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.

 

 

Gathering herbs takes consideration

Recently, Mathew and I decided that the weather was perfect to harvest some herbs. It had been dry for several days and the sky was blue with a few clouds for decoration ~ simply put it was a glorious day to tend to the plants. Mathew set out to harvest Motherwort  (Leonurus cardiaca) and I, Goldenrod (Solidago spp.). The pollinators were as happy as we were. Their pollen sacks were bursting and appeared to be weighing down a few of the little guys. I love sharing the flowers and am so grateful that from spring till early fall there is a constant flow of blossoms on our land. The bees and butterflies seem perfectly happy with sharing the flowers with us as well. They flowed around us and it reminded me of snorkeling with the fish off the coast of Belize. I felt like I was accepted, part of their world.happy bee

Mathew came back with his basket and asked if it was enough. He didn’t want to gather too much since the bees looked really happy. He definitely picked enough for a batch. With a look of relief, we decided to leave the rest for the bees to enjoy too. The excitement of our little pollinators was undeniable ~ the flowers were alive and vibrating with life. It’s important that everyone shares and leaves enough so there will be plenty next year.

When we arrived five years ago, nothing had been sprayed on our land (to my knowledge) and nothing has been sprayed since. I would bet no pesticides have been sprayed for at least a decade or more. Sharing the flowers with all the pollinators feels even better because I know our blossoms will nourish and not harm them. By gathering pollen and nectar for their survival, they assist the plants in their continued existence, which in turn provides us with fruits and vegetables, thus contributing to our survival. It is a beautiful bond that unites us all. Furthermore, it’s not just the bees and butterflies, but hummingbirds, bats, beetles, and flies that visit each plant to collect nectar. All these critters need the nectar as much as we need the fruits and vegetable for survival. Approximately 90 percent of all flowering plants require pollinators to survive. Think about it ~ 90%!

I find it interesting that we depend on pollinators for our food ~ that is in many ways our very existence threatens theirs. One of the main threats facing pollinators is habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. As humans expand their territory they replace native vegetation with roadways, manicured lawns, crops and non-native gardens, therefore, pollinators lose their food and nesting sites that are necessary for their survival. In addition, migratory pollinators face particular challenges.  With habitat loss, the distance between adequate habitat patches along their migration route become too vast; therefore, smaller, weaker individuals die during their journey, reducing their populations significantly.

One of the biggest challenges to the pollinators is pesticides that are designed to prevent and destroy weeds, fungi, pest, insects, mice, and other animals. So, how do pesticides affect pollinators? Many pesticides are acutely toxic to bees and simply kill them. The pesticides that do not kill bees generally have effects on their performance hindering olfactory learning (they don’t know where to go), foraging, and reproduction, which affects hive survival. There are herbicides used in fields, along rights-of-way and in forests, which tend to reduce the number of flowering plants. This reduces the amount of food available for native pollinators, making their survival more difficult. This has effects throughout the food chain, reduced pollination leads to reduced fruit on which birds and other creatures depend on. By their very nature, pesticides pose risks to humans, animals and the environment because they are designed to kill or adversely affect living organisms.

For me it is a rather straightforward concept: do not poison our partners. Why do I refer to pollinators as partners? Well simply put, we are all united. We would surely miss them if they vanished because we poisoned the flowers they were pollinating or destroyed the habitat that these plants need to survive. When I think of the layers of issues surrounding Colony Collapse Disorder affecting the bee population, White-nose Syndrome killing bats, and the decline of the Monarch butterflies, I feel at a loss. Humans have become their own worst enemy. We are destroying ourselves by carelessness and greedy actions. We need to accept and embrace the fact that we are all it in together. Once we work in harmony with all the life on this planet, I believe there will be more living than destruction.

“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”   ~ Herman Melville

Although our little piece of land can’t solve all the problems, it does provide a safe haven and wonderful blossoms full of nectar for our little friends, which in turn contributes to the solutions. Importantly, this is part of the process.

How do you contribute to the solutions? Please share and I will continue to share.

happy bee 2

Flowers in the Autumn

Although, the calendar notes it is indeed autumn, we are still being treated to some days in the 80s. I love the colors of this season but usually focus on the colors of the leaves.

Sugar Maple

Sugar Maple

I always forget that flowers are still blooming this time of year.

Sunchoke

Sunchoke

The other day I took the opportunity to stroll our property barefooted as I love feeling of the earth beneath my feet and I may not get the opportunity again this year.barefoot

Although, leaves have already fallen, the land was bustling with activity and I was delighted by what I found. The pollinators were quite busy and at some moments their hums were incredibly loud, almost meditative.

Goldenrod and a happy bee

Goldenrod and a happy bee

I went over to our old Pitch Pine where we have a robust hive and most of the bees were not home. Not surprising ~ it was a beautiful day in the 80s. I was out too.

Almost everyone is gone

Almost everyone is gone

New England Aster

New England Aster

Smartweed

Smartweed

Motherwort

Motherwort

Hydrangea

Hydrangea

Jewelweed

Jewelweed

Calendula

Calendula

Aster

Aster

Napweed

Napweed

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.

 

 

Never leave home without your mother

Motherwort growing around our home

Motherwort growing around our house

As I have mentioned before, some herbalists believe that when you are in need, the right healing herb will present itself. I don’t know how I feel about this belief but I will tell that when we moved to our current home there were several plants growing abundantly around the property that I did not know much about then but have since become close allies to our family. Today I would like to introduce you to Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca). There is an old saying, “Never leave home without your Mother.” Well, that has definitely become the mantra in our home.

Motherwort is an amazing heart tonic. Its botanical name Leonurus translates as “lion-hearted.” It nourishes and strengthens the heart muscle and its blood vessels. It helps with circulation and increases oxygen in the blood. I have found it excellent for slowing heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat and lowering blood pressure as well as easing stressed nerves and relieving anxiety.

Last year, Mike and I decided to get life insurance. As part of the application process, there was a medical assessment and exam. I typically have low average blood pressure 90/57, Mike’s at the time was on the high end of average and he was in the habit of checking his blood pressure regularly. The morning of the examine we both checked our blood pressure and mine was very high, 140/90, certainly a first for me. Mike suggested Motherwort, as he had become a fan of its hypertension and stress relieving qualities. I took some Motherwort and during the examination, my blood pressure was taken three times, each time it was 100/60, it was back to normal. I was very impressed with the speed and how well it worked. I knew it was good, but wow!

As I am approaching 50, my body is changing from childbearing to maturity. Some people use the term “crone” years but that does not sit well with me. As my body and hormone levels change, I have been experiencing quite of few “issues” from sleepless nights, hot flashes, faintness, to anxiety, heart palpitation, and uncontrollable rage. Thank goodness for Motherwort as it has been a champion in relieving these symptoms. Although I have a few other symptoms that Motherwort does not address, it sure does provide quite a bit of relief for these changing and turbulent times. Motherwort helps bring on delayed or suppressed menstrual flow, so if you experience flooding during your menses, it is a good idea to stop during flowing times and simply resume afterwards. It is also best to avoid Motherwort during early pregnancy, even though it is known to strengthen the uterus, it can stimulate contractions.

Motherwort tea has a rather bitter taste so most people prefer to take it by tincture. Its bitterness does aid in digestion and regularity. We are very fortunate to live on a land where we are surrounded by Motherwort. Every year, I tincture it, so we never have to be without our mother.

If you are having a difficult time, look to your mother for comfort and support. She will feed your nerves, relax you and help you deal with life’s trial and tribulations.

Don’t leave home without your mother, I never do.Motherwort tincture

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