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.