I invite you to send me any questions you have on health and wellness, herbs, herbal medicine, plant spirit medicine, natural skincare, and anything else that comes to mind that I may answer. I can’t diagnose or treat over the internet, but I welcome suggestions on what you might want to read in my blog.

Tuesday
Mar242015

Winter and Early Spring Herb Identification

Well, spring is upon us! Michael, Sasha and I went for a hike in one of the beautiful wild spaces in Cambelleville on Monday and the snow has almost retreated in the forest.

It’s too early and cold in this part of the world for the plants to begin to emerge, but it’s still possible to do some plant identification as you stroll through wild spaces dreaming of the medicines you will soon be making.

You can identify many herbs from their dried stalks that persist all winter and trees and shrubs from their bark, twigs and other distinguishing features. Wildcrafters learn to identify their medicines from what they leave behind over the winter. In this way, you can determine the presence and numbers of herbs in a wild space and can decide if the location is good for harvesting. There are a few books available to help you identify wildflowers in the winter.

Here is a good one:

 

 

 

 

 

 If you go to this site, you can preview the book before you decide to order it.Ash twig and fruit - Steve Nix

 

This website is an excellent resource on how to identify trees in the winter. When you get the eyes for it, you can scan a forest and know every tree that grows there just by their bark. If you are unsure of a tree, you can check out their twigs for verification.

If you want to learn the art of identifying plants and trees in the winter, start with confirming a few. Visit an area in the summer and take note of the plants that grow there. Study their physical characteristics closely. Then go back to that location again in the fall and then the winter. Keep doing this and add on a few plants at a time. If you come across some stalks in the winter that you think you can identify, make notes. Write down where the plant is growing and who you think it is. Go back to that place in the summer and see if you were right. Within a few years you’ll be amazed at how many plants you can ID in the winter just from dried out, brown stalks and shrivelled berries.

What follows are a few examples of easily recognizable herbs as they look in the winter. How many can you identify…let me know!

1.

 2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

 

Thursday
Dec042014

Root Season is Done!

Phew! I managed to harvest all the roots I needed this year before the ground froze. Happiness to the wildcrafter is litres of macerating tinctures of their freshly gathered herbs.

I didn’t have loads of roots to do this year because I always try to do 2 – 3 years worth for each herb so I don’t have to harvest everyone every year.

What follows is a list of the roots I harvested in November with a brief synopsis of their medicinal attributes:

Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) root & rhizome

Common milkweed is an anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, bronchodilator, decongestant and relaxing and secretolytic expectorant and I use it a lot in my practice for those with asthma in acute formulations for when they are having an attack. It’s relative butterfly weed or pleurisy root is the better know species for this condition, however, I find common milkweed quite excellent for this. Common milkweed has many other properties and uses for such conditions as whooping cough, pneumonia, heart weakness, chickenpox, rheumatoid arthritis and inflamed lymph nodes. Common milkweed rhizome is a medium potency potentizing herb and has some restrictions in both dosage and duration. 

Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla) rhizome

Wild sarsaparilla rhizome is an excellent adaptogenic herb from the ginseng family. It is an excellent herb for the treatment of long-term debility, adrenal fatigue and autoimmune conditions and is how I mostly use it in my practice; however, it has many other properties including depurative, nervine, expectorant and vasodilator.

Arctium lappa (burdock) root

Burdock root is one of those deep acting gentle detoxifying herbs. It’s excellent for any chronic skin condition such as eczema, psoriasis or acne, chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and for lymphatic congestion. Its strongest influence is on the skin, lymphatic and digestive systems. The seeds, fruit and herb of burdock are also used and they all have different areas of influence in the body.

Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) root

& Inula helenium (elecampane) root

You can go to my blogs on both dandelion and elecampane to learn about their many amazing medicinal uses.

 Now that my roots are in, my next project is to make new infused oils. The first three on my list are carrot root, ginseng root and copal resin. I’m very excited to begin working with these new oils and incorporating them into medicinal creams and salves!

To learn more about making medicinal creams and salves consider taking a workshop at Living Earth School. Making Oil Extractions with Michael Vertolli is happening this weekend (December 6th); and I’ll be teaching Making Medicinal Creams on January 17th.

 

 

Thursday
Nov132014

Slender Stinging Nettle Rhizome

Well, it’s root season again.

There is a short lull in wild-harvesting September to November, but after that it ramps up again in root season. Generally, you gather the roots and rhizomes of herbs in late fall after the aerial portion of the plants have died back (when the upper portions of the plants are no longer producing chlorophyll and have turned brown, shrivelled up or even detached from the root and fallen to the ground). This is because the plant withdraws its energy from producing food and seeds in the aerial portion and stores it in the roots and rhizomes so it can survive the winter to once again send out its leaves in the spring.  This is the time when the healing properties of the below ground portions of the plant are strongest and the best time to make them into medicine.

I still have lots of roots left to do…hopefully I’ll get them in before the ground freezes. It’s always a race. Thankfully, it’s OK if it has rained or is raining (lightly) when harvesting roots so that opens up more potential harvesting days than when harvesting the aerial portions of the plants which require sunny, dry days.

My latest harvest is slender stinging nettle rhizome (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis). Rhizomes are basically horizontal underground stems. Harvesting rhizomes can be either fairly easy (for example, the rhizomes of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) grow close to the surface or even on the surface), to potentially labour-intensive (for example, the roots and rhizomes of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) can grow several feet underground).

I harvested this nettle rhizome at the transition area at the edge of a forest, so the rhizomes where entangle in grasses, which made it more of a labour-intensive experience than it would have been in an open-forest area with few under story plants…oh well. The rhizomes are beautiful and healthy as you can see in the picture.

Note: It is best to wear thick gloves when harvesting nettle rhizome as the tiny aerial portion of next years growth carries the same intense sting as when it is an 8 foot tall plant! I found that out the hard way the first time I harvested it…

I use nettle rhizomes a lot in my practice for inflammatory conditions of the male reproductive tract such as prostatitis and epididymitis. Other herbs I used for this condition are horse chestnut seed (Aesculus hippocastanum), Queen Ann’s lace seed (Daucus carota), Canada goldenrod herb (Solidago canadensis) and even chaste tree fruit (Vitex agnus-castus) as well as others.

Nettle rhizome has many other uses though besides male reproductive issues such as rheumatic conditions, lymphatic congestion, eczema, IBS, immune weakness and viral infections.

Thursday
Jul172014

Eliot Cowan Book Signing August 12, 2014 in Toronto

Tuesday
May202014

Fresh Rosemary Oil Infusion

The finished product waiting for labelling and two weeks of shaking everyday. I'll then leave

it tocontinue macerating for at least another 2 - 3 months until I'm ready to press it.

Click to read more ...