Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Planting for the Future" Herbalism Confernce learnings

            My next blog covers my first herbal conference, being “Planting for the Future’ hosted by the non-profit United Plant Savers’. This gathering took place at the Kickapoo Reserve in LaFarge, WI, a gorgeous hilly area, and the weather happened to be a perfect 85 degrees all day. At this conference I had the opportunity to meet local herbalists that I had connected to prior, and I was able to take classes from many renowned herbalists.
            There, I was finally able to meet Jane Hawley Stevens, a famous Wisconsin herbalist that I knew from interviewing her for my Senior Thesis portfolio. She is known for her Four Elements herbal farm of over 100 acres where she grows herbs for all her medicinal and beauty products. Also present was Samuel Thayer, a famous forager, from Ashland, WI (where my college-Northland-is located),  a Michigan herbalist, Jim McDonald, being a very informative herbalist of local medicinal plants, and Linda Conroy an owner of Moon Wise herbs, a wisewoman, herbalist and avid maker of fermented foods. And lastly, I got to meet Betzy Bancroft, an employee of United Plant Savers which is based in Vermont, a non-profit which educates people about at-risk and endangered medicinal plants that are disappearing from our landscape, and how you can save them. There is one sanctuary site where people can intern at and visit, called ‘Goldenseal Sanctuary’ of 380 acres in Southeastern Ohio, which I had the opportunity to be one of the fall interns!
            This herbal experience did not just turn out to be an herbal conference, but brought me a much needed ‘herbal-epiphany’! The last year or so, I had had some long-term stress and was starting to see the effects of this, but I had no idea what to treat it with herb-wise. So during Jim McDonald’s herb walk, the first plant he talked about spoke to my health needs. This plant was Vervain.
            Firstly, a good way to know if a specific herb is useful to use, is to look at it’s indications (indications meaning what is the mental and physical ‘picture’ of this type of person). Vervain is specifically, “indicated for nervous symptoms due to mental or physical overexertion with spasms in general, especially in the neck and back…The individual is usually strong-willed” (Tilgner, 112). During this herb walk Jim mentioned uses primarily from the Blue Vervain. A typical ‘Vervain’ person puts themselves under a lot of stress and since they know they can handle that, they always try to get themselves to accomplish more. This type of person can focus, but normally they tend to try to get more of their large to-do-lists done by multitasking; this of course makes them get less done, thus having them stay up later, and when they wake up they are tired and are able to focus less. Lastly, this person usually can’t fall asleep because they have too many things running through their head.

            The word Vervain comes from the, “Celtic ferfaen, from fer (to drive away) and faen (a stone)”, which hints at it’s historical use in treating kidney stones (Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Vervain Herb Profile). Another name for this herb, directly, ““translates as “medicine” (Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Vervain Herb Profile), coming from the Dakota. White Vervain, is commonly known as “Holy Wort” (Bremness, 225), and botanically known as Verbena uterifolia, where as Blue Vervain, is known as Verbena hastate, and has common names ranging from “Eisenkraut…Herb of Grace…Juno’s Tear’s…[to] Turkey Grass…[and] Wild Hyssop” (Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Vervain Herb Profile).
            Traditionally both White and Blue Vervain, were thought to be an, “ancient…herb of purification, visions and love potions” (Bremness, 225), and had a very long reputation in the ancient world as a, “considered a cure-all, and along with Red Clover is known as God’s gift to man” (Bairacli Levy, 146). This herb was said to be one of Hippocrates favorite herbs, and had also, “been worshipped by the peasants of Greece, Italy and by the Druids” (Bairacli Levy, 146). Besides being a panacea of herbs, it was also historically used in cases of, “fevers, nervous disorders, eye ailments and as a vermifuge” (Bairacli Levy, 146), by the Dakota, in the treatment of, “coughs, fevers and stomach cramps” (Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Vervain herb profile), and during the bubonic plague as a safeguard (Bairacli Levy, 146).
            For current day medicinal uses, you can take Vervain in two forms:  as the herb itself, in a tincture or tea, or as a flower essence. As an herb, Vervain’s medicinal actions includes: alterative, meaning it provides nutrients and slowly improves the bodies’ functions; astringent, meaning it pulls tissues together and is drying; and is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine output (Tilgner, 112).
            Some specific current-day uses of White and Blue Vervain, includes treating, “infectious ailments and fevers…nervous disorders including paralysis and mental stress…For liver complaints…pulmonary ailments, including asthma, pneumonia, tuberculosis…sore mouths and throats, ulcers of the mouth” (Bairacli Levy, 146), and is great in the form of a poultice, externally, to treat wounds and skin ulcers (Bremness, 225). (A poultice being a paste of the herb mixed with water).
            Vervain is also very useful in treating other nervous ailments, including, “depression, insomnia, nervous headaches” (Bremness, 225),(Vervain is best taken in the form of a tincture since the herb is quite bitter). Lastly, this herb also quite helpful to improve women’s health, and can treat, cramps, constipation related to a period, and helps to, “slow menstrual bleeding[and] …strengthen the uterus” (Keville, 163), and increase lactation in a woman who is breastfeeding (Keville, 177).
            A flower essence, literally, being the ‘essence’ of a flower which works with and helps emotional aspects of a person. Any Vervain, or Verbena specie, is used for those who are, “overzealous and forceful in their beliefs, enthusiastically trying to convert others by imposing their own will and ideas. For…highly strung, argumentative…overexertion” (Harvey, 94), which will help the person break the stress pattern and all the tension, be it physical, emotional or mental.


Works Cited:

Baïracli-Levy, Juliette De. Common Herbs for Natural Health. New York: Schocken, 1974. Print.
"Blue Vervain Herb Profile." Mountain Rose Herbs. Mountain Rose Herbs. Web. 25 Sept. 2011.             <http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/blue_vervain.php>.
Bremness, Lesley. Herbs. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print.
Harvey, Clare G. The New Encyclopedia of Flower Essences. Watkins, 2007. Print.
Keville, Kathi, and Peter Korn. Herbs for Health and Healing. Emmaus, Penn.: Rodale, 1996. Print.
Lust, John. The Herb Book. Benedict Lust Publications, 1974. Print.
Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Boston: Little, Brown, 1977. Print.
Tilgner, Sharol. Herbal Medicine: from the Heart of the Earth. Creswell, OR: Wise Acres, 1999. Print.

References:
-For more information about Flower Essences see “The New Encyclopedia of Flower Essences” by Clare G. Harvey
-For more information regarding the ‘Vervain’ type person see the book “Creating Your Herbal Profile: How and where to find the herbs that match your personality traits and health needs”. By: Dorthy Hall.
-Jane Hawley-Stevens herb farm in Wisconsin http://www.fourelementsherbals.com/whats_new.html
-Betzy Bancroft’s Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism
-United Plant Savers, the organization who put on the conference, where Betzy Bancroft works, and where I interned
-Linda Conroy’s business, MoonWise Herbs
http://www.moonwiseherbs.com/main.htm

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