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  • Saturday, October 06, 2018 10:24 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Glorious Goldenrod
    by Susun Weed




    I love autumn; don't you? The days shorten and fall colors thrill my senses. Perennial roots get busy storing nourishment that will last them through the winter. And the meadows bloom with purple asters and riotous goldenrod flowers.

    Goldenrod (the Solidago genus, Asteracea family) is one of my favorite plants, and hopefully, soon it will be one of your favorites too.

    Before you complain that goldenrod is a pest and you're allergic to it, let me set the record straight: You aren't. No one is, no one can be, allergic to goldenrod pollen. Why? It has virtually none. What little pollen it makes is sticky, all the better to stick onto insects who pollinate the goldenrod. Only wind-pollinated plants -- like ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), which blooms at the same time as goldenrod, and has an especially irritating pollen -- make enough pollen, and spread it widely enough, to cause allergic reactions.

    Set aside your mistaken bad thoughts about lovely goldenrod, and, if you can, visit a patch. Goldenrod is a wide-spread wild plant in North America (found from Florida to New Hampshire and west into Texas), Europe, and Asia. Goldenrod is also treasured as a garden plant from New Zealand to Germany, and has become a highly-successful weed in Japan. So, no matter where you live as you read this article, it is likely that you can find a patch of goldenrod.

    It is rare to see one goldenrod plant growing alone; it multiplies by sending out root runners, so there are usually dozens of plants growing densely together. Notice all the bees and insects happily crawling about on goldenrod's numerous small yellow flowers.

    There are many types of goldenrod, and you are likely to find several kinds if you look around. The species Solidago canadensis and S. odora are considered the most medicinal (and the tastiest), but all species of goldenrod are safe and beneficial and can be used to help the immune system get ready for winter.

    Goldenrod tonics are easy to make. Harvest any goldenrod by cutting the top third of the plant in full flower on a sunny fall day. Or, respectfully pull the entire plant, roots and all, in the late autumn or early winter. Then follow the simple directions below. Note: You can use any size jar when making a vinegar or a tincture, so long as you fill it full.

    To dry flowering goldenrod: Bundle 2-3 stalks together and hang upside down in a cool, shady room until thoroughly dry. When the stalks snap crisply, store the dried herb in brown paper bags. One or two large handfuls of crushed leaves and flowers, steeped in a quart of boiling water for thirty minutes makes a tea that can be used hot, with honey, to counter allergies (especially pollen allergies), fevers, sore throats, coughs, colds and the flu; or taken cold to relieve colic in babies, and gas in adults. Dried mint and/or yarrow are tasty, and useful, additions when making goldenrod flower tea.

    To dry goldenrod roots: Rinse dirt off the roots, then cut away all th estalks, leaves and dead flowers. If possible, hang your roots over a woodstove to dry; if not, place them on racks and put them in a warm place to dry until brittle. Store in glass jars. Depending on the difficulty you are addressing, goldenrod root tea may be made with large or small amounts of the roots brewed or decocted in boiling water. Or the roots may be powdered, alone or mixed with flowers, and applied to hard-to-heal wounds and sore joints.

    To make a goldenrod vinegar: Chop the goldenrod coarsely, filling a jar with chopped flowers, leaves, stalks (and roots if you have them); then fill the jar to the top with room-temperature, pasteurized, apple cider vinegar. Cap it tightly with a plastic lid. (Metal lids will be eroded by the action of the vinegar. If you must use one, protect it with several layers of plastic between it and the vinegar.) Be sure to label your vinegar with the date and contents. Your goldenrod vinegar will be ready to use in six weeks to improve mineral balance, help prevent kidney stones, eliminate flatulance, and improve immune functioning.

    To make a goldenrod tincture: Chop the goldenrod coarsely, filling a jar with chopped flowers, leaves, stalks (and roots if you have them); then add 100 proof vodka, filling the jar to the very top. Cap tightly and label. Your goldenrod tincture will be ready to use in six weeks, by the dropperful, as an anti-inflammatory, a sweat-inducing cold cure, and an astringent digestive aid. Medical herbalists use large doses (up to 4 dropperfuls at a time) of goldenrod tincture several times daily to treat kidney problems -- including nephritis, hemorrhage, kidney stones, and inability to void -- and prostate problems, including frequent urination.

    The colonists called goldenrod tea "Liberty Tea," for they drank it instead of black tea after the Boston Tea Party. In fact, Liberty Tea proved so popular, it was exported to China! Let goldenrod liberate you, too. Herbal medicine is people's medicine, a gift from Mama Earth to us.


    Green Blessings.

  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018 9:27 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)



    Shiso (Perilla frutescens)



    Red-leaved shiso, also known by the awkward name “beefsteak plant,” is wonderfully easy to grow and a delight to the eyes and the palate. Like holy basil (tulsi) – its sister – shiso is an adaptogen with high levels of antioxidants.

    I love shiso in salads, gazpacho, marinated cucumber dishes, and anywhere else a dash of color and an interesting taste is welcome. Right now I am making shiso vinegar, shiso honey, and shiso pesto so I can enjoy it all winter too.

    This pungent, aromatic, warming herb is known for its antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, tonic, carminative, diaphoretic, emollient, expectorant, and pectoral actions. No wonder its considered so useful when dealing with asthma, colds and chills, nausea (a tea of the stalks is traditional in China as a remedy for morning sickness), abdominal pain, food poisoning, allergic reactions (especially from seafood), bronchitis and even constipation. The juice helps heal cuts and wounds.

    The high-protein tasty seeds are antiasthmatic, antitussive, emollient and expectorant. But don’t eat too many, as shiso self-sows readily if sufficient seeds are left on the stalks. As with all mints, there are lots of varieties of shiso available. I prefer the red-leaved shiso because I am into consuming high levels of the antioxidant anthocyanin, found in purple and blue plant parts.

    More info on Shiso:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbDq6k6pKAk

  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018 8:54 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Good Enough to Live (Not Die) For Stir-Fry \ Serves 3-4



    • 6-8 large cloves garlic, sliced thinly
    • 1 tablespoon/15 ml olive oil
    • 1 cup/250 ml fresh shiitake, sliced or 1 ounce/30 grams dried
    • 2-4 fresh yellow dock roots
    • 1-2 fresh burdock roots
    • 1-2 fresh dandelion roots
    • 1 pound/ 500 grams tofu cut in cubes
    • 2 cups/500 ml cooked fresh stinging nettles
    • 1/2 cup/125 mI almonds
    • 1 tablespoon/15 ml tamari


    Cook garlic briefly in oil at the lowest possible heat. Raise heat a little. Add mushrooms and cook for several minutes, stirring often. Slice roots thinly on the diagonal and add them to the skillet. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add tofu, nettle leaves, and some of the nettle cooking water. Cover tightly and cook at medium-high heat for five minutes. While it cooks, slice and toast almonds. To serve, pour over soba (buckwheat noodles) or brown rice, sprinkle with tamari, and garnish generously with almonds.

  • Tuesday, September 18, 2018 8:18 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)



    Fresh hypericum tincture or oil


    On the sunniest day of the summer, look in fields and along roadsides for the yellow flowers of Hypericum perforatum (aka St. John’s/St. Joan’s wort) and get ready to make two of the Great Remedies. Take both 100 proof vodka and pure olive oil with you when you go out to stalk St. John’s/St. Joan’s wort, bottles of various sizes, and a pair of sharp scissors.


    Depending on the abundance or scarcity of flowers, I harvest anything from just the blossoms to the top third of the Hypericum plant. So long as the day is sunny and the plants dry the tincture will be active and medicinal even if it contains a fair amount of stalk and leaves. I also make a quart of this tincture as I use it frequently, in dropperful doses.


    If you are using tops rather than just flowers, chop as needed. I often harvest Hypericum flowers right into my jar and fill it with vodka or oil while still afield, insuring optimum freshness and maximum fairy blessings.


    Cover tightly. Label. I do not put my oil in the sun, but some people swear by it. Try one each way and see what you think. Your St. J’s tincture and your St. J’s oil will be ready to use in six weeks.

  • Tuesday, September 18, 2018 5:50 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Summer Milkweed Blossom Salad

    Susun Weed





    All parts of the milkweed contain a mild poison. Just as the monarch caterpillar can eat some and survive, so can we. Just don’t overdo it, or you may experience gastrointestinal distress.

    • 2 cups cottage cheese
    • 2 cups fruit of the season
    • ½ cup milkweed flowers
    • ¼ cup roasted nuts


    Prepare the fruit by removing pits or seeds and cutting into bite sized pieces. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and peaches are in my markets when the milkweed is blooming.

    Put the cottage cheese into a serving bowl. Add prepared fruit and milkweed blossoms and stir gently to mix. Sprinkle nuts on top and serve.

  • Monday, September 17, 2018 7:17 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    The Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses, part 2
    Susun Weed




    The taste of the East, place of newness, is sweet and bland. Mother's milk is sweet and bland. The cereal crops (wheat, rice, corn) are sweet and bland. The East is Food, and it connects to the realm of the herbivores. The plants of the East give us NOURISHMENT.

    Salty is the taste of the South, place of sweat and blood. Seaweed and miso are salty, just as amniotic fluid is salty. The South is Tonics, and it connects to the realm of the ocean. The plants of the South are a TURN ON.

    In the West, place of death and the ancestors, the taste is intensely bitter, horribly bitter, inedibly bitter -- a bitter that increases even after you spit it out. Bitter as gall. Medicinal drugs are bitter. Poisons are bitter. The West connects to the realm of the mushrooms, those non-flowering plants that live on dead and decaying matter. The plants of the West can CHANGE YOUR MIND.

    And in the North, place of deepness and clarity, the taste is aromatic. Here are the herbs you buy at the grocery store; most of them are in the mint family. These are the herbs your mother uses, the seasoning herbs, the ones loaded with aromatic oils. The realm of the oils connects to the North. And the plants of the North give us WISDOM.

    We will look deeply at each of the directions, its taste, the Goddesses who guard it, the realms it opens, and the lessons each has to teach us.

    The four moving questions:
    The answers to these questions will change where a plant appears on the medicine wheel.

    1. What part? The leaves and berries of Phytolacca americana (poke) can be eaten, the roots and seeds are used cautiously as medicines but are considered poisonous. The petioles of rhubarb are eaten, but the leaves and root are not. Burdock root is sweet, the leaves are incredibly bitter. One of my pet peeves: Herbals that tell me to use a particular plant but give no clue as to the part of the plant I should use.

    2. When harvested? The amount and type of constituents in a plant differs at different times of the year. Perennial roots store winter food in the form of carbohydrates. Dig poke roots in the fall after the first frosts (cold weather concentrates the carbohydrates into the roots) and tincture it immediately in 100 proof vodka, and the alkaloids will be buffered by the sugars and starches (which precipitate out and must be shaken from the bottom up into the liquid before use). Roots dug in the spring will have a higher percentage of alkaloid, and may be more poisonous or more medicinal, depending on the plant. Even rhubarb changes as it grows (oxalates concentrate in it throughout the growing season), so it usually harvested only in the late spring, early summer.

    3. How prepared? If you harvest the right part of the rhubarb in the right season, but serve it raw instead of cooked, it would be unpalatable. If you harvest poke leaves at the right time (early spring), you could still poison yourself, unless you cook them in three changes of water.

    Different methods of preparation draw out different constituents from plants and move their position on the medicine wheel. If sugar cane is prepared by refining all the minerals out of it, it moves from the east to the west; it no longer nutritive, but now poisonous.

    Water is the universal solvent, so many herbs are dried and used as teas or infusions. Minerals, vitamins, sugars, starches, hormones, tannins, volatile oils, and some alkaloids (caffeine, for instance) dissolve well in water, given sufficient time or high enough heat. Fresh herbs are the best sources of volatile oils and are best made into teas. Dried herbs are better sources of nutrients and medicinal properties and are best made into infusions.

    Alcohol will dissolve and extract resins, oils, and alkaloids. It does not extract nutrients such as vitamins or minerals, but it does extract sugars, starches, and hormones.

    Vinegar is the best menstruum for dissolving minerals out of plants. Apple cider vinegar -- pasteurized, please -- is my favorite choice.

    Fats and oils extract the oily and resinous properties of an herb, many of which are strongly antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and wound-healing.

    Traditional Chinese Medicine has many methods of preparation, and even the manner in which the herb is cut for drying is considered critical to the medicine. In addition to the commonly available forms of herbs (teas, tinctures, ointments, capsules), they also roast herbs, smoke herbs, fry herbs, and cook them with honey.

    4. How much to take? At last, a wonderful rhubarb pie! But better not eat more than one piece, or you'll be on the toilet all night. Plants of the East can generally be eaten in any quantity, even daily if necessary. Plants of the West need to be used in tiny amounts and rarely. Those from the South and North are used moderately, to correct and enliven the diet.

    The closer to the west the plant lies, the more critical the question of dose becomes. The difference between one cup of coffee and two is not so great, but the difference between one cup of digitalis and two is. The difference between 10 and 20 drops of most herbal tinctures is inconsequential, but the difference between 10 and 20 milligrams of a drug may be the difference between life and death. The question of dose is one that is hotly contested among herbalists, and, of course, the answers to the first three questions change the potency of the preparation and thus the answer to the fourth question.

    The difference between an herbal tea and an herbal infusion, or "standard brew" as Juliette de Bairacli Levy styles it, was for me, the difference between dabbling in herbs and using them effectively. So please pay attention here. This is important. To make an infusion: Place one ounce dried herb in a quart jar and fill it to the top with boiling water. Screw a tight lid onto it and allow it to sit, just like that, for at least 4 hours. (Can you hear the minerals dissolving, ever so slowly?) When your infusion is done, strain the plant material out, returning it to the earth, and drink the liquid, hot or cold or at room temperature. What you don't consume after straining is best kept in the refrigerator and drunk within 48 hours.

  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018 1:18 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Herbal Oil Infusion

    Making Infused Oils

    Excerpt from: Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way

    by Susun S. Weed





    Making Infused Oils


    ° Pick the plant on a dry, sunny day.


    ° Discard any diseased or soiled parts. Do not wash any part of the plant. If there is dirt on the plant, scrub it off with a stiff, dry brush.


    ° Chop the plant coarsely.


    ° Completely fill a clean, very dry jar with the chopped herb.


    ° Slowly pour oil into the jar, poking with a chopstick or knife to release air and make sure the oil penetrates into all layers of the herb.


    ° add enough oil to thoroughly cover all the plant material and fill the jar to the very rim. (As with preparing a tincture, it is really possible to fill that jar twice: once with herb and then again with the vehicle.)


    ° Cork the jar or screw on a lid.


    ° Label the jar with he name of the plant, the plant part used, the kind of oil used, and the date. Example: St. Joan's Wort, leaf and flower, olive oil, 21 June 1985.


    ° Keep the jar of infused oil at normal room temperature and on a surface that will not be ruined by seeping oil.


    ° Decant the infused oil in six weeks. The plants can be left in the oil longer, but have a tendency to mold and spoil if not kept very cool.


    ° Oil held in the plant material after the decanting can be extracted. Put small handfuls into a clean kitchen towel or cotton cloth; squeeze and wring out the oil.


    ° Allow the decanted oil to sit for several days while the water in it (from the fresh plant material) settles to the bottom of the jar. Then carefully siphon or pour off the oil, leaving the water behind.


    ° Store at cool room temperature or refrigerate.


    Trouble Shooting Infused Oils


    Mold grows readily in infused oils. the presence of any moisture on the herb or in the jar encourages mold growth.


    ° If the jar is not filled to the top, mold will grow in the air space left. To save your preparation, completely remove the mold and fill the jar to the top with fresh oil.


    ° If the jar was not totally dry when you filled it, mold will grow along the inside of the jar. Save your preparation by carefully pouring the oil and the plant material into a dry jar. Jars dried in the oven for five minutes immediately prior to use prevent this problem.


    ° If the jar is put in the sun or left near a heat source, the warmth will cause condensation inside the jar, providing the moisture necessary for colonies of mold. Remove the mold and pour oil and plant material into a fresh jar to save this.


    ° If the plant material was wet when combined with the oil, mold will grow throughout the oil. Saving it is impossible. Start again.


    Some herbs release gas as they infuse. You may notice bubbles moving in the oil; this is not a problem and does not indicate spoilage. Chickweed, Comfrey, and Yellow Dock are notable in their gas production when infused in oil. The gas will force some of the oil out of the jar (yes, even if tightly capped). Corked jars go pop! Rancidity occurs when there is plenty of heat and oxygen.


    Infused oils in an olive oil base resist rancidity at cool room temperature for several years. In very warm climates, adding the contents of a capsule or two of vitamin E to the decanted oil helps prevent rancidity. Tincture of Myrrh or Benzoin added to ointments also checks rancidity; use about ten drops of either per ounce of oil.


    Excerpt from: Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way

    by Susun S. Weed


  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018 11:40 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    The Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses
    by Susun Weed 




    There is so much to learn about herbs and healing. How can we assure ourselves of our own competence? How can we feel safe in our recommendations? How can we know which herb is best to use for a particular person? Do we need a system of diagnosis interlocked with categories of herbs? (For instance, the four humor theory that categorizes illnesses and herbs according to the humors, or the Ayurvedic system that divides people into three types and selects herbs accordingly.) These are questions that have concerned healers for thousands of years and still concern us today.


    I do not think the answer lies in a license. I don't think the answer is to study more, read more books or go to school, if what happens is that one picks up a dogma, and sticks to that. Neither license nor dogma guarantee that what we tell others to do for the sake of health will be safe or effective.


    The answer lies in our commitment to ourselves as whole human beings and our commitment to ease the suffering of others, in truth and beauty, in change, in compassion. When we commit to the wholeness in ourselves, we become open to the wholeness of all life, especially the wholeness of the green nations. Science divides things into parts so we can comprehend them. Art and nature teach us wholeness.


    Yes, the final say on how to use them is the plants themselves. The ultimate authority in herbal medicine is not a teacher, nor a book. The information you can trust is "from the horse's mouth," in this case, the plant's mouth.


    Learning to understand the language of the plants (some say the songs of the plants) is a long study, and it is not as easy to teach as scientific facts. Paradoxically, the rudiments of this language are easily learned and rapidly applied. Hearing the language of the plants requires hearing with the inner ears, looking with the inner eyes, and using the senses of taste and smell and touch.


    The Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses is a teaching tool I created to help us understand the language of the plants. It gives us a system by which to understand the different properties of plants. It provides us with confidence that we are hearing them correctly. Like all medicine wheels, it is a multi-purpose tool, and there are many lessons to be learned from it, but let us start with the title.


    First: I must admit to overstatement. This wheel does not include all possible uses for plants. Furthermore, it narrowly focuses on flowering plants, excluding mosses, ferns, mushrooms, yeasts, and other primitive plants. Dye plants, commercially useful plants, lumber plants, basketry plants -- in fact any plants not consumed by humans -- are not included. I might, more truthfully, have entitled it the "Medicine Wheel of Uses for Flowering Plants You Can Put in Your Mouth."


    Second: What is a medicine wheel? It is not a round drugstore or a wagon full of medicine. It is a sacred pattern, a kind of mandala. My native American teachers use medicine wheels to help us students remember the lessons. When they say "medicine," they mean power or energy, not a drug or a strong plant. (Unless they are discussing peyote, a very strong plant, which is not referred to by name, but as "medicine.") 


    Third: And a wheel? Well, a wheel is a circle in motion. Although this medicine wheel is a circle on a piece of paper, we must remember that it moves. Or, more precisely, the plants move around the medicine wheel. What makes them move? The four moving questions:

    1. What part of the plant is meant?

    2. When is that part harvested?

    3. How is that part prepared?

    4. How much is consumed?

    So I could have, less poetically, called my teaching tool "A Diagram of the Moving Power of Flowering Plants You Can Put in Your Mouth."


    When we look at any medicine wheel, we notice that it is divided into the four directions: East at the right, South at the bottom, West at the left, and North at the top. Each direction is associated with many symbols, and those symbols change according to the culture and homeland of the teacher and student. In this particular medicine wheel, the directions are associated with tastes and with symbols that work for me. If they are different from the associations that you normally use, I hope you will be willing to work with my choices, as changing them would change the integrity of the wheel as a teaching tool.


    Taste is one of the oldest senses. It is strongly linked with smell. In terms of recognizing plants, taste is one of the most dependable clues. The shape of a plant may change throughout its growing season, or life. But the taste (and the smell) remains remarkably consistent and clear.


    Though we can distinguish thousands of tastes (and smells), there are not a lot of words for tastes in English. The tongue is said to be able to distinguish sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. To these we could add tastes that are also sensations, such as hot, sour, astringent, burning, and sticky. And tastes that are colors such as a green. Japanese includes two interesting taste words: shibui, the taste of nut skins or an unripe persimmon, and egui, the taste of raw asparagus, amaranth, and Jerusalem artichoke. And then there are spicy tastes and pungent tastes and resinous tastes and aromatic tastes and terrible tastes (fetid, rank, rancid, rotten, mouldy, burnt). Important: Tastes and smells which are disgusting or strange are a potent indication that the plant is not good to put into your mouth. So don't. And if you already have, spit it out. Immediately. Thanks.


    In this medicine wheel, we will work with four primary tastes (blandly sweet, salty, horribly bitter, and aromatic) and four secondary tastes (fruity, green, edibly bitter, and spicy).


    To be continued next week...


  • Wednesday, August 22, 2018 1:01 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Summer Flash Supper




    As the days get longer, supper comes later and later and I look for fast dishes to get us fed before we realize how late we’ve been out playing.



    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons/30ml olive oil
    • 1 c/250ml cooked grain
    • 1 c/250 ml burdock stalk
    • 2c/500ml diced tomato
    • 4 oz/110g grated cheese

    Saute onion and garlic in oil in heavy skillet or casserole. Add cooked grain and heat through. Layer parboiled burdock stalk pieces, diced tomato, and lastly cheese on top of grain.


    Cover and cook on stove top, or cook in oven uncovered at 350 F/80 C, until cheese is melted.


    Recipe excerpt from Healing Wise

  • Tuesday, August 21, 2018 7:49 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk with Susun Weed

    Let’s go to the Senecio swamp. Bring your field guides. Follow me. Hey! Goats! Do you want to go with us?


     



    Mayapple AKA American mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum)
    On the way to the swamp, let’s stop by the Mayapple patch. This emetic purgative is one of the most poisonous plants that grows in my forest. It is said to have been used by Native people to commit suicide. A concentrate from the roots is currently used in scientific medicine to burn off genital warts, sometime causing severe, even lethal, side effects. Contacting or consuming Mayapple during pregnancy is said to cause birth defects. Someone once made me a travel charm from a Mayapple: she made ritual with the plant, carefully dug the root that offered itself to her, dried it, wrapped it in red flannel, tied it with a colored string, and instructed me to put it in my suitcase to insure safe journeys. I did.




    Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)
    Just a little further, and we’ll be at the swamp. But stop here for a moment and sit. This lovely, shiny, evergreen, paired-leaf creeper rewards those who get down to her level with her exquisite flowers. Two flowers are joined at the base and, eventually, form one red berry (see previous weed walk for photo) with two little stars on it: the partridgeberry, checkerberry, deerberry, twinberry. Grandmother Twylah Nitsch told us it was disrespectful to call it “squawvine or squawberry.” According to her, “squaw” is Native American slang for the male member! The leaves, as a tea, assist the kidneys and bring deeper sleep; they are classically used as a tonic during the last weeks of pregnancy to insure an easy birth.


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