Let’s see who’s there

If you have been reading my blog, I am sure you know by now that gardening and maintaining a garden is just not my thing. But when it comes to foraging, now that is more up my alley. Although, you can claim removing last year’s dead stems and leaves is actually “gardening,” I view it more like exploration. Because the very act of removing all last year’s detritus from my little medicinal garden is always thrilling. It reminds me of when I would take Mathew into the woods to see what critters were living under logs and rocks. We would very slowly and carefully pick the object up to see who was there. It was always very exciting.  That’s how I approach my little garden. Mind you, it is a very small garden perhaps only 10′ x 10′, but an enormous amount of love and intention goes into it.

waking up the gardenAs I started to remove last year’s detritus, the first plants to reveal themselves were Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). I think I could also see a very shy Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) peaking through. Since I removed everything that would impede their journey to the surface and as long as the weather continues to be “spring like,” I suspect now all the plants will have an easier time revealing themselves, and by the end of the week more will breaking through the earth.

Waking up Lady's Mantle

Waking up Lady’s Mantle

This will be the 6th year I will be nurturing the garden. Every year, I add one or two more herbs to get to know and learn. Some of them I had never worked with before, so it has been very interesting. Gratefully, most of the herbs love the garden, coming back and flourish year after year. Unfortunately, some have enjoyed the garden a little bit too much. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria) adore the garden but since they thrive all over our land, there is no reason for them to take up space here.  Other plants have found their way into my garden and are welcome, such as Red Clover (Trifolium pretense). Several years ago, I learned how tenacious Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was, silly me, I planted it in the center of the garden, thinking it would look nice. It really did until it started to crowd all the other plants who were stifled by its beautiful large overbearing leaves and flower stalks.  The next fall, we tried our best to take it all out so the other plants could breathe again. We replanted the Comfrey between Mike’s baby apple trees, where is will help the trees thrive. Comfrey’s root system efficiently mines potassium, calcium along with other minerals enriching the soil around it. We did not do the best job eradicating it from the garden, as it keeps revealing itself, less each year but nevertheless she is always there. Truthfully, I am not too sure that it is possible to totally eradicate Comfrey, but I guess time will tell. It is a fabulous reminder that we really cannot manage nature. One of the very reasons I am more of a forager at heart than a gardener.

 

 

The Little Alchemist

Several years ago, I started a journey of exploration of a magical plant ~ Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris). It is a rather understated herb, often found in the borders of gardens, with cloak shaped leaves and small green petal-less flowers. Nevertheless, it was not named the “Little Alchemist” for nothing. As its genus name, suggests Alchemilla refers to it being highly admired by the great alchemists. They were particularly enamored with the little water droplets that remained on the leaves after the morning dew had dried on other plants. They thought that Lady’s Mantle was “sweating” crystal pearls of water, and collected in the center of its funnel-shaped leaves and along the leaf margins. The alchemist would collect the magical dew from the leaves because the water droplets were considered essential to the Alchemist’s “Great Work” ~ to produce the Philosopher’s Stone. These droplets were collected and used by alchemists in attempts to create gold. I doubt they were successful, but Lady’s Mantle does indeed have other magical qualities.

lady's mantleThe water collected on the leaves is not dew but created within the leaf itself through a process called guttation. The plant pulls up more water than it can use and the root pressure forces some of it to exude through the leaves through special structures called water stomata or hydathodes, forming the droplets. The result is “water” that is high in minerals, organic acids, sugars and even enzymes. Since the surface of the leaves are very hairy, the droplets tend to stay quite a while once they’ve landed there. I have noticed them at 4pm on a hot summer day. The big difference between guttation and dew is that guttation produces droplets generated within the plant and dew produces droplets from the atmosphere onto the plant surface.

Lady’s Mantle has many medicinal qualities. The leaves and roots are used primarily. However, when harvesting leaves, many including myself take great care to collect the magical droplets along with the leaves. Some “believed that to moisten the skin with the sacred dew would impart a special radiance of elfin allure.” I personally find that simply dabbing a little bit around my sore tired eyes is very soothing and reduces any puffiness and redness. Perhaps, I should dab it all over my face. I have also put a leaf with its magical dew on a tender breast cyst and found great relief along with reducing the cyst size.

Lady’s Mantle has become a strong ally during my perimenopausal journey. As my body and cycles change, I experience flooding. This tends to be very inconvenient when traveling to say the least. Lady’s Mantle is rich in tannins giving it astringent properties that are excellent for drying up, tightening and expelling moisture from tissues ~ therefore, reducing the flow. This magical herb is an emmenagogue, which means it stimulates and normalizes menstrual flow as well as being a tonic and strengthening the female reproductive system. Therefore, it assists people with irregular cycles as well as heavy flow cycles ~ it brings balance to each individual. It also contains salicylic acid and has sedative properties that help to alleviate cramps and painful menstruation. Lady’s Mantle strengthens the womb, and therefore may provide support for women who are have a difficult time conceiving or holding onto their pregnancies. Postpartum, it helps heal and restore muscle and tissues integrity along with strengthening lactation.

Even though Lady’s Mantle can easily be claimed to be a woman’s herb, during the middles ages it was better known for its vulnerary properties.  It’s astringent, anti-inflammatory and powerful styptic actions make it excellent for healing wounds. It is also good for any skin troubles ~ soaking inflamed wounds, rashes, cuts, scrapes, or burn is wonderful to soothe and prevent infection. Using a tea for a mouth rinse helps with spongy tissues such as bleeding gums, sores and ulcers by tightening up the tissues and stopping any bleeding.

Although I’ve discovered a lot about Lady’s Mantle, I feel like I am just scratching the surface with the Little Alchemist. What do you use it for? Please share and I will continue to share with you.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition.

 

 

 

Vitex ~ when your pituitary needs rebooting

Recently, I learned the hard way how well my herbal remedies worked ~ I ran out during a trip. I take some remedies to support my body and others to help ameliorate symptoms. Ever so often, I titrate down the dosage to see if I actually need as much as I am taking; less is always best in my book. However, I don’t usually stop any of the tried and true ones. When packing for a recent trip to Florida, I didn’t refill my tincture bottles; I thought I had enough for the ten day trip. I did have enough but when the trip ended up being extended for almost a month, I ran out. When I noticed my supplies getting low, I started to take half doses or even less. Unfortunately, I noticed some symptoms coming back and it became obvious that my body really needed more to ameliorate the symptoms. From a “scientific” point of view, this was great news. The tinctures were working very well. Although, it did make me rather uncomfortable until I returned home.

The most obvious absence was noticed from Chaste Berry (Vitex agnus-castus). I had been impressed with it for over a year, but forgot how uncomfortable I was before it became part of my daily routine. It’s one of those herbs that are known both by its Latin and colloquial names ~ Vitex or Chaste berry. It has a long history of use and was even mentioned in Homer’s the “Iliad” as a symbol of chastity, capable of warding off evil. The name “chaste” was referred to by the monks in the Middle Ages who used Chaste Berry to decrease sexual desire. Not sure it actually works that way on men, but it is known to increase the female libido.

Vitex is a reproductive herb. It acts on the brain’s pituitary gland, which controls and regulates all the other glands in the body along with regulating and normalizing hormone production by releasing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). This, in turn, signals the ovaries to produce more of the hormone progesterone. Vitex stimulates the pituitary gland and helps restores balance. Think of it as “rebooting the pituitary gland” and bringing balance and harmony back to the body. As a result, Vitex normalizes hormonal imbalances, such as those that can occur during menopause, premenstrual syndrome, or menstruation; it also helps dissolve fibroids and cysts.

I was experiencing a boatload of menopausal symptoms and found that combining Vitex, Motherwort, and Lady’s Mantle ameliorated almost all them. I use Vitex primarily for adenomyosis, which is uterine thickening that occurs when endometrial tissue that normally lines the uterus moves into the outer muscular walls of the uterus. It is similar to endometriosis, but the tissues develop beyond the uterus. Before I found Vitex, this disease was very painful and woke me up most morning with a heavy pressure on my lower abdomen; it felt like someone was standing on me. It also caused flooding and severe cramps during menses. The gynecologist gave me three options ~ take painkillers or inserting a hormone releasing vaginal ring or hysterectomy. She also mentioned that most symptoms dissipated after menopause. I decided to investigate what herbs were out there that could support my body during this time. I had heard and read about Vitex but there was no mention of ademomysis except it’s abilities to “reboot the pituitary” which relieved the pain of endometriosis along with dissolving fibroids and cysts; it just made sense to try it. Vitex tends to be slow acting; it usually takes three cycles to start working.  Lucky me, I started to feel relief within 3 weeks. All of sudden there was a sense of calm within me during the day and the painful morning started to become a memory (until I ran out).

I’m back in FL again to support my family through a difficult period. This time all my tinctures are full. I do not need to learn this lesson again, especially during challenging times.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition.

 

 

 

What’s under there?

If you have been reading my blog, I am sure you know by now that gardening does not come naturally to me. Foraging does. Perhaps I am approaching gardening differently this year, because the very act of removing last year’s dead stems and leaves from my little medicinal garden was thrilling. It reminded me of when I would take Mathew into the woods to see what critters were living under logs and rocks. We would very slowly and carefully pick the object up, to see who was there. It was always very exciting.  That is how I’m approaching my little garden this year. Mind you, it is a very small garden perhaps only 10′ x 7′, but an enormous amount of love and intention goes into it.

waking up the gardenAs I started to remove last year’s detritus, the first plants to reveal themselves were Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). I think I could also see a very shy Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) peaking through. Since I removed everything that would impede their journey to the surface and as long as the weather continues to be “spring like,” I suspect now all the plants will have an easier time revealing themselves, and by the end of the week more will breaking through the earth.

Waking up Lady's Mantle

Waking up Lady’s Mantle

This will be the 4th year I will be nurturing the garden. Every year, I add one or two more herbs to get to know and learn. Some of them I had never worked with before, so it has been very interesting. Gratefully, most of the herbs love the garden, coming back and thriving year after year. Unfortunately, some have enjoyed the garden a little bit too much. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria) adore the garden but since they thrive all over our land, there is no reason for them to take up space here.  Other plants have found their way into my garden and are welcome, such as Red Clover (Trifolium pretense). Last year, I learned how tenacious Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was, silly me, I planted it in the center of the garden, thinking it would look nice. It really did until it started to crowd all the other plants who were stifled by its beautiful large overbearing leaves and flower stalks.  Last fall, we tried our best to take it all out so the other plants could breathe again. We replanted the comfrey between Mike’s baby apple trees, where is will help the trees thrive. Comfrey’s root system efficiently mines potassium, calcium along with other minerals enriching the soil around it. Hopefully, we did a good job eradicating it from the garden. Truthfully, I am not too sure that it is possible but I guess time will tell. It is a fabulous reminder that we really cannot manage nature. One of the very reasons I am more of a forager at heart than a gardener.