Wednesday, November 18, 2009

spending time with lavender

i am reading a book by Pam Montgomery called Plant Spirit Healing and i am absolutely inspired. its about joining in a relationship with plants. so everyday i go out and spend time with lavender (Lavendula dentata). it's been a little difficult for me since i am not one to sit around. i am learning that it is a relationship that needs to be nurtured just like any other - spending time, caring. i sit there - i am absolutely giving myself up to this process. 'hello... i don't know what i am doing... but i came to visit again today'. and i sit. yesterday i went out with a magnifying glass and looked real close at the flowers and leaves  - paying attention to details - i did notice differences in the newer and older leaves. the leaves of dentata are almost like little woven baskets. i touch the leaves - smell the leaves. i am looking at the environment it lives in - what it likes. it is in full sun - so that means its energy is active, stimulating, masculine, drying, outward. this lavender plant was one the first plants i put in the ground 13 years ago when i bought this house. a lot of plants have come and gone. this lavender has not. i took pictures of it - which actually helped me focus on the plant. i tasted it. i am learning the taste of a plant will help me understand the organ or system it helps in the human body. so for today - i just go out and sit with lavender.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

day trippin'

i have been spending more time outdoors lately since i have found a few areas locally that do have some good plant medicine to look at. i thought i was isolated in the cement pit i live in - but no - there are places to go.

tons of sage (Salvia leucophylla 'Figueroa')...

there is an abundance of horehound (Marrubium vulgare)...

fields of prickly pear (Oppuntia engelmanni). native americans used the younger pads for food and mature pads were used as a poultice for wounds and burns.

i even saw rose hips - not sure if it is dog rose (Rosa canina) or rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa). they are high in vitamic c, e and k and can help with colds and flu.

i saw a lot of these two - which i am going to have to research to find out what it is... but it was everywhere. i like the white puffs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

comfrey oil

i went today to pick up my plantain (Plantago spp.). i found a great place for it. can't wait to see how it takes. i am hoping that it flourishes and seeds and grows. i also got my comfrey (Symphytum officinale) leaves and i am making a comfrey infused oil. i just read up on it a little and realized that i should have let the leaves sit for a day to let some of the moisture evaporate first so there is less chance of mold growing in the oil - which can happen sometimes by putting moist plant material in oil. oh well. we'll see how this goes. so i cut up the comfrey leaves - by cutting up the leaves it allows for more of the active ingredients to be released into the oil. i put them in a jar - lightly packed - and completely covered the leaves with oil. i used jojoba, apricot kernal and grapeseed oil. i stirred the leaves around a bit to get the bubbles out. i covered it with a paper towel (or cheesecloth) and attached only the outside mason jar ring - leave the inside metal part off - or you can just use a rubber band. this allows the water to evaporate which will help so it doesn't grow mold. it will then sit for 6 weeks away from direct sun. during the first week, i'll open the jar everyday and make sure that all the leaves are still submerged. when the oil is ready - i will make a salve.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

score !

i just got back from the local nursery. i went to get a fern to plant behind my front tree. i ended up with giant chain fern (Woodwardia fimbriata), which is going to be beautiful once it fills out in that area. i also got more of my most favorite little plant, lambs ear (Stachys byzantina). it is the sweetest little fuzziest plant ever. i got a few calendula (Calendula officinalis) plants. after they settle in and start to flower - i will use the petals to make an infused calendula oil - which is very healing for the skin. my comfrey (Symphytum officinale) plant is looking a little weak - so i got 2 more. i was talking to an employee there - and i didn't know that comfrey goes dormant in the winter - so the one that i have now will bounce back in the spring. while i was talking to him, i asked if they had any plantain (Plantago spp.). he told me he has a SLEW of it at home and he would bring some to work tomorrow. he also told me he had so much comfrey that he would harvest some and bring me a bag a fresh comfrey leaves. i will make a healing comfrey salve with it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

tamanu oil

i don't hear alot of mention about tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum). i don't want to take a drug every time i have an ache - and although i did not go searching for this information - it appeared in an article i was reading a few months back and decided to give it a try. tamanu is indigenous to southeast asia, and the article said that tamanu oil was helpful for sciatica, joint pain and arthritis. i also knew that st. johns wort (Hypericum perforatum) was also helpful. it works by penetrating the skin surface and relaxing the nerve endings and muscles. they have anti-inflammatory properties that help with stiffness and swelling of joints. i'm not scientific here about exactly how it works and what it effects - i do know, from experience - it does work. maybe further on in my studies i will understand exactly how herbs effect certain tissues and organs better. so i made a blend of tamanu and st. johns wort oil and massage it in whenever i feel tightness and pain in my neck or back. i have been really happy with the results.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

food as medicine

i talked to a friend today who said she felt like she was coming down with something - she asked what she could take. she had no herbal medicine around - so i told her about lemon, garlic, honey and cayenne pepper (use all organic). good old stand by when you feel something coming on. squeeze the juice of one lemon, chop a few cloves of garlic, tablespoon of honey and as much cayenne as you can handle. boil water and make a tea. drink every few hours when you feel crappy. why ?  

garlic: rich in antioxidants which help destroy free radicals - particles that can damage cell membranes. fights infections and boosts immunity.  

honey: antimicrobial properties. soothes sore throats and can kill the bacteria that causes it. and it makes it taste better  :) 

lemon: blast of vitamin c, loosens mucus, cleanse liver, fights congestion, detoxify body.  

cayenne pepper: capsaicin - the active ingredient in cayenne pepper can help overcome fatigue and restore stamina. it stimulates the circulatory system which helps deliver fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart. it will also make you hot and help sweat it out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

herb walk

i went on an herb walk yesterday. lucky for me, no one else showed up - so i got a private session. although it is fall - there was still plenty to look at and discuss. and it was really interesting for me to get to know some of the plants that are native to california.
the first we saw was oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium). it contains the immune stimulating, infection fighting, antiseptic constituent, berberine. berberine is scientifically proven to protect against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. it has a sedative effect on the muscles lining the digestive tract and can relieve stomach cramps and abdominal pain.
i had never seen this before - and was quite excited to see some white sage (Salvia apiana). the leaves contain resins that have anti-bacterial and antiseptic properties. a hot infusion of the leaves stimulates perspiration and will lower fever. inhaling the steamed leaves breaks up chest congestion. applied externally, it can help skin infections.

there was plenty of horehound (Marrubium vulgare) around. shown here sitting next to some black sage (Salvia mellifera). horehound is an expectorant and used to treat coughs, bronchitis, respitory infections and sore throats. a strong tea or tincture can be used. here is a recipe for a cough syrup: steep 1 ounce of leaves in a pint of boiling water. cover, and allow to steep for 30 minutes. strain out the leaves, and then add twice as much honey, mix well, and bottle. take 1 teaspoon as needed up to four times per day.

we then came across the mysterious jimson weed (Datura Stramonium). i was told it has been used by shaman for centuries during ceremonies and for vision quests. it has hallucinogenic properties. this is NOT a plant to mess with under any circumstance - unless with someone VERY familiar with its magic and practices. i was just very excited to be in its presence. shown here are the leaves and seed.

then there was yerba santa (Eriodictyon crassifolium). it is an amazing plant with a lot of medicine to offer. it is called 'great medicine' by the local tribes. it is an anti-inflammatory and helps to dry congestion. it is also helpful for asthma, bronchitis, coughs and sinus allergies.
i got to see some nettles (Urttica dioica). we found it at the bottom of a dry creek towards the end of the hike - it was already getting dark. i have only seen it dried in bulk when i purchase it. i have a few posts in here on the medicinal and nutritional value of nettles.

there was mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) around, which i have also posted about. it is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. shown here is the elder flower.

there was so much more we saw.... black walnut (Juglans nigra) which has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. there was plenty of coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis), yucca (Yucca whipplei), mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), black mustard (Brassica nigra), and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

we even stopped for a while at some chia sage (Salvia columbariae) which had died back a bit and gone to seed and removed some of the prized chia seeds - which are high in protein and omega-3s.

it was an amazing few hours for me. i had gone on a herb walk quite a few months back - but it was more fascinating for me this time after a few more months of my herbal studies to actually see and touch a few of these treasures i have been reading about. also to get to know some of the medicine that is in my area. this park was close enough to home that i know i will be returning there as springtime comes to visit with my new acquaintances and spend more time with them. i think this is going to be so much more beneficial to my learning than looking at pictures in books.

Friday, October 23, 2009

burdock root

this is burdock root (Arctium lappa). i got it at the health food store since i have not been able to find it wild here. susun weed says that she did an experiment with burdock root harvested wild, harvested from her garden, and bought. they can all be used to make medicine - although the wild burdock root has more inulin - not insulin. inulin is a polysaccharide (several simple sugars linked together) produced by plants, usually found in roots or rhizomes. inulin increases calcium and possibly magnesium absorption. it promotes the growth of good intestinal bacteria. nutritionally it is a soluble fiber and is categorized as a prebiotic.

when reading up on burdock - i was overwhelmed by all the medicinal and nourishing properties... the list is to long for here - but here is what i found out (briefly):

it eliminates toxins and poisons from the digestive tract by nourishing and strengthening the lymphatic and immune system  - it seems to clean the blood. it is very helpful with skin conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis or acne.

i cut up the root to make a tincture - let it sit in 100 proof alcohol for up to 6 weeks. the smaller the chop the better - breaks down the cell walls in the root to release more of the medicine. i will also make a vinegar - put the chopped roots in a jar and cover with organic pasteurized apple cider vinegar and let it sit for 6 weeks. store them in a cool dark place. do not use metal lids with vinegars because they will rust the metal, and you don't want that getting in your vinegar. i can then use the vinegar in salad dressings and get the nourishment that way.

from what i understand - as these sit - they will get some kind of cloudy muck in them. that is the inulin being released from the root. i will watch and see.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

rock friends

i love rocks. i am not sure why. they are strong, stable and solid. they can soothe away tension. i have them all around my house. on pewter platters on the coffee table, on shelves, in jars, on the patio. i love the way they look. their colors, shapes, textures. even different personalities. i prefer round smooth ones. i like to pour water on them sometimes to see how their colors change. i have always collected them. when on walks in the park, on the beach or even just on the street. i don't just pick up any old rock. they talk to me. and sometimes i pick one up - and it changes it's mind and doesn't want to come home with me - so i put it back.

lavender tincture

i started a lavender tincture today after reading about nervines last night. a nervine is a plant remedy that helps the nervous system. There are three different types of nervines: tonic, relaxing and stimulating. a nervine tonic can help strengthen and restore tissues directly in cases of shock or stress. they feed and heal the nervous system. a nervine relaxant is used in times of stress or anxiety - not to tranquilize - but to calm. there's a slew of herbs that can help with this - and even specific herbs to calm different parts of the body and systems during illness. nervine stimulants directly stimulate the nervous tissues. i could not find a real clear answer as to why you would need to stimulate them - maybe if they are sluggish and things aren't working properly - but i did find a lot of cautions when looking up this term... side effects, psychological problems etc...

the lavender nervine i read about last night said it was mood enhancing. useful in times of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, irritability, headachy. i would describe it as something that might be helpful when i feel - what i call - spun. it was described as 'a hug in a bottle'.

i found out something else. i previously posted that my lavender was Lavendula angusifolia. but it's not. i looked at some pictures. i have Lavendula dentata.

Friday, October 16, 2009


fresh from my garden. i never knew tomatoes tasted like this.

red clover infusions

i have added red clover (Trifolium pratense) to my daily infusions. prepared same as the nettle infusions - 1 ounce to 1 quart of boiling water - steep overnight - strain - drink. red clover has so many benefits. here are a few:
• contributes to bone health
• high in phytoestrogens (complex topic for me to explain all of it -
  but they help with menopause)
• helps prevent breast cancer, osteoporosis and strokes
• eases anxiety and confusion
• helps muscle and joint pain
• keeps skin healthy

Thursday, October 15, 2009

first rain

we had our first rain for the season the past few days. i woke up this morning and the sun was out - but everything was still damp and wet from last night. everything was fresh and clean. the whole garden was singing with happiness. all the flowers were open and bright.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

gifts from squirrels

i have a squirrel that comes every morning and i feed him sunflower seeds. i guess he either drops some of them as he is scurrying away - or he puts them in the dirt for later use - i dont know if squirrels do that. but i have sunflower plants popping up all over the yard. they are so pretty. my thought here was that i was going to take a picture once a day to have a progression of pictures as the flower opened... but i forgot. so here is the sunflower bud - and then the flower. i'll catch it next time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

eight weeks later

i have solomon's seal root (Polygonatum biflorum) tincture. i am so pleased. my first tincture.

i put cheesecloth over a bowl and squeezed. i then labeled bottles; one for storage, one with dropper - with common name - latin name - date i started the tincture - date i squeezed it - and what was used: 50% herb - 50% grain alcohol. a few weeks ago i read that you can run your tincture thru a blender - especially if using roots - like i was - to help break down the root better and get more medicine out of it. 

what did i notice ? well... it was very slimy. which makes sense because i just read that solomon's seal is mucilaginous. mucilage is a gelatin like substance found in herbs. it is used in medicine for it's demulcent properties. demulcent herbs have the effect of acting as a protective barrier on inflamed or irritated tissue. these herbs are soothing and cooling.

solomon's seal helps joint injuries and helps restore lubrication and pliancy in the joints and tendons... and after actually touching the herb - it was thick and slimy - so it makes sense that it lubricates.

time for a tea break

when it all gets to much... the nicest thing i do for myself is take a break and make a cup of tea. yesterday i harvested some lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) so today i can have some tea. i only picked a few of the stems off the plant - just enough for a few cups of tea... that gives the plant a chance to keep growing. i let it sit for at least an hour before sipping...

lemon verbena is calming and sedating and has a positive effect on nervous digestive disorders.

Friday, September 25, 2009

whats out there... ?

well. there are no open lush fields around here where i can go harvest... i live in a cement pit - 20 minutes from downtown los angeles. this isnt all so sorry and sad... i have angeles crest national forest 45 minutes away... and the santa monica mountain range is close enough.

got me thinking about my herb garden.... some things i planted that did well and then did not. its to hot for the fragile chamomile... not sure what happened to the horehound... rue is putting up a good fight... mints are struggling, but i have faith in the mints. catnip is doing so-so.... and valerian comes and goes. lemon balm has dwindled back. comfrey is trying. lemon verbena was vibrant - but is now pale. basil was strong but is now twiggy. feverfew was abundant - now it is not - but i think it will bounce back.

so - i thought - work with what is working out there. concentrate on the plants that are thriving and have held tight for years. the herbal pillars in my little community that have held strong. everytime i walk out to the garden - there they are - standing tall and proud.

and even though i can just as easily order big batches from mountain rose herbs ( and they will be here in a few days... something is tugging at me to go look in my own backyard. i know who they are.... lavender has stood tall and quiet in the corner for 12 years. i cut her back many times when she got unruly - but she stays. and sage keeps going strong. and the surprise oregano. beautiful flowing happy. and marjoram who has the bunko spot where all the water collects and its sludge under my feet where you live, but you like it i suppose.

what i want to do is gather some information on those plants. the ones who have stuck it out in my yard.

my new allies




Tuesday, September 8, 2009

more on oatstraw

i posted earlier about my daily nourishing infusions - and made a small comment about oatstraw (Avena sativa) - but since i am now doing either nettles or oatstraw on a daily basis i thought i'd write about oatstraw a little more.

to make an infusion - use one ounce of dried herbs in a jar and cover with one quart boiling water. stir it a bit to get all the herb wet. let it sit overnight and then next morning strain off the herb and drink the infusion throughout the day.

infusions draw out beneficial vitamins and minerals. they are helpful because you get the highest quality nutrition - and by getting vitamins and minerals from a whole source rather than extracted materials - such as a supplement pill form - our bodies assimilate them better.

oatstraw acts as an anti-depressant and restorative nerve tonic. it is ideal if you are stressed, exhausted, nervous or sad. if you use it regularly it eases inflammation in your body. it is a great source of calcium to strengthen bones, teeth, and nails. to get your daily calcium supplement add a little horsetail (Equisetum arvense) in the infusion. oatstraw nourishes your nervous system and cleanses your circulatory system. it will help alot if you are just plain worn out.

Friday, September 4, 2009


the viscous wild dog... foraging amongst the lavender and feverfew...


i was going to pull this 'weed' i found creeping around my patio - but then thought it looked familiar to something i had seen in my plant id books. sure enough... its purslane (Portulaca oleracea). you'll know it by its branching stem pattern and succulent waxy leaves and stems. i did some research and this is what i found out:

purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant we know of. omega-3s aid the body in the production of compounds that effect blood pressure, clotting, the immune system, prevent inflammation, lower cholesterol (ldl), prevent certain cancers and control coronary spasms. they also have positive effects on the brain and may aid in such conditions as depression, bipolar disorder, alzheimer's disease, autism, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and migraines.

it can be eaten fresh or cooked. it has a mucilaginous quality (moist and sticky - so its moisturizing to your organs) and great for soups and stews.

purslane is a nourishing herb, an excellent source of vitamins a, c and e and essential amino acids, it has been described as a power food of the future because of its high nutritive and antioxidant properties. nourishing herbs are the safest of all and can be taken in any quantity for any length of time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

in the garden

this is what i have in the herb garden right now and then a brief basic description on how the herb can be used medicinally. they can be prepared in an infusion (steep in hot water for at least four hours) or for stronger medicine - a tincture (soaked in alcohol for 4-6 weeks).

what is that sentence i am supposed to say now ? something like: these statements have not been evaluated by the food & drug administration. they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. consult with your health care practitioner for proper use. there.

thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- antiseptic properties - can be used as a mouthwash, skin cleanser, anti-fungal agent for athlete's foot and anti-parasitic for lice

sage (Salvia officinalis) - for mouth sores and sore throat. for sore throats, mix sage tea with apple cider vinegar and salt for gargling

lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- a benefit for stress, anxiety, exhaustion, irritability, headaches, migraines, insomnia, depression

rosemary (Hyssopus officinalis)
- a digestive aid. treats depression and headaches. use as an expectorant and for muscle spasms

marjoram (Origanum majora
na) - relief from symptoms of hay fever, sinus congestion, indigestion, asthma, headache, dizziness, colds, coughs, and nervous disorders. marjoram essential oil has been one of my favorites for headaches - a few drops on forehead and temples

catnip (Nepeta cataria) - very mild herb medicinally. it has calming and sedative effects. which surprises me since cats go bonkers for this stuff !

parsley (Carum petroselinum) - a vitamin and mineral powerhouse. a natural breath sweetener. eat the leaves right off the plant to combat breath odors

feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
- helps dramatically in some cases of migraine, arthritis pain, painful menstruation, rheumatism, and muscle spasms

lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla or Lippia citriodora - confused on the latin name here) - relief of digestive tract spasms, reduction of fever, strengthening of the nervous system. has the ability to break down cellulite, and has a soothing, healing and toning effect on the skin

basil (Ocymum basilicum)
- digestive and anti-gas properties. also for stomach cramps, vomiting, constipation, headaches, and anxiety

comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
- a priceless herb for wounds, sprains, bruises

valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
- a central nervous system relaxer and a sleep aid

common rue (Ruta Graveolens)
- the leaves applied externally will ease the severe pain of sciatica and headaches

horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
- benefits chronic cough and asthma
spearmint (Mentha spicata) - relieves hiccough and flatulence

chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) - a remedy for hysterical and nervous affections in women (!) has a wonderfully soothing and sedating effect

calendula (Calendula officinalis) -
a remedy for the pain and swelling caused by bee or wasp sting. a lotion from the flowers helps sprains and wounds

Monday, August 31, 2009

more on boneset and elderberry

decided to read up a bit on these two and this is what i found out... 

boneset is an excellent remedy for colds and congestion. boneset treats colds by raising body temperature to kill the colds virus, but it also treats fevers by inducing perspiration to lower body temperature. The polysaccharides in boneset activate T-cells to fight bacterial infections.


native americans used the flowers, berries, and bark of elderberry trees to treat fevers and joint pain for hundreds of years, but elderberry's real claim to fame is as a cure for the flu. elder berries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains. vaccines have another draw back: over half of people who get them report side effects.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

flu prevention

i am going today to get boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and elder flower (Sambucus nigra). i guess the big scare right now is this H1N1 flu coming on - and i watched this video with paul bergner on natural flu prevention... studies show that it is more effective than influenza immunization - not to mention - no negative side effects and poison getting injected into you. he also mentions vitamin d. best prevention - 20 minutes in the sun between 10 and 2. also these supplements:

Vitamin D - 4000-10000 IU
Zinc - 25 mg
Vitamin C - 500-1000 mg
Vitamin E - 100-200 IU
Selenium - 200 mcg
Cod Liver Oil - 1 teaspoon

plus the boneset tincture and elder flower syrup
10-12 drops a day - 4 times a day

Monday, August 24, 2009

folk method gal

well... the forum said that sometimes the ratios and charts in books are not exact if the herb is fluffy or compact or....

i thought i wanted to know this way of doing tinctures - but after alot of frustration... i pronounce that i am officially a folk method gal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

tincture experiment

this is my first tincture... solomon's seal root (Polygonatum biflorum) in 190 proof organic grain alcohol. solomon's seal is good for joint injuries... it has the ability to restore lubrication. i have many neck/back aches. so i decided to try this as my first tincture. i used dried solomon's seal root... and then agonized looking over my notes to try to figure out how much herb ? how much alcohol ? do i add water ? reading over these math equations that just made my head buzz. actually... my nephew sammy is coming by today to give me a basic math course. i will show him the formulas and see if he can make sense of them. i posted my questions on a forum i follow... and got more math equations and then - someone said 'use the folk method'. 50% herb - 50% alcohol. that was 2 weeks ago - solomon's seal tincture has been sitting there for two weeks.... four more weeks to go... and then i have my medicine. i already use mullein (Verbascum thapsus) tincture (bought it) and a st. johns wort (Hypericum perforatum) and tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) oil rub when pain flares up. this is the original medicine. modern medicine has been around for say... 100 years ? for thousand of years before that we relied on and believed in plant medicine. i'm going back to the roots...