Sunday, 26 July 2015

Suggested Sunday reading

I'm always amazed to still be tripping over excellent herb sites, and some of them go quite far back in "time" (at least time as the internet measures these things).

I've just read this article at a site called The Herbarium ; "How to Become a Master Herbalist in Thirty Years or More" by the venerable Paul Bergner.

Friday, 24 July 2015

A headache, and the remedy

(Originally posted 6 January 2015 here )

My head's been hurting for so long that now that I feel like I'm going to float off into outer space.

I haven't slept properly for a long, long, time. I've been looking like crap, too, forced to use lipstick (and I hate lipstick) in everyday situations just so I didn't give myself a shock when I looked in the mirror.

Tea, tincture, infusion, decoction

(Originally posted here )

Oh what an education I've been getting as people share with me their adventures with mainstream, commercial herbal medicines. I lead a sheltered life in the garden and forest and meadows, and hadn't been keeping up on the latest chicanery developments. The interweb seem to have sped up the process of decay in what was once an art and is now, alas, an industry.


(Originally published here )

This plant is right up there with St.John'swort, in that together they take the top spots for the most misunderstood herbal medicines. And, to my mind, they're also the most bastardized, exploited and whored-out by Big Herb. But I digress, right in the first paragraph. Great start!

I've written and deleted and rewritten and redeleted today's post half a dozen times and there might well be a seventh as I try to find another way to write about my friend echinacea, or as I like to call her (or it, or them, which is it?), elk root. You've read all the propaganda. I have to go another way.

St John'swort, not an antidepressant. Well maybe sorta. But not how you think. And really it is SO much more.

(Originally published here

This will not be a discussion about brain chemicals, my brothers and sisters, because I'm pretty sure so narrow a worldview sets people up for depression in the first place. The idea that our responses to life can be reduced to chemical reactions and have nothing to do with us is dehumanizing. Drugs that treat so-called chemical imbalances are dehumanizing. Feeling dehumanized is depressing!

It's become a big con, of course, this whole brain chemistry racket. It's used to keep us in our places. The natural pain that is part of being mortal is medicalized into a disorder. The pain that stems from oppression is labeled mental illness. These types of pain, we're taught, are to be avoided or escaped.

Foraging is

both hunting and gathering.

Some plants throw themselves at us: "pick me, pick me!". Some fall at our feet, literally, like the aspen. Some hide really well in the wild - I'm looking at you, nettle - and some become rampant in the garden, offering far more than we can use - I'm looking at you again, nettle.

Plantain - what I know

(Originally published 26 September 2014 here )

I remember walking barefoot down gravel roads as a kid, my sneakers tied together by their laces and hanging off my shoulder.

When you walk barefoot, you learn to walk where the soft plants grow. Along the edges of gravel roads and on every foot path on the outskirts of that prairie town grew a flat leaved plant that was cool underfoot. Plantain.

The ins and outs of plant medicine

(Originally published 17 February 2015 here )

There's an awful lot about plant medicines that can't be understood by scientific study under a microscope, yet has been understood and exploited by humans until quite recently in our history. But now that we know about chemicals & such, we're obsessed with them, and can't see past them.

Explaining this to the average Westerner is really difficult. The terms I want to use - spirit, for instance - are so co-opted that what I say won't necessarily be what is heard. So bear in mind that as I write I can only indicate what I mean approximately, and that it can only be fully understood by experience with the plants themselves.

No such thing as a failed experiment

(Originally published 23 June 2014 here )

That's what my high school science teacher used to say. "You always learn something, even if it's not what you set out to learn." So it is with gardening, to be sure.

This year's experiments?

Well, there was the cold frame fiasco, wherein I gave the mice a little feast in early spring and learned that stinging nettles and dandelions hate growing under glass.

Do nettles clear toxins through the scalp?

We've all heard by now about testing strands of hair to get a bead on the levels of heavy metals in the human body, yes?

Nettle tea rant

(Originally published 29 April 2015 here )

Under the surface, your writer is ... seething.

Yes! I'm angry. It's about one of those things I should expect, I should just shrug off. I should get over myself. But dammit to hell, it's just not right. It's morally wrong and it's downright dangerous and it pisses me off.

Superficially, this is about teabags.

The prickly nature of stinging nettles

(Originally published 14 September 2014 here )

I love me some nettles. You know I do.

But there are things the books don't tell you about nettles, and then there are other things some books tell you about nettles that are downright incorrect bordering on negligent.

Let's start with the latter. Every time I see a new herb book in a store or an herby website, I turn to the nettle pages to see what they say about when to pick nettles. If they say "pick nettles as they come into bloom" I walk (or click) away. Do NOT pick nettles as they are coming into bloom. They're at their peak of prickliness then, to the point where it just can't be cooked or steeped away. You won't get a mouthful of prickles but chances are good you'll get a tummy and/or kidneys full of glass - or so it will feel. It's not actually the prickles per say, but the chemicals within. It's not good. Don't do it.

How did this error come about? How is it that so many books repeat it? I don't know. And it ticks me off.

It's better to know (nettles, horsetail and red clover)

(Originally published 9 September 2014 here )

Nettle is a plant with specific requirements for harvest. Nor is it the only one that can be problematic to use if incorrectly harvested. Some might simply be less effective if not harvested or stored properly. Others can cause actual harm. This is a very important issue of which most people are simply unaware.

Any side effects from the use of herbs are really not the fault of the plants but the people who prepare or use them. Whether the plant has been allowed to spoil, or the plant is simply inappropriate for that person at that time is something that is rarely taken into account. Yet the public dives in willy nilly then rejects herbal treatments in their entirety when they go awry!

Nettles and me, a love story

(Originally published 18 September 2014 here )

(A reader asks for a post on nettle, and only nettle, from germination to harvest and use. In keeping with my policy that I can't speak from a position of authority, only from personal experience, here's what I've come up with. Questions and requests for clarification most welcome!)

It began with a potluck supper at our cottage. Cathy arrived bearing a grocery bag. Plunking it somewhat unceremoniously on the counter she said, simply, "Nettles. Be careful".

I was awe struck. I'd read about them for years. One old herbal text had a particularly lovely coloured plate illustration of the plant and I'd stared at it many a winter's night, my imagination conjuring the taste of that emerald green beauty as I imagined it steamed and slathered in butter. With salt and pepper.

I opened the bag. It was less than half full. I remember being charmed that the stems had a pinkish tinge. They had grit on them. I reached in to pull them out and YOW! Holy crap that hurt! I had merely brushed one leaf and my hand felt as though I'd just met the business end of a wasp. I heard a chuckle come from Cathy and she came to the kitchen to rescue me. Filling a basin with water, she dumped the nettles in without touching them. The she sent me outside, directing, "find plantain, do the spit poultice thing, you'll be fine."

A few words on weeding & mulching & permaculture gardening

(Originally published 8 July 2015 here )

There are many different styles of permaculture gardening, and some of them make me cringe. The people who go in for earth-moving equipment, changing the landscape, making swales, cutting down trees for hugel-culture etc. are, to my mind, no more stewards of the land than cops in riot gear are crossing guards.

But that's just me. If you're into it, have at 'er. I suppose there are those who want to work with the land (me) and those who want the land to work for them (those guys).

Vinegar walk

(Originally published 7 June 2015 here )

High summer is coming on fast, and that means a change in the plants I'm gathering.

The first round of picking stimulates the growth of stinging nettle, but once you've done a second round, they start to need a rest. If we get rainy cool weather there will be a third round, but if not, nothing until fall. After they flower and set seed, nettles get a rush of new leaves on the old stalks, tender and delicious for those last few meals. Of course I harvest nettle seeds, too, they're such excellent medicine for exhausted adrenals. But while the plants are ragged, while they flower and before that last rush of growth, nettle leaves get too strong and they can actually damage the kidneys if picked at the wrong time.

Burdock, dandelion, Diabetes and gut bacteria - how my brain chews on a mystery

(Originally published 21 October, 2014 here )

There are two types of Diabetes;

Type 1, sometimes erroneously called Juvenile Diabetes, in which the pancreas simply stops producing insulin. Blood sugar levels, left unchecked, rise, causing kidney, circulation and heart problems. It is now thought to be auto-immune in origin, meaning the body does not recognise the difference between self and not self, and for some reason attacks and destroys the beta cells within the insulin producing islets in the pancreas.

Type 2, sometimes erroneously called Adult Onset Diabetes, where-in the pancreas produces insulin, but the body is "resistant" to this insulin and the blood sugar rises, causing kidney, circulation and heart problems. In this case, it is thought to be induced by a diet high in sugar, simple carbohydrates and fats. (Although some people are re-visiting this)

Now, I can wrap my head around auto-immunity (strangely enough) but I don't understand "insulin resistance".

The ins and outs of dandelion

(Originally published 15 February 2015 here )

Just so you know, it's some kind of agony to be writing about dandelion when there's three feet of snow out there and I won't nibble on one of dandy's tender, bitter & sweet first leaves for at least 2 months.

However, needs must and all that, this post is about due. Looking through the blog I realize I've never done a whole post for this current darling of the internet health sites . Mind you, I mentioned it in passing so often here that if you did a search for it on the blog you'd end up reading half the posts!

Spring lawn treats

(Originally published 11 May 2015 here )

If I were to go outside and walk on my lawn (once the rain stops, that is), I'd have to watch my step. For the last several days it's been covered in bees, big fuzzy Queen bumble bees. Most have yellow fuzz but if I look closely I can see slight variations in shade from sunlight to lemon to a deep gold. Some have bands of orange fuzz around their bellies, again with variations. All of them have their pollen pockets full to bursting.

Weeding? Or harvesting?

(Originally published May 8 2015, here )

It's hot here, so I'm not turning over any more soil than I have to until the weather moderates and we get some rain (please!). Crazy for so early in May, usually we're fighting frost.

Early though it may be, we're getting plenty from the garden while most Canadians are still waiting to plant. That's advantage #1 for the weed eaters right there. It's hard not to feel a teeny bit smug. It's not the heat that brings out the weeds, they'd be here anyway. But it sure gets them bigger, faster.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Garbling the dandelion

(Originally published October 14, 2014, here )

Take a gander at these beauties. Note, especially, how large the roots are compared to the amount of leaf! I used a pitch fork to get these out of the ground. You sort of have to if you want to get much, and of course you never get the whole root. Which means you get more from the same plant next year, of course!

click me to see me better!