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.
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
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 ,
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 England 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!” Ohio
|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