Archive for July, 2010
Posted by|28 July 2010
This year’s Northwest Herb Fest was a lovely gathering of plant people from the Pacific States and beyond. For two sunny days in July each year, Wise Acres Farm welcomes 200 excited attendees to explore their lush gardens, study with diverse teachers, browse handmade herbal goodies at the market, and make friends with other herbalists from the community. The festival offers a truly unique opportunity to learn different healing modalities and plant traditions from a plethora of botanical experience.
To prepare for the weekend’s festivities, I harvested and bundled towering mugwort, catnip, spirea, lavender, milk thistle, and motherwort to decorate the Mountain Rose booth. As I hung the dazzling bouquets, our tent was instantly transformed with a bit of garden charm. So simple, yet so beautiful – assembling these herbal bundles quickly put me in the spirit for celebration!
Classes began early Saturday morning as the sun perched on gently sloping green hills. Festival-goers wandered around the farm, happily drinking tea and reading their programs for the day’s events. From medicinal trees and flower essences, to the Solanaceae family and nutritious seaweeds, every class sounded amazing and it was excruciating to choose between them.
One of my favorite classes of the weekend was a plant walk with Wren Davidson. Wren has been an herbalist in Eugene for nearly three decades. Her knowledge and wit kept us smiling as she told stories from her childhood and illuminated new things to love about old friends like yarrow, blackberry, and nettles. She even brought tasty homemade roasted dandelion root from her garden to share with us.
Another delightful surprise was the spectacular sun tea that Jane Bothwell made for her class on blending herbs for health and pleasure. Early that morning, Jane peacefully strolled through the garden collecting a rainbow of nutrient rich and medicinal blooms. She poured cool water into a glass jar filled with roses, calendula, borage, lemon balm, red clovers, peppermint, prunella, lavender, and others, and placed the blend in the sun to infuse. The colorful medley opened to the warmth of the sun and released its rich symphony of tangy-green-sweetness. Drinking the exquisite floral liquor felt both decadent and nourishing on such a hot summer afternoon.
Classes held in the garden and along the bubbling creek path allowed the plants themselves to guide our lectures. Tobias Policha’s wild weed walk brought us down to a bug’s eye view as we investigated the medicinal treasures lurking in the grass and under shrubs. It was a refreshing reminder of how “pesky” plants like dandelion, red clover, and lemon balm are valuable to us as bitters, astringents, nervines, diuretics, or alteratives in our herbal medicine chests.
A garden talk by Julie Bailey focused on our deeper connection with plants beyond their uses. How do our imaginations and intuitions shape our relationships with these green neighbors? What can the delicious perfume of a rose – and its severe, piercing thorns – teach us about desire and boundaries? The philosophical musings danced through our minds well after the walk had ended.
As this incredible weekend came to a close, our notebooks were scribbled full of new inspirations, wise tips, and beloved recipes. It was a truly memorable event for all who attended. Next month I’ll be traveling to New Mexico for the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, which promises to be another extraordinary and enlightening herbal gala!
Posted by|06 July 2010
What fun it is to explore fields and woods, bringing home wild plants to transform into healing products!
What fun it is to explore fields and woods, bringing home wild plants to transform into healing products! Many wild weeds are a treasure trove of vitamins, minerals, and properties which help soothe and heal the skin. When harvesting wild flora, make sure and do so in a harmonious and respectful way that will not negatively impact your local eco-system. To learn more about identifying and harvesting wild plants, look for local field guides such as Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Medicinal Plants or Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West.
Balm of Gilead Buds (Populus balsamifera) - Buds from Cottonwood Poplar trees have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions, making them ideal for ointments, salves, and oils to treat minor wounds and skin injuries.
Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) – Not only are Blackberry leaves abundant, they are also a gentle astringent for normal and oily skin. Use in facial steams or brew with boiling water, strain, cool and use as a facial toner.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) - Rich in minerals and excellent for poultices, skin irritations, and eye inflammations. This herb is often used in salves because it is so soothing to the skin.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – Comfrey root and leaf can be brewed into an infusion and applied as a gentle and soothing toner beneficial for inflamed, sensitive, or dry skin. This mucilaginous herb can also be incorporated into salves, poultices, and ointments. The root or leaf can be used similarly, but the root is stronger.
Elder (Sambucus nigra) – A traditional cosmetic wash created by brewing a tea from the fresh flowers. May be applied as a facial toner or as a wash for soothing eye and skin irritations.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) – Naturally high in silica, this herb strengthens and conditions hair. Make a water infusion and apply after washing your hair, or infuse in Olive Oil to use in hot oil treatments.
Nettles (Urtica dioica) – This wondrous herb is rich in minerals, strengthening, and astringent. Use in hair treatments to stimulate circulation at the scalp and encourage hair growth and in facial care to tone oily, normal, combination, or acneic skin. Nettle is also beneficial as a healing wash to cleanse wounds and sores.
Plantain (Plantago major or Plantago lanceolata) – The folkloric name for this herb is “Green Bandage” for obvious reasons. Plantain is one of the best poultice herbs available. The fresh leaves applied as a poultice soothe irritations and infections, while the dried and powdered leaf can be used as an herbal first-aid powder for infections.
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) – Not only are they beautiful, but the blossoms are anti-inflammatory, calming, and cleansing. Especially beneficial when used in facial treatments for dry or irritated skin. Toss a handful into a bowl of boiling water for a gorgeous facial steam!
Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris) – This common weed has antibiotic and antiseptic properties, and is a traditional remedy to treat cuts, abrasions, and bruises.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – Traditionally infused fresh in Olive Oil, this weedy herb grows readily along roadsides and in disturbed areas and is a fabulous remedy for damage to nerve endings, burns, wounds, bruises, and sprains.
Wild Rose (various wild species) – Leaves from Wild Rose plants are astringent and toning. They can be added to facial steams or infusions as a gentle astringent for normal, oily, or combination skin. The fresh leaves can be applied as a poultice for bee stings and insect bites.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – A very strong natural astringent. A poultice of crushed fresh Yarrow leaves can stop bleeding, and an infusion made from the flowers can be used to treat eczema or acne. The dried powdered leaf can be used in a first-aid kit and applied to cuts and wounds to disinfect and stop bleeding.
Horsetail & Nettle Hair Rinse
Place 1-2 handfuls of fresh Horsetail and/or Nettles in a glass mason jar, fill with boiling water, and cap tightly. Allow to infuse for 2 or more hours, and then strain out the herbs (great for compost!). After washing hair, rinse with the liquid.
Wild Plant Facial Steam
1-2 handfuls of fresh wild plants (choose one or a mixture: Red Clover Flowers, Elder Flowers, Wild Strawberry leaves, Blackberry leaves, or Rose Hip leaves).
Place fresh herbs into a large ceramic or glass bowl. Boil water and pour over herbs, immediately placing a towel or lid over the bowl so that the oils being released from the herbs do not escape. Steep for 5 minutes. Place the bowl on a table or other surface where you can comfortably sit and hold your face over the bowl covering your head and the bowl with a large towel to make sure that no steam can escape. Make sure to keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply to inhale the therapeutic properties of the herbs. Steam for 10 minutes.
Healing Weed Oil & Salve
Choose one or a mixture: Balm of Gilead buds, Chickweed, Comfrey, Nettles, Plantain, Self Heal, St. John’s Wort, or Yarrow.
Wilt fresh herbs for 12 hours to remove most of the moisture (too much moisture will cause your oil to go rancid), cut into small pieces, and crush with a mortar and pestle before adding to a clean mason jar. Cover the herbs thoroughly with organic Olive oil, cap tightly, and place in a sunny windowsill. Shake the jar daily for 6-8 weeks, then strain the herbs out and bottle the remaining oil. This healing oil can be used on small cuts, scrapes, insect bites, and other minor skin wounds.
To make a salve, combine 4 oz of herbal oil with 1/2 oz of beeswax and melt gently over a double boiler until the beeswax melts. If desired, add 20 drops of Lavender essential oil for its therapeutic properties. Remove from heat and quickly pour into tins or glass jars and allow to cool before capping with lids.