Category Archives: Herbal Tinctures
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?
Nettles, Stinging Nettles
Nettles grow wild and can easily be cultivated. I transplanted mine from a thinned out patch from an herbal garden. They went into shock when transplanted and appeared to die. But, once roots took hold, they burst forth with life and vigor.
Nettles grow wild and can form high thickets near streams, rivers, shady areas with rich soil.
our container garden of nettles!
Nearby deer ate most plants in our container pots and also our small amaranth patch. We raised the containers to keep the bunnies and jackrabbits from munching our simple gardens. Our simple fences and dead cholla branches were nothing to stop the deer.
We are getting more acquainted to wildlife habits here. We hear the coyotes often and see juniper berries in their scat.
Owls, crows and hawks reign the skies, on hunts and thermal airwaves.
And, in autumn we are hearing different songbirds, on migration we think.
Last year, a favorite wild, clammy ground cherry, I liked to visit, got eaten down to the ground. I kept getting a message to pick one of the berries in its papery husk, to put it on my alter. I amost felt guilty for doing so, but heeded my intuition and did so.
(a gnawed off stem found on another hike.)
When I returned to visit, and saw the Ground Cherry gone, I understood the message and the temporary nature of all things.
The ground cherry became a much needed meal for a wild desert creature. I marvel at how wildlife exists, struggles and thrives in this desert environment.
And, I recognize the huge bounty I experience. Even if fellow humans might laugh or some acknowledge.
In perspective, to feed a herd of deer was an honor.
We read that deer live in the Ortiz, but hadn’t seen many signs. We live in the desert, canyon foothills. In the piñon and juniper ecozone.
So the hoofprints in dirt tracks along with our dinner salad garden gone, we knew for sure.
During a long weekend away, they ate amaranth, lemon balm, garden sage, catnip and peppermint… makes we wonder if they had good dreams those nights. haha!
Recently, on a hike up into the Ortiz, we saw two deer trotting on a ridge, along with fir trees and tiny groves of aspen on some of the peaks. Amazing to think of their treks for food, water and survival with mountain lions which rove for prey.
we thought this could be a mountain lion track…
In the peaks
In our garden, the two pots of nettles survived along with a mostly dead horehound plant. (the bitter and stinging plants were left behind.)
Which makes this post come alive. I used these fresh, growing nettles, for homemade cheese and pesto, even in fall.
Handled carefully because of stinging hairs on stems and the underside of leaves which can sting you. They are filled with formic acid.
And, I used about 12 tops of these nettles to make my homemade cheese. And, about the same number of tops to make nettle pesto! Both flavored with Herbs de Provence.
Here is the salted nettle tea I made. Add a tablespoon of sea salt to the nettle tea to further extract the nettle rennet properties.
Simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and cover the tea and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid. It will be a light brown color. This is your Nettle Rennet.
I’ve also read that dried nettles work as an herbal rennet too and dried nettles do not sting!
Use one Cup of the strained, salted nettle tea rennet for a gallon of cow’s milk. This is what I have read.
I had half a gallon and used 3/4 of it.
So, heat the milk slowly.
As it heats add the juice of one fresh lemon and spices.
Just before the milk starts to simmer and bubble, while stirring constantly…
add the one Cup of the Nettle tea Rennet.
In my case it made a big bubble when I added the Nettle Rennet. I stirred it gently and the curds formed instantly. The whey separated and the curds were all on top like the picture. You can see the spices too. I turned off the heat once the curds all formed. It all happened at this point really quickly.
I let the curds and whey sit covered for 30 minutes.
Then I lined a colander with a thin dish towel to strain out the liquid. -(the whey) People sometimes save the whey for cooking other recipes.
I squeezed out the excess whey and the cheese congealed quickly. I let it set for a bit, covered with the cloth.
I took the next pictures of the cheese just a few minutes later. A day later in the refrigerator the consistency was even more like a soft gouda. I was really happy with it. I might salt it a bit next time. I guess I am used to the salt in cheese. But, experiment because I really liked it and the salted nettle rennet may impart the perfect amount of salt for you.
This post by Monica Wilde truly inspires. Check out her recipes using a variety of wild plant rennets.
In Cornwall, a famous cheese from an ancient recipe, called Yarg, involves using nettle rennet and nettle leaves wrapped around the cheese to flavor and cure it. The nettle leaf patterns are beautiful.
not too ironically searches for Yarg brought up pictures of pirates! ha!
More of the present day Yarg story here.
Thistle stamens can be used to make cheese rennet as well. Check out my blogpost and links on how to prepare thistles for food and to use thistles for cheesemaking.
You can also make a delicious pesto using nettles.
Super easy and fun to make Nettle Pesto. I have made pesto so many times, I often wing it but keep some basics in the ingredients too.
For Nettle Pesto, steam the tender stems and leaf tops for 2 minutes.
I then felt the leaves and stems for any sting they might still have and 2 minutes of steaming did the trick.
I dried them off with a towel then added olive oil, garlic cloves, juice of one lemon and hulled hemp seeds instead of cheese.
Plus, spices and herbs that suited my fancy at the moment.
Blend it up and voila!
I really liked this pesto and the rest of my cheese as a simple dinner.
I saved most of the pesto to add to tomorrow’s soup as a garnish.
The Herbal Goodness of Nettles!
Deb Soule, Herbalist and Biodynamic gardener and plant enthusiast lists Nettles as one of her favorite herbs.
In her book: The Roots of Healing.,
She describes many of nettles virtues and for being
a wonderful fresh green at the close of winter and turn of spring in Maine.
I enlist the many healing properties from Deb Soule’s book here, amidst a few other notes.
Stinging Nettles, just the name can turn some people away. The hairs on the stems and the underside of leaves can be quite formidable. The hairs contain formic acid which can cause painful stings when you touch the hairs of the plant.
This painful sting, is used in urtication therapy.… Urtication derives from nettles, its botanical name: Urtica dioica
Nettle Sting therapy:
Many people have taken nettle leaves/stems of leaves and hit or rubbed them on painful arthritic joints and areas. This brings a rush of blood to the area with subsequently less inflammation, relieving the pain.
Many people swear by this method since the pain from the nettles is temporary compared to the relief they feel within their arthritic joints.
If you get stung by nettles and need to relieve the pain, crushed/bruised plantain leaves or yellow dock leaves, placed on the sting, make an effective remedy.
Nettles are high in iron and greatly help those who are anemic. Steam new tops of nettle leaves or make a tea from fresh or dried nettles. Fresh leaves made into a tincture work best.
Nettles are vitamin and mineral rich so are a tremendous health ally.
Nettles are an excellent tonic for the kidneys and adrenals. In many cases, regular use of nettle tea or tincture can reduce the risk of kidney stones.
Nettles also nourish the liver and blood. And, improves elasticity of veins, helpful for hemorrhoids or varicose veins.
Nettles also strengthens the plasma membrane/outer membrane of cells… making them less vulnerable to inflammation and allergic response.
Nettles work very well in Menopause formulas. Especially when added to these herbs: oatstraw, red raspberry leaves, borage leaves, and siberian ginseng (eleuthero root)
Does your dog scratch and dig at hot itchy spots on his skin? A nettles wash can help.
Likewise, nettles is good in formulas for eczema and skin problems.
The astringent nature of nettles lessens: nosebleeds, uterine hemorrhages and bleeding from cuts.
Drinking cool nettle tea decreases inflammation in kidneys and bladder.
Nettle teas and tinctures have been shown to decrease painful conditions like arthritis and rheumatism for people and animals.
Nettles are commonly used to decrease allergies.
Deb Soule also suggests to let fresh and/or dried nettles to sit over night in a glass jar/pot, of cool or room temperature water, to extract the most vitamins and minerals from nettles.
Drink this health rich tea as is or gently heat and then steep for 15-20 minutes.
For many health benefits and as remedy, 1-3 cups of nettle tea a day for several weeks or months is recommended.
Please seek good counsel outside of this post to determine the best course for you.
And nettles greens, cooked or steamed can be eaten as often as you delight in. lucky us!
Include wise stories and counsel from plant wise friends and from Nettles themselves!
Posted Links with gratitude
and this book:
The Roots of Healing. A Woman’s Book of Herbs. by, Deb Soule. Carol Publishing Group, 1995.
And, what else did I do today? Learned to use a chainsaw to harvest our own wood. Sawing dead trees by hand last year is something I will never forget.
Here’s to You and all You Inspire!
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.
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…
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!
The Simpler’s method using these 3 wildcrafted herbs and 40% brandy are what I am starting with in my tincture making exploratorium!
I am very excited about this as I can see and feel that this will be lifelong endeavor of herbal tincture making! 🙂
I am going to try the Simpler’s method with 80 proof Brandy! (40% alcohol)
The above link by Annie’s Remedy describes Herbal Extracts in good detail. I have summed up here:
Herbal tinctures are herbs- whose healing, vital properties are extracted using either: alcohol, glycerin or vinegar.
These agents act as a solvent and this solvent is called a Menstruum.
Alcohol is often used because it can result in a more potent tincture.
Alcohol acts as a solvent for many herbal compounds. And can more readily extract resins, waxes, fats, volatile oils, and other healing and assistive plant compounds, etc.
Water would then be necessary to extract water soluble components of the herbs. (for ex, I think herbal infusions such as teas, here…)
Since 80 proof (40% spirits) also contains water, I do not have to add water to my Menstruum.
Of course, there is also debate, tradition and research about how much alcohol proof will work optimally, according to each herb.
With this specific remedy, I know I will come up with a safe healing tincture so will be flexible in observing and feeling its healing effects. And therefore my dosage with it. My feelings are to start with least dosage first and go from there.
Also, for adults or children, where taking an alcohol tincture is unwanted due to the alcohol… some people opt for glycerin or vinegar tinctures. (Not white vinegar!)
My herb teacher said that it is a myth that alcohol dispels in hot water. So, I am going with that and would offer a glycerine or vinegar tincture instead.
Also, many teas are very effective medicines as many plant constituents are water soluble.
So, an herbal tea, syrup, medicated ghee, or herbal paste mixed with honey would be of benefit in some cases. Other methods abound! There are many herbal methods of preparation and therapeutic value for each or a combination of methods.
Also tinctures have certain properties and the alcohol produces certain effects by itself. Tinctures are not a good health strategy for all conditions. Please see this next site, it is useful!
And, this is something I want to put more into my herbalism methods. Harvest and make preparations according to the phases of the moon!
It is suggested to make your tincture on the new moon and strain it on the full moon. The moon exerts physical properties on the liquid and the herbs and this method makes for a stronger tincture!
Image source: livingshamanically.com
When using Everclear or 190 proof grain alcohol, it is necessary to add distilled water because it can burn the herbs. See site links above and below.
Huge Mullein leaves from a gorgeous plant!
Ideally it is suggested to pick mullein from the first year growth’s basal leaves in spring.
Autumn basal leaves. A bit less vibrant.
I harvested the large, 2nd year growth leaves in autumn where the energy of the plant also went up the stalk to the flowers. (And roots) But there are still medicinal qualities in these leaves.
Second year Mullein plants
And, it is bi-annual so will die soon. I gratefully harvested a few leaves from this majestic plant.
I may go back and harvest some seeds and flowers from the stalk. Make a therapeutic oil infusion. The flowers gently warmed in oil. Some people also add garlic. (Heat the mullein and oil…Not too hot as to kill the beneficial properties…) Mullein infused oil is a traditional herbal remedy for earaches. Many mothers depend on this remedy for their children!
Do Not Use Remedy on a perforated eardrum! or with any doubt!
* Also my Herb teacher, who also is trained in Ayurveda, mentioned that if you treat one ear, even if the other ear doesn’t hurt… treat both ears. In this case, using mullein oil, start by slowly massaging oil on the outside rim of the ear, then massage the whole, front part of the ear itself working your way eventually to the ear canal.
Then add a drop or two into the ear canal.
Then another drop when the oil goes in fully.
Do both ears the same way. For application, warm the oil, only slightly. The ear canal is very sensitive and the person being treated is already in pain, so just warm the oil a tiny bit to take off the cool/cold edge it might have. It also will help it to apply better when slightly warm. Not hot.
But please, seek precise herbal and/or ayurvedic advice on this as I have not tried it myself…yet! And seek a physician if need be!
Also, see mullein & garlic remedy above.
And here is the outer human ear and its Reflexology points just for fun.
Also delightful aster is going into this remedy!
All 3 of these herbs have beneficial effects for respiratory conditions. I am making it to assist healing of colds and coughs.
Reknowned herbalist Michael Moore put together an online manual. Not to be sold but happily shared.
It is a comprehensive guide on making
herbal tinctures. Including dosages for children, % alcohol needed for effective tincture, etc. Also, one of the reasons I chose to do the Simpler’s method… (see links in post) is that I do not yet, own a scale for weighing herbs. But, soon I will happily have some more useful tools… On my wishlist!
In the online manual, herbal formulae contain ratios.
1:5 70% alcohol.
Sometimes the word alcohol is omitted and just the percentage is listed in the ratio.
Such as: 1:5 70%
These numbers are just examples. The percentage equals the percentage of alcohol content in the menstruum. For example, I used 40% Brandy. For higher percentages of alcohol content a combination of distilled water and Everclear will equal, in this case, 70%. Other spirits such as Vodka can be 70% alcohol, etc.
More about herb:menstruum % ratios:
So for 1:5 ratio above, take 1 part weight of *herb (such as 1 ounce weight of herb) to 5 parts (or 5 ounces measured volume of the liquid menstruum) Make sure the alcohol is proper percentage so that the dosage given corresponds with healing intent of the herbal formula. Negative Side effects could occur if dosage too strong or weak.
(*herb matter in tinctures is called marc)
The Ratio is: the marc by weight (use scale) in ratio to ounces by liquid volume (use measuring cup) of specific percentage menstruum.
Herbs vary considerably by weight. Something light and fluffy would take up a lot more space per equal weight of a dense root, for example.
Follow the proven, effective ratio regardless of density of herb. Not to say there isn’t inventiveness in coming up with herbal blends and formula. Although some formula are well proven, is all.
Ounces of liquid for volume are, of course, much different than ounces by weight for plant matter.
At first, I was mistaken and thought you could measure an ounce of plant material in a measuring cup! But, of course that doesn’t make sense. What if I chopped my herb too fine or not at all. The volume would be different. Oy! So, weigh your marc, plant material, on a scale!
Chemistry class…you are coming back to me.
Mr. Emerson you were hilarious, as almost were my grades… but, with tinctures I am getting there!
The online source for the manual.
And remember, if you want to you can always try the Simpler’s method!
Now to the tincture making. My first one!
Remember those beautiful, majestic Mullein leaves? In just two days they shrank considerably. They were soft and not totally crispy. Many people suggest using fresh herbs, not dried but all the herbs I used were not, for instance, sitting on a shelf somewhere for a year or more. So I feel confident of their healing properties being intact!
Wildcrafting… I am so grateful!
Next I chopped and added the dried grindelia I had stored out of sunlight, in a cool place. Just a few weeks from my harvest of it.
Then I chopped and added the daisy aster. It can go to seed and become mere seed puffs in just one day of picking but only one blossom seed puffed in two days. It had a delightful resin-y healing smell as did the grindelia.
It is good to chop/cut the herbs as this exposes more healing properties to the Menstruum.
The hints of purple in the jar is the aster!
I am calling this my MEGA Tincture… for Mullein Grindelia and Aster! So good for respiratory ailments, tickly throat, nagging coughs and bronchial issues. I have had a nagging cough since April. And, perhaps, not so ironically as I research, think and write about all this, I have had a cold. Luckily, I saved some of my grindelia, that I dried to make a healing respiratory tea!
The Grindelia that I then dried!
So pack the herbs in the jar. Don’t smoosh them down too much as you want the alcohol to get in and around all the herbs… but do fill and pack the jar.
Add the alcohol slowly.
And press down herbs again to submerge them in the alcohol. Leave an inch of alcohol over the herbs if you can. Make sure no air has contact with the herbs. Weigh down herbs with a sterilized rock if need be. Fill jar to the very top with alcohol.
The herbs may swell when they absorb the liquid. Especially when using fresh material. Just check your tincture and add more alcohol if this happens. You always want the herbs completely covered by the alcohol.
Cover tightly and shake. Check for leaks when you hold it upside down and tighten down the hatches! Flip bottle over every other day so the herbs all get equally covered by the Menstruum. <—I like this word. 🙂
Shake it every day and get it constituted that way.
Most herbal tinctures take 4-6 weeks to set. Check it and see what you think and I will keep you posted too!
Here is my MEGA tincture.
When you make it, Congratulations!
Tightly cover it and give it a shake!
The next morning the colors are vivid!
And even 2 days later, it had a wonderful medicinal smell that smelled different than the brandy… = happy… medicinal effects are on its way.
Next step for your Herbal Apothecary!
Make a Label.
1. Put the date on it
2. The herbs and their Latin Binomials
3. What the Menstruum used is, in this case Brandy
4. What ailments the remedy is for.
(i.e. Respiratory, bronchial issues, nagging cough and wheezing cough in this case.)
5. Date tincture will be done!
Happy health and healing to You! And best wishes on your tincture making adventures and apothecary herbal medicines!
Then when the time is up and your tincture is ready… get a funnel and some cheesecloth. Line the funnel or colander and strain out all the herbal goodness! Squeeze and wring out all the tincture from the herb.
Some people even use a press, such as an apple press.
It is recommended to store in a dark bottle such as an amber brown colored one. My herb teacher recommends to cap off your bottle.
Do not leave the rubber sealed dropper in your tincture as the alcohol will corrode the rubber of the dropper and then this corrosion is in your tincture! Also, make sure your dropper is made of glass as a plastic dropper will corrode your tincture too!
And, don’t forget to cap off between use! 🙂
Also be sure to strain this tincture as mullein has irritating fibers! As possibly does the aster. Strain it in any case!
Mullein basal leaves in Autumn
Grindelia with locust seed pod draped by nature!
and Aster with seed puffs!
Beautiful fall in the New Mexico Mountains
Stay tuned for my next post on How to make a healing liniment!
Calendula Grindelia Liniment!
So good for poison ivy, contact dermatitis and skin irritations!