Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Thursday, January 16, 2020 10:40 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Skin Issues

    Hello Susun!

    I hope today finds you well. This is a tough one. I have whitehead acne, that manifest in different sizes and do not pop. My dermatologist is unable to keep them from coming back, and digs them out with special needles. All his little chemicals are
    unable to stem the tide. Now I have many tiny ones all over my face.

    Please help if you are able. I'm so tired of living with these.
    thank you



    There are several herbs you could try.

    First, spray yarrow tincture on your clean face morning and night. Leave it on. Let it dry on your face. Do not put soap on your face. Cleanse it with witch hazel extract on a washcloth. Use a new spot on the washcloth each time.

    Second, take burdock root tincture, 15-20 drops twice a day for at least four months. (do not take capsules, tincture only)

    Third, avoid all hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. If possible use only olive oil and butter.

    Last, eat at least a half a cup of yogurt a day for at least six weeks. (best to get plain and add fruit if you want)

    Hope this simple remedies can help you.

    Green Blessings, Susun Weed

    Help with Ringworm

    Dear Susun,

    I have been an avid reader of your books for some years now. I thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with me through your books.

    I have had ring worm since March of last year. For the longest time I thought it was eczema and treated it as such. I finally went to the doctor and she said it was ringworm. I have been putting tea tree on it (it is by my elbow) but is getting so red now and slightly painful. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Several years ago I went and saw you speak about nutrition and herbs in Seattle and I changed by perceptions of health and healthy food irreversibly for the better.

    Thank you so much,


    Dear Angie,

    I am not surprised that you are having a reaction to tea tree oil; it is very damaging to the skin. Try this: coat the ringworm with olive oil then sprinkle on some powder of yellow dock root or goldenseal root. Repeat several times a day. Usually kills the fungus in 7-10 days. Good luck.

    Green Blessings, Susun Weed

  • Wednesday, January 08, 2020 11:31 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Cronewort (Artemisia vulgaris)

    The little leaves of my friend cronewort (AKA mugwort), minced, will add a savory, slightly bitter bite to our salad. Just a few will do the trick. Yes, you can still make a cronewort vinegar, with leaves or roots and leaves, if you can find young growth, which is generally easy.

    ~ Learn more about Cronewort Vinegar Here ~

    ~ Cronewort Root Vinegar Recipe ~

  • Monday, January 06, 2020 5:09 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    How to Lead a Joyous Life
    by Susun S Weed


    I aspire to be a joyous human being. As with most aspirations: It is easier said than done. Easier imagined than put into practice. Easier to search for than to have.

    I want joy to roll like thunder across the hills and valleys of my life; I want surging winds of joy to carry me through loss and disappointment; I want joy to be an electrical rush that lights up my entire body when I succeed. What does it take to create a joyous existence? Is it possible to experience joy daily, not just in special circumstances?

    Joy, I was taught by my mentor Elizabeth Kubler Ross, is one of five primary emotions. (The others are fear, anger, grief, and love.) Joy is not the absence of pain, just as yellow is not the absence of blue. Joy may bubble up out of grief. (“What wonderful times we had together.”) Joy may underpin true anger. (“I am so thrilled to be able to stick up for myself.”) Joy may sneak into fear, at least I presume so, otherwise what are people watching scary movies? Or is fear’s joy the relief of discovering fear was unjustified? To lead a joyous life, one must be willing to see joy in every emotion and every situation.

    Joy is sisters with happiness, gladness, and cheer, the niece of ecstasy, rapture, and bliss, and the mother of satisfaction and delight. Joy is lovers with beauty and order, abundance and harmony, safety and security. Joy adores spontaneity. Joy is gay. Joy dances. Joy sings a lively song in a major key. Joy rises up; it is elation. Joy spreads out; it is inspiring. Joy is hard to contain, and difficult to suppress. Delight is a bubbling spring that tickles the funny bone. But we must go to the spring; it will not come down off the mountain for us. One must court the joyous life; one must conspire with joy, entice joy, set a place at the table for joy, commit to joy.

    Gratitude precedes and follows joy. When I am grateful for the gifts of life and a precious human body – even if it hurts – joy finds me more easily. When I am grateful for the presence of others in my life – even when they annoy me – joy considers staying for a spell. When I am grateful for my problems and recognize the blessing in adversity, joy signs the lease. Then it is up to me to see to it that joy wants to stay.

    Joy is always an option; we must choose it to make it reality. When I took a three-year residential course – The Development of Human Capacities – with Jean Houston, I lived in a dorm with a shower that dripped unless tightly turned off. The first few times I went into the women’s washroom, I turned the drip off with a muttered curse. (“A pox upon those who waste water.”) The third time I did so, I grabbed myself by the shirt front, got up into my own face, and laid down the law: “You may ignore the shower, or you may turn the drip off with a smile on your face and goodwill in your heart. No other choices. Get your attitude together girl!” This is how one lives a life of joy – by choice.

    I am an ordained High Priestess of the Goddess. She says: “All acts of beauty and pleasure are in honor of me.” I am the priestess of joy. I have taken refuge in the black hat lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, which reminds me that I create my own suffering by the stories I tell myself. (And suffering is the true opposite of joy.) I take refuge in joy. And I sit ZaZen, which confronts me with the ultimate truth: It is how it is. Smile. This is how one lives a joyous life: by being its priestess, by taking refuge in it, by acknowledging it.

    Joy is often killed by degrees. Comparisons. Assumptions. Expectations. Joy’s murderers. Routine. Inertia. Exhaustion. Joy’s poisoners. Self-pity. Envy. Contempt. Joy’s abusers. Leading a joyous life, like growing your own vegetables, requires consistent daily tending to the small details.

    Joy is like a butterfly. It is not meant to be grasped, only experienced.  It is sturdier than it seems, but unexpectedly fragile. Often fleeting, yet eternally present in memory.  And, like the butterfly, joy may emerge after a seeming death, it may start out as an ordinary, unremarkable, many-footed thing. Never underestimate joy. It really is all around you, right now. To lead a joyous life is simple. One simply starts from the premise: “Life is bliss.”


    Helpers for leading a joyous life.

    •  Joy is warm and sunny; so are the places where St. John’s/Joan’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) grows. Dropperful doses of the tincture of the cheery yellow flowers, taken 2-3 times a day, cures the blues, banishes pain, and engenders easy joy..
    • Joy likes swings and slides. Take a child to the playground and see if joy doesn’t come along for the ride. Repeat frequently.
    • Baby goats are the embodiment of pure joy. Spend as many days of your life as possible in their company. Be really present, so you can relive their capricious capers with vivid memories of joyous abandon. Learn a thing or two about kicking up your own heels while you’re at it.
    • Cultivate your inner smile with the help of Mantauk Chia. Following his suggestion, I began my day with five minutes of out-loud laughter. Though I found it difficult at first, I persisted, and was delighted when my laughter echoed throughout my day.
    • Living the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing remains one of the best testaments to the joy of living simply. Peace Pilgrim is another favorite for roadmaps to joy.
  • Tuesday, November 26, 2019 8:00 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

     Ritual Interlude: Crone’s Ceremony of Commitment to Her Community
    by Susun Weed

    Excerpt from New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way, Alternative Approaches to Menopause for Women 30-90 by Susun S. Weed

    As the menopausal years draw to a close and you find yourself more stable in your new self, feeling more like your “old self” as you become your older self, it is time to manifest the last stage of initiation: rebirth.

    You've spent time in some form of isolation as you journeyed the unpredictable years of menopause. You have given death to your images of yourself as Maiden, as Mother. You have crowned yourself, or been crowned as, Crone. Your metamorphosis is complete. Now comes the time to return to your community. To assume your new roles.

    You return as Crone. You hold your wise blood inside. You have learned how to spiral the updrafts of hot flashes. You have learned detachment in the midst of emotional hurricanes.

    You have submitted yourself to chaos and have witnessed the most ancient of all mysteries. How can you share this with your community?

    In the days of the matriarchy, and in some matrifocal cultures yet, a woman who has completed her menopausal metamorphosis initiates young men into the ways of love play most pleasing to women.

    She is honored as the teller of truth and the keeper of peace. She is the one the tradition keeper and the people's link to the spirit world.

    Today, there are no givens. We are each free to choose our own role as Crone. A ritual of commitment helps others know what your new roles will be.

    Here is one example to guide you.

    For this ritual, gather an audience of friends, family, and significant others, the more the better. You could compare it, at least in mood, to a wedding or a christening. Wait until at least thirteen moons after your Crone's Crowning ceremony before doing this ritual.

    Let there be music and sweet scents as you gather. At the appointed time, call everyone together to join hands. You alone remain outside the circle.

    When the circle is complete, begin a hum, vibrating from the feet. Let it move and spiral until the group energy feels whole. With the hum of the group supporting you, ask nourishment, breath, and inspiration, the powers of the east, to be present. Ask heat, protection, and excitement, the powers of the south, to be present. Ask emotion, fluidity, and compassion, the powers of the west, to be present. Ask stillness, patience, and wisdom, the powers of the north, to be present. Ask the above and the below to be present. Ask the inner core of each person to be present.

    Ask the circle to open and include you, symbolizing your return to community life. In your own words affirm: “I stand before you as self-initiated Crone, woman of wholeness. Though I have lived for many years, I expect to live for many more. Today, and for the rest of my life, I ask you to accept and honor me as Crone. And I wish to commit to you, my community and family, my intention as Crone to. . . “

    (Speak your intent.)

    The oldest woman present gives you a ball of yarn; she holds the end. You move around the circle, unwinding a long continuous thread into everyone's outstretched hands. When you're done, ask everyone to stretch the yarn taut between their hands, close their eyes and think of something they would like to end.

    After a minute of silence, begin to move to your right around the circle, cutting the yarn between their hands and saying, in your own words: “I am She-Who-Holds-Her-Wise-Blood-Inside. I have crowned myself Crone and accepted the responsibility of giving death. I cut the thread. I set it free.” When you finish, invite each person to keep the yarn or to place it in a special basket, to be left outdoors as a give-away.

    To close, hum as before, asking the entire circle to join you. Thank the energies and attributes of the seven directions (inside, below, above, north, west, south, and east). Then, let there be feasting and dancing, music and pleasure, flowers and feathers, spring water and herbal wine, lit candles and lovely clothing. You have completed your menopausal years. You are truly Crone, woman of wholeness.

    This ceremony marks the beginning, of your new identity as Crone. Most older women I spoke with felt they didn't fully settle into their new self image until the age of 60, or after their second Saturn return.

  • Monday, November 25, 2019 8:00 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weight Gain
    by Susun Weed

    "Pack your bags for the journey," Grandmother Growth advises softly. "Your Change may be rough in places, so cushion yourself. Your Change may have some hard edges, so let your contours round. Your wise blood is stirring and you are learning to let it move without attaching fear to its meanderings. In the same way, you can gracefully allow your natural weight gain. Struggling with your weight or dieting is bad medicine for you now, resulting only in thin bones that break easily, extreme hormone shifts that will keep you from sleeping and thinking, and an inner fire reduced to ashes or burning out of control. Pack your bags, slowly, dear one. There is no rush," sighs Grandmother Growth, closing her eyes and sinking into a nap.

    The best ally you can have on your menopausal journey is ten "extra" pounds. I know you don't want to hear this. I understand how difficult it is to desire ten extra pounds (or accept it happening to you, as it does to most menopausal women). You may have spent much of your life trying to get rid of ten extra pounds. The ultimate failure as a woman nowadays is not to be infertile, but to gain weight.

    When thin and young is the standard of beauty, any menopausal woman might find it difficult to maintain a positive self image as she sees herself becoming a thick-waisted, silver-haired Crone.

    I had some killer hot flashes, but the most difficult part of menopause for me was gaining weight. I knew it was going to happen; I knew it was supposed to happen. But I never thought it would happen. I read the studies; I knew that most healthy women, thin or thick or in between, gained ten to fifteen pounds during their menopausal years. But not me, I thought. I eat superbly. I exercise: an hour and a half of yoga every week, tai chi, and my ordinary farm chores (moving and splitting firewood, throwing bales of hay, hauling water, chasing goats). Not me.

    Yes, me. I watched my image in the mirror take on a shape more and more closely approximating the Venus figurines of pre-history. And my modern prejudices surged to the fore: "Yuck. You look disgusting. You're overweight. It isn't healthy. Lose weight!" I knew it wasn't true. But despite years of feminism and consciousness-raising on every -ism, from ageism to weightism, there was my culture yelling at me in my own mind every time I looked in the mirror.

    Now I looked like my aunts. Now I looked like a woman. It was as strange and unfamiliar as the sprouting of my breasts and pubic hair at puberty. I remember standing in my clothes closet at the age of thirteen, wistfully and resentfully removing my favorite little-girl dresses, none of which fit.

    Not looking in the mirror didn't help. (I didn't have to resist looking at the scale. I don't own one.) My clothes didn't fit. First it was my blouses: my buttons gaping and my t-shirts straining. Then it was my pants: Tight waistbands became absolutely impossible. My size fluctuated widely from morning to night, growing bigger as the day went on. For several months, I walked around the house with my pants unfastened from dinner until bedtime, a menopausal symptom my sweetheart was completely in favor of.

    Fortunately, I knew that dieting would not improve my health, and could easily harm me. But without the loving acceptance I felt from my lover, I might have faltered and given in to the desire to resist this change with all my might. I might have given up on being proud to look like a postmenopausal woman: like Margaret Mead, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony.

    I wish for every menopausal woman someone to tell her each evening when she disrobes, how goddess-like, how voluptuous, how attractive and desirable she is, and to say with her: "The best ally I can have on my menopausal journey is ten extra pounds"
    Of course, I don't mean ten pounds of ordinary fat. You want ten pounds of healthy fat supported by healthy muscle and bone And you want to gain that weight very, very slowly. Ideally about a pound or two a year during menopause. Remember, you are cushioning yourself for the journey. Love yourself as you get "in shape" for Change.

    Step 1. Collect information . . .
    o Fat cells convert androstenedione, a substance produced by the adrenals and the ovaries, into estrone, the primary postmenopausal estrogen. Women who gain weight during menopause have less severe hot flashes, an easier Change, and denser bones, according to menopause advocate, and long-time editor of A Friend Indeed, the Newsletter of Menopause, Jeanine O'Leary Cobb.
    o Despite pronouncements that extra fat is a health risk, weight gained during the menopausal years is not associated with any increase in mortality risk.1
    o And losing it will not improve your health.2,3
    o In fact, weight loss can lead to thyroid malfunction, severe gall bladder problems, increased insulin-resistance, and weakening of the cardiovascular and immune systems.4
    o If you don't have a sweetie to tell you your bigger body is bodacious, read:
    + Radiance: The Magazine for Large Women; POBox 30246, Oakland, CA 94604.
    + Healthy Weight Journal; PO Box 620, LCD1, Hamilton, ON; L8N 3K7, Canada. 1-800-568-7281.

    Step 2. Engage the energy . . .
    "The first time I saw pictures of my postmenopausal self I was frightened by my size!"
    o Give yourself permission to take up more space. Allow your needs to be uppermost. Enlarge your view of yourself. Enlarge your world.
    o If you don't already do an hour or more of yoga, tai chi, or some other meditative physical exercise weekly, begin . . . now.
    o Go to an art gallery, or get a book from your library, and find a picture of an attractive woman with a round proud belly. Meditate with her. Become her for a moment. Feel the energy in your belly. Feel the wise blood stirring within your belly. Stirring and simmering and sending its heat up along the energy pathways of your body. Be proud of yourself and your belly.
    o Say a short prayer of thanksgiving, or sing a song, or light a candle, or observe a moment of silence before you eat. Affirm that the food will bring you health and pleasure.

    Step 3. Nourish and tonify . . .
    o Give up dieting. Eat the widest variety of whole foods possible. Don't make any foods absolutely forbidden. What you eat everyday has the most effect. The best way to stop worrying about weight gain is to eat ten or more servings of fruit and vegetables, three or more servings of whole grains, and a cup of yogurt daily.
    o To insure that you add hormonally-helpful, bone-strengthening, empowering fat, include one serving of a high calorie phytoestrogen-rich food and three servings of super mineral-rich foods in your daily diet.
    + High-calorie hormone-rich foods include olives, olive oil, organic butter, freshly ground flax seeds, homemade beer, alcohol-free beer, fresh peanut butter.
    + Super mineral-rich foods include nourishing herbal infusions of nettle, oatstraw, red clover, or comfrey leaf; cooked greens such as kale, collards, lamb's quarter, amaranth, mustard; seaweeds; whey; whole grains including oats, millet, wheat, and brown rice; bittersweet chocolate.
    o Beer is traditionally brewed from hops and sprouted whole grains. The fermentation creates easily assimilated B vitamins and liberates minerals. One beer a week will slowly increase your weight, improve your memory, soothe your nerves, and improve your immune system. A cup of hops tea with a spoonful of barley-malt sweetener is an alcohol-free alternative.

    Step 4. Stimulate/Sedate . . .
    o Most herbal remedies sold for weight loss include stimulants which can disturb heart function, and diuretic and laxative herbs which can cause excessive fluid loss and disrupt electrolyte balance. This may lead to life-threatening events during the menopausal years, when heart and adrenal functions are unstable. Avoid all "weight-loss" herbs.
    o If you are determined to lose weight during your menopausal years, here are some safe strategies.
    + Eat a substantial breakfast and a large lunch and skimp on dinner. Absolutely avoid midnight snacks.
    + Eat a cup/250 ml of fresh chickweed daily or take a dropperful of the fresh plant tincture in some water during or after every meal (at least four times a day).
    + Gently simmer a handful of dried or fresh bladderwrack (fucus) seaweed for 15 minutes in enough water to cover. Strain. Drink a cup before each meal for no more than three months.
    + Eat a bowl of hot soup at the beginning of the meal. You will feel more sated and eat less. Cold soups and drinks do not have the same effect. .
    o Keep active. But you don't have to buy any spandex. Five-minute periods of exercise, done several times a day, every day, are better than one long session once a week. Weight lost as a result of increased physical activity is safer than weight lost through diet manipulation. Lift weights.
    o Depression can be associated with intense cravings for starchy foods. If we satisfy these cravings with mineral-rich foods (including chocolate), the depression will be "treated" and will dissipate. If we attempt to satisfy these cravings with mineral-deprived white flour and white sugar, the depression will deepen. (Also, see depression, pages XXXX.)

    Step 5b. Use drugs . . .
    o Appetite-suppressant drugs upset your metabolic rate and make it harder and harder for you to maintain a normal weight with a normal diet. Avoid all drugs and herbs and supplements of any kind that claim to suppress your appetite.

    Step 6. Break and enter . . .
    o Science is ready to help you deny your increasing wisdom and power by liposuctioning fat from your derrière and adding it to your face to plump out wrinkles. 

  • Monday, November 18, 2019 7:52 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    If You Decide to Have a Mammogram
    excerpt from Breast Cancer? Breast Health!
    the Wise Woman Way

    by Susun Weed

    Are there other ways to find early-stage breast cancers?

    In addition to physical examination and breast self-massage, thermography and ultrasound are safe tests available to women who wish to avoid mammograms.

    Thermography gives a picture of the heat patterns in the breasts (cancers are hotter than the surrounding tissues). Ultrasound bounces sound waves off the breast tissues to measure their density (cancer is denser than the surrounding tissues). Other techniques used to image breast tissues, such as digital mammography and rely on radioactivity and are inherently unsafe.

    If You Decide to Have a Mammogram

    •    Get the best, even if it means a long journey.

    •    Go where they specialize, preferably where they do at least 20 mammograms a day.

    •    Be sure the facility is accredited by the American College of Radiology.

    •    Insist on personnel who specialize in mammograms. (Taking and reading mammograms are skills that require intensive training and a lot of practice.)

    •    Ask how old the equipment is. Newer equipment exposes the breasts to less radiation. A dedicated unit (one specifically for mammograms) is best.

    •    Ask how they ensure quality control. When was their unit calibrated?

    •    Load your blood with carotenes for a week before the mammogram to prevent radiation damage to your DNA.

    •    Expect to be cold and uncomfortable during the mammogram, but do say something if you're being hurt.o The more compressed the breast tissue, the clearer the mammogram. (But pressure may spread cancer cells if they're present.)

    •    If your breasts are tender, reschedule. During your fertile years, schedule mammograms for 7-10 days after your menstrual flow begins.

    •    Don't wear antiperspirant containing aluminum; it can interfere with the imaging process. (Those clear stones do contain aluminum, as do most commercial antiperspirants.)

    •    If you want another opinion, you'll need the original mammographic films, not copies. (X-ray facilities only keep films for 7 years.)

    •    Get your doctor to agree, in writing, before the procedure, to give you a copy of your mammogram. The U.S. Public Health Service advises women to ask for written results from a mammogram.

    •    Given the high percentage of "false normal" mammograms, if you think you have cancer, trust your intuition.

    •    Remove radioactive isotopes from your body with burdock root, seaweed, or miso.

    Mammograms don't promote breast health. Breast self-massage, breast self-exam, and lifestyle changes do.

  • Monday, November 18, 2019 5:37 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Becoming a Herbalist
    Part Three
    by Susun S. Weed

    From Ohio to Texas to California to New York to the open road and back again to the Catskills, my path may have seemed meandering, but it was as purposeful as any river, carrying me closer and closer to the sea, though I little comprehended where I was headed.

    The Quonset hut on the side of a Catskill mountain was a safe refuge while my daughter's dad served time in Danbury Federal Correctional Institute for being a "menace to society." But within months I realized my savings would soon run out. I loved to draw, so I decided to get a job as an artist. I prepared my portfolio and began the arduous process of trying to sell myself to art directors in Manhattan, a two-hour bus ride away.

    Many were interested, but no one would hire me. Someone finally told me outright that he would never hire a single mom. What to do? There were no local jobs that would pay me enough to pay another women to watch my child while I worked and still leave me enough left over to pay the bills. (This was also the genesis of my feminism. Up until now, I had always thought I was one of the "guys.")

    I applied for Aid to Dependent Children. Though there were depressingly long waits, seeming ignorance of basic human needs, and all kinds of frustrations associated with getting approved (and staying approved) for "welfare," it was definitely the right choice for my daughter and I, allowing us to continue our adventures in fairyland: the magical realm we entered when we stepped outside and opened ourselves to the timeless abundance of Nature.

    Nature is incredibly rich and giving. But even with all that, living on welfare wasn't easy. There was never enough money. And my daughter seemed to need new shoes with alarming frequency. I was talking to a neighbor about my dilemma, when he made the outrageous suggestion that I teach at a local community college.

    "I can't do that!" I replied. "First, I'll be thrown off welfare if they even so much as suspect I'm working. Second, I don't have a license to teach. Third, I don't have any credentials, not even a high school diploma."

    He calmly explained that the adult education department allowed anyone to offer a course, required no credentials, and although I would get paid $25 per class, I wouldn't really be employed (no social security number needed) and he sincerely doubted that I would get "caught." It seemed absurd; it seemed liked a miracle. I rolled the idea over and over in my mind, until at last I could envision myself teaching a class. Yes! A class in whole wheat bread baking!

    I sent in my proposal. They published it. Students signed up. With nerves quivering, I began to teach. We made wholewheat bread. We made wholewheat rolls. We made wholewheat bagels. We made wholewheat croissants. We made wholewheat pretzels. We made wholewheat crackers. We made wholewheat chocolate chip cookies. We made: "The best bread you ever ate! You make it yourself, with love." And my daughter got new shoes.

    Everything was settling into place. And then I met the woman who was to change my life forever. You wouldn't have known it to look at her. And who could have missed seeing her -- a women who appeared to be ten months pregnant, standing beside the road with a babe in arms and three huge bags of laundry, hitching a ride? I not only took her to town, I waited while she did the laundry and brought her home. She lived on the other side of the mountain from me. And she was wildly interested in herbal medicine.

    Our friendship took root in the fertile soil of our motherhood, our love of plants, and our respect for the Mother. Soon there was a trail over the mountain, connecting our houses by a far shorter route than the five mile drive around the mountain. Every plant, every rivulet, every fern, every rock, every mushroom along the mile and a half of that trail was soon as familiar to me as the inside of my eyes.

    As they grew, our girls visited each other by means of the trail. Often they found special treats for dinner. One guest, incredulous, as I began to cook the mushrooms handed to me by my six-year-old daughter, gasped: "You're going to eat wild mushrooms picked by a child?!" "Before I would eat any you picked," I retorted. "She's been doing this since she could walk. And she's closer to the ground than adults," I added with a smile, "so she can identify them better."

    And it was true. There was rarely a day that we didn't spend time together practicing our skills in identifying and eating the wild abundance around us -- even if it was only a salad of weeds from the garden. One day, out in the woods, my friend complained to me that her husband didn't seem to understand how difficult it was to be home alone all day with two small children. "If he comes home from work one more time and criticizes me for a messy house and a late dinner, I might kill him," she confided.

    "Don't even think of that," I counseled her. "What you need is a night off once a week. Let him deal with the kids alone for even a few hours and I bet he'll change his tune."

    "But he would never agree to that," she sighed.

    "What if you were working?" I asked. "You could teach a course at the local community college!"

    "But I don't have a license. I don't have degrees! I can't teach!" she protested as I laughingly explained to her that those were not valid objections. And so she decided, after a few weeks thought, that she would do it. She would teach a class in herbal medicine.

    "And that means we have to study really hard," she told me. "Every day between now [May] and when college starts in September." That's what we did. Everyday. We redoubled our efforts to identify and learn about the plants around us. Every day. With our daughters in tow, or on our own, everyday. Everyday. Rain or heat or mist, we roamed the mountains, the fields, the streamsides, the vacant lots, the meadows, with our field guides in hand. And we brought the bounty back to our kitchens, where we cooked and compounded and decocted and infused and tried our hands at every preparation listed in the books.

    Friends stopped coming to dinner after one especially wild soup spilled on the floor and removed a stain that had been there for years. But we were undaunted and indefatigable, avid and eager. And the class was a great success. On every level. For indeed, her husband did change his tune after spending the evening alone with his two rambunctious young daughters: to one of respect. In fact, the family got so tight, they decided to build a camper on their pickup and go off for a month of summertime fun.

    "I'm looking for paradise!" my friend yelled as she waved goodbye.

    "I found paradise!" she said on the other end of the phone, a month later. "And we're not coming back."

    "But what about your class?" I pleaded, thinking that guilt might be more effective than friendship in luring her home.

    "My class?" Her voice sounded far away. "Oh, my herbal medicine class! Well, you'll just have to teach it."

    ~ Read Part One ~

    ~ Read Part Two ~

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 1:35 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    by Susun S. Weed


    Herbalism, the use of plants for health and healing, is as old as humanity, if not older. In hunting/gathering societies, women are naturally the herbalists. This connection between women and herbs continues today. At the turn of the Century, herbalism in America is undergoing a renaissance. Throughout most of the rest of the world, especially in countries where women's wisdom has traditionally been honored, herbalism remains, as ever, the treatment of choice for many acute and most chronic health problems. Herbal medicine is a complex and daunting study; yet it is the medicine of the people and so simple that children safely apply it.

    The earliest known herbalism is the Wise Woman Way: the way of our foremothers out of Africa, our ancient female ancestors. Herbalism is still used and respected in many places, especially the Orient, the mid-East, and India.

    Wise women view herbs as spiritual allies and intrinsically important foodstuffs as well as medicines. Psychoactive plants are both teachers and healers, and are used, under the guidance of the herbalist/shaman, by all members of the community. Compassion, connection, community, and honor for the Earth characterize Wise Woman herbalism. The nourishing herbal infusions, mineral-rich vinegars, and edible herbs favored by wise women are generally considered safe, even in quantity, for all women, including those pregnant and lactating.

    Favorite herbs include nourishing tonics such as nettle, red clover, oatstraw, comfrey leaf, linden, dandelion, seaweed, and burdock.

    In Europe, and then in the Americas, the Inquisition targeted Wise Woman herbalists/midwives and (often through torture and murder) replaced them with male Heroes, who used herbs to drive out the devils of illness from the hated body. Herbs that caused catharsis and purging were elevated, as was blood-letting.

    The Heroic tradition, despising all things female, licensed only men as healers. Anyone who practiced without a license (women) was persecuted. Some escaped to the Americas, learned Native American herbal medicine, and served their communities - only to be vilified and replaced by school-trained male physicians from England several generations later. The Heroic tradition is still popular in Europe and in Latin and Black communities throughout the Americas. Domination, mentation, isolation, and distrust of the Earth (who is female and therefore considered sinful and dirty) characterize Heroic medicine.

    Favorite herbs include powerful stimulants and sedatives such as cayenne, lobelia, valerian, ephedra, golden seal, cascara sagrada, turkey rhubarb, and aloes. Most Heroic herbs are dangerous to women, especially if pregnant or lactating.

    Where the practice of medicine becomes dominated by linear, either/or thinking, the Scientific tradition replaces the Heroic. Women and their connection to herbs are again vilified, as quacks, rather than as witches. The quest for powerful drugs brings plants to the laboratory, where active ingredients are extracted, concentrated, isolated, standardized, sanitized, and ultimately synthesized. Plants are raw materials, crude, inexact, and unpredictable.

     Approximately 85 percent of the hundreds of thousands of drugs currently used are directly or indirectly derived from plants; eg foxglove (digitalis compounds), Pacific yew (cancer drug), wild yam (cortisone, birth control pills), and chinchona (quinine). Drugs and drug-like herbs cause severe side effects and should not be self-administered by pregnant and lactating women.


    • Achterberg, Jeanne. Woman As Healer: A panoramic survey of the healing activities of women from prehistoric times to the present. Shambala (Boston), 1990.
    • Benedetti, Maria Dolores. Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico. Verde Luz (Orocovis, Puerto Rico), 1998.
    • Bennett, Jennifer. Lilies of the Hearth: The Historical Relationship Between Women & Plants. Firefly (Willowdale, Ontario, Canada), 1991.
    • Brooke, Elisabeth. Medicine Women: A Pictorial History of Women Healers. Quest Books (Wheaton, Illinois & Madras, India), 1997.
    • Women Healers: Portraits of Herbalists, Physicians, and Midwives. Healing Arts Press (Rochester, Vermont), 1995.
    • Chamberlain, Mary. Old Wives Tales: Their History, Remedies and Spells. Virago (London), 1981
    • Christopher, Dr. John R. School of Natural Healing: The Reference Volume on Heroic Herbal Therapy for the Teacher, Student, or Practitioner. Christopher Publications, 1976.
    • Griggs, Barbara. Green Pharmacy: The History and Evolution of Western Medicine. Healing Arts Press (Rochester, Vermont), 1997.
    • McClain, Carol Shepherd. Women As Healers: Cross Cultural Perspectives. Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick and London), 1989.
    • Vogel, Virgil J. American Indian Medicine. University of Oklahoma Press (Norman & London), 1970.
    • Weed, Susun S. Healing Wise: The Second Wise Woman Herbal. Ash Tree Publishing (Woodstock, New York), 1989.
    • Wichtl, Max (edited and translated from the German by Norman Grainger Bisset). Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. Medpharm Verlag (Stuttgart) & CRC Press (Boca Raton, Ann Arbor, London, Tokyo), 1994

            Note: These resources are but a fraction of what is available. My emphasis is on the history of herbalism and the Wise Woman tradition, but I have included one Heroic (Christopher) and one Scientific (Wichtl) reference.


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  • Wednesday, October 23, 2019 1:50 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Burdock seed (Arctium lappa)

    Those stick-in-your-hair-and-on-your-dog-and-on-your-sweater-too burdock burrs hold a wealth of seeds revered for their medicinal powers. Many plants have seeds that are easier to harvest than their roots, but burdock is not one of them.

    Digging first year roots (not yet) is hard work, but getting at the seeds is stickery prickery work.

    For details on exactly how to handle the seed heads and how to make Burdock Seed Scalp Tonic, please check out the burdock section in Healing Wise.

  • Wednesday, October 23, 2019 1:29 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Apple time. Cider. Sauce. Yummy.

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