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. 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.)

Climate denial

You’re already talking about, as we said, already experiencing more extremes, so we’re already experiencing enhanced hazards as a result of climate change. And every bit of warming, whether it’s above or below one-and-a-half degrees C, increases the risks that we face. So, anything we can to limit the amount of warming will reduce the hazards we’re creating for ourselves.

Bob Kopp, Rutgers

Clarifying words from the UN-sponsored report that came out this week, a report that makes starkly clear that the threat of climate change/global warming is real — and dire. And further confirmation that it’s the extremes that are effect of climate change, not just warmer numbers. In my simplified version of this a few weeks ago, I made the point that heat powers change and creates all kinds of extremes.

John Sauven adds a few of the details in his remarks to Democracy Now:

You can just read the headlines — you know, the wildfires out of control in Greece and Turkey, the heat domes in California and, you know, British Columbia in Canada, the wildfires out of control in Siberia, the floods in Germany and in China. You just look anywhere around the world, and you see climate catastrophe unfolding.

John Sauven, UK Director of Greenpeace

And he doesn’t mention the fires in Oregon and other west coast areas that are devastating whole towns, threatening to spread destruction and smoke across the country.

The report also is very clear — the clearest language yet — on the point that it’s what we humans do that’s making it happen so fast. Kim Cobb, one of the authors of the UN report, points out in the Democracy Now report, that they’re now saying, with full scientific consensus, that the human connection is unequivocal.

Well, this report is obviously an unprecedented new foundation for our science and our world at this critical moment. It is something that involved hundreds of authors over the last three years and really assessed the relevant scientific literature across 14,000 different articles in the published, peer-reviewed literature to make assessments as to where we are with human-caused climate change and where we’re going and what lies ahead in the choices that we have to make. So, really, a stunning, historic pillar in our field and a reminder of the futures that we have to choose in the next decades. … We’re going from “virtually certain” human-caused climate change in the last report to “unequivocal” wording for this report in terms of human influence on climate, and thinking about piling up on the absolutely factual column more and more and more aspects of the impacts of climate change. And this report, I think, makes a very strong emphasis on the rising climate and weather extremes, that have been more uncertain in previous reports. This year, the science has — over the last years, the science has matured to the point that a lot of strong wording in this report around the links between human-caused climate change and any number of different climate extremes.

Kim Cobb, Ga. Tech

It’s clear and very strongly supported by the scientific community — 14,000 articles — that this is the case. Which leaves the climate-change deniers with nothing but bluster to rely on. Denial of the need for action on this issue is just based on the selfish, greedy refusal of the industrial world to take responsibility for their huge part in this problem. Their words ring hollow in the face of the overwhelming evidence that’s been gathered in decades of research. The petroleum, coal, power and auto industries are among the worst, and they have lots of paid voices that present pseudo-science to cover their refusal to make changes that might cost their stockholders money.

And, of course, they have lots of paid lobbyists and lawyers to cajole and threaten our representatives so they are afraid to do anything about this issue. Even the half-hearted provisions in the infrastructure bill and other recent legislation doesn’t seriously take on the corporate roots of resistance to action to improve the situation.

I look at what’s happening around the world, the weather going crazy, people dying, children’s future threatened, and I seriously wonder what it will take for our leaders to do something.

Longleaf Dream (2000)

“Only the rarest of characters have genuine insight into the future or the past, and those seem crippled with grief at what they see.”

Barbara Kingsolver, 1992

I wake to moonlight and wind, old pines soughing in the night.

Three A.M. moon bright through my window, alive through the needles.

I sigh with the trees; I want to sleep but moon and pine song draw me out.

My dreams turn to memories of lost landscapes: the wiregrass prairie, Longleaf’s domain, stretching forever, covering coastal plain.

Like imagined lost lovers grieved for in the night, I grieve with the pines the loss of their mothers, fathers, lovers and friends, the loss of a world rampant with life, our birthright traded for a mess of porridge.

Tears slide slowly down my cheeks, and my chest aches with unreleased sobs.

What madness is this that comes in the night? How can I explain?

Who would believe?

:That I suffer the loss of the old growth forests like the loss of a child;

:That I feel the pain of what has been done like a blade in my chest;

:That sitting here in the moonlight, I feel the the attacks on the long-lost landscape as attacks on my body, as a deep abiding pain, an ache of heart and chest and head;

:That I am “crippled with grief” at what I see, immobilized by rage at what has been lost, at what cost… and at what gain.

How to explain?

Hobbling through life, heart bursting, lips frozen in a silent scream.

But the sweet moonlight pours over me yet like honeysuckle scent. Tears of crystal grief sparkle.

The pines’ sad songs are soft lullaby, and at length, I sleep.

In dreams, I walk along in moonlight down ancient corridors of pine!

(From a journal sometime around the year 2000.)

Rebirth…

Well, here I am, jumping back into the blog after… well, several years. It’s been a minute, as the guys at the jail said.

And a lot of water has rolled under that proverbial bridge in these past few years, both in my life and in the world. We’ve gone through more than a year of the pandemic and all that it has wrought. The End of Trump and the insanity his followers have visited on the nation has rocked our world in ways never imagined. Georgia has elected two Democratic senators and is likely to see more movement in that direction. Big changes!

My own life has gone through upheavals of similar magnitude, as I saw the collapse of a longtime relationship–which nearly tore my family apart–and the beginning of a new relationship and a new life, and the birth of a child who is now three years old. And now, in recent weeks, the dissolution of that new relationship is putting me through changes, driving me to find new sources of meaning and clarity in my life. All of this and more.

Yes, all of this is giving me a lot to think about, a lot to write about, a lot to take onto my cushion at the end of the day. As the original purpose of this site was to present my learnings along the mostly Buddhist path–or the non-path–of a search for understanding and enlightenment, all this recent development in the world and in my life should give me a lot to write about.

I hope it will be interesting and even helpful to someone who may chance on these ramblings. I suppose I’m writing it primarily to clarify the learnings I’m gleaning from this field of broken dreams. But I will make every effort, as is the writer’s job, to assess what might be meaningful and interesting to others and make that my focus.

I will also address some of what is going on in the world and bring the perspective of my years of observation, study, meditation–and just generally experiencing the consequences of barreling along through life without a whole lot of forethought. Maybe something I’ve learned will be of some interest or benefit to someone! I’ll also continue with the story of my way-finding, or how I came to be on this peculiar, Buddhist-Inspired path. That’s in the Pages.

Hope to hear from you!

Baldwin speaks

That summer, in any case, all the fears with which I had grown up, and which were now a part of me and control my vision of the world, rose up like a wall between the world and me…

–James Baldwin

[This is a repost of something from a few years ago that seems more relevant now than ever… the full post on Baldwin is on my War Journal blog.]

Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me sent me back to reread James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, which I had not read since 1999. And there, on page 27, is the quote above with its unattributed reference to the same line from Richard Wright which gave Coates his title.

Wright’s poem of the same name (Between the World and Me), from White Man Listen! (1957), says:

“And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing,/

Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms/

And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me….”

These lines have drawn me in to the many points of similarity in the two writers, and especially reminded me of how much power and depth there is in James Baldwin.

Coates has drawn much inspiration from Baldwin, and seems poised to fill Baldwin’s role as a leading intellectual and articulate voice for the inchoate rage now welling up among Black Americans and their friends. Coates and Baldwin both reject the church, the street, the schools, and all other forms of escape and denial as beneath us, distractions from the worthy goals of freedom and dignity.

Both maintain that the same forces that have driven black people into slavery have created the degraded forms of life now ruling the ghettos and the suburbs alike, and promise to destroy all that is lovable in human life as well as threaten the very biosphere – at least the parts of it that we depend on. Baldwin sees our only salvation in “transcendence of the realities of color, of nations, and of altars.” [p. 81]

In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin lays down the philosophical basis that informs much of Coates work, the idea that white people – or people who “think they are white” as he says in the essay “On Being White… And Other Lies” – are harmed as much by racism as are black people, and that it is in order to maintain their very grasp on reality, their sense of themselves, that white people today cling to racism so tenaciously.

“White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this – which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never – the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.” [p. 21]

Baldwin is profound in his understanding of the realities of life, and warns against retribution: “I am also concerned for their dignity, for the health of their souls, and must oppose any attempt that Negroes may make to do to others what has been done to them. I think I know – we see it around us every day – the spiritual wasteland to which that road leads. It is so simple a fact and one that is so hard, apparently, to grasp: Whoever debases others is debasing himself.”

His deep spiritual understanding of life is reflected also in these incredibly beautiful, perceptive and sensitive lines:

“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.” [p. 90-91]

He doesn’t shrink from the horrors of the American system or the cruelty of the situation, but he finds, as does Coates, some light of hope for our future. He says, ”…the white man himself is in sore need of new standards, which will release him from his confusion and place him once again in fruitful communion with the depths of his own being. And I repeat: The price of the liberation of the white people is the liberation of the blacks – the total liberation, in the cities, in the towns, before the law, and in the mind. … In short, we, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation – if we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity, as men and women.”

For me, the implications, the social and political messages, in the work of both Coates and Baldwin are very clear, even stark.

Baldwin lays it out: “Now, there is simply no possibility of a real change in the Negro’s situation without the most radical and far-reaching changes in the American political and social structure.”

Coates’ characterization of “The Dream” as the deathbed of us all should make it clear enough that the “American Dream” – right down to the white picket fences – must die. Which, in light of all the Confederate flag rallies in the wake of Charleston, may mean that a cultural revolution of sorts is necessary.

What that revolution is and how it proceeds is hard to say. As Coates says, we Dreamers must learn to struggle with the same dignity and “great spiritual resilience” with which those we have oppressed for so long struggle.

And it seems to me that this is beginning. Many are beginning to realize that the oppression of black people, of indigenous, of women, of GLBT – of all America’s “Others” – is of a piece. Identifying ourselves with that oppression is not so hard, really, if one just opens one’s eyes and looks around. As Colin Farrell’s character “Ray” (in the “True Detectives” series) says in response to his partner’s complaint that he doesn’t know how to be out in the world, “Hey, look out that window, look at me, nobody does.”

It’s a world that’s not making a place for most of us, and slowly, slowly, people are beginning to realize this must change. Coates cites the need for a “new story” – an idea advanced also by high-profile writers and speakers like Charles Eisenstein, Russell Brand and others which is gaining traction among a wide variety of groups in our society. People are understanding that nothing less than re-invention of society at its fundamental levels is going to make any difference. To change anything, we must change everything. Of course, the corollary to that is: To change everything, we must change something. Beginning with how we view the world.

I think both Coates and Baldwin would agree with that assessment. And the gift they have for the world is an open-eyed, fearless willingness to see the world as it is. Baldwin says, “That man who is forced each day to snatch his manhood, his identity, out of the fire of human cruelty that rages to destroy it knows… something about himself and human life that no school on earth – and indeed, no church – can teach. He achieves his own authority, and that is unshakeable. This is because, in order to save his life, he is forced to look beneath appearances, to take nothing for granted, to hear the meaning behind the words.”

This perspective is what these black writers bring to us. Maybe, if we can see how their experience is our own experience, we can be as strong, as durable, as brilliant as they and do our part in bringing about the changes that this world must see for whatever time we humans have left on the planet to be a time of love and dignity.

 

The link to the essay on Collective Liberation:

https://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Baldwin_On_Being_White.pdf

Gendered language

A really interesting post on Medium today from my online friend Allison Washington.

Languages in Gender Transition

There are so many things we find issue with in the Anglo culture, but as this makes clear, we are far from the worst in terms of the rigidity of binary gender in our language… and as goes language, so goes culture often. So at least there’s hope for this Anglo Western culture growing past our hetero-normative binary assumptions.

For some others, it seems unlikely that progress will come in that direction anytime this century.

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

 

Prison Amerika

The Florida Prison Strike, calling itself #operationPUSH, is apparently still continuing, and our efforts to let the Florida Prison System know that we are watching seems to be having an effect. At least Rashid Johnson is not being tortured now, or so it seems from recent communication, which is always slow and difficult.

This issue is pivotal in the understanding of what is happening — has been happening for some time — in the U.S. We may be at a critical turning point in terms of societal change, and the issues of law enforcement, justice, and incarceration are merging into a larger, intersectional issue that brings everything into sharp focus.

The prison strike is galvanizing a lot of support from unexpected places. I’ve listed a few links here with good information, some from surprising sources such as Teen Vogue and Her Campus.

Her Campus

Shadow Proof

Teen Vogue

This Twitter site has lots of good info as well: #AbolitionNow

Also this IWW group has recent updates on communication from inside the Florida prisons, as well as info on support for prison reform and radical restructuring of the “justice” system: IWOC

I’m beginning a new category — “Prison America” — on this blog to explore this developing movement and the general topic of incarceration and the so-called Justice System in the U.S.

At the moment, the focus needs to be on providing support by way of phone calls, maybe letters, to the Florida authorities to keep them under control. Also support of the groups that are working on this issue may be critical.

But there are political and philosophical issues here which need to be explored as we address this larger problem in the country and the world. I’m hoping to post some comments and thoughts on that soon…

Florida Prison Strike

Good info on the Florida Prison Strike, which has been using Operation PUSH as its hashtag on IG. I think Operation PUSH was Jesse Jackson’s organization back in the ’70’s — but this isn’t connected, just using the name. Angela Davis has spoken out in support of the strike, and some other people are getting on board. I’m not sure about Jackson.

Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons.