Collecting Fall Herbs: Field Day Friday

Do you look at the beauty of weeds like I do? Fields of the yellow tasseled goldenrod, roadsides covered in frilly blues of  chicory, happy looking Black eyed Susan’s and the purples of the many different types of thistle invigorate the sense of beauty as far as the eye can see. I see beauty all around me, but I also see the innate medicinal value of these plants as well. We have many of them growing on our farm. Some would tell me to cut them down, to pull them out, but I won’t. Instead, as nature does her work, I allow them to spread naturally. My husband has known me to bring home seeds and roots of some plants to transplant in our herb garden as well.

Being part Cherokee and having learned much from my elders, I know that all year long we are blessed with opportunity to gather wild herbs to save and use for different purposes. I can’t prescribe what herbs another should use, but I can share with you what different ones are used for, and allow you to make decisions for yourself. Also, having practiced as a Registered Nurse for 26 years, I will be the first to tell you to talk with your personal physician before using any herbal, holistic type of healthcare regimen. He or she and you, should decide what is best for your personal condition and go from there.

Today, I want to share with you one of the fall herbs that I’ve gathered, it’s medicinal values and how to collect and dry. Herbs, in general, should be collected in the mornings, after the dew has dried, but before the heat of the midday sun. Most herbs may be dried on a screen, covered with another screen or cheesecloth to keep off insects. Some herbs may be hung upside down, in small bunches, and allowed to air dry. Some people advocate drying herbs in a dehydrator or in the low heat of an oven. It’s a personal choice, but at our homestead, we don’t use either of those methods. My pantry looks like an upside down garden at the moment, and smells heavenly.

Today, let’s talk about goldenrod. goldenrod  These flowers amaze me. For so long, they’re been regarded as one of the worst allergens of the fall. They can cause issues for some, but do you know how medicinally good they are? Used for hundreds of yeas by Native Americans, they have antifungal properties, the saponins, that can help alleviate such yeast infections as oral thrush when a tea made from it is used as a gargle. It can be used for skin yeast infections or those elsewhere when used as a wash or rinse over it. Gargled, as a tea, it helps to stop coughs and sore throats. As a weak tea, it can help stop diarrhea naturally, without having to resort to chemical compounds found in over-the-counter medications. It’s been found to be an effective treatment in colitis and IBS.

Goldenrod tea is also beneficial for the urinary tract, kidneys and bladder. The saponins, tannins,  and flavonoids found in the flowers and leaves help keep infection and stones from forming in the urinary system.

Mixed with dandelion and thyme in a tea, it is an effective immune stimulating drink.

The usual dosage for a tea for ingestion or gargle is about 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb in a cupful of boiling water. Allow the herb to steep for about 10-15 minutes for the full effect, strain, sweeten with honey if desired, and drink. For gastrointestinal issues, it’s recommended to drink about 4 cups (1 quart) of tea daily.

We keep goldenrod planted on our farm, not just for medicine, but to draw in pollinators. goldenrod with bee

I love watching bees and butterflies visit the golden fronds goldenrod with butterfly. and coating their legs and bodies with the powdery pollen.

Goldenrod is associated with fall, the waning of the heat of the summer and watching the trees slip into the last final burst of glory. It’s fall already?  I am not ready to give summer up quite yet.

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And One Last Elderberry Recipe to Share with you

elderberry flowers

Refreshing Elderflower Drink

At the beginning of elderberry season, you have about 2 weeks to gather elderflowers before they drop off, forming the tiny green pellet sized balls that will eventually turn into the wonderfully, medicinally, rich in Vitamin C berries that are well known for their health benefits. Elderberries grow on canes, with a smooth tan-gray bark, usually in clusters along the wetlands as I explained earlier. Elder flower clusters are a creamy white, have a lemony smell and are in clusters about the size of a dinner plate. If you’ve ever taken walks in the woods, along the creeks or a river bank, there’s no mistaking an elder cluster from another tree. The canes can grow 8-10 feet high or higher, are very pliable, and actually, can be transplanted in their smaller stages to a place on your own farm.

For a wonderful, crisp, lemony flavored drink that’s high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, gather the flower clusters, rinse in a mild solution of vinegar and water to dislodge bugs or other debris, rinse and drain.

Use about 2-4 small clusters of the flowers from a flower head, put into boiling hot water and allow to steep for about 20-30 minutes. Strain the liquid, sweeten if desired.

It can be consumed as a hot tea, or chilled and ice added for a refreshing summertime drink.

NOTE: If you’re really crazy about elder flower tea as I am, you can dry elder flowers, store in an airtight container and use 1 teaspoon full in a tea strainer or a small muslin tea bag, in a cup of boiling water, steep and strain as above, to enjoy the summery fresh flavor of elder tea all winter long. It makes a nice gift too!!!

 

Medicinal Herb of the Day: Elderberry (sambucus sp.)

elderberry

I owe you one from yesterday, so here’s another for your enjoyment.

The health benefits of elderberries are all the rage now. Elderberry farming is becoming increasingly popular and quite a money making venture for some entrepreneurs.  Personally, I love to harvest elderberries from the wild since I know that they’re pure, wholesome and not tainted with chemicals. You generally find them growing in wetlands, along creek banks, river banks, ponds and such. I would not recommend harvesting them from the roadside since they have become contaminated with vehicle exhaust fumes and residue, from roadside spraying, etc.  Let me share with you a LONG story about elderberries and how good they are for you.

Uses:

Antiemetic (relieves nausea)

Poultices help relieve engorged breasts on humans as well as animals.

Poultices help increase healing of slow to heal wounds

Wonderful in salves for skin conditions such as boils, eczema, acne,

Poultices have an analgesic effect and can help ease the pain of toothaches and also help reduce the bacterial load of the infection in the gums

Wonderful antioxidant properties for heart ailments

Used to treat colic

Used to help treat venereal disease

Used to help alleviate water retention

Used to help decrease fever

Used as a blood purifier

Used as a pain reliever in poultices and salves for arthritis and muscle aches and pains

Helps to relieve congestion

In tonics, helps to alleviate coughs and the symptoms of the common cold

Can be used in suppositories, to relieve nausea if oral products cannot be taken.

To make a tincture.

Use only fully ripe elderberries. They should be a blue-black color and juicy. Do not use red or green berries as these will make the tincture or tonic bitter. Soak the pods of berries in a mild solution of baking soda or vinegar and water. This will not only clean the berries, but will remove bugs and other debris. Rinse and drain the berries in a colander. I use my fingers to remove the berries, but know that elderberries will stain anything they touch to a nice shade of lavender. On fabrics, the stain is permanent, so wear an apron!! Gently roll the berries off their stems into a large bowl. You can use a fork to dislodge the berries if you choose, but I find this to be slower and more tedious than using my hands. After all, we’re farm wives and what’s more to seeing a farm wife with a few stains on her hands, right? another easy way to separate the berries from the stems is to put the washed, drained berries in a zip-lock bag and freeze them. Frozen berries pop off like magic. After removing them from the stems, rinse again, and drain into a colander.

To make the tincture, put enough berries in a sterilized glass container to fill about 1/2 way up to the top. Cover the berries with vodka, everclear or brandy. The alcohol should be at least 80% proof. Cover and allow to sit in a dark, cool place for at least one month. Swirl (do not shake) the container occasionally during the tincturing process. After a month, strain the berries through a cheesecloth, rebottle the tincture in a sterile amber or blue bottle, and  label. As long as it’s kept in a cool, dark place, it will keep for several years. 

To use the tincture, measure the tincture using about 1 teaspoon in a glass of water. Take this about 3 times per day at the start of a cold or the flu.

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Elder Rob

10 c. Elderberry Juice
5 c. Sugar
1/4 c, whole cloves,
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger (or 1 tablespoon powdered).

Combine all and stir to dissolve sugar. Cook until thickened slightly. Strain out cloves and ginger, if desired. Store in a sterilized Jar or bottle and water bath can for 15 minutes.  Wonderful for coughs and colds.

 

 

 

 

Medicinal Herb of the Day: Dill

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Dill

We commonly think of it as a culinary herb, but did you know that it has many medicinal uses too? I didn’t, at least until my Native American adopted dad started teaching me the why’s and wherefores of Native American lore. You see, I am part Cherokee from my father’s side. My great-grandmother was full blooded Cherokee and I found her name, plus many other family members on the Dawe’s rolls. That’s a story for another day. But, in keeping with my heritage, and with what dad #2 has taught me, the need to share this knowledge leads to this blog, the way we live, and what we share with others. Back to the subject.

Dill

Anethum graveolens is the Latin name for this plant. It grows in gardens to the height of about 16-24 inches with thin, delicate leaves, It is an aromatic plant, sometimes used in companion planting in your vegetable garden to ward off destructive pests and to lure in beneficial insects to keep your cucumbers healthy. As a companion plant, don’t plant it near tomatoes or carrots.  I keep an herb garden specific for my many herbs that I use in natural remedies, cooking and as a place to sit in the cool evenings and partake of the many scents that the garden provides.

As a medicinal plant, it’s know to have a calming effect. It can be used for the following:

To help alleviate flatulence, abdominal bloating, indigestion and colic

The oil is said to relieve stomach cramping, especially with diarrhea

Combined with another antispasmodic herb, caraway or crampbark, it helps to alleviate menstrual cramping

It can increase lactation in nursing mothers, but, understand too, that mother’s milk will have the anti-spasmodic effect in the infant and it will help if you have a colicky baby.

It can help prevent bad breath when chewed

It can help alleviate motion sickness

And, last but not least, it can help, when added to other herbs, to prevent coughing spells

It is an antibacterial, especially for use with staphylococcus aureus

 

Harvesting Dill Seeds

Wait until the seeds on the top of the stalks become brown and dry looking. Wait until the morning dew has dried before harvesting seeds. Place a paper bag over the tops of the heads, bend the stem downward and gently clip off the stalk with a sharp pair of pruning shears or scissors. After you’ve harvested all the dill seeds you want, take them inside the house, and on a piece of waxed paper, gently shake the stalks inside the paper bag. Pour them out on the waxed paper and allow to air dry. Do not put the seeds in the oven or microwave since heat will destroy the beneficial effects of the volatile oils contained in the seeds. You can also dry the seeds by tying the stalks together at the ends, with the paper bag over the seed heads and hanging them from a rafter or in your pantry to completely dry. The seeds will fall off the heads easily when dried. Store the seeds in an airtight container until ready for use or replanting. I do leave some of the seeds on my plants to naturally reseed the garden and increase production for the following year.

To Harvest the leaves.

Leaves should be harvested before the seeds develop, otherwise they become bitter. To harvest, gather in the early morning, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. You can dry dill leaves by tying the branches in clusters, and hanging upside down, just as you would the branches with the seed heads. Allow to dry thoroughly, and store in an airtight container until ready for use. They can be used medicinally as well as culinary. Fresh dill is wonderful when a few sprigs are placed in jars of dill pickles as the oils will be released in the brine, making the pickles have a wonderfully deep, dill flavor. Dill is also good when placed fresh or dried on poached salmon.

To use medicinally. as a tea to help prevent gastrointestinal issues:

Steep 2 teaspoons of slightly crushed dill seed in a cup of boiling water for about 10-15 minutes. Strain, and sip slowly.

Tinctures may be used at the rate of 1-2 mls, 3 times per day to help relieve gastrointestinal disorders.

 

CAUTION: Dill may cause dermatitis with some people if used excessively. It may have a phototoxic effect if used and the consumer goes out into the sun. Use sunscreen with aloe if you experience any sort of dermatitis or sun burning after the use of dill tea, or stop using the tea altogether. Personally, I have not seen this happen with anyone I’ve known who use it, but the words of caution appear in my herbal books, so I feel compelled to share them with you.

Disclaimer: Any words of wisdom on herbal remedies is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitute for proper, licensed medical care and should not be construed as such. Alternative medicine is wonderful for some, but it is not for everyone. Even with the use of herbal remedies, it should be done with the understanding and approval by your licensed healthcare provider as some herbs may interact negatively with prescription medications. As always, if you use herbs for alternative medication, and the symptoms do not subside within a few days, it is best to seek the advice of your primary healthcare provider. …and that being from the words of a retired nurse…me.

 

Medicinal Herb of the Day: Comfrey

Comfrey

Also known as:
– bone knit
– common comfrey,
– knitback
– knit bond
– Quaker comfrey
-bruisewort
-blackwory
-black root
-slippery root
-boneset
-salsify
-wallwort. *Note: This should not be confused with salsify/oyster plant (Tragopogon porrifolius) , a garden root vegetable, which is not related.

Range and Identification of Comfrey
Comfrey is native to Europe through Siberia. It has been introduced to North America and other temperate regions, and can be found throughout much of the U.S. and up into Canada (see map). It prefers moist soil, and is often found as a garden escapee. Russian comfrey (S.x uplandicum) is a hybrid between common comfrey and prickly or rough comfrey and prefers drier ground.
The comfrey plant is a perennial, blooming in the spring/summer and dying back in fall/winter. It has a dense, clumping habit and grows up to 3 feet in height. Flowering stalks have leaves attached in an alternating pattern up the stem.

Comfrey flowers are borne in clusters at the top of the stem. They are delicate and bell-shaped, with only a slight aroma. The blooms measure about 1/2 ” in length, and come in an assortment of colors including white, pink and blue. The plant looks somewhat similar to foxglove, but foxglove flowers are larger and more showy.

Comfrey leaves are lance shaped, and may reach up to 1 1/2 feet in length. Like borage, the leaves are hairy and rough. (Comfrey is in the borage family.) As you can see, the veining is quite pronounced. On the leaf stem, there are small green wings that flair out on either side of the stem.

Comfrey roots have a branching habit, forming dense clusters and making them difficult to remove. They are brittle and break easily, and a new plant will regrow from the leftover bits. (Don’t plant them in a spot unless you’re sure you want them there.) The roots are dark brown on the outside and white on the inside and measure less than 1/2 inch in diameter.

Medicinal Uses of Comfrey
Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are naturally occurring plant toxins. As mentioned in the wildlife section, if consumed in large amounts, these can be toxic to the liver. There is a very detailed discussion of potential comfrey toxicity on the GardenWeb forums, in which the author states that based on available data, a human would need to consume nearly their weight in comfrey leaves to cause death. Clearly, this is not an issue under normal circumstances.

The leaves of comfrey have a much lower concentration of the toxins than the roots (almost none at certain times of the year) and are considered safer for internal use (comfrey root is no longer recommended by many herbalists for internal use). Backyard Medicine suggests that comfrey tea should not be used for more than six weeks at a time. It should also not be used if you are pregnant or nursing, or given to young children. *Note: Russian comfrey has higher pyrrolizidine alkaloid levels than common comfrey.

As its many folk names suggest, comfrey is one of the best herbs for healing broken bones, sprains, strains, bruises and tears. You can consume 1 2 cups of comfrey tea per day until the damage heals.

To make a fresh comfrey poultice to apply topically, dig up comfrey roots, clean and chop into short lengths. Blend with an equal amount of fresh comfrey leaf and just enough water to mix. Puree until relatively smooth. Apply to a piece of gauze and place over the affected body part and cover with breathable wrapping. Replace daily. (From Backyard Medicine.)

The leaves can also be dried and infused in olive oil, and this oil can be made into a salve. If you don’t have comfrey available, you can purchase a variety of comfrey products from a reputable herbal provider.

Comfrey may also be used to treat circulatory conditions such as varicose veins and spider veins. Backyard Medicine also suggest that it may be helpful for healing old wounds, such as surgical scars, and minor cuts. It is not recommended for topical treatment of deep cuts or puncture wounds, as it may cause the would to close at the top before it heal underneath, increasing the risk of abscess/infection.

One of the active compounds in comfrey is allantoin. This anti-inflammatory chemical stimulates cell proliferation and supports the immune system. The plant also contains tannins, mucilage, gum, resin and volatile oil. The roots were commonly used for bronchitis and other chest complaints, and for stomach issues such as ulcers, but now other herbs are generally recommended. The Holistic Herbal discusses more of these other uses.
As always, any medical information is for informational purposes only. Always exercise caution when using any wild plants and make sure you have positively identified the plant.

Uses:
-helps treat digestive tract ulcers when taken as a tea
-very widely known for it’s wound healing abilities
-used in treatment of respiratory ailments
-helps treat gallbladder disease
-helps heal burns
-doesn’t actually heal broken bones, but relieves inflammation and
pain of broken bones
-helps in regeneration of skin cells with wounds
-roots of the plant contain more healing properties than the leaves,
but leaves do contain great healing values.
-salves are wonderful in treatment of acne, especially when combined
with tea tree oil or lavendar
-acts as an expectorant for coughs
-as a tea, can be used as an earwash to help clear inflammed ear
canals
-used for treating arthritis and gout
-Antispasmodic for treating cystitis
-when used as an oil, helps lessen scarring

** Be extremely cautious with using comfrey to heal wounds. It has a tendency to heal from “outside in” and will close the surface area of a wound while the inner area is still open.
**Do not use the roots when creating internal remedies. Use internally ONLY with the supervision of a certified herbal medical practitioner or healthcare practitioner!! Comfrey can be toxic if taken internally.

per: http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_comfrey.htm ***

Reconstituting Balm,
Macerate around three ounce or 100 gm of cut and dehydrated comfrey root and add 3 T or 50 ml of superior variety olive oil to it. Leave the substance as it is for around two weeks. You also need the following items to prepare the reconstituting ointment with comfrey roots:
· Twenty drops of lavender essential oil
· One cupful (250 ml) of castor oil
· One and a quarter ounce (40 gm) of beeswax

After two weeks, filter the liquid extract from comfrey roots and olive oil in a separate pot. Next, thaw the beeswax in a saucepan and add the two types of vegetable oils. Keep stirring the mixture on the oven and when they are properly blended, add 20 drops of the lavender essential oil. Decant the blend in a small dark green colored jar and allow it to cool. Store the balm in a cool dry place for use when necessary.

comfrey_spring