Herbal medicine Pt. 4

February 5, 2023

Comfrey/Plantain

I use some version of this every day!

Both Comfrey root and Plantain leaf are traditionally revered for healing.

Make infusions in olive oil:

—about 1/4 cup of Comfrey in 4 oz. oil —about 1/4 cup of Plantain in 2 oz. oil

—keep warm for an hour or so and leave in a sunny window for about 6 weeks. Decoct using a potato ricer or other strainer to squeeze all the oil out.

Mix the two together and store in brown glass. It will keep for several months, maybe longer, if kept in a cool dark place.

Variations: use almond or coconut oil, or a mix of oils if you prefer. For a quick oil infusion, heat the oil and herbs in a double boiler at about 125* for several hours. I sometimes infuse both herbs together in a single container, but I don’t think it works as well.

This basically a healing oil for bruises, strains, sprains and other joint or bone issues. (Comfrey is one of two herbs that are known as boneset.) It’s not recommended for open wounds but may be used on cuts that have partially healed. Another option is to add Clove, Peppermint and/or Lavender for pain relief. You can use essential oils or add them to the infusions. You may also make a salve with these oils.

Ensalvation

My recipe for salve is always evolving, and always a bit experimental, but this is a suggested mix: melt about 3 Tbsp of shea butter and 3 tsp of beeswax beads slowly. Add about 4 oz of the oil infusion (and about 45 drops of essential oil if using that) and stir together, put a little on a popsicle stick and stick it in the refrigerator… after 5 min. it should be slightly hardened. If not, add more beeswax or shea.

Please take these instructions as a starting point for your own research into herbal preparations. There are many variations and possibilities in the wide range of resources out there.

Herbal Medicine Pt. 3

January 22, 2023

Continuing the discussion of Herbal Medicine and how to make some simple concoctions to keep your health in balance.

Just began reading a new book, Energetic Herbalism, by Kay Maier. Hope to share some of her amazing insights as I go along. But today I’m just laying down a few simple infusion recipes.

An herbal tea that is particularly good for congestion, especially for the kids, is Mullein and Catnip. I’ve been doing an infusion overnight in a quart jar with about 1/4 cup of each, sweetened with honey. Sometimes I add a bit of Tulsi (holy basil), Chamomile and/or Marshmallow root. Maybe a little Peppermint for flavor. Also can brew it by the cup.

Four Thieves throat spray

A wonder! Simply simmer a stick of cinnamon in 4 oz. of water for 30 or 40 min., add a couple of Tbsp of sea salt. Add about 15 drops each of four essential oils. I prefer Clove, Calendula, Eucalyptus, and Lemongrass. Rosemary is often used, as are others. There are many versions of this out there. Four sprays every couple of hours at first sign of a sore throat. The oils are readily available, but I made my own Calendula oil. Mountain Rose has nice little spray bottles for this.

Sleepy time tea

Brew by the cup or do an overnight infusion of about 1/4 cup Lemon balm, plus 2 or 3 Tbsp each of Blue vervain and Tulsi. I pour a quart of boiling water over it and let it sit. I sometimes add some Hops or Raspberry leaf. For insomnia, this works better for me than Valerian or Skullcap, which are often recommended. I also make a tincture of Lemon balm/Vervain.

Turmeric & Ginger

For serious help with chronic insomnia, try this: mix about 2 cups of Turmeric powder, 1/2 cup of Ginger powder and about a teaspoon or so of Black Pepper. Put a heaping teaspoon of this in a cup of milk—warm is nice but not necessary—and stir it up well. Drink it a half hour or so before bed. I usually add my Lemon balm/Blue vervain tincture as well.

This drink is also serious help for inflammation and seems to help me just generally feel better. I first learned of Turmeric for joint pain from an Indian woman, Tara, whom I met at a Vipassana center years ago. It’s become one of my staples, and I keep learning more about its amazing properties for health and healing.

Herbal Medicine Pt. 2

January 13, 2023

My daughter got interested in herbal medicine some 10 years ago, and took a several-weeks long course on Appalachian herbs. Some time later—the details are a little unclear in my memory—she spent a summer visiting farms across the country, ending up in Oregon where she did a very intensive intern program at the farm connected with Herb Pharm herbals. She came home to Georgia really excited about herbal medicines and began making a variety of them in our kitchen. This all spurred my interest in the subject, and gave me a very solid introduction to the theory and practice of this artful science.

She also did evaluations on several of the family members and gave me a some prescriptive help based on my physical condition and medical history. Most of what I use today is based on those recommendations, with modifications as I worked with them and learned about other herbals. Having survived the worst of the COVID pandemic despite working as a reporter and being around lots of folks who’ve not been so careful about all the precautions recommended, I think my immune system is pretty strong for my age. I have been able to stay active and relatively healthy through some stressful times, and I attribute much of that to the herbs.

A quick list of some of the various herbals that I’m familiar with will suggest what I’ll be sharing info on in this series:

Ashwagandha, Reishi, Chaga, Lemon balm, Blue vervain, Turmeric, Ginger, Comfrey, Plantain, Tulsi, Nettle, Mullein, Catnip, Chamomile, Red clover, St. John’s wort, Astragalus, Eleuthero, Echinacea, Calendula, Raspberry, Peppermint, Marshmallow root, Hops and Oatstraw. There are a few others that I occasionally use, but this list is the ones that I most depend on. With most of these, I make my own infusions, tinctures or salves. Some I just use prepared versions.

I suppose it’s obvious, but to be clear, I am not an herbal professional and not trained in these things, except by my own experience, so this is focused on what I have learned from others and from trying these things for myself. I would like to start out by providing a partial list of the books and and other resources for really getting into this subject if you find it interesting.

Rosemary Gladstar is a primary source of information on American herbs, with many years experience and many books. She’s also online, and you’ll find her referenced by many of the other folks who are talking about herbals on social media.

A more recent book, one that I love and have found to be very inspiring and helpful — it’s really my favorite book on herbs! — is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Universally acclaimed and a literary masterpiece, this book is a treasure! Robin is a member of the Potawatomi nation and a botanist, so she brings an amazing and inclusive perspective to this subject, blending the scientific and the spiritual. It’s a book that I believe everyone should read, but especially anyone who is interested in herbal medicine. I capitalize the names of plants in accordance with Robin’s recommendation to honor the personhood of all beings, human or not.

A major reference, maybe the best overall herbal, is The Earthwise Herbal Repertory by Matthew Wood, which discusses the various approaches to herbal medicine, gives a comprehensive list of useful plants, and explains how herbs may be used for various conditions. The book is called “The Definitive Practitioner’s Guide,” and the diagnostic section is organized into herbs used to treat conditions in the different organs and organ systems of the body. He has many other books that I haven’t read that are revered by herbal practitioners, as he is considered a master herbalist.

Another excellent book that brings the indigenous perspective to herbs is Cherokee Herbal by J.T. Garrett. This book has an exhaustive list of plants and their uses. There are several books on Appalachian herbs — Southern Folk Medicine by Phyllis Light is recommended by Robin and Matthew, and I have used it to some extent. I primarily rely on Rosemary’s Herbs for Common Ailments and Herbs for Children’s Health when I have questions. They are reliable, basic and to the point.

And when I go online looking for an answer to some question related to herbs, it’s usually Rosemary I look for.

There are a wealth of sources online! As with anything these days, you need to be cautious, though, as not all of them can be trusted. I trust herbal suppliers Mountain Rose (in Eugene, Oregon) and Red Moon Herbs (in Asheville, North Carolina) as sources of herbs and basic information on an herb’s properties and use. I trust Jenn at @firebranchfarms on Instagram, and I really enjoy her Wildcrafting Wednesdays and other herbal posts. Fire Branch Farms also offers some herbal preparations on their website, though that’s currently on a pause, as the family just moved from middle Georgia to northern Maine!

There’s an herbal academy on IG that seems to be a reliable source of training for those who want to find out more about herbalism quickly. Their website theherbalacademy.com offers courses for people who want to do just their own medicinals, as well as courses for those interested in starting a career in herbalism. Mountain Rose, though sometimes slow, is the best source for raw herbs, as they have almost everything and it’s all top quality. Red Moon is a much smaller operation and has mostly herbs they harvest in the Appalachian area, plus the excellent preparations they make from those herbs.

In my next post here, I plan to discuss a little of the techniques for teas, infusions, tinctures and salves. And maybe some recipes. (I’ve recently reposted some of Jenn’s excellent info from her @firebranchfarms IG posts, including a recipe for a headache salve that shows how she does a quick oil infusion and a salve. Good stuff.)

Herbal Medicine

January 8, 2023

Herbal medicinals are probably as old as humanity, but they offer many benefits to modern life. They can help us improve our health, as well as help us be less dependent on the increasingly inaccessible medical system. Herbs also could be a way to reconnect with the traditional lifeways that may be our best path to recovery of our humanity and a sane, sustainable existence on this imperiled planet. Creating herbal medicine for yourself and your loved ones is also a very fun and satisfying experience!

In this series of posts, I will share some of my experiences with discovering herbs, figuring out what herbs are good for me, and learning to concoct some of the medicines for myself. I’ll also try to provide good advice on reliable sources for information about herbs and the herbs themselves. If all goes well, I will also provide recipes and instructions on the fairly simple process of making some of the herbal medicines that I use, as well as sources of other instruction.

Most of these things are fairly simple and don’t require much beyond normal kitchen equipment. They do require a lot of care and attention to detail. They also require that you be sure you’re getting medicines and information from good sources, because there seems to be a lot of questionable stuff out there these days, probably because of a growing interest in the subject. My daughter is a trained herbalist and a nurse, so I rely primarily on sources from her that are proven safe and effective.

(I am posting this series on my Instagram account — @hoyamajon. It’s being a challenge, as IG is not so easy beyond just posting a photo or video with comments. Also am reposting interesting herbal things there from others.)