Thursday, August 16, 2012

September 1st continued… Talk with Paul Strauss~
            Paul, like many things he says that I admire, and find much wisdom in, he said “Trees give us many things besides the shade”, the idea similar to the book “The Giving Tree”, or even like a cartoon I saw about someone cutting down a tree with birds flying out of it, to make a birdhouse…I mean really?? Trees can ground the earth, slow and minimize erosion, give birds homes which can help minimize unwanted bugs, and can give us fruit and medicine as well. Paul goes on to show us the other buildings and structures at his property that utilize nature, like his root cellar. He has the door of it facing South, and the earth surrounds the other directions, with two solid doors shut so it needs no A/C in the summer. In the winter he sprouts poke root for fresh food, along with many fermented, canned items and crops he has harvested in the fall. He than showed us his greenhouse, where in late winter and early spring he grows seedlings, than transplants them, and later in the summer uses this greenhouse to dry herbs; he says that, “the earth works in never-ending cycles, you best use it to your advantage”.
The majestic standing Goldenrod
Also, he even has a solar powered RV,--imagine that, which has a small cabin next to it, that he built entirely out of fallen down trees, cut to lumber! After seeing his simple, reused material –based buildings, we got on a very nice and long herb walk throughout the majority of his 300-some acre property. In the beginning of this hike, he first points out Pleurisy Root, also known as Butterfly Weed, is an excellent remedy for the lungs. Next he pointed to Fringe tree, saying the roots are a very good liver remedy, Goldenrod, is an herb very good at treating respiratory ailments and allergies, and should become a lot more popular because it is very successful in it’s healing and is very underused (see later blog on Goldenrod from Herb School). A side-note related to Goldenrod, many people assume that when Goldenrod blooms that is what causes the majority of summer allergies, this would make sense if many were allergic to it, but the unexciting –Ragweed is what does so. Agrimony is for healing liver and spleen ailments, gather in Mid-August and only use the aerial parts.
gorgeous Goldenrod prarie view in the sunset of the sanctuary...

                  Multiflora Rose is a major invasive, whose rose hips are full of Vitamin C, so good for getting over colds and such, and when the entire plant is burned smells very good. Another interesting plant he pointed out, was a “Milkless Milkweed”, Odamalla……, which he stated has more licopene content than tomatoes! Grapevine’s actual vine part is very good for weaving into things such as baskets, Smooth Sumac is a great aromatic, and Indian Hemp is very useful for making thread and rope out of, where you peel small strands off of the stalk and roll or braid them together. As we later went past some Jewelweed on a hike, being known to also be called “Touch Me Not” for it’s flower explodes-almost upon contact, being useful for treating stings, bug-bites and poison ivy, the flowers are loved my hummingbirds! Related to Appalachian lifestyle, how they build a spring essential…dig a hole, than once you find fresh water coming up constantly, put plexi glass over it, and a water line in a ditch below the freeze line, have the fresh water run through a charcoal filter. Also…never dig this hole where your spring might be in direct sunlight. And the latter advice, “Simplicity is the key to live with the earth”, and Appalachian’s tend to do more with less, and can.
            Back to more herb walk information, Joe Pye Weed, I believe also being called Culvers’ root, is good for kidney ailments, Slippery Elm, (see lower for picture) being an Elm so it’s becoming almost extinct here, it’s inner bark is very demulcent (internally soothing) for lungs, coughs and other respiratory-like ailments. Black Walnut treats fungal diseases, such as athlete’s foot, use the green outer shell of the nut. O’Sage Orange, also know as Bow-wood, stands ground contact meaning mules can’t pull it out, thus historically it was used to make bows and arrows, because it didn’t break easily, this was worth a horse and saddle historically. Red Aromatic Cedar doesn’t attract bugs, so good for linen closets, but Paul learned the hard way that carpenter bees love and eat it! Oak forests are made and spread further by none-other than blue jays, they spread the nuts, and Walnut trees are spread by squirrels hiding the nuts. The Black American Cherry tree, contains a compound known as hydrosolamic acid, which is very good at treating coughs and respiratory ailments, why it was so historically, and still currently, popular for cough syrup.
Girls in my group harvesting the bark
of a dead Slippery Elm tree
            Baptisia alba, (or white??) ostralis—prarie—blue flowers with black seed-pods, (in the Eastern Wildflowers Book), has a strong immune response when you ingest it, so use the root for the most potent part. Another popular Appalachian tree, the Paw-Paw with festivals after it, also has the common-name in this local as “Custard Apple”, and the ones in more light develop fruit, which tasts interestingly like an over ripe bananna and mango together, the ice cream, phenomenal, beer…not so much. Sweet Gum trees in the fall have a good 5-6 color leaves, which look somewhat like a Maple leaf. Native River Birch bark is healing, and he mentioned that native peoples (specifically Native American in most of his references), used to sweat before any major life-occurrence, such as a battle, hunt or giving birth. Yarrow and Boneset are good medicine, Yarrow for bleeding and deep cuts (see further information in my Lise Wolff class notes later), and Boneset for ‘bone break fever’, since these herbs’s most potent medicine is the flower, harvest just when they are in full-bloom. Poplar woods are a major tree in permaculture, quickly grow back after cut. Wild Yam root for cramping, such as menstrual and constipation, Maple Sap for kidney disorders; Native Americans ate young Sugar Maple and Basswood tree leaves as a ‘first spring green’ , and Reishi Mushroom as a tincture for immunity-ailments, and lastly Stone Root, or….., for “preachers throat”, use root or aerial parts.
***GOOD Raisin butter recipe…1 lb raisin soaked overnight, blend in blender, (high in iron—good for periods and pregnancy than)…add peanut, almond butter and tahini…small handful of chia seeds. Good source of energy, protein, and phytochemicals. Heat all in double-boiler…add chopped walnuts, eggs, cornmeal and wheat flower…mix is a complete amino acid. Cook in 9 by 9 pan till done***

“If you have a positive outlook, you can take your mind and learn for medicine, and learn about a plant…and remember it” ~ Paul Strauss
        Virginia Snakeroot is very useful in treating small pox, the measles and mumps, though toxic in large doses, though anything technically is. Japanese Honeysuckle, a very invasive plant, especially throughout the south, is useful for weaving (as is Virginia Creeper). White Snakeroot, (see picture), known primarily in history as what killed Abe Lincoln’s mother, having happened by cows ingesting the plants root, when turned-over after plowing, and thus if you drink the milk it becomes very toxic. On the other hand, cows used to be feed Sweet Melliot and when not fully dried it developed a mold and became a major blood-thinner.
“Herbalism isn’t just known what [herb] is good to heal or treat what ailment…it’s how you use the materials that are given to you” ~ Paul Strauss

White Snakeroot
            A trees bark changes with age, so you have to learn it at every stage of it’s life, like a person really (Paul Strauss). Speaking of trees…here is about a new favorite one of mine, Sassafras. Being in demise now very sadly, this tree was traditionally used to make and flavor Root Beer! Sassafras is in the Avacado family, as are Spicebush and Cinnamon, we were lucky enough later in this internship, at another farmers property (Paul Neidhart) to find an uprooted, very-large, Sassafras tree, that had been ripped up during a huge wind storm. The root and it’s bark is what’s used to make the tea, or root beer, and best harvested in the fall when the plant’s energy is in the ground. Sassafras has three different-shaped leaves…mitten, closed hand, and pinkie-and-thumb out (rocker leaf). The leaves are mucilaginous (quenches thirst), bark looks like small hooves and are orange and green in color. The leaves are demulcent, so it’s good for someone whose mouth is dry from talking. The root bark is used as spring tonic to prevent ‘spring fever’ after traditional Appalachians’ ate meat and dried fruit all winter long, their bodies would literally get the feeling of having a fever from their bodies being ‘shocked’ with fresh vegetables again. Take this plant internally to cool blood, and externally is a warming herb—ironic.  English colonies in Virginia exported about 40 tons a year to England, which than replaced black tea for a while. Known to be a blood thinner, and good for the kidneys and heart, Sassafras is also a heroic herb like Bloodroot and Goldenseal. Sassafras leaves are the key ingredient in gumbo, and was so highly regarded as a plant by pioneers that they made bible boxes, baby cribs and chicken coops out of them. To make tea out of the root bark, just take a few wide strips of it dried, and add it to 4 cups, and after the water is boiling throw the root bark pieces in the water, simmer for 5-8 minutes than enjoy with honey! Sassafras is a very good herb to add to bad tasting tinctures, as 7Song my herbal acquaintance from my Ohio internship, states that it’s best in 95% alcohol, in a 1:2 ratio (herb to menstrum). 7Song also states that, “some things are medicine just for smelling good!” 
a hill of just-opened Bloodroot
on a hill near an ex's house

“Have a talk with ‘Mother Earth’ first, to be a good enough herbalist in her mind…because you have a HUGE responsibility” ~ Paul Strauss

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our Adventurous Day with the Founder of "Goldenseal Sanctuary"

September 1st, 2011—

Our day with the Founder of  the United Plant Savers’s
‘Goldenseal’ Sanctuary (Paul Strauss)
Balm of Gilead seed pod.
Taken at the Eloise Butler garden
in North Minneapolis, MN
            Today was an incredible, eye-opening long day at Paul Strauss’ place, ie-just an hour hike over a few of our hills the ‘back way’. We spent a lot of the morning in Paul Strauss’ Apothecary as he explained how the United Plant Savers organization and Goldenseal Sanctuary started. The organization itself was started by Rosemary Gladstar, when she noticed very few native medicinal plants when she moved to her Vermont home, and she decided to gather people that had the same concern. Though let me back up a minute here, the land was originally owned by someone nicknamed “Big Lee”, whose son “Little Lee” grew up on it being pasture for horses and other animals. After his father passed, “Little Lee” inherited the land and restored it as much as possible. Eventually Paul Strauss came along and bought the land from Lee and restored it even more into a native plant sanctuary.

            Once at Paul’s he starts our long day hike around his property in my favorite place of all there, his apothecary! In his salves he uses several very interesting and specific ingredients to help improve the healing properties of his salves. These include Balm of Gilead and Propolis. Balm of Gilead it sit’s on an un-open bud, and the resin is carried by bees, it’s antibiotic and antibacterial, and sed resin is from the seeds if I remember correctly of this tree. The latter ingredient, Propolis, a part from bees carrying pollen around it creates a resin coming from plants and thus is their ‘natural sealant’ for their hive. Medicinally, Paul states, it treats herpes (the extract or tincture), and let the alcohol evaporate and apply it to sores externally. You need a high heat to break down the propolis and herb roots of 212 degrees F for 3 hours.
Goldenseal Patch at United Plant Savers
"Goldenseal Sanctuary' in Rutland, Ohio
           Paul explains that when making any medicine that the mark is the amount of herb being used, in a tincture or a salve, and the menstrum is the amount of liquid that the mark, or herb, is put into. Menstrums usually are olive oil, or another type of oil, for salves, and brandy or a certain proof of vodka for tincures. Noting the ratio in which you do this, especially for tinctures, is important if you are selling them so you know how much to charge customers. The primary reason that Paul states he makes tinctures is because, “they last a very long time, and it his the body [via the bloodstream], within 10 seconds”, whereas the tea has to go through a lot of your body first, he also goes on to suggest that all “budding herbalists” should make teas and tinctures because they understand the effect of both on the body, which one works faster and better, but teas you can taste the herb which is very good when say taking a bitter herb to aid digestion (it’s best to “let the body know” whats coming). The more  Paul got to talking, and the more I listen closely, I realize I’m in the midst of a very wise, self-taught, herbalist/woodsman/Appalachian man….another inspiring quote, that made me proud to be in the field I’m in (herbalism), he states that, “as an herbalist you’re responsible for the land” and if not us, who than??   

Stinging Nettle patch
Take at the Findhorn Ecovillage
in Northern Scotland
He goes on to talk about how amazing the earth is, and how there are so many important and very simple, yet profoundly healing herbs, such as Goldenseal, and Nettles (one of my personal favorites…see my Herb Companion blog on it was one of the top 5 of that month on the website!!). He, among many other herbalists to this day find these herbs incredible because people might take it for one specific ailment, but it helps heal so many things!! Nettle being a green, helps clean out one’s body, Strauss states, “the more greens you eat, the more cleaned out your body will be”. 

Lastly, here is the article I got published with the "United Plant Savers" journal as a reflection of my internship here.

**Here is a lovely article written specifically about the‘Goldenseal Sanctuary’, Paul Strauss and the intern program

Man-Made pond surrounded by evergreen and decidious forest of Paul Strauss's

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Beginnings of a New Herbal Adventure

This past fall I had the incredible, and I still believe once in a lifetime experience, to be an Intern at the United Plant Savers 'Goldenseal Sanctuary', in Rutland, Ohio! What an incerdible 6 week journey it was! I came from a gorgeous green summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to this 'heaven on earth' for herbalists to the most diverse area in the country of medicinal plants, and some of the rarest ones still (American Ginseng, Black and Blue Cohosh, and Goldenseal to name a few). The first day was mostly getting settled in, along with still being in awe that this amazing place I read about, via the United Plant Savers Journal, I was at! (The picture below is  one main view outside of the back of the barn (ie-where we stayed). Though I'm from the Midwest, and have never been to Ohio except in the airport before, I was very proud of myself for knowing even a couple-dozen of the flora, native or not, of the Southeastern foothills of the Appalachias.
The first day of work and structured learning began soon enough! Sasha White, our 'intern coordinator' for the fall started our day with taking a nice hike along the main trail (see 1st picture above), she started showing us many common plants that have become naturalized in the Southeastern region of Ohio we were in. Some of these plants included: Spice Bush, Paw Paw, Sassafras, Yellowbuck- eye.  
      Spice Bush, is a very not-so-ironically also known as Appalachian Allspice, having a similar taste to the exotic Eastern herb. Spice Bush, botanically known as Lindera benzoin, also being in the Cinnamon family, makes this herb very intersting indeed. Locally, this herb, along with the ever-so-famous Goldenseal, for which is sanctuary was named after (having ALOT of it), is a very good indicator for high quality rich mesic (moist, rich, fertile) soil. Spicebush is a short-woody like shrub, with small oval alternate leaves. Medicinally, Spicebush is used to help with stomach problems, being aromatic in action, helps with dysentary, fevers, coughs, colds and anemia. It's leaves specifically are useful in treating menstrual symptoms, such as cramps, and heavy bleeding. And a fun, and historical, fact about Spicebush, is that if you rip off a leaf, the part left that looks like a small brush of sorts, is what a famous painter whose name I am totally not finding in my notes right now, used to paint delicate parts of his pieces with. (See right for a picture of Spicebush).
    Next is the infamous Paw-Paw (see lower right), which if anything you can identify it purely by smell if you crush the leaves. After I smelled a wiff for the first time of a crushed Paw-Paw leaf, which smells like gasoline, I knew I'd never think it was a different plant. The Paw-Paw is a non-native to Ohio, but has been very naturalized. With it's very strong, and gasoline-like distinctive odor, it is quite useful as a natural insecticide/repellant (which makes sense since many foul smelling herbs such as garlic, onion, and the Neem tree smell 'bad' depending on your taste-for smell- which than gets into your blood stream and makes you not attractive to blood sucking bugs known as mosquitos). The primary medicinal use I learned of for the Paw-Paw is to topically apply the leaves, crushed most likely, to abcesses. And if you don't like that idea, than you can always eat the fruit (NOT THE SEEDS-they're toxic) which tastes like some intersting exotic combination between an overripe bananna and a mango...and the Paw-Paw ice cream at the festival devoted to this Appalachian famous plant, is to die for!!! yummm
     The next prominent plant of the area we have is Sassafras, which I have only heard of this past year when reading other herbal gardening books. Sassafras, can be easily identified by having three different and promiment leaf shapes (closed hand, a mitten, and pinkie and thumb out from a hand--like the rock on sign). The leaves are mucilaginous (quenches thirst), bark looks like small hooves and are orange and green in color. The root bark is used as spring tonic to prevent ‘spring fever’ after traditional Appalachians’ ate meat and dried fruit all winter long, their bodies would literally get the feeling of having a fever from their bodies being ‘shocked’ with fresh vegetables again. Take this plant internally to cool blood, and externally is a warming herb—ironic.  

August 31st, 2011- Plant Parts

            Today we learned the names and locations of plant parts—yay!The petals of a flower we learn, are collectively called corolla, the sepals (the part outside of the petal holding it in) are called the sepals…and as a group they are called the calyx. The stamen the male reproductive part of the plant.  This is the ‘picture’ of a perfect flower, not all are ‘literally’ a perfect flower in science.

            To see if a plant is alternate or opposite, you must look at as much of the plant as possible first. Alternate is one-space than the other branch, where opposite are just opposite from each other—like a persons arms if they are put out perpendicular to their body. A simple leaf-looks like one leaf, a compound on the other hand has lots of small leaflets (or groupings of leaves). To know what ‘types of leaves’ a plant has you must look as low as possible on the plant, else you’ll confuse an alternative or opposite plant and start looking at the wrong stuff.
A flower is axillary when the leaves literally look like they are coming out of an axil. A really good image of this is the plant Boneset.
         Now we were taught about So the so a little saying to remember it by is: Kings Play Chess On Fat Gorilla Stomachs; which stands for: Kingdom Phylum Class Family Genus Specie.

      Today another amazing thing we did was dig up Goldenseal roots, which was quite an interesting and incredible experience—to say the least!! We did so to make our very own Kloss’s liniment, a famous doctor of the early 1900s. Before we actually got to the good patches of Goldenseal behind the yurt, we stumbled upon several American Ginsengs, or Panax quinquefolium, we were told by our primary intern coordinator and past intern, Sasha White, that we were allowed and strongly encouraged to take the red berries and replant them in other moist, shady areas to help spread the Ginseng! (she also later told us to start plucking off the fall gold-ginseng leaves so poachers –really there are Ginseng poachers— can’t find any).  Anyways so we planted each berry about ½ an inch into the ground and watered them.
            Soon we found a large, lush patch of Goldenseal (see right) along the ‘Medicine Trail’, all kneeled down and started digging a few roots each. Now Goldenseal isn’t a large thick root, like say the Rhizome Ginger, or even the American Ginseng, but it’s known as …. (?small thin roots close to the ground), and has very small bright yellow roots, spread out, close to the ground surface. When I approached the Goldenseal I was about to dig, I was actually struck with awe, I’m digging up this plant that is very prevalent to this area—hence the appropriate name for the sanctuary. Sure, Echinacea can do many things, and Ginseng is super powerful, but overall Goldenseal can do ‘anything’ in the herbal world—its an incredible plant! But with it’s ‘overnight’ fame, so-to-speak, in the herbal world as a good herb for treating infections such as colds and flus. I took the first root out, shook off the extra dirt, put the part I would use in the Kloss’s liniment in my backpack, than took the ‘new growth’ (like a new growth bud or part of a branch on a tree-but on a root), and replanted that in a different, undisturbed, Goldenseal patch.
            Today we transplanted Black Cohosh (see left) from in front of the barn to a shadier area, since the location it was in was too hot and sunny, to a moist microclimate of undisturbed wood on the way up to the yurt. We each dug up a Black Cohosh plant slowly, since their roots are pretty hard to tell where they spread out to, even though they had a small diameter of their trunk. Black Cohosh is useful in treating ‘female ailments’ such as really bad low, dull- feeling menstrual cramps, other cramps, hormonal problems, menopause, PMS, and weak contractions. It is esepcially said that pregnant women should take Black AND Blue Cohosh the last few weeks of their pregnancy, to 'prepare the utereus' for giving birth.Said to be one of the "best known American species because of it's medicinal properties" (Indian Herbology of North American, pg 45-46), it goes on to say that it's botanical name Cimicifuga racemosa means "to the bugbane" and named thus because this specie drives away bugs and other insects, and is also useful as an antidote against posinous bites and stings.
                   Heres a great old excerpt from another source, cited in the above book name..."The Americn Indian women knew of Blakc cohosh for relieving pain during menstrual period and used its properties extensively during childbirth. Dr Young introduced Cimicfuga racemosa to the medical world in 1831...was adapted as a cardiac tonic in fatty heart, chorea, acute and chronic bronchitis, rheumatism...dyspepsia...scarlet fever, measles and smallpox" (Hutchens, 46).
      This evening we also had a class with Diane Done Carlos, where she taught us primarily about her favorite plant, which ancient’s agreed with, “For nature is so excellent in its gifts that…it better benefit a man to know one herbs in the meadow, but to know it thoroughly, than to see the whole meadow without knowing what grows on it” ,said by Paracelsus. The main thing that struck me from the 3 hour class with her was her advice on working with plants, which rounded down to this: plants speak to you, you just need to be open to that level of awareness. After I heard this I was at awe, because on some level I knew this was possible, to have some deeper connection with say animals, and plants as well, than others, but I still wasn’t sure that it was true, since I didn’t have that ‘gift’ so to speak, and I still don’t seem to in tune with that, but then again, my introduction to herbal medicine was via science so. When I spoke to her about it though, she understood what I meant about my communication with the, she told that you just have to see how you have been communicating with them, since you’re different from me they’ll speak to you in a different way. After this, I realized that to some extent though I feel like I have ‘tuned-in’ with plants to a subconscious level, where I have normally had stress and sleeping problems, and since I started taking and making my own loose leaf herbal tea, about 8 years ago I have always made major relaxing nervines teas that includes: Lemon Balm, Catnip, Chamomile, Peppermint and Lavender, and if I need it add some mild sedatives, such as Kava Kava or Valerian root.

Anywho, back to Diane Don Carlos, she is originally from the Minneapolis, MN area yay! (and knew the herbalist I am currently taking my ‘Master Herbalist’ program from-small world). Her favorite herb is sweet leaf, Monarda fistulosa¸ also more commonly known as Bergamot or Bee Balm and also Oswego (traditional name for it by native Americans).