Category Archives: Forage
Plant family: Rubiaceae
Common Names: Cleavers Wort, Clivers, Goosegrass, Bedstraw, Catchweed Bedstraw.* Always be Absolutely sure when identifying plants. “When in doubt, leave it out.”
Cleavers grow in moist places, roadsides, woodlands, near disturbed areas such as trails
According to prominent herbalist, scholar, teacher and composer, Michael Moore and his book: Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West: There are many Galium species in the West. “The leaves of cleavers, roundly lanceolate, form a circular rosette of six or eight leaves; the bedstraw (native galiums) frequently have four leaves in a whorl…
(Cleavers beginning to flower)
…Leaves and stems of this featured species have bristley stems and leaves.
…This species also has loose and star shaped white flowers…with rather lacey, dense clusters of white flowers found in the native species. Galium aparine also develops seeds in pairs, covered in bristles, green becoming brown seeds in the fall.”
Native and Non native Galiums can be used more or less exchangeably as herbal remedies according to Moore.
Differences may vary and not all are edible, though many are. Research your species.
*Moore also says the Galiums should not be confused with carpetweed or mullogo.
It is recommended to forage cleavers during New growth or the tops of plants before they flower. Otherwise the plants have developed too much silica and are inedible.
The young tips, raw or boiled for 10-15 minutes makes a great forged food says Green Deane ofeattheweeds.com
He says that the seeds are prohibited or restricted in: Connecticutt, Massachuseets, Vermont and New York.
He also states that the seeds when roasted make an excellent coffee (no caffeine) substitute.
In the Canadian Provinces of Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Deane also says they are considered a noxious weed there.
I have been happy to find cleavers near springs or the surrounding habitat, in at least 3, likely many more, mountain ranges of New Mexico. Not so far, in the lower elevations in this state unless near a spring or garden perhaps. After eating a few stems on a hike I went back to forage cleavers as a plant rennet. This one attempt at using cleavers as a plant rennet was largely unsuccessful.plant rennet
I have had success using fresh nettle to set cheese but, cleaver and my inexperience eluded me this time. One time fail is not uncommon so, I will try again when I come upon a hearty patch of cleavers.
This is the benefit of learning from each other in person. And, also for us to pass on traditions and knowledge to our lineage and each other.
I was feeling disappointed with myself that I had wasted the cleavers I had gathered. It was a handful of stems and, I would not have wanted to take more from the site where I had gathered. A handful of stems felt appropriate. I did learn how to transport them down from the mountain. A stem I had not eaten on a previous hike had all but withered away to a tiny, pitiful fraction of the juicy stem I had picked.
It loses a lot of its properties when dried and should be used fresh. Such as: the juice, chopped fresh for poultice, or tincture fresh. Also as Matt Wood describes: Maria Treben would add the fresh Cleaver juice to butter, keep in the fridge, as a salve.
The best way I found to harvest cleavers is simply to thoroughly wet a towel, ring it a bit and place your cleavers in it right after picking it. Then roll gently in the towel. Or prepare on the spot. (Wheatgrass juicer or tincture fresh, etc.)
(photo aside: The thicket and bed of cleavers above reminds me of what Matthew Wood said in his book: The Book of Herbal Wisdom. He describes that deer use bedstraw to give birth and to rest with baby fawns.)
So, my Cleavers were in good shape when I brought them home, that is ’til I tried to make cheese with them. Ah yes, the learning curve! The patch I had harvested from, the stems were getting leggy and beginning to flower. It was like pick up stix that are all velcroed together. They stick together and to you. My little, intact bundle, rolled up in the wet/damp cloth, was all stuck together. All those little hooks clinging to each other.
The expression: “I got you!” came to me.
Deane explained that the Greeks called cleavers: Philanthropan which means (human) loving for its clinging nature.
Sheep herders are known to sieve milk through a basket shaped sieve of the clinging stems. This was done to clean the milk of any hairs, dirt or debris. Matthew Wood cites both Discorides and Linnaeus for historically noting this.
Cleavers has a history of use for easing hot swellings in lymph and infections such as drawing out a measles rash to resolve the illness. (M. Wood, re: Native American use)
It works for skin conditions, like eczema, lymph stagnation and kidney function. Wood describes: “In short, we may say that Cleavers cools, moistens, filters, detoxifies, and promotes transportation within the hidden waterways of the body.”
In addition to foraging for green edibles like cleavers and its use as herbal medicine; I am happy the lost arts of ancient foodways are resurfacing. ( With great respect to people’s culture.) For ex., My father was born in Ireland and I am just learning about bog violet to curdle milk. Cheese making and its other fermented cousins are really speaking to me right now. I am exploring plant rennet again as well as ancient techniques for fermenting. Will keep you posted!
I am especially interested in learning how the original plant(s) can be used rather than a modern substitution.
The juice of cleavers is said to provide the rennet qualities. I wonder if instead of chopping and bruising the stems and leaves, perhaps a blender would work better. Strained out or in a fine mesh bag to soak.
Galium has a long history of being used in food and beverages. German Maywine is made by using Galium odoratum.
Galium verum’s flowers were used to scent and color cheese and butter.
Galium mullago is another drink made from flowers. Many species, different uses, check to see if edible, avoid older plants for food and Deane states that many Galium are endangered. Know your specific plants!
To some, Cleavers is only known as an herbal remedy.
(A happy trio continued…)
I often found Nettle in the same habitat, especially in the woodlands on this hike. Nettle likes moisture too although I found it in the under story of Alligator juniper and oaks on a trail featuring under and above ground springs.
Nettle below a desert mountain oak with Cleavers in small patches nearby.
Cleavers with backdrop of a majestic Alligator Juniper, Juniperus deppeana. The tree below.
(Cleavers and Nettles, fast friends.)
My first introduction to Cleavers is akin to the name itself. To cleave. My herb teacher and plant guide gave us all a small crown of whorled leaves on a short stem and we stuck them on our and each others’ shirt collars.
Edible corsage. It’s bristly hairs cling to fabric , no pin needed.
It is a crisp, fresh tasting edible. It would make a great addition to salad, pesto or a smoothie.
As a fresh nibble, You can feel the texture of the fine plant hairs, the bristles but, I did not think that interfered much as it doesn’t last past the first one and 1/2 munches 🙂
The Story is a common one I am sure except The Mountain forests always enchant. Mossy glades and thickets. Meadow rue for faeries, so is said and Monkshood near wild Geranium. Monkshood is deadly poisonous its leaves of first growth often mingling with similar looking Geraniaceae. On this hike, I found what I believe are wild geraniums before flower with some cleavers poking through. I will watch these as they flower and how they flower to distinguish them from Monkshood. Never can be to cocky when it comes to Monkshood.
Cleavers in a stand of leaves~
There are a few different species of wild geraniums in New Mexico.
These leaves look similar enough to Monkshood: Aconitum columbianum that I will wait to see what flowers emerge.
I would not want to forage the cleavers when in doubt because of possible toxic plants nearby.
Better to wait.
Just a small patch of earth and what happens there can yield many observations, questions and insights.
Cleavers, what sticks with you?
It is fall and I deleted all my other horehound pictures. drat!
But, horehound is hearty. It has many green leaves still as well as sticky seed pods that orbit between leaf growth on stems. I have been picking up seeds, stuck on my clothes.
Horehound wants to grow other places and maybe I helped deliver some.
One of my favorite places to walk our dog, Fella, is here. Covered with patches of horehound. I have admired the plant for a few years in this beautiful locale, where it grows wild.
I knew it must be horehound although I think it looks less silvery than I have read described, and decidedly more frosted looking.
So, sometimes it takes time to decipher descriptions you read of a plant but, makes it all the more interesting a journey.
Horehound feels fuzzy, like wrinkled, crinkly velveteen. It has these beautiful, crenulate leaves, square stems and beautiful discs of seed pods.
And, it is in the mint family. Although more bitter than minty.
A good bitter for digestion.
I liked the taste though and would like to try horehound beer sometime. A traditional beer.
I always was curious about horehound candy as a child and on Western shows, children were sure to suck on a stick of hard candy, often horehound candy.
My grandmother, mother and aunts would get together around the holidays when I was growing up and make a type of rock or hard candy called beach glass candy. My mom grew up in an ocean town and I always enjoyed the baby food jars or other small jars filled with the bright, snipped bits of multicolored beach glass candy inside. All different flavors. yum.
My life is a little bit homesteading, off grid, work in an herbal shop and slowly I am teaching myself. All about plants, a bit of gardening, jelly and jam making, salt preserving food and bits of old time skills here and there.
I went through a sewing phase a few years back and would really love to find an old time Singer Sewing machine complete with treadle and hand wheel. The original off grid kind. 🙂
I’ve always been fascinated with candy making but haven’t done much. I’ve made chocolate truffles which were a blast and one batch of jelly tasted reminiscent of cotton candy. sugar, sugar sugar to bring it to gel.
But, horehound cough drops are my second attempt to make hard candy a.k.a. herbal candy…cough drops. The first time around I did not use a candy thermometer or the cold water test method so ended up with a taffy like syrup made with elderberries, which was frankly, delicious and gooey, but not hard candy. And, the second time was like a caramel! Maybe my thermometer was touching the side or bottom too much and the reading was off…
So hopefully, 3 times a charm!
With my second attempt, all that foam got downright daunting.
(I’ve read not to stir too much as air can get into the mixture and make it cloud over.) Maybe my pan was not deep enough or I stirred too much as it was foaming to the top so, I scooped some out at the syrup stage, all is not lost. The caramel or taffy consistency cough drops just don’t make it. But the cough syrup I scooped out of that batch is great.
Trial and error with herbs and candy. hard candy making…
guess they don’t call it hard candy for nothing! ha ha ☺
I have found and tried a simple, easy recipe that worked great.
I haven’t bought this much sugar, maybe ever but I had fun making hard candy. Herbal hard candy.
A cooking accomplishment for me.
It works best if you have a thick bottom pot. A thin bottom can scorch your sugar.
A greased baking tray is helpful.
Here is a fairly fool proof recipe:
and art piece ☺
2 Cups white sugar
1/2 Cup strong herbal tea
1 ounce tincture (optional)
powdered sugar to coat candy when done (optional)
3/4 Cup light corn syrup.
A candy thermometer isn’t always foolproof but once I angled it and kept it off the bottom it worked best.
Cold water test:
Also drop mixture when you think it is done in some cold water. If it forms a hard ball it is done. It will be in thread form if not done.
Time to make the Candy a.k.a. cough drops if you like…
They taste good too, and, depending in what you add, room for creativity here!
Pour granulated sugar in pan
Add strained herbal tea and one ounce herbal tincture if you have it.
Whisk together off heat
Then turn on heat to medium using a thick bottomed pan if you can.
Add corn syrup, use wooden spoon
and stir too incorporate.
Don’t stir too much, lower heat if you need to to avoid scorching.
Angle thermometer to avoid hitting the bottom as this throws off the temperature…(yep)
listen to some good music 🎶…. wait a half hour or so, watch pot it can get foamy and unruly.
Eventually thermometer will rise to 300°
Some recipes say to bring it to 305°
but, I found 300° works better, so recommend that.
Add any food grade essential oils for flavor when temp reaches 275° fahrenheit. If adding color, add at this stage as well. Non toxic food coloring can be found too. Be careful of steam/reaction when adding essential oils or colors at these high temperatures. Some colors maintain better when removing heat at 290° but candy may be more sticky at this stage. I haven’t tried adding colors or essential oils since the cayenne, ginger and cinnamon added good flavor. And, I like the amber colored candy.
I tried transfering to a pyrex pitcher but the mixture hardened quickly off heat.
Yay! I broke the code but it was challenging. A helper would be good.
I made depressions in powdered sugar to act as a mold and also greased and lined a pan with a heap of powdered sugar too.
The powdered sugar also helps the mixture not to stick.
And it kind of worked. I broke the lozenges out of the thinner parts of candy. With the other pan I just broke the candy into bite size pieces. fun again!
Eventually I had more success pouring the mixture all at once instead of trying to fill each depression with the hot mixture.
That is where the greased baking tray would come in handy.
In the old fashioned way to break up hard candy, in about an hour just break it with the handle side of a butter knife.
Fun and satisfying.
Coat with powdered sugar by tossing it in a pan lined with the sugar or use a bag with powdered sugar in it and shake, if you want. It’s optional.
I mixed in powdered ginger too.
These cough drops…a.k.a. herbal candy contain many goodies….
grindelia, horehound and thyme tincture, and these herbs in the tea: red root, horehound, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, and osha!
sugar sugar sugar how about minus sugar recipes… here goes!
You can also make Sugarfree Lozenges!
Use slippery elm powder as the flour. Or marshmallow root powder. I wasn’t sure if marshmallow root powder would work but it worked great.
Slippery elm is on an herbal watchlist. Due to overharvesting and elm diseases.
An herbal friend has used Siberian Elm that worked well.
Look for cultivated Slippery elm or try marshmallow root powder. It worked well for me too.
Make an herbal tea, strain and
let the tea cool. Licorice tea or other herbs such as red root or osha would work well here.
Add enough tea to form a dough.
Mix and pat the dough into a ball.
Press or roll into shape.
Use small cookie cutters or a bottle cap or just cut strips into small pieces, lozenge size.
Dusted with powdered ginger, soothing to sore throats.
Slippery elm powder mixed with a strained herbal tea made from horehound, licorice, osha, red root.
Have fun with this! You can use the slippery elm as a method to mix lots of herbs.
Consider a happy mood lozenge.
Or a soothing tummy lozenge…
Possibilities are happily endless here.
Slippery elm, alone, has many health benefits: mucilage, soothing to gastric tissues, in combination with licorice can heal ulcers, helps heal mucous membranes -throat, etc.
Slippery elm lozenges are a fun activity to do with kids of all ages!
Try other herbal powders too!
This is the marshmallow root dough
And, the marshmallow lozenges cut into shape.
*A tip for drying lozenges. Mine molded. Even when dried for a few days. I recommend purified water, and drying on lowest setting of an oven til completely dry. Air dry first if you like.
Also honey or tiny amounts of stevia can be added to sweeten.
Lemon balm, elder berry and mints make nice flavor additions to counteract bitter herbs.
Hard Candy Cleanup Tips!
Clean up works best with very hot water. It dissolves the candy. Some people suggest adding vinegar to the hot water. Soap and a scrubby sponge helps. But hot water is the trick.
Careful not to immerse the thermometer into cold water after cooking with it, as it could break!
And the cough drops in a fun, recycled jar.
The herbal hard candy looks metallic but is a deep amber brown topped with powdered sugar and ginger.
They taste mildly spicey too. Not bad for medicine afterall.
And, horehound in a happy autumn field.
Fun with cough drops and lozenges, who knew?
Names: Trementina, Pine Resin, Pine Pitch, Pine
This year the piñon pine trees bore a lot of pinecones. And, last year I gathered jewelled globs of pine pitch resin. I knew there were uses for this resin but the incentive did not inspire me til now to make salve from it. The stickiness of pine pitch daunted me… but, it wasn’t the problem I thought it would be.
First snow of the year and trementina from a nearby piñon tree.
As some of you have read, I wrote a post about pine needle tea. It is high in vitamins C and A and is a fresh lemony tasting tea. It is an accessible tree to many and a health giving, refreshing tea that can be easily foraged.
The Piñon tree is well known for its delicious piñon nuts (pine nuts) which are 15% protein, high in thiamine and oils. Delicious and used in many Southwestern dishes and often used in pestos. Pine nuts are still gathered by local families all over the Southwest as a happy ritual, gathering the plentiful harvest of nuts. And it is a huge economic crop as well. Bumper crops of nuts cycle through every seven years or so and this past fall was such a year.
Picture of ripe cones and nuts below:
Whereas, the immature, female cones can be roasted and are delicious and syrup-y in the center.
Make an easy and delicious syrup.
Gather green pine needles. Chop or grind slightly in a mortar and pestle to release herbal properties. Add to raw honey and keep in a warm place for a few weeks. Strain and now you have an easy made raw honey pine syrup!
The inner bark, or cambium, is sweet and good, cut into strips and boiled like spaghetti. Or the cambium can be dried and ground into a flour and used to thicken stews or added to other flours in recipes.
The piñon pine has been a revered staple for centuries as well as gracing the landscape of countless canyons and foothills in the Southwest and other areas on the fringe.
more piñon info here: PFAF
The pine tree was used by the Aztecs for its herbal uses.
An Aztec Herbal was compiled in 1552 and is definitely something I want to learn more from. Here is an informative site about the Aztec Herbal.
a young tree emerging:
the pitch about pitch…
Pine Pitch/Resin can be made into an all-purpose salve.
The pine tree produces this resin as a protective measure against invasian of insects, bacteria, fungus or injury.
Last years find of resin has dried to a taffy consistency.
I prefer to use resin that has dropped from the tree, rather than scraping some off of the tree.
I feel the tree needs what pitch is on it as a natural defense and protection.
From what I gathered last year,
I flipped the front piece over to show the dirt and debris stuck to the bottom of the resin. The jewelled, amber colored globs have mostly dried. I need to slowly and gently heat the pitch in a pan that I will call my pitch pan. Then I will strain the pitch through a sieve. (the pitch sieve)
I’ve read that the debris will sink and the resin can be cast off and separated. But, only experience will tell! Experience coming up shortly!
According to Michael Moore, herbalist, Pine pitch remedies are:
To take a small, currant sized piece of pitch and chew and swallow it. If expectoration of the lungs is needed, the pitch can help.
This method also softens bronchial mucus.
And, this remedy is especially useful for children.
The pitch can also be disinfectant for urinary tract problems but only when kidney inflammation is not present.
Also, Moore notes that pine needle tea, which is a pleasant tea, has a mild diuretic function and can help expectoration also.
If greater expectoration is needed, boil the inner bark and sweeten the tea with honey.
Trementina salve can also be rubbed on the chest for lung troubles and congestion.
It is a well known and often used remedio to get rid of splinters. If warmed and slathered on, then left to set and adhere, it can bring a splinter to a head and then it can be easily removed. It may cause an increase in inflammation, but this is a productive stage, indicative of the body’s activation response to dislodge the splinter faster.
I enjoy and respect this herbalist’s articles and feel encouraged by her words on using pine pitch as a remedy. Check out Kiva Rose:
With chagrin, Michael Moore talks about using the pine pitch remedy to remove a splinter for the first time. And, says he blistered his skin when he tried this… zoinx!
So, care and technique is the key here.
A salve of pine pitch could help here too. Warmed by sunlight or just as is, since salves are blended with wax and oils, etc.
Repeated applications may be needed to bring a splinter to the surface but this is a trusted method.
I’ve also read that trementina salve can heal boils, bug bites, scrapes, cuts, rashes, and even ease sore and achey muscles.
Pine pitch/Trementina salve I just made. It soaks into the skin nicely and is not sticky at all!
Pine is: antiseptic, diuretic, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and rubefacient… just to list a few properties!
And, I’ve used this soap before. Pine soap!
Recipe to make your own pine tar soap here!
Thanks to the nerdyfarmwife.com!
I did not grow up seeing my elders use and apply trementina salve to soothe scrapes or remove splinters… so, I give my thanks to this tradition and all those this tradition has been a mainstay. And, I am improvising on this remedy. Adding Osha I have heard is traditional and using oil instead of tallow and skipping lanolin, made from sheep’s wool. I have enthusiasm but lack the experience tradition and elders teach us.
But, piñon and juniper are all around me and I feel intimately connected with the landscape. So feel encouraged to craft remedies by hand.
As a child, I could see huge pines swaying outside my bedroom window and felt fear for them during dramatic lightning storms.
I remember playing beneath huge white pines and counting their needles by spelling the word white.
w h i t e, five letters for five needles in a bunch equals white pine. The piñon pine in my area is known as two needle pine so my word game and maybe language would have been different here in the beautiful land of enchantment. Or entrapment if your luck has turned…or sarcasm has taken sway.
I also remember the eventual pine pitch stuck to arms, clothing and hair. Hard to scrub off but now I know that oil helps!
How to make Trementina Salve… Pine Pitch Salve!
1) Gather your own pine resin/pitch
usually plenty on ground below, rather than scraping off tree that needs it
2) let semi-dry like I did, if you want.
It was pretty easy, with oiled hands to remove debris. Brush off surface debris and/or with oiled knife cut or lift debris out of fresher sap. Fully dried trementina may take longer to dissolve, unless powdered… not sure on using fully dried resin.
I have read it takes longer.
3) Add to herbal oil (optional)
Add to oil and sun infuse tiny/small pieces or break up dry resin into small pebble sizes.
Here is the Osha oil I made for the base of the oil. Osha only grows in the Rocky Mountains. It is anti viral and anti microbial. It helps with infections especially good with lung problems. It helps heals wounds and relieves achiness. Quite a revered remedio on its own! Roots infusing in oil.
4) Sun infuse or bury in sand if weather is hot enough to melt resin in the oil… or double boil method… of oil in one pan above another pan filled partway with water. Try not to get water in the oil.
Here is the pine resin/pitch a.k.a. trementina that I cleaned of debris and lightly grated to remove debris. Then I oiled my hands, like for taffy making, and tore off small pieces of the pitch and I oiled the bottom of the pan first too.
5) Because the pine pitch I used was taffy like, it melted in the double boiler heated oil very quickly, I stirred often. Some residue sank to the bottom.
6) For every 8 ounces volume of oil, add approximately 1.5 ounces weight of beeswax… or 1/3 Cup by volume (measuring cup) to the 8 ounces of oil.
7) Melt beeswax completely.
I ended up casting off the oil/wax mixture, leaving any residue at bottom of the pan. But you can use a sieve at this point. (I was going to use a thin cotton dish towel as a sieve, but this was cumbersome for me. Perhaps a helper next time ;))
8) Pour into your jars and voila be proud of the useful, healing salve you made from pine resin from your backyard, favorite woods or even a park nearby.
An alchemical feat and accomplishment! 👑
9) And, use oil to clean out your pans and utensils quickly with a rag or paper towels. This works well if you are quick to not let the pitch set. Use oil to clean your hands of resin too, counters, etc.
Spruce pitch and other resins can be used to make a healing salve.
We also have been having fun using charcoal, to light our incense. You just need a small piece. The resin would probably would make a good fire starter too.
pine resin, a pretty arroyo rock and some incense charcoal above
And, the trementina- pine pitch resin makes a lovely fume of smoke. I enjoy the sweet smell infused with pine and other fragrant notes. It also soothed my headache.
I am fighting off a head cold and the pine resin used as incense was a helpful and pleasant remedy. We even put some pine resin in our tea strainer for a healing tea mixed with osha, red root, thyme and elderberry to soothe our cold. You can even tincture the resin if you want to.
Some other cool folks who work with trementina:
And, sometimes it takes a cold to remember, last months foray into medicinal, herbal vinegar making…
I broke out the fire cider and it really helped! It is spicey and warming.I am using the vinegar with food too and it is great flavor to add in.
Fire cider, pine pitch remedies and pine needle tea do the job!
Good times with pine resin!
Keep me posted on your journey and Trementina Blessings to You.
Now I have the breath of pines in a jar. And so will you!
With gratitude posted links
and this wonderful book by Michael Moore, who never ceases to inspire or amuse.
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. by, Michael Moore. Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, N.M.,
Chunks of resin found on a tree that was chopped down many years ago. Grateful for the resin I found today.
Yarrow in the glory of late summer.
But, now It is fall. And some Yarrow remains in bloom but not all.
In this post, I will show Yarrow growing in tidal grasses near the ocean, in New England meadows and two different mountain ranges of New Mexico.
Yarrow is part of an old Gypsy remedy to fight colds and I will discuss that here. Also, Yarrow is a traditional healer whose use spans centuries.
In the herbal and foraging world trademarking is taking place on who can sell age old remedies. But can age old remedies truly be trademarked?
I believe that the spirit of age old remedies is to be shared by all.
I will share a much loved remedy for making fire cider. That is in trademark controversy right now. But, part of blogging is to share my passion for plants and foodways. So thankyou for taking this journey with me.
And happy wellness to you and yours!
And, I never realized til yesterday that Aspen leaves can also turn red amidst all the golden yellow leaves of fall. Red aspen leaves and the recognizable gold.
Much of the Yarrow but, not all has gone to seed. It is the third week of fall. I love to depict Yarrow in its various growth phases so you will see that posted here. Plus that is how I first identified yarrow. When it was dried on the stem past fall.
I have been searching for a yarrow story to tell. One of my own.
On a recent trip to New England, leaving New Mexico, I thought I would miss the blooms of yarrow in the mountains.
My first trip to the ocean back east and in the tidal grasses of the beach I saw Yarrow… I got to see it bloom afterall.
(Yarrow has feathery leaves. In this photo, covered by other grasses and leaves of nearby plants.)
(Basal leaves are larger than this stem leaf and first year’s growth will show these feathery leaves growing in patches. (more photos in post)
Sometimes yarrow is confused with Queen Anne’s Lace which has one umbel per stem. Yarrow has many varied florets that cluster to the top. Side view photos of Yarrow will show that.
At the ocean, Yarrow grew along with Queen Anne’s Lace and nearby beach roses and rosehips.
Queen Anne’s Lace above
And, a few yards away from the Yarrow and Queen Anne’s Lace were the beach roses and rosehips.
For an ally it surely seems and has been, all over the world for centuries.
Achilles, who Yarrow is named after, was a Greek warrior and was said to have been dipped in yarrow. (an herbal yarrow bath?) He was held by the heel by his mother. As the story goes, the only unprotected part of him was his heel that did not get dipped in the yarrow.
He was eventually slain by an arrow through his heel.
(I used to run and my track coach always warned us to take care of our Achilles heel as it is a weak spot right above the back of your ankles…)
Achilles used yarrow to staunch the bleeding of his soldiers wounds. It was used in the Civil War for that purpose. And many avid hikers, outdoors people, foragers and herbalists, young and old alike, know this to be true… that yarrow staunches the flow of blood from wounds.
Indeed, the ground up dried flowers and leaves make a very effective styptic powder to curb the bleeding of minor cuts and wounds.
A small vial of the powder makes a handy item for your first aid kit.
Rosemary Gladstar, Herbalist, explains how:
“Sprinkle a small amount of the styptic powder directly on an open wound to slow the bleeding.
To stop a nosebleed, sprinkle a small amount of powder on the inside of the nostril that’s bleeding. The powder will usually slow or stop the flow of blood within minutes.
You can also take powdered yarrow internally to help stop the flow of blood. Stir 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the powdered yarrow (or yarrow tincture, if you have it handy) into a small amount of water and drink it down.”
I filled an 8 ounce jar with dried Yarrow flowers and leaves. I plan on grinding the leftover dried flowers and leaves, minus the stems, for my own styptic powder for my first aid kit.
I dried these in a paper bag. Another way is to gather a few stems together and dry upside down. When the stem breaks and snaps cleanly, the herb is dry.
Keep out of direct sunlight and make sure there is airflow. You want to preserve as much of the color and fragrance, a.k.a. volatile oils and healing properties.
Also Gladstar lists major healing
herbal constituents of the versatile yarrow:
linalool, pinene, thujone, camphor, azulene, chamazulene, proazulene, beta-carotene, vitamin C,
vitamin E and flavanoids.
Yarrow is generally considered safe but can stimulate uterine muscles so is safest to avoid during pregnancy, especially early stages…
*Although it is often used at childbirth to facilitate labor and to stop excessive bleeding.
Yarrow is part of the Aster family, the hugely abundant Aster plant family. People with sensitivity to chamomile or other plants in this family may develop itchy eyes or a rash with yarrow also.
Other Uses of Yarrow:
(photo from my garden)
As described by R. Gladstar,
C. Hobbs, L. Gardner, M. Moore and J. Green:
Yarrow is: astringent, anti-septic, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, anti-spasmodic, styptic/hemostatic, vaso-dilating, and bitter-promoting digestion.
No wonder one of its nicknames is: cure-all
Yarrow helps relieve:
-menstrual cramping, use yarrow before period starts and during to prevent/lessen cramping
-excessive menses or when menses is slow to come
-relieve fever by increasing it slightly, to make fever more effective, decreasing length of fever
-helps normalize inflamed and irritated states of the digestive tract
-eases symptoms of cold and flu
-eases painful stomach and digestion
-aids in poor fat absorption
-its vaso-dilating and diuretic function aids in hypertension
-when body needs diuretic function
-fresh root tincture helps sore teeth and gums
Yarrow leaves makes a good green in salads. I recently enjoyed some fresh green yarrow leaves as an herb with my hiking lunch of baguette and hunk of swiss cheese.
And, I have been enjoying using a tablespoon or so of dried flowers and stem leaves in my stir-fries along with coriander and other spices.
I will probably make a broth of yarrow and ginger etc., for a spicey yarrow root soup. Have you tried a yarrow broth for soups. The tea is so aromatic and woodsy. I love it!
Try a little of the herb and adjust by taste from there.
Another trip up the mountains before it gets too icy or cold to do so. Although snowshoe-ing in the Sandias was fun in the spring!
It was a crisp fall day in the Sandias. I improvised and used my funky hat as a foraging bag. I couldn’t resist when I saw all the vibrant, feathery yarrow greens growing everywhere!
I am happy about the Yarrow leaf tincture I made. But, it could use a top off of brandy. So, off to get more. It is funny all the times I have bought brandy at a liquor store for making herbal tinctures. The few times I have mentioned it to clerks or owners of these places they have often looked at me with a smirk on their face. And often will say: okay ma’am… have a safe day out there. Funny, I like to think I am spreading the word about herbal remedies and plant and foraging magic out there, albeit in my own quirky way.
The best brandy run was the day the woman behind the counter said that was the best use for brandy, with herbs. friends, we find each other!
I hadn’t intended on harvesting Yarrow. But, at the very start of my hike, I spotted a forgotten bloom, picked and abandoned by a fellow human.
I picked it up and carefully put it in my pocket. A reminder of yarrow as ally and that I have much to learn from this beautiful, flowering plant, so present in the mountains surrounding where I live.
(the discarded bloom of yarrow above)
I noticed the small stem of flowers on a rock whose color pattern strongly resembled the flower. I picked up the small stem of Yarrow flowers and this led me, not to abandon, but to continue my exploration and story-journey of Yarrow.
It seems I have been intending to write a post about Yarrow for some time.
This was the nod and reminder I needed.
Yarrow nudging me to take its path.
A humble yet powerful plant.
aptly named: Cure-All
Herbal Beer and Wine:
Yarrow has a longstanding use as food and as a beer and wine beverage!
Yarrow was traditionally used instead of hops in beer and was said to induce a mild elating effect as compared to using hops!
It also makes a good herbal wine.
I found this recipe, along with other wine recipes, online.
I haven’t tried it yet but, it is on my, can’t wait to try it list. Looking forward to Yarrow’s blooms, next
mid-summer and early fall.
This recipe by Ernestina Parziale has many good herbal and fruit wine recipes.
Yarrow Wine Ingredients:
2 to 3 oz dried yarrow flowers
2 lemons, quartered
2 oranges, quartered
3 lbs sugar
1 gallon water
½ oz baker’s yeast or 1 pkg wine yeast
I’ve read wine yeast makes a less cloudy wine.
Place all ingredients (except sugar, yeast and water) into a crock. Pour ½ gallon of boiling water over the contents of the crock. Leave for 2 to 3 hours, covered. Boil half the sugar in 1 quart of water for 2 minutes and add this to the rest while still boiling. Mix well and when cool enough, add yeast. Cover again and ferment in a warm place for 10 days, stirring daily and covering immediately again. After 10 days, strain out the solids and wring out as dry as you can. Place the strained liquid into a gallon glass jug. Boil the other half of the sugar in the remaining quart of water for 2 minutes and when cool, add to the jug. Cover or fit a fermentation lock and continue to ferment in a warm place till all fermentation ceases.
Yarrow wine sounds interesting and good along with the other flavors of orange and lemon.
Yarrow also makes a good digestive bitter, either alone or mixed with other bitter herbs such as gentian root, dandelion leaf, etc.
I have made a yarrow leaf tincture for the purpose as a digestive aid.
I made it as a single tincture, since it is good for digestion and has many uses. Including its good use as a remedy for bleeding, inside or out, bruises, injuries, etc.
Yarrow Preparation Uses:
Yarrow can be made into:
a healing infusion, as a therapeutic bath for bruises and muscle soreness and/or cramps; as a tincture; medicated oil; a compress for bruisings and bleeding; and also as a salve or lotion.
Yarrow as part of a formula for ulcers can relieve inflammation. Also as a formula for relieving urinary tract infections, yarrow can serve an anti-inflammatory role.
Also, yarrow has diuretic properties which assists the clearing of a U.T.I. infection.
I have also read that Yarrow has mild mood enhancing properties.
Try it and let me know what you think. Herbal teas generally help me feel better, and affect my mood in a positive way because when I feel better my mood follows too! 🙂
Yarrow is an old time remedy for flu and colds. It is traditionally paired with peppermint and elder flowers.
This is a traditional remedy. And I want to share it. I just learned of it a few years ago. I am a late bloomer, like Yarrow that blooms throughout late summer into fall. Some plants past gone from the season next to vibrant blooms just begun in the fall.
A time tested, remedy…centuries old, passed down in families, by neighbors and friends, gardeners and gatherers…
Yarrow leaves and flowers, along with peppermint and elder flowers helps your body fight illness. This tea is immune enhancing and diaphoretic, helping your body sweat out impurities and illness.
Rosemary Gladstar calls this her
Gypsy Cold Care
Deer from the nearby Ortiz mountains ate my peppermint, lucky them!
So, I bought the peppermint and elder flower from the herb store I work at and added some of the dried yarrow I harvested recently.
Now I have my own Gypsy Cold Care formula. Writing this blog today I have been drinking it throughout the day to feel better.
For better healing effects drink smaller amounts… a quarter cup per hour while healing a cold or flu.
Gypsy Cold Care formula, passed on in the herbal tradition. A Gypsy Herbal cold and flu care formula that a well known and loved Herbal teacher and writer has passed on to her readers. And from me to you and back again. We can all learn and share so much with each other.
And, I am sure so many of you out there have your own tried and true recipes and remedies. Kitchen medicine!
Goldenrod and Yarrow above
I had some helpers making this Fire Cider 😉
Fire Cider is based on an old time remedy use of vinegar. Vinegar, in this case, apple cider vinegar, extracts many healing and delicious qualities from herbs and vegetables.
Herbal vinegar was recommended by Hippocrates and many apple cider remedies have been popular over the years.
Rosemary Gladstar has published and shared what has become a very popular healing, spicey vinegar. It is known as fire cider. A fun name for a spicey, healing cider that really knocks out a sinus infection or cold or flu.
It is currently under trademark controversy by a small herbal company that claims to have invented it. That wouldn’t be such an issue except they have trademarked a popular name for a traditional remedy, the name, Fire Cider, itself. Claiming sole proprietory ownership over a common herbal remedy. That means people who sell Fire Cider at farmer’s markets, herb shops, co-ops, etsy shops are getting sued. That would be like sueing someone for making and selling products by name, such as: elderberry syrup or horehound cough drops or the like.
People have been traditionally making, sharing, caring, bartering, gifting and selling these remedies for a longstanding time.
I wanted to inform people on what is going on because trademarks have their place. But, not when herbal traditions are being co-opted and bargained out of existence… in my opinion, anyway.
Here is a link to learn more and get involved if you want to. Plus there are more fire cider and remedy recipes in this link to enjoy.
This is based on Rosemary’s recipe and this is how I made my own Fire Cider.
-Peel and Chop/Grate one fresh Horseradish root.
-Coarse chop one onion
-Chop 4 or 5 garlic cloves or per taste per jar
-add couple dashes of cayenne per jar
-top off with Raw apple cider vinegar. (avoid white vinegar)
one Tablespoon chopper yarrow leaf and flower(optional)
I made two jars about 16 ounces each.
That’s it! let cure for 4 weeks, otherwise the veggies get too mushy. Strain it and add raw honey, just a bit to sweeten. Heat vinegar to warm, to help honey to blend best. But, not too hot as to kill the raw properties of vinegar and honey.
Also, the vinegar and veggies can be made into a delicious chutney.
Check out the recipe in the free fire cider link above.
Take a shot glass to fight off a sinus infection. Or use with food. Be inventive, let me know what you tried!
All my raw, chopped veggies…. ready for the vinegar!
And, more of the lovely Yarrow, in many stages of growth cuz I love them all!
Posted links and these book sources:
Medicinal Herbs. A Beginner’s Guide.
by Rosemary Gladstar, Storey Publishing. North Adams, MA., 2012.
Grow it Heal It. by Christopher Hobbs and Leslie Gardner, Rodale Books, N, Y., New York, 2013.
The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook., by James Green, Crossing Press, Berkeley, CA., 2002.
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West., by Michael Moore, University of New Mexico Press., Santa Fe, NM., 2003
May Yarrow find its journey along your path as well.
and admiring last Summer’s dried golden blooms overlooking a cliff of the Sandia Mountains.
Goldenrod flower buds and blooms
Habitat: Roadsides, meadows, disturbed areas, also in mountains
40-60 species alone, grow in North America.
I always appreciated the sunny spread of blooms, especially in the meadows behind my grandparent’s house.
I grew up, as many of us did, hearing that Goldenrod caused hayfever. This is a myth as it has sticky pollen, pollinated by insects…and not airborne by the wind.
Ironically it helps reduce allergic response and can be used as a remedy for seasonal allergies.
Goldenrod growing in the Sandia mountains of New Mexico.
And, the Goldenrod that I found growing in New England.
The golden rod with its fiery, golden blooms
Reminds me of the suit of wands in the tarot deck.
And, I adore this image!
She is Goldenrod incarnate!
Can be purchased at Polyvore.com
Artist: Cabaret Voltaire
golden wands of fiery, passionate light. The New Mexico mountain blooms shown in this post, smell infused of honey. One species, Solidago odora, (not shown) the leaves and flowers smell like anise.
Here is the goldenrod infused oil, that I made in New England. It started out on my parents front doorstep. Infusing away, during sunny days. Then before my flight home, infusing amidst jars of tinctures I made…in a box…along its sundry postal trip… to the rural post office 8 miles from where I live. Gleefully, I pick up my herbal remedy delivery, that I collected and made myself…
Not finished solar infusing yet…, onto the bumper of the camper, we call home.
There, on the sunny bumper ledge, infusing by sunny day, starlight and …moon phases…herbal oil infusion journeys with radiances of summer heat and light in North central New Mexico.
Goldenrod oil can help heal wounds, especially those that need a cooling and stimulating action to heal. I like to make salves out of my herbal oils.
Goldenrod mixed with plantain makes a good remedy for stings and skin irritations.
newer growth with flower rays
and narrow leaved plantain, a little beat up from lawnmowers next to a highway… but narrow leaved plantain, nonetheless!
Also, Goldenrod has a longstanding and effective use in relieving sore and achey muscles.
So does nearby growing Snakeweed, also in the Asteraceae family.
Snakeweed below, I’ve talked about it before… an age old respected remedio, for arthrits and achiness, here in New Mexico.
Dry wilt your fresh herbs for, at least, a day before infusing oil.
Double boil slowly to infuse the goodness of all the goldenrod properties…
Or try, as many of you already do, solar infusing.
My first experience along with making carrot seed oil.
Quite a pleasure to infuse oils by the sun, lunar and starry skies.
Goldenrod blossoms make excellent fritters. Similar to Elderberry blossom fritters.
The tender leaves can be cooked as a green.
You can use the Solidago odora, with licorice/anise scented leaves to make an herbal tea jelly.
This type of Goldenrod has translucent dots on its leaves when held to the sun. This imparts the leaves with the anise flavor.
When Colonists dumped British tea in the harbor, this delicious spice tea was an ingredient in what became known as Liberty tea.
Make your own Liberty Tea Blend and define liberty as it relates to you!
Use equal parts of Sweet Goldenrod (anise flavored species described)
Betony, Red Clover, and New Jersey tea…(also known as Red Root) species name: Ceanothus americanus.
New Jersey tea tastes a great deal like green tea.
Can’t wait to mix up a blend of this health giving, tasty tea!
Long before liberty tea, Native Americans used the Solidago odora, as a medicinal and as a flavoring in medicinals.
This oil, extracted from the leaves and flowers, has also been used in perfumery.
This is giving me good ideas for making hydrosols. You can make your own simple still for hydrosol making. See the Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook. by James Green
Habitat: Solidago odora grows in open sandy soil throughout the eastern U.S and midwest, south and through southeast Texas.
Other varieties of Goldenrod can be used to make a jelly too.
Here is a recipe:
(2 Cups fresh plant and 4 Cups water. Boil water, take off heat and add herb, steep for 10-30 minutes.)
If using dried goldenrod use half amount of herb.
Take just 1 Cup of the Goldenrod tea
add 2 Tablespoons pectin.
Heat tea and pectin and bring to a roiling boil.
Add 3/4 Cup sugar all at once.
Stir and boil 1-3 minutes until it passes the jelly test.
Pour into jelly jars.
If using species other than the Solidago odora, consider adding a 1/2 tsp of anise or other flavoring… or just as is.
The rest of the tea can be used as an iced or hot tea. Maybe with some lemon and sweetener to make an herbal lemonade! Customize your own yummy drink blend 🙂
Goldenrod has a long history of use around the world as an Herbal Medicine!
Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century, English herbalist, describes in his book that Goldenrod is ruled by the planet Venus. Here depicted is the birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, 1486., one of my favorite paintings.
According to Culpeper, Solidago fragrans, “It is a balsamic vulnerary (wound/skin healing herb, also for)…hurts and bruises…a safe diuretic; few things exceed it in the gravel, stone in the reins and kidneys (and kidney stones with pain and soreness… also with) bloody or purulent urine; then its balsamic healing virtues co-operate with its diuretic quality, and the parts at the same time are cleansed and healed.”
Also, he states that it is an excellent wound healer, inside and out.
Also, it helps to “stay the immoderate flux of womens’ courses, ruptures, ulcers in the mouth or throat…” and in preparations as a wash for venereal disease.
A tea of young leaves, fresh or dry, he recommends for these healing purposes.
Also, he states that Solidago angustifolia, as a decoction and rinse, helps set loose teeth.
More cited herbal uses:
According to the excellent website by Plants for a Future., the common species,Solidago canadensis, is excellent for kidney problems, allergies due to its quercetin constituents, its root can make an effective poultice for burns, flowers and buds chewed and swallowed soothe sore throats, saponins of the plant are specifically anti-fungal against candida overgrowth, and more uses described in link above.
Specifically, it is described as being:
antiseptic, hemostatic, febrifuge, kidney remedy, styptic and useful salve.
Matthew Wood, p.p. 468-470, An Earthwise Herbal., states the uses of Goldenrod, specifically Solidago canadensis, and S. virga-aurea.
Properties of Herb:
“The root, leaf and flower… are predominately bitter and pungent…(with) traditional use as a carminative” and digestive aid.
It is aromatic and contains essential oils which aids in allergies… also quercetin does, and especially helps with carryovers of lung distress with bronchitis that remains as a factor.
He describes it as a good stimulant to kidney function as a remedy after stressful situations or even psychological events.
Susun Weed suggests making a healthfilled Goldenrod herbal vinegar! Vinegar extracts many wonderful herbal properties and can be used every day in food preparations…talk about gourmet salad dressings and dipping sauces, marinades!
Wood, also describes an affinity that goldenrod has for healing scalp irritations and scabs as well as leg wounds. And, leg wounds particularly because of its healing effects on kidneys.
-For being tired and worn out, can’t process issues that life brings.
-allergies, conjuctiva, specifically useful for cat allergies
-acne in sheets of small pimples on face
-cold stomach, inactive digestion
-edema, swelling, dry scaly skin
-purulent conditions of lungs, mucosa, skin,
-exhausted and tired lower back, tired feet, tired worn out kidneys,
-dark scanty urine
-early bladder irritation
-edema and purulent sores on legs
-dry scaly patches- scalp and legs
-old, inflamed purulent wounds, gangrenous wounds.
Harvest leaves in fall and tincture fresh in alcohol.
*Check field guides for native species near you. It can resemble some species of senecio, and other look a likes… And, it is in that vast plant family, Asteraceae… that I had trouble keying out less common species.
So, I presented more characteristic species here. Asteraceae, yellow rayed species no less, what a workout!
Dosage: 1-3 drops, 1-3x a day.
For allergies, my Medical herbalist friend suggests to try 30 drops a day, 3 times a day… if drop dosage above does not yield effective responses.
I do want to learn more about drop dosages.
Caution: Goldenrod can heal conjuctivitis but, if excess of drop dose above is taken, (1-3 drops per day…) can cause conjuctivitis!
Can heal or cause conjunctivitis.
I respect this powerful and gracious healer. Goldenrod!
Thankyou Matthhew Wood for your compehensive knowledge and view!
I am grateful for all references in this post and am interested in Your Uses of Goldenrod too. Please feel free to share your experiences with Goldenrod if you would like to!
Goldenrod makes colorful dyes!
Harvest from more common species and strong stands…or from your own herb garden of Goldenrod.
For Yellow to Gold dye: use flowers and flower buds, alum or chrome as a mordant; simmer or solar dye
For orange dye: use flowers and buds, a tin mordant; simmer the dye
For a tan dye: use leaves, alum mordant; and solar dye
for an olive dye: use leaves, a copper mordant; and solar dye
for a gray dye: use leaves or flowers, an iron mordant: and solar dye
Wanting to add some color to the vibrant hue of goldenrod and all its story, I have briefly touched upon…
I wanted to share some poetry I found, highlighting Goldenrod in the first line.
It was written by a woman who was a classmate of Emily Dickinson and a friend of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Helen Hunt Jackson’s poem:
The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun
The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,
From dewey lanes at morning
The grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
with yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.
But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.
‘T is a thing which I remember
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.
by, Helen Hunt Jackson
She also became an activist in the 1800’s. She lived from 1830-1885.
She was especially moved when she went to hear a lecture in Boston, as part of a 4 year lecture tour by the Ponca Chief Standing Bear.
Standing Bear and his wife Susette Primeau and their son.
He argued against the cruel treatment of his people that were forcibly moved from Nebraska to Oklahoma territory. Up to one third of all people died due to starvation, disease and illness. They were moved too late in the year to plant crops and were denied promised goods and agricultural equipment.
Chief Standing Bear also sued in U.S. District Court, in 1879, that all Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law and have the right of habeus corpus.”
On May 12, 1879, Judge Elmer S. Dundy, ruled in agreement of Native Americans existing in right of habeus corpus. He stated that the federal government had failed to show a basis under law for the Poncas’ arrest and captivity.
This was a landmark case legally for Native American rights.
The case was called:
United Stated ex. rel. Standing Bear v. Crook. Crook was the General holding Standing Bear and his people under law control.
After this ruling, Standing Bear and his followers were freed by army release and given a return of lands restored to them in the Niobrara valley of Nebraska. A state park and many other tributes are in honor of Standing Bear and his achievements.
After the lecture, Helen Hunt Jackson sent everyone in congress a copy of her book: A Century of Dishonor. It described and detailed the deplorable action of the U.S. government against Native Americans. The book exposed the U.S. government’s violations of treaties and gross misconduct and harm against American Indian tribes. She also got involved in Mexican Native rights in California and this resulted in tourism and interest in the area based on her novel Ramona.
She was a prolific writer and activist, who eventually moved to Southern California from Massachusetts.
Helen Hunt Jackson, poet and activist.
Little did I know how much history I would learn from looking up this sweet poem about Goldenrod and the time of September.
A poem, that was popular to recite at the turn of last century, by schoolchildren.
Goldenrod, Queen of Wands, a golden spectacle of fields and roadsides, open areas in mountains and meadows.
A healer to kidneys, U.T.I.’s, sore muscles, wounds, and more.
A wonderful natural dye.
Mistaken for an allergen but actually a cure!
The Anise scented Goldenrod once imported to China as tea.
Goldenrod, good to get to know you.
For many years to come!
Bibliography, including posted links and sources:
Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal.
Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest., by Delena Tull.
An Earthwise Herbal., by Matthew Wood
this species: Oenothera hookeri
I like the name.
Yellow Evening Primrose
Habitat: Sea Level to 9,000 feet. It is common in mountainous areas of the U.S.
It also grows along streams, fallow fields, watersheds, roadsides, wet areas.
Evening Primrose in New Mexico.
According to Michael Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.,
The Root can be chopped fresh or dried, covered with twice its volume in honey. Boil this slowly. It makes a soothing and somewhat antispasmodic cough syrup.
The top of the plant can also be used similarly.
Some laxative effect
Can suppress skeletal and smooth muscle pain, in particular: the reproductive organs.
Evening Primrose is variable in its effects due to particular affinities a person may have with the plant. Effects differ also according to species and habitat.
It is recommended to try it, since some people respond particularly well. And it is a fairly common plant and does well in gardens. It may even pop up as a volunteer as it has at my workplace’s herbal garden.
One to Three teaspoons of the root or leaf in tea.
The seeds are highly nutritious and contain amidst other things: linoleic acid and varying amounts if gamma-linoleic acid. (GLA)
When the seed capsules open at the top you can tip the branch and the capsules will release seeds into your container.
Michael Moore, herbalist, suggests to grind the seeds and add to flaxseed oil. Keep cold/refrigerated or just grind what is needed at a time.
Evening Primrose Oil contained in the seeds has many touted health benefits for autoimmune disorders such as: eczema, psoriasis, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis.
For some people, the plant’s overall positive effect on organs such as liver, spleen, and musculo-skeletal systems helps people feel better, thus is mood/state of being enhancing.
The whole plant is edible. The roots are peppery and like a turnip/parsnip when raw. Often boiled.
Young leaves best, do have hairs. Good as a potherb.
Seeds are edible, see above.
The flowers have a mild cucumber taste. We found them delicious and very pleasant tasting.
Fun to read about, exciting to find!
Evening primrose… A plant I have been hoping to find. I found it this year. My friend, in Massachusetts, has some in her garden and I spotted some on a favorite mental health and nature enjoyment walk.
My father died recently and I flew home, by wings of an airplane, to visit him, help with his hospice care and be with family. From the base of the Ortiz mountains to a suburban town, southwest of Boston, Massachusetts.
10 miles from the ocean.
This area, charming by means of cranberry bogs and small New England ponds. Grass lawns, woods, occasional spots of enclosed meadow flowers. And a fire access lane filled with wildflowers, milkweeds, wild blueberries, huckleberries and Evening Primrose!
Along a humble path- access lane (divine to me) that was a 5 minute walk from my parents home.
While my father was in the hospital, before or after visiting him there, I would often walk here or to the nearby pond for a few minutes.
And John’s Pond, with cranberry bogs across the way.
a diary style picture of myself, at the pond, in the lifesaving chair…early in the day before families arrived to play and swim.
My dad was clean, re-positioned, comfortable and loved. Final days of hospice care at home. These short walks, the equivalent time of a brief bath or shower, really saved me. And was not understood by everyone.
Before my dad came home for hospice care, and in the between times of waiting to visit him at the hospital… in New England,
I wildcrafted herbs.
And did I ever!
I even found an Elderberry tree in a recess and dip in the woods, a few yards away from my parents house. The irony did not escape me. Elder.
I got a lot of satisfaction, too, harvesting plantain from my parents’ lawn.
New England, where I turned the experience of loss into healing.
On so many levels. As we all do.
I did it in a way that brought me relief, joy and sanity. Making Herbal tinctures, salves, herbal oils and herbal tea jellies and wild berry jellies.
I shared the jellies (made jellies for the first time) and showed family how to make medicated herbal salves… which we also used on my father for the arthritis in his neck and back.
The nature spirits guided me and helped me cope.
I was so happy to find Evening Primrose in New England which brought my search full circle to my original home.
I feel that plants choose their times of alliance in the wild and gardens. And, I am grateful.
Thankyou to this New England Evening Primrose!
Imagine my happiness and joy when returning to New Mexico, shortly after my father’s funeral, I found Evening Primrose growing in wild stretches near the lake dam I was camping at. Nature spirits truly divined a magical experience!
Near the fields of Evening Primroses, I also saw bear tracks. A mother bear with her cubs. Truly awe inspiring!
Thankyou for taking this plant and animal track journey with me. Plants as allies through all of our experiences. And, Evening Primrose led me to the Majestic Mama bear and her cubs.
And, my bountiful tincture!
tincture where you are
Sources: Posted Website links
and this book source specifically:
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. by Michael Moore, Nuseum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe. 2003.
And, the beautiful desert primrose I found this year alongside desert roads…
Family: Apiaceae also known as: Umbelliferae
Common Names: Queen Anne’s Lace, Bird’s Nest, Wild Carrot
Queen Anne’s Lace… see the tiny, purple floret? The floret is an identification factor.
(The leaves you see are from nearby plants, not from the Queen Anne’s Lace.)
I will label each Queen Anne’s lace picture as: QAL
Queen Anne’s Lace in its first season has a delicious root. It is a wild carrot and, is believed to be the precursor to the modern carrot. Its flowers are edible: can be fried, made into an herbal tea and an herbal tea jelly.
But, it is important to note that it is in the plant family: Apiaceae.
A wonderfully interesting group of plants. Many of which, resemble Queen Anne’s Lace.
The Apiaceae family has made a huge contribution to culinary and herbal endeavors. A boon to our wellbeing!
*Foods and Food Herbs: Parsley, Carrot, Anise, Chervil, Coriander, Caraway, Cumin, Dill, and Fennel.
Medicinal Herbs: Angelica, Osha and Queen Anne’s Lace are popular healing herbs in the Apiaceae family.
I will also talk about using Queen Anne’s Lace as food in this post.
*Not to mention that many, if not all, of the food herbs listed above have healing properties and can be used as herbal medicine.
As well as being delicious additions to our food.
This always gives me a sense of lineage to herbalism and I am grateful to all of our foraging and gardening ancestors.
I think of herbs and their use as a continuation of food as medicine. A common legacy we all have which includes food herbs.
Everyday herbal medicine.
Herbs as Food. Herbs as medicine.
But, Some plants in this family of plants, Apiaceae, are Deadly Poisonous.
Luckily, we know this and have traditions of knowledge to draw on.
For ex., Osha is known as a healing plant, in the Apiaceae family.
I would need to go with someone who knows where to identify it accurately. I have knowledge to look for purple spots, parts and splotches, etc re: water hemlock. But, foraging and herbal wildcrafting has a tried and true tradition of learning from those people who know from hands on experience. Never mind the fact that Osha, in this case, is illegal to pick in certain areas or on the edge of its ecozone or habitat, so should be respected and left alone.
I’ve heard it is difficult to cultivate. Has anyone out there had success cultivating Osha?
Just a curious sidenote…
Luckily, Queen Anne’s Lace is common, although poisonous look a likes can grow nearby and vastly outnumber the Queen Anne’s Lace.
So foraging areas can differ! And, it is considered a noxious weed by some… so be aware of poisonous herbicides or pesticides in foraging areas.
I love the tenacity!
I grew up with Queen Anne’s Lace and have been studying its poisonous look a likes for more than 2 years. It is essential to be able to IDENTIFY Queen Anne’s Lace accurately, everytime!
Do not pick a plant you think is Queen Anne’s Lace until absolutely sure.
So, I suggest to stay clear from foraging this plant until you ABSOLUTELY can positively I.D. it.
An essential strategy, anyway. to wild harvesting a.k.a gleaning… foraging…picking…harvesting…
herbal preparing, touching a wild plant, (for ex., consider: poison ivy)
or touching a garden plant…
As it turns out…Poison Hemlock is an escapee from being landscaped into flower gardens. It has now become naturalized.
So, be like me 🏃avoid the foraging risk until you know for sure!
Here’s a quick note on purple spots, splotches or streaks for some of the poisonous related species, which aids in distinguishing Queen Anne’s Lace.
These poisonous members of the family have purple splotches on their stems: Giant Hogweed (also hairy stems), Poison Hemlock smooth stem), Water Hemlock (smooth stem)
Some Queen Anne’s Lace identifying characteristics:
often white or cream colored flowers
often has small purple floret in center
root smells like carrot
carrot like leaves, (careful here…for ex, Fools Parsley has similar looking leaves.)
*here you can see the grouping of secondary umbels, forming an umbrella shape, which comprises the whole compound umbel.
Here are Queen Anne’s Lace Leaves:
QAL hairy stem
Once you know the differences you can differentiate between both edible, medicinal and poisonous members of the Apiaceae family.
Here is a picture of Poison Hemlock:
Poison Hemlock above 🙋💀
Another similar plant that is DEADLY POISONOUS…Violently Toxic, as it is described… is the Water Hemlock.
Water Hemlock above 🙋💀
Sometimes Water Hemlock is confused for other plants such as: Queen Anne’s Lace, *Wild Parsnip, or Elderberry, etc.
The sap of Wild Parsnip above-
can cause skin burns and scars.
Also, Fools Parsley’s leaves and flowers look a lot like Queen Anne’s Lace:
This is not an extensive list of poisonous look alikes. I will label and include positive I.D. pictures of Queen Anne’s Lace.
I grew up with Queen Anne’s Lace. I always loved the meadows and fields that contained it. Through a slippery slope of information, we children were told that it contained arsenic. Not true according to what I know… but in an inadvertant way…it may have kept us safe from accidentally poisoning us from a deadly, poisonous look a like!
QAL and its classic bird’s nest shape
Here is Green Deane’s excellent post about differentiating between elderberry and water hemlock.
Plus, some great I.D. tips on Water Hemlock… a deadly poison.
Queen Anne’s Lace seeds have been used as food, a spice, a facial oil and a contraceptive. I have, thus far used it as a facial oil.
For more info on use as a natural contraceptive start here:
QAL above and Goldenrod and other wildflowers
Queen Anne’s Lace has a native species also referred to as Wild Carrot. Its Latin name is:
Here is a picture:
I think I am going to make my Herbal jelly like this next time:
Acid, such as in squeezed lemon juice, helps jelly to gel. Check it out.
I had the happy pleasure of making my first ever canned jelly. I made it with Queen Anne’s Lace flowers.
Hence, all my cautionary notes about poisonous look-a-likes!
I made a strong herbal infusion. I used 3 cups Flower heads chopped up. They all smelled carrot-y and I was absolutely sure each and everyone had hairy stems and were all Queen Anne’s Lace. A few were even a pale pink which is unusual but part of the norm.
I felt inspired to make an Herbal Tea Jelly out of Queen Anne’s lace when I found many recipes online. And, many jelly making enthusiasts out there!
Like You! 🍥
(The Pectin I used… and introducing Goldenrod for later posts. As some of you know, and I have recently learned, Goldenrod is not a high allergen like its reputation indicates… and when solar infused in oil or made into salves or liniments, it is great for relieving sore muscles!)
and more jelly making…
Here is the gorgeous rose pink colored tea I made from the Queen Anne’s Lace herbal infusion.
I made sure to sterilize all jars, lids and rings… even though they were new.
Make your herbal tea.
Boil 4 cups water.
Let it cool for five minutes.
Then add and submerge about 20 Queen Anne’s Lace flower heads (2 Cups packed)
Steep the tea for a half an hour. Then strain it.
Use 3 Cups of the tea.
Then stir and heat up
one package of pectin along with
1/4 Cup of lemon juice to the Queen Anne’s Lace herbal tea.
Bring it to a boil….not too slowly or the pectin will dissipate. Go for medium heat.
Once boiling I added the organic sugar.
(I added 5 Cups sugar. similar to mint jelly recipes I found.)
For less sugar,
3 and 1/2 Cups plus 2 Tablespoons is recommended by other jelly makers.
Adding the sugar slowed the mixture down.
Then I brought the mixture to a boil again.
Let it boil for one more minute and it is done.
Do the jelly test if you would like it to be more certain.
Although, the above method worked well for me.
poured into jelly jars… leave, at least 1/4 inch space at the top when filling the jars. Leave room for it to vacuum seal.
Then canned in boiling water bath for 6 minutes….for time required just above sea level. Technically, 5 minutes boiling time for hot water canning at Sea Level. I am in New England, right now, not too far from the ocean.
Boil with, at least, 1 to 2 inches of water covering all the jars.
Screw the bands on all the jars… just tight enough to close. I read somewhere… not too loose…
Fingertip tight, like closing a Mayonnaisse jar. Just til you meet resistance. This was super confusing for me… “finger tip tight”
Some of my bands were loose after canning in boiling water, so not sure if that is normal. But all my lids were properly sealed and I tasted the jelly from the canned jar… yum! lemony and light! A special treat as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Or a delightful filling for a layer cake. It is really good!
I’ve given some jars away and eaten some but, here is the jelly I have left.
Be sure your lids have properly sealed. If they haven’t vacuum sealed on their own after 24 hours of cooling down then they can be used as refrigerator jelly. Or recanned if done right away, just after the 24 hour period of cool down, and opportunity to vacuum seal on its own.
Check by pressing the center of the lid down with your finger. It should be depressed, concave. If the indentation pops back up into a bubble then it did not seal properly.
Also, hold jar up and look horizontally across the lid to make sure it looks flat with center not popped up or bulging and slightly indented in the middle. Then you know it is sealed. Also, tip jar on its side with band off to make sure seal stays on, etc.
I did all the tests above. Here is the top of the lid properly sealed.
The lid shows the indentation and is flat. 🙂
I am grateful for ediblewidfood.com’s recipe for Queen Anne’s Lace jelly.
see link below
I felt better using 5 cups of sugar that I found in the mint jelly recipe inside the pectin box. Because mint jelly is also an herbal tea jelly.
learn2grow.com or I like to say… Jelly for Days. Great Herbal Jelly recipes and fruit juice combos and jelly ideas! savory or sweet!
Jelly is a traditional form of preserving herbs and fruits.
I am also going to soak these Wild Carrot seed heads in oil to extract their skin benefitting qualities.
Dry wilt or completely dry the seeds when soaking in oil.
Water and oil don’t mix.
Wild Carrot essential oil, extracted via steam distillation, is a highly concentrated oil. It takes huge volumes of plant material to distill a few precious drops of essential oil. So, I harvested 15 seed heads (“bird’s nests”) of Queen Anne’s lace. Then, I am going to soak (macerate) them in a solar infusion of oil in the hot sun, for a few weeks. Then, when strained this oil is especially good for sageing skin. I read that in one of my Rosemary Gladstar books and I love the term: sageing. It feels apropos, and with a lot more luster than sagging!
Queen Anne’s Lace Seeds above
And my solar infusing herbal oils. One is the Goldenrod and the other is the Queen Anne’s Lace seed heads!
Queen Anne’s Lace,
Happy Sigh Here
The Globe artichoke goes by two botanical names. Some believe the *Cardoon and Globe artichoke are the same. See below.
Artichokes are Thistles!
or Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus
Common Herbal Name: Artichoke leaf, Cynara
Plant name: Globe artichoke
Plant name: *Cardoon
Ancestor to modern artichoke
And the local thistle near me …. in the thistle family like the cardoon and the artichoke….
New Mexico thistle
Yishdloh or Azee in Navajo
Cardillo (little thistle,) Cardo in Spanish
Nickname: Lavender Thistle. Desert thistle, Powder puff thistle
USDA info on New Mexico Purple Thistle
The thistles known as Carduus by ancient healers such as Pliny, etc.
I enjoy making local connections with plants. In this case, thistles! This New Mexican thistle was also used medicinally and for food by Navajo, Hopi and other peoples.
-as food-raw, peeled stems,
-cold infusion of plant-for an overall remedy when feeling sick,
-and cold infusion of root used as eyewash for eye diseases, irritations
Find out if local thistles in your area are edible and/or medicinal.
They might not be safe as food or medicine.
Research, ask questions, take a friend or knowledgeable person with you. You can always enjoy them as a beautiful wildflower.
Harvest with respect for future stands and if only a few are around, just enjoy. My local thistle makes pollinator friends very happy.
We owe gratitude to the peoples and traditions for centuries old plant wisdom that carries forth today.
This gratitude also extends around the globe… all the many people. As Rosemary Gladstar has pointed out, The plant world existed long before us.
This mural at the community Herb store where I work gives a heartening reminder to me.
and plants as medicine.
The plant kingdom, plants and trees are our elders. Teachers. Allies. The very air we breathe comes from plants and trees.
Happy sigh here.
People working with plants as allies and healers, food medicine, foodways, wild plant foodways and herbs… family/community gardens.
And, sharing what we know and have learned through our own uses and experiences. Bringing the elders and children together.
My local thistles… in my locale
How about you?
I am taking an herbal preparations course and it is fun. What I love also are all the great tidbits I am learning along the way. And this particular Herbal preparation class gave me the nudge to learn more about thistles.
In our section, learning to make medicinal wines…I found out that artichoke leaves… that grow around the globe of the artichoke…
are very healing and restorative to the liver. Hence the “love to the liver” part. 😀
Artichokes are thistles!
I like seeing the whole artichoke plant. I had no idea they could get so leafy and the artichokes look small in comparison.
Image source and further nutritional and medicinal information:
Plants for a Future
In class we used a sweet white wine. Cut or tear the fresh Globe artichoke leaf into small pieces and fill a jar. (not jam packed but full) Then completely cover the leaf parts with the sweet, white wine.
There, now you can have your wine and help your liver too!
Let this tincture or infusion sit for 5 days. You can shake it each day too. Remember to infuse your good energy into it!
I liked the taste of the sweet white wine and artichoke leaf.
I took a small bit of the unused leaves home and tinctured it in red wine, since I had it available and it was already open.
Here’s my medicinal wine infusing… I finished off an open bottle of red.
Re-use jars! I have protected the medicinal wine with plastic because of the metal lid.
Sidenote: On day 3, I strained and pressed out the artichoke leaf from the red Syrah. Hoo-wee! It is a healing BITTER. I vouch for a sweet white wine next time!
I really enjoyed learning about the globe artichoke leaves. I've never grown them….it points out to me, how great gardening is. To be able to see all of the plant. And, to connect more with plants and with gratitude, enjoy the food. And, to discover, pass on and guide each other on what food plants also yield medicine. As already happens in many places today. And for us newcomers and rememberers.. a resurgence and carrying forth our appreciation… of the plant world as our allies and healers.
What a healer artichokes are. Many Foods have medicinal properties too. And, many healing traditions and modern practice suggests healing with foods as a first step for health maintenance.
In Ayurveda the artichoke herb is known as Hatichu or Hattichoke.
The vegetable taste qualities are sweet and astringent.
The artichoke leaf is bitter, which stimulates liver function.
It combines well with Arjuna.
And, it also makes a great tea. It is popular in Vietnam and is called Tra Atiso.
An apertif, made from artichoke and other herbs, is common after meals to stimulate digestion. A popular brand is called Cynar, made in Italy.
Now more specific info about the healing properties of artichoke leaves.
“‘How it works
“Artichoke-leaf extract improves the liver’s eliminative function,” says Amelia Hirota, D.Ac., Dipl. C.H., an acupuncturist, herbalist, and clinician at Center of Balance in East Greenwich, R.I. The acid components in the extract stimulate production of bile, (cholagogue.)
(The bile acts as) a detergentlike fluid responsible for transporting toxins out of the liver and into the intestines for excretion. Bile is also essential for the body’s breakdown of fats and cholesterol, and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K.'”
Also artichoke leaf constituents and uses are as follows:
Extracts from artichoke leaves are traditionally used in the treatment of dyspeptic and hepatic disorders… also specifically: obesity, hyperlipidemia, hepatitis, diabetes, liver tonic, relieves symptoms of IBS-Irritable Bowel Syndrome, etc.
Removes heat and dampness in the liver.
Primary constituents are: chlorogenic acid, cynarin, caffeic acid and flavonoids (e.g. luteolin-7-O-glucoside) which are the main phenolic constituents of artichoke leaf extract (ALE).
***Caution with Biliary Obstruction and gallstones, etc.***
Also, being a coffee and black tea enthusiast myself…. in my Herbal studies, I have learned to avoid taking herbal remedies of any kind with coffee or black tea. Because, it will inhibit the herb due to tannins.
Wait a couple hours after drinking coffee or black tea.
Or take your herbal tea or herb remedy, at least, an hour before coffee or black tea.
That way you can let the herb benefit you ☺
Above quoted source:
And for Foragers out there and other interested folk…
The Globe artichoke originally came from a wild thistle.
Cardoons make a lovely food too! Traditionally the de-thorned stalks are used. That gives me some good ideas for preparing my local thistles like cardoons. Hmmm, it’s got me inspired and thinking!
How do I prepare my local edible thistle or cardoon?
Navaresse method of preparing Cardoons.
Cardoons can be used as a vegetable rennet. Some Portuguese and Spanish cheeses are made this way.
Also many people around the world are using plants to curdle milk to make cheese. I’ve made cottage cheese using lemons.
Check out this lively and informative, how-to blog, on how to use dried cardoon thistle stamens (the purple part) to make yummy cheese!
More fun for vegetarian cheese makers!
Here are some recipes that may inspire you and have fun with!
And baked Cardoons, thistle stalks too!
Me in thistle bliss
Rio Grande Cottonwood
Populus deltoides var. wislizeni/
Related to Willows.
Aspens and Balsam Poplars can be used similarly.
Warnings and Indications:
***Be cautious when giving salicylate containing herbs, or aspirin for that matter, to children and teens. Even, in some cases adults may be susceptible to ill effects of salicylates, i.e. in aspirin or herbs as well as children and teens.
It may be rare,… but the possibility exists, that cottonwood preparations and herbal medicines from other trees in the Salicaceae family… could cause Reye’s syndrome. An often fatal disease.
Medicinal Uses according to Michael Moore:
All the Populus species
contain varying amounts of salicin…which aspirin comes from.
Also: Do not combine use of Salicylates with Anti-Coagulants.***
The Populus species are useful whenever an anti-inflammatory and/or pain remedy is needed.
Gather leaf buds in early spring, leaves in the summer, portions of inner bark in late fall or spring.
Learn best methods for harvesting bark from live trees unless fresh, fallen branches are available.
Aspen branches have thin outer bark and are easier to work with. Wind and storms provide a bountiful supply of branches.
Fallen, fresh branches make for good harvesting of leaves too if fresh and green.
I have learned that fallen branches near river banks are a way for cottonwoods to start nrw growth.
Also according to herbalist Michael Moore, medicinal uses include:
For a healing tea, the inner bark is most effective.
Although, leaf preparations (which are palatably less bitter) and milder, can yield healing results.
The leaf buds, ones which are balsamic and aromatic, when soaked in oil, make an excellent application for burns and skin irritations.
A folk remedy, the balm of Gilead, is this healing oil. Or a salve can be made with this herbal oil and beeswax melted together.
For a softer salve slowly melt 1 ounce (28 grams) beeswax per 8 ounces (236 ml) warmed, herbal oil, using a double boiler.
For a firmer salve use 1.5 ounces (42 grams) beeswax per 8 ounces (236 ml) of herbal oil.
Or use the strained herbal oil as is.
Burns may require a softer salve, for more comfortable application…and/or seek professional consult.
When tinctured, the leafbuds provide an excellent expectorant for thick unmoving bronchial mucous. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties can soothe the lung conditions as well.
(Incidentally, I found this wonderful cream recipe online. The basic recipe was developed by Rosemary Gladstar, who I would love to study from someday. At least, stock up on her wonderful books.)
Rosalee de la Foret, in her post about making cream says she uses Cottonwood leafbud tincture as a preservative. And, I wanted to share that here:)
The fresh or dried Cottonwood plant material makes excellent poultices and fomentations for swollen joints, muscle aches and pains, and sprains.
A New Mexico herbalist, I admire writes a beautiful and informative post about riparian habitat and what Cottonwoods need to bring new growth to the river areas. Check out this post by Herbalist, community educator and environmentalist, Dara Saville.
Dara Saville is also doing plant restoration work on the Rio Grande Bosque. You can support her efforts at albuquerqueherbalism.com.
Above is the Rio Grande, Cottonwoods and other trees.
A cool, shade place to enjoy
There are many varied beautiful or interesting and powerfull Native American stories that I have found in researching the beautiful Cottonwood tree.
For indeed, when you snap a fallen, dried branch, you will find a star inside. *
The Hidatsa, Native American people revered the Cottonwood trees.
According to the Hidatsa…
“the shade of the cottonwood… is supposed to possess an intelligence that may, if properly approached, help in certain undertakings… It was considered wrong to cut down one of these great trees. When large logs were needed, only the fallen ones were used. Some elders say many of the misfortunes of the people are the result of their disregard for the rights of the cottonwood… (Matthews, 1877, p.48)”
This next story is so beautiful and is a Cheyenne and Arapaho story about all the fallen branches and their stars within. And, how they return with the right blessings and circumstance to the night sky.
Story found in starlab.com
AND THE STARS
From the Plains Indians: Cheyenne and Arapaho
All things come from Mother-earth.
Stars are no exception. They form secretly in the earth and then drift along just under the
surface until they find the roots of the magical Cottonwood tree.
They enter the roots and slowly work their way up through the tree. Finally they come to
rest in the small twigs at the end of the branches. Here they wait patiently until they are
Then, when the “Spirit-of-the-Night-Sky” decides she needs more beautiful stars to light
up the heavens, she calls on the Wind-Spirit to help her. The Spirit-of-the-Wind sends
his blustery gusts in all directions. Soon the wind shakes the magical cottonwood trees so
hard that the twigs begin to break off. Then, as each twig breaks away, the stars are
released; and even more escape when the twigs break again as they hit the ground. Now
new stars race up into the night-sky where each one is carefully put into a special place.
Now, when the Spirit-of-the-Night-Sky has enough new stars, she tells the Wind-Spirit to
stop; and the wind settles down to a gentle night breeze. Of course, the Spirit-of-the-
Night-Sky wants to thank the Wind-Spirit for his help so she asks all the new stars to
twinkle brightly for him. This way the Wind-Spirit can see where all the new stars he
helped escape have been placed.
So, if you want to add a new star to the Night-sky, gather some Cottonwood Star twigs
and snap a few to make sure you have good ones. Then wait for a clear night.
When your special night comes, find a spot where you can see lots of stars. Hold your
twig up toward the night sky and snap it. After you snap, check the ends of your twig to
see if you have a star pattern showing. If you do, then you have put a new star in the sky.
The star pattern is the shadow that the new star leaves behind.
Look up at the night sky again, and if you look very carefully, in the same direction that
you released your new star, your will see it twinkling brightly. This is your ‘thank-you’
for the Spirit-of-the-Night Sky, for adding a beautiful new star to her heavenly kingdom.
It turns out Joni Mitchell, singer/songwriter, artist, is right….
The cottonwood trees often lose branches when the winds are heavy. You can harvest inner bark, leaves or leafbuds from these branches.
I found a large branch with still fresh, newly emerged leaves on their stems. The leaves felt moist and resinous. I took it as a large gift and offering. I even had my mason jar and brandy with me. I was thinking I would make a flower essence as flowers are blooming this late April.
I am so glad I heeded the message to bring my supplies. In reading Michael Moore’s book: Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West., I knew that Cottonwoods had great herbal medicinal value. So, with this learning I felt awe and respect when I found the Cottonwood branch on the ground near the Jemez river where i was enjoying my hike.
Jemez range and the Cottonwoods which like to grow near rivers and streams.
I felt so fortunate to harvest the still, fresh and potent leaves.
I gave thanks to the tree and branches and leaves and made my herbal medicine right there.
I covered leaves with 40% Brandy.
The tincture should be ready in a month. A few weeks later, I added aspen tree buds. My friend was experiencing extremely painful hamstring spasms which kept her awake at night.
I gave her some cottonwood leaf and aspen bud tincture for pain and the pain was completely relieved within five minutes.
This tincture works very well for acute conditions.
For chronic pain conditions, for example- arthritis, I have read that a formula of pain relieving herbs works well. For example, black cohosh, cottonwood buds and devil’s claw for arthritis, etc.
With my gratitude and offering, I felt so blessed to make such an effective, pain relieving, anti-inflammatory, herbal medicine…
Many Native American peoples have used and still use the Cottonwood trees for a variety of purposes. Cottonwood trees grow near streams and rivers. We owe gratitude to all the people before us who have developed herbal medicine benefits and uses.
Cottonwoods when they die, reveal centers that have often rotted. The insides can be more easily hollowed out and the good wood makes excellent drums. Many Pueblo people have expertise in this craft.
The dense but soft roots of cottonwoods are used to carve the Puebloan, sacred Kachinas.
The catkins, the drooping flower buds, were often eaten as a first spring food by various Pueblo people.
I’d like to forage some catkins.
One source I found states that poplar/aspen… perhaps cottonwood leaves taste like spinach. So many edible, wild plants are compared to spinach, in taste, it makes me smile. I haven’t tried the leaves as food. If you have tried them let me know!
I am so grateful for my Cottonwood journey. I learned so much and feel happy, inspired by this change. A change, by new learning and for what the Cottonwood offers. What it has always offered by showing us and all creatures, life giving water which it grows nearby.
Its many uses, including healing uses, as a food and its relationship as a sacred tree.
I am grateful and reminded of the timeless beauty of the Cottonwood and its ready branches of stars.
And, when I take a journey to learn about one plant or tree….other plants join in to make their hellos and introductions. And re-introductions. Almost as an invite, as ally, to learn more.
Now is the time.
So, with that, I saw my first Apache plume flower today. Having seen the seed plumes last year, I had missed these happy rose like flowers.
And the beautiful, vibrant globe mallows.
Thankyou for taking this star blazed trail with me. Happy wise foraging and wildcrafting to you.
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. by Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM. 2003.
Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province.by Tierney & Dunmire, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM. 1995.
and a field of Cottonwood seed fluff!
In the fall young cottonwoods rustle their leaves in the wind.
Also, the SWSBM site sbove is comprehensive and a great, free online resource.
Michael Moore’s books are true gems! I just purchased his book:
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West.
Algerita, is the desert and canyon species of Mahonia a.k.a Oregon Grape.
New to the world
Flower buds emerging above in the Desert Mahonia species.
The bright green is the new leaf growth and flower buds.
Some good basic Info for Methods and Use for Oregon Grape… Mahonia, Algerita.
Moore suggests to: gather root and stem bark from midsummer to winter.
Split the tough dense roots, not main stem root, with hatchet when fresh.
Tincture fresh chopped roots or with adequate grinder, may break blades, grind dry chopped roots.
For dry roots tincture 1:5 ratio, of dry herb weight to ounces alcohol.
Use 50% alcohol.
Fresh tincture, use 1:2 ratio, 95% ethanol
The herb is water soluble, cold infusion for tea works best,
Use 2-4 ounce dose.
Tincture, fresh or dry use 5-10 drops as a bitter, 15-30 drops
as a liver or alterative medicine.
Algerita has 3 main functions: a bitter tonic for digestion, a stimulant for liver protein metabolism, antimicrobial for intestinal tract and for skin.
Berberine is a primary constituent.
Algerita and Oregon Grape ….
a.k.a Mahonia can all be used interchangeably. Please note species described below.
(Oregon Grape not to be confused with the Holly tree.)
All Oregon Grape is classified as Mahonias in this post.
Some botanists and herbalists classify these plants/shrubs as Berberis.
There is some debate, although Mahonia is also a current classification.
There are more species than this.
I am keeping this regionally to north central New Mexico, mountains, desert and canyon species that I have found.
Research your local variety!
Consider growing some or landscaping with it.
The more commonly described Oregon Grape:
and the Algerita species of Oregon Grape:
Mahonia in the Sandias
I also saw a lot of wild geranium growing.
More purple than my camera captured
And, even some horehound growing around an abandoned homestead.
And, a week later the Mahonias in the Sandias are going from flower to seed, eventually to fruit as berries.
When i’m not looking for Mahonias, I love to hike in the mountains! I just found some Mahonia in the Sandia mountains a few days later. I was really hoping to find some in a mountainscape and, lucky me, I did.
And, in Santa Fe, NM, I spotted some Oregon Grape, growing near a river, at the base of the Sangre de Cristos.
Some sights from the top of the Sandia mountains. I admire its silhouette in the Southwest skies around me.
I presently live in view of many mountains, in the desert foothills of the Ortiz range.
I can see the Sangre de Cristos, Jemez mountains, Ortiz
mountains and Sandias, in a 360°circumference.
This view encompasses the desert plateau where i live.
This plateau is majestic, harsh, spectacular. Quieting, hot, teeming with life against all odds.
Windy now in spring.
A small daisy grows surrounded by cactus.
Less than a quarter mile away from me in the desert foothills, down and through an arroyo, are many Algerita species of Mahonia.
Above, they are beginning to bud, this first week of April.
They are often full, tall shrubs/trees. Sometimes, some of the branches are bare or full with leaves on the dry hillsides and arroyos.
When the flowers bloom and mature into berries, I look forward to making Oregon Grape Jam…
or as I will affectionately call it~
Desert Mahonia Jelly ☺
Harvest from large stands and wildlife depend on the berries too!🐻
I’ve admired the Algerita/Desert Mahonia for many years, and look forward to making a small batch of jelly!
In Santa Fe a more typical Oregon Grape shrub grows. Either Mahonia aquifolium or M. repens… I am not sure. The Mahonia repens turns all red in the fall like its Spanish name: Yerba de Sangre.
So, in the fall when I go back to visit these regal shrubs, i will have more of a clue.
And, this week, I have seen this Oregon grape, growing wild, flowering along rivers, planted near galleries…
All bursting and emerging with gorgeous yellow flower buds and blooms.
I made my very first flower essence using the Mahonia flowers…
The snowmelt was rushing in the river. I made a short nature video while my essence was being prepared. I even had a honeybee sip on the gorgeous nectar of the blooms, while they floated in a glass bowl filled with spring water.
Now visiting some Mahonias I am fond of, In mid April, Mahonias in snow…
The Algerita species, also known as, Desert Holly Mahonia, have not started to bloom on the dry hillsides and arroyos.
They will bloom by mid spring. What a beautiful arroyo hike that will be!
Desert Mahonia leaves can vary in size.
According to Mountain Rose Herbs, here are some Precautionary Guidelines for use:
“Adults should limit use of Oregon grape root or any other herb containing berberine (barberry, coptis, or goldenseal) to seven consecutive days at a time, waiting at least a week before using the herb again. This gives the natural, helpful bacteria of the intestine a chance to recover. Taking vitamin B6 supplements can give infectious bacteria resistance to the antibacterial toxins in the herb.
Do not take Oregon grape root if you are taking antibiotics for diarrhea.
The herb is not a problem for nursing mothers unless the baby has jaundice, however it should not be used while pregnant.”
The Leaves also make useful salves for Psoriasis, and inflamed conditions of skin.
Check out this blog.
Respectful harvesting and great info:
Oregon Grape/Mahonia has many uses including against Staph infections.
See this comprehensive site for more info.
Guide to flower essence properties including Mahonia:
The above site illustrates Oregon Grape/Mahonia’s use in resolving Toxic heat and dampness, including its benefit on the liver.
Algerita root exposed in an arroyo!
this root is quite the healer, as are you!
Months later with the very tart, but tasty, green apple tasting… juicy mahonia berries!
Sources include posted websites and this source:
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West.by Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989.
Some very fine Mahonias
Oregon Grape grapes…
A mountain spring, glorious!