Cottonwood: An Earth Day Offering of Stars

Fremont Cottonwood
Populus fremontii
Rio Grande Cottonwood
Populus deltoides var. wislizeni/

Family: Salicaceae
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.

Salicylates, aspirin, fatty liver and REYE’S SYNDROME!

more about Reye’s syndrome


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:)


And Rosemary Gladstar’s Books 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.

cottonwood seedlings need river flooding to sprout

Dara Saville is also doing plant restoration work on the Rio Grande Bosque. You can support her efforts at


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)”

quoted info source



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


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….

we are stardust!


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…

Star 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.



Posted links

and books:

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. by Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM. 2003.

Wild Plants of the Pueblo 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.



Oregon Grape: Some Very Fine Mahonias


image courtesy Michael Moore and SWSBM

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:

Mahonia spp
Mahonia aquifolium
Mahonia repens


and the Algerita species of Oregon Grape:

Mahonia fremontii
Mahonia haematocarpa
Mahonia trifoliolata


Family: Berberidaceae


Mahonia in the Sandias


I also saw a lot of wild geranium growing.


And Verbena


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 ☺

gather berries for jam or 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.

snowmelt river flows and Mahonia flower essence

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.”

how to harvest stem bark rather than rhizomes


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.

Methow Valley Herbs


Guide to flower essence properties including Mahonia:

different flower essence properties


Henriette’s Herbal Comprehensive Study

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 Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989.

Some very fine Mahonias


Oregon Grape grapes…





A mountain spring, glorious!

The circle of life. The Little Elder Tree Mother. Elderberry syrup and Tea!

Elder tree
Sambucus nigra
Sambucus spp
Family: Caprifoliaceae


berries still green…. these will ripen to a blue/black color


woodland, near streams, fields, gardens

more info

Common Names: Lady Elder, Frau Holle, Pipe tree, Sambucus spp, American Elder, Common Elder, Black Elder, Bour Tree, and European Black Elder.

Parts Used: Flowers and Ripe Berries only.


Potassium nitrate, sambucin, sambunigrin, sugars. The complex sugars of the berries are the immune-active fraction.

Elderberries are high in Vitamins A and C. Also Quercetin, an anti-oxidant. Elderberries are also anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.

They are diaphoretic, make you sweat and help a fever to spike and then lower it. Elderberry syrup, for instance, can prevent a flu and if you have one it will shorten the duration. See dosage amounts toward end of the post.

See: Mountain Rose Herbs

Harvest and storage: Harvest berries when black. Pick flowers early on a dewless morning. Spread flower heads on clean kitchen paper and leave in a warm, dark dry place for several days.

Leaves are used as a pesticide only.
Herbal insecticide:

The Elder tree is resistant to honey fungus. To repel aphids, mites, leafhoppers, whitefly and cabbage loopers from the garden: make a strong infusion of the leaves.

Leaves and Branches are Poisonous!!!

See my post about harvesting milkweed. I tell a story about my friends goats. You cannot feed goats cut off leaves or branches from the elderberry tree!
my friend’s story

But the ripe berries and the flowers are so healing and make delicious preparations!


I sweetened a homemade Elderberry Syrup with Raw, Wild Desert Honey! And I will show you how. Like the Elder Mar or mother… I will take us on a circular journey through fairytales, herbal wisdom and folklore.

To start with, please meet Little Elder-Tree Mother!


Little Elder Tree Mother


Hans Christian Andersen wrote a charming tale, the Little Elder-Tree Mother, of the circle of life and the gracious spirit of the Elderberry tree. In the story a little boy gets sick with an illness and his mother makes him an elder flower tea. (Elderberry syrup would be a sweet cure too.) Sick, in bed and recuperating because of the healing elder flower tea…a young boy seeks entertainment through stories.

Elder flower heals

And a delightful tale is woven for him, by an elderly man who is his neighbor. The young boy sips the healing nourishment his mother made for him and he slips into the world of dreams and stories of the Elder tree and its spirits.


Everyone in the little boy’s village appreciates and loves the Elder tree. And with time, so does he. It begins as he peers into the teapot and is “read the promise of elder tea flowers.”

more of the story here

I really love this story as the old woman is looked at as kindly and a keeper of the magic healing and cycle of life. All as it unfolds under the keeping sanctuary of the Elder tree.

The elder tree was revered in ancient times as sacred but, the association of the elder tree went through a tainted time. Being associated with the cross in Christianity and tragic forebodings.

elder tree and folklore

However, the undercurrent remains. That regardless of history and the attempted overthrow of one culture to another such as pagan, to monotheism… the undercurrent of pagan knowledge and subsequent knowledge and remedy remains.

I think herbal folkways here.

The healing power of elder flowers and elderberries has remained with the traditional use and remedies such as: cordials, teas, vinegars (like a balsamic,) syrups, lozenges, wines and candies, and food.
Even oxymels. Probably as many uses as can be thought up.


image source

Folklore and folkways can be so healing.

The Elder tree has always been revered, with healing remedies and recipes, treasured and passed on.

Tradition of use, that remains today… indicates so.

Rosemary Gladstar, a well known herbalist talks about the Elder tree. That it is known as Elder Mar. The Elder Mother. It often has been planted on the edge of gardens and I have also read that if an Elder tree grew on the land, it was considered auspicious to build a home and make a life there. Due to the protective nature of the Elder tree and the healing that it gives.



Rosemary talks about plants as our elders and teachers since they were on the planet before us and have served us in our ability to be here too.

She also inspires me to make elderberry blossom fritters. Yum!

Watch Rosemary and the Elder Tree


How to Make Delicious Homemade Elderberry Syrup!

I do not have Elderberry trees growing near me but many of you do! Harvest your berries in the late summer and early Fall when they are dark. In this case black berries. I bought my elderberries at a local Herb shop in Santa Fé, New Mexico. Otherwise I would have gladly foraged them!

You can buy dried Elderberries from Herbs etc. or Mountain Rose Herbs above. Do you have an Herb store nearby? Or an Elderberry tree?… 🙂


I jotted down some notes but had to revise my recipe. I used 1 Cup dried Elderberries and the original 4 cups only simmered to less than 1 cup of syrup. Even adding honey would not equal as much as I hoped. So I added 6 Cups water to 1 Cup elderberries. I got a full sized pint glass plus a bit more for my little syrup pitcher for tomorrow’s pancakes. Yum!


I added raw honey to this little pitcher of syrup but my phone died waiting for the elderberry decoction to cool! So it is a full pitcher now! Can’t wait to try it!

I made a syrup using dried berries but fresh or frozen work great too! You can also dry or freeze your excess berries for future use!

What You Need:


Elderberries, dried or fresh. 1 Cup dried or 2 Cups fresh.


Ground cinnamon… 1 teaspoon or 2 cinnamon sticks



Raw Honey

6 Cups water


A mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth and funnel


A kitchen thermometer can help

Use a non-reactive pot. Not aluminum!

And syrup jars 🙂


This is an easy recipe and one you can keep on hand!
One batch lasts a month in the refrigerator or freeze the syrup in trays. Keep dried or frozen berries on hand to make more. Make a yummy soda using elderberry syrup and bubbly water. Add frozen elderberry syrup cubes for a very yummy soda. Use the syrup on icecream, in yogurt or as a healthy flu preventive or remedy!

It’s easy to make!

Take 1 Cup dried or 2 Cups fresh elderberries
Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 Cups water
Bring to roiling boil (important, kills yeast on berries)
Simmer for 1/2 hour.

Strain into jars. Make sure mixture is not too hot. Glass jars are best and too hot of liquid can crack or break the container!

Use thermometer and wait for the juice to be 100°

Any hotter is not good because you want to add the raw honey when it won’t get killed off because of the heat. Raw honey is one of the reasons this syrup is so healthfilled!

Raw Honey is Healthy!

Honey Bees!

Also bees try to maintain their hive to around 100° also. Isn’t that amazing?!

small steps can help the life of bees!

Mix in the honey and refrigerate. Keeps for 1 month.
Also brandy increases shelf life of this syrup and other ingredients like apple cider vinegar, cloves and ginger can be added.


Desert Garden Spaces


Speaking of Bees… my friend grows a lovely flower garden every year. I think his neighbor wonders why there aren’t more vegetables. But flowers are so beautiful. And flowers heal, smell wonderful and are just gorgeous. So the next time someone wrinkles up their nose to you when you say you want to grow flowers… remember…

An organic flower garden…

Really makes the life of bees!

Here are my friend’s beautiful flowers from his garden and some very happy bees… on their way to make that health yielding honey.

Lucky Us! Explore this thriving desert garden for a while. And a bee’s perspective!





And many thanks to my friend the gardener, for this lovely garden and bee tour!



Elderberry syrup… you keep us healthy and here is how:

I found Dosage Recommendations in a helpful site posted below.

Check it out!

(excerpted below)

“Dosage Take 1 Tbs. 2 – 3 x/day as needed to boost the immune system. I usually take elderberry syrup if I feel I might get sick and continue to take it until all symptoms have cleared. If you do get sick or are already sick, continue to take elderberry syrup through the course of illness. Elderberry syrup is an excellent remedy for children. Children under 10 should take half the adult dose. Children under 5, one quarter the adult dose. Children ages 1 – 2, 30 drops. Children under 1 should not have honey and therefore should not have elderberry syrup made with honey.”

Nurses make Elderberry syrup too!


Cinnamon and Elderberries getting ready to boil then simmer


Mashing the juice out of the cooked berries


A fun and useful Herb book that gave me some good info about Elder.

And finally,

Still Life with Strainer meets up with


Elderberry healing and yummy syrup for pancakes tomorrow. And thank goodness I added the honey when it cooled. Yum!



Thankyou for taking this journey with me and Enjoy Your Elderberry Syrup. A tradition for years to come and to pass on!



This pancake mix rocks! And elderberry syrup!

pretty elderberries in silhouette…


Liniment and Leisure. A Local River Tour!


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.

image source

Witch Hazel!


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!


tips and ingredients & Dr. Kloss’ famous liniment!


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.

Grindelia and How to Make Tinctures!

A Field Walk and Finding Grindelia!


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!

Make Your Own Herbal First Aid Kits! by Susan W. Kramer, Ph.D., Esq.

The first aid kit includes helpful liniments!


Liniments are useful when quick evaporation and penetration of healing effects is needed.

liniments and more!

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.


Gattefossé: Lavender Oil heals burns!

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.


image source this site


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.

Gattefossé, Father of Aromatherapy.

A key influential book also available in English.

Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles Hormones Végétales.


René-Maurice Gattefossé

image source

how to use Lavender essential oil

Lavender oil not recommended for 3rd degree burns!


lavender and herb liniment


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.

more about Lavender!

And some lovely chamomile flowers in the jar.

Health and Skin benefits of Chamomile


I started off with 1/3 of a jar of cut lemon balm leaf. (More about my measurements later!…oops)

Lemon balm, bug repellant and anti-oxidant rich!


Some chopped Grindelia I had wildcrafted


And some Thyme

Health and Skin Benefits of 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!

Lunar Based Preparations


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!


herbal terminology


The tea!



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!


Tincture Making Exploratorium! Herbal Tincture Apothecary.

Purple Aster
Dieteria bigelovii
Verbascum thapsus
Grindelia aphanactis



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! 🙂

Simpler’s Method

I am going to try the Simpler’s method with 80 proof Brandy! (40% alcohol)

excellent clear guide!

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.

safety guide on which herbs to use!

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!

When to use tinctures!

And, this is something I want to put more into my herbalism methods. Harvest and make preparations according to the phases of the moon!

lunar based

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!


New Moon

Image source:

wise woman herbalism

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.

everclear and % alcohol in tinctures


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!

mullein & garlic ear oil remedy


* 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.

Mullein flowers


mullein uses

And here is the outer human ear and its Reflexology points just for fun.


image source


Also delightful aster is going into this remedy!


all about aster!

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.
For example:

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.

Herbal Tinctures in Clinical Practice. by Michael Moore.1996.

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.

Go tincture!


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!

make a glycerin tincture

make a vinegar tincture


Beautiful fall in the New Mexico Mountains

my post about Grindelia

my post about Mullein

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!

Field Notes and a Sound Walk. Finding Grindelia


Walking to a favorite arroyo… maybe a 1/4 mile away. I have the most amazing nature hike. Nature is always all around. Even beneath layers of concrete. The earth is there. The air. The cosmos outside our bubble of atmosphere is I would guess a cosmic nature.

I feel so lucky to know, at least, some of the plants by name. To tap in and align with ancient knowledge. To hopefully join a stewardship of respect for these plants and trees. Water and sky. And to remember, I am part of nature. Not de-natured. But one and the same.

I heard on a radio show that humans are, most attuned, to register the sound of bird calls. Songbirds. Why? Because songbirds are always around sources of water. We have an affiliation with songbirds that has always led us to water.

We are. Nature.


Acoustic Ecology




Apache Plume


Yerba del Buey
Grindelia aphanactis
Family: Asteraceae


Indian Paintbrush








Milkweed…beautiful but, this species likely toxic to humans.


I don’t know what this is


Clammy ground cherry

And more Grindelia
a.k.a. Curlycup gumweed


And it has coarse toothed leaves especially the larger ones further down the stem


With my chipped polish!

Flower head with sticky curled bracts



Basal set of leaves


Graffitti and Grindelia


Harvest during milky stage of flowers going to seed soon. I also harvested yellow flower heads and leaves when plant was in this stage above.


Wildcrafting pretty photo blur


I found Grindelia on the bank of this arroyo.
This beautiful plant… captured my attention. Its beautiful flowers and seeds… a mystery plant to me.
Also a reminder, to respect all plants and to wildcraft ethically and with good discernment and respect for the plant and the land.


Grindelia in its sunny glory. Also known as gum plant as it has a sticky resin to it.

Medicinally it is a good expectorant and good for bronchial coughs and dry hacking coughs. Oh how I wish I had some Grindelia tea this past April!

It also makes a soothing skin salve. A tincture made with alcohol is recommended to help heal and dry up poison oak/ivy rash.

Also according to: Dunmire and Tierney’s book: Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province., 1995… p.p. 219-220

Uses include: waxes and resins in the U.S. and Europe. Also makes a good yellow dye.

Also the book sites various Puebloan uses… such as: a tea drunk for kidney problems, dried boiled herb parts with liquid added to clean abrasions, ground herbs applied to skin sores and a sticky blossom on an aching tooth.

I plan on making a tea after drying the flowers and leaves. And also making a healing salve with the dried leaves and flowers.

I will dry these tomorrow


I did dry them… and now as I edit this post… I feel achey and a sore throat. I am having tea and honey now but I am going to make a Grindelia tea when I get home tomorrow morning. Feeling grateful that I have some Grindelia healing herb for a tea!

Meanwhile, I am saving most of my Grindelia along with Mullein and Aster for a healing respiratory tincture! I will keep you posted shortly!

history and use of Grindelia for lungs and skin aid!

Aster is a healing plant for respiratory problems too…

Aster Heals!


So much to learn and discover.
On my own, nearby nature hike to an arroyo.
Some familiar plants.
Some new.
Songbirds happy with the weather and the recent rain.
A Sound walk.
Where I can listen.
And be in harmony with hearing.
Hearing what is offered. What needs to be still. What can be harvested or let alone. From hearing to listening and I am just beginning.
But at least beginning…
and joyfully.

Con alegría
Yerba del Buey





Michael Moore Herbalist. Online Manual for Tinctures

Includes information on Grindelia


Beautiful poetry…almost made me cry.

poetry by John Luther Adams…acoustic ecology. “The Place Where You Go To Listen.”


A spring in a desert arroyo.


Posted Sites and these texts for Sources:

Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province. Exploring Ancient And Enduring Uses.
By, William Dunmire and Gail Tierney, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fé. 1995.

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. by, Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press, 2003.

Lemon scent in the Wild West! Limoncillo Tea!


Pectis Angustifolia
Plant Family: Asteraceae

Common name: Limoncillo, lemonscent, lemonscented cinchweed

(Always check latin binomial name above as different plants can have the same nickname or common name!)


Identification characteristics:
See book source end of post. Author: Delena Tull

Bright yellow flower heads are small
1/2 ” (1 cm) across
Leaves are 1/2-1.5″ (1-4cm) long and less than 1/8 ” long (1-2 mm) broad
Other aromatic species of Pectis may be used in a similar way.

*Harvest from larger colonies of the plant only.


Note: Please see additional sources in identifying this or other plants. Bring an expert with you and/or someone who knows!


I really wish I had taken more pictures of this lovely plant.
(I’ve added more from the following summer!)


I learned about this plant when I went on a Nature Hike and in the link of the post I tell all about the Clammy Ground cherry!

But, I didn’t want to slow down anyone else around me or miss the upcoming, nearby plants of interest and discussion. So this year, I got one picture of the Limoncillo plant in full bloom. So glad I got a vibrant picture of all the flowers in bloom!


Turns out it makes a lovely lemony tea! Terri and I really enjoyed it.

No-one on the hike really knew the name of the plant. Just that it made a really refreshing lemony flavored tea.

I have been taking a Clinical Herbalism class. Learning about the medical aspects of Herbs.
I am all ears during the class and just love it!
I am taking the class in Albuquerque, New Mexico and quite enjoy being in a different place and city for a few hours every week!

I have been adding to my personal library of plant books.
After buying my textbook for class… I purchased this book!


Written by Delena, Tull.

I wasn’t sure if I was getting too extravagant but really felt a book, as the title describes, would be very useful.

Imagine my delight when I found color plate 15!
Yes, got to admit after a couple of weeks research, I was very happy to find out more about the mystery plant.

It became a mystery to me, because just a little nibble of the flower, captivated me by its very pleasant, lemony-fruity flavor. I really hoped I could find this plant just 5 or so miles away where I lived.

And turns out I did!

I thought it was a member of the asteraceae family and looked a bit like the ray petals of a dandelion…although a different shaped flower.

Here is plate 15 from this book I have been talking about!


This plant is commonly called Limoncillo.


This is a nickname that other plants that grow in the region have due to its lemony scent.
Other plants that have this nickname and grow nearby are called False Pennyroyal.

Pectis angustifolia is the Limoncello plant I made the tea out of.

When I found it just a few weeks or so later it was starting to dry out.
Coming to the end of its season as an annual plant.

Funny, as is often the case with me…
I had walked by this low lying plant and thought…
Well, maybe.

When dry, the surrounding leaves appear bract like. Its appearance was somewhat reminiscent of the plant in full bloom but different enough to make me not sure. So, the first walk I took… I noticed it in the back of my mind but wasn’t sure.

You can see the difference.


Or maybe better here…


Another aspect to foraging or wildcrafting.
Plants change according to the season! And in late summer, early fall this plant changes a lot!


The leaves sticking out of the now drying plant, gave it a bract like appearance that made me question the plants the first time.

Some of the flowers smelled lemony but were pretty far gone in the patch I had discovered that first day…

The second time I went not just meandering but looking for Limoncillo!… the memory of those few week older and drying, annual plants were still in the back of my mind.

Terri came with me. Our friends from where the nature hike was… was a bit lower in elevation, so we decided to take a path leading down to lower elevations.

And that is where we found our Limoncillo plants!

Here is the hill we wandered down.


And here are the flowers and some leaves and short stems we foraged for our tea!


We added a loose amount in a 4 oz jar shown here. A small jar…
To a small pot of water.


Brought it to a boil for 5 minutes and then turned off the heat, covered the pot, and steeped the tea for 10 minutes.

We loved it. It tasted a bit earthy like chamomile but with the overall fruity-lemony taste! By far one of my favorite foraged plants. It makes a lovely tea!

And I am grateful!



A tea for one, or two or many!


Early fall flowers above


And late summer blooms



Wild lemony tea! Limoncillo!


Delena Tull in her book: Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest… highlights use of the Pectis angustifolia/papposa plant.

P. 157
“The leaves and flowers of the low-growing annual herbs provide a pleasant lemony tea. Limoncillo blooms in summer and fall. The young, ediible leaves may be added as flavoring to stews. The volatile oil can be used to scent perfume, and the herb furnishes a yellow dye for wool. The pollen can cause hay fever in sensitive individuals. Found growing on calcium-rich soils throughout the Southwest, these fragrant wildflowers provide one of the best wild teas in the West…”

Wild Limoncillo…



Pectis angustifolia

Pectis papposa

Asteraceae: Many healing plants!

Pectis angustifolia also has specific medicinal use. Please see source link below as well as bibliogaphy in link.

plant info source and medical use

Text Source:

Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest. Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. by Delena Tull, University of Texas Press. Revised ed., 2013.


In the shade of a prickly pear cactus!

And near a favorite arroyo at a lower elevation… still in bloom at the end of September.





limoncillo in the arroyo

The Pear of the Prickly Pear Cactus. Healing Fruit!

Opuntia… Species
Prickly pear cactus and fruit


betalain lessons arthritis symptoms!


helps with diabetes, lowers cholesterol & is anti-inflammmatory!


Be careful when harvesting! Even the fruit has little spines which hurt and can irritate! They are difficult to remove.
And as you can see, on this variety of opuntia cactus, the spines on the nopales pads are very sharp and long.

I did pull this out of my thumb!



Here is Terri, taking her turn foraging with tongs!




Where there is smoke there is fire! Something I am realizing is a powerful metaphor for learning, personally, especially now.

But hey, where there is smoke there is fire! And fires were breaking out in the mountain ranges around us.

We wanted to prepare the fruit for use by burning off the glochids… over hot coals. We were thinking of putting the fruit in a metal mesh strainer with a metal base and handle. Stirring the prickly pears, semi immersed/hovering over hot coals… and turning them over to burn off the glochids… the little cactus spines on the fruit.


We were going to use our outdoor firepit. We call our hearth. But with smoke in neighboring mountains all around we did not want to make our neighbors and others who could see our smoke plume… have cause for fear. So, we lit the coleman stove and used that flame to burn off the glochids on our fruit instead.


These fruit are related to more popular prickly pears, often called tunas. Those appear to have more fruit and less seeds. These have a skin layer of fruit around a bunch of seeds. It is filled with moist seeds that honestly reminded me of frog eggs!. The pulp and skin (minus glochids) are all edible when blended in a vitamix for a juice. Then strain the juice to avoid bits of the rock hard seeds! Or remove seeds to begin with.

Also, remove the seeds from the fruit if you are making a jam or pie with the fruit because they are very hard and NOT chewable at all!


Here are some of the moist seeds with part of the fruit pulp.

I made an empanada using the de-seeded fruit, coconut sugar, and water (heated and syrupy) for the fruit filling and amaranth flour for the dough. Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite recipe but the fruit was quite good. We ended up straining off the prickly pear fruit sugar syrup and that was delicious!

This sugar syrup is rich in betalains and nutrition. In fact, coconut sugar does not spike blood sugar levels and it is yummy!

Betalains, that are in the fruit are a great source of anti-inflammatory agents. Betalains also exist in smaller amount in beets and swiss chard. But, prickly pear fruit, its rich red pulp, has the highest amount of Betalains. Here is to your health! People suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions are said to benefit from these betalains.

Prickly Pear Coconut Sugar Syrup


Enjoy this Prickly Pear and Rose Cachaça cocktail!


Also research suggests a lowering of cholesterol and an aid for symptoms of diabetes. Other benefits also include some antiviral activity and other benefits!

To think this fruit is surrounding me in the New Mexico desert. Of course, I won’t forage them all. I just foraged a few. Respect for how hard the desert plants work to survive and the other creatures who enjoy the fruit too.

I am grateful to learn more about the Prickly pear cactus and its fruit.

Prickly pear is a natural refrigerant… it cools your body down. Especially the fruit. But don’t over consume! It can in some cases lead to cactus fever. A condition that results from over consumption.

A 4 oz glass of Prickly pear juice in this case would be a good serving. And cooling and refreshing too.


And, thankyou for joining me on this foraging journey!

cactus facts


My homepage on harvesting Nopales…cactus pads!


And the following spring….one of the first blooms



And, still enjoying the prickly pear. This one in the escarpment area of New Mexico. Always happy to see my plant friends.

Not harvesting, just enjoying the view. 

Spicey not Dicey. Spice it Up with Pepper Grass! And Snakeweed Salve Soothes!


Lepidium virginicum
Family: Brassicaceae

Brassicaceae Family

identifying the mustard family (Brassicaceae) by its flowers

According to the top link above,
Nutrition of the Brassicaceae
plant family is rich in these vitamins and minerals:

“This family is crucial in any diet for vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, K, and the minerals calcium, iron, and magnesium”

Quite a boon of nutrition!

*avoid areas with heavy metals or nitrates since pepper grass absorbs these from the soil if the soil has high amounts. As many plants will do.

Therefore, avoid areas with ferilizer run off.
Good to get soil tested if any doubt.

Fields, vacant lots, grazing land, disturbed areas, roadsides, waste sites.

And Pepper grass grows all around me in the high desert of New Mexico. It was formerly a ranch where I now live.

Common name/Nickname: Pepper grass, Poor Man’s pepper, Pepper weed, Milk Bottle


In amidst the old branches of a dying tree

Turns out I had seen pepper grass quite a bit! I had walked past, stopped to admire it, commented on it, and grown friendly to its presence everywhere.


Little did I know this bouncy, bountiful plant was a yummy, mustard-y, radish like green.
I bet it would taste great in a salt preserved sauerkraut!

Why not toss a few juniper berries in too?


Juniper berries are traditional in Sauerkraut.
Come to find out the bluish/white cast on them is a type of yeast.
Many people these days are making breads and other fermented foods using natural yeast like on the juniper berries! I love these adventurous and accomplishing souls!

make your own sourdough starter the old fashioned way!


Here is my story of Pepper grass. I walked a quarter mile or less around the horseshoe shaped land above a basin of land to where my friend stays. From my place to hers.
I hadn’t seen her in a while. I was missing her. And, she offers such a lovely flurry of blessings my way. She is often to annoint me with a cascade of treats such as: essential oils, gifts and yummy food. Her friendship and our laughter.

We often read tarot for each other and she is a passionate, creative and generous friend.


I told her I was foraging wild foods… albeit thoroughly, blush… and a bit slowly.

She glanced quickly around. She said well there is plenty around us in the desert of New Mexico… and she picked a bunch of bottlebrush like white flowers, leaves and stems, just like that! To my happy surprise! 🙂

She said, taste this!… And, I am so glad I did! Yum! What a surprise! I like mustard-y tastes and it had a taste like horse radish too. Now it is one of my favorite nibbles and it is super good for you too! I just eat the whole thing… excluding the roots. Flowers and all and I have just one thing to say…
Thankyou friend!

Here are some more pictures of Pepper Grass to help you identify it!



Pepper Grass Basal set of leaves


Pepper Grass Basal leaves with stem

These Pepper grass plants are going to seed. It is a couple weeks away from autumn.


Excluding the yellow flowered plant, the Snakeweed plant, this is pepper grass!



More Information and pictures about Escoba de la Vibora a.k.a. Snakeweed, snakebroom…

Escoba de la Vibora
Gutierrezia sarothrae
Other Names: broom snakeweed, Matchweed, Snakebroom, broomweed, Collale, Yerba de la Vibora
Family: Asteraceae

Salves , herbal oils and tea infusions for baths made from this plant are soothing for arthritis. And it often grows near the Pepper Grass plant so I like to talk about it here!



New growth of Snakeweed above.

Flowers below:





This yellow flowered plant, the snakeweed plant, grows all around me too!

I want to make a healing salve from this plant!
It is used medicinally to aid in symptoms of arthritis. It is a medicinal plant and can be used for a healing tea and often for a bath that relieves achiness and discomfort for arthritis and sore muscles.

Michael Moore, herbalist… in his book: Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West., p.p. 110-112, describes the uses and methods of utilizing Escoba de la Vibora.

For a basic formula he suggests to boil one small bundle in a quart of water.
Then sip 2-4 ounces of the infusion of herb.
Then add the rest to bathwater while enjoying part of a book. For me, this would be this book of info!


I just had to harvest some more Yerba de la Vibora! It is the beginning of October and I am sure we want to take, at least, one healing bath for our … mid century aches and pains! Here a bundle is drying!

According to Moore: Further specific Medicinal Use:
“Steep a cup of finely chopped herb for thirty minutes
In a quart of water, strain, and add the tea to a hot bath to alleviate the pain of arthritis and rheumatism.” It is regarded a safe herb for baths.


And, also according to this source, a tea of it can be good for stomach ache and excessive menstruation.

And, also: “It is a respected, almost revered remedio among Hispanic New Mexico and Arizona peoples, where a tea of the herb is usually drunk while bathing in it. … it is common, safe, and may sometimes work so well for joint inflammations as
to supplant salicylate (aspirin) treatments…(snakeweed is) preferred for headache, sore legs or an aching body.”

Also, Moore describes that several of the terpenes of this plant increase skin permeability, increasing the healing properties of Escoba de la Virbona.


Yay, this was a first for me! I wildcrafted snakeweed and verbena. I dried it in the sun for a few days and then made it into a salve! I used organic sunflower oil to infuse the herbs. And, added a few drops of vetiver essential oil. Beeswax was melted and added. It is a relaxing soothing herb salve, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial and nervine benefitting.

*Harvest from non-polluted areas or buy from organic sources if possible.*





Verbena grows all around me in New Mexico!

What a fun herbal project. Tips… it takes 1.5 oz of beeswax per every 16 oz of oil for the salve.

Check out these helpful sites!

tips on making infused oils and salves!

A new friend I met on a nature hike also related that snakeweed will also show up in areas that have been over grazed.


snakeweed oil and salve!

stove top method for infused oils and other tips!


And back around the bend to Peppergrass!


peppergrass article and recipe!

Memory course: Pepper grass

Health Benefits Pepper Grass!

“Anthelmintic; Antiasthmatic; Antiscorbutic; Antitussive; Cardiotonic; Diuretic.

The leaves of wild pepper-grass are nutritious and generally detoxifying, they have been used to treat vitamin C deficiency and diabetes, and to expel intestinal worms[254]. The herb is also diuretic and of benefit in easing rheumatic pain[254]. North American Indians used the bruised fresh plant, or a tea made from the leaves to treat poison ivy rash and scurvy[222]. A poultice of the leaves was applied to the chest in the treatment of croup[222]. The seed is antiasthmatic, antitussive, cardiotonic and diuretic[176]. It is used in the treatment of coughs and asthma with excessive phlegm, oedema, oliguria and liquid accumulation in the thoraco-abdominal cavity[176].A poultice of the bruised roots has been used to draw out blisters[257]. The root is used to treat excess catarrh within the respiratory tract[254].”

medical source

So what have I cooked with it?…

I have just eaten it as an uplifting, radish-y, nourishing and healing nibble! Lucky me! It grows all around me. If I’m smart I will dry some for colder months ahead!

Here is me with a lucky nibble!


Ha ha ha … but true… I did munch away, happily!
And, thankyou friend for showing me Pepper grass!
What a way to spice up my life and thankyou! 🙂


It does make a pretty bouquet too!

As does this drying herbal bundle of Snakebroom!


I wonder if the origin of Bride’s bouquets was an herbal bundle of healing blooms?…

This thought encouraged me to look more into the origin of Bouquets!

Text Sources:
Edible Wild Plants. A North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods. By, Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, Sterling, 1982.

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. by, Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, 2003.

Clammy Ground Cherry and the Wilding Way


identify clammy or smooth ground cherries!

Physalis heterophylla
Common name/Nicknames: Clammy Ground Cherry, Ground Cherry, Husk cherry, Husk tomato, Chinese lantern, Inca berry
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)


Ground Cherry fruit in its beautiful papery lantern husks in early fall

and this next one was an abandoned feast, lying on the arroyo floor…


Harvest fruit in Autumn
calyx… lantern like casing not edible. Only ripe fruit is!

Nutrition may be similar to Tomatillo
And perhaps more since it has not been cultivated… consider: phytonutrients, flavanoids, etc. Which may be additional when a wild plant.

See more nutritional info at end of post.

plant info


(I think it is indeed ripening… more yellow today!)


I’ve read that when the fruit of this cherry is yellow it is the Clammy ground cherry!

As is the spiral through time and space that I am learning about foraged plants… so it is with Clammy ground cherry. I have been admiring them, and learning about them, along with other nightshades that look like they grow tiny yellow tomatoes without husks or calyxes… are poisonous! beautiful, but poisonous.

see toxic look alikes

belladonna poisonous nightshade

But I love plants and it is so interesting to learn about families of plants. The edible, the poisonous, the look alikes and the plants which are in the same family but appear so different!

So this is spiral like too… or labyrinthine. Like when the datura pops and bursts open like my new foraging, plant hike friend, described.

She told our plant hike gathering, how she has admired the beauty of the nightshade datura … for many years.

Then one evening she had the time alone, she admitted was a rare treat, to admire the datura…

When to her delight and surprise, she saw and heard, as the interlocking tendrils at the end of the flowers (which hook it spirally shut)… at just the right moment, popped open and unfurled, to reveal their splendor.

I am so grateful that she shared her story on our plant hike. Stories help us unfold and glean the true wisdom and joy of plants and unfurl a learning experience we can all remember!


Here is the first Datura plant on my friends’ property and Sustainable Learning Center called Ampersand. Now, some 10 years later, there are many datura plants that have chosen to thrive there.

I love the beautiful datura and have often called it the lily of the desert. It is a nightshade like the Clammy ground cherry… but NOT edible.

Humans have to share afterall. Not all plants developed as edible plants for humans… strong alkaloids and other compounds have developed over time as a plant’s evolutionary defense.

And plants can be teachers and allies, not just through edibility. A reminder to me, to learn about plant neighbors. What plants are growing near a wild edible plant. This tells more of the story of the plant. The story of the soil and place.

…the circle unravels and travels the spiral where we begin…


Flowering Alfalfa in the arroyo. Yummy alfalfa by the way! near nature hike…

So I got to go on a nature hike, through the happy connection of one friend telling me about the nature hike… that she was hoping to go to, at Ampersand.

Ampersand was created by Amanda and her partner Andy as a Sustainable Learning Center in Cerrillos, New Mexico.

I had been wanting to go to this particular event and because of my schedule had missed out on other nature hikes… but I had that Sunday off!
Amanda gave a hearty welcome for me to join. I couldn’t wait! 🙂

On this nature excursion, Amanda and others discussed and pointed out edible and medicinal plants. I was overjoyed.

This also included stories like the one about datura and traditional Native uses of plants, i.e. the Cleome plant which was used as food (wild spinach) and a dye for pottery painting.

patterns and the fourth sister: Cleome!

Cleome, Cleome Serrulata, is also known as
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant!

Capparaceae family of plants.

The Navajo refer to this plant as Waa’



patterns of the caper family.

I just love this plant, Cleome!


Ampersand is located near a beautiful arroyo, meadow and desert area… (not too far from me.) It is a diverse riparian area and so many beautiful plants grow there. Here is Amanda from Ampersand our beautiful and knowledgeable nature hike guide sitting and enjoying a patch of false pennyroyal!

Ampersand! Sustainable Learning Center


This area is resplendent with all sorts of edible and healing plants. Like this soothing, nervine benefitting herb Verbena!


Verbena, what a Healer!

tips on making salves

And, I made my own healing salve with snakeweed and verbena! Soothing and anti-inflammatory!




Clammy Ground Cherry…where do you live?


“It is found mainly in habitats such as dry or mesic prairies, gravel hills and rises, sandy or rocky soils, and waste places such as roadsides.”


Related to the tomatillo. In fact the Tomatillo is a cultivated Ground Cherry!

Here are more pictures of the Clammy Ground Cherry!


Plant showing the leaves and ground cherries below hanging in their papery lantern husks!

clammy ground cherry!

native american medicinal use


My new nature hike friend showing me what lies within the “paper lantern!”


Showing each other Ground cherries on the nature hike!

Only eat Clammy ground cherries when they ripen to yellow. They contain alkaloids which could be potentially fatal and/or harmful if not ripe!… green is unripe in this case!




Okay so what can I make with Clammy ground cherries?… jam, pie, a fruity nibble… empanadas…

I just love this person! They made a Ground Cherry pie from a similar species… Physalis peruviana… but
Physalis heterophylla would work great too!
Wow that’s a lot of science… but so is good baking so here goes!

Ground Cherry Pie, Cupcakes and Salsa Recipes!


Here it is a greenish yellow on the windowsill of a sweet housesit!

I read somewhere that they will fully ripen to a (full yellow) in this case… just like their cousins the tomatoes… will ripen when left to do the same!

I will keep you posted as my journey with Clammy ground cherry continues!

I can’t wait to taste my Clammy ground cherry
once it is fully ripe!

tomatillos are cultivated ground cherries!

Medical Use clammy ground cherries…

From the above Medical Use… link:

” (Peterson Field Guides, Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, 1990) report that the American Indians made a tea of the leaves and roots of Clammy Ground Cherry, P. heterophylla, for headaches, wash for burns, scalds; in herbal compounds to induce vomiting for bad stomach aches; root and leaves poulticed for wounds. Seeds of this and other species were considered useful for difficult urination, fevers, inflammation, and various urinary disorders.”

Also may have anti-tumor properties which are being researched.

more medical source

Ripe berries can also be dried and ground into a flour to add to breads and doughs.



Clammy Ground Cherry is a powerhouse of Nutrition!

It is filled with Vitamin A
B complex vitamins
Phosphorus, potassium, and iron
Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatory agents

Including withanolides which cut off cancer cells/tumors ability to make blood vessels to itself

withanolides and physalis

Also, reportedly protects your liver from some forms of toxicity as well as aiding in illness from diabetes and hypertension.

The author, of, Arthur Haines, closes this excellent article by talking about the importance of re-wilding one’s life. That the impact of doing so changes one’s life for the better. With nutrition and sense of connectedness to nature, the world.

And that this task of re-wilding is essential to our wellbeing. That we regain ecological knowledge and wisdom and move from being told what to eat by supermarket shelves to a more closely related connection to wild foods and beings that share an ecological path with us.

Re-wilding is a path I am glad I am on!


Clammy Ground Cherry you have guided my way!


Keepin on Nature Hiking