21. March 2013 · Comments Off on Yarrow’s Garden~Comfrey:Strength and Resilience · Categories: Yarrow's Garden Blog · Tags: , , ,

Comfrey: Strength and Resilience~

As we swiftly move into the throws of Spring, I find my visitations to the medicine garden happening almost daily now. I admit, I am anxious to see the first sprouts emerge from the seeds I recently planted in my cold frames. But my curiousity has taken over as I get down on my hands and knees to search for even the tiniest speck of green emerging from my perennial friends. This morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see the return of the nettles, yarrow, motherwort, valerian, and comfrey; plants so hardy that even the deep winter nights of 28 degrees below zero could not dampen their determined life force.

Home-Texas Creek 004My introduction to comfrey and its powerful medicine came when I bought my first comfrey plant in Denver in about 1994. Deciding that the safest option for growing it, outside of a fenced-in garden, the comfrey was initially contained in a clay pot, while my herb garden was under construction. Soon after its arrival, I found the broken clay pot tipped upside down in the yard and my best friend’s dog happily chewing on the plant–right in front of my eyes! Jumping to its rescue, I was fortunate to find a small portion of leaf and root floating on the dog’s tongue, still intact! Gingerly, I removed the orphaned plant, and repotted it until I could permanently introduce it into its new medicine garden home later that summer. With the newly amended garden soil, moderate watering, mixed sun, protection from playful canines, and almost-daily visitations with words of encouragement and love, the comfrey grew to an amazing almost six feet in height by summer’s end! Now that’s life force–strength, resilience, and determination to thrive! Quite impressive.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a native to the cold climates of Europe and Asia. Along with its North American cousin, Hound’s Tongue (Cynoglossum officinale), often considered a noxious weed, these characteristically large, rough and hairy-leafed plants are members of the Boraginaceae (Borage) family. Comfrey is easy to grow in Colorado, best propagated through digging and dividing its roots by hand, and replanting. The plants prefer a rich loamy soil, mixed sun and part shade, and moderate water, but grow freely because of their strong vital energetics. Their tender leaves can be steamed and eaten as a green; both the leaves and roots having highly valuable medicinal properties. In a tea, the leaves are considered nutritive, rich in minerals, with emollient, nourishing, and astringent qualities. The bell-shaped magenta flowers, also edible, are characteristic of some of the plants in this family.

As far back as the Middle Ages, Comfrey was used as a healing herb to treat wounds and fractures by the armies of Alexander the Great. Particularly beneficial for muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bone, its main active ingredient, allantoin, works on a cellular level stimulating the repair and regeneration of torn, damaged or traumatized tissues.  Other plant constituents are B12, iron, potassium, calcium, amino acids, tannin, sterols and inulin. Taken internally as an infusion (tea) or topically as an ointment, salve or poultice, the leaves aid in reducing swelling and inflammation, staunching bleeding, and lessening the pain that comes with traumatic injuries; even burns. Its taste is sweet, cool, and moist. As a bath herb, a concentrated infusion may be made and added to the bath, to soothe and moisten the skin, bringing healing to eczema and burns, and reducing the pain of arthritis.

As a word of caution, Comfrey taken internally is best used for short periods of time (two- four weeks) only. The root especially is known to have slight levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are thought to create toxicity in the liver.  Also known as “knitbone”, Comfrey applied topically in either leaf or root form is totally safe and remarkably reliable in healing bone fractures, wounds and ulcers, traumatic contusions, burns, cuts, boils or abcesses; any skin damage that will benefit from healthy cellular proliferation. Digestive inflammations such as colitis and other types of ulceration may benefit from simple infusions of Comfrey tea taken several times per day.

Three Sisters Medicine makes a number of different salves for topical wound healing~~Seven Sisters Healing Salve, The Bees Knees, and Oh Be Joyful Healing Salve. They all contain substantial amounts of Comfrey leaf infused oil and beeswax provided by our resident beehives.

As a flower essence, Comfrey is both remedy and enhancer. It serves to bring life force energy to the nervous system that has been damaged by injury or weakened by stress. It also promotes the permanent healing of present life situations that have underlying roots and scars brought forward through ancestral inheritance or another lifetime.

Comfrey is truly an amazing healer and would be well suited to home use or first aid on the trail. Acquaint yourself with this Old World plant, that continues to offer its healing self through the centuries to the present time.

Christina MacLeod, Westcliffe, Colorado, March 21, 2013

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

PLEASE NOTE: ~Herbs are Medicine!~ Proceed with caution. 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.

04. March 2013 · Comments Off on Yarrow’s Garden: The Gifts of Dandelion · Categories: Yarrow's Garden Blog · Tags: , , , ,

AN ANCIENT Chinese principle of health and longevity states that we humans have been given everything needed within our own local living area to be healthy and to thrive.DSCF0018

MANY of our early spring weeds, living just outside our back door, include the tender leaves of mustard, dock, wild lettuce, lambsquarters, and the ubiquitous dandelion~Taraxacum officinale. The young leaves are easy to pluck, rinse and throw into a salad bowl (provided your pet has not fertilized them or a neighbor hasn’t sprayed them).  Add some fresh herbs, your favorite raw vegetables, a little olive oil, lemon juice and voila! These early greens, all rich in micro-nutrients including vitamins A, B complex, and C, beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, copper, zinc and iron. Grown in a cold frame or greenhouse, dandelion greens can be available all year round.

IT is common knowledge that the dandelion, is both celebrated and despised. Being the plant lover that I am, I have grown to embrace the philosophy that “ [certain] weeds are my friends”. European immigrants considered the dandelion a most valuable plant and brought it to America from their homeland so that they could continue to benefit from its many gifts. A tea or tincture from its leaf and root is a balanced and nourishing spring tonic for the liver, kidney and bladder, helping to lighten our step into the coming warmer weather after several months of heavier winter eating and inactivity.

AS with many medicinal plants, all parts of dandelion are useful medicinal food. Energetically, the plant is considered bitter, sweet, salty and cold, with cleansing properties that support detoxification and reduction in many of the chronic inflammatory processes of the body. Prepared as a tea or tincture, dandelion leaf is known to be a natural diuretic in addition to its mineral richness. It is of renown in that its leaves replace both the potassium and sodium lost through fluids during urination or disease processes that cause dehydration, such as Crohn’s or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Other properties of dandelion leaf include blood cleansing, digestive juice stimulation, mucous decongestion, anti-inflammatory, blood pressure regulating, anti-oxidant, laxative, and uric acid reducing effects. Use of the leaf is often suggested for anemia, fatigue, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, and indigestion. For a more potent detox effect, juicing fresh dandelion plants can be quite an effective and concentrated liver medicine–proceed with caution!

DANDELION root is better suited for its ability to stimulate the liver and gallbladder in their many digestive and filtration processes. Stagnation is common after a winter of dietary over-indulgences, or indiscretionate use of alcohol or recreational drugs. The deeper tissues of the body can become overheated, tissue fluids thicken, becoming more viscous, and physiology generally slows down. A decoction or tincture of dandelion root will get things moving again, cooling the deeper aspects of the body, slowly cleansing built up congestion in the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, and promoting the production and availability of bile to aid digestion. An excellent nutritional vinegar can be made with freshly chopped dandelion roots in apple cider vinegar. Fill a jar about 3/4 full of chopped roots and add enough apple cider vinegar to cover the plant material. Steep for at least 4 weeks. The vinegar (acetic acid) will pull out most of the minerals found in the fresh plant roots. A great blend with olive oil on salads or sprinkled on mixed sauteed or steamed greens. The deeper actions of dandelion root tea have been used to address allergies, osteo-arthritis, constipation, depression, fatigue, gallstones, high cholesterol, skin rashes, sinusitis, eczema, hypoglycemia, and generalized constitutional sluggishness.

ONE of the first signs of seasonal nectar flow and one of the honey bee’s first and most nutritious food sources of protein and carbohydrate after a long winter of inactivity are the nectar and pollen from the dandelion flower. Horses, too, love to nibble on dandelion flowers as they digestively transition from winter hay to summer grass feeding.

THE flower essence of dandelion addresses many of the emotional and spiritual tensions that accompany the  stresses of a challenging time in ones life. Dandelion speaks to times when we intensely over-strive or feel the need to push through a difficult situation; especially one that creates a tense jaw and tight musculature in the neck and shoulders (where we tend to carry emotional burdens). Dandelion teaches us how to slow down and reflect, soften our inner listening into a greater ease and balance, allowing warm and sunny energies to flow with more fluidity throughout the body. The resulting flow is followed by more available energy, a heightened sense of well being, greater mental clarity, and an ease and grace that tempers the earlier rigidity. ” Relax and release” is the mantra of dandelion. The liver truly welcomes this energy and attitude shift.

IT feels a bit silly to write about cultivating dandelions when they seem to be everywhere, but a bed of early French dandelions is fun and simple to grow, offering easy access to an organic, highly nutritive and delicious supply of greens. [Check out Horizon Herbs to order your own organic Dandelion seeds.] Picking a handful of the delightful flowers will control plants from going to seed and offers edible flowers for your salad, Sunday morning pancakes, or home made cookies (see recipe below). Dandelions are hearty, don’t need a lot of soil or moisture pampering, and will return year after year to grace your life with nourishment and good health. And don’t forget dandelion wine, easy to make and delicously nourishing–although can be quite high in alcohol content. And finally, all parts of the dandelion–except the seeds–contribute beneficial nourishment to any compost pile, enriching the nutrient content of the new soil being created.

SO, it’s time to lighten up. Spring is on its way. Bring it on! Open yourself to the gifts and many uses of this early spring weed. A daily dose of dandelion leaf and root tea, for the next week or two, will bring pep to your step and brighten your path into the Summer months ahead. And enjoy the recipe!

DANDELION Cookies

½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey (or ¼ cup each honey and maple syrup)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup dry oatmeal
½ cup fresh dandelion flowers

Blend oil, honey, eggs and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and add flowers. Spoon batter on lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. ♣

Christina MacLeod, Westcliffe, Colorado, March 4, 2013

THREE SISTERS APOTHECARY offers a variety of dry plant blends and tinctured formulations for your Spring cleansing and detox program. Formulas can also be custom blended for your specific health needs. Contact me at skyedarter@gmail.com or phone: 719.783.0465 to schedule an appointment.

PLEASE NOTE: ~Herbs are Medicine!~ Proceed with caution. 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.

21. February 2013 · Comments Off on Yarrow’s Garden:Feeling Our Oats! · Categories: Yarrow's Garden Blog · Tags: , ,

No one will deny that we’re living in challenging times in a difficult World.  And how do we hopefully find opportunity for self nurturance, personal quiet time, and creativity, while negotiating the changes that are coming with a new world order? Old ways are no longer reliable, old beliefs and habit patterns no longer predict outcomes or provide answers. At the end of a busy and fast-paced day, can we sit down, raise our feet and check in with ourselves?  Through creating spaciousness and perspective, we are able to find meaning, so needed in order to move gracefully forward.

A plant worth pondering is the most familiar oats, Avena sativa. Of European ancestry, oats is not only a breakfast porridge. Its milky seeds and straw have been relied upon for their healing and nourishing properties since olden times, especially for nervous exhaustion in its many forms. Accounts dating back to the Egyptians tell of their cultivating oats for both food and medicine.

In an overstimulated world. how do we nourish, nurture, and rejuvenate ourselves to not only survive but to thrive? A simple key for me is finding nourishment in the gifts of the plants. Preparing teas from these green healers allows us to stop and sit with a cup, infused with calm, presence, softness, spaciousness; creating moments of silence, increasing distance between thoughts, and offering new possibilities for inspiration, conscious awareness, and poise. In challenging times, or even coming out of a long, cold winter with a tired immune system, a tea or tincture will offer an opportunity to nourish the body, slow the mind, and allow our Spirit to claim its presence in our consciousness.  I usually mix oat straw with a few of my other favorites–red clover flowers, lavender buds, nettle leaf, alfalfa, rose petals and perhaps a pinch of chamomile. Within a few minutes of sipping, the fog begins to lift and I am able to reclaim my relationship with myself. My nervous system feels fed. The sweet, slightly viscous tea soothes my heightened emotions and reminds me to flow with life’s currents, rather than willfully pushing to reach a destination through engaged efforting.

So, what’s the difference between oat seed and oat straw? They both come from Avena sativa, but are harvested from different parts of the plant and at a specific time during the growing season. Avena is an introduced grain to the United States and non-native. In the Rocky Mountain west, Avena is an annual. It is easy to establish and requires full sun, good soil, and moderate moisture. For their medicine, the seeds are harvested fresh and early, in their juicy (“milky”) stage. The straw is cut and dried also at that time.

Avena can easily find itself in a home pharmacy as a tea beverage, a traditional alcohol tincture, a vinegar, in an ointment or salve, a body wash, compress or medicinal food. Oats are a whole body tonic, offering health and vitality to the nervous system, the skin and hair, and bones. For myself the tonic quality comes through my experience of deep calm, deep nourishment and the ability to embrace the more peaceful dimension of now. Nothing feels as important as taking in this moment, soothing Heart and Soul, with the gentle reminder that my value is in being, not in doing.

On a more esoteric note, the early 1900’s gave us an amazing British homeopath, Dr. Edward Bach, who studied the healing powers of 38 plants, prepared their medicines using a simple homeopathic method. He called these medicines flower remedies. Bach made personal observations of the personality type and behavior patterns matching each remedy. Of Wild Oat, Dr. Bach spoke of it as offering the essence of clarity and self-realization, restoring an inner sense of order, decisiveness, and direction with greater sense of meaning and purpose in life. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Wild Oat flower essence can be found in most health food stores as an ever-popular “Bach Flower Remedy”.

Christina MacLeod, Westcliffe, Colorado, February 21, 2013

 

14. January 2013 · Comments Off on Yarrow’s Garden Blog~Mugwort · Categories: Flower Essences, Health and Healing, Plant Medicines, Yarrow's Garden Blog

MUGWORT(Artemisia vulgaris)~

As I sit here sipping a cup of pleasantly sweet mugwort tea, I have begun to envision this century-old healing plant and its many uses throughout history. Its warm and comforting nature begins to pulse gently into my neck and shoulders, relaxing my solar plexus, and carrying me gently beyond the everyday doings of daily life. Slightly sweet, warming and stimulating, I can feel a gently energetic movement into my hands and feet and throughout my musculature. I notice also that my breathing has softened and relaxed.  The name Artemisia speaks in praise of the Moon Goddess, Artemis, ancient goddess of nature and patroness of women.  A restorative by nature, mugwort, is a soothing friend to today’s woman, caught up in the many roles of career, child rearing, managing home, a business or a family, with little time to spare for nurturing herself. Mugwort attends to those situations where women may have suffered abuse, been swallowed into poverty, or healing from a difficult pregnancy or abortion. Tending to withdraw, they suffer from depression or have otherwise insulated themselves from their own emotions. Mugwort helps to restore and soulfully heal the female nature.

artemisia-vulgaris-1Historically Artemisia has been used successfully for premenstrual symptoms, stimulating a sluggish menstruation, to speed labor, or to assist in expelling the placenta after birthing. It is typically the leaf and stem of the plant that are used as medicine, either fresh or dried.  In those cases it is taken as a tea or herbal bath. Mugwort oil can be used topically to massage the abdomen and uterus for alleviating stagnation and bloating typically associated with PMS, stimulating the movement of uterine release. An herbal compress may also be helpful. Topically in a salve, compress or wash mugwort can be used to treat rashes, itching, bruising and swelling, insect bites and boils. As a foot soak, it is both warming and soothing.

Mugwort has been used by the Chinese for centuries in tea formulations for prolonged menstrual bleeding, for a restless fetus, for threatened miscarriage, and any abdominal pain due to cold. These may seem contradictory; however, herbs can have different effects depending upon the dosage. The dry leaf can also be rolled by hand into a ball and placed and lighted atop acupuncture needles for warming and introducing “qi” into the body at specific acupuncture points. This technique is called moxibustion and is an excellent way to expel cold from the body..

Also called Cronewort, Artemesia is known to assist in regulating hormones and reducing hot flashes in menopausal women. It can be prepared as a tea or tincture for these purposes.  On a more esoteric level, an oil infusion of Cronewort can be used as a ceremonial anointment for scrying, visioning or active dreaming. As a tea or flower essence taken at bedtime, Mugwort can enhance vivid dreaming and dream recall. The plant is said to encourage and support intuition, creativity, and dream visioning.

Artemisia vulgaris is a member of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae). As shown in the photo, the leaf is deeply lobed, dark green on the upper surface and a silvery grey underneath. Stems are maroon, purple or brown. Plants can grow between 5-8 feet in height. Once established, mugwort requires little attention, average soil, and light to moderate water.

Originating in Asia and Mediterranean regions, Artemesia is not native to the Rocky Mountains, but is easy to cultivate here. A moderately organic sandy loam with no special soil amendment offers ample growth medium. Once established mugwort is a robust grower, seeds readily and can quickly become the center of attention if not managed. Its stems offer a colorful texture to the dormant winter garden.

Mugwort is available as a loose tea, tincture and infused oil through Three Sisters Apothecary.

NOTE: Photo compliments of PROTA4U.

Christina MacLeod, Westcliffe, Colorado, January 14, 2013

01. January 2013 · Comments Off on Yarrow’s Garden~A Blog · Categories: Yarrow's Garden Blog

Hello and welcome to Yarrow’s Garden~A Blog. The purpose of this blog is to acquaint you with a wide array of both native and naturalized introduced plants known globally for their medicinal value. My monthly contributions will focus on those plants that occur naturally in the Rocky Mountain regions of North America or those that, with knowledge and patience, can be cultivated in the Western garden and grown as medicine for personal and family use. In addition to both folklore and science-based information, suggestions for garden cultivation, harvesting, medicinal preparation and contemporary uses will be included. **I would like to emphasize that, while common names may be mentioned, botanical nomenclature will be used, in order to ensure accurate identification of each plant being discussed as well as to reduce confusion or other difficulties caused by the use of local, folk or common plant names.

And may it always be understood that self medication is never a substitute

for professional medical care when necessary.