Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shepherd's Purse

Fresh Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) macerating in 95% grain alcohol. Beautiful!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spent a good part of yesterday out of doors. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy that.

Morning was about gathering and tincturing Shepherd's Purse with my twice-weekly student (I'm realizing I prefer the title of 'student' to 'apprentice').

In the afternoon my son and I walked along a large Tucson wash and scouted for Wild Oats. We found an amazing grove of Elder trees and just generally stared into stands of wildflowers, at circling hawks, and into the cold clear water.

Far too much of late afternoon and evening were spent combing through Arizona Flora (Kearney & Peebles!) attempting to key out a Mint we brought home from the wash. We got as far as a genera (Agastache), but gave up on the species as the house grew dark.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wild Milky Oats

Stopped in at a couple of washes this morning, checking to see if the Wild Oats are in the "milky stage" yet, and therefore ready for harvest. Not yet. I'll check back in few days.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Battle and War; Herbs and Autoimmunity

A year ago, before a client's dentist delivered the diagnosis, I'd never heard of Lichen Planus.

Itchy, scaly, irritated and raised, the white patches on the insides of her cheeks and gums were reminiscent of thrush. An autoimmune disease, the dentist said it could be set off by her dental work (she has tons). Or an allergy to her own saliva, or to chewing gum, or to toothpaste -- there were many theories. Thankfully the Lichen Planus was limited to the mouth, as it can also occur on the scalp, nails, and genitals. Oral Lichen Planus affects women twice as often as men. And like most autoimmune conditions, it is exacerbated by stress.

The dentist, reluctant to refer his patient for treatment with steroids, was open to monitoring the condition while she used herbs.

At it's itchiest, she used a Chlorella/Marshmallow tea to hold in her mouth, maximizing contact with the lesions before spitting it out (imagine the smell!).

Early on, the tincture formula included lymphatic herbs (Poke root, Prickly Ash bark) along with an alterative (Sarsaparilla root), a nourishing detoxifier (Kelp leaf) and what I like to call a "liver spur" -- herbs that wake up your sleeping liver -- in this case we used Dandelion root.

As time passed, she monitored what would make it better (a weekend at her son's home), what would cause a flair up (a trip to the ER with her 90 year old mother). The emotional component was there, no doubt, and she used a Valerian/Passionflower/Crampbark tincture to cope.

So here we are, 13 months later, and the dentist says, "I'd have trouble making a diagnosis of Lichen Planus today. Your mouth shows no signs of lesions or irritations." Good thing he took those photographs!

Her maintenance regimen is as follows:

Capsules--Turmeric root/Bromelain/Chlorella

Tincture--Burdock root/Sarsaparilla root/Nettles leaf and seed

Friday, March 19, 2010

Green Alchemy

Our bodies evolved
From the stuff of this planet.
What came before us, informs us,
Fed by the animating energy of the sun.

Leaves animate us.
They nourish us.
They clothe us.
The leaves heal us.

Leaves came first, we came after.
Wisdom dances, vibrates, spins, in particles
that Green Alchemy captures.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Indian Food is Medicinal Food

Last night's dinner began as a post on Heidi Swanson's blog 101Cookbooks For some reason I hadn't noticed that the recipe called for yellow curry powder. I thought it was red. Disappointment sank in with the realization that I'd planned dinner around an ingredient I truly disliked: that pre-made yellow curry powder.

Remembering that curry is a term for a blend of spices, toasted and crushed together, I hunted about for a recipe I could call my own. I read through a few online and cobbled together this one.

Yellow Curry
1.5 TBS Coriander seed
2 tsp Turmeric
1.5 tsp Cumin seed
1.5 TBS black Peppercorn
1.5 tsp crushed red Chile
0.5 tsp Cardamon seed
0.5 inch Cinnamon stick
0.5 tsp whole Clove
0.5 tsp ground Mustard
0.25 tsp ground Ginger

Toast the whole spices in a pan over medium heat until fragrant and toasty. Grind whole spices together with the powdered ingredients using mortar and pestle.

Grinding all these herbs and spices together brought home the fact that tonight, dinner would be medicinal: anti-inflammatory and supportive of digestion. The recipe (a lentil/carrot stew served over brown rice) called for 2 TBS of this curry mix, and I ended up using three -- quite a dose of these kitchen medicinals!

And yes, it was far better than the pre-fab yellow mix. This recipe's a keeper.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teaching: a focusing effect

Years ago, over coffee, a fellow mom from my daughter's elementary school said to me, "So, I'm thinking of taking a lover."

That moment comes to mind when I think, "So, I'm thinking of taking an apprentice."

A few awkward phone calls later, that long ago mom let the idea drop. But my apprentice "interviewed" last Friday and helped inventory the herbs yesterday: first the bulk tinctures and then the bulk dry herbs, correcting the errant filing along the way. As she got started, I worked at the nearby stove, making a salve.

I mixed oils and added beeswax. And something occurred to me. "As you go through the herbs, reading their names and holding the bottles, pay attention to any name that peaks your interest or draws your attention." Herbal insights that just drop in are meaningful, a hint at the symbiotic existence between us and them.

At day's end she left with a baggie of Hyssop, insisting that she was getting the better end of this deal. I'm a realist. This deal will have it's up and downs. But at first blush, I'm appreciating the focusing nature of sharing this big love of my life. Distilling the years of gathering and paying attention to what drops in and asks to be shared.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pharming your trust

On Friday (3/12/10) the United States officially debunked the link between autism and childhood vaccines.

Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, wrote an editorial for online news source The Daily Beast that synopsizes the controversy

He writes this ironic passage:

"One of the remarkable aspects of this story is how much ordinary people distrust the major medical associations and health organizations whose sole objective is to watch out for those people’s health."

Go figure.

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