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: , , ,


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

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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.

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!


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