Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Autumn Sweet Medicine Shares 2015

Autumn Sweet Medicine Shares
Sweet handcrafted medicine to get you through the cold season

I am re-introducing my sweet medicine shares this fall!

Sign up for three months of medicine, beginning in September and stock up on herbal wellness as the seasons turn and the days shorten. If you would like some local, handcrafted herbal medicine made just for you each month, take a gander at this opportunity to have me make some yummy concoctions designed for cold season support for you and your family.

Each monthly share will include one bottle of herbal syrup and one bottle of herbal elixir. These sweet medicines will be formulated with healing herbs traditionally used for treating and preventing the common complaints of the cold season and building our natural defenses. 

I am offering this share in two sizes

Standard size includes a 4 ounce bottle of syrup 
and 1 ounce bottle of elixir each month
(this is perfect for a single person or a couple)

Family size includes an 8 ounce bottle of syrup 
and a 2 ounce bottle of elixir each month.

I am also offering a shipping option 
for those of you who cannot make it out to our place for a pick up.

Each share will be available for picking up or shipping out on the third Saturday of each month, September through November (three months worth of herbal sweetness!).
To begin with, September's share will include an coltsfoot cough syrup, and an elderberry elixir to gear up our immune function. Subsequent months will include winter medicines like my gypsy flu elixir, a winter warming elixir, fire cider immune tonic and lung wellness syrup and other healing winter medicines. 

In addition to your sweet medicine, I will also put together an 
informative newsletter about the products in each share and how to use them.

Whenever possible my medicines are made with herbs I grow and wildcraft myself and are always chemical free. Herbs that I cannot harvest myself are always organic and from a reputable source. 

Here's the cost breakdown...
Single/couple share…$70 (with the shipping option…$100)
Family share…$130 (with the shipping option...$160)
Anyone interested can send me an e-mail at nettlejuice@gmail.com to sign up 

The first 5 people to sign up for a share will also receive a free bottle of lemon balm hydrsol!

P.S. I'm only selling 20 total shares, so sign up quickly before they run out.
Deadline for signing up is September 12th, to give me time to get the first share together.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Gift Of Medicine

Medicine is a gift from the earth. 

Have you ever thought about that? 

When I first stepped into the story of the medicine plants, this one simple fact just blew my mind. I remember sitting in my little yard, looking upon all the weeds growing around me that I had thought of as nothing more than nuisance for most of my life with new eyes. "You are medicine", I thought, "and I never knew". All this time, the medicine was under my feet, coming back, returning, no matter how many times I refused their gifts. 


The earth offers us her medicine as gifts. It is right there for the taking. How amazing is that? Amazing enough to blow your mind?

But wait, let's examine the meaning of the gift, because I think there is some confusion about this term in our culture. Does gift mean "free"? Well, yes and no. 

In our consumer culture we tend to equate gift with free, with getting something for nothing. But just because something is offered to you, without expectation of payment in exchange, doesn't necessarily mean it is "free". 

Herein lies the difficulty…because we must slow down…drop into our hearts…feel the difference. When a gift is given, especially one we need very deeply. We feel grateful. Our hearts open. A connection is made. A bond. 

This is inherently different than something given for fee, like a pen advertising a bank. There is no bond created here. It is a false gift. A gift not to connect, but to extract. 

A true gift is offered in love, because the giver is aware of the value of relationship, of connection…

like your grandmother baking you cookies.

When I receive the gift of medicine from the earth, I am not taking something that is free. I am choosing to participate in a relationship. And to honor the gift, I acknowledge my part. I want to give back, to continue to participate in the dance of give and take that keeps our connection alive.

Just as we say thank you to grandma and offer a hug, or a drawing to give back, we can give thanks to the earth, to the plants, we can do more, we can enter the dance of relationship.

It is the difference between a multinational company removing mountaintops to extract the coal beneath, taking without any sense of relationship to the land, and the native medicine man who offers prayers, only takes what is needed, nurtures the land, and then protects it from harm. 

We choose the type of relationship we cultivate with the earth. We wouldn't barge into grandma's house and take her cookies, leaving the kitchen a mess and walking out without a word. Why do we do this to the earth? We have forgotten. She is our mother, our grandmother. She has always taken care of us. 

The medicine we make comes from the earth, it is a gift. When we honor the gift by respecting our relationship, our medicine is strengthened. It has the power of love compounded. 

I have met medicine makers who have deep respect for this gift, and I have met those who see only what they can take for themselves. The earth is patient. She keeps giving. Waiting for us to get it, to enter the dance, to hear her song,  to join in the great give and take of life. When we do, we suddenly realize, we are so much more that what we receive.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Herbal Case Study…The Sliced Foot

As a mother of three boys, I am constantly thankful we don't have more bodily injuries than we do around here. With all the wrestling, tree climbing, play fighting (real fighting), and general rowdiness, it is truly amazing emergency room visits aren't a weekly occurrence. To be perfectly honest, the herbal treatment my boys' rough and tumble interactions lead to are more often than not a round of nervines for mama.

On occasion though, there is an actual injury to address. One such injury happened recently, not while wresting or tree climbing, but while doing that oh so dangerous activity...walking to the dinner table. Well, the boy was actually running (How many times do I have to tell these kids not to run in the house?). Yes, in all his rushed exuberance to eat a wholesome meal, the boy smashed his foot into the corner of the bookshelf. A moment later I heard the exclamation, "mom, I'm bleeding".

Blood always induces panic, and soon the other boys were jumping to see the level of gore and shouting reactions that quickly threw the injured boy into a panic. By the time I had walked across the room, I not only had an injury to deal with, but crowd control and full blown panic. (Really? Right before dinner?) I saw there was a quantity of blood issuing from between the boy's toes. I quickly grabbed a washcloth and applied pressure to the injury, then I looked up at all three boys and smiled, saying in the calmest, most confident mama voice I could manifest, "Everything is fine. Please take a deep breath and calm down. We are going to take care of this." Of course, at times like these my outward demeanor and the reality inside are completely different. Anytime one of my kids is injured all my mama fears rear their head. But in order to keep everyone calm, I've learned to quiet those thoughts and stay calm and reassuring.

After a moment I lifted the cloth to get a view of the injury. Somehow, the boy  had managed to slice his foot open between his baby toe and the next one. Blood immediately started to gush again. I asked my husband to get the cayenne powder from the kitchen. I placed a nice pinch of the powder into the wound and reapplied pressure to stop the bleeding. Then I turned my attention to my boy. He was shaking and he voice betrayed his panic. The damage of his brothers' reactions was done. I assured him that the injury was not that bad, that the blood would stop in moment and we would take care of it. Then I checked his foot. Although the baby toe was smashed up, it was not broken. Also, there was no noticeable nerve damage. I felt confident that we could deal with this injury without a trip to the hospital. Once the bleeding stopped, we went into the bathroom and ran water over the wound to clean it out. I also pour some hydrogen peroxide over it. It soon began bleeding again and my boy's panic started to escalate. I packed the wound with more cayenne, used a butterfly bandage to close the fleshed and wrapped gauze around his foot, taping it in place. Then, I took my boy into the living room and sat him down. I gave him flower essences for trauma and stress, and put a washcloth soaked in diluted lavender essential oil on his forehead. By this time he was shaking uncontrollably. I spoke to him soothingly about how he had a fright, but he would be OK. He needed to try to relax and take some deep breathes. Soon the shaking stopped and he was able to talk normally. Half an hour later, we even managed to eat dinner. The crisis was handled, but that injury needed daily attention in order to heal properly.

Now, the biggest concern with an open wound like this is to keep out infection until the wound is closed. That becomes even more tricky with a foot injury. For the first week, my boy was still very squeamish about his injury and not wanting me to touch it too much. We washed it once a day, changed the bandage, and applied some topical herbs, usually in the form of a diluted yarrow tincture (anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and to promote healing). Then I generally left it alone. After about a week though, I wasn't happy with the progress. While one side of the wound seemed to be healing nicely, the other side (going down between the toes) was not knitting together as fast, and even appeared a bit inflamed. This side was also extremely tender. At this point I had a serious talk with the boy. I told him we had to be more vigilant with taking care of this injury. He started to hem and haw, so I laid it out for him…it's either you help me do what we need to do, or we go to the doctor. Now I had his compliance.

So we started doing soaks twice a day. For wounds like this, I have found that nothing beats an herbal soak. The warm water really helps to open the pores and allow the herbs to get deep into the wound and tissue to do their stuff. Here is the way I made his soaks…

Since I usually have quite a large supply of dried herbs in the pantry, I always try to use what I have on hand. I wanted herbs that were strongly anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and promoted healing (but not too much…no comfrey, which may promote cell regeneration too quickly and seal in any infection present). I settled on a combination of oregon grape root (disinfectant and anti-bacterial), yerba mansa (anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory), yarrow (anti-inflammatory and anti-septic), calendula (promotes healing, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic), and chaparral leaf (strongly anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory). I could have used any number of other herbs, but these were present in the pantry and seemed also to call out to me as I pondered what to use. (Never ignore the voices of the herbs themselves)

To make the strong tea for soaking, I filled a small glass pot with water, brought it to a simmer on the stove, and added a small handful of oregon grape root and a pinch of yerba mansa. I simmered this for 10 minutes, then strained the tea and added it to a mason jar into which I had placed a small handful of yarrow leaves and flowers, a small handful of calendula flowers, and a pinch of chaparral leaves. I added more hot water to bring the water level up to a quart. Then I put a lid on the jar and let is all steep until the temperature had come down to a comfortable level for soaking (still warm, but not hot enough to burn…comfortable) After a bit of experimenting, we discovered that the best vessel for foot soaking, at least for a small foot, is a bread pan. I left the butterfly on, but removed all other bandages and had my boys soak in this concoction for at least 30 minutes morning and evening, making the tea fresh each time.

Within only a couple days of this treatment, there was noticeable improvement. The wound was no longer tender, inflammation was gone, and we could see signs of healing. We kept this protocol up faithfully for a full two weeks, noticing improvement every day. After the first week there was a nice scab formed over the entire wound, protecting it from bacteria and debris. Once the scab was formed, I added comfrey root to the simmering herbs to speed up the healing. We continued with the soaks and one day the scab fell off, revealing a beautiful new layer of skin over the wound. Yay!

Now, I offer this story as an example and encouragement on the path of the healing plants. But I must also say that if I didn't feel qualified to treat this wound, I would not have attempted it. I have studied herbal treatments for first aid and I also have experience working with herbs to treat minor wounds. I knew the injury was not serious beyond my level of competence, or I would have turned to professional medical help. However, as the vast majority of healing issues we experience around here are minor, I am more often than not able to handle them myself. It is empowering for me, as a mother, but also for my children, to see that for most things, we can take care of ourselves (with the help of the healing plants, of course).

I also apologize for the lack of photos in this post. It pains me to have such a wordy post without the intermittent photos. While I do pride myself in my ability to remain calm and composed while examining a bit of gory flesh, I don't particularly like looking a photographs of open wounds. When I see them posted on other sites, I have the tendency to quickly scroll down so they are out of view. Therefore, I have no photos of the lovely open wound for you, only the beautiful healed area with newly grown skin. Forgive me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thoughts on Despair and Hope

saw tooth oak
It's February. Every February is a bit of a challenge for me…the last month of winter, and often the coldest. I long for the warm sunshine on my skin, for gentle breezes, for fresh greens in the garden, for the buzz of insects. I long to open the windows again, to fall asleep to the sound of peepers and creek gurgle, and awake to the raucous chorus of birdsong. February is often the hardest month because we know that very soon now things will begin to change swiftly. Already there are stirrings…sap rising in the trees, buds swelling, bulbs beginning to push their greens up through the soil. I become excited at the first hint of yellow in the emerging witch hazel blooms…but then comes more snow and more freeze.

witch hazel

When I was a teenager I would often decide at this point to just act as though spring were here. I would go to school in shorts and a tee shirt. I got a lot of weird looks, but I do remember a dear art teacher commenting, "April, you are like a breath of fresh air". That made me smile. Maybe those early signs of spring from the garden are there for our spirits as much as anything else…little signs of hope from Mother Nature to say, "don't despair, spring is coming". 


I'm grateful for them, all those little signs of hope, because not despairing gets more difficult every winter. In the summertime it is easy. The garden is full of life and activity. There is so much to do and marvel at that little attention is spared for the larger view. In the wintertime though, when we are closed up indoors in our quietude, my attention wanders to goings on beyond my little protected earthspace. What I see scares the crap out of me. Our rainforests and boreal forests being destroyed, our water polluted, oil spills weekly, the oceans in terrible states…How can we continue to do this to the earth?

Years ago, when I first began this garden on this little piece of land, it was with the belief that no matter where we found ourselves, we could start to make things better. By working in a respectful and loving way with Nature and Mama Earth, we could start the healing process, begin to mend the wounds of the land, begin to heal the rift between humans and Nature. Through gardening, and I'm not just talking about planting a vegetable patch, but tending a garden that becomes our home, one that cares for us because we care for it, a garden of co-creation and interdependence, though this practice we could begin to find our way back to the way of life we were meant to live on this planet.

Every year brought me more hope as I witnessed life returning to this small patch of earth. Barren pastureland became a butterfly meadow, full of wildflowers. Trees and shrubs invited more and more birds. Building the soil every year filled the earth with life and held the water. Just being in the garden, so full of life, filled the heart with joy. Making medicine and meals from our harvests satisfied more than our bellies. I wondered at the reason for folks actually preferring a lawn of mowed grass over this.

Sometimes I have to ask myself, what is the value really of trying to restore a balanced relationship with the land on less than two acres, surrounded by fields of mono crop corn and soybeans. But I know I'm not the only one trying to find their way back. The world is dotted with individuals and families, communities even, who are trying to find a different way to live, one based on reciprocity for the gifts of the earth, that doesn't take anything for granted. The question is, are we enough? Is this work happening fast enough? Because the machine of industry is eating up what they call resources, and what I call Life so fast I shudder to think what will be left when my grandchildren are born.

asian pear buds
But I can't lose hope, because Nature never does. She keeps on patching things up the best she can, with weeds coming up to repair the deadpan, and bacteria proliferating to eat up the toxins. Like a good mother, she never gives up. And so I take my cue from the great Mother. This spring I will continue to plant my seeds and offer thanks for the life surrounding me. But I will also continue to sign the petitions, to state that I do not consent to taking more than we need and give nothing back. It's time we took a hard look at what the destruction our way of life in the modern age has wrought on the earth, and ask if we truly consent to this…for what? For cheep plastic crap, denatured food and a lifestyle full of emptiness because it is cut off from the natural world?

monarda flower head
The architecture of Nature in the dead of winter holds more beauty and inspiration for me than anything I could buy in Walmart. What can each of us do? We can plant a garden, anywhere we can, and then let it teach us (oh, the garden has so much to teach). I wonder, can we slow down enough, quiet down enough, to listen to Life? I hope so. Can you hear her? The Earth is calling us home.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Things I love to hear folks say after my classes...

photo by Lisa DeNardo

When I was 20 years young and still very inexperienced at living on my own, I came down with something very nasty. I felt like I was going to die, and it scared the crap out of me. I didn't know what to do. My first instinct was to call mom. It seemed the most natural thing to do. After all, she had taken care of three kids through countless health issues. Surely she would know. I don't know what I expected, maybe some sound advice about resting and eating and then comforting words about how everything will be all right. What she said, however, was "well, go to the doctor". 

I took her advice and did go to the doctor. I don't remember much of it now. I was probably given an antibiotic (which was probably useless for my cold or flu) and sent back home. But what I do remember is the feeling of helplessness. I didn't like the fact that I didn't know how to take care of myself when I was sick. But it was even more unsettling that my mother couldn't help me either. I can't blame her of course. She, like so many others of her generation, was a product of the "better living through chemistry" era. The relied upon home remedies of a couple generations ago had been eschewed, to be replaced by the pharmaceutical wonder drugs that promised to eradicate all disease. What was lost, along with the old knowledge of traditional healing ways, was a sense of self empowerment in our ability to take care of very basic health issues on our own.

I think that experience was the first time I felt that loss. I could not, at that time, articulate this sense of loss, because I didn't really have any experience of having a traditional healing system to draw upon. It was more like an ancestral memory, a sort of deep knowing that things used to be different, that there was a time when calling mom for help with healing was the most natural thing to do, that mothers were healers, and the fact that that was no longer true was something to be deeply concerned about. 

This felt sense, that something was amiss, has led me in countless ways along my journey. And when I eventually came to study the healing plants, I had the sense that a piece of the puzzle was found. What could be more empowering then relying on the plants growing around us to keep us healthy and soothe our ills and discomforts. The knowledge of how to use these plants lifted me out of my fear to a place of empowerment. And as I began to use these healing plants, my confidence grew, and my doctor's visits decreased. When I started having children of my own, I was able to take care of the inevitable and constant minor boo boos and health issues that came up. What an amazing feeling. 

This is the feeling I try to put forth in my class…that sense that herbal medicine is incredibly empowering. Yes, we still need health care practitioners to help us in many situations, but there is quite a lot we can handle on our own, if we know how and have the allies to help us. Even then, when you have the information and the herbs on hand, it can be frightening to take that leap, to trust yourself instead of an "authority figure". At that point, we are standing at the precipice of reclaiming our power. (Do we dare?) 

And so, when folks come back to me and describe how they have handled a challenge on their own, where they otherwise would have run to the doctor, that is when my heart soars. In the telling of these stories there is at first an element of fear, of uncertainty. They are not quite sure they can do this. Maybe they give themselves a time frame (If I don't start to feel better by tomorrow, I'll go to the doctor). They feel a little safer, so they try. When they start to feel better, their confidence is boosted, so they continue.  Now they are noticing a big difference. Maybe this is the first time they have even been so bold. When they are well again, the magic happens. They are empowered, and they are on fire. They can't wait to tell me. I never get tired of hearing these stories.

But even with the satisfaction of empowering other people to reclaim the herbal tradition, I will always be most grateful for having reclaimed it myself, for my own children. Recently my eight-year-old son developed a mild fever. This usually energetic and boisterous boy was tired and not feeling well. He spent the day resting on the couch, drinking lots of herbal teas while I took care of him. After a good night's sleep the fever was gone and he was nearly back to normal. At dinner that evening I thanked him for allowing his body to rest and drinking his tea so that he could get well quickly. He smiled and said, "yeah, I'm glad I have an herbalist for a mom". Oh my heart! With those words I knew I had healed my own sense of loss from all those years ago. My children knew they could look to their mother for that sense of comfort and healing. And I hope that one day they will provide the same sense of comfort to their own children.