Thursday, August 30, 2007

Decanting magic

Yesterday and today I've been going through my jars of tinctures that have not yet been strained. I have a lot of tinctures that I put up, and then just left ......... decanting them now means they will have extracted for thirteen moons :). I missed quite a bit of harvesting this year. The St. Johnswort was scarce, and mugwort, yarrow, and Goldenrod I have in plenty.

The little jar in the photo that is empty, was filled with wild oregano and vodka. It grows in abundance around my home. I made it to stave off colds and viruses. I expected it to be very hot and spicy, like the fresh plant tastes, but to my surprise, it's exquisitely sweet! Very much like my Red Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma) in fact. I can see clearly how herbalists would liken them to each other. The tincture is so lovely to take, and carries a gentle yet determined medicine; opening the throat and relieving start up congestion. I could also see it being helpful for an earache.

I strained two quarts of beautiful crystal green Yarrow blossom tincture. In the past I have often put the yarrow and alcohol into the blender, yielding a potent, cloudy green-brown tincture. This time I had carefully cut all the blossoms and little leaflets off of the stalk and tinctured them whole. I am curious if it carries any difference. It *feels* like fairy tincture. This is a medicine my whole family uses quite often. It's my daughters main herbal ally - she uses it for cooling and toning herself down (she is your classic Pitta-Kapha) especially in the Spring season. She gets flooding nosebleeds, stomach fermentation, and hot feet. If she can't throw herself into cool water to swim, Yarrow does the trick. We also use it for colds, flu, sore throats, and muscle injury, and topically for wounds if needed. Susun Weed recommends a spray to repel mosquitos, which I have tried somewhat but can't vouch entirely because I can't resist adding other ingredients - so I don't really know which one is working.

Mugwort tincture was even older - I found a tincture I made two years ago! Sheesh! That got strained too. I love this Artemisia for right before my Moonflow, when my womb swells with pressure and tension. It warms and releases muscle tension in the uterus, while toning the blood and digestion. Not to mention it's lunar energy helps! A mugwort pillow helps to deepen already potent dreamtime during menses - but be sure to ask the plant for guidance or she may just get into mischief!

And a big beautiful quart of pinky-hued red clover blossom tinctured in brandy. Yum! We love this for it's life nourishing properties and for keeping the libido healthy. I recommend the nourishing infusions on a regular basis - but the tincture has it's merit too. It's lovely when I am feeling too masculine - and the world is wearing me down. It reminds me that *soft* is strong, and seems to beautifully restore my resilient nature and femininity. Not to mention that red Clover is a bosom buddy .... a superb breast tonic. I love the entry on Red Clover in my beloved book: Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger .

Last but not least, Wormwood tincture. This is a valuable staple for us, if anyone has terrible stomach pains or indigestion, 4-5 drops of tincture does the trick. Great for long car rides. I also use it as part of a lyme protocol, as an anti parasitic and alterative, again at a very low dose, about 3-4 drops 2-3x a day. It seems also to help keep joints cool, taking down low grade swelling or aches. And I wouldn't be surprised if she helps with fertility - she seeds and sows prolifically! I had one plant last year - and thirty this year! A bundle of this luminous plant, makes a lovely silver wand for the mantle or altar. Athena would be proud.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Filled to the Brim

The Women's Herbal Conference is kind of like eating a humongous feast after starving. And after three days of it you are so full that you just check out for a while. I've been in a daze all day, happy, stuffed, and of course wondering how I can change the world.

Returning to reality with new perspectives is wonderful - an agent of change - but also very hard. At least for me. Returning to the guzzling cars and obnoxious facades that people wear is hardening to the spirit and saddening to my body of hope. Retreating and being slow on this beautiful August day, tinkering through the Lemon balm and Rue, is exactly what I need before embarking on the new year.
One of the most remarkable things about the WHC is the fact that my Mom and I go together. I think this was our fifth time. It's truly a blessing to strengthen our bond and to carry the lineage of herbal wisdom. Not to mention - we have a blast. Next year, we will be a clan of three generations, when my daughter joins us for the adventure!

Of the nine workshops I took, I realized that only two of them were herbal. Ha! But hey - a good herbalist is an empowered one, right? Yeah! Plus, in previous years I have taken many of the herb classes already. So I took the really juicy ones from my most favorite teachers.

I took two with the incredible, transformational ALisa Starkweather, on 'Becoming Butterfly Woman' and 'Feeding the Fire to Move Mountains'. YES they are as powerful as they sound and incredibly meaningful. GO to any of her workshops if you ever have the chance.
Susan Grimaldi, Shaman and Native Elder, taught a class on Trance-Dancing (where I had the honor of merging with frog) and a beautiful class on The art of seduction - which was very deep and reverent (not a come hither class) and included a shamanic journey where we created our true vision of ecstatic union. Absolutely empowering and luscious. And applicable!
I also shook and shimmied myself sore in two classes with Ann Marie Licari {I can't find a website for her, sorry! She's out of Vermont} who totally rocks. I'm usually disappointed when I go to a belly dancing class because I just can't seem to find the range of motion I need for it. But I think I got some good basics of it down and my wag started to look a bit more sparkly. Yay for me! I might be able to belly dance after all! I can't wait until I can ripple my stomach like a deep see jellyfish. ooohhhhhh.
Now the Mead Making Workshop given by Desiree Cohen was really a hoot. The mead's just seemed to keep coming around ... blueberry, rose petal, dandelion, pear, cranberry wine, and anything after that I can't remember! I know there was a lot of laughing, ye-hawing about Cowboys, (which turned out to be carboys but you see Desiree has a Boston accent) and long syphoning contraptions with delicious liquid flowing from it. It's a really good thing the class came with a detailed instruction booklet. Now I just need to check my hive again to see if the honey flow is ready!
And what two herbal medicine classes did I take, you ask? Ahhhh, yes.
Well, one was a tincture making class with Jill Frink Thompson (scroll down) who now practices out of Vermont not Asheville - and I loved her class. It cleared up a few simple things that I had been confused on. Jill is an exceptional teacher - articulate, high spirited, relaxed and down to earth, ready with fantastic knowledge and understanding of plants and people. I will definitely take more classes with her in the future. (And Jill if you happen upon this blog - let me know how I can update your web link! XO)
And I ended it with a BANG - a Triple Goddess Herbs class with the One, the Only, the Green Goddess herself, Susun Weed. My favorite Teacher of all, full of sharp insight, hilarious animation, deep rooted wisdom, and thorough, rich, applicable herbal knowledge. She starts and ends her classes in a chant which we all participate in joyfully, a tradition I'm thinking about taking on for my own classes. We learned about Cronewort, Motherwort, and Maidenwort, and about ourselves at the same time. These are three plants I love and use regularly, so it was nice to go deeper into them. And I got to thank her in person for her empowering work, and I got to slather her gorgeous Maidenwort oil (chickweed; Stellaria Media) oil all over my hands, which has to be the most erotic, slippery oil I've ever tried. Ohhh, yes, waiting for the fall flush of fresh Chickweed to arrive ..... pounce!
I also got to acknowledge some of my other favorite teachers .... like Kate Gilday, Tina Marie Wilcox, Rosemary Gladstar, Rocio Alarcon, and the Omnipotent Mz. Imani.
Now ...... given I can get over my grimacing reactions to biblical references, topics, or vocabulary, I need to go and Read the RED TENT. But really ..... I need to START A RED TENT.
Anyone else???????

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Off to the Conference!

Oh Joy! My annual Mother-Daughter trip to the Women's Herbal Conference is finally here! My time to recharge, relearn, grow, and sink into my element. I'll be back Sunday night, all aglow.

I can't say what I look forward to the most. Spending time with my Mom, being in the presence of my Wise mentors like Susun Weed, Rosemary Gladstar, Rocio Alarcon, and ALisa Starkweather. Writing and thinking and learning. It's ALL good.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dreaming Echinacea, post #1

My Echinacea is far taller than I expected. I'm about 5' 4" and the flowers tower over me. Lately I've been having intense dreams about this plant of many wonders. I haven't done a whole lot of research per se because it is so prevalent a remedy that I think I assumed I knew about it. But my dreams have been quite informative. I see myself, spade in hand, with baskets and jar and menstrums ready. Sitting beside the tall beauties, I sing and stroke the leaves clean of dirt. When I feel the vibration strengthen in response, I carefully wedge my fingers and spade inbetween the bottom rosette, making a small area of the plant ready to dig. I feel around for the tops of the roots. The tingly presense makes me salivate. My skin tingles too. And my deep feelings of lonliness and lack of community start to surface ..... and release. I see webs of roots reaching for each other, overlapping, rolling and weaving underground. Stretching. Joining. It feels like the essence of Echinacea is honoring community, honoring balance, and honoring individual expression without feeling isolated. Perhas this is just what I need to learn right now, and it is simply a coincidence. And perhaps it is a unique heart healer.

more thoughts to come ..... it will be time to decoct and tincture soon ....

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Edible Rubies - Blog party!

This month's theme? Berries!!!!

These addicting sticky sweet-sour little jewels, appropriately named wineberries (Rubus Phoenicolasious) are ripe in profusion along our hills. They have been providing plentiful pickings since mid July. The hill is steep, fit for a goat, and quite rocky. But there are ledges enough to scale along and collect until the rhythm of the harvest has got you entranced. These
succulent little morsels are shiny, unlike the opaque look of the other raspberry varieties. You can tell it's a raspberry by the little 'cup' that you see inside the berry, where it was picked away from the stem. Other berries just have a flat surface where the berry was attached, but no hole.

Now, I have failed for certain on one point of this blog party. And that is, that we haven't been able to make anything from the berries. Oh we get plenty of them ..... we could have made jam, or pie, or liquor, or .......

But we can't seem to keep them. We eat all of them. Every last one.

So, I suppose at the very least, I could mention some good tidbits about her famous sister the red raspberry, as I speculate that wineberries could be used similarly. Red Raspberry leaves are famed for enriching the blood of the uterus and feeding nutrients to the fetus in preparation for birth. It's a powerful female nutritive, the infusion being drunk daily offers the body lots of vitamins and minerals while balancing and nourishing the reproductive system. It's especially wonderful as a galactagogue for nursing mommies. The leaves are only slightly astringent, indicating a gentle tonic action. The leaf infusion is also very good for the health of the blood in general. During my pregnancies I kept a pot brewing of Nettles, Alfalfa leaf, and Red Raspberry leaf and drank it daily. My babes are good and healthy!

Red Raspberry and wineberry, the berry itself, is sweet and sour in taste, telling me first that it is food, and second that it is a perfect summer food. Nearly all sour tasting things are cool in nature, offer vitamin C, and contain electrolytes. Perfect for keeping the body cool in hot weather and for avoiding heat related ailments such as athletes foot, ringworm, yeast rashes, bad temper flares, and dehydration. Ever take a cranky kid to a raspberry patch just for the fun of watching their frown turn upside down? It's a sure spirit lifter.

Now, with all due respect to the raspberry, I actually love these wineberries more. They are more tart, juicier, and so dramatically beautiful that you'll think you found a bush dripping with edible rubies. They fall into your hand when rubbed the right way, and though some say they are seedy - mine are not at all. They are heaven on a hill just a skip away. Perhaps the name is such simply because they are intoxicating!

So, I apologize for eating my blog post, but we couldn't help ourselves. To read more on wineberries, there are some more great resources on the web if you give it a google.
Happy Lughnasadh everyone! Eat the harvest!