Archive for September, 2010
Posted by|23 September 2010
Other than smearing gooey aloe tentacles on sunburns, using plants for medicine was merely magic and fairytale.
The art of healing our bodies with herbs is a new fascination in my life. Growing up in the hot and sticky urban jungles of Florida, my childhood was more southern sweet tea than wholesome nettle infusion. I spent countless summer days exploring twisted oak forests and gathering ferns for my hair, but I never sipped sweet chamomile to fall asleep at night or took echinacea to keep a cold at bay. Other than smearing gooey aloe tentacles on sunburns, using plants for medicine was merely magic and fairytale.
The call to herbalism came for me several years ago, although I didn’t know it at the time. During college, I grew passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle and adopted an organic whole foods diet. The neighborhood teahouse, which served amazing vegetarian goodies and exotic teas from around the world, was my home away from home. Sipping floral oolong, sweet powdered matcha, and delicate silver needle tea became an important and much beloved morning ritual for me. Watching slender tea leaves unfurl gracefully in the rising sun’s reflection, as they released an enchanting perfume, was both grounding and stimulating. My body and mind felt nourished with every cup of amber goodness I poured. Drinking tea each day provided peaceful sanctuary.
My mom’s aloe, happy in the sun.
When I journeyed west to Oregon in 2008, I brought along only the necessities: a box of vegetarian cookbooks, my favorite collection of Camellia sinensis, and a deeply treasured cast iron tea set from my folks. I celebrated the night I arrived in Eugene with a pot of Darjeeling. It felt powerful and momentous. Instantly, I became enraptured by the city, vibrant with plant people and herbalists, beautiful gardens and wildflowers abloom, and a community uniquely steeped in natural healing traditions. Wherever I wondered throughout town, I became consumed with inspiration and curiosity.
My good fortune soon led to a job at Mountain Rose Herbs, where suddenly I had access to a bounty of organic herbs, medicinal tea blends, essential oils, and exceptionally knowledgeable friends. One particularly difficult day, a co-worker offered a bottle of skullcap tincture to me. I snickered at its funny name, but scrunched my face and swallowed down the strong tasting green liquid. Immediately, I felt tension leave my body and my mind became calm. I went outside and watched the white clouds stretch and dissolve into blue sky. The plant’s gentle calming effect was truly miraculous. As I sat in the moist grass, I realized that I was being offered an incredible opportunity to expand my knowledge of health and healing.
A cup of Darjeeling nestled in lush Oregon moss.
The following year, I decided to get serious about studying herbs and started a two-year apprenticeship program with the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. Each week, Howie and Steven lead students into the old growth forests, mountain meadows, lava flows and rushing river banks of the Cascades. We learn how to locate, identify, and collect native plants using stringent wildharvesting protocols to ensure the health of the diverse ecosystems we visit. We make medicine together in the forest with the herbs we’d picked that day. Whether washing aromatic roots in an icy stream, examining plumose pappus, or nibbling on wild huckleberries, I have been blessed to create intimate relationships with the plants we studied and to learn about their extraordinary healing powers from such skilled teachers.
Exploring the rich flora of this dramatic landscape has been almost dreamlike, quite challenging, and tremendously rewarding. Dedicating time to reconnect with wild places and prepare medicine for ourselves, our friends, and our families is a truly empowering endeavor with infinite value for the planet and for our spirits.
The Columbines School of Botanical Studies Field Apprenticeship 2009 harvest.
Posted by|22 September 2010
Utilize the sun to naturally infuse oil with the goodness and essence of herbs.
Simply infusing oil with herbs will transform them into healing, soothing, and relaxing medicinal preparations. There are several ways to infuse oils, but my favorite is the Folk or Simpler’s Method which relies upon the sun to naturally infuse the oil with the goodness and essence of herbs. You can utilize countless herbs, listed below are some of the most popular choices. Other carrier oils may be used, but Jojoba oil and Olive oil are wise choices because they have a long shelf life and are suitable for a variety of applications.
Folk Method for Solar Infused Oils
1. Place herbs in a clean quart jar. If using fresh herbs, then wilt them first 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 jar. You can skip these extra steps if your herbs are dried.
2. Pour oil into the jar, making sure to cover herbs by at least 1” of oil and leaving at least 1/2” of space at the top of the jar so that the herbs will have room to expand. If your herbs soak up all of the oil, then pour more on top to ensure that the herbs are well covered.
3. Stir well, and cap the jar tightly.
4. Place the jar in a sunny and warm windowsill, and shake once or more per day.
5. After 4-6 weeks, strain the herbs out of the oil using cheesecloth. Make sure and squeeze every precious drop of oil out!
6. Pour into glass bottles, and store in a cool dark place. The oil should keep for at least a year.
Herbs to Infuse:
Arnica flowers (Arnica montana) - indispensible for the external treatment for physical trauma, sprains, bruising and other injuries. Use immediately after strenuous exertion or injury to prevent, relieve and reduce swelling, bruises and pain.
Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis) - one of my favorite oils with a myriad of uses. Oil infused with Calendula flowers is wonderfully healing and is suitable for sensitive skin and for babies. It helps clear complexions, heal cuts, scrapes, insect bites, diaper rash, and inflammations.
Cayenne peppers (Capsicum annuum) – Used for pain, muscle aches, and arthritis.
Cedar Tips (various species) – For treating fungal infections and skin irritations.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) – Skin disorders, psoriasis, eczema, minor burns, rashes, and other skin irritations.
Comfrey root and leaf (Symphytum officinale) – Deeply healing, used for wounds, bruises, and skin cell proliferation.
Goldenseal or Oregon Grape root (Hydrastis canadensis or Mahonia aquifolium)– Antibacterial, used for treating wounds and skin conditions.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – Soothing for the skin, and good for cold sores.
Mullein flowers (Verbascum densiflorum) – A classic oil used to soothe, relieve pain, and fend off ear infections.
Myrrh gum (Commiphora myrrha) – Antiseptic, used for scrapes and cuts.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – Great for massaging into sore muscles.
Plantain (various species) – Soothes and helps speed the recovery process of damaged skin, blisters, insect bites, and rashes.
Poke root (Phytolacca americana) - A powerful woman’s ally traditionally used for mastitis and breast lumps.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - a stimulating oil for hair treatments, sore muscles, or even for culinary use.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) - craft this red-colored oil made from freshly gathered St. John’s Wort. The oil is anti-inflammatory and can help speed the healing of wounds, bruises, varicose veins, swellings, sunburns, bee stings, nerve damage, scrapes, diaper rash, pain, and mild burns.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) - A strong antiseptic used externally for cuts and scrapes, and it is great for sore muscles.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Used for cuts, scraps, rashes, and for minor cases of eczema.
Feel free to combine herbs or infused oils to create special blends:
An aromatic oil which will lift the spirits and smells divine. Apply to the skin after a shower, bath, or during a massage. The oil will be moisturizing, soothing, relaxing, and calming to the skin. To make, infuse organic Rose Petals, Lavender flowers, or Chamomile flowers in organic Jojoba Oil.
A fragrant blend of relaxing herbs, use after a nighttime bath or shower to help with relaxation, tranquility, and sleep. Or, rub on temples at night before retiring to bed. Infuse a mixture of organic Hops, Chamomile flowers, and Lavender flowers in organic Olive or Jojoba oil.