Tag Archives: Susun Weed

Dandelion, the nature of tonics, and herbal “coffee.”

18 Jul

A few days ago, I posted a recipe for dandelion burdock soda.  I’ve given burdock a write up before, but now it’s dandelion’s turn.  Dandelion, perhaps the weediest of all lawn weeds, is full of healing powers.  The leaves are edible and make good, albeit bitter, salad greens.  The roots have a nutty flavor to them.  Dandelion root is available to buy commercially both in raw form and in roasted form.  Roasting helps to fill out the flavor, but deprives the root of some of its bitter constituents which are the powerful healing elements of the root.

P1190404 Dandelion Clock..02.05.14

(Photo credit: Tadie88)

David Hoffman sites dandelion as an ideally balanced diuretic.  Usually drugs that stimulate kidney function can also cause a loss of potassium, but because dandelion is a rich source of potassium, it replaces what might be lost, and is therefore a nourishing way of addressing water retention, particularly helpful in people who have water retention due to heart problems.

Robin Rose Bennett, in her new book The Gift of Healing Herbs (which I’ve been reading bits of daily lately) also sites dandelion as rich in iron, zinc, beta carotene, and calcium.  She uses it as a tonic for the liver, as a part of reproductive tonics, and to support the lymphatic system.  She also uses the flowers to make a tincture or an oil, which she uses in cases of emotional tension.

Susun Weed, in Healing Wise, also sites dandelion greens as valuable digestive bitters, and flowers as a pain reliever.

Overall, I’ve gleaned that dandelion gets things moving through the body, which is great when we have places that are stuck, whether in our finer fluid systems, our digestion, our circulation, or our psyche.  I know many people who, in an attempt to cleanse themselves of some perceived toxicity, turn to harsh methods such as fasting or colonics, 100 percent raw diets, or yogic salt water drink cleanses.   Many of these fasters end up with worse digestion and depleted intestinal flora after their cleanse.  Our bodies clean themselves if we support them.  If we nourish the organs that cleanse us, we don’t need to resort to deprivation techniques.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

I come across the word “tonic” applied to dandelion and many other weeds.  For a long time this word confused me.  What is a tonic?  Weed says it’s something that “nourishes the functioning (tonus) of a muscle, organ, or system; invigorates and strengthens all activity.”  This definition is odd because it defines tonic with tone.  What is tone?  Hoffman says tonics are “herbs that strengthen and enliven either a specific organ, or system, or the whole body”.   This explanation still left me confused, somehow, until I heard a definition of tone from my yoga and BMC teacher, Amy Matthews.  She defines tone as “readiness to respond.”   When I pair this definition with the understanding that “reaction” and “response” are two very different things, I get a better chance of grocking what tone is.   With balanced tone, our organs are able to rest when appropriate, and become active when necessary. Ready to respond means being attuned to any situation.  Tonic herbs are helpful because don’t just stimulate our organs:  they nourish them so that the organs can do their work and regulate themselves.  Thus, the wise woman tradition refers to herbs as our “allies,” rather than thinking of them like drug replacements.

A year or so ago, I picked up a bottle of Dand-E-Chick, a coffee replacement beverage made by a local Brooklyn lady.  I’ve had other chicory beverages that are just infuriating: I drink them, and I feel resentful that I am not actually drinking coffee.  This stuff, somehow, is better.  It has the bitter-sweetness of coffee without trying to pretend to be coffee.  Dand-E-Chick lady used to sell the grounds at Abhyasa Yoga Center, where I teach.  They haven’t turned up at the center lately, but I’ve taken to making my own version.  I think her ratio is still a little better taste-wise but here’s what I do:

 

Dandelion-Chickory coffee replacement:

Combine:

4 T ground roasted dandelion root

4 T chicory root

2 T cocoa or cinnamon

Add a couple scoops to your french press (just like you would coffee grounds), and pour boiling water over the herbs.  Let steep 5 minutes.  Pour a cup, adding milk to your taste.

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Alewife gets a cold, engages with Osha root: Monica’s tincture.

13 Mar

Brooklyn Alewife has a cold.  I thought I got through this winter without getting  sick at all.  Till now.  I do recall some time in mid-January, I almost got sick and warded it off with plenty of sleep, elderberry brandy, herb teas, and an amazing Osha root-based tincture from my friend Monica.   She discovered the root via her now ex-boyfriend, who left a bunch of it behind, and she began chewing it straight-up to help her overcome a lingering illness.  Liking it a lot, she found that she particularly liked it in combination with both red root and cherry bark.  Periodically when I got a threatening tickle in my throat this year, instead of taking cough drops I took a half-dropper of Monica’s tincture.  It soothed my throat as well as warding off whatever germs were attacking me.

hallsgood.preview

These halls ads were all over the subway a coupla years ago. I feel like this lady right now.

Osha root (Ligusticum porteri)  is an herb that Monica introduced me to last year.  It’s native to the Southwestern US and Mexico, and my herbal books seem to have a blind spot for it.  My wellness wall chart in my kitchen sites it for sinusitus, because of it’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.  A quick google search led me straight to Wikipedia, and the picture of Osha looks much like poison hemlock, which is not too surprising because both plants are in the parsley family.  The plants are easily distinguished by smell, however.  Hemlock has a mousy smell when the leaves are crushed, whereas Osha has a celery smell to it.  This celery smell and taste is noticeable to me in consumption of the dried root.   Osha is sometimes called bear root, because brown bears are attracted to it, both eating the roots and rubbing it on their fur.

Researching Osha today, I find via both Susun Weed’s website  and on the Mountain Rose herbs website an advisory that Osha is an at-risk species, to use sparingly.  Guilt rises in me, as I just bought two ounces of the root yesterday (okay, that’s not that much).  Because of the scarcity of the root, you should be mindful of your herbal sources:  Do you get your supplies from someone who harvests sustainably?

English: Ligusticum porteri variety porteri (o...

English: Ligusticum porteri variety porteri (osha, Porter’s lovage, Porter’s licoriceroot, loveroot, etc.), showing flowers and part of seedhead, Winsor Trail, Santa Fe National Forest, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weed sites Osha as a very powerful herb that helps to prevent against anaphylactic shock and other extreme reactions to both allergens and venoms.   She also refers to it as “singer’s root,” because of its soothing effect on the throat.  I have noticed it listed as an ingredient in prepared herbal remedies such as “Singer’s Saving Grace,” and “Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark,”  two remedies that I have used over the years when I am sick.  The good news is, a little goes a long way.  I was not sparing in my use this winter, and an ounce of diluted tincture lasted me the entire season.

Here’s what Monica did.  Keep in mind, neither Monica nor I are trained herbalists, but amateurs dabbling in herbal crafts, experimenting researching, and having conversations.  Do your own research.  Check out the resource linked, for instance in this article.  Take your herbs with respect and caution.   Via Weed, 2 oz. of dried roots should be combined with 10 oz. of high-proof alcohol.

Monica’s Osha tincture:

In a glass jar, combine

2 oz coursley chopped osha root

2/3 oz cherry bark (read more about it here)

1 and 1/3 oz red root. (read more about it here)

Cover the roots with 20 oz. 100-proof vodka.  Cap the jar tightly, and let it sit for a year.  If some of the alcohol evaporates, you can top it off.

Tinctures are generally consumed  a few drops at a time in a glass of water.  Monica chose to dilute her master tincture with distilled water to a still strong but more directly ingestable level (Dilute yours to taste if you go this route:  she just said, “I put a lot of water in there.” I’m going to guess my bottle is half distilled water).  If you dilute the whole tincture, you will shorten the shelf life, but is a nice way to carry it around and apply at will on the bus, on the road, whatever, even if you don’t have a bottle of water with you.

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Featured Ingredient: Nettle

15 Aug

Nettle is one of my favorite herbs, but maybe I say that about all of them…. It is best harvested in the spring, and if you live in an urban area like I do, then you can look for it in the spring at your local farmer’s market. Not all farms will carry it, but I manage to find fresh nettles once or twice a year. I’ve made nettle quiche and nettle soup from the fresh stuff. If you do ever work with fresh nettles, you must be careful– they are called stinging nettles for a reason. Cooking nettles well will neutralize their sting, but they must be handled with gloves when raw. The stingers are tiny and create an uncomfortable rash.

Nettle

Stinging Nettles: Urtica dioica

For the rest of the year, nettle leaves can be used in dried form. I recently came across a recipe by a fellow blogger who sited an infusion technique by Susun Weed:

To make an infusion of nettles that’s much stronger than a tea– The ratio is one ounce of dried nettles (about a cup) to 4 cups of water. Pour the 4 cups of boiling water over the nettles and let it steep for at least 4 hours or overnight. Put it in the refrigerator after that, and drink within a couple days.

Susun Weed makes these strong infusions with a variety of different herbs.  I had read about this nettle infusion a little while back, and forgot about it until last weekend, when I went to a meeting with the doula collective that I just recently joined. Low and behold, the doulas were all passing around a jar of strong, vibrant green nettle infusion.  It was in the universe for me to start drinking this. I highly recommend the infusion around the time of menstruation, as it is generally a blood tonic and helps to replace what you lose at this time of month. The doulas were all aware of nettle because it is also just about the best thing to drink for pregnant women. It’s like a multi-vitamin in itself: high in both calcium and magnesium as well as chlorophyl and many other trace minerals are present. Weed advocates the use of nettle leaves for diverse needs. It’s supposed to help with stabilizing blood sugar, normalizing fatigue and weight, restoration of the adrenals and kidneys, for general digestive health, against rheumatism and arthritis, and for lessening allergies as a potent antihistamine. A few years ago, I stopped in an herb store looking for allergy remedies, and the man at the counter pointed me to a supplement made by New Chapter, which specializes in “whole food” supplements. The pills were pure nettles.

Stephen Buhner in his book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers talks about how nettles were known traditionally as one of the harbingers of spring. Being one of the first greens available in the new year, people used nettles to treat nutritional deficiencies such as scurvy, that occured from their limited winter diet. Buhner lists a few recipes for nettle beers which I haven’t tried yet– that experiment will probably wait until next spring when I can get the fresh nettle tops once more.

20130814-234100.jpg

My nettle infusion brewing tonight, to be drunk in the morning, next to a glass of nettles infusion, filtered from yesterday’s batch.

After a couple of days, the infusion will start to spoil.  At this point it is still useful as something to water your plants with.  In fact, I have been saving my already used nettles and adding them to my watering can.  I also add eggshells to my plant water, which is another great natural and free fertilizer. Don’t water with this potion when you are expecting guests.  It quite literally smells like shit!

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