An integrative approach to healing ourselves and our world: honoring people, plants, planet

Archive for May, 2011

Basics of Herbal Medicine Making Class

June 11, 2011. 9:30 – 3. $65, plus supplies. Lunch is provided.

In China the peeled, dried bark of mimosa, called "collective happiness bark" in Chinese, is used as an uplifting remedy for an irritable-type of depression accompanied by insomnia, poor memory, grief and anger.

We will cover the basics of herbal medicine making. Harvesting some herbs on-site, while some herbs will be provided, we will make teas, tinctures, decoctions & infused oils, along with eating some wild foods.

 Space is limited, so register early by contacting Holli, and she will send you the list of supplies for you to bring. The class is held at Brick House Studios, just east of Athens, Georgia on Highway 78. Go to lamarwood.com for more photos of the location.

email:  herichey@gmail.com

Preparing for the lunch last August, 2010 at the Brick House Medicinal Walk, Talk, & Feast.

Yarrow, a pharmacy in itself

Yarrow’s reputation as a first-aid hemostat has spread throughout the world with the herb, and its common names — soldier’s woundwort, knight’s milfoil, carpenter’s weed — reflect those who were most appreciative of its powers.

A medicinal powerhouse of the cultivated garden and wild spaces alike, Yarrow carries within its botanical name a recommendation from antiquity. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is named after the Greek hero Achilles who healed the bleeding wounds of his soldiers with its foliage. Millefolium means thousand-leaves, referring to its ferny foliage.

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Native Plant Database, yarrow is native to the U.S., but there also are introduced Achillea species. It appears to be a gift to the globe.

Yarrow’s reputation as a first-aid hemostat has spread throughout the world with the herb, and its common names – soldier’s woundwort, knight’s milfoil, carpenter’s weed – reflect those who were most appreciative of its powers.

I can attest to yarrow’s fast-acting blood-staunching properties. Once, when I sliced my palm open on a yucca leaf – it’s called Spanish bayonet for a reason – I quickly found yarrow growing nearby, as it often does, and applied a poultice of leaves to my wound. Within five minutes or less, the pain and bleeding were gone, and within 24 hours the cut was completely healed. A couple days more and all evidence of my suffering had disappeared.

Some of the hemostatic, blood-staunching properties come from the bitter sesquiterpene lactones specific to yarrow, achillian and achillicin. Like chamomile, yarrow also contains asulenes, which contribute to its anti-inflammatory actions. Several essential oils lend yarrow its antiseptic qualities: pinine, borneal, camphor, eugenol, saponine and terpineol. With loads of polyphenol flavonoids, yarrow is great as a tonic for depression and memory maintenance.

When studying herbal medicine at Tai Sophia Institute in Maryland, my instructor, Simon Mills (who is Senior Teaching Fellow in Integrated Health Care, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, the first medical school in Britain to establish a program in Integrated Health Care) said of yarrow, that with hundreds of complex constituents, it is “a pharmacy in itself.”

Mills frequently used yarrow in his formulas as a “top up,” a British term for adding a bit more to someone’s drink. He became convinced that yarrow, with its synergistic compounds that we are only beginning to understand, was often the key ingredient of his formulas.

When he neglected to “top up” the formula with yarrow, filling the formula with herbs more specifically indicated for the condition, returning clients reported the formula was less effective.

Yarrow is particularly suited for healing the predominant ailments of cold, damp climates, bestowing upon it a type of panacea status in Ireland and the British Isles due to its efficacy for reducing rheumatic pains, soothing flatulent bowel complaints, healing colds and fevers, and countering depression.

Usually, in contemporary herb texts, yarrow is known as a diaphoretic, an herbal action that causes one with a fever to sweat, thereby bringing down a fever instead of suppressing it.

With yarrow’s complex chemistry, its uses are far more extensive than merely fever management. Native American tribes all over North America widely used yarrow, perhaps more than any other plant, for ailments ranging from digestive cramps, wounds and colds to neuralgia, venereal disease, as a blood purifier, to revive an unconscious person who had fallen, and as a remedy for multiple infant sicknesses – just to name a few.

Likely, if Achilles could have had only one herb to use on the battlefield, it would have been yarrow. But his legendary application begs the question: Did Achilles apply it to the mortal blow to his heel, or was it just out of reach?

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Sunday, May 29, 2011.

Shepherd’s purse both edible and medicinal

Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), a member of the mustard family and a European native seeded throughout North America, is an annual nitrogen fixer that finds its home in disturbed soil in need of some fixing.

A precious weed is how I think of shepherd’s purse. In late winter, a basal rosette of clasping, dandelion-like, toothed leaves appear, followed in early spring with long, graceful stems of flattened, heart-shaped seed pods, staggering their positions around the central stem, appearing to upwardly climb to the tip where the remaining cluster of tiny, white flowers bloom.

Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), a member of the mustard family and a European native seeded throughout North America, is an annual nitrogen fixer that finds its home in disturbed soil in need of some fixing. The name comes from the shape of the seed, resembling the bags shepherds carried in the Old World.

According to “Wildman” Steve Brill, an urban forager in New York City’s Central Park, the sticky seeds inside the purse cause minute insects to adhere to them, while the shepherd’s purse seed carnivorously assimilates the insect into the baby plant. Fortunately, we’re not minute insects, or else this plant wouldn’t be so precious.

Early spring greens of shepherd’s purse are very edible. When the plant flowers, the leaves become less tasty.

Although the leaves can be eaten raw in salads, more often the raw greens are soaked overnight or cooked, the way various Native American tribes prepared them. The seeds can be ground into flour, or added to other flour sources for nutrient variety.

According to Minnesota herbalist Matthew Wood, shepherd’s purse contains flavonoids, carotenoids, potassium, amino acids and vitamins A, K, and C.

Medicinally, the above-ground parts of shepherd’s purse are used as an astringent, drying agent for kidney troubles, weak bladders, diarrhea, dysentery and excessive menstruation. Woman who have uterine fibroids have found benefit through shepherd’s purse’s ability to tone and lift the uterus. Historically, shepherd’s purse was used as a substitute for ergot, a fungus on rye plants that was used as an oxytocic drug stimulating uterine contractions.

Externally, shepherd’s purse has been used as first aid medicine for nosebleeds and wounds that won’t stop bleeding.

In Germany, where medicinal plants go through rigorous scrutiny, shepherd’s purse is approved for nosebleeds and excessive or irregular menstruation.

If you have shepherd’s purse growing nearby, an aesthetic use for the heart-shaped seedpods is to add stems of them to bouquets as a dainty filler. Since there’s no real risk of shepherd’s purse becoming unruly, let it do its soil healing. Eat the foliage and then cut or mow it before the seeds dry on the stem if you don’t want it to spread.

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tuesday Evening the 24th, Fun Class: Kitchen Cabinet Remedies: Appetizers with Herbs & Wine (Food as Medicine)

Join us for a fun evening in the Mediterranean Herb Garden at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia in Athens. Experientially learn the benefits of culinary herbs through your senses.

What you have in your kitchen herb and spice cabinet can be your first aid kit, your medicine cabinet, and your path to maintain health. Appreciate the rich and exciting history of culinary herbs and spices while learning the active phytochemicals which give them their healing properties. The class will receive recipes to use herbs and spices as medicine and food. Includes wine with herbal appetizers, take home teas and recipes.
May 24th, 2011, 6:30-8:30

Members of the Garden: $30; Non-members: $36.

Register for the Evening Class: http://www.uga.edu/botgarden/eduregister.html

The herb garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens.

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