Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lily of The Valley

Swamp Buttercup

Pretty little riverside plant huh?

River Fun

It's getting sunny enough to go plunking in the water. Witness the rare moment of sister helping brother! See? Water IS healing!

So delightful even our cats couldn't resist. Two of our cats, Osha and Catnip, often come hiking with us, like little furry dogs. At left, Osha coming in for a drink after sunning himself on a boulder and watching out for the kids as they cross the tide. He meowed disapprovingly the whole time.

Solomon's Seal

Polygonatum biflorum ~ This woodland treasure is a beautiful jewel in the forest, blooming in tandem with my favourites listed previous.
Although it is not listed on the At Risk list by UpS (United Plant Savers), I have heard that it is indeed a plant that has suffered over harvesting. It seems abundant here, though and throughout the Audubon land around me. Seeing it flourish gives me hope.

Honey Hive, honey helper!

They're UP!
Our first honey supers. Now I just hope they don't fall over - as you can see, the hive is a little tipsy. If you click on the picture to expand it, you can see the gorgeous maiden hair fern at the left middle of the photo. Always a welcome sight, those fairy ferns!

And I had a very reliable helper .....
:) She is more relaxed around the humming hive than I am. She likes to perch next to it while I do things, and I can tell she absorbs every moment, adding it to her mind's library of beekeeping knowledge. She even came to bee school with me - for the ones I could attend at least. I had to quit half way through, my jobs conflicted. But I did learn quite a bit.

Red Raspberry Bliss

There are many more times the raspberry flowers and wild strawberry flowers this year than there have been. Must be the honey bees blessing!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pink Lady's Slipper

Blooming in full ecstasy, just like she does each spring, but this time there are more of her. Could have been the extra rain followed by warmer sun? Or just natural propagation. Either way, I never tire of seeing this majestic forest Goddess. She is endlessly hypnotizing. Not to mention, intensly seductive! Think; doctrine of signatures .....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Forgotten Herbs ~ Rue

An Herbal Blog Party! A collection of writings on forgotten herbs, hosted by Rebecca Hartman of Crabapple Herbs and http://www.herbwifery.org/. Thank you Rebecca!

Rue ~ Ruta graveolens ~
Family: Rutaceae
Taste: strongly bitter and aromatic
Parts used: Areal parts
Preparations: Tincture, Tea, Liniment, Oil, Spirit,

I picked up this beauty last August at the Women's Herbal Conference. I'm delighted to see her return and am anxious to see how full she grows and if I will have enough for a small harvest. For now, I will seat myself beside her for journeys, as Rue is known for her Shamanic power and protective aura. In fact, the word Ruta descended from the Greek word Reuo, meaning "to set free" according to Botanical.com . Funny, how it also cites it to be an antidote to witch's - since in my eyes it is quite the witch's ally. I wouldn't hesitate to ask the help of spirit Rue, for even though her energy is powerful and distinct, I feel her to be a potent, protective channel for intentions, prayer, and healing vibrations.

Ecuadorian Shamans would include this powerful herb for ceremony and herbal bathing to expel unwanted spirits, and to rid the body of 'stuck wind'. The amazing Rocio Alarcon used it in combination with other freshly picked plants in her wonderful healing ceremony, whereby she dipped her medicine bouquet in water and whipped the air in front of each person while calling in her guardians and chanting sacred words of protection and health.

Rue is a native to the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, (although a hardy, full sun perennial here in New England) and in Italy very small amounts of the fresh leaf are still eaten in salads to prevent disease and parasites. The fresh leaf is also crushed and applied to the temples to relieve headaches, although most profiles will mention that it is a rubefacient and may irritate the skin such like poison ivy does. I pet my plant often to inhale the complex, spicy, deep aroma and have not had any reaction. The flowers are blooming right now, little yellow-green spots at the tips of the blue grey flat-leafed plant. The flowers have been used for eye washes, relieving eyestrain or eye infection and also for fertility.

Internal doses are low, as more than ten drops (tincture) of this emetic herb can cause vomiting, but a lower dose can kill parasites and ease one of digestive upsets due to it's hot, bitter, and moving character.

I propose that Rue be tried on Lyme. I will try and explain.......

It's anti-parasitic action and blood-cleansing (unanimously 'anti-poison') action are two clues. But I also feel like Rue is powerfully transformative, something that Lyme disease asks us to do. It's planetary alliances are of the South, Mars and Fire. All being elements of transformation and Karmic forces. It's spirit is dramatic yet with consistency and grace, feeling to me like a welcome helper in times of unpredictable Lyme symptoms. It's action against eye problems (probably due to the Rutin content combined with it's volatile oils) suggests to me that it may have the power to cross the blood-brain barrier. This is my hypothesis, mind you, but this is an action that is sought out by Lyme sufferers. Another quality that adds up is that, when externally applied, it relieves sciatica, neuralgia, rheumatism, and gout pain, seeming to restore the functions of both the nerves and the capillaries. Drinking Rue-infused beer is an old remedy for venomous snake bites, along with applying some to the bite (after lancing) according to Juliette de Bairacli Levy. She also mentions it's use as a cure for Rabies. !! SO.... I can't see why it wouldn't be effective against a spirochete. It seems in the vein of Wormwood, Mugwort, and Jackass bitters, all of which I have used successfully in combination with other tinctures, for Lyme cases in my own children.
It's even said to cure insanity.
That's one heck of an herb. Of course, I think that just coming into contact with fresh herbs - any herbs - on a regular basis will cure insanity.
I planted this lovely omnipotent plant right outside my door step, in the garden, next to my mugwort, wormwood, nepeta, and bloodroot. (What was that about warding of witches? Ha!)

Back to the kitchen, fresh Rue leaves can be used as a flavoring for olives, and also is, by people in Iraq, eaten with raisins. It can be infused in to wine, and as mentioned above in beer, but can also be infused into honey and eaten by the small teaspoonfull, to ease flatulence and digestive upsets of the cold, sensitive kind.

To prepare a Rue liniment, loosely fill a jar with fresh Rue leaf and stem on the full moon (tomorrow!), and cover with half olive oil and half vodka. Steep for two weeks, while the moon turns from full to new. Shake well each day, and decant on the New Moon. Prayers and Moon baths especially good! Apply to hips and lower back for sciatica, or to areas with arthritis or rheumatism. Hardened tissue can also be helped by this wonderfully anti-vata herb (curing stuck-wind and cold hardness) by external application. Making an infused oil is as easy as the above recipe, omitting the vodka.
Or, eat a small (1/4 teaspoon) of the oil/vodka extraction to relieve stubborn constipation.

Contraindications: Rue is a powerful abortificient, and should not be used by pregnant women.

However, for cold, repressed or scanty menstruation, or to bring on contractions during arduous labor, Rue tincture can be used. Start with only 2-3 drops in water, and not exceeding 15 drops at a time for certain. A few drops is likely all that is needed. I imagine Rue infused oil would be helpful during painful back labor.

Ruta graveolens is also a popular homeopathic remedy. My little pamphlet quotes an observant phrase by Nicholas Culpeper (an old-time herbalist I am just now learning about but is well-loved by fellow Herbwives!) Here is the phrase:

"Rue is a shrubby plant with tough, woody branches.
The leaves are evergreen and have a bitter taste.
The flowers are yellow and appear at the ends of the younger shoots."

Cute, but I wouldn't describe it as evergreen despite it's resistance to dormancy while the weather turns cold.

The profile continues to describe the use of the homeopathic remedy for:

Eyestrain: red hot burning, overuse, injury, weak vision, pressure in socket or eyebrows.

Headaches: heavy as if weight in forehead.

Bone injuries: bruised, lame sensation.

Dental problems: deep aching, dry socket.

Sprains: sore tendons and ligaments, feet and ankles painful, aching in heel tendon, pain and stiff wrists and hands

Sciatica: worse at night or lying down, pain from back down through hips and thighs

Backache: Deep pains, thighs feel broken, relieved by lying on back, by pressure, weak or bruised feeling in lower back.

Better from: Lying on back, warmth, motion. (classic anti-vata helpers)

Worse from: cold wet weather, being at rest, lying down, cold, overexertion, cold wind, sitting.

I am always fascinated by the immense specificity of homeopathic indications.

Rue is also mentioned as a helpful plant for funerals, and for honoring our past ancestors.

Green Blessings!
Copyright 2007
Published May 30 (not as listed above - blog annoyances!)
Homeopathic reference guide by Standard homeopathic
Medicine Grove A Shamanic Herbal by Loren Cruden
Infusions of Healing, a Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies by Joie Davidow
Opening our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards
A Druids Herbal by Ellen Evert Hopman
Me: my intutive scriptures and sensory experience

Green Goddess

Ahhhhh, demulcent of the soul and the skin. Our mother comfrey is in full force and lucious purple bloom.
I am gearing up to make lots of glorious green oil, as I do every year, for salves, body oils, and nourishing salads. I may even have enough this year to harvest roots.
Thank you Comfrey!

Dwarf Curry

What IS Dwarf Curry anyway? My son picked this one out because he loved the way it smells .... but there was no latin name listed on the tag. Grr!

So for now we will just enjoy the lovely aroma and silvery glow.

See her here with her companions ... scented geranium and garden sage.


We picked up this handy little box at the nursery, and I'm excited not just for them to eat all the mosquitos - up to 600 in an hour - but to watch these fascinating creatures. One box hosts about 50 bats. Cool huh?

Honey Supers

Here they are .... ready to be layered onto the hive. They go up tomorrow morning!

Nettles and Ramps

Nettles ....... the amazing powerhouse food, medicine, healer, friend. Here she is soaking up the sun at our local park. And one of her best buddies? Ramps! There is nothing so delectable than cream of Nattles-Ramp soup. mmmmmm Much better than horsetail infusion.

Eeeeeew yucky!

My kids and I walked up the old road by our house, now wonderfully overgrown with wild plants and newly padded spots where the deer have slept soundly. Among the blooming Prunella and Dutchman's breeches, we came across an ocean of Horsetail. It was a magic moment, inspring us to name this special place Horsetail Mountain.

After bringing home a small harvest and drying it for a week, I decided to make an infusion ... hoping to nourish myself with minerals and good green stuff.

Yuck! It's much more bitter than I imagined.

I think I'll use it on my hair instead.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My River

I love this river. It is sacred water to me. Ever flowing, each morning I look out my window to greet her. Swelling with the fall of spring tears and receding with the summer heat, she is incredible to me. Magickal and alive. Making moist soil for hundreds of feet around her, wetting the feet of all my plant allies. Cooling our spirits and washing away worries, this river is a deep friend.
The water element is respected and honored in every energetic and religious system around the world and throughout history. She is known for her adaptability and force. Her powers of regeneration and birth are common sense, but nonetheless, nothing to be careless with. She nourishes our Earth's body and our own. She reflects the pull of the female spirals ... waxing and waning with each Moonlit sky. She quenches our need for depth, self-perception, dreams, and the mysterious. She teaches respect for the female - lashing out angrily at the overly yang destruction of our planet, resulting in horrific storms and resentful waves. She teaches us to honor our mother and to honor our own bodies.
Last year at the Women's Herbal Conference, I had the pleasure of attending classes and an intensive with an extraordinary woman Shaman from Ecuador. Her name is Rocio ..... and she spoke with clear reverence for the naturally occurring hot springs in her native Jungle, which she called "Pogyos" or sacred waters. These waters are sought out to cleanse - (and I use this word carefully as in the effect of being reborn or dissolving energies no longer serving us) our souls and to restore homeostasis of the physical body. As we know, natural hot springs are a well of minerals that heal, sulphur, maganese, iron, etc, which can remove a variety of ailments, everything from arthritis to acne to chronic fatigue.
But they do not just look at a map, walk there, and jump in. They have no map. They intuit the way there, and conduct extensive prayer and ceremony before even daring to touch the water. They introduce themselves, offer gifts and special oblations, prayer, and ask humble permission to enter and receive healing. Only when they are certain they have offered sufficiently and received permission do they enter. Should they fail this process, they will fall terribly ill in punishment or at the very least, get nothing in the way of healing or rejuvenation.
My river is a sort of Pogyo for me and my family. Although it is not a hot spring, it is certain magic. It hosts Swan, Mallards and Great Blue Heron, Red Cedar Trees, Wild mint, and hundreds more plants..... and it flows through protected land, so remains quite untainted and full of life force.
There are days when the sun is glinting so bright on the water's skin that I swear the fairies were unable to resist, and have exploded out from hiding for an exalted day of water dancing and celebratory splashing.

Wild Geranium

Also called Cranesbill or Herb Robert, this wonderful wild herb is a simple remedy for soothing skin. I beleive it is a Pelargonium - a member of the true Geranium family - not like the annuals you pick up at the nursery.
Pretty isn't she?

Gallium aparine .....

Cleavers is blooming everywhere now, her sticky ways showing extra affection for pants and, if consumed, the lymph system. My absolute favorite herbal ally for swollen glands and food allergies. Magnificent!

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart. Truly one of the most moving and vulnerable looking flowers in the whole plant Queendom.

Blossoms everywhere

Yummy Yummy yummy. Fresh Blossoms, a perfect day, and lots of honey and vinegar to smother on them!
My children and I picked our fill of blossoms from our wild yard. It was one of the fisrt really lovely bright days of spring, and we shared the flowers gently with the busy honeybees. They LOVE the ground Ivy even more than we do.
Honey, a natural preservative, is one my most favorite ways to prepare herbs and flowers. You can pack in the fresh herbs, cover with good local honey that has not been over heated, and then after a few weeks... eat it by the spoonful or mix into hot water for a delicious tea. You get the healing properties of the herb as well as the honey. I like to soak all kinds of plants in honey .... Rosemary, Sage, Mint, Geranium, Monarda, Roses, Goldenrod, Dandelion, Verbena, Lavender..... the possibilities are endless.
Another lovely way to use your honey is for clay and honey facials. More aromatic plants, especially ones you may prefer to apply rather than eat, like Patchouli leaves, can be steeped in honey and then mixed with white, pink, green, or red clay to make a medicinal mask. This is especially nice for those who prefer infused herbs over using essential oils.
Herbal vinegar, can also be used for beauty. The old classic Queen of Hungary Water was used as a facial tonic. It was a mix of vinegar, water, and sprits, infused with Rosemary and other aromatic and antiseptic herbs. Many variations of this historic potion are still made in kitchens and factories alike. I find vinegar irritating on my face, but that's alraight since I can still pour it on my hair! Herbal hair rinses made from infused vinegar have also been used forever, depositing vital minerals and vitamins, and making smooth manageable locks at the same time.
And don't worry, you'll only smell like salad dressing for 5 or 10 minutes - it fades! Some herbs that are particularly beneficial for the scalp and hair are Nettles, Rosemary, Chamomile, Sage, Horsetail, Kelp, Geranium, Violet leaf, and Lavender.
And, of course, if you don't want to apply these things to your skin and hair ...... just go back to eating them! Apple Cider Vinegar is a superb menstrum for rendering the minerals and trace minerals from our green friends. Nettles, Comfrey, and Mugwort are especially nourishing for the skeleton. Steep fresh leaves in ACV for a good 4-6 weeks. Strain or eat the remaining leaves in soup. My son is particularly fond of pickled Violets!

Trillium photo #2

Saturday, May 5, 2007


I found a roadside Trillium. So excruciatingly beautiful it was a sight for sore eyes and seeing it grow in such an unprotected place made me want to take it home and plant it somewhere safe in my woods or garden.
The trillium has to be the most auspicious plant. When I see her, which is every spring but only a few times, I instantly feel like I've been sent a spirit message. "Something special is on it's way, watch out for it or you might miss it!" She sais.
Her three leaves, three sepals, and three flower petals, makes a most cosmic presentation. Even the stamens and pistil are in threes. Since plants in the Liliaceae family have flower parts mostly in threes, I am guessing Trillium belongs to this plant family (I'll have to go look it up to be sure). She is arriving now, when most Lily family plants are erecting; wild ramps, daylily greens, daffodils, trout lily, etc.

Well, my guess is wrong. It actually belongs to the Trilliaceae family. And lovely as it is, if you are seduced (as I was) to bend down and inhale the sweet aroma, you will likely be very dissapointed. It smells quite repulsive.

Native peoples used Trillium (also called Beth Root) for both food and medicine, although it is now listed as an at risk herb so it is not for harvesting. The leaves were used as a pot herb or in soups or salads. The root was used to aid a childbearing woman during labor or postpardum, as a uterine tonic. Interesting to me how several herbs slating similar childbirth/woman healing properties all grow in the same woodland envronment; Lady's Slipper, Mitchella repens, Blue Cohosh ... as if the wet fertile ground of the forest mirrors the fertile womb.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wild School

Have you ever been to a school that just lets you be your wild self? Well that seems to be the blissful motive of this extraordinary place ... a sanctuary of both the wild Earth and the wildness of the human sprit. Great Hollow wilderness school, where my children have been going once a week for the last month, and where I have had the great honor of teaching a Jr. Herbalist course within thier Friday program; the Jr. Naturalists.
My kids come home - well to our friend's house - drenched in mud and happiness. They spend the following weekend singing songs about the sun and science, and recongnizing amazing things about the world around them that they learned at Great Hollow .... things they learned at some point while they were hiking, ramp-hunting, newt-finding, bird-watching, weed-eating, or who knows. Things they learned somewhere during the mysterious spaces between ignited conversation, accidental discovery, inspirited ideas, and curious questions being explored. And then, when they see it again, they remember it in vivid detail and can explain it with deft and confidence.
It's the amazing thing about learning through being. Through walking in the woods and letting curiosity and imagination lead. And about the leaders with as much a child's spirit as a well of knowledge ripe for the picking.
What an honor to be able to teach - and in the process learn - about the patterns of plants and children, about how welcoming they are to interaction, play, and learning. How excited the weeds are to be popping up everywhere, as spritely as the kids are, innocent and beautiful.
When I have time, I will elaborate on my class plans thus far. Some of which I have already posted at www.herbwifery.org if you want to check it out.