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Healing Herbs eBook

by Rosalee de la ForĂŞt


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by Rosalee de la Forêt A Companion Ebook to the Healing Herbs Chart, brought to you by LearningHerbs.com & Mountain Rose Herbs Artwork by Beatriz Mendosa, from Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, by LearningHerbs.com Healing Herbs eBook © 2009 Rosalee de la Forêt Healing Herbs Chart © 2009 LearningHerbs.com, LLC Distributed by

The Healing Herbs eBook and chart are for educational purposes only. They are not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other medical professional. If you have or suspect that you have a serious health problem, promptly contact your health care provider. Always consult with a health care practitioner before using any herbal remedy, especially if pregnant, nursing, or have a medical condition. LearningHerbs.com, LLC and Mountain Rose Herbs, their owners or employees, shall not be liable for injury, damage, or loss allegedly arising from the information contained in the Healing Herbs eBook or the Healing Herbs Chart.


Table of Contents Introduction & Acknowledgements Definitions of Properties Astragalus Burdock Calendula Catnip Chamomile Comfrey Dandelion Echinacea Elder Garlic Ginger Hawthorn Lemon Balm Nettle Oats Peppermint Plantain Red Clover Slippery Elm St. John’s Wort Valerian Wild Rose Yarrow FAQ, About the author Suggested Reading

page 3 pages 5, 6, 7 page 8 page 10 page 12 page 14 page 16 page 18 page 20 page 22 page 24 page 26 page 28 page 30 page 32 page 34 page 36 page 38 page 40 page 42 page 44 page 46 page 48 page 50 page 52 page 54 page 56

Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Introduction and Acknowledgements While driving back from the American Herbalist Guild Symposium in October 2008, John Gallagher of LearningHerbs.com told me of his idea to create a simple poster illustrating the beauty and uses for some of our favorite healing herbs. We began talking more and more about the poster, until one day it was decided; enough talk, let’s get creating. I feel so appreciative to John for inviting me to be a part of this creative process. Over the holidays, while it was below freezing outside, I bundled up near the wood stove and started to gather information for short blocks of information to go on the poster. I love the idea of having a simple and beautiful poster to hang on the wall, not only to reference, but also to be inspired by. Yet, almost immediately, I was confronted with the difficulty of summing up such powerfully healing plants into tiny bits of information. This is how the idea of a companion ebook came to be. This ebook was written to supplement the information on the poster. Yet, even as I started to write the ebook, I was again confronted with the difficult prospect of summing up these herbs concisely enough to fill only one page. Thus, keep in mind while reading this ebook that this truly only taps the surface of these herbs and herbalism in general. For more information on harvesting methods, medicine making, and herbal specifics, I have listed some of my favorite references at the end of the ebook. In the pages that follow you will find simple definitions for the plant properties listed on the poster. Rather than a list of incomprehensible words, properties like astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, etc., give us a view into how the plants work. This is a much more holistic view of how herbs can heal, rather than an allopathic approach of a certain herb for a certain problem. If you don’t already know the definitions of properties, you will find them increasingly invaluable as you progress in your herbal learning. Here’s an example of how knowing your properties can be helpful. One day my husband and I were on a short day hike when he suddenly got a bloody nose. We unfortunately didn’t have any tissues and he was quite a mess. I looked around and immediately spotted Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), a plant that is quite common along trail sides in the Pacific Northwest. At the time I didn’t know that Herb Robert was good for nose bleeds. What I did know from my previous interactions with this plant is that it is highly astringent. I quickly gathered some of the foliage, bruised it well and rolled it into a ball. My husband put Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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this in his nose and it quickly stopped bleeding. If I had been looking around for a nose bleed plant I never would have found it. Instead, knowing a plant’s action as astringent, opened up the landscape and provided relief for my husband. Each herb listed on the poster is briefly explored in the following pages. In these simple monographs I have listed harvesting tips, history of the plant’s usage, ways herbalists use these plants, and, lastly, a simple recipe to start incorporating these herbs into your life. I remember when I first started learning about herbs. I would often hear that calendula is good for the skin, or that chamomile is good for irritability associated with teething. But I never knew how to use the plants in this way. In this ebook I am hoping to give you some simple and easy guides to start using these plants. Another important aspect of herbalism is the energetics of the plants. In Traditional Western Herbalism there is rarely one herb for one problem. Plants have different tendencies in the body. They can be warming, cooling, relaxing, stimulating, drying, moistening, etc. Simply put, you wouldn’t want to give a warming and drying herb to someone with a warming and drying condition (fever without chills for example). Many thanks go to Kiva Rose for editing the poster and ebook for content and making sure these energetics were portrayed in an approachable fashion. I’d like to also thank my dear friend Sandi Scheinberg-Spence for exquisitely editing the poster and ebook. Without her you would have to suffer through many rusty sentences, typos, and other grammatical mistakes that I seem fond of making. My patient husband, Xavier, provided me the nourishment and love that I needed to get this work completed. I thank him for his love and patience while I was immersed in this project. Although the snow covered the ground for the entirety of researching and writing these works, I was always inspired by the plants themselves. While writing the monographs for each plant I drank that particular tea, or kept the dried plant within reach to taste, feel, and smell. For although we can read about plants in books for as long as we want, the real learning comes with direct experience. As spring looms upon the valley where I live, I am content knowing the plants, and their gifts, will be springing forth again. Rosalee de la Forêt, March 2009 Methow Valley, Washington Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Simple DeďŹ nitions of Properties adaptogen: a non-toxic substance which helps the body to adapt to stressful situations while also normalizing physiology alterative: gradually alters the body towards health, also often referred to as a blood cleanser. Alteratives work directly through the metabolism anodyne: pain relieving antibacterial: effective against bacteria anticoagulant: prevents blood from clotting, blood thinner antidepressant: relieves depression antifungal: effective against fungal infections anti-inflammatory: reduces inflammation antimicrobial: inhibits micro-organisms antioxidant: prevents free radical or oxidative damage antiseptic: prevents growth of microbes antispasmodic: stops spasms anti-tumor: inhibits growth of tumors antiviral: inhibits growth of viruses aphrodisiac: increases libido aromatic digestant: promotes digestion through aromatic actions of moving energy and relieving stagnation (promoting peristalsis, expelling gas, etc) Healing Herbs eBook, Š2009 Rosalee de la ForĂŞt

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astringent: tightens tissues, useful for toning organs, stopping diarrhea and other excessive fluid loss bitter: a taste that stimulates salivation and the secretion of bile and HCL to promote digestion of fats and oils calmative: promotes calming and relaxing carminative: expels gas from the intestines (often an aromatic digestant) cell proliferant: promotes cell growth cholagogue: stimulates bile flow from the gall bladder circulatory stimulant: promotes circulation demulcent: internally soothing, often times a mucilaginous that coats and protects the mucous membranes of the body diaphoretic: a relaxing diaphoretic relaxes the exterior to allow for heat to leave the body. a stimulating diaphoretic engages the tissues to help push the heat out. digestant: aids digestion diuretic: stimulates urination emetic: promotes vomiting emmenagogue: promotes menstruation emollient: soothing and softening to the skin expectorant: promotes the expulsion of mucous from the lungs hemostatic: stops bleeding hepatoprotective: protects the liver hypotensive: lowers blood pressure Healing Herbs eBook, Š2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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immunomodulator: promotes health in the immune system by modulating extremes in hyper or hypo action laxative: promotes bowel evacuation lymphatic: promotes lymphatic movement; an example is reducing enlarged lymph glands mood elevator: promotes a happier disposition nervine: can be relaxing or stimulating. A relaxing nervine relaxes constricted or contracted tissues in the nervous system. . A stimulating nervine stimulates stagnant or overly relaxed tissues of the nervous system. nutritive: contains a high amount of vitamins and minerals sialagogue; promotes the salivary glands to secrete saliva styptic: stops bleeding usually through astringent actions tonic: gradually increases organ tone and is often considered invigorating trophorestorative: a nourishing herb or food that usually has an affinity to a particular organ or system of the body, it acts on the particular system to bring it into balance and can also restore function vulnerary: heals wounds

Healing Herbs eBook, Š2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Astragalus

(Astragalus membranaceus) Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus) is an herb that originally came to us from China. It has been used as a tonic herb for thousands of years to support the immune system, strengthen weak lungs, and regulate fluid metabolism. Astragalus root is the most commonly used Chinese plant here in the US. Referred to as an adaptogen, it has the ability to gently but effectively support our immune system, resulting in better overall health, especially throughout the cold and flu season. Because astragalus is considered a tonic herb, it is not recommended to take it during an actual sickness because it can feed the illness driving it deeper into the body. This winter, my husband and I have been adding astragalus to our soups and chai teas and have avoided sicknesses that plagued others. Besides using astragalus we also limit our intake of sugar, take cod liver oil for our vitamin D, and made sure we got plenty of rest during these long dark nights. Astragalus root is sweet and mild tasting. When you buy the dried root it often looks like large tongue depressors. Simply add it to bone broth, chai tea, or simply simmer it in water for twenty minutes and enjoy as you would a tea. Here is my favorite recipe for bone broth soup with astragalus.

Nourishing Bone Broth Grandmothers knew best by spoon-feeding us this incredibly rich immune system nourisher, and science has now validated this time-honored

Let food be your best medicine – Hippocrates

tradition by verifying bone broth is high in many vitamins and minerals that are readily absorbable by the body. Bone broth is Healing Herbs eBook, Š2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, trace minerals, chondroitin, and glucosamine. Boiling the bones releases gelatin into the broth (which is why it hardens slightly when cooled.) Besides nourishing the immune system, gelatin has been found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice, and cancer (source: Weston Price Foundation.) You could also make the following recipe with fish bones. Fish bone soup only needs to be simmered for a few hours as opposed to a minimum of 8 for poultry, beef, or lamb. Several bones from poultry, beef or lamb (preferably bones that have marrow) 1 T apple cider vinegar (helps to draw out the calcium) 1 onion coarsely chopped 2 carrots coarsely chopped 5-7 slices of dried astragalus root 2 celery ribs coarsely chopped Handful of herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or oregano Place everything in a large pot except for the handful of herbs. Fill the pot with water and bring slowly to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce to a simmer. After a while you will see some foam forming at the top. Gently skim this off every couple of minutes until the broth runs clear. Add the handful of herbs and simmer for 8-12 hours. When ready, strain off all materials and discard. Store the broth in the fridge or freezer until ready to use for soups, roasts, chili, etc.

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Burdock (Arctium lappa) Burdock is a nourishing herb that has been used for thousands of years to aid in the healing of everything from acne to cancer. It is commonly referred to as an alterative, which is loosely defined as altering the body towards health. Burdock root is so effective because it is a super food that is jammed-packed with essential nutrients. It is high in chromium, magnesium, and inulin – all of which help to regulate blood sugar. Herbalists commonly use burdock for those with diabetes, syndrome X, insulin resistance, and other blood sugar disorders. Burdock is also high in iron and helps to strengthen the liver and kidneys, making it the first plant many herbalists reach for when treating hot skin eruptions such as psoriasis, eczema, herpes, acne, and boils. It’s also commonly paired with red clover as a duo that has been used for thousands of years to slow or eradicate tumors. You may be familiar with burdock and the large burrs that this plant produces in the fall. These are said to be the original inspiration for Velcro and they make great emergency buttons. Burdock is a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to complete its life cycle. The root is typically harvested for medicine in the fall of the first year. You can identify a burdock plant in its first year by the large leaves and absence of flower stalks and the burrs. The root grows deep into the earth and prefers hard rocky soils, which can make it a challenge to dig up. Howe ver, the effort put into gathering this tenacious plant is well worth it. I use burdock root in stir-fries, soups, and even chai teas. Because of its high inulin content you want to limit the amount of fresh burdock you eat Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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and cook it well. Inulin is a valuable substance, but it is difficult to digest and will cause excessive gas if not cooked thoroughly. My husband and I learned this the hard way when we made a quick soup made of primarily burdock. I’ll spare you the details, but learn from our mistake by having burdock be about 1/8 of your total stew, and cook it well. Burdock is a strong diuretic and is not appropriate for people with low blood pressure or excessive urination.

Burdock Root Pickles This is a favorite treat at our house. The following quantities depend on the amount you want to make. I never manage to measure, but this is a forgiving recipe that turns out delicious every time. The original recipe comes from herbalist Eaglesong at Ravencroft Gardens in Monroe, WA. Several stalks of fresh burdock 1/3 part tamari 1/3 part balsamic vinegar Garlic Cloves Fresh Ginger Start by slicing the clean burdock root into bite size pieces. I like to cut mine on a diagonal. (Makes it really fancy.) Simmer the sliced root in just enough water to cover the pan but not drown the root. It’s done when the root has softened, but is still crisp. Remove from heat and keep the cooking water for later. Fill a mason jar with the cooked root and add your garlic and ginger. For a pint mason jar I add about three cloves of garlic and four slices of ginger, but your amounts can vary depending on how much you like garlic and ginger. Next fill the jar with 1/3 tamari, 1/3 balsamic vinegar, and 1/3 water. I store this in the fridge and begin eating them a couple of weeks later. Once all the burdock pickles are gone, a friend of mine showed me how to use the leftover brine for pickling hard-boiled eggs. Quite delicious! Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Calendula (Calendula officinalis) Calendula produces a beautiful flower that exudes sunshine and joy. To harvest this highly resinous flower, pick it at its peak on a warm summer day. You’ll know you have good plant medicine by the stickiness covering your hands. Calendula is commonly made into oils and salves and used for a variety of skin conditions including rashes, burns, scars, and scrapes. It has an affinity to encourage connective tissue to regenerate, creating soft and lustrous skin. It can also be used externally on painful itchy chicken pox (as a tincture or salve) or even on fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. Internally it can be used to treat swollen lymph glands and soothe ulcers. You can also spread the fresh petals over your salads for added color and beauty. When making medicine with calendula, it’s almost always dried first. Drying calendula for oils decreases the water content, making a more stable oil, and it also concentrates the resins in the plant. When making a tincture of calendula, a higher-proof alcohol will extract more of the resins. Calendula will grow readily in your garden, often self-seeding after the first year of planting. By snipping the flowers regularly, you promote its growth. I can often harvest calendula flowers numerous times in a season. This plant is often used for varicose veins. It helps to strengthen the capillary walls. The following is a modified recipe originally from herbalist Heather Nic an Fhleishdeir in Eugene, Oregon.

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Calendula Varicose Vein Spray •Fill a mason jar with ½ dried calendula flowers and ½ dried yarrow. •Cover with witch hazel and let sit for three weeks shaking daily. •After three weeks, strain and add 10–30 drops of lavender essential oil per quart of spray. •Pour the solution into a spray bottle and a label. This can be sprayed on varicose veins as often as desired. How does it work? •As already mentioned, the calendula helps to strengthen the capillary and vein walls (which, by definition, are weak in varicose veins.) Its antiinflammatory properties are also useful here. •The yarrow helps to promote the circulation of blood, dispersing any blood stagnation. •The lavender essential oil adds healing and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with itching associated with varicose veins. •The witch hazel is a standard remedy for varicose veins because of its astringent properties that help to shrink the enlarged tissues.

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Catnip (Nepeta cataria) Most of us are probably familiar with catnip’s alluring qualities for cats, whom it was commonly named after. Whether growing fresh in the garden or dried and placed in a little toy, catnip attracts cats!. The reaction to catnip is because of the nepetalactones present in the plant. While most cats react to this chemical, up to 30% don’t. While catnip is stimulating to cats, it has the opposite effect on humans. Drinking this relaxing nervine before bed can help wind us down after a busy day, promoting rest and sleep. Taken after meals, catnip can relieve indigestion and flatulence, promoting better digestion. Catnip is safe for young children and is often used for calming fevers, diarrhea, and colic. Moms of breastfeeding babies can drink a tea of catnip to help their young ones sleep. Herbalist, Heather Nic an Fhleisdeir especially likes the use of catnip for fevers because its high potassium content helps to prevent dehydration. Women with painful menstruation can also use catnip to ease uterine cramping. To harvest this plant, gather it just before it blooms. You can snip the stem six inches above the ground to ensure next year’s growth. Although it can certainly be tinctured in alcohol, I prefer drying the leaves and making delicious brews of tea. Freshly dried catnip is a far cry from the often old and stale catnip sold in toys for cats. Below are simple instructions for creating cat toys for your feline friends. There are a variety of simple patterns for catnip toys found at http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=63399.0

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Catnip Toy •

Cut two pieces of fabric to desired size. I suggest 4 inches by 4 inches.

Place the good sides of the fabric together, leaving the wrong sides facing out. Sew by machine or hand around three edges of the fabric.

Turn the fabric inside out, using a pencil or other instrument to poke out the corners fully.

Fill with catnip.

Turn the edges of the un-sewn edge in and finish sewing together.

Voila, a new toy for kitty.

This same technique can be used when making dream pillows for your human friends.

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Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) Chamomile is a cheery plant that looks and smells beautiful. It makes a wonderful ground cover in gardens, producing a sweet scent when walked upon. The dried herb is a great addition to eye pillows and dream pillows, although some people with ragweed allergies may react to chamomile. Chamomile is a very well known herb has been used by everyone from the ancient Egyptians to modern day Peter Rabbit who is given chamomile tea before bed. To harvest this plant, gather the flowering tops just before they fully open. Externally chamomile can be used as a poultice or salve to heal burns, rashes, or eczema. I also love to make a strong infusion of this herb and add the resulting brew to my bath water. Safe for young children, it’s often the preferred herb for a wide range of common childhood complaints such as restlessness, colic, teething, whining, and fevers. Adults can also enjoy a cup of chamomile tea to soothe the nervous system, allaying stress and irritability, and thereby promoting calmness. Chamomile���s common genus name, Matricaria, insinuates its affinity for women and mothers. The tea can be drunk to bring on delayed menses, reduce uterine cramping, and relieve heartburn when pregnant. Chamomile is easily prepared as a tea. To make it by the cup, steep one teaspoon of dried chamomile for ten minutes. This makes a delicious tasting tea. For a more medicinal brew you can steep it for 30 minutes. Herbalist, Gail Faith Edwards reports in her book Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs that the Inuit people used steams of chamomile to relieve lung congestion. I first heard of this from John and Kimberly Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Gallagher of www.learningherbs.com. Besides helping to clear congestion it also works as a simple beauty regimen.

Chamomile Steam •

Place a couple handfuls of dried chamomile flowers in a large bowl.

Pour one or two cups of some boiling water in the bowl.

Place your head over the bowl and place a towel over your head so that it also covers the bowl.

Inhale deeply, enjoying the warmth as it spreads through the respiratory system.

Keep some handkerchiefs nearby to periodically remove mucous from the body as it becomes loosened.

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Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) Comfrey is an incredibly important ally for herbalists. Its cell proliferating abilities can heal connective tissue surprisingly fast, resulting in a much quicker healing time for wounds, sprains, and broken bones. It heals so quickly that it is often cautioned against applying comfrey to deep or infected wounds because it will heal the outer skin before the deeper wound. This is why we only apply comfrey externally to clean and superficial wounds. Herbalists John and Kimberly Gallagher of www.learningherbs.com have created an informative free ebook illustrating how to make a comfrey poultice that can be used on sprains, strains, hernias, and broken bones. To download this free ebook, simply go to their website and search for comfrey. Comfrey leaves can be harvested when the plant is in full flower. When I make an infused oil with comfrey, I like to let the leaves wilt overnight before chopping them finely and adding oil. I know the oil is ready when it is a rich green color. You may have heard some bad press about comfrey lately. This highly medicinal plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that have been implicated in veno-occlusive liver disease. Because of this some herbalists recommend not using this plant internally. Other herbalists rely on the fact that comfrey has been used internally for hundreds of years, and do not see a problem with internal use. I tend to be middle of the road. Certainly, if you have liver disease, are a young child with a developing liver, or are pregnant or nursing, then comfrey should be avoided internally. If you are a healthy adult, research this topic and deciding what you are comfortable with. Historically comfrey has been used internally for soothing ulcers and strengthening the lungs. Healing Herbs eBook, Š2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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The roots also have healing properties. Comfrey root, minced and mixed with a little water, can be stored in a container in the freezer for later use on burns. I’ve used this remedy before with fast results; it sucked the heat right out of my burned thumb. Suppositories, or an herbal bolus, are a form of rectal or vaginal administration of herbs popularly used in the case of hemorrhoids or vaginal infections. The following is an example of an herbal suppository for hemorrhoids.

Comfrey suppository •

Grind the following herbs into a fine powder: o one part comfrey root o two parts yarrow leaves/flowers o one part oak bark o one part calendula flowers

Slowly heat (over low heat or double boiler) a carrier oil such as cocoa butter (melts around 86o) or coconut oil (melts around 72o). Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the powdered herbs. You may have to play with the amounts to get the most herbs while still having enough oil to hold it together.

Pour this mixture into a mold. (To make a mold, fold several layers of aluminum foil around a pencil, secure one end by twisting it, and remove the pencil. Or you can simple wait for the oil to harden slightly and crudely form a suppository with your fingers.)

Rectal suppositories look similar to a tampon (without the applicator) and are about one inch long. Keep them in the freezer until ready to use.

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Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Volumes could be written on the many uses of dandelion – indeed they have been! This common weed is often hated and poisoned by those preferring a “weed free” lawn, while those of us in love with dandelion and its many uses happily support it taking over our lawns. This plant was purposefully brought to North America by Europeans not wanting to leave this valuable resource behind. Every part of the dandelion can be used as food or medicine, making back door herbalism simple and easy, as it should be. When the first spring leaves pop up out of the ground they can be harvested heavily and eaten fresh with salads, made into a delicious pesto, or dried for tea. The leaves are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and many more vitamins and minerals. The French call this plant pissenlit, which alludes to its strong diuretic properties. A tea of dandelion leaves is a great way to flush excess water from the system. (Of course, before using this effective remedy we always want to make sure the water retention is caused by a non-serious condition like sitting on an airplane too long.) When eaten with meals, the bitter taste of the leaves helps to promote digestion by stimulating bile to relieve indigestion and other digestive disturbances. The root is a great ally for the liver. It can be tinctured or eaten fresh in a variety of recipes. Dandelion root can help clear up acne and other skin disruptions with the root cause being a stagnant liver. Most herbalists agree that long-term use of dandelion is needed for best results.

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The flower can be eaten in salads, or fried up as fritters. An oil made from dandelion flowers is warming and can be applied externally to relieve arthritis and other aches and pains. Lastly the latex, or sap, from the dandelion stems can be used topically on warts. Apply several times daily for best results. My favorite way to enjoy dandelion is by making dandelion “coffee” with the roots. This beverage doesn’t contain the caffeine found in coffee, but does have a rich, dark taste similar to coffee. Like burdock, dandelion’s strong diuretic activity makes it an inappropriate choice for someone with low blood pressure or excessive urination.

Dandelion Coffee •

Prior to decocting the dandelion root, roast the dried chopped root in a cast iron pan until it is fragrant and has changed color from being offwhite to light and dark brown.

For each 8 oz of water you are making, use 1-2 teaspoons of the roasted root.

Add the root to simmering water and continue to simmer while covered for 7–15 minutes. The resulting brew will be darkly colored. I enjoy my dandelion coffee with cream, and many people enjoy adding honey as well.

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Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, E.pallida) Echinacea is native to North America and its use was gleaned from Native healers. Now it is an herbal sensation, being one of a handful of medicinal herbs known by the general public. This has been bad news for native stands of Echinacea that have been wiped out by unscrupulous wildcrafters. Currently there is a plea to stop gathering this plant from the wild, and instead to cultivate it yourself or from a respected herbal grower. There are several species of Echinacea that can be used: E. angustifolia, E.purpurea, and E. pallida. Dr. Sharol Tilgner says all three are interchangeable, although E. angustifolia can last longer after it’s been dried. Mostly the root is harvested, but it’s common to see medicine made out of the aerial portions as well. To harvest the roots for the most medicinal qualities it’s recommended to harvest them in the fall after they have been growing three years. At this point they have the highest amount of alkaloids found in them. The aerial portions can be harvested in the summer no matter the age of the plant. Remember when harvesting aerial portions to leave enough of the plant remaining for it to gather enough energy for the next year’s growth. Herbalist Gregory Tilford says the popularity of Echinacea in the herbal market has led to its addition into all sorts of strange products such as shampoo and energy drinks. Although most of us know Echinacea as the cold and flu herb there are many herbalists that disagree with this use and recommend it more specifically for sepsis or other systemic infections. Still some herbalists agree that it has immunomodulating properties, and say it’s best to take it frequently at the very beginning of a cold or flu. Herbalist Stephen Buhner reports that Echinacea supports the immune system by stimulating leukocytes, which in turn can kill pathogens in the body, Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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and it also has anti-bacterial qualities that can stop the spread of pathogens as well. This can also make it a useful in the case of bladder infections. Traditionally Echinacea was often used externally for infected wounds, spider bites, and snake bites. The following are simple instructions to make a decoction of the root to use as a tea or an external wash for infected wounds. In the case of the latter, for best results use it internally and externally.

Echinacea Decoction •

Place 1 ounce of dried Echinacea root in a small saucepan.

Cover with one pint of cold water.

Slowly bring to a light boil, and reduce heat so that it slowly simmers. Simmering time can vary between 10 and 40 minutes. Some herbalists recommend simmering until the liquid is reduced to half of its original volume.

Once done, remove from heat, strain, and use this as a beverage or external wash. For hard-to-reach external areas, you can soak a washcloth with the solution and place it on the affected area.

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Elder (Sambucus spp.) Elder shrubs dripping with their heavy load of berries in the fall, or shining with their starry flowers in the early summer, are a welcome sight. This bountiful shrub contains potent medicine that even tastes good! All species of the elder with blue and black berries can be used interchangeably. Common species found in North America include Sambucis nigra. S. canadensis, and S mexicana. The red berry variety was reportedly used by natives where it was common; however, it does contain high levels of cyanide that may or may not be diminished with cooking or drying. In fact, all species of elderberry contain cyanide in their seeds, leaves, and bark. The blue or black berry varieties contain less than the red and are considered safe after heating or drying the berries. Before you are scared away from elderberries, however, it’s important to note that many plants we consider edible also contain cyanide; apples are a good example. Elder flowers arrive in my valley around the 4th of July. They form large clumps on these shrubs, causing them to jump out of the landscape. You can harvest these in bunches when they are at their peak, keeping in mind any flowers harvested will not turn into berries later that season. The flowers are a safe and effective relaxing diaphoretic herb that is very mild tasting. For these reasons it is often used to treat fevers in young children. I like to use a very old cold and flu recipe that blends elder flowers, rose hips, peppermint, and yarrow when I am sick. Elder flowers can also be used as a bath herb or for external washes to soothe and soften the skin. Elderberries are a tasty treat that also have many medicinal properties such as immunomodulating, anti-oxidant, and antiviral. This can make it an Healing Herbs eBook, Š2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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important ally at the first signs of a cold or flu. Because of its cooling tendencies, it may be appropriate to add a more warming herb, like ginger, when taking it for a cold with symptoms of being cold. I have used elderberry tincture to successfully ward off a cold sore outbreak. Both the flowers and the berries have a long tradition of being made into spirits. Elderberry wine has become a tradition at our house every fall. The leaves and bark of this plant also contain strong medicinal properties mostly used for emetic and laxative effects. It’s recommended that a person interested in using these parts in this manner consult with a trained practitioner.

Elderberry Syrup •

Place fresh elderberries in a saucepan. (Or place dried elderberries in a saucepan with enough water to barely cover them.)

Slowly begin to heat the berries. As the berries heat up they will release their juice. You can speed this process by using a berry masher or large spoon to help squash the berries. (For the dried berries continue to simmer lightly.)

Once it seems that you’ve gotten all the juice you can, let the juice cool enough to comfortably touch, then strain the berries off using a cheesecloth to squeeze the mixture even more.

While the juice is still warm, but not hot, add an equal part honey, or to taste, and stir to mix well. This syrup will keep for around a month in the fridge.

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Garlic (Allium sativum) Garlic is a tremendously powerful herb that most of us have a steady access to. It is always found at the local grocery store and, with the increasing popularity of farmer’s markets, heirloom varieties can often be bought locally, which results in even more medicinal qualities. Garlic is another herb whose use can be dated back to the Ancient Egyptians and has been used extensively since then. The Romans used it abundantly and Italy today is still well known for its garlic loving recipes. Hippocrates used it for a variety of ailments and in medieval Europe it was used as a charm to keep bad spirits at bay. Today it is one of the most researched and most used herbs in our kitchens and herbal apothecary. It has a variety of actions, making it a great ally for a variety of health disturbances. Raw garlic can be taken liberally at the first sign of a cold or flu to ward off the illness or to lessen the symptoms. I like to do this by dipping bread in olive oil with lots of minced garlic. Raw garlic is an emetic, so it’s a good idea to approach it slowly and back off if nausea occurs. Herbalist Stephen Buhner reports in his book Herbal Antibiotics that garlic is effective against Staphyloccus aureas, Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus spp., Salmonella spp., herpes simplex, and more. He recommends eating the fresh juice for best results. To do this without immediately experiencing its strong emetic qualities, Buhner recommends starting with a ¼ teaspoon in a glass of tomato juice and slowly working up your tolerance. For fungal infections garlic can be used externally as well as internally. It is quite strong and could burn sensitive areas, so it can be diluted by soaking it in oil for a ½ hour to several hours, straining and then applying to the area. An old time folk remedy that works wonders for congestion associated with colds and the flu is to take this same oil, spread it on the feet, cover with a pair of old socks, and then retire to bed for the evening. Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Garlic has also been studied extensively for its ability to lower high blood pressure and lower triglycerides. We add it regularly to our meals to enjoy these benefits. For bronchial congestion garlic can be made into a chest poultice.

Garlic Chest Poultice •

Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a pan and gently warm an abundance of minced garlic for a couple of minutes. You can add flour to thicken up the mixture if desired.

Prepare cheesecloth, or an old t-shirt, by cutting it to twice the size needed (based on the chest size).

Place the warmed garlic mixture on half the length of the cloth, folding the other half over to cover the mixture. Place this on the chest.

It’s also beneficial to place an old towel over this to help keep the heat in. You can also continually place a warm washcloth in between the garlic cloth and towel for added warmth.

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Ginger (Zingiberis officinalis) Ginger, like garlic, is a popular culinary herb with lots of medicinal benefits. It originally comes to us from Asia, and most of the ginger found in North America is grown in Jamaica. Fresh ginger is warming, while dried ginger is hot. Because of this we use them for different purposes, with more caution being used with dried ginger, as it is more heating. The following information pertains more to fresh ginger than dried. Quality ginger is firm and vibrant looking. If ginger at your store is wrinkled or soft, request that fresher ginger be made available. You can peel the papery white sheath that covers the ginger by scraping it with a spoon. Oftentimes I wash the root and leave the skin intact. Ginger tea is often drunk after meals in India to help with the digestive process. Anytime a meal doesn’t sit right with me, I reach for ginger tea and any digestive disturbances are calmed quickly. It’s the herb of choice for any kind of motion sickness. When making first aid kits for those who often get car sickness I include ginger candy and ginger tincture; both work quickly to quell the nausea. Ginger is a fabulous herb of choice for when you have a cold and you feel cold. This winter when it was below freezing outside and upon waking only 300 F inside our wood stove-heated cabin, ginger chai tea was a favorite of mine to keep my circulation moving and warming me from the inside out. Ginger can calm spasms, making it a great ally for women with menstrual cramping. I like making a ginger chai tea with crampbark to ease my menstrual pains. It also can reduce pain receptors and is often used by those with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis to reduce pain. Herbalist Steven Buhner recommends cooled ginger tea as an external wash for burns. Not only does it prevent infection, it also acts as a pain reliever. Ginger is a powerful antimicrobial, which is why, like garlic, it has been traditionally used in cooking to help preserve foods and keep them safe for eating. We regularly add ginger to our meals, especially those involving meat. Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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These antimicrobial properties, along with its warming, expectorant and diaphoretic tendencies, indicate a wonderful herb for colds and the flu. The following tea recipe is common for the cold and flu season.

Ginger Tea •

Grate a half inch of fresh ginger using a cheese grater, or mince finely with a knife. Place in a mug.

Fill the mug with boiling water and cover. Let stand for 15 – 20 minutes.

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the mug, and add honey to taste. I don’t strain off the ginger; instead, I munch on the little pieces.

You can also do a decoction of ginger root for a stronger brew.

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Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) Hawthorn trees have a long history of medicinal use in many cultures. Traditional Chinese Medicine has documented use of hawthorns for thousands of years. Europeans used them not only for food and medicine, but also pruned them into shrubs to mark boundary lines. In North America, Natives in the Pacific Northwest used the berries as medicine and food and made a variety of different tools using the long thorns found on the tree. The berries have been traditionally used in western herbalism, but the leaves and blossoms have a long history of use as well. The berries ripen in the late summer to fall and are anywhere from red to black depending on the species. The leaves and flowers are best when harvested in the spring, at the peak of the blossoms. Hawthorn is a cardiac trophorestorative, meaning it brings balance to the heart. It can be used for both high and low blood pressure and to regulate cholesterol levels. It is high in antioxidants, which can reduce oxidative damage on capillary walls. Its relaxing nervine properties are helpful when a person is stressed out, which puts further hardship on the heart. Herbalists David Winston and Mathew Wood both use hawthorn for children and adults who are restless and irritable with a difficulty in focusing. In his book The Earthwise Herbal Matthew Wood shares his experience using hawthorn for an autistic child. The Chinese have used the leaves and flowers for stagnant digestion associated with poor lipid metabolism. Indications for this include heartburn and indigestion. When the berries are dripping from the trees in late summer I gather plenty for tincturing with brandy and infusing in vinegar. Both mixtures turn out a deep red that is reminiscent of the heart. Hawthorn berries are especially high in pectin and I’ve heard that when making hawthorn berry jam no extra pectin is needed. Many wild berries can be infused in honey, and despite needing to pick out the seeds, I especially enjoy hawthorn honey on toast. Healing Herbs eBook, Š2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Hawthorn Honey •

Gather enough ripe berries to fill a jar.

Cover the berries with honey, stirring well to remove any air pockets.

Let the mixture sit for a couple of days to a week. I like to turn my jar over each day to further mix things up.

You can enjoy this by the spoonful and as a topping on toast. Keep in the fridge for long-term storage and be careful with the small seeds.

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Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) Lemon balm is a highly aromatic plant that is easy to grow in your garden. Like many mints it has a variety of uses and is generally safe for all ages. It also tastes wonderful, making it an easy remedy to get down picky throats. Children seeking comfort from the pain of teething can use lemon balm as a tea or can chew on a washcloth soaked in tea. Like many mints it is an aromatic digestant that can be used for indigestion, gas, bloating, and other digestive complaints. Lemon balm is antiviral and a relaxing diaphoretic, making it an ideal choice for colds and the flu, especially when accompanied by a fever. It is often combined with St. John’s Wort, both topically and internally, to relieve cold sores. Because both of these antiviral herbs are relaxing nervines they make an especially beneficial pairing for these stress-related sores. Lemon balm’s calming abilities are especially suited for tissues in an excited state such as hyperthyroidism. It is often paired with bugleweed (Lycopus spp.) and motherwort (Leonorus cardiacus) for hyperthyroid conditions with heart palpitations. Because it is often used for hyperthyroidism, some caution those with a hypothyroid from using too much of it. If you’re feeling overly stressed with a go-go-go-go mentality, a daily lemon balm infusion can help you to slow down and unwind. I like to pick lemon balm just before it flowers, which is usually when the temperatures are nice and toasty outside. Below is a simple recipe for making popsicles, which kids of all ages can enjoy.

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Lemon Balm Popsicles •

Make a tea from fresh lemon balm.

Add honey to taste.

Pour into popsicle molds and place a popsicle stick in the middle of each mold.

Let freeze completely and enjoy.

Another variation is to place the lemon balm infusion into an ice cube tray. Then carefully place a small leaf of fresh lemon balm in each ice cube section. After these are frozen you can use these fancy ice cubes to further flavor iced tea.

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Nettle (Urtica dioica) Stinging nettle is a gently acting nourishing herb that is powerfully healing for many complaints. David Hoffman famously says, “When in doubt, give nettles.” Indeed if I were to take one plant with me to a deserted island, nettle would be it! Stinging nettle was one of the first plants I ever got to know. Unlike many people I was fortunate enough to learn of its more redeeming qualities before I knew of the sting it’s capable of. Now, I know that spring has finally arrived when nettle adorns our dinner table whether it is fresh cooked greens, a fresh nettle soup, or nettle ale. To eat nettles fresh, pick them in the spring when they are about a foot above the ground. I’ve found that I can tend a patch of nettles, especially in the shade, and get multiple cuttings from them. Once the nettle is older, and especially after the flowers and seeds appear, we no longer use the leaves as food or medicine. Sometimes I wear gloves when harvesting these feisty plants, other times I use scissors in such a way as to not touch them, and other times I harvest them barehanded. When you are sure-handed and firm, and avoid the underside of the leaves, they sting very little. The sting in nettle is caused by formic acid, and has been used intentionally to reduce arthritic pain in joints, a practice called urtication. Cooking and drying nettle takes away its sting. To cook the greens, boil them in water for several minutes, strain the water (which can be drunk as is or added to soups) and use as a cooked green. Nettle is so versatile there are endless possibilities. Every portion of stinging nettle is a powerful ally. David Winston admirably lectures about the amazing ability of nettle seeds to restore kidney function. Kiva Rose speaks similarly of its adrenal trophorestorative functions. Nettle root is commonly used to lessen symptoms of benign prostate Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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dystrophy. Even the dried stalks of nettle offer us gifts in the way of strong fibers that can be made into cordage and clothes. Herbalist Susun Weed has recently popularized strong teas from nourishing plants taken as a daily tonic. My favorite nourishing herbal infusion without a doubt is stinging nettle. The deep dark green brew when taken over time can restore energy, lessen allergies, and support kidney and adrenal function. Nettle is high in numerous vitamins, minerals, and even protein. By extracting these nutrients into water we make them especially easy to absorb. Nettle tends to be drying because of its slight diuretic properties. If you have irritated kidneys, nettle might not be the herb for you. It can be combined with more moistening herbs when appropriate. My husband and I drink a nettle nourishing infusion practically every day using these simple instructions.

Nettle Nourishing Herbal Infusion •

Fill a quart sized mason jar ¼ to 1/3 full with dried nettle leaf. (About two ounces)

Then, fill the jar with just-boiled water and cover with a lid.

Let sit for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.

Strain and enjoy lukewarm, or place in the fridge for later use. I try to drink my infusions within 24 hours of starting them. For any infusions that don’t get drank in time I give to my houseplants.

I like adding a pinch of mint to my infusions for a slightly minty taste.

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Oats (Avena sativa, A. fatua) Most of us are familiar with oats as they have at some time or another graced the breakfast table in the form of warm oatmeal. Some people are also familiar with oats’ emollient qualities and have used them in the bath or as a facial scrub. Today it’s commonly used to soothe rashes, skin irritations, and even chicken pox. Besides using the oats themselves, herbalists traditionally use the stalks of oats, called oatstraw, and the stage just after flowering, aptly named the milky buds. Although these have slightly different qualities, both are considered highly nutritive and nourishing to the nervous system. Milky oats are a nervous system trophorestorative to help calm those who are high-strung, and lift the spirits of those who are down. Fresh milky oats can actually restore nervous system function. Herbalist David Winston uses the fresh milky oats for reducing symptoms of drug withdrawal, calming shattered nerves, and for people who are chronically angry and upset. For best results, harvest the milky seed in its prime and immediately tincture. Do not substitute dried milky seeds with fresh milky seeds for these purposes as the drying alters the plant into something else entirely. All forms of oats have been used for centuries to restore libido. It’s commonly said that oats’ ability to do this lies in its talent to soothe the nervous system. Oatstraw infusions taken over time help with anxiety and strengthen a person’s ability to deal with stress. This highly nutritive drink is high in magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, chromium, and many amino acids. Herbalist Susun Weed recommends this daily brew for strong bones and healthy hair. Besides taking the oatstraw internally, you can also make this hair rinse for especially glowing hair.

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Oatstraw Hair Rinse •

Option #1: Make an infusion of oatstraw, similar to the directions given on the nettle page.

After your regular hair care routine, pour the oatstraw infusion over your hair. Do not rinse out.

Option #2: Instead of the oatstraw infusion, make a decoction to pull out even more silica and other hair-strengthening minerals.

To do this, place one to two ounces of oatstraw in a pan with a quart and a half of water.

Bring to a slow simmer and continue simmering for twenty minutes.

Let cool, and then use as a hair rinse as described above.

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Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) Peppermint is one of the strongest acting members of the mint family, yet is still safe for the general population. As an aromatic digestant that is also an anodyne, peppermint is able to soothe indigestion and relieve gas as well as alleviate pain associated with these digestive complaints. I like to harvest peppermint just before or just as it is flowering. I leave at least six inches above the ground, so that more growth will sprout that growing season. The stems and leaves can be used for tea. I’ve been to several locations where the mint had jumped out of its original container and was growing thickly in the lawn. It created a wonderful smell as I walked and played in these minty fields. Its strong and delightful smell can freshen breath and the steam from the tea can be inhaled to relieve sinus congestion. The essential oil of peppermint is a strong pain reliever and can be used topically to relieve muscle spasms and pain associated with diabetic feet. Richo Cech recommends a strong brew of peppermint tea or tincture for relieving stubborn hiccups. Like a lot of mints it is used traditionally for colds and the flu, especially in cases of fever associated with clammy skin that is cool to the touch. It is often combined with elderflower and yarrow – a very old recipe that goes back centuries. In his book The Earthwise Herbal Matthew Wood quotes Eva Graf as recommending spearmint in place of peppermint for use with infants. She further notes that daily use of peppermint can overly relax the peristaltic actions of the colon, and because of this does not recommend it after dinner. Externally peppermint can be used to soothe itching and inflammation of the skin such as mosquito bites and rashes. Internally peppermint is contra-indicated for those people with acid reflux and other similar issues in the esophagus. Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Peppermint Bath Herb •

Option #1 Begin by making a strong tea or infusion from peppermint. For a bath I like to make a quart infusion (two ounces steeped for at least 30 minutes.)

To add to my bath I strain the plant material and add the liquid to the water. The more bath water there is, the more diluted the end result.

Option #2 For direct application I make a cup full by steeping two tablespoons in a cup for at least 30 minutes. With both of these methods be sure to cover the container while steeping.

To apply directly, soak a washcloth with the tea and lay over the affected area, or simply use it to wash the affected area.

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Plantain (Plantago spp.) Plantain was my introductory herb into herbalism. I was taking my first herbal class on salves and lip balms from who would later be my long-term mentor, Karen Sherwood. During class she talked about this amazing plant that could topically draw out serious infections and poisons. I kept thinking she was talking about plantain the fruit. When I asked she laughed good naturedly and took me outside to her driveway. I was so amazed that a weed could be so helpful. I had never noticed plantain before, but once I was introduced it seemed to pop up everywhere I went. Others have also noticed this. A native to Europe it was appropriately named “white man’s footstep” for it followed the white man’s wagon trails. Since my first introduction to plantain I have since learned of its affinity for healing mucous membranes. Plantain’s cooling and moist properties make it a fabulous demulcent for soothing the heat of urinary infections, ulcers, or other gastro intestinal inflammations. It can also be used for coughs where there is stuck congestion in the lungs. It loosens the phlegm, allowing it to be expectorated more easily. It can also soothe a sore throat. There are several varieties of plantain, including the broad-leafed (Plantago major) and the narrow-leafed (Plantago lanceolata). They can be used interchangeably. To harvest for food, gather the young spring leaves. When the leaves are turned over you can distinctly see parallel running veins. As the plant gets older, these strings become stronger and eating them in this state is somewhat like eating and flossing at the same time. To harvest for Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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medicine, you can harvest anytime the leaves are vibrant. Some herbalists recommend harvesting the whole plant including the roots and flower stalk. Still when I think of plantain the first thing that comes to mind is its ability to draw out poisons and infections from wounds. It can be used in serious cases such a rattlesnake bites and blood poisoning (while also seeking medical help of course), as well as minor cases of bee stings and spider bites. It can be used as a tea, tincture, oil, or salve, but if available a fresh plantain spit poultice works best.

Plantain Spit Poultice •

Gather fresh clean plantain from a clean area.

Place one leaf into your mouth and chew it slightly so that it releases its juices. Chew it into a ball and then spit out.

Place the plantain spit poultice on the affected area. I like to change the poultice every twenty minutes. If I notice it getting hot I change it sooner.

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Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Red Clover is another wonderfully healing plant that grows commonly as a “weed.” Its vibrant soft fluffy flowers are a delight to harvest, each one delicately popping off the stem. I like to harvest the flowers when they are at their peak, which is usually June in my region. I infuse them in alcohol and vinegar while they are fresh. I let them wilt for 24 hours before infusing them in oil, and I dry them for later use in infusions. Drying red clover can be a little tricky. The first time I harvested them was on an organic farm. They were popping up as volunteers and the farmer said I could have as many as I wanted. I harvested them straight into plastic bags, sealed them up, drove home for several hours and then laid them out on my kitchen table. After two days they were brown and slimy. This is how I learned about the mold that frequently inhabits these plants. To avoid this learning experience, pick your red clover when they’re vibrant, and immediately lay them out to dry on screens or drying racks. Spread them out thinly so they do not touch. When buying dried clover look for clover that is vibrantly colored reddish or purplish, never brown. Red clover is safe for children to use and has been employed frequently for dry spasmodic coughs like whooping cough. It can also be used for childhood or adult eczema. I like to drink red clover as an infusion and use externally as a poultice in the case of skin disorders. Red clover has a long tradition of being used for tumors, swollen glands (especially saliva glands), and other growths. When using it for this purpose, Dr. Sharol Tilgner recommends using it externally and internally in large frequent doses. Red clover is generally thought of as an alterative, restoring health and vibrancy by cleaning up metabolic wastes. Susun Weed recommends strong infusions of red clover as a preventive measure for cancer. Some women also use red clover tincture or infusion to help cool hot flashes associated with menopause. Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Although safe to use for many people, red clover’s ability to thin the blood makes it a bad choice for pregnancy and for those already on blood thinners. Regular use of this plant should also be stopped before surgery. Besides being a medicinal plant, red clover can be an addition to your supper table. We like to eat the whole flowers on salads or fry them up as fritters. To make the following recipe gather a basket of red clover blossoms and separate out any leaves.

Red Clover Fritters •

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup milk

One teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup corn meal

1 egg

Dash of sea salt

Sweet variation add: One tablespoon honey, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg to taste

Savory variation add: Thyme, rosemary, oregano, or other savory herbs to taste

Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the milk and egg mixture. Add either the sweet or savory ingredients. Dip the blossoms in the mix and fry in hot coconut oil until golden

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Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva) Elm trees have a long history of use in North America. In her fabulous book Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs Gail Faith Edwards gives numerous examples of indigenous uses of this helpful tree. The inner bark of the slippery elm tree is incredibly mucilaginous, offering many healing abilities due to its demulcent and emollient qualities. It can be used internally to soothe a sore throat, help expel stuck mucous in the lungs, and soothe inflammation of mucous membranes such as ulcers and colitis. Typically it is taken in tablets or as gruel. To make gruel, place a tablespoon of powdered slipper elm into a pint of water and stir well. Occasionally stir this mixture until it has reached a thick slippery consistency. This nutritive gruel is an easily digestible food for those too weak to eat normal foods. Slippery elm can also be added to cooked oatmeal. Whenever you take slippery elm internally also drink a large glass of water. Slippery elm can become too drying if not taken with enough water because it will soak up water and expand. Because of its high mucilage content, any medications taken with slippery elm may have a delayed absorption rate. Slippery elm can also be made into a poultice to protect wounds and rashes and to help to draw out infections. To use it as a poultice, mix slippery elm with water until it forms a thick paste. Herbalist Jim McDonald gives us another use for slippery elm. He recommends adding a pinch to nourishing herbal infusions to prevent spoilage. (For more information on nourishing herbal infusions see page 20.) Slippery elm tablets were popular way back when and can still be bought at health food stores. The following recipe comes from Lesley Tierra’s A Kid’s Herb Book.

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Slippery Elm Sore Throat Drops •

Make a tea of licorice using ½ cup of water and 1 teaspoon chopped licorice root. Simmer covered for 10 minutes, then strain. You should have ¼ cup tea. If less, add a little water to make ¼ cup liquid.

Put ½ cup slippery elm powder in a bowl and make a hole in the center. Pour ¼ cup tea (or plain water if you don’t have licorice tea) into the hole and gently mix into the slippery elm powder to make a smooth dough.

Sprinkle some slippery elm powder on a clean flat surface and roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness.

Cut dough into small circles – a tiny bottle cap, such as the lid from a vanilla extract bottle, works well. Or roll dough into small balls and then flatten and smooth the edges with your fingers. Make sure all the edges are smooth so the tablets aren’t sharp when you suck on them. You can press designs into each tablet if you like. Set evenly spaced on a plate. Leave out uncovered overnight or for a day or two until completely hardened. (If you live in a really damp environment you may need to put them in the oven on the lowest setting to get them completely dry.)

Store in a dark bottle or a tin in a cool, dry, dark place. (Mine keep for months, but it depends on how dry you can get them.)

Suck on the pill so it dissolves in your mouth and coats your throat to heal your throat and lungs.

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St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) St. John’s Wort blooms around the summer solstice, bursting forth sunburst flowers. I was amazed the first time I squeezed the flowers between my fingers to see a purple stain left behind. Another trick of St. John’s Wort is the perforated leaves, which you can see when held up to the light of the sun. These tiny holes are the oil glands. All around this is a magical plant that is such a joy to work with. I like to harvest the flowering tips of St. John’s Wort, which includes open flowers, buds, and leaves. I especially like the unopened buds. Another plant made famous, St. John’s Wort is commonly associated with depression. Many herbalists feel, however, that it is best suited to mild cases of the blues, especially when related to seasonal affective disorder or lack of healing energy from the sun. I first think of St. John’s Wort as being a nervous system trophorestorative. Besides lifting the spirits, St. John’s Wort brings relief to painful and even infected nerves. I use the oil or liniment on nerve pain such as sciatica. It’s also a fabulous match for viruses that attack the nervous system such as in the case of cold sores and shingles. Externally it has wonderful healing abilities against rashes, burns, and wounds. Some people use the oil to prevent sunburns and an external wash to heal sunburns. Other herbalists caution against too much St. John’s Wort causing photosensitivity.

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Taken over time St. John’s Wort can ease insomnia and promote restful sleep. Gail Faith Edwards has used it to help her children with bedwetting. I love making medicine with this plant. Harvesting it by the river’s edge on a sunny warm day lifts the spirits in itself. Well-made medicine from this plant turns a brilliant dark red color that amazes me each time I see it. Each year I harvest plenty for oils and tinctures. I prefer to use this plant fresh, so I have yet to try it as a tea, although in researching this plant I’ve come to realize that many herbalists use it in this way. When making oils and alcohol tinctures, fresh is a must.

St. John’s Wort Oil •

Gather enough fresh St. John’s Wort to fill a mason jar.

Some people like to finely chop the flowers and leaves before infusing them in oil. Call me silly, but I can’t bring myself to chop these beautiful flowers. Even placed in whole, my St. John’s Wort oil turns a magnificent shade of red.

Once the jar is firmly filled with the plant material, pour in enough oil to cover the plants. I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil. Cover with a lid.

Place in a warm sunny location. (Most oils are kept in a dark place, but St. John’s Wort’s magic is increased with sunlight.)

After several days your oil will be a deep dark red. I’ve infused St. John’s Wort oil for as long as six weeks, but I think a week is plenty.

Strain and use.

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Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Valerian is a commonly used herb and is a shining example of why we need to consider plant energetics and individual constitutions as opposed to the “this herb for this condition” mentality. But before we talk about herbal energetics let’s learn a little about this aromatic plant. Valerian grows readily in gardens and in the wilderness of North America. If you’ve ever been around fresh valerian roots you’ll probably never forget that smell. Some despise it, likening it to gym socks that haven’t been washed in months. Others, like myself, adore the smell, pungent and vibrant. The smell of the roots can be a first step in matching this plant to a particular person. Many herbalists agree: if you don’t like the smell, this plant probably isn’t for you. Valerian is used extensively for nervousness, insomnia, and muscle spasms, including menstrual cramping. Valerian, however, is not a plant well suited to all people. Rather than relieving nervousness, anxiety, and promoting restful sleep, valerian has been known to stimulate and increase hyperactivity in certain persons. Michael Moore, in his book Plants of the Pacific Northwest, gives a detailed description of who this plant works best for, and who it doesn’t work for. He explains that because of its tendency to stimulate digestion, lungs, and heart function, it can have adverse effects on people who do not need these systems stimulated. In The Earthwise Herbal, Matthew Wood gives indications for valerian as cold pallid skin, anemic, and nervous. Lesley Tierra sums it up simply in her book Healing with the Herbs of Life: valerian is a distinctly warming herb, great for those people who suffer from nervousness, insomnia, and muscle spasms due to a cold condition.

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Valerian is a great herb to promote restful sleeping and does not produce a long list of symptoms common to prescription sedatives. It’s relaxing, yet allows for REM sleep and leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning without grogginess. Of course the effectiveness of valerian, as with all plants, is dependent on the herb matching the person, rather than the condition. I keep a fresh root tincture of valerian at my bedside for those nights when I can’t seem to keep my mind from racing to a thousand different thoughts.

Valerian Tincture (folk method) •

Prepare the fresh roots by mincing them finely and placing them firmly but gently packed into a jar.

Cover the roots with an alcohol. 50% proof vodka works fine. I like to use ¾ everclear (or, even better, organic grape alcohol) and ¼ water.

Label the jar with date, alcohol used, where the plant was collected, and any other information that may be useful.

Keep the jar in a dark place, shaking it daily with healing thoughts. Monitor the level of alcohol in the jar, as you may need to top it off occasionally.

After 2 – 6 weeks strain off the plant material and compost.

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Wild Rose (Rosa spp.) Roses hold a certain mystical history. Their exotic beauty and alluring smell combined with the prickly thorns have enthralled humans for thousand of years. Roses have been found entombed with the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, and were highly prized by the Greeks and Romans. Josephine, Napoleon’s wife, adored them and is responsible for many of the hybrids we have today. In modern times most roses are grown primarily for their beauty, but historically roses have been an important food source as well as important medicine. In my region, the Okanogan ate the flower buds, but not the hips and used the thorns for fish hooks. The Athabascan reportedly placed the thorns in the center of warts, which were said to disappear within a few days. All interior Salish groups used the baldhip rose species widely for medicinal and spiritual purposes. All species of roses can be used although I prefer the wild roses that grow abundantly in my area in place of domesticated varieties. Whichever rose you use, as always, be sure it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals. You can use all parts of the rose including the petals, hips, inner bark, leaves, and thorns. Last year I combined all fresh parts of the rose (except the hips) and infused them in vodka. When I threw out my back later in the fall I used this as a liniment and was surprised at how quick and effective it was at relieving my pain. In the fall I infuse rose hips in brandy. Like many plants, roses can affect our mental as well as our physical well-being. Herbalists use rose extensively for grief and a broken heart. Its antioxidant properties make it an important ally for heart health. All parts of the rose are cooling and astringent and are great medicine for warm conditions that need tone such as bladder infections, diarrhea, and Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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rashes. You can use rose as a tincture, tea, decoction, and even as food. The petals and rose hips infused in honey are absolutely delicious. Rose hips can be used in a variety of ways including beverages, preserves, jams, on cereals, in breads, in butter, soups, etc. Rose vinegar, besides making a great salad dressing, can also be diluted to use on sunburns. Many thanks to Kiva Rose for sharing this remedy on her fabulous blog, http://bearmedicineherbals.com/?p=420

Rose Vinegar •

Gather enough rose petals and leaves to fill a mason jar

Cover the petals and leaves with apple cider vinegar. Cover the jar with a plastic lid, or a metal lined with plastic (otherwise the vinegar will corrode the metal lid).

Let sit two to six weeks, shaking regularly.

Strain. When needed dilute 1/3 cup vinegar with several cups of water and apply to sunburns using a wash cloth. Kiva recommends using this for a variety of heated and inflammatory conditions like bug bites and sprains.

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Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Yarrow is a beautiful and incredibly useful plant that grows practically everywhere. I tell hikers and other avid outdoors people that if they only knew one plant, yarrow should be it. My first introduction to yarrow was quite dramatic. While out camping, a friend sliced open her hand quite deeply and it started to profusely flow with blood. After sitting her down and raising her hand above her heart, yarrow was picked fresh and place on the wound. Within seconds it stopped bleeding. Later at the emergency room the doctor was at first annoyed with the “dirty” plant material that was place in the wound, but then amazed as he realized how deep the cut was, and how very little blood there was. Yarrow is another magical herb that can not only stop bleeding almost instantly, but can also increase circulation when taken internally or used externally to promote blood flow in bruises or varicose veins. Yarrow’s healing abilities have been known for an immeasurable amount of time and have even been made famous in our myths of Achilles. For yarrow, also named Achillea, is the magic potion said to have protected Achilles so well. Also called woundwort and other similarly devised names, yarrow has been used on battlefields to heal soldiers’ wounds as far back as we have sad tales of war. Yarrow grows outside my front door, but during the dormant season I like to keep enough dried on hand for whatever emergencies may arise. It can be powdered and sprinkled on wounds, not only to stop bleeding but also to dull pain, and as an antiseptic herb to prevent infection. Healing Herbs eBook, ©2009 Rosalee de la Forêt

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Yarrow’s abilities are not limited to wounds however. Taken internally it can open pores for cleansing and to release a fever. Yarrow is frequently used as a tea at the first sign of a cold or flu. The tincture or tea can be used for bladder infections. Yarrow is anti-microbial, astringent, anodyne, and reduces inflammation. Last summer I was collecting yarrow leaves and flowers to make an infused oil and tincture. When I brought the stalks home I was amazed at the lack of insects on the plants. Usually, after wildcrafting, I set the plants outside to “de-bug”. But there wasn’t a single bug there. And so I came up with this insect repellant that is not only effective but also smells great!

Yarrow Insect Repellant •

Gather enough yarrow leaves and flowers to fit snugly in a jar

Infuse with vodka for two to six weeks.

Strain. Pour desired amount into a spray bottle and add catnip and lavender essential oils.

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FAQ Where do I find these herbs? Many of the herbs listed in this article can be found right in your yard and in your local farmer’s market or grocery store. For the harder-to-find herbs I highly suggest getting them as locally as possible at an organic herb farm near you. When I order herbs they come from the two following companies. www.iwantherbs.com: Mountain Rose Herbs offers high quality dried herbs from all over the world. www.ancestreeherbals.com: Located a few miles from my house, Lexi and Chris offer fresh and dried bulk herbs of impeccable quality.

I want to learn more! We are so fortunate to have a huge variety of herbal learning opportunities available to us today. If you are just beginning to learn herbs I highly recommend finding an herbalist near you who can help you identify plants and learn the herbal basics. Every day I visit www.herbmentor.com and I am amazed at the amount of information that John and Kimberly Gallagher have put together. If you haven’t checked this out yet, then it’s a must! The next page lists several of my favorite herbal books and websites. When you first start learning about herbs remember to keep it simple and use your senses as much as possible.

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About the author: Rosalee de la Forêt is an herbalist and Structural Medicine Specialist who lives on the edge of the wilderness in the Northeastern Cascades of Washington. Rosalee started her herbal path with Karen Sherwood of Earthwalk Northwest in the Seattle area where she apprenticed for three years in ethnobotany and wild food explorations. She is now an active member of www.herbmentor.com, an online herbal community. She and her husband spend their days wildcrafting for food and medicine for a variety of handcrafted herbal products, which they sell at the local farmer's market. Rosalee sees clients for chronic aches and pains due to structural deviations as well as for herbal consultations. You can read more of Rosalee’s herbal adventures at www.methowvalleyherbs.blogspot.com

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Works Consulted and Suggested Reading: For more detailed information on plant identification, harvesting methods, medicine making, and herbal specifics I highly recommend all of the following books and websites.

Learningherbs.com http://www.herbmentor.com Kiva Rose at http://bearmedicineherbals.com

Making Plant Medicine, Richo Cech Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, Gail Faith Edwards A Kid’s Herb Book, Leslie Tierra Healing with the Herbs of Life, Leslie Tierra The Earthwise Herbal, Volume 1, Matthew Wood Medicinal Plants of the Pacific Coast, Michael Moore The Herbal Medicine – Maker’s Handbook, James Green Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman Healing Wise, Susun Weed Herbal Medicine, Sharol Tilgner Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Harrod Buhner

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Healing herbs ebook