source of the beneficial effects. Organic compounds like the flavonoids are responsible for bringing out the relaxation and dilation in the arteries – the coronary arteries in particular. The activity of these bioflavonoids is what increases the actual flow of blood to the muscles of the heart, leading to the reduction of the physical symptoms of angina in a person. A potent and efficient antioxidant action is also displayed by the bioflavonoids, the presence of these substances results in the prevention or reduction and the degeneration of the blood vessels in the body.

The effectiveness of hawthorn in the treatment of chronic heart failure has been confirmed in a number of clinical trials, the most notable one was a 1994 trail in Germany, where the ability of hawthorn to improve heartbeat rate and lower the blood pressure was clearly documented in patients.

Constituents:

Hawthorn contains flavonoid glycosides, procyanidins, saponins, tannins, minerals.

Recommended Dosage:

Most nutritionally oriented doctors prescribe the extracts of the leaves and flowers to their patients. The usual dose used is hawthorn extract that has been standardized to have total bioflavonoid content of about 2.2 % or with an oligomeric procyanidins content of about 18.75% per dose. The dosage used by the majority of patients is about 80 to 300 mg of the herbal hawthorn extract in the form of capsules or in tablet form, with dosage 2 – 3 times daily. The herbal extract in the tincture form at four to five ml doses is also taken three times a day by some patients. The suggested dosage for the traditional berry preparations is to take at least four to five grams daily during the treatment period. The results take some time to become manifest and the remedy could take one to two months to show maximum effect, and the herbal extracts are only meant for long-term treatment strategies.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions:

There is very littler danger from the long-term use of the hawthorn and it is considered to be extremely safe for patients using it in any long term treatments. Side effects from hawthorn use are also mostly absent and no negative interactions with any other prescription cardiac medications have been identified as yet – though the possibility always exists. Hawthorn herbal remedies are considered safe for use with pregnant women and in women who are lactating, as far as it is known the use of hawthorn by such patients has no known contraindications. The safety of hawthorn remedies is thus guaranteed till further studies are conducted.

How Hawthorn Works in the Body

The main action of the hawthorn is on the functioning of the cardiovascular system, the organic compounds in the herb affect the regulation of the heartbeat, they affect the relaxation of the arteries, and they also aid in bringing about normalization in the blood pressure – these compounds are capable of lowering and raising blood pressure in the body. The herbal hawthorn remedies can be used to correct the symptoms of angina and in cases of coronary artery disease; they can help boost the flow of blood to the muscles in the heart of the person. The beneficial and medicinal effects of the hawthorn remedies are believed to originate from the presence of a combination of amines and the flavonoids in the herb. At any rate, the beneficial effects of the hawthorn remedies do not occur suddenly but take place over a period of time, and when taken over a period of months, the remedy can reduce symptoms, while also acting as a tonic to the heart at the same time. In the Chinese system of medication, the herb is often suggested for the treatment of problems associated with the digestive system. It is believed to help ease digestion of meat and greasy foods, and the hawthorn is also given in cases of stomach pain, abdominal distension, and also in cases of diarrhea.

Applications

Flowering tops:
INFUSION – The hawthorn herb is often prepared into an herbal infusion, this is used to bring about an improvement in the poor or impaired circulation. It is also used as an herbal tonic for various problems of the heart. The herbal infusion made from the hawthorn can be used combined with other herbs such as the yarrow or the ju hua for the treatment of hypertension in different patients.

TINCTURE – The herbal tincture made from the hawthorn is often prescribed as a combination herbal remedy with other cardiac herbs and used in the treatment of problems such as angina, problems such as hypertension, and for all related circulatory disorders in the body.

Berries:
DECOCTION – The hawthorn is also prepared into an herbal decoction using 30 g of the berries to 0.5l water. This is decocted for fifteen minutes and used in various treatments. This decoction can be taken for the treatment of diarrhea, or when mixed with the ju hua and the gou qi zi for treating hypertension in patients.

JUICE – Hawthorn herbal juice is also used, this juice of the fresh berries is drunk as a cardiac tonic by many patients. The juice of the hawthorn berries is also used for treating diarrhea as well as poor digestion, and as a general digestive tonic by all patients.

Heart-friendly tincture

  • 1 cup (60 g) hawthorn flowers
  • 2 cups (500 ml) gin, brandy or, ideally, kirsch

Crush the flowers in a mortar. Pour in the alcohol and macerate for 1 month away from light. Strain.

Take 1 tsp. (5 m) in a little water every morning and evening before meals for 20 consecutive days to treat arrhythmia, hypertension and palpitations. To maintain the blood vessels in general, follow this same treatment at the start of each season.

The Benefits of Wormwood

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), also known as mugwort, is a bitter herb found in Eurasia, North Africa, and North America. The plant has been used therapeutically since ancient times. In fact, the name “wormwood” comes from its traditional use as a means to cleanse the body of harmful organisms.

Wormwood Quick Facts
Scientific Name Artemisia absinthium
Other Names Mugwort, absinthium
Family Artemisia
Origin Eurasia and Northern Africa; Naturalized in Canada and the Northern United States
Benefits Harmful organism cleansing

You may have heard wormwood mentioned in conjunction with absinthe, the green, highly alcoholic drink made popular during the 19th century and associated with famous (and often troubled) writers and artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allan Poe. Habitual abuse of the drink was thought to cause absinthism, a much-hyped condition identified by hallucinations, sleeplessness, and other mental issues.

Thujone, one of the compounds found in wormwood, was believed to be responsible for these negative effects, but modern scientific methods have called this idea into question. Traditionally-produced absinthe had an alcohol content of up to 80% (160 proof!), and the 19th century’s production standards were notoriously lax. It’s more likely that absinthism was simply a fancy name for regular-old alcoholism combined with poisoning from impure production methods and toxic additives.

After nearly a century, the prohibition of the drink was repealed and absinthe is enjoying a comeback. Absinthe is the most notorious use of wormwood in alcoholic beverages, but it’s not the only one. Wormwood is also used as a flavoring in vermouth and bitters.

Although I don’t recommend consuming wormwood in the form of 160 proof alcohol, wormwood is a therapeutic herb and its use extends as far back as the early Roman era. Traditional Asian and European medicine use wormwood and its extracts for a variety of purposes, including ridding the body of harmful organisms.

Wormwood and Harmful Organisms

Harmful organisms contamination and infection are a serious health problem in every country in the world, not just in developing countries. Organisms of all sorts can contaminate food and water, causing health problems in both people and animals. Wormwood contains several compounds, most notably artemisinin, that are resistant to harmful organisms. These compounds produce an environment that is actively hostile to harmful organisms and discourages them from thriving.

Harmful organisms are not just a problem for human health. For the farmer who has hundreds or thousands of livestock, the cost of pharmaceuticals that target harmful organisms can be bank-breaking. Wormwood might be able to help. Study results suggest that wormwood extract may be a natural alternative to commercial drugs for eliminating intestinal invaders in ruminants like sheep.

Additional Benefits of Wormwood

The benefits of wormwood are not limited to its effects on harmful organisms. Wormwood also contains compounds known to stimulate digestion by supporting liver and gallbladder function. The benefit is magnified when combined with other digestive herbs such as peppermint and ginger. Wormwood also supports healthy circulation and soothes irritation. Research also suggests that wormwood may even have neuroprotective properties.

Like many other plants, wormwood is a concentrated source of antioxidants. The antioxidant activities of wormwood support its traditional uses in Europe, which include wound healing. Animal studies have even found that wormwood’s antioxidant action helped revitalize some of the enzyme activity in rats that had been decreased by lead exposure.

The Yale University School of Medicine performed a study in which patients with digestive ailments were given either a placebo or an herbal blend containing wormwood for a ten-week period. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study observed that the patients who took the herbal blend reported improved mood and quality of life, which is a not a common side effect of conventional western medications.

Wormwood Side Effects and Precautions

While the notion of wormwood-induced absinthism has been discredited, the possibility remains that thujone, or some other compound within wormwood, could have potentially toxic effects. However, this is only true if consumed in absurdly high quantities, or if it interacts medications or a preexisting condition. In normal doses, wormwood remains completely safe for most people. As a precaution, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid wormwood. Due to its potency, don’t take the essential oil of wormwood internally.

Tips for Growing Wormwood

Fresh wormwood can be hard to find in stores, but you can easily grow your own. Growing your own has the bonus of allowing you to control the quality of the herb. Wormwood grows well, even in less-than-ideal conditions. It grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 9, which means that it can be grown almost anywhere in the United States. Once established, the herb requires minimal maintenance.

Wormwood grows from either seeds or seedlings. If started from seeds, plant indoors first and transfer outside after sprouting. Plant seedlings after the last frost in spring in full sun. Wormwood prefers dry soil. Water occasionally, but don’t overdo it. Wormwood is not typically vulnerable to disease, but overwatering can lead to root rot.

Harvest wormwood in July or August on a dry day after the sun has evaporated all the moisture on the plant. To harvest, remove the upper green portion, leaving behind any lower stem parts and all insect-eaten, discolored, or damaged leaves.

Simple Wormwood Tea

I shouldn’t need to say that absinthe is not the best way to incorporate wormwood into your diet. It’s staggeringly high alcohol content more than cancels out any possible benefit of the herb. So, with the green fairy off the table, what’s the best way to consume wormwood?

A simple tea is a common and effective way to take this herb. Wormwood is extremely bitter, so you’ll probably drink this for its therapeutic properties, not casual enjoyment.

Simply put ½ to 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried wormwood leaves in a cup of hot, but not quite boiling, water. Steep for 4 or 5 minutes and strain out the leaves. Don’t use more than a teaspoon per cup or let it steep for too long. Otherwise, the tea may become too bitter to drink. You can attempt to sweeten the tea with stevia or raw organic honey, but you may find it only improves the flavor a little bit. You can also blend with other herbal teas like peppermint or anise to improve the flavor.

Here’s a tip: After they cool a little, the wormwood leaves you strain from your tea can be used as a poultice. Apply them to wounds, rashes, or insect bites for natural relief.

Other Sources of Wormwood

If you can’t find wormwood leaves or if you just can’t take the taste, then supplementation is your next best option. Wormwood can be found as a standalone supplement or combined with other botanicals. One such product is Global Healing Center’s own Paratrex®. Paratrex is a blend of all-natural ingredients, including wormwood, formulated to promote the cleansing of harmful organisms. As always, only buy pure, natural, quality supplements from companies you trust, and consult your trusted healthcare practitioner before starting a new supplement routine.

Digestion Perfection: Herbs Make Great Allies When it Comes to Keeping Your Body Running Smoothly.

Digestion is one of those things you’d rather not think about if you don’t have to. When our digestive system is working properly, we take it for granted, but when it runs into problems, it can’t be ignored. Gas, constipation, heartburn-these symptoms can make one miserable. Happily, there are several steps we can take to ensure that things run efficiently. By using some simple culinary herbs and following a few basic lifestyle rules, you can prevent many of these symptoms from occurring. And if trouble does come your way, some effective, natural remedies can put you right in no time.

Digestion 101

 Herbs border on white
Your digestive tract is a tube {upwards of 24 feet} that have been assigned a pretty simple job: get food from one end to the other. When food traverses the imposing territory between the mouth and the rectum, it meets with several biological processes. Food enters the mouth, where both your teeth and enzymes in your saliva start to break it down. Food disintegrates even further thanks to acid in the stomach, and then it’s on to the small intestine, bacteria finish the job, while the bloodstream absorbs nutrients. Anything left over…well, you know the rest.
Special muscles called sphincters separate each section of the gastrointestinal tract. When not in use, these muscles are tightly closed. They open to allow food residue to pass from one section to the next. Contractions move food slowly through the small intestine, inexorably marching towards the large intestine. Normally, the first part of a meal requires about 90 to 120 minutes to reach the large intestine. {The last portion of the meal may not make it there for five hours.} Thankfully, each special section has corresponding herbal remedies to help things move along at an efficient clip.

The Stomach

 dand-greens1
This first stop in the digestive journey involves powerful chemicals, including hydrochloric acid and enzymes. If these digestive juices fall short, though, the whole process gets off to a bad start, giving you that overly full, Thanksgiving dinner feeling.
Herbs with bitter flavor promote digestive secretions and speed up the processes in the upper GI tract.
Gentian root is the most popular digestive bitter in the U.S. and in Europe, often an ingredient in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic aperitifs. An ounce or so of any bitter herbal beverage taken before the first bite of a meal spurs digestive secretions and keeps food passing through on schedule. In general, bitter herbs reduce gas, bloating, allergic responses, and indigestion. Barberry root, dandelion, and artichoke are other effective bitter herbs.
In traditional Chinese Medicine {TCM}, the use of “hot” herbs can also help. Essential oils {often derived from a plant’s seeds} of carminative herbs like cardamom, dill, cumin, caraway, and lemon balm warm up the digestive tract, helping to expel gas, while speeding up and improving the efficiency of the digestive process. Use these herbs in teas.Lemon balm, and  Dill
lemon-balm-flowers
Popular in Europe, herbal “gripe water” {griping is another word for intestinal cramping} relies on dill seed, chamomile, lemon balm, or ginger. Fennel is a stand-out in this regard, and probably the world’s most popular gas remedy, even for kids. In one study, published in Phytotherapy Research, 121 colicky infants randomly received 5 to 20 ml of a 0.1 percent fennel seed oil emulsion or placebo, up to four times daily for one week. Parents kept symptom diaries for the week, as well as the week before and the week after. The kids taking the fennel formula had a 45 percent decrease in colic symptoms, compared to a 5 percent drop in the placebo group.
In 2005, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial looked at 93 healthy breastfed infants with colic. For one week, they consumed a dose of fennel mixture twice daily before breastfeeding. Crying time dropped {by an average of two hours per day} in 85 percent of infants in the fennel group, compared to 48 percent in the placebo group.

The Intestines

 fennel-seeds
Comfortable, regular, bulky, and soft bowel movements are critical for good health. And, as the Ayurvedic aphorism explains, “If your stool is sinking, you’re sinking.” Of course, if nothing is passing through, you have a bigger problem: constipation. The medical community defines constipation as eliminating waste less than three times a week, or in low quantity.
Transit time and regularity are the key concepts behind proper bowel timing. Transit time is the time it takes a meal to be eliminated from the body after it has entered the mouth. For a person who eats a healthy, unprocessed, whole foods diet, 30 hours is an average transit time, although Ayurveda maintains that the ideal time falls between 18 and 24 hours. In our constipation-prone society, 48 hours, or considerably more, is common. {Clock your transit time by swallowing something to tint the stool, such as charcoal powder, beets, or chlorophyll. Mark the time from when you’ve ingested this matter to when you see this color show up upon elimination.}
The longer waste stays in the colon, the more chance it has of decomposing into unhealthy compounds. This waste matter tends to absorb more water, too, as it sits in the body, making it harder and smaller. The body has a tougher time moving it onward. The potential long-term complications include the development of gallstones and even colon cancer.
Regularity, on the other hand, is defined as the interval between bowel movements. The gamut of recommendations runs from two or three bowel movements a week to one a day, depending on whom you ask. However, like all mammals, humans automatically start the digestive process every time they chew. Each meal stimulates this process and initiates elimination. So as a rule, natural healing practitioners insist on at least one bowel movement per day, or up to one per meal.
Success in the intestinal process depends mainly on three pillars: Peristalsis, fiber, and moisture. When everything goes right with peristalsis, the wave-like motion of muscles that impels waste out of the large intestine, muscles squeeze briefly every few seconds and then relax, propelling it toward the rectum. Stimulant laxatives can promote this wave. Among the best are senna leaf, cascara bark, and aloe leaf in capsule form. Use these only for short-term episodes of acute constipation. Start with a very small dose {500 mg} and adjust the dose as necessary. Since these herbs can sometimes produce intestinal cramps, especially in excess doses, they’re often combined with warming herbs, such as ginger and fennel. Expect these herbs to facilitate elimination in about six hours.
Fiber helps out by absorbing excess moisture, making the stool softer and increasing its size, essentially giving the muscles in the intestinal walls something to push along. Natural bulk fiber laxatives provide soluble fiber, which includes pectin from fruit, flaxseed, chia seed, and oat bran. Use these each day as necessary. Make a point of increasing your fiber intake from whole foods {fruit, vegetables, dried legumes}, as well. Aim for as much as 35 grams of fiber per day.
Psyllium seed, a well known bulk fiber laxative, balances bowel function and relieves the pain of irritable bowels. As psyllium travels through the gut, its slimy mucilage offers soothing benefit, which may relieve cramping. An English study revealed that constipation significantly improved in patients taking psyllium. Eighty-two percent of the subjects had irritable bowel symptom relief. The optimum dose appears to be 20 grams per day.
The third factor, moisture, is a common issue for constipation sufferers. Proper moisture content is critical for efficient elimination. The large intestine pumps about five gallons of fluid every day, from what we drink, plus our digestive secretions. Most of this must be reabsorbed, or else we would quickly become dehydrated.
Demulcents are herbs that contain mucilage, which coats and soothes the gut wall and helps waste exit smoothly. These herbs include marshmallow root {Althea officinalis} and slippery elm bark {Ulmusspp.}. To use either herb, stir 1 tablespoon of powdered bulk herb into a bite of food, such as applesauce, with each meal. Magnesium, a natural mineral, is an osmotic laxative that draws moisture into the bowels and softens waste. Most people can tolerate up to about 1,200 mg of magnesium per day.

Other Helpful Herbs

spring-tonics2 
Herbal medicine is quite beneficial for keeping digestion perking along, as shown in the results of a study from Europe. Twenty-four patients took an herbal mixture containing dandelion, St. John’s wort, lemon balm, calendula, and fennel. Of the group, 95 percent had total relief of colitis symptoms within 15 days.
Triphala, an Ayurvedic combination of the fruits amla, haritaki and bibitaki  is the classic herbal remedy for long term digestive help. It tones the intestinal walls, detoxifies the system, and promotes elimination. It has a high tannin content, so it treats diarrhea in low doses {1 gram per day}. In higher doses, it treats constipation in a very slow, gentle way, tightening the walls of the gut while it works. Triphala is suitable for children and ideal for older folks who need a little daily help with regularity. For maintenance, take 2 grams per day. As a short-term laxative, use 6 grams. An easy bowel movement should occur in about 8 hours.
Turmeric root {Curcuma longa} is widely used to improve digestion. A common curry spice, it keeps GI tract inflammation under control. One of its active ingredients, curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its distinctive yellow color, has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to cortisone and phenylbutazone, widely used anti-inflammatory drugs. And curcumin is non-steroidal, so it has none of the devastating side effects of steroids.
Like another medicinal spice, cayenne, it relieves pain by depleting nerve endings of substance P, the pain receptor neurotransmitter. Historically, this herb has been used to reduce gas, a benefit that is now getting increasing scientific support. Curcumin stimulates gallbladder contractions, promoting better digestion. Ptolymethlcarbinol, another compound in turmeric, boosts the production of several important secretions in the digestive tract.
Turmeric also increases mucin secretion, which protects mucous membranes against damage by stomach acid and other digestive juices. With its ability to suppress inflammation, increase mucin content of the stomach, and stop bleeding, turmeric prevents ulcerations of all types, including gastritis, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis. Take 1 to 2 grams powdered herb in capsules, or as a spice, with each meal. Higher doses are quite safe and may produce better and faster results.
licorice-root-benefits1

Licorice Root {Glycyrrhiza uralensis},

also, guards digestive mucous membranes by escalating the production of mucin. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root {DGL} has the glycyrrhizic acid removed-glycyrrhizic acid is the ingredient in licorice root associated with increasing blood pressure and water retention but retains its soothing properties. One to two chewable wafers of DGL with a meal will usually do the job.
Use 1 teaspoon of the chopped root, brewed as a tea, three times a day, or one to two chewable wafers of DGL {250-500 mg} 15 minutes before meals and one to two hours before bedtime.
 peppermint-oil

Peppermint Leaf {Mentha piperita},

is a well-known digestion herb. Peppermint oil works well to prevent dyspepsia because the oil relaxes the muscles of the intestinal wall. Enteric coated capsules postpone the release of this oil until the remedy is further down in the digestive tract so that the medicine works in the right spot. They also reduce those minty burps. In one double-blind trial from Taiwan, four out of every five patients experienced reduced symptoms when given enteric-coated peppermint oil. In 1999, a study from Germany used peppermint and caraway oils to treat 223 people, and the combination brought about a significant reduction in discomfort. Another German study, published in Phytotherapy Research, from February 2000, again confirmed that a combination of peppermint and caraway oils effectively reduced unwanted intestinal symptoms. Take 1 teaspoon of chopped herb brewed as tea, three times a day, or 0.2 to 0.4 ml, three times a day, of an enteric-coated capsule.
ginger-essence

Ginger Root {Zingiber officinale},

a warming herb works better for some folks than the cold herbs. Tasty and aromatic, this root is an eternal remedy for stomach upset. Ginger’s benefits for motion sickness and nausea has been consistently proven, and European practitioners routinely use ginger in tea for indigestion. A 2008 study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, had chemotherapy patients consume ginger for nausea. In 28 patients, ginger reduced the nausea of chemotherapy and the need for antiemetic medications {pharmaceutical drugs that treat nausea and vomiting}. The herb also reduces gut spasms, absorbs and neutralizes toxins in the GI tract, and boosts digestive juice secretions, including bile and saliva. Use 1 teaspoon chopped herb brewed as a tea, three times a day.
cinnamon-stick-powder-130909

Cinnamon Bark {Cinnamomum cassia},

another warming digestive star is a mild but useful remedy for lethargic digestion. Commission E in Germany, the European standard for herbal medicines, recommends cinnamon for loss of appetite, dyspeptic complaints, mild gastrointestinal spasms, bloating, and flatulence. Use 1 teaspoon chopped herb brewed as a tea, three times a day.
Making sure your digestion perks right along is as easy as cooking with delicious, intriguing spices, sipping some tasty teas, and turning to a few notable herbal medicines. Keep the digestive fires burning: Turn to herbal aids for a smooth, comfortable digestive experience and you’ll have the stomach for just about anything life throws your way.

About Our New Website ~ Season’s Of The Witch ~ Herbal Remedies

Healing begins at home, growing from the same rich soil we spring from. The plant medicines’ lives are intertwined with ours: blooming uninvited outside the front door, growing from the terra cotta pots on our kitchen windowsills and shooting up in well-tended community gardens. Using herbs from close to home is a tradition honored by curanderas and Vegeta Lista’s, Sami shamans and modern medicine women. Traditional healers have long known that the medicine we need the most, grows very near to us.

Do you see this little pink flowered plant trailing along the ground right here? Yes, it’s hard to see among the Mugwort and Dock, but this humble little plant, Malva neglecta they call her, is an amazing tonic used across the world to nourish the vital fluids of the body and to cool heat from inflammation and infection, it can also gently support your immune system, building your resistance to stress and infectious disease. It is among the best and most widely used medicines in the world, and there’s a very good chance it grows in your backyard or a nearby park. So remember to look around, sometimes the healing you’re searching for is growing right under your foot!

mandala

This reciprocal need and provision creates a beautiful and interlocked family of beings. And when we humans stay in one place long enough to see more than one season, when we take part by planting and harvesting, or by just noticing and appreciating, then we too are a part of that network. Through this integral participation, we are connecting back to our own source on a very deep level. We are not just making medicine for physical ailments, we are healing the wound of our spirits caused by the illusion of our separation from all beings, from the spirit that connects all life.

Follow me deeper into the forest, let me tell you the stories of this place, let me show you what it means to connect to your roots.

Herbalism is based on relationship — relationship between plant and human, plant and planet, human and planet. Using herbs in the healing process means taking part in an ecological cycle. This offers us the opportunity consciously to be present in the living, vital world of which we are a part; to invite wholeness and our world into our lives through awareness of the remedies being used…
-Wendell Berry

Central to finding the roots of healing is discovering where we are. Whether we know it or not, we are each member of unique ecosystems called bioregions. Each is a specific life region defined by its watershed and indicator species, and by their relationships to each other. By its wildflowers and red earth, by Ponderosa Pines and Prickly Pears of the Gila, or by the Mangroves and Cherokee Roses of the Everglades. Bioregions are not subject to or confined by manmade boundaries like national borders, state or county lines or city limits. Instead, they flow along the lines of weather patterns and rainfall, migration routes and watersheds.

Everywhere we are, we exist within a bioregion. We don’t have to live in a virgin wilderness or lush forest to connect to place, the plants of our regions pop up in ghettos and suburbs, in barrios and busy downtown districts. And cities have their own internal ecosystems of street tough weeds and wildflowers. I’ve collected delicious wild greens from inner city parks and baskets of wild mulberries from a rundown alleyway, the plants are all around us, waiting for us to notice and hear their unique message of healing, wholeness… and belonging.

The first step, after all, is simply to notice the place where you are, finding the relationships between species and places. Next time you see your favorite wildflower, note whether it’s growing in sun or shade, is the soil sandy or is it hard clay, and what’s growing near it. Then when you see the same species elsewhere, ask similar questions until you observe a pattern. Within the pattern is the beginning of understanding the relationship between plant and plant, soil and plant, human impact and plant. It’s amazing how much you can learn about the flora and our shared home through observation. We form a closer connection to the plants we work with, and a better understanding of their spirit, and more able to notice the enormous beauty we’re both surrounded by and a part of. Each flower becomes an expression of our own joy, each plant a child for us to tend and love as well as a wizened teacher to learn from.

On a practical level, to live regionally is to acknowledge and participate in the ecosystem we are a part of, rooted – in a very literal sense – in the land that we live on. It may mean eating local and wild foods, using materials that occur naturally near us, and participating in the ecosystem by caring for it. What this means for each one of us will vary according to the needs of the land, depending on whether restoration is the most beneficial course of action for that particular area, whether establishing trees or restoring the soil by replanting species like Stinging Nettle. Or simply helping maintain the diversity that already exists with careful harvesting practices and a prayerful attitude towards the spirit of the land.

Humans living in a place or ecosystem for many generations are intimately healed in unseen ways by multigenerational contact with the local herbal communities just by living with them… After gardening in the same place for 30 years I feel that the soil and plants and I are the same extended organism. Food from other gardens does not seem quite right no matter how flavorful or lush. It is strange, it is other.
– Ryan Drum

Using the plants where you create a very special bond, no matter how much you love the pricey but powerful Ginseng from your favorite herb store, it can’t compete with the Hawthorn flowers or Devil’s Club roots from your own back yard or whatever special spot you gather your herbs from. As useful as herbal books and teachers can be, there’s simply no replacement for a personal relationship with the plants that grow from the same soil we do. Charts of actions and energetics may give us a head start on what kind of situation to try out a certain plant, but a single experience will often tell us much more than any book, and years of devoted attendance to the spirit and inner workings of each living being will teach us more than even the best teacher can.

When we gather Rose hips from the same five bushes at a certain spot down by the river every year, we learn what it’s like to have an intimate relationship with the plants, we remember the ancient wisdom of our foremothers: of mano and metate, of root and water. We see the plant each year, noting how it’s grown or suffered that year, tasting the differences in rainfall or frost in its berries, noticing the exact pattern of thorns and leaves on this one that makes it different from any other Rose bramble. This intimacy is the key to truly understanding the language of the green ones. There are trees here in my special canyon home I know so well that I could identify them in the dark with just my hands and nose, I would recognize them as the individuals I have hugged and harvested from, that I have confided in and prayed my thanks to. I have memorized them as I have my own daughter’s face: by heart.

We cultivate intimacy by working with the plants. Once there, we revel in the tactile sensuality and messiness of gathering, propagating and preparing the herbs. The dirt, the unique smell of the plant as it is cut or unearthed, the textures of bark and petal, the memory of you here, doing a task that people have done for as long as we have walked upright, and longer. The connection to ancestor and archetype, the medicine woman, the midwife and the warrior, gathering herbs for childbirth, for wounds, and even for the dead. And at the core of the experience is the power and awe of connecting to something larger than yourself, and the joy of being a part of that something, realizing we are cells in an intricate and enormous body.

Go ahead, touch and smell, taste and look closely, don’t be afraid to really experience the dirt and the flowers, the cool flow of the river and midday heat of the Southwestern sun. Yes, get down flat on your bellies, so as to better see the microcosmos, the whole worlds that exist inside that single Sacred Datura flower. Only through this sensory engagement can we really enter into the spirit of the earth and her plant children. When we’re plugged into whatever bioregion we have our own roots in, we’re better able to hear the subtle voices of the living green that surrounds us.

If you only end up with ten or fifteen plants that you know well and trust, then you are indeed blessed. That is all a curandera uses most of the time, that is most of what a good Chinese herbalist needs… and that is the number of plants I imagine traditional healers have mostly relied on for fifty thousand years… You don’t need a whole bunch of different plant medicines… You just need to know the ones you gather and know them intimately.
-Michael Moore

When we first begin to learn about the herbs, we seem to fall in love with every flower and leaf, wanting to know everything about every plant, from our own bright-faced Dandelions to the exotic spices of India and South America. Yet after these initial infatuations, we mature into working relationships with specific plants, and we begin to treasure the intimacy that comes with experience. We become partners with the plants in healing, and from this partnership grows a deep and lasting love.

Modern Western herbalism seems to stress having a huge materia medica and a working knowledge of literally hundreds of plants. It’s great to work with an abundance of herbs so that we can see the full spectrum of herbal medicine, but it’s even more important to really know a few local herbs that you’ll use over and over. Once you form an intimate alliance with a certain plant, you’ll often be surprised by its range of uses and responsiveness to your healing needs. In some indigenous traditions, especially those of South America, a healer might spend her entire practice using only a single plant, dedicated to the thorough learning and partnering with that plant. In Western herbalism, a particular herb is often pigeonholed as a simple anti-inflammatory or astringent, yet most have an extensive range of uses.

That beautiful Goldenrod growing under the Ponderosa on the hillside there is a good example of a little understood and underutilized plant. When most people use Goldenrod medicinally they almost always immediately think of its astringent effect on the mucous membranes, since it is commonly used in sinus congestion and allergies. But did you know that Goldenrod is also a first rate wound and bruise herb, wonderful for menstrual cramps, cystitis and yeast infections as well as being one of the finest remedies for injured, sore or tight muscles? It’s also purported by a few sensitive herbalists to be an effective anti-depressant, and it has even been used as a kidney yin tonic and digestive remedy. Rather than looking at the lists of actions or constituents often available in herb books about a plant, it might be wiser to get a fuller sense of the herb’s personality and energy. Goldenrod has a gentle, feminine spirit that is encouraging and cheerful. Most people find her slightly warming and her healing powers are primarily aimed towards the mucous membranes, stomach (and extension of the mucous membranes), reproductive organs and especially the kidneys. She makes a wonderful ally for those who often feel a little sad, especially in the wintertime, has little endurance and difficulty following through. Her sunny disposition can brighten spirits and restore lost energy and drive. And lean in closer, smell her exquisite honey scent, I can feel her magic working already.

Interacting with the same plants on a daily basis, we start to make connections and notice affinities with individual herbs. Though we may have a dozen plants for wounds in your front yard or apothecary, we will probably find that a particular one seems to work best for us personally. For some, it’s Comfrey, for another it’s Plantain. It all depends on what’s available, our individual personality and what the plants have in mind for us personally. If we have young children, a very gentle and safe plant like Plantain may work out especially well for us, easily recognizable and accessible to little ones with a scrape or bug bite. On the other hand, if we have specialized needs like psoriasis or arthritis a more specifically may call to us. Either way, the power of the healing lies in its personalization to us and its integration into our everyday life.

Get close to each plant as an individual, start with a single ally and slowly expand to about twenty or twenty-five locally available species, ideally including several native wild species. If we know even six intimately we’ll find that we need little else for personal and family use. Even, or perhaps especially, commonly maligned weeds such as Dandelion, Nettles and Plantain can provide us with a wealth of food and medicine.

nettle

It’s easy to pass off a common plant as just another parking lot pest but this is our short-sightedness and loss; looking into history we see that many of the currently blacklisted weeds like Mallow and Yellow Dock have been revered as powerful medicines in the not so ancient past. And we can see for ourselves if we look a little closer at the star-shaped blossoms of Stellaria or the nourishing root of Burdock, the powerful healing powers and amazing spiritual presence that these plants have.

Beginning with a single plant gives us the luxury of an in-depth courtship, with no distractions or complications caused by attempting to focus on too many friends at once. That small blue-flowered herb over there was my first medicine ally, a native Gila Skullcap, she taught me to relax, chill out and dream a little. Spending time in her calming embrace gave me the ability to slow down long enough to get to know the other plants as well.

We might think we know exactly what we need from a plant partner, but we’d be foolish to imagine that we are solely responsible for choosing the herbs we use, as they often as not choose us. It’s fair to say that the plants often see us better than we see ourselves, through the all-encompassing eyes of Gaia and her endless expressions. Skullcap came to me right when I needed her, without any active looking or desire on my part. Had I researched all the herbs living nearby in a comprehensive book, I might have chosen a different ally, say, Prickly Poppy, I would have missed out on the unique gifts that Skullcap was ready to provide.

skullcapA certain pink flowered plant may call to you from a corner of the garden, a weedy little Vervain or a prickly Hawthorn tree keeps grabbing your attention as you try to weed the Lilies or water the Roses. Pay attention to these subtle messages, and you’ll be rewarded with powerful medicine. Working with the plants is very much like a marriage, a reciprocal partnership that evolves and changes with time, each season leaving us more whole and fulfilled.

As we rediscover our relationship with plants –and what more intimate pathway than through the gateway of healing– it ignites a love, a passion for the green nations, and enables us to become caretakers of that which we love most…
-Rosemary Gladstar

Just as the plants heal us, they depend on us to care for them and the land they grow from. The more intimate you become with your allies the more natural it will be to treat them as an extension of your family, or even your own body. It will be second nature to protect them from outside forces such as development or pollution. You’ll also be more sensitive to your own harvesting habits and be more likely to prayerfully harvest and propagate. As each season passes, we’re able to see the effects or our actions, when we’ve taken too much and the plant shrinks back or when to harvest gently and propagate wisely so that the population flourishes and grows. Yet when we buy our herbs in sterile, sealed foil bags from foreign countries harvested by underpaid workers it’s impossible to predict or know how the herb was treated or processed, and even more difficult to know if the population is being damaged or even slowly exterminated by careless harvesting techniques. When we learn that everything we need is right here, it seems less important to import herbs from China or the Amazon. Instead, we step outside and look around, listening to the familiar song of the plants of our home.

While it’s tempting to create a lovely garden for your favorite plants and fence the rest out, it’s important not to let ourselves imagine that we can separate the herbs from their wild source, isolating them into a pampered herbal Eden. Wild plants are just that: wild, willed and full of the irrepressible energy of an ever evolving planet and bioregion. It’s also useful to know that they often – through the stresses and trials of their tougher, more demanding habitat – have stronger medicinal effects.

Other guidelines for protecting and caring for bioregional herbs include noticing if your ally is rare or at the edge of its natural range in your ecosystem. If so, try growing it in your garden rather than depleting already small populations. When you harvest wild plants, take only a fraction of existing healthy plants so they can easily recover. When you harvest the roots of plants, be sure to propagate by root division or by planting seeds, in fact, unless a plant is invasive it’s almost always a good idea to encourage it’s growth through replanting and other methods. Also, try to immediately to take care of the herbs you’ve harvested, spreading them out to dry in a cool, dry area or otherwise processing the fresh plant so that the spirit of the plant is respected and nothing goes to waste.

mandala

So let’s gather the last of this season’s Goldenrod blooms, take them gently and with prayer. Cut them quickly and lay them in the woven basket with reverence. After we carry them back to the cabins, we’ll place them in raw honey and a fine brandy, creating a golden elixir to warm us when the Winter storms arrive. And we’ll hang a few bunches from the rafters, to make a fragrant tea for cool mornings come Autumn. This is truly the medicine we most need, engaging in the ancient traditions of healer and plant, the medicine woman and her sacred roots.

Go now, and take these stories back with you to your bioregion. Dig deeply into the land and let yourself be interwoven with the plants, allow yourself to grow from the healing roots of home.