Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ah, Rose. dear Rose ...

Roses still bloom on shrubs that my grandparents planted decades ago.

Playing in the garden today, I went from rose bush to rose bush, intoxicated with the notion of creating with my friend Rosa spp. I finally settled with one dark pink bush with lovely unfurling blooms. The blooms had that lovely rose scent, but light--not thick like soap. So, with mason jar in hand, I plucked a bloom, separated the petals into the jar. I added a few sprigs of lavender and a single bit of cedar leaflet from the garden, and some bits of dried satsuma peel to the mix (I can hardly ever confine myself to a single herb when I create with plants!). After that, I filled the jar halfway with filtered water and set it out in the sun for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, I nibbled a rose petal, inhaling that delicate scent of grace, and my mouth drying. Astringent. Is experience I have of Rose in my mouth warming? Cooling? Neutral? My first thought was neutral--such an unromantic word for such a heavenly flower. But a second nibble seemed to fill me with the faintest of sense of warm. Certainly I feel warmed in spirit when I am with Rose, so I go with that sense. That's my experience today of Rose.

Tonight I strain out the petals and peel. A faint citrusy fragrance as I twirl the water, and that waft of rose. The water is a pale yellow-orange. Perhaps a slight rose blush to the color, perhaps not. I sip and taste ... lemon! But further swallows separate the flavors. Rose, certainly. Orange/citrus -- ever so slight. Perhaps I can distinguish the lavender. Cedar, I can't taste, but the ancient mother sense of cedar is in the mix for me. I wonder: if I infuse just the smallest bit of cedar in one jar of water, and then later have one of my daughters fill three cups: two with plain water and one with the faintest-bit-of-cedar water, would I be able to sense with assurance the cup that held the spirit of cedar? An experiment for sometime soon!

Back to my rose sun tea:

Really, the smell and taste verges on soap. But if I separate myself, just the smallest bit, I return to my grandmother's rose garden in my heart and mind, the garden from which I plucked these herbs. My garden. That grace of rose resumes, and it is as if sunlight infuses my spirit. Can it be that this infusion is cleansing my spirit? That's the feeling gentling through me!

Rose Elixer
Kiva Rose has an enticing recipe for Wild Rose Elixer on her blog. What I created today is perhaps a gaudy relative of hers.

I plucked a rose bloom, separated the petals into a small mason jar, filling it. Then I filled the jar the rest of the way with kirschwasser--cherry brandy--which is the only brandy I have in the house, bought for who knows what recipe years ago, and barely used in all that time. Wild roses are ever more subtle than this cultivated bloom I used. And cherry brandy! Well, perhaps the cherry part of the brandy will add another medicinal quality to the mix. I'll have to research just what kirsch is, how it's made. And what are the medicinal qualities of cherry?

Okay, Wikipedia tells me that kirschwasser is made from distilled, fermented morello cherries (a sour cultivar), with the pits (stones) included. Perusing Herbalpedia 2007 tells me that cherry, a member of the Rose family, is useful for respiratory and arthritic problems. I'm reminded that cherry bark is often used in herbal cough syrups. Hm!

How might the respiratory assistance qualities of Cherry support those of Rose? From a plant spirit medicine perspective, I consider the heart-opening nature of Rose, its nature for me as a spirit balm and its protective, fierce, and wild nature (think of Rose's thorns, and how even domesticated Roses like the ones in my garden, can snag and entangle you when you are unaware). I think of the hearty nature of Cherry, the bold bright or sour flavor that we delight in so much as children and as adults, if we leave off our fastidious natures (spitting out pits, dribbling cherry juice, staining our fingers ....). When I consider Cherry I think of generosity, friendliness, invitation, frolic. So perhaps this Rose-Cherry Brandy Elixer may support in uplifting my heart, and soothing away those things that choke me up -- coughs, inflexibility in my thoughts and emotions. Perhaps this gregarious elixer with support an ease and flexibility in my being, and encourage a gentle and freeing wildness to emerge ... These are my fancies right now. We'll see in just what way this elixer nourishes my well-being in future weeks.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Nature's Gifts

Mullein country: Aound here I've found Mullein mostly in disturbed open areas near river banks--like this one along the Lostine River in N.E. Oregon.

A few weeks ago, my friend Lisa gave me a marvelous gift: a large bag each of soft fuzzy mullein leaves and of nettle -- harvested that morning! I was so delighted, because with the transitions in our lives, I just hadn't gotten it together to track down my dear friend Nettle (Urtica dioica), nor had I gathered my being enough to head over to my friend Celestine's to really introduce myself to Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), sit with this plant, and harvest some leaves, offering a song and Reiki in gratitude.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I drink nettle infusions to nourish my well-being. Nettle is a true "wise woman" herb, demanding (with its stinging hairs) that we pay attention when we are with her. If we don't--ouch :-)! The leaves are rich in iron and Vitamin C. In addition to drinking infusions (which serves not not only to nourish me, but to plant my feet on the earth, and also inspire that "Aunt Leaf" -- a la Mary Oliver's poem -- quality in myself) I love to steam the leaves with olive oil and garlic, or make nettle-potato soup, or substitute the leaves for spinach in cassaroles or lasagna.

Here's the poem I mentioned--one of my favorite's of all time. A great "green-woman" poem:

Aunt Leaf by Mary Oliver
Needing one, I invented her -
the great-great-aunt dark as hickory
called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud
or The-Beauty-of-the-Night.

Dear aunt, I'd call into the leaves,
and she'd rise up, like an old log in a pool,
and whisper in a language only the two of us knew
the word that meant follow,

and we'd travel
cheerful as birds
out of the dusty town and into the trees
where she would change us both into something quicker -
two foxes with black feet,
two snakes green as ribbons,
two shimmering fish - and all day we'd travel.

At day's end she'd leave me back at my own door
with the rest of my family,
who were kind, but solid as wood
and rarely wandered. While she,
old twist of feathers and birch bark,
would walk in circles wide as rain and then
float back

scattering the rags of twilight
on fluttering moth wings;

or she'd slouch from the barn like a gray opossum;

or she'd hang in the milky moonlight
burning like a medallion,

this bone dream, this friend I had to have,
this old woman made out of leaves.
Mullein leaves
Okay! So on to Mullein!

I've long heard that Mullein is great as an infused oil for soothing earaches and ear infections. You can also drink its dried leaves as a tea (but being sure to use a fine muslin to strain out Mullein's fine hairs which can be irritating if drunk) for bronchial conditions. Or you can use the dried leaves in very hot water to breathe in the steam--again for bronchitis or for asthma. I haven't tried Mullein myself yet, but that's why I've taken the time to dry the leaves! Maybe today I'll pick some more Mullein leaves and infuse some in olive oil, and give that a try when the next ear infection comes around.

Nettles. I jump-started the drying process by placing them in the shade under my drying clothes for about an hour, before taking them inside to dry the rest of the way.

Here are my nettle trays, with the tray of Mullein leaves below. I didn't dry the nettles on the table top, but rather dried them on the lowest shelf of this table, to keep the sun off them and avoid discoloration.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stomach Flu Or Food Poisoning! What did I do?

A couple of weeks ago, I awoke on the day of a long cross-state journey, feeling terrible. "I'm not that stressed out about moving our chickens, am I?" I considered the lousy feeling in my gut, recalling similar times four years ago, twelve years ago .... I don't get stomach flu very often, but ....

A half hour later, I was bowing to the porcelain god. As the day progressed, the rest of the family joined in the miserable experience.

I know the herbs can help me, I thought through the day. But I didn't have it in me to look through my resources, and I'd never made a "what to do" list for myself (as I'd always intended) for when the inevitable stomach flu returned or disagreement with food.

When I finally stabilized enough to keep water down, I switched to peppermint leaf tea, and offered that to my family when they were ready for something. That seemed to help stabilize my stomach a little further. Eventually I considered replenishing my eloctrolytes. Heather Nic Fleisdeir in her Village Herbalist course on HerbMentor.com had suggested this blend:

Electrolyte Blend
Mix in a cup of warm water:
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- pinch of salt

I couldn't quite stomach the idea of drinking a cup of this, so just hastily swallowed a spoonful of apple cider vinegar, and a spoonful of honey, and figured I was getting the salt from the cracker I'd just eaten, and the water from my peppermint tea.

When I was growing up, my mom had always given us Saltine crackers and Ginger Ale for our recovery. I considered how this 'home remedy' might have helped us kids. Had the ginger in the Ginger Ale helped settle our stomachs? (this is assuming that Ginger Ale was actually made with ginger back in the late 60s to early 70s. Ginger Ale doesn't seem to be made with ginger in any of the bottles I looked at when I finally made it to the store once more). Had the salt in the crackers and the sugar in the ginger ale helped replenish our electrolytes in some way? I don't have that answer. But I always enjoyed crackers and ginger ale when recovering from the stomach flu as a kid!

In our recovery a couple of weeks ago, I flaked oat groats with the flaker attachment to our grain grinder, and cooked a pot of oatmeal. My husband said that my oatmeal and peppermint tea (and infusion) both helped restore him! (nice when a family member appreciates these things :-)!). A couple of days later I downloaded the latest in Think Like An Herbalist -- the second audio course by Heather Nic Fleisdeir at Herbmentor.com, and it was all about Pathways of Elimination. Better late than never! I thought as I listened to it.

And I took notes about what I could have done (be prepared!).

A great tip was this one:

To help prevent or relieve vomiting
50 drops peppermint extract (basically the extract is a tincture)
1 tsp. hot water

Combine and drink! The small amount ingested isn't as likely to trigger the body to get rid of it (unlike a drinking a quart of peppermint infusion), and so this mixture will have a better chance of working.

My husband never vomited, but was pretty miserable for a longer period of time than the rest of us. If we were living those days over I would have supported his other pathways of elimination.

(***Please note***I'm still learning this stuff and haven't tried it out! I'm something of an advanced beginner. So be sure to do your own research as to why anything written here might be effective or not in your situation! Thanks!)

- A bath filled with calendula infusion (infused for two hours) to encourage him to sweat some of it out.

- A burdock decoction to support his liver in eliminating the toxins.

- Perhaps a nettle infusion to support his kidney function in elimination.

He never had diarrhea, so no need to work with blackberry root or sage to slow that response down or lessen its severity.

Okay! Enough for today on this cheery topic.

Be well!