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.

 

 

Traveling Herbal Kit

I love traveling; there is no doubt about it. Traveling healthy is always best but things happen, so being prepared can make a world of difference in your trip. Over the years, I have assembled an herbal travel kit from my favorite products. The size and contents change depending on the type of travel and length. I have several different variations of the herbal travel kits but they all start with the basic core ingredients. Then I build upon them based on the location, type of travel (car, plane, backpacking) and length of trip.

The Basic Core Herbal Travel Kit:

  • Allergy Begone! Tincture – Made from Goldenrod, and tackles countless aliments along with drippy allergies, asthma, while supporting the immune system, stimulating digestion and reducing gas. It is an excellent wound healer. It can be used as a styptic (stops bleeding). It is antiseptic, a disinfectant, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal. It’s anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties soothe and heal urinary infections. I never leave the house without it.
  • Ginger Root (crystallized, tea or fresh) – Nothing beats ginger for alleviating nausea and motion sickness, it is also antibacterial, antiviral, a circulatory stimulate, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, anti-fungal, anti-clotting, it helps dispel gas and prevent bloating, is anti-arthritic, analgesic, and promotes sweating. It’s antibacterial and antiviral properties help with respiratory infections and coughs. It is also an expectorant, and helps to thin mucous so you can move it up and out.
  • Valerian Tincture – It is so important to unwind and get a good night’s sleep, when traveling. Valerian encourages relaxation and sleep, as well as extinguish muscle spasms such as menstrual cramps, back spasms, and even restless legs.
  • Elderberry (lozenges or syrup) – Elderberry strengthens your immune system so it can fight off cold and flu viruses when you are exposed to them, as well as lessen symptoms and duration of the illness. I start taking some a week before travel and while traveling to help me fight any germs I may be exposed to.
  • Pain Begone!Accidents and sore muscles happen. Pain Begone! salve harnesses the medicinal powers of St. John’s Wort, Arnica and Goldenrod to reduce the pain of muscle and tendon injuries, aches, arthritis while reducing swelling. St. John’s wort is a nerve pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and helps cells regenerate. Arnica stimulates the flow of white blood cells that process congested blood by dispersing trapped fluid from joints, muscles and bruised tissue. Goldenrod’s anti-inflammatory effect relieves muscle pains and aches including arthritis.
  • Soothe Thy Lips This balm nourishes, soothes and heals dry chapped lips along with all other skin irritations. Calendula is a powerful wound healer that promotes cell repair while its antiseptic properties keep infections from occurring. It helps heal wounds faster by increasing oxygen flow to the damaged area, which in turn helps the body grow new tissue. It also stimulates collagen production to help heal the body’s tissues. It is high in flavonoids (plant-based anti-oxidants) that protect cells from being damaged by free radicals. Comfrey fosters the growth of new cells and is anti-inflammatory as well as mucilaginous, which soothes inflamed tissues. This compact lip balm is handy to carry as it can be used on any skin irritation.
  • Tea Bags Traditional Medicinals and Yogi have a great tea line packed with organic and thoughtfully harvested healing herbs. When you’re under the weather, a nice hot cup of tea can be very soothing. Tea bags take up very little space; it’s so easy to throw together a bunch of tea bags. My favorites are Ginger, Chamomile (good for digestion and makes a nice compress for pink eye or skin irritation), Breathe Easy, Herba Tussin (great for coughs), Throat Coat. When making tea, steep longer than the box says – at least an hour or so to extract as much as the tea’s medicinal properties.

For longer trips, I add a couple more items to cover almost any illness (see below). On our last trip, I was happy to have these herbs on hand when Mathew came down with the flu. He had all the classic symptoms: sudden high fever, aches, sore throat, cough and very tired. He felt so awful that he took everything I gave him with no complaints. As a bonus, we were staying at a hotel that turned out to be the perfect place for getting a lot of rest. And that is exactly what he needed most of all. Luckily, we attacked his flu quickly with lots of rest and herbs. The fever broke after 2 days and he was back to his old self by the third day.

In addition to the above, I packed:

  • Boneset Tincture – Nothing fights the flu better than boneset, especially if taken at the early onset of illness (we knew flu was a possibility since we received a message of reported cases in Mathew’s class right before we left for winter break). Boneset gets it name from the terrible pain one feels in their bones and the muscles from the fever of influenza, nicknamed “break bone fever”; the type of fever that makes you feel like your bones are breaking. It brings the chill to a head and flushes it out of the system. I also find it excellent for lingering coughs. It is very helpful for getting the toxins out of the system from rattlesnake and spider bites. It is always good to be prepared for anything when you travel.
  • Elecampane Tincture – Elecampane is one of the best herbs to treat all chronic and acute upper respiratory infections, whether viral, bacterial or fungal (even TB). It’s also a tonic for the respiratory tract.
  • Yellow Dock Tincture – Travel tends make a person “irregular” leading to feeling uncomfortable and bloated. Yellow Dock is a gentle laxative. It encourages both bowel movement and good digestion by stimulating the release of gastric juices. It clears toxins, moves stagnation, reduces inflammation, inhibits coli and staph growth, frees stored iron from the liver, aids digestion of fatty food, helps with acne, boils, and dermatitis. It is also relieves painful sore throat when the tincture is diluted into cold water and gargled.
  • Epsom Salts – They are excellent for drawing out toxins. So if you have an infection, mosquito bites, bee stings, simply soak it in a warm Epsom salt bath (or soaking a cotton washcloth in a warm water Epsom salt solution for the affected area) and voilá, infection and pain are gone. Table salt will work too but not as well. It can also be used for splinter removal, itchy skin, mild sunburn and poison ivy. Epsom salts are anti-inflammatory and great to use for reducing swelling and alleviating the soreness from sprains and bruises.
Some of my favorite things

Some of my favorite things

Of course, there are numerous other herbs that would be helpful while traveling; the above are my favorite essential herbs that have come to our aid countless times. I travel with all the tinctures, each labeled in 1 oz. amber bottles (except Elderberry, which is stored in a 2 oz. bottle if using a carry-on or 4 oz. if not). I have never had any issues going through airport security (domestic or international) with them. The only time I was questioned was at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. When I explained what they were, they let me pass.

May your travels be free of illness and problems. However, it is better to be safe than sorry – bring some healing herbs just in case.

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.