OK, so it's hustle and bustle time…. Christmas approaches. How are we going to make this Christmas different from the last ones? How can we make Christmas meaningful amidst all the tantalizing stuff we see on the shelves? Sometimes it's so overwhelming. Maybe we need to just take a step back in our gift giving and look at life from the outside in and what special gift would be appropriate for each one according to their heart's desires. Ah, you have to get close to people to see what that might be you say…….
I'd like to share a story with you. I have been to the country of Haiti as a missionary three times in my younger years. I remember after returning from one trip, getting into a conversation with someone about the ghettos in New York City and how there was a Haitian community there. The comment of my friend was "how can they live in such terrible conditions with extreme heat and no air conditioning, open to the street, and only cold water coming out of a faucet." My, comment to her is that "everything is relevant. If you saw the conditions they live in in their country, just having running water, even if it is cold, is a huge improvement." I remember seeing the stick huts with mud floors and palm branch roofs. I remember the pallets for sleeping on the floors of those huts, side by side with exposure to wind, rain, and mosquitos carrying malaria. I remember how they spent an entire day, gathering enough things to sell or trade so that they could eat a meal that same day. I remember the lack of choices, sickness without doctors and little food to eat. And I remember that even though they lived a meager lifestyle, when there was an event or gathering, they could always be found celebrating, singing, dancing, & playing their simple instruments of music. As I got to know the people of Haiti, I found them to be joyous for life despite it's hardships and the individual creativity and uniqueness of each person as I came to know them personally.
I remember returning home and looking around me at my life in the United States and wondering if all the choices we have was a blessing or a curse. Wondering if any of us would be so grateful for what we had that we would sing and dance and celebrate just that single blessing. Wondering if the whining and complaining I hear about what we do and don't have, comparing ourselves to someone else, would ever change to gratefulness.
I'm not wanting to do another exhortation on being thankful. I would challenge you as you begin to shop for gifts, what is the dream or desire in the heart of the one you are buying for that could be touched by a gift that would encourage and strengthen them as a person? What do they love so much that they would jump at the chance to pursue that journey. What don't they have that you could supply simply by encouraging them in their identity to continue to be who they were created to be; or even to find the adventure of their life they were destined to carry. Maybe you don't have the money to buy what they would really want, or maybe you have someone that is really difficult to buy for. But you could get them a gift that is simply symbolic of what they love and who they are, a sentiment that you see and care.
In this fast paced world of multi-tasking, perhaps it's more important to give a gift that affirms to someone that you see their uniqueness, their dreams and their hearts desires. So you'll have to look to get to know who they really are. Perhaps that is their gift to you. Maybe time together on a common interest or at least talking about it for lunch. Allegorically speaking, we're all gardens waiting to be planted, nurtured and harvested; much like the herbal ones we nurture. My prayer for you this Christmas is that you give the gift that nurtures the spirit in each one and that you may receive the same.
We're still canning, freezing and processing all the bounty from the gardens, fields and forests with the promise of cooler weather and a time to rest over the winter months. We are all looking forward to getting together at the end of the month with friends and family for our Thanksgiving feasts together. It's always a time to put together our best recipes to share with those we care about and to spend time with those we may not have seen for a stretch.
It's amazing how we look forward to spending time with others and it makes me realize just how important it is to be together. As much as our technology can be a lifeline of communication in our busy lives, being together and sharing moments of time, is the best!! I have more memories of moments with people I care about than email communications to those same folks.
Don't forget all the lovely and thoughtful gifts we can give to those we care about using the herbs, trees and other natural surprises in our own back yards. Let the aromatic herbs share their fragrances as well as their flavors, let your jams & relish, pickles and syrups restore and rejuvenate. Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best!!
Thank you to all our students, friends and supporters. You are all important to me and I am able to learn as much from you as I hope you can learn from me. You are all true treasures!!
It's a busy time as we look forward to the holiday season. My new motto is shop less and spend more (time that is!) It is a gift of love.
It's fall in Vermont!!! As I look around at what needs to be done to prepare for the winter season it would be easy to become overwhelmed. Food to be put up, herbs to be dried, tinctures to make, gardens to be put to bed. As I grab my favorite cup of adaptogenic herbal tea, I will make an attempt to prioritize. Just in case old man winter decides to show up early, I will have the most important things done.
I set my dryer for herbs on my kitchen counter where I can keep my eye on it while I'm chopping, peeling, boiling and jarring my jams, relishes and pickles. As the kitchen seems to be the place where all the inhouse activity is right now, I set up a temporary table to hold it all and chose the most ripe fruits & veggies to deal with first. I can check my dryer every hour or so to make sure herbs are dried to right "doneness", color still good and just the right crispness. That's my indoor harvesting style.
Outside on good days, I pull all the residual vines and stems to put in the brush pile, chop my comfrey for the last time and add it to my compost for nitrogen fixation, and clean up any signs of rotten tomatoes or potatoes so that spores will not infect the soil for next year. I might even scrape up the top half inch of soil there in order to better guarantee a sporeless start for next year. In addition, I will rotate the plantings so that those two vegetables will be in another location next season. Tools need to be washed and oiled, fencing and supports put away, shrubs wrapped, and hoses emptied of residual water so they won't freeze, coiled and hug up. We'll run the rototiller one last time to loosen up the soil and spread the winter rye crop. If we have leaves to rake from the trees shedding, we will spread those around as they break down well and continue to add good organic matter to the soil. Sweep the potting shed and lock the door and we are done outside.
Meanwhile back in the kitchen, there are piles everywhere. It's a sight to see, but it's also a sign of the provision we have received from the earth's bounty. As I dry my herbs, I will put them in clean glass jars and into the apothecary closet where they will be ready to tincture and otherwise process later during the winter months when I have more time. I will make sure we have enough elderberry syrup and echinacea to start the winter cold season. There's nothing else to be done, but to begin with the biggest pile of vegetables and start the freezing and canning process. Should anyone come to visit they will automatically be invited into this maze of bounty with a paring knife and a bowl. You wanna talk with me these days, you'll have to indulge in kitchen work. The gift is, you'll be able to take a few things home with you.
After dinner, I sit down and try not to nod off too early. The days are full and I am tired but satisfied that I have participated in stewarding a most precious gift. My dreams are full of eating fresh vegetables and raspberry cobbler in the middle of winter as the snow flies.
Webster's definition of resilient reads like this:
1: The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress. 2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
When people are aware of situations, their own emotional reactions and the behavior of those around them. In order to manage feelings, it is essential to understand what is causing them and why. By remaining aware, resilient people can maintain control of a situation and think of new ways to tackle problems.
Resilient health is all of the above. In the myriad of health solutions that we teach about, we can't underestimate the strength we have when we know ourselves; how we react to certain events, people and circumstances. Knowing ourselves in this way, and taking the time to learn how to humbly consider our own shortcomings actually prepares us for those life crises that are sure to arise. It can prepare us to call on friends or family for assistance, let offense go so we can deal with the real issues or know how we need to communicate and to whom in an emergency. It causes us to have the ability, as in #2 above, to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
Although change is not always easy, we live more and more in a world of change and unknown futures. That's why learning opportunities are always beneficial and the more we are open to learning new things, the better ability to adjust we will have. Throwing off fear which leads to stress is a big roadblock to many. Take time to spend with friends who will pray with you, considering what God says about you, spending time in natural surroundings, reading inspiring words of wisdom, finding fun and laughter in the things you love, even celebrating the many successes you have whether large or small. Remember "Laughter is good medicine".
Resilient health means that when we find ourselves sick or rundown, we have learned what to put into action to recover and adjust. That can apply to a winter cold virus or a battle with a chronic disease or condition. Our battles for health can be real warfare to think positively, know the resources to get the answers you need for each situation, and adjust to the circumstances. Knowing what to do before it happens is part of winning each health battle and finding times of joy and celebration even in the midst of a cancer diagnosis can make the difference between life and death.
Please join us on September 17th as we hear from a Parkinson's patient who is recovering and adjusting in the midst of her health crisis. Whether you have a chronic problem or just want to learn, all are welcome. Call Cathy at 802-683-1785 or email email@example.com
August has arrived in the Northeast. It's the hot days of summer, before the harbingers of fall begin to show when the leaves change their colors. It's a time to harvest as much as possible for the winter months that will eventually come. It may be hard to think of cold weather when it's hot but the hardiest of rural families knows to "consider the ants".
The fields and forests are still lush with green and the gardens are showing their finest. Here, at Healing Leaves Center we are harvesting as much cultivated and wildcrafted material, drying and storing it for a later date when we will process it. We do that over fall and winter when time presents itself.
As I was examining the gardens and what needed to be harvested next, the beautiful blue flowers of the scutellarias caught my eyes. Scutellaria is the latin name for the skullcaps. We have two here at the Center; Lateriflora, or common and Biacalensis, or Chinese. In our stressful, fast-paced lifestyles, the skullcaps are good additions to our medicine cupboards.
Scutellaria Lateriflora grows well in our region as a perennial. It is easily harvested and dried and makes a beautiful addition to cultivated garden areas. In the wild it is found in sunny but damp, wet areas. It is part of the mint family, so can be identified by its square stem.
The leaves of blue skullcap have a history of use in herbal medicines as a sedative and tranquilizer and for treatment of a variety of conditions including stress, nervous tension, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, convulsions and certain neurological disorders. It is used in formulas with other herbs to support the above functions. It is very safe to use with little side effects. (Please note, any one individual can have a reaction to almost anything, including food. Use all herbs in small doses until you are sure you do not personally have any negative reactions).
Scutellaria Biacalensis, or Biacal Skullcap can be grown in the northeast to zone 4. After that it will need to be potted and put under cover or grown in a greenhouse and mulched in for winter. It likes sunny locations but, unlike Lateriflora, it does not like damp soil but needs soil that drains well. The extra time and care needed to grow it are not only rewarded by its medicinal uses but also by its larger, darker blue and showier flowers. Unfortunately it is the root of the plant that is needed medicinally so if you are using for that purpose, you will need a number of plants to continue to proliferate as you take some for processing.
Biacalensis has been used for many years in Chinese medicine and is just beginning to show itself more popular in Western herbal medicne. Common uses are for inflammation, insomnia, hepatitis, epilepsy, atherosclerosis and cancer.
Skullcap Tea for Headaches and Nervous Stress (made with common skullcap)
2 parts scutellaria lateriflora
2 parts lemon balm
1/2 part feverfew
4 parts chamomile
Directions: Use 1 tsp per cup of boiling water, cover and and let steep 15 minutes
Sorry to have missed blogging in the month of May & June. It has been unseasonably cold here in the northeast and getting cleaned up and prepared to plant for spring has been exceptionally difficult. Not to mention that many of you have had to deal with flooding.
My husband and I took our usual spring break to camp and hike in the Adirondacks of New York. It is a lovely, wild place that has it's challenges, like the black fly season. Despite their itching and swelling, black flies carry no diseases that complicate their existence; but the intentional application of herbal repellent reminds me that tick season will soon be upon us. That, is a bug of a different color.
Lyme disease has increased multi-dimensionally over the last few years. Lyme disease, itself, can be difficult to treat if attention is not taken immediately after being bitten. The problem is complicated by the fact that ticks can carry any of six other bacterial infections as well; and a tick bite can mean any combination of lyme and one or more of those co-infections.
Wisdom and care is important; but I absolutely refuse to be so fear driven that I will no longer walk the woods and fields of God's creation and ignore the abundance of food, medicine and spiritual awareness that comes with that activity.
We, at Healing Leaves Center, have now developed a Tick Kit that can be carried with you, along with your insect repellent, so that you can be prepared for the unexpected and not have to fear walking the woods. The "kit" contains the items for immediate treatment of a suspected tick bite, whether in the woods or at home after your walk. Whether you decide to purchase our tick kit or not, here are some specific ways to keep ticks off your body and out of your home.
Have a good insect repellent that you use whenever you go into fields and woods whether it is bug season or not. A good herbal, non-deet repellent, made with herbs and aromatherapy oils can work well and smell reasonably good. Re applications may be required as aromatherapy oils evaporate, but they are not toxic and re-applications are not dangerous. We use the herb Andrographis as a tick repellent and it can be added to whatever insect repellent you might purchase. Some insect repellents advertise that they are good for ticks also; but we know that Andrographis is the most repulsive to the ticks and can also be taken orally if an imbedded tick is found. We, therefore, always have a tincture of this herb in our "kit" at all times. Spraying your repellants on any areas of bare skin and even on clothes or hats and brims works well.
If you find an unembedded tick on yourself or those you are with, remove it and destroy it by burning or slicing with a knife or sharp instrument. In the event you cannot dispose of this way, put into a zip lock bag and destroy when you get home. DO NOT just toss them aside. Destroying them is one more way to keep them from proliferating. Care should be taken after every outdoor activity to find a "buddy" who can observe bare skin for you (in areas that you cannot see, like your back) to check for ticks. Best practice: After walking in the woods and fields, shake off your clothes outside and then throw them into the laundry. Ticks can hide in folds of clothing and end up on furniture and other household furnishings and surprise you later. You want to keep them out of your house.
If you find a tick embedded in your skin, DO NOT SQUEEZE IT. Remove it with a tick removal tool that has a notch cut into it. These can be purchased online or in pet stores. Spray the tick with repellent or soapy water and gently slide the notch under the tick so that the forked portion contacts the head area. Pry it out. Then dispose of it. Treat the area with an antibacterial. We like to use Kloss's Linament. This kills any bacteria or Lyme micro-organisms. In addition, a dropper full of Andrographis tincture orally is recommended. This has a very bitter taste and you may want to dilute it with water or chase it with something immediately afterward. These items are contained in our "kits".
If you develop redness, rash, swelling or fever within 24 hours to a week of removal, see your health care provider immediately. A bullseye rash does not always develop. Lyme disease is not usually contracted if the tick is removed within 24 hours (this would be the average time that it takes the tick to burrow deep enough to reach blood vessels) If there is any question that you might be infected, you should see your health care provider as soon as possible. Other symptoms would be flu like symptoms, lethargy, fatigue, joint pain. The sooner you receive care, the less risk of contracting long-term Lyme or any of the multiple bacterial affections associated with it. Often a prescription of Doxycycline is prescribed for 21 days as the antibiotic of choice.
There is incidence of people being bitten and the tick not being found. Again, the same protocol as above would be advised. If it lies dormant and appears a number of months later, you may have contracted lyme and need more intense treatment. Be sure to find a practitioner with experience treating lyme. It often has to be diagnosed by ruling out other autoimmune problems. The most common symptom of lyme is joint pain that comes and goes and occurs sometimes in one joint and other times in another one. For more information and protocol recommendations for treatment see www.buhnerhealinglyme.com Dr. Steve Buhner has treated hundreds of lyme patients as a naturopathic physician, has done extensive research on lyme disease, and written a number of books on the subject.
It's April. If you haven't thought about the organization and planning of your garden, it's time! If you have and spring is beginning to brighten your door, and better yet, your environment; you may want to take some daily walks and find out what's beginning to pop it's head up through the soil to bask in the sun. Not only is it good therapy for our winter weary bones that will bring a smile to our face and a spring to our step; there are wild plants to be discovered. These wild things, not only have minds of their own when it comes to where they will grow, but they have medicinal grace for you. The trick is to find out where they are growing so that when you need them, they won't be lost to you amongst the other growing things that might hide them.
Let me give you an example. Coltsfoot is one of the first flowers to come up in our northeastern climate even before dandelions. They are often mistaken for dandelions but they grow in gravelly places, along roadsides with no initial leaf growth, only a segmented stalk and a yellow flower similar to a dandelion but half it's size. A harbinger of spring, they let you know where to look for their very distinct leaves a month or two later when you are looking for them to make tea or tincture, as that is the part of the plant you need. Their low growing habit makes them obscure unless you remember where to look.
When you go back later you can look under spruce and roadside growth to find the unique shape of the coltsfoot leaves growing en mass underneath. These are what you will pick to make your medicinals good for colds and congestion and one of the ingredients for a good cough syrup.
Probably the most common spring plant is the dandelion. As often as people treat their lawns so that this "weed" doesn't grow, both the toxicity of the chemicals to our health as well as the loss of an extremely good and easy to pick medicinal is lost. A cleansing herb for liver and kidneys, the small early leaves can be sauteed with butter, ghee or coconut oil or even a few onions. The new small leaves can be eaten raw in salads. Root and leaf can be dried and used in liver tea formulas. If you don't treat your lawn, you will have an abundance of early bitter greens for your salads. But it doesn't stop there. You will also notice other lawn edibles such as violas, also called "Johnny Jump Ups". Their leaves and flowers are edibles and great to add nutrients as well as color to your spring salads. A little green called sorel, that looks like a shamrock, has a slight sour taste to add to salads.
Spring foraging can always be fun if you have a patch of wild onions (or ramps) on your property. They appear shortly after the snow melts and leaves can be used in salads or pesto as well as the underground bulb. Be sure to bring a sturdy digger as these guys are tenacious to pull up.
In a forested area are yellow trout lilies with spiked, mottled leaves. These too make a nice spring green and good for the kidneys. White flowers with pink striping show off the spring beauties this time of year. Very striking against the leafless trees of spring.
And if you like the slight taste of sorel in your salads, a cultivated form called French Sorel will adapt very well in perennial beds or vegetable gardens and will raise their heads year after year in the early spring.
There are others, but learn the ones that grow near you so that you can get to them for your dinner or step out onto your lawn to pick fresh greens for salad. It will be an adventure in learning.
In the midst of the Coffee revolution, there are those that are avid tea drinkers. I happen to be one of them. Perhaps it is because I became extremely acidic in my early coffee drinking days or because, as an herbalist, I began drinking tea formulations for health reasons. Either way I have had the opportunity to explore the many faces of tea and would like to put in a plug for those ancient pathways.
According to legend, in 2732 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea when leaves from a wild tree blew into his pot of boiling water. He was immediately interested in the pleasant scent of the resulting brew, and drank some. It became popular there in the 16th century and was discovered by the English in the 17th century. When black and green teas were gaining popularity in England, sage was being imported in large amounts into China as their most popular tea. I have made beverage tea with my own herbs using sage as the base and it is a most unique flavor.
As far as caffeinated varieties or beverage teas go there are black, green and white in almost as many flavors and roasting varieties as you can imagine. Black teas have the greatest amount of caffeine and the strongest tannins. Green teas are lighter with moderate amounts of caffeine and a wide range of health benefits including anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, energizing and DNA protecting polyphenols. White teas are the lightest, least caffeinated and are good carriers for flavor and medicinal herbs.
Then there are the herbs! There are so many ways that you can get medicinal tonics by sipping the wide variety of medicinal herbs instead of taking vitamins, pharmaceuticals or supplements. "That is where herbs are strongest; their potency most revealed; their healing most profound; in the everyday using to them as food, as beverage tea, and as 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' type of medicine" Rosemary Gladstar.
There are flowers, roots, leaves in innumerable flavors, scents and combinations. For me, it is to start my day with a cup of personally formulated combination of dried leaves and flowers, with a light, sweet flavor that gives me a wide variety of minerals and micro-nutrients, balances my hormones and warms me up. With my devotional book and mug of tea, I am able to stabilize my thoughts as well as my cortisol levels and begin my day without hurry as I consider what is before me. As I look at the jars of dried herbs in my pantry, I have all the tools I need to create a blend and flavor that appeals to my differing senses on any given day. And when the garden is giving up her herbal splendor, I have the opportunity to go out and pick something fresh for a whole other variety of choices. One example is the common chamomile that we associate with evening and sleep. Picked fresh it has an amazing citrus flavor that can help you arise to any occasion.
Do you have a creative, beauty-loving side? Don't underestimate the power of tea!
As you expand your herbal pantry, keep these points in mind:
. Know the flavors & properties of each one
. Start with an idea of what flavor you are trying to obtain
. Combine for looks, blending of flavor and aroma
. Taste test and adjust
. Flowers for color, herbs for scent, texture, taste
. Remember to write down the recipe
. They make great gifts
Cup of tea anyone?
The days are getting longer and the temperatures are beginning to mellow into the 20s & 30s here in the mountains of Vermont. Sunshine is beginning to intensify and these clear blue sky days with bright sun reflecting on "corn" snow begin to give me spring fever. Though true spring is a couple more months away and we still have our share of "messy" weather, on indoor days I find myself curled up on the couch with my hot cocoa and seed catalogs, dreaming of green seedlings sprouting thought dark earth and new tree leaves uncurling.
I have over time realized that planning & preparation for new projects is a good way for me to get a handle on what it will take to get the job done and pace myself so I am not doing too many things in a last minute rush. I can take stock of seed stocks, what I need to purchase, what plant starts I will need and what new plant I may want to experiment with this year. There are soil amenities to consider, what worked last year and what didn't, what repairs I need to make to tools and fencing, and how I want to rotate the garden crops from last year for optimal growth.
There are so many ways to garden these days even for those of you with minimal space. Whether you are doing a porch garden in containers only or a full half acre, you have many choices. I encourage you to look for suppliers that are careful about developing new species and not messing with genetic modifications. For container gardeners, there have been some amazing "miniatures" that have been developed in the vegetable varieties that have high yields and are great for a one or two person household. Time and experience have caused me to include aromatic herbs mixed among my rows of ground crops to keep insect pests at bay. It works on the same principle as companion planting to neutralize fungus development and increase soil health without commercial fertilizers. Herbs like comfrey which can get invasive if you don't cut them back before flowers begin to disperse, can be added to compost piles to increase nitrogen. One plant can produce 3 cuttings and give you enough nitrogen for the whole summer. Aromatics like rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, lemon balm and even catnip can repel insects while adding herbal medicinals and culinary stock to your household.
Some seed companies to consider would be High Mowing Seeds, Johnny's, Fedco, Peaceful Valley and of course, Richters in Canada for herbs. Don’t forget to support your local seed saving groups as heirloom seeds are important to the continued ability for all of us to plant crops that are capable of reproducing themselves. Having to rely on the modified species that have to be purchased on a yearly basis because they cannot reproduce themselves, sets us up for control by outside sources of our own food supply.
The sky is the limit! It's easy to overdue purchasing new varieties, so planning, again, is key. Just make sure that whatever you do, do it well and your garden will support and sustain you from one summer season to the next.
JustHaving trouble with cold fingers and toes when you're out these cold winter days; or do you simply experience those moments when a chill from drafts in the house cause you to shiver and turn the thermostat up a degree? Do you know that there are some spices that you can add to your food that will help your body maintain it's core temperature?
All the incredible and tasty Eastern spices like cinnamon, cloves, tumeric, ginger, fennugreek and others actually increase body temperature naturally and are great to have around the house any time, but especially during cold winter months.
Many of these spices are able to expand capillaries (small blood vessels) in the body to allow oxygen and thus energy, producing heat. These "warmer" spices can be taken in tea, capsule or tincture form or just added to meals for seasonings. Just remember to buy fresh, good quality spices. They also have great immune building properties of their own and are just another example of how your food can be your sustaining medicine. I encourage you to taste and explore the many flavors and uses of these wonderful spices. Many recipes can be found online.
I love to do things like sprinkle my morning yogurt with cloves or cinnamon or even my morning coffee. There is a drink that can be made with tumeric and ginger called golden milk that is simple delightful and non-caffeinated. Try adding a sprinkle of cayenne to your favorite dark hot chocolate.
When we go skiing here in Vermont on cold days, we have some tricks to keep us going. Drinking a shot of an eighth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a small glass of water a few minutes before you go out will establish a nice warming sensation as it opens up the capillaries in your extremities. As your body is active, the warmth circulates through your blood stream and increases your body's warming capacity. Try it some day before you go out for a walk in the snow. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
Over 40 years of Herbal and nutritional experience.