Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Right Now...In the Garden

It is amazing how fast things change in the garden as the season moves into the summer months. The beautiful and fragrant fringe tree just inside our gate has already lost all those beautiful blooms. The nettles have all pushed into flower, and some are even busy making their seeds. I'm not sad to stop harvesting the nettles. By this time in the season, I'm ready for a break from them. Besides, the roses are blooming...

And the roses are such a pleasure to harvest...their soft petal and incredible fragrance. All roses are soothing and healing, which is why they are often used in skin creams. But roses can be infused to relieve menstrual cramps and regulate the reproductive system. And in Chinese Medicine roses are considered a chi nourisher, a blood and liver tonic. The flowers can even be used to poultice wounds. Their astringency make roses a nourishing skin toner as well as an effective aid for diarrhea. You can even gargle rose tea to help a sore throat.

It's also time to begin harvesting the chamomile flowers. I love gathering these in the evening after dinner for a relaxing tea. The boys love the taste of lightly sweetened chamomile tea, and it helps calm the energy down after a busy day and aid our digestion as well. Chamomile can also be used to relieve menstrual cramping and congestion, as well as help bring down a fever.

I'm also harvesting red clover flowers every day, and drying them to build up my winter store. Properly dried red clover flowers are far superior to the brownish stuff you buy in the stores. Red clover is just all around awesome. As a respiratory tonic it is used to strengthen the lungs and even as an aid for whooping cough. Red clover alkalizes the blood offers abundant minerals. Many cultures rely on this plant for cancer prevention and treatment.

And the yarrow...just beginning to bloom. This plant's ability to stop bleeding is amazing enough, but I am still learning just how incredible yarrow is. Ever the plants have more secrets to unfold.

This is my beautiful work place, keeping me very busy throughout the season. The plants are my companions and my teachers, my healers and my work. I am so grateful for all of their gifts.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Herbal Burn Treatments

We had a great herbal first aid class on Sunday. But after everyone left, I realized that though I touched on some herbs that are great for treating burns, I hadn't really gone over my herbal burn treatment. This always seems to happen. There is so much I want to share in my classes, it is hard to fit it all in before we run out of time. Usually I will just let it go, but I really wanted to cover burns, because they can be so painful and herbs can be so great for easing that pain and helping them to heal up nicely.

Minor burns, first and second degree, can be easily treated at home if you are prepared. The first thing to do is cool the burn. This can be done by plunging the burned area into cool or cold water for a few minutes. If you have a bottle of aloe vera juice in your refrigerator, that's even better. Just pour the juice into a bowl and cool the burned area in the juice.

Once the burn is cool, I like to cover it completely with a good burn salve. This will keep the air away from the burn, keep it moist and get those burn healing and soothing herbs right in there to start their work. Put the salve on thick. 

Before I bandage a burned area I cover the area with a wilted plantain leaf. You can do this by picking a large plantain leaf (if you can find some that don't get mown down, they get quite large), putting it in a bowl and pouring boiling water over it. Allow it to soak for a couple minutes. They remove it and allow it to cool completely. When it is cool, wrap the leaf over the wound and then bandage it on. The plantain leaf will keep the bandage from sticking to the wound (which can be painful when pealed off and also undo some of the healing as it rips of newly forming skin), and helps in soothing the wound as well.

(I have recently learned, just last night on an herb walk with Rosanna King, that wilted burdock is even better to wrap a burn. It is very soothing and also pain-relieving. Just remove the stem and spine before wilting)

broad leaf plantain

By the time everything is wrapped up, there should be a great feeling of relief. Remove the bandage after 12 hours, now you can use a gauze pad to gently pat the wound if you need to remove dead material or loose skin. Do not rub! Any white, gooey stuff is new skin growing, so let it be. Then re-apply your burn salve, nice and thick, and wrap in another wilted and cooled leaf before bandaging. Repeat this process every 12 hours and your burn will heal up very quickly.

Third degree burns, or burns covering very large portions of the body need to be treat professionally do to the risk of infection and dehydration.

For very mild burns or light sunburn, I like to use a burn spray I make myself and keep in the refrigerator consisting of Aloe juice and lavender essential oil. This spray is so lovely and cooling, and really speeds the healing of sunburn.

When looking for a burn salve, or making your own, you want the salve to have some of the following herbs, known for there helpfulness in healing burns...

  • comfrey--cell regeneration
  • lobelia--soothes muscle soreness
  • marshmallow--soothing, anti-inflammatory
  • white oak bark--astringent, antiseptic
  • honey--anti-bacterial, detoxifier, prevents scarring
  • aloe vera--reduces pain, great burn healer
  • st. john's wort--excellent burn healer, nerve healer
  • wormwood--reduces pain, antiseptic
  • burdock--reduces pain, healing
One of the best burn salves I have found on the market is B&W salve, which is available in Amish natural food stores around here. I'm hoping to make my own burn salve this year though, so stay tuned.

I am grateful for Rachel Weaver's teaching about burns. This local healer has amazing experience and so much to share.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lots of new healing plants have been finding their way into my garden this spring. Every year I am eager to incorporate more medicinals into our earthspace. And it is a learning experience to find which plants thrive in our little environment, and which just don't like it here. Often the trick is finding just the right micro climate. In our tiny acre alone, we have boggy ground, shady hillside, open sun, stream edge, rocky soil, and fertile garden soil. Add to that all the little patches of protected areas here and there, and there is quite a diverse variety of little niches for different plants to feel at home. So when my skullcap fizzled out in the sunny patch in which I planted it two years ago, I found a more shaded and protected area for it this year. 

However, there are some plants that continue to dumbfound me. Every year I try to grow pleurisy root (butterfly milkweed). It is an over harvested medicinal, so gathering it from the wild is not an option. Yet, it is great medicine for respiratory troubles and I have long wanted my own patch to gather from. This plant simply does not thrive for me though. The bugger is that when I walk around the farmland surrounding my house, I see it growing in the hay fields, beautifully. Why does this plant do fine in fields of depleted soil, getting mown and sprayed (with I-don't-know-what), but refuse to grow in my protected and cared for space? Hmmm.

Anyway, here is a peak at some of the new additions this year...


 white sage





american spikenard

wild yam

As Richo Cech says, "Grow babies, grow". I look forward to the medicine making to come, and the lessons to be learned from the living plants.

By the way, if anyone local wants a great place to buy live medicinals, my plants come from King's Herb Nook in Honey brook. They have a great selection of hard-to-find healing plants. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Busy in the garden...

This time of year things are changing so fast it's hard to keep up with it all...planting, harvesting, medicine making, and just taking in the wonder and beauty of Nature's changing face in the depth of springtime.
As they say, Nature waits for no one. And so, into the garden and wilds...

to harvest the nettles for drying...

collect choke cherry bark for elixir...

admire the angelica fireworks...

and find woodland treasures, like hepatica...


and coltsfoot (Rainer gets the credit for spying this one).

Happy Spring!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Last Call for Herbal Medicine Shares

The boys and I have been drawing in the evenings and manga has been a big theme around here lately. When I drew this herb lady for the medicine share flyer Rainer loved her and asked if he could color her. I love the result and have a feeling she will be making more appearances.

Today she wants to remind folks that if you were considering signing up for a medicine share, there is still time, but hurry. I need to get a final count this week to order supplies and get the medicine making under way for the first pick-up later this month.

I'm so excited about this month's share, which will have many gifts for the skin in particular.