This was another beautiful spring day! It began like the April 19 class, with the parking, sitting in circle, and sharing with the talking stick. The group was smaller this time. I find I like both large groups, for the great number of new people to meet and the inputs, and I like small groups, for their intimacy. They both have their benefits. And now since I knew these women from the day before, the group was even more intimate.
The day before, at the end of class, Susun explained the differences between nourishing, tonifying, and sedating/stimulating herbs. This is how I understand them, though my learning continues to evolve deeper and more accurate.
Nourishing herbs nourish our body. We can take them on a daily basis, as we would a nourishing food, with no ill effects. We could also stop taking them with no ill effects. The example Susun offered was to have us hug someone next to us. That was nourishing. Now we don't need to hug again for that nourishment and even if we never hug again the nourishment from that one hug will always be with us.
Tonifying herbs work slowly to tone our body. Again, if we stop, there should be no ill effect. They are taken over a period of time, but not necessarily for the rest of our life. Susun demonstrates with her hands showing a lower and higher tolerance for life. With tonifying herbs the difference between them grows greater offering a stronger tolerance for life, as compared with the next category of herbs . . . .
Sedating/stimulating herbs, which Susun shared can be the same, can bump up or down the pair of hands, while the distance remains the same between them. Then when we stop using the stimulating herb, for example, the upper level moves back into its original place, decreasing our range of tolerance for life.
Keep in mind this is all my memory and understanding at this point and may not be perfectly accurate in describing these herbs.
I want to share this, though it was from the class the day before because it helps me understand an herbal medicine chest (hmc) in relation to other things we learn. What we would keep in our medicine chest often falls into the last category of herbs I described. It would not be the first category (I believe they belong in our kitchen cabinets and on our counters).
I took this same class 2 years ago and have since made most the creations (on a list we were given) and used at least once about 60% of them. (It seems these days when something happens with me, I am a bit excited because I get to experiment on myself with my newest herbal creations.)In the last two years I also developed many questions I got to ask this time, and though I learned tons, I know next year there will be more questions. I love that the same class is taught year after year.
We learned 9 main creations to have on hand, and 8 more goodies to add to it. The first 9 I understand to be most valuable to carry with in a travel bag when away from home. We visited as many of these herbs in the wild as we could see so early in the season. This was all before another incredible lunch.
This lunch's wild greens were again garlic mustard leaves and tops of madder, but also wild chives (chopped very fine) and a few rock cress leaves (a small mustard plant blooming tiny white flowers right now). The soup was of root vegetables and seaweed with ginseng and another root ( I don't remember) infused in a separate bag so they could be removed as they are too tough for eating. All this, like the previous day's nettle soup, was prepared (at least) a day before and allowed to infuse until our lunchtime. We had some new vinegars this time -- one was shitake from the stems left over when using the mushrooms to cook (soaking them in vinegar left them soft enough to eat as well). On one of these two days we also were offered garlic mustard root vinegar. I like that even during lunch, I not only get a yummy very nourishing meal, I still get to keep learning! Oh yes, during lunch we also got to sample dandelion wine. This was important to me because I made a batch the previous year and, not ever having tasted it before, wasn't sure if I had done it correctly. Unfortunately I concluded I hadn't, and plan to try again this year.
After lunch, we all stayed on the porch and Susun brought out a collection of all the herb concoctions we had been talking about so we could see, smell and taste.I love this hands on learning. It is one thing for me to follow directions in a book, but a whole other thing to see the finished product done properly.And though I thought myself pretty skilled at preparing tinctures, oils, vinegars (and wines), I still learned how to improve upon myself.
Here are some of the herbs we learned:
First I must mention Echinacea tincture. It is my gold. I always have lots ready so I never have to curb our amounts and so I can freely hand out bottles to family and friends. One thing I learned is, though I can start using it after 6 weeks, it will improve if left to infuse in the vodka longer, up to a year in fact. Neat and tidy me had been decanting it after six weeks though I had already been told that wasn't necessary. I learned if using the fresh root it must be a minimum of three years old. I also learned a use for the mass that is left over after decanting. That is to pour boiling water over it and store it in the fridge for up to 3 months. I never like wasting anything, so this was great. Susun also suggested those with a centrifugal juicer to remove the blade and run the spent root in it to get the last bit of tincture out of it. Echinacea is used for bacterial infection. It increases the white blood cells in our body (I think I remember her saying). A sign for this infection is heat, redness, and pain. I found it important to remember the heat doesn't need to be fever, but local.
Another gift for our travel bag is motherwort tincture. We got to see this plant just coming out of the ground a couple inches high. I have loved this plant for myself during my bleeding times when I am crampy. Since I started using it I find I need less and less each month, and sometimes none. I hear it is also used for when we are upset about "what could have happened".
I have not needed osha root tincture, but I think it sounds a comforting thing to have for when there is a strong allergic reaction to relieve the swelling. I learned it could also be used for my son for his huge mosquito bites he gets, even though this of course isn't life threatening.
As Susun put these things in bottles for the apprentices' medicine bags, she used a "memory device" that I liked. She only halfway filled the bottles of tinctures that one would only need in small doses, like the osha root, poke root , and wormwood.
Poke wasn't coming out of the ground yet, but we got to visit where it lived in her garden and see the dried tall stalk from its last year berries. I wish I could relay even half of what I learned in this class, but this post would be too long (if it isn't already). So with each herb I feel I am leaving out so much. In the case of poke there were a couple stories Susun told that has helped me remember the need for SMALL doses with this plant. Unfortunately, I think they would lose something if written by me. I really do love learning by story.
Skullcap is an herb I learned about 2 years ago and again this year. I have yet to find it, prepare a tincture of it, or use it. It sounds valuable to have around to use in small amounts for pain or headache. This year I got to see the seed capsules pulled out of the tincture, which is more helpful to me than pictures in a book. I will search again this year!
St. Joan's wort is an herb we can use both as a tincture and as an oil. Both of which I have made and begun experimenting with. Susun explained, as she has done before, why she calls hypericum perforatum, St.Joan's instead of St. Johns, yet I cannot remember it to share with you (or anyone else who has asked). I have heard her explanation, it makes sense to me, so I have chosen to call it St. Joan's wort, and forgotten the explanation as it was not needed by me after making my choice! I can be silly that way. One thing I like to share when people ask about the claims of this tincture to cure depression, is that the bright yellow flowers are collected at summer solstice (silly it's called the first day of summer I think) and infused in vodka making it essentially sunshine in a bottle. This means it will help people who have what I call the midwinter blues (sometimes called SAD - seasonal affective disorder), by bringing them a little summer sun. Susun then adds something like "if you are in a shitty abusive marriage, it won't do a thing!" For those of you who have never used this plant before, it turns your oil and vodka red! All I have to do is look at a bottle of the red tincture and instantly flash to the warm bright midsummer day among these thigh high plants (that I personally find beautiful all season long), and I get a break from the winter blues.
So on to wormwood tincture. Again this is something I have not had occasion to use, but it sounds valuable, so last year I bought it premade AND two baby plants to begin growing in my garden. I much prefer my own creations, but am willing to buy to tie me over. I hear it is used for digestive upset -- in tiny amounts. Thankfully and not so thankfully I personally have not had use to experiment with this yet. Though I KNOW of Susun's great knowledge I love to have personal experience to speak from. Besides, there may be 2 or more different herbal preparations for the same complaint, yet on experimentation I can find that there are different kinds of digestive upset, for example, and each herb works differently. This is where I find Susun's stories helpful. Since we often don't have more than one word for stomachache or headache, etc., a story can help describe a difference.
Yarrow, yarrow. A weed I am told by neighbors, and a beautiful plant to me.Last year I experimented with creations with it, making a vinegar, tincture, and oil. I have yet to use them.During this class, Susun showed me I could put it in a spray bottle and use it regularly to keep mosquitoes from biting. Yay, for me and my son.I think she also mentioned it can deter ticks. Yay again for a mom of a young-un who lives in the woods. I am also understanding this tincture to be useful for infections as I heard in this class and from some articles I have read on the SusunWeed website.I want to know more about this, the difference between this and echinacea -- the questions for next year are piling up already. Of course, I could have asked this Sunday, but I already have much to assimilate.
Beyond these nine herb creations I plan to out together for my travel/always-on-hand bag, Susun also discussed the use of some other preparations. These are burdock root tincture and vinegar, dandelion tincture and vinegar, mullein leaf infusion, plantain leaf oil, chasteberry tincture and wintergreen leaves. I missed the last four because I went down to the road to pick up my son being dropped off by my hubbie on his way to work. We got to see baby burdock plants growing and learned they are biennial. We even got to sample the cut up root after it had soaked in the vinegar. Yum, it still had that sweet earthiness I love. I understand this root to be a wonderful ally for skin. I want to experiment more with it on someone. Dandelion seems pretty magnificent to hear Susun talk. I made tincture and vinegar of it to give to my father dealing with liver problems. I haven't used it myself yet, but am curious to see if, taken with my meals, it will help my digestion (as I have discovered fermented foods do). Something on plantain oil I remember form 2 years ago is it stinks (to me anyway). I thought I made a bad batch until I got to smell one made at the Wise Woman Center and realized this is just how it is. Also, for saving stained clothes it seems best to make this oil into an ointment. Some other things I remember in passing is strain mullein leaf infusion to remove hairs, glycerine is not a substitute for vodka, and is NOT a tincture, it may be preferable to take aspirin than willow or wintergreen who have no measured amounts of the similar compound.
A lot of information for one day. I started trying to take notes at one point, then realized I wasn't hearing the same, so I quickly put away my pen and paper.
After these two classes I am anxious to collect birch twigs for brew, make pine needle, hemlock (a new one for me), and cronewort vinegars, experiment with my dandelion tincture and vinegar, and eat more wild salads!
Thanks again for listening. I hope you enjoyed. I plan to take all Susun's one-day workshops at the Wise Woman Center this year and plan to tell you all about them (at least my experience of them)!!
great green blessings to you all
Introduction by Jean Houston.
Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Seven herbs -- burdock, chickweed, dandelion, nettle,
oatstraw, seaweed, and violet -- are explored in depth.
A Special Tenth Anniversary edition of this
classic herbal, profusely illustrated. 312 pages.
Retails for $12.95
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I just started reading your book, Healing Wise. Your
humor and approach to life seem so "down-to-earth",
just like your favorite powerful weeds. Thank you for sharing
and nourishing! ~ Diane
Herbs for Natural Health
de Bairacli Levy
Re-indexed, re-designed, and expanded. Lore and uses for 200
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"This is the book that got me started
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fascinating." Susun Weed
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