wild foods feast, part 1: intro + dandelion!

i’ve been devoting a lot of time and energy lately to the natural motherhood series, and while i’m going to be continuing that as normal, i wanted to branch out and offer something that would appeal to the un-pregnant majority (a complete assumption) of my readership.  i was thinking about what i could add to my current series, which include the wheel of the year, natural motherhood, and herbal preparations, and my husband ingeniously suggested a series on wild edibles.  yum yum! Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: honeys, oxymels, and elixirs

a bee from an egyptian hieroglyph

i figured i would take a short break from the series that i’m doing on natural motherhood and crank back up on a couple of my other projects.   something that i’ve been meaning to add for a while is a basic herbal preparations entry for sweet medicine—for honeys, oxymels, and elixirs.  honey (the common denominator between all three of these preparations) is a mysterious substance.  in the archaeology of beekeeping, author eva crane posits, based on neolithic cave paintings in valencia, spain, that honey has been a food source for humans for at least 10,000 years.  since the beginning of written history, thousands of medicinal and culinary uses of honey have graced the tablets and pages of our past.  yes, dried bee puke has held our interest for quite some time!  it has been used to treat wounds, to aid in the mummification process, to preserve food and drink, to sweeten things, and, as every granny knows, to stop a cough dead in its tracks! Read the rest of this entry »

herbal allies for college crunch time

eeek!

i was remarking to a friend at dinner tonight how odd (and completely wonderful) it is not to be writing 60-ish pages of final papers or preparing for final exams (for the first time in fooorrrrrr—eeeeeee-verrrrrrr).  i graduated with a master’s in english this past august, and for the three years leading up to that, november and april had always been times of anxiety, late nights, endless pots of coffee, sleeplessness, and eye-strain headaches.  i currently teach in the english department, but most of my friends are still in school there and are still having to deal with term papers and finals.  i feel their pain (even when i point and laugh >:D). Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: tinctures

when folks begin to stick their little toe into the big river of herbalism, tinctures are usually one of the places they start.  if you’ve ever been into a health food store, then you’ve probably seen tinctures before—they’re the little amber dropper bottles with bold plant names on their labels and little black squeeze droppers at the top.  they’re often in eye-shot of the registers because they are alcohol-based medicine (although i pitty the fool who downs an ounce of wormwood tincture thinking they’ll get a buzz…..blerrrg!).  they also come in glycerine as well, but these are harder to find and are usually less effective. Read the rest of this entry »

food as medicine: herbal chicken stock

i may be in the minority here, but as a been-drenched-in-sweat-for-six-months alabamian, i must say that i’m quite pleased that it’s finally starting to get cold (yes, here in bama we consider 60 degrees cold!).  cold weather means time for root veggies, pomegranates, greens, and squashes.  it’s a sign to everything in nature to slow down and rest.  aerial parts of plants begin to die back and all of the energy and vital force moves down into the roots for storage and for several months of waiting.  we slow down too—after the cold settles in, only the die-hard runners and joggers can be seen out on the roads.  the rest of us put on our robes, waddle to the windows, look out at the frost-covered cars and say “eh, maybe not today.” Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: lozenges

lozenges are one of my favorite herbal preparations because they give nearly instant gratification.  oils and tinctures are wonderful, but there’s all that waiting for the finished product.  with lozenges, you skip the 5 weeks of infusion in favor of a mix and a quick dry.  they’re less like a scary science experiment and more like instant proof that you’re your own herbalist!

there are other, more fundamental preparations that i was going to teach about first, like vinegars and tinctures, but today was my day with kindergartners and first graders, and you can only be coughed on so many times before you take the hint and write about something that folks obviously need this time of year.   the lozenges that i’m going to show you how to make are specifically for coughs and throat irritation, but with a few adjustments (that i’ll mention later) the recipe can be tweaked for stomach remedies as well. Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: infused oils

one of my favorite things to do with herbs is to make infused oils.  you can make many different kinds with many different purposes—anything from cosmetic oils to cooking oils to healing oils to personal lubricants.*  under the right conditions, herbal oils will store for a long time, which is good considering the cost of most base oils and the time that it takes to infuse the plant materials.  when you infuse herbs in oil, you extract those medicinal plant constituents which are fat soluble as well as the essential/volatile plant oils.  one very important thing to keep in mind about infused herbal oils is that they are not essential oils. essential oils come in very small bottles and they are a highly, highly concentrated plant oil.  it takes tons upon tons of plant material to extract any significant amount of essential oil, and many of them are too strong to be used directly on the skin.  when i say infused oils, i mean using a base or carrier oil to extract goodies out of a relatively small amount of plant material.  Read the rest of this entry »

good sources for herbs and supplies

one of the many joys (insert sarcasm here) about living in a small southern town is that there are very few local resources when it comes to fresh, quality herbal products.  sure you can get some out of this world basil from the snow’s bend farm stand at our local farmer’s market, and sure if you really know what you’re doing you can wildcraft your own plants, but when it comes to the bulk of a budding herbalist’s needs, you really need to know where to turn for quality products.

*note:  when i say “herbalist” i don’t only mean someone who has gone through years of school and now treats clients–I also mean women who know to treat their own bladder infections with cranberry and moms who know that fennel tea will help their breast milk let down.  we’re all herbalists to some extent 🙂 Read the rest of this entry »

it’s better than tea–it’s an infusion!

one of the very first herbal preparations that i was ever introduced to was susun weed’s herbal infusion.  an infusion is like a tea, but stronger, and it’s a great substitute for your daily multi-vitamin!  with infusions, you can draw both the nutritive (vitamins, minerals, chorophyll, essential fatty acids, etc.) and the medicinal (tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, etc.) properties from dried herbs, and in much larger amounts than a fifteen-minute-steep tea. Read the rest of this entry »