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.


Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)

I harvested Trametes versicolor or Turkey Tail in early November. This is the first time I’ve made a tincture of Trametes and I’m really looking forward to getting familiar with its medicine.

Trametes has been calling to me for at least the last 3 years, and this year I made the commitment to harvest it. I’ve been hesitant to harvest Trametes for two reasons. Firstly, because I already harvest at least 150 different herbs and adding more to my apothecary is not something I do lightly! And secondly, because Trametes is so light and airy I thought it would be a gruelling process that would take ages of concentrated patience. I already have several herbs that fit that description and wasn’t eager to add another. When a plant (or in this case a fungus) calls out to me or catches my eye, I know I’m being given medicine for an important reason and I’m expanding as a healer. So, quite frankly, all my machinations are for naught and I always do as I’m instructed. So, off I went to harvest Trametes, prepared for hours of patient harvesting, and I was pleasantly surprised! I found several large logs that were totally covered with Trametes and it only took me a short while to get enough to make 1½ litres of tincture.

Trametes versicolor is called Turkey Tail because it looks like a wild turkey's tail...simple! Trametes is a polypore mushroom and a decomposer of wood. It recycles the nutrients and minerals in the wood of fallen trees, making them available to other forest inhabitants. It is one of the fungi that are being investigated for possible use in ‘biopulping’ which involves using a fungus to convert wood chips to paper pulp while reducing energy use and pollutants. Nice.

Medicinal Properties:  Adaptogen, antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, antimicrobial, antineoplastic, antioxidant, antiviral, antihepatotoxic, hypocholesterolemic, hypolipidemic, immune tonic.

Trametes is a very deep acting medicine that is great for anyone with a compromised immune system. It increases the adaptive response of the immune system to all types of stressors. It is used for several different kinds of cancers such as cervical, breast, lung, stomach, liver, colon, prostate, esophageal cancers, etc. It is also used for all manner of chronic diseases. It is used for hepatitis B and C; malaria; impetigo; infection and inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, the urinary tract and the digestive tract; lupus; viral infections of any kind including genital herpes and HIV; and chronic fatigue.

The ISRN Oncology Journal recently published a study entitled "Phase I Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer" demonstrated that Trametes is an effective adjunct to conventional chemotherapeutic medicines and radiation therapy for breast cancer.

Trametes isn’t the tastiest mushroom around. Its flavour is rather bland and ever so slightly mushroomy, but it can be added to soup stock to make a nutritious, immune boosting soup.

Right now my Trametes versicolor tincture is macerating in my apothecary and should be ready to use in a few months. I’m very excited to start working with it and deepening my understanding of this powerful, local medicine.

If you aren’t all stoked yet about the power and importance of fungus, please watch this excerpt from the feature documentary, "Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit", by Louie Schwartzberg on mycologist Paul Stamets as he discusses the important role mushrooms play in the survival and health of the earth and the human species.


Chocolate Bomb Lip Therapy

It’s winter and it’s dry and you can feel desiccated inside and out. For tips on how to deal with dry itchy skin in the winter, please go to my blog http://dreamingwillow.ca/blog/2012/1/19/dry-itchy-skin-in-the-winter.html. But what about your lips? They need some extra attention too at this time of year. Here’s my recipe for Chocolate Bomb Lip Therapy. A delicious way to keep your lips happy!

Coco Butter                 10 gramsLips : Female seamless background with lips

Shea Butter                  10 grams

A blend of Oils*           50 mls

Beeswax                      10 grams

Vitamin E                     5 capsules 400IU

Cooking Chocolate      20 grams

Peppermint Essential Oil    10 drops

*Use a blend of oils such as olive oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, coconut oil, or a herbal infused oil for added healing qualities.

Preparation: In a double boiler melt the beeswax, coco butter, shea butter and chocolate. When melted add the fluid oils. When everything is melted into a liquid, take off the heat and add the vitamin E by snipping a cut in the capsules and squeezing out the contents. Lastly add the peppermint essential oil. Stir well and put into lip balm jars or tubes immediately.


Natural Toothpaste

I do not use store-bought toothpaste. In fact, I do not use any store-bought personal care products with the exception of Dr. Bronner’s Almond Pure-Castile Soap. But that aside, I have been making my own toothpaste for many years and I have very healthy, happy teeth. I would never use a conventional toothpaste ever…maybe one from the health food store in a pinch. Please check out the ingredients of two of Crest’s toothpastes to see all the crazy, carcinogenic ingredients used in conventional toothpastes:

Crest Cavity Protection - Regular Paste: Active Ingredient: sodium fluoride. Inactive Ingredients: sorbitol, water, hydrated silica, sodium lauryl sulfate, trisodium phosphate, flavor, sodium phosphate, cellulose gum, carbomer 956, sodium saccharin, titanium dioxide, blue 1.

Crest Vivid White - Invigorating Mint:  sodium saccharin, titanium dioxide, cellulose gum, sodium hydroxide, sodium lauryl sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, PEG-12, sorbitol, water, hydrated silica, glycerin, sodium hexametaphosphate, propylene glycol, flavor, poloxamer 407, xanthan gum, carbomer 956 and polyethylene oxide.

Cripes! I don’t want that leaching into my bloodstream. For a really well-researched understanding and definition of what all these chemicals are in your personal care products please get Adria Vasil's book 'Ecoholic Body'. If you aren’t already familiar with the dubious use of fluoride in toothpaste and water please go to this website: http://www.fluoridealert.org/issues/dental-products/toothpastes/. Again, no thank you!

Toothbrush : Tooth smilingBelow is my recipe for Cinnamint Toothpaste. You can customize your toothpaste anyway you want!

Dry Ingredients:

Baking Soda (non-alum)         10 ml

White Clay                              30 ml

Arrow Root Powder                 15 ml

Ester C Supreme (Sisu)            Contents of 2 capsules

Organic Cinnamon Powder      5 ml (or you can use ginger root, etc.)

Wet Ingredients:

Dr. Bronners Soap                   10 – 15 ml (the more the foamier)

Peppermint Essential Oil         15 – 20 drops (or use any other mint EO)

Stevia                                      30 – 50 drops (however sweet you want)

Water                                       Enough to make a paste

Optional Ingredients:

Silica Gel (optional)                 15 ml   

Herbal Tinctures:                     5 mls each

Possible tinctures for gingivitis, plaque, stains, etc.: Echinacea, St. John’s Wort, Plantain, Coltsfoot, Horsetail, Comfrey, Sage, Calendula, Bloodroot

Combine all the ingredients in a jar and stir well until a paste is achieved that you are happy with. Use like regular toothpaste and enjoy!


Cheery New England Aster

Where has the summer gone? Where have I been??? It’s been a very busy summer of adventure and harvesting. I have several litres of fresh plant tinctures quietly macerating and becoming my medicine in my home. My apothecary was quite depleted, so I had a lot of herbs to collect…and still do! It’s soon root season and I’ve got lots more herbs I need to harvest!

This past weekend I harvested Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, or New England Aster (NEA). I use the herb of this plant which consists of the upper 20 – 30% of the aerial parts, harvested early in its flowering period in late summer. The root has also been used historically, but I only use the herb.

Every plant has its particular nuances when it comes to harvesting and processing and NEA is no exception. It’s one of those easy to harvest but grueling to process plants.

NEA grows in open fields and enjoys lots of sunshine. The day I harvested was beautiful and sunny, and the field was ablaze with the gold of goldenrod and the purple of NEA – gorgeous! I slowly meandered through the field carefully selecting plants in perfect flower. It was so lovely and relaxing. I felt awesome! And then the processing began…Hours of carefully striping the gazillion side branches of its leaves and flowers to get enough plant material for 2 litres of tincture. By the end my fingers were black and sticky with resin and the sun had gone down ages before. Wow, what a study in patience! But that is the lot of the wildcrafter – perseverance, stamina and lots and lots of patience. But what a wonderful, rewarding life! I feel so rich after my herbs have been processed and excited to share the medicine with my clients.

NEA isn’t a well-known herb and you’d be hard-pressed to find it in an herbal, but it is an amazing healing plant. It is used primarily for conditions of the epithelial membranes, respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular systems. It is also a primary emmenagogue and can be used for female reproductive system conditions such as PMS, amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. It is has anti-inflammatory, antiulcerogenic, astringent, demulcent and vulnerary properties and is used for inflammation of the mucus membranes of the body such as sore throats, gastric and duodenal ulcers, colitis and leucorrhea as a douche. Historically, it was used internally and externally as a remedy for eruptive skin diseases and rashes caused by poison ivy and poison oak. It is used for conditions of the upper and lower respiratory system such as sinusitis, hayfever, asthma and dry, tight coughs. As a nervine it is used for stress-related conditions including anxiety and tension headaches. It also has depurative, cholagogue and lymphatic properties and is good for chronic rheumatic and inflammatory skin conditions. Because of its nervine, relaxant properties, this is a great plant to use in a detox formula for someone with stress and anxiety. For cardiovascular conditions it is used for poor peripheral blood circulation, varicosities and hemorrhoids.

There has been some scientific research out of Germany on NEA’s antiviral and anticancer properties. Of course, this study involved isolating certain chemical constituents which has little to do with the action of the whole plant, but there is a lot more this plant has to offer us than it is currently being used for, for sure.

Though this plant is gentle and tonic, is should not be used with pregnancy because of its emmenagogue properties.

I had a bit of the herb left over after making my tincture, so I’m drying it now to add to my ‘heal-all’ ointment that consists of whatever plants I have gathered that are excellent for external wounds, abrasions, bruises, cuts and rashes. I usually use fresh plants to make my oils, but because NEA has mucilaginous properties I’m wilting it until it’s almost dry to prevent my oil from spoiling.


Harvesting Season Has Begun...Already!

It's always a jolt for the wildcrafter out of the torpor of winter into the harvesting season starting in spring. At this time of year, everyday there is someone new to see returning after the sleepy winter months. Already there are many herbs ready for harvesting. From now until the snow falls, there's no rest for the weary wildcrafter! Here are a few of the herbs ready to be harvested now in my neck of the woods:

Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale) - just the flowers are collected at this time. The leaves are harvested in the summer, after the flower stalk has died back and the roots in the fall.

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) - the leaves and flowers are collected in the ratio of 2-3 flowers to one leaf.

Periwinkle (Vinca minor - pictured here) - both leaf and flower are collected.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) - the top 25 - 30% of the aerial parts are collected.

Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum) - the whole leaf is used, but not the bulb for conservation reasons.

Coltfoot flowers (Tussilago farfara) - we're at the end of the harvesting time for these, but you may still find them in a spot that doesn't receive full sun all day long.

Ground Ivy (Glecoma hederacea) - the top 50% of the aerial parts are collected.

Stellaria media (Chickweed) - the whole plant above ground is collected.

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) - for this plant you harvest two flowers to one leaf.