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.


Dubious said...

This line from the poem----"with the rest of my family,/ who were kind, but solid as wood/ and rarely wandered"----reminds me of a quote from one of the books I'm reading now, loaned to me by my neighbor: ILLUSIONS, by the seagull writer, Richard Bach: "The bond that links your true family is not one of blood but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."

Dia said...

Mmm - I've been enjoying making (& devouring) Nettle PESTO - what a rich treasure trove! Thanks for sharing the poem - flowers capture our attention - but leaves . . . .
I grew up with Mullein in my back yard, have a different species from an herbalist friend - a couple of 'babies' in my garden this year.

Angie Goodloe LMT, Herbalist said...

Wonderful! I love that you included pictures too!
Nice mullein! The flowers make great ear oil as well (2nd year plants should start blooming in a few months)
The poem is lovely:)