Thursday, October 14, 2010

Elder Medicine to Spare!

Happy Autumn Friends,

Our family has had a great elderberry harvest this year and we have an abundance of elder medicine as a result. For the past couple months the pantry shelves have been loaded with jars of macerating berries. Now they are being strained, squeezed and bottled for use just in time for the colder months of the year. 

We are offering elixir and tincture for sale to help meet your seasonal immune boosting and flu prevention/treatment needs.

Elder elixir consists of fresh berries macerated in local wildflower honey and alcohol. It is sweeter than staight tincture, but stronger than syrup. It's great for children. We take 10-20 drops a day to build our system, and hourly when experiencing a cold or flu to speed recovery.

Elder tincture is a combination of berries and flowers in an alcohol base for a powerful blend of elder healing. This is great to have on hand for wevere colds and flus,lung infections and fevers.

Elder is antiviral, antiseptic, immune building, restorative, tonic, and calming. The flowers are also diaphoretic and diuretic.

Our elder flowers and berries are grown and harvested chemical-free and with love and respect. 

Both the elixir and the tincture are available in two sizes...
     1 ounce bottle for $10
     2 ounce bottle for $18
(plus shipping)

To place an order, send me an e-mail at

Love and light,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ode to Lobelia inflata

 Ever since I first began to work with the herbs many years ago, lobelia has drawn my attention. It's hard to ignore a plant that is also know as pukeweed. But it was not until the past few years that I have really come to appreciate the value of lobelia.

At one time, say about 100 years ago, lobelia was greatly valued and relied upon. Jethro Kloss devoted 28 pages to it in Back to Eden. He wrote, "Lobelia is the most powerful relaxant known among herbs that have no harmful effects." Back then, emetics were greatly valued and lobelia, used in a large enough dosage, will certainly expel the stomach's contents. Today, few people see the value of inducing puking in order to initiate the healing process. But, as herbalist Matthew Wood writes, "this being a less heroic is possible that the full healing powers of Lobelia are thus lost for the time being."

What we are more likely to use this plant for, however, are it's incredible anti-spasmodic properties as well as it's ability to enhance the powers of other herbs in a formula. Hiccoughs, spasmodic asthma, whooping cough, muscular spasms, hysteria, and epilepsy are some examples of conditions where lobelia's powers shine. Used in small dosages, there is little chance of it acting as an emetic, and one still get's the relaxant and anti-spasmodic benefits. I have twice seen it, in combination with california poppy, stop hiccoughs instantly.

As a catalyst, lobelia acts as the brains of an herbal formulation. Gail Faith Edwards says "it tends to heighten the effects of other medicines and substances." This is a plant that seems to like to boss other plants around. I tend to add a small amount of lobelia to respiratory and cough formulas. Not only does it enhance the other herbs in the formula, but the lobelia itself tends to have a beneficial effect of the respiratory system. It is one of those mysterious and intelligent herbs that seem to know what is needed and act differently depending on the situation. It may open pores, or close them. It contains both relaxing and stimulating constituents. It can both relax an excited heartbeat and stimulate the expulsion of obstructions. 

I'll never forget the first time I met wild lobelia growing in the woods. I had not yet learned to identify it, so it was a friend who pointed it out. It was just a small insignificant looking plant just off the trail, who would suspect to healing power it contained. After greeting lobelia, I broke off one leaf. White sap emerged from it and I touched it to my tongue. A few minutes later I had to sit down, not because I was tired or light headed. It simply seemed as though the plant was asking me to slow down, inviting me to alter my perception and take everything in in a less hurried, more aware state. Perhaps this is the gift of lobelia, to invite us to relax, to slow us down, to expel what is unneccessary, and become aware of our being.

As I gathered lobelia from my own garden this year, I felt so grateful for my acquaintance with this little plant with so much power. Making my own tincture, I feel connected to the herbalists of America's past who knew the benefits of this plant and were often persecuted for doing so by the medical establishment. I am glad they took the time to write about plants like lobelia, that we may continue to benefit from them.  This is my health insurance, the knowledge of the healing  plants of the earth.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Elderberry Season!

This year's elderberry harvest has been incredible. Already I have put up over two gallons of liquid extract, dried a bunch of berries for tea and have some berries in the freezer to add to jam recipes (whenever I have time to make jam). I am grateful for the abundance of this, my favorite immune building herb. We have come to rely on it as a huge part of our winter wellness routine. We take the elixir daily throughout flu season (it's sweetness makes it easy to administer to children). The tincture effectively aids the body to recover if we should become unbalanced enough to get sick. 

Using elder medicine connects us to a long history with this powerful plant, through countless generations of Native Americans and in Europe back to the famous Hippocrates around 400 BC. The berries are high in potassium, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, and beta-carotene. They are anti-viral, anticatarrhal (reducing mucous), antiseptic, diuretic, calming, nervine, restorative and tonic. Country folk of old knew the value of this healing plant, and gathered the berries among the stream banks and hedgerows. Nowadays you are lucky if you can find them in the wild, since farmers would rather mow or spray all the wild plants away from the edges of their fields. Perhaps someday the wayside herbs will be valued enough once again for common people to leave a bit of the wild spaces uncontaminated, that we may again gather freely the healing gifts of the earth. Until then, I'll be growing elder in my earthspace, in gratitude for earth medicine.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gift of the Elder Flower

It's high medicine making season around here. I think this is my favorite time of year. I love working with the living plants...talking to them, thanking them for their gifts of good medicine. I love the beauty of immersing myself in the natural world. I love that this has become part of our lifestyle and my children are growing with a connection to the earth, the plants and all of their gifts.

Harvesting elder always brings me into feelings of gratitude for all these things. The elder in our earthspace is in full flower now, which is incredibly beautiful. We harvest the flowers during this time, making sure to leave plenty for producing berries later in the season. The boys and I strode out to the wild elderberry patch in our back 40 (that is the 40% of an acre of wild earthspace we stuard across the road) yesterday. 

That's the elder, all in white blooms in the distance. While I gathered flowers, the boys splashed around in the stream (just beyond the trees) and looked for crawdads. The birds chattered in the trees and our cat, Gray, lazed around in the grass. I can't tell you how magical that moment was for me, and felt so blessed to be able to see the beauty of the earth that so many seem blind to these days.

These elder flowers I had gathered to tincture for winter medicine. I also dry the flowers for making tea. The flowers are calming to the nerves and diaphoretic, making them wonderful for relieving fevers, even in young children. A famous gypsy fever remedy combines elder flowers, yarrow and peppermint. The tincture of the flowers may be used to treat upper respiratory infections. It is a remedy I have come to depend on and I make sure to have a fresh stock in my pantry every year.

Taking my basket of umbels home, I sat on the porch gently shaking out the little insects that seem to love these flowers, and stripping the blossoms from the stems into a mason jar. There is something indescribable in the experience of working with the medicinal plants this way, as if part of their medicine travels into you through the fingertips. 

As I worked, Alden picked up the camera to capture mama in all her medicine making bliss. 

Once the jar was filled most of the way with flowers, I poured 80 proof brandy over it all and stirred it with a wooden chopstick. Then I screwed on the lid and labeled my maceration. This is the simple method of tincturing that doesn't require a lot of math. Fresh, soft plants can be tinctured in this way as long as you menstruum is at least 80 proof to ensure preservation. I shake up my macerations as often as I remember for 6 to 8 weeks before I strain and squeeze them. This is a good time to send thoughts of gratitude to the plants and intentions of healing into the medicine.

Elder is the queen of the garden and fields around here, and her gifts are highly respected and valued. Gail Faith Edwards says that "people with an affinity for elder are spiritual by nature and possess healing powers. Tuned into the devic realm, they communicate easily with nature spirits." Elder is a symbol of protection, and blessing. How honored we are to have it in our earthspace and to gather it's medicine. How sad that this beautiful and healing wild plant has been so neglected in our time and relegated to the waysides, where it is often mowed or sprayed. 

Like most of the wayside herbs though, elder will always return whenever a patch of land is allowed to regenerate. But the folk tales tell us that to access the medicine of the elder, we must honor and respect her. Changing our attitude to elder to access her healing gifts is a part of the larger process of healing our relationship with the natural world, with Gaia and all her children. It is an attitude I try to demonstrate to my truly blessed we are to receive the gifts of the honored we feel to live on the land and treat her with love and respect. 

Thank you, Elder, for all of your gifts!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nettle Greens Soup

It seems to me that this year is the year of the nettle.
I have never seen so many people embracing the gifts of the stinging plant with such excitement. Nettle soup, nettle smoothies, nettle're writing about nettles on blogs, in magazines, and just chatting about it to friends. I love it!

This year I've been cutting nettles to share with friends and even digging it up for others to start their own patch. And there's plenty to go around. Over the years our nettle patch has gotten huge...

Around here we've been enjoying nettles in our daily smoothies and sometimes as a cooked green with dinner. I've written already about why we use nettles and how I harvest it. So now I'll just share another nettle recipe. I made this mildly spicy soup with the expectation that Ed and I would be the only ones to eat it, but Rainer surprised me by eating two bowls! Enjoy...

Nettle Greens Soup

1/2 onion
1 leek
4 cloves garlic
2 cups dices potatoes
2 cups chopped cauliflower
1 cup celery
large bunch nettles
1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock
2-3 cups nut/seed milk
handful garlic mustard greens
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
pepper to taste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Saute onions, leeks and garlic (I usually saute in water to avoid heating oils). Add stock, potatoes, cauliflower, celery, and nettles. Simmer for until potatoes are soft. Turn off heat and stir in nut/seed milk, garlic mustard greens, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Blend together, then stir in the nutritional yeast. Garnish with garlic mustard flowers before serving for a little spicy bite.