Category Archives: healing salves
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?
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.
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
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
Sumac grows all over the world and is used as a spice, food, a tea and herbal medicine.
It grows in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America.
It also can be landscaped into many environments.
It has many uses. Check out this site!
Make a delicious, popular Middle Eastern spice using ground sumac berries. Why not forage or garden your own. Dry the berries then grind for a spice!
This wonderful spice mixture is called Za’atar.
Get the recipe here!
Three Leaf Sumac
Same family as cashews and mangoes!
Common Names: Three Leaf Sumac,
Basketbush, Sumac, Lemonade-bush
Foothills, canyons, slopes, usually dry rocky soil, usually on limestone outcrops.
Sunny locations, perhaps dappled shade. Not frost tender. Drought resistant, often used in landscaping.
The up to 6 foot high, rounded shrub, multi branched …when in new growth is supple and more upright when it grows.
When dried these stalks made good strong arrows for Pueblo peoples.
The leaves come in threes with small yellow flowers emerging before the leaves come out.
The fruit when it emerges is like a berry. Starting greenish tan and become orange-red to red in color, with sticky glandular hairs that give the fruit a fuzzy appearance.
The red fuzzy berries make a wonderful lemonade like beverage.
The berries are soaked in cold or hot (not boiling hot) to make a beverage. A little honey or sweetener can be nice since it is very sour. I liked it unsweetened myself. But, however you prepare it, it is cooling and refreshing on a hot day, like a lemonade or prickly pear fruit beverage.
Some people like to call this lemony, sumac drink Rhusade.
Or Rhusade is soothing and nourishing, as a hot beverage, on a winter day as a hot tea.
Per serving, steep a rounded tablespoon of the fresh or dried berries until it meets your fancy.
Don’t bring water to boiling as this brings out the tannins and makes it too astringent as a beverage.
The Rhus trilobata berries can also be added to salads, sandwiches, perhaps sauerkraut?
Throw in some juniper berries into your sauerkraut too. They are traditional.
Be inventive and avoid boiling the berries is my only suggestion.
In Michael Moore’s, Medicinal Plants of the Canyon West., he suggests and indicates 3 leaf Sumac’s uses:
Gather leaves when green.
Gather the berries when they are fully red in summer also when leaves are green or a bit red.
The leaves turn a splendid red in fall. The tree is deciduous.
The dried leaves last a year. The dried berries last 2-3 years.
The leaves can be used in powdered form and a quick salve made with castorlatum from castor oil. It has a petroleum jelly like consistency yet not petroleum based, a plus! Or if your coconut oil is still solid at room temperature try that… or the same with ghee.
Stir 1 part powdered leaves into 2 parts castorlatum gel. *
For a glycerine tincture, macerate 1 part by weight of powdered leaves in 5 parts by volume of a half water & half glycerine menstruum for the tincture. Leave for four weeks. Then shake and strain*
Moore states that the powdered leaves, quick salve and glycerine tinctures are excellent for mucosal-epithelial sores. Such as: lips, mouth membranes, genitals, and nostril membranes. The actions are to soothe and shrink inflamed tissues and to mildly disinfect.
Powdered leaves are very soothing to mouth sores on nursing infants.
*Preparation method is important here, such as with quick salve method and glycerine tincture. Heating and alcohol tincture could pull out too many tannins.
Sumac is originally an Arabic word.
And Rhus, the Genus name, is derived from a Greek word meaning to flow. So named due to its properties in stopping flow of blood, this case with hemorrhages. It is hemostatic. Proper methods and use are critical.
3 Leaf Sumac looks similar to POISON OAK!
Poison Oak is not actually an oak species. It is in the Sumac family too… Anacardiaceae
The leaves of both are lobed.
The next picture is of Poison Oak.
It also turns red in the fall.
Whereas, 3 Leaf Sumac has a velvety texture on the TOPSIDE as well as underneath.
Poison Oak is fuzzy UNDERNEATH the leaf only, shiny on top..
Also, poison oak has non fuzzy whitish-green berries.
Poison oak can cause severe contact dermatitis and further injury if trees are burned and smoke is inhaled.
Three Leaf Sumac
Berries not ripe yet
Research your local species of Sumac. The berries are the easiest way to determine if it is safe. The safe species have red fuzzy berries like the Rhus trilobata here.
3 Leaf Sumac berries makes a wonderful lemony drink!
When I lived on the East Coast I enjoyed making a lemony tea from the Staghorn Sumac. I was in my early twenties then and felt a little bit leery about Sumac. I grew up with caution about Poison Sumac that grew in the swamps. And New England has its fair share of swampy areas in the woods.
One season, I and others, worked as Interpreters, in beige uniform, alongside coworkers of many different Native American backgrounds, including Wampanoag. I am grateful to my friends who taught me so much about Wampanoag customs and culture. Including the use of local plants, such as Staghorn Sumac berries. I even filled in a few times and gave guided nature trail talks, pointing out useful and edible plants. It is fun to piece together these experiences since the plant world is an everyday ally to me now.
A Wampanoag perspective on history and Thanksgiving.
Rhus typhina…Staghorn sumac
Further Herbal medicinal, food and other traditional, global uses of edible/medicinal Sumac, including Native American… just some of the info I found!
Learn to identify the safe Sumacs in your area. This means positively identifying possible poisinous look alikes, in the same family, such as Poison Sumac, Poison Oak, and Poison Ivy.
It brings that old song to mind….maybe I can find it on youtube.
Here it is!
Edible/Medicinal Sumac is: astringent, antipruritic, analgesic, contraceptive (for males,) deoderant, diuretic, emetic, hemostatic, odontalgic, oxytoxic
-tanning leather, dyeing wool, etc.
*-Dyeing hair black/dark…a decoction of boiled leaves (I want to try!….also Globe mallow decoction makes for a fine dark rinse for hair.)
-Added to meat helps deter stomach upset (bacteria on meat?)
-Leaves made into poultice with vinegar or honey stops the spread of gangrene
-Seeds pounded and mixed with honey help with hemorrhoids
-The gummy sap when applied to a tooth eases pain
-The leaf and root helps a woman expel the placenta (there is a description and method of preparation in book cited below.)
-helps stop internal bleeding
-helps with dropsy
-Helps with diseased gums
-Helps with freezing/frostbite or burns
-helpful with some venereal disease with application
-leaf added to tobacco mixes
-sumac helps with: dysentery, fevers, rhematism, dysuria, diahrrea, skin ulcers
-Seeds make oil for lighting or tallow like oil can be made into a candle.
-Decoction of bark and berries for sore throat
-aids in female urinary incontinence
-vermifuge in mixture with other herbs
-leaves rubbed on your skin make for a Bug and Snake repellant
-Root used as deoderant and buds used as perfume
Sumac species may vary in given properties and effects.
*NATURAL HAIR DYE FORMULA USING LEAVES, BARK ETC… equals 👧 😄❤
natural hair dyes including fun colors!
Will keep you posted, I am curious myself how to use 3 Leaf Sumac leaves as a darkening hair rinse.
I made a boiled decoction of fresh leaves, then added apple cider vinegar with success. My hair became a darker tinted shade. 👧
Perhaps dried, powdered leaves made into a paste would further darken my hair. But, I like it!
Haha my gardening hands! While I wait for my hair rinse to finish!
Above, Globe Mallow is used as a traditional dark coloring for hair.
I also want to try black walnut hulls and garden sage… known to darken hair and garden sage is good at covering grey.
The 3 Leaf Sumac branches are used to make basketry and dyes for decorations on baskets too.
Jemez Pueblo people still use Sumac branches in their basketry.
***Beware of POISON SUMAC, POISON IVY and POISON OAK!
This post is mainly a description of 3 leaf sumac…Rhus trilobata.
Only the red, fuzzy berries of Sumacs are edible. Some species may cause contact dermatitis and Poison Sumac should be avoided! It is not included in Sumac’s healing effects. And it is highly toxic!
Here is a botanical sketch of Poison Sumac.
Note the similarity to other Sumacs and also note the whitish berries. The berries are green in spring and not fuzzy. A strong distinguishing feature from the fuzzy red berries of the edible sumacs!
formerly classified as Rhus Genus
In addition to posted links:
Use of Plants. For the Past 500 Years.by Charlotte Erichsen-Brown, Breezy Creeks Press. Ontario. Canada, 1979.
Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province. by Dunmire & Tierney, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM, 1995.
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. by Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM, 1989.
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. by Nicholas Culpeper, W. Foulsham & CO., London, England.
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!
It is autumn. The aspens in the mountains have turned yellow and are dropping their leaves. Down in the valleys and lower elevations near rivers and arroyos and small villages near where I live… the cottonwoods are throwing out their golden shimmmery hues against blue sky. With all my learning and studying and home apothecary making of tinctures, salves and liniments… I need to also remember what is going on outside. I spend a lot of time outside amist other chores and work responsibilities. But, the special places remind us of the beauty of nature. Also small willow trees grow near arroyos and rivers and I will feature a gallery of the river walk I took today. Images dispersed throughout this post as a parallel post. Nature always surrounds us. And as a creative expression to take a parallel tour.
Here goes…And make an herbal liniment with me too!
Willow near the river
I used Witch Hazel for the base of my healing liniment. To this I added dried herbs: Grindelia, Lavender, Thyme, Chamomile and Lemon Balm leaf.
All of these herbs have healing and/or anti-microbial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties for the skin. Witch hazel also has many healing properties.
If you have already seen my post about tinctures, then rest assured! Making a liniment is very similar to making a tincture… with one basic difference!
Liniment, liniment… What is a liniment. I felt like I knew what it was but now, with so many herbal terms swimming in my head like: balm, salve, embrocation, percolation, tincture etc…. I needed some clarity. And with that clarity, I can share with you!
Basically, a liniment is like a tincture but is only used on the skin. It is used externally for topical use only. In fact, label your liniment: FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY!
Liniments can heal skin issues such as rashes and dermatitis. Liniments can soothe and heal inflammations, bruises and sprains. Liniments can ease and lessen pain. The proper liniments can soothe a sore throat by applying the liniment to the neck area. Liniments can cool down an area or heat it up. Liniments can work deeply on tendons, nerves, muscles and even bones!
In this post I will show you how to make a liniment to soothe skin irritations. I am sometimes prone to skin irritations and rashes and thought it would be a good addition to my Home Remedy Kit!
Grindelia herb for skin: is excellent for poison ivy rash, contact dermatitis, eczema, stubborn to heal wounds, fungal infections and other skin irritations.
Grindelia liniment is excellent for rashes.
Please seek informed, appropriate counsel when applying herbal preparations to various wounds and skin conditions as well as for internal use. For instance, in a list I found of Grindelia health benefits, it is listed that Grindelia helps heal bed sores but, what is the proper herbal preparation? Would it be a tea, a tea compress, a salve?… I haven’t found specific treatment methods or I would share it here.
I describe this as a way to show importance of knowing and understanding methods of herbal preparation and treatment for a specific condition.
When using a liniment do not apply to open sores.
It is essential to know the proper dose and/or application and the proper herbal preparation.
Grindelia is a versatile herb. And, when I learned about Grindelia’s beneficial skin properties… I decided that I wanted to make a skin healing liniment. Its beneficial uses for skin led me into researching other skin benefitting herbs which I could add to the liniment.
Grindelia, with a locust seed pod, found draped amidst its stems.
Grindelia is equally known for skin healing properties as it is for healing bronchial and cough issues! And the other herbs, I used to make the liniment, are healing for a variety of internal and external issues as well.
And how and what to put in your very own Herbal First Aid Kit? Here is a very helpful guide with contraindications and guidance for best use of herbs!
The first aid kit includes helpful liniments!
Liniments are useful when quick evaporation and penetration of healing effects is needed.
–Adding oily salves to an inflamed area may not be beneficial. Because sometimes an inflamed area does not want more heat. And, oil contains heat and does not typically let the heat dissipate.
*Although lavender oil has reputed benefit to aid in healing of skin abrasions and burns… Know your ailment, therapeutic application and herbal remedies!
–Also, oil will tend to spread rashes such as poison ivy, because oil, by nature has a spreading quality.
–Liniments can be made in a Rubbing alcohol base. Or I prefer to use Witch Hazel with a maximum, 14% added ingredient of rubbing alcohol.
–I’ve also read that vinegar can be used as a liniment base or even vodka, etc.
Liniments are made for a variety of desired effects.
According to the above site, René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the amazing miraculous benefits of lavender oil himself amidst a terrible accident. He worked in a laboratory of a cosmetic firm which his family owned, when a terrible accident caused horrible burns of his hand. The burns turned into rapidly developed, gas gangrene and he was in excruciating pain.
He had been studying the healing properties of lavender oil and had good inclination to immerse his hand in the Lavender oil. His burns healed relatively quickly with little scarring and he worked on many burned soldiers during the first World War.
A key influential book also available in English.
Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles Hormones Végétales.
Lavender oil not recommended for 3rd degree burns!
And, now my own, unique herbal liniment!
I really want to start an herbal garden. Along with wildcrafting and buying quality organic herbs like these! Above are some lavender flowers in the palm of my hand.
And some lovely chamomile flowers in the jar.
I started off with 1/3 of a jar of cut lemon balm leaf. (More about my measurements later!…oops)
Some chopped Grindelia I had wildcrafted
And some Thyme
So my recipe really soaked up all the witch hazel. I used a pint sized jar. 16 ounces of Witch hazel. I left an inch and 1/2 from the top but all the dried herbs just soaked up the Witch Hazel.
So I would leave more room next time.
I followed some basic guidelines though the blend of herbs was my idea. I have a tendency to overfill my jars although, I also learned that dry herbs can soak up a lot!
I used 1/3 of a pint volume of Lemon balm leaf.
Then added equal parts of Thyme, Lavender flowers and Chamomile. Then 3 Tbsp coarsely chopped Grindelia.
It is a thick mixture and the menstruum: the Witch Hazel does… cover herbs completely. But it’s thick!
I used up all the witch hazel. Next time I would use less dry herb overall. I will keep you posted. I am going to give the liniment 2 weeks to cure. I am flipping it twice a day since it is so thick and to diminish any oxidation effects by chance herb being exposed to air. Which the gap is minute, but still… to be careful.
I will strain it with cheesecloth and squeeze and wring out the healing liniment. Pictures soon to follow when the liniment is done. Meanwhile waiting for the magic, I am hoping! To happen 🙂 also see my post on making tinctures to get good ideas on using phases of the moon in making herbal preparations or check here!
Stir it up! I added too much dry plant material and had to scoop some out! This is a thick mixture so flip it twice and shake it, at least, once a day. Should last several years!
I couldn’t use latin binomials here because my source did not list them on the package! Something to consider when buying herbs. But this is for my own use so it is okay for me. All the herbs are organic.
I also made a Brandy tincture using all the herbs except Grindelia. (Lavender, Lemon balm leaf, Thyme & Chamomile)
And now I also have a favorite hot tea blend using: Lavender, Thyme, Lemon Balm leaf and Chamomile in equal amounts. It felt both restorative and calming. Health enhancing and yummy. I added a bit of raw honey while it steeped. Yumm!
The tea as well as the tincture promotes a calm and happy mood. Lemon balm is known as the merry heart herb. All four of these herbs benefit mood and ease anxiety. Chamomile is also a gentle cleanser for the liver.
I’ve really enjoyed using these herbs in tincture, herbal infusion and in a liniment. Showing that herbs have, sometimes, many benefitting uses both external and internal. Not all do, but some surely, as in this case do.
Lavender essential oil has some definite caution for internal use however!
And let the music in your life be merry. Whatever gives you joy, makes you happy to sing along, hum a tune, play along or want to dance to!
Thankyou for joining me in this Liniment making Merriness and Best Wishes on Your Journey!