14. April 2013 · Comments Off on Yarrow’s Garden Blog~Healing with Willow · Categories: Yarrow's Garden Blog · Tags: , ,

salicaceae 034Ambling down the open, grassy, two-track toward the pond, my attention is drawn to the three resident Canada geese circling overhead, honking our arrival. At creekside, we are greeted by a wind break of scruffy, red-shafted shrubs. Seen against the backdrop of the greening Wet Mountain Valley and its snow-covered peaks, the overwhelming beauty of the surrounding marshland allows the tense discomfort of my body from the ever-increasing wind to slowly recede from my awareness. We are here to greet the willows and indeed they greet us, ready to share their wisdom and bounty. This moon cycle being called the “Willow Moon” by the Ancients has called me to their home under the guise of learning to weave a basket.

Considered sacred in the folklore of the earliest Americans, we indeed felt like we were on sacred ground. Willow is a member of the family Salicaceae (Willow), shared with the Aspen (Populus tremuloides) and the Cottonwood (Populus sp).  Ranging in elevation from 4,000-9,500 ft and up into the tundra, typically growing in belts of shrubby thickets, this species, the Coyote/Sandbar Willow (Salix exigua), was most revered for its usefulness in basketry as well as for its medicine. For our purposes, the best time to gather willows for weaving is now, before signs of new Spring growth become evident. IMG_4425Willows are deciduous and before long, at our elevation, will bud with long, slender leaves and flowering parts called catkins. As with other members of this family, willows have separate male and female plants, each with their characteristic flowering sexual morphology. Plants are either wind pollinated or depend upon the services of local pollinators.

As my fingers begin to interweave and shape the slender twigs I have selected, I drift between my present reality with teacher and companions into a place between time and space. I see myself, bone knife in hand, skinning the bark off the fresh willow stems, drying it, and simmering the plant material in an earthen vessel over an open fire, creating a strong tea brew. Early native peoples relied on willow for reducing fevers from all types of infections and sedating pain of various origins. A tea of the leaves is strongly emetic and was used as purification in preparation for certain sacred ceremonies.

Being cool, bitter, and slightly drying (astringing) in nature, the active constituents in Salicaceae bark are two prominent glycosides, namely salicin and populin, the earliest predecessors of present day aspirin. Contemporary herbal uses of willow bark include the treatment of inflamed joints, membranes, and irritated tissues, and for any condition with heavy or watery excretions of pus or mucous discharges. As a back country first aid, willow is an excellent choice, used topically as an antiseptic poultice for infected wounds, ulcerations, burns, swellings, and eczema, and accompanying pain, while promoting tissue repair. Native to North America is Black Willow (Salix nigra), while the more well known White Willow (Salix alba) is a European cousin. Colorado is host to many native willow species, all having more or less the same chemical constituents and properties. Willow seems to have an affinity for the uro-genital system and has been reportedly used successfully in the treatment of urinary tract infections, benign prostatic hypertrophy and bleeding uterine fibroids. As a tonic, willow bark tea can benefit digestion by stimulating digestive secretions and increasing the appetite. By sedating nervous irritability, willow is calming and can promote a restful sleep. For those on anti-coagulant therapy or sensitive to aspirin, willow bark medicine is contra-indicated.

Willow basket 001Replicating the famous work of Edward Bach, noted English physician, healing practitioners today have found the flower essence of Willow to be particularly useful for the stiff, dry and contracted personality type; one who is often resentful, inflexible, blaming and frequently bitter at one’s life situation. Willow brings to us the watery qualities of its growth habitat and surroundings, fostering acceptance and forgiveness, bringing a sense of gracious flow, resilience and inward mobility to the one in need of softening and yielding. Willow medicine helps humans flow in and out of life’s situations more effortlessly, interweaving ourselves within the community of other flowing and resilient beings.

Basket now completed, willow medicine resides within. May we all embrace with fluidity and resilience the healing wisdom of willow as we walk the sacred Path of Life.

Christina MacLeod, Westcliffe, Colorado,, April 14, 2013

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PLEASE NOTE: Posts on Yarrow’s Garden Blog andThree Sisters Medicine are for inspirational purposes only and not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. Herbs are Medicine! Proceed with care. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment of serious medical conditions is inappropriate and unwise. If you have or suspect a medical condition, it is your responsibility to consult a medical practitioner for appropriate treatment.

THREE SISTERS APOTHECARY offers a variety of dry tea blends and tinctured formulations.Formulas are custom blended for your specific health and healing needs. Contact me at skyedarter@gmail.com or phone: 719.783.0465 to schedule an appointment.

 

01. April 2013 · Comments Off on Yarrow’s Garden Blog~Remembering Rosemary · Categories: Yarrow's Garden Blog · Tags: , , ,

REMEMBERING ROSEMARY~

Lightly brush the leathery leaves of Rosemary and then bring your fingertips to your nose. At once, a rush of expansive “scent-sations” will flood your consciousness with your own presence. In this moment, your senses are awakened, your mind made clear. You are aware of your body, mind and Spirit, the whole package, interwoven as one being–YOU. This is the unforgettable experience of Rosemary.

Rosmarinus_officinalisRosemary is powerful medicine. Familiar to all of us as a well known culinary herb, Rosemary can take us far beyond taste to experience its essential nature. Its spicy, resinous flavor wakes up the circulation. Close your eyes and its aftertaste will transport you to the blazing heat of the sunny, dry Mediterranean coast. Go ahead, taste a fresh leaf!

Rosemary is a woody shrub of Mediterranean origin in the family Lamiaceae (mint), with square stems and bi-labiate lavender to blue flowers. The family itself contains many of the familiar aromatic herbs we use in the kitchen, as their volatile oils promote digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Early Roman, Arabic and Renaissance European physicians valued the medicines in the leaves and oil of Rosemary as some of the most potent and versatile in their plant pharmacopoeia.

In traditional western herbal medicine, Rosemary is a valued circulatory stimulant and restorative tonic, not only aiding the digestion of fats and starches, but also dispelling wind and cold, promoting bile flow, restoring the nervous and glandular systems, and reducing infection in order to promote tissue repair. Rosemary is well known as an anti-oxidant, promoting a healthy immune system and stimulating sharper brain functioning and memory.

In our high elevation Rocky Mountain habitat, Rosemary is considered a tender perennial. If you can adapt your growing zone enough to create a Mediterranean micro-climate, you might possibly get Rosemary to over-winter outdoors. Without a greenhouse, most of us here in Colorado will grow Rosemary in the potted protection of the warm indoors for winter’s duration. Given a sunny location and maintaining soil moisture, it may even bloom indoors. My preference is to let my Rosemary live permanently in a container, porting it outdoors in the summer, allowing its roots to remain undisturbed, and returning it indoors once again during the winter months.

Through its ability to promote movement and heat, Rosemary taken internally as a simple infusion (tea) or a more concentrated tincture, works as a heart, nervous system and lung restorative, to alleviate symptoms of fatigue, mental depression and low self esteem. In any circumstance that would benefit from increased blood flow, Rosemary can help. As a foot or full body bath Rosemary can relieve sore or tired muscles; used topically in a salve or linament it can rejuvenate skin elasticity and promote tissue repair. A Rosemary vinegar makes a lovely medicinal food atop a fresh green salad, or can be used as a hair or clarifying body rinse. The infused oil makes a warming massage preparation to increase circulation, promote detoxification, and moisten dry skin. A steam preparation of Rosemary using the essential oil opens the sinuses by breaking up the mucous congestion that interferes with clear breathing.

In both folklore and esoteric (Spirit) medicine, Rosemary symbolically holds the energies of remembrance, loyalty and friendship. Using fresh sprigs of Rosemary, today’s traditional Mayan healers work with the plant to clear the energy of the healer’s hut, and to prepare participants for entering the sacred ceremonial space of the Primicia. Fresh leaves are often placed on the patient during prayers for spiritual healing. The flower essence of Rosemary is strongly awakening, offering an invitation for the Spirit to seat more deeply within the physical body, and for one’s conscious awareness to become more clearly attuned with the present moment. The Light essence energy of Rosemary brings its uplifting qualities and cosmic warmth to those who need to experience a deeper and more radiant sense of Self. One of my closest Soul friends, Rosemary keeps me mindful, always reminding me to embrace ALL of who I am.

♣ Photo credits: Courtesy of THOR and Wikimedia Commons

Christina MacLeod, Westcliffe, Colorado, April 1, 2013

********        ********        ********

PLEASE NOTE: Posts on Three Sisters Medicine are for informational purposes only and not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. Herbs are Medicine! Proceed with care. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment of serious medical conditions is inappropriate and unwise. If you have or suspect a medical condition, it is your responsibility to consult a medical practitioner for appropriate treatment.

THREE SISTERS APOTHECARY offers a variety of dry tea blends and tinctured formulations.Formulas are custom blended for your specific health and healing needs. Contact me at skyedarter@gmail.com or phone: 719.783.0465 to schedule an appointment.