Monday, 21 October 2013

Foraging Oxeye Daisy

Oxeye daisy grows like a weed in my gardens and lawn. The fresh leaves are edible and have a sweet lettuce-like taste when they are young. They are best eaten then since after the flowers bloom the leaves can turn bitter. I like to nibble on the cool smooth textured leaves or decorate my midday salad with its deep green color. For something different I toss the chopped leaves with red grape tomatoes and a little balsamic vinegar for a condiment and also serve it on toast for a bruschetta appetizer. Fresh oxeye daisy leaves can be substituted for parsley in many grain dishes including tabouli. I have enjoyed being creative with this tasty wild edible. This perennial daisy is easy to find in spring as a low growing rosette of leaves. It has a unique basal leaf pattern that distinguishes it from other daisy plants. The spoon shaped leaves have rounded teeth at the end of the thin leaf stem. Research says a tea made with the leaves acts as a natural antihistamine. If I had allergies I would certainly try this free medicine in my back yard. To prepare them for tea, gather the leaves by snipping at the base and dry them on a paper plate or in a basket. When they are dried, usually within 3-5 days, the leaves will crumble easily when pinched. Store the dried oxyeye daisy leaves in a glass jar. When you need relief from allergies, simply add 2 teaspoons of dried leaves to 1 cup of boiling water and let it steep for about 20 minutes. Use a small strainer to separate the leaves from the liquid tea. Enjoy this natural health remedy.

Foraging Plantain

Plantain (not to be confused with the cooking banana Plantain) is one of those perennial "weeds" that grows near dandelions in many untreated lawns and meadows. There are 2 easy to identify species, one with longer narrow leaves and the other with broad leaves. These deeply ribbed leaves can be snipped at the base and steamed for a chard-like green. The leaves can be used fresh in soups or dried for use during the winter. Narrow Leaf Plantain Plantago lanceolata To make a urinary tract or sore throat tea blend, combine dried plantain leaves with wild mallow leaves, nettles, and rosehips. Plantain leaves are high in silica and have a diuretic effect as well as expectorant and emollient properties to soothe sore throats. These antiseptic and anti-inflammatory leaves make a great addition to topical skin salves. Plantain leaves are also one of those safe green leaves that can be picked straight from the field, crushed to activate the healing juices, then rubbed directly on bug bites and wounds. The astringent tannins in the leaves also help to stop bleeding. On some species including Plantago psyllium, the central stem that develops over the season produces psyllium seeds in the Fall that can be added to water as bulk laxative. Next time you see Plantain, do not pass it by.

Viola odorata

In north Idaho where I live, these bright purple flowers are one of the first spring colors that appear amongst the grass. These low growing perennial plants have heart shaped green leaves and are found in moist meadows. To gather violet flowers simply reach under the blossom and pinch off near the stem near the base where the stem and blossom meet. Dry on a paper plate or basket with a tight weave for later use. Be sure to harvest these tender flowers in places that have not been sprayed with fertilizers or pesticides. The dried flowers and leaves increase circulation and have heart healing powers. A tea preparation soothes irritated throats and makes an antiseptic mouth rinse. Due to the natural salicylic acid it contains mild pain reliving abilities. To make a tea simply steep 1 teaspoon of dried flowers in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes. I like the delicate scent and gently sweet taste of the tea that encourages me to slow down and smell the violets. Violets provided food for colonial Americans and have been gathered for food, medicine, and perfume for generations in Europe. Violet flower water was a popular perfume in the 1400-1600’s with the scent noted to bring comfort and strengthen the heart. In the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia violet flowers are suggested as a topical treatment for eczema. These vibrant purple sweet fragrant fresh flowers provide festive color when added to springtime salads, as a finish for your favorite dessert, or a garnish on top of quinoa pilaf. Float a few violets in your favorite white wine or white grape juice for your springtime guests. The fresh heart shaped leaves can be gathered and added to a vegetable stir-fry or steamed greens.

Time for Red Clover

Gathering Red Clover This cooling herb makes a refreshing tea to sip on after summertime gardening. The common purple-colored clover that you see growing in the grass in your lawn or nearby fields can be gathered mid-June through mid July in the northern USA and other similar climates of the world. When most of the florets are open, that is the time to harvest. To gather simply use scissors to separate the blossom base from the stem. I dry the blossoms in a basket set on a wooden clothes rack to allow for air circulation. The blossoms are edible and the florets make a fun addition to a wild garden salad. The dried blossoms can be prepared as an infusion, tea, or tincture. Detox with Red Clover Tea Red clover is a detoxifying herb traditionally known as an alterative or “blood purifier". Medicinally it works with the circulatory and lymphatic system eliminating toxins from the blood stream. Research shows that the blossoms contains blood-thinning coumarins, which makes red clover a popular complimentary remedy for cancer treatment, problematic skin, and inflammatory conditions associated with arthritis and gout. I blend it with pau d’arco bark, burdock root, fennel seeds, and rosehips for a popular “Red Clover Flower Detox Tea”. Two cups a day along with a whole food plant based diet can improve conditions like acne or eczema. I also prepare this tea into a Detox tincture that is easy to take on the go by simply adding drops to water. It is also cooling for the lungs and has expectorant properties. In Chinese medicine it is known to benefit the liver, heart, and lung meridians. Menopausal support Research shows that Red Clover is full of hormone-like flavonoids and contains more estrogenic isoflavones than soy. This makes it a popular choice for navigating mid-life hormonal changes. Studies show it reduces some menopausal symptoms because of these rich phytoestrogen properties, natural calcium, and thyroid normalizing potential. Make a simple Red Clover infusion by pouring 1 quart of boiling water over 1 oz. of red clover blossoms in a jar and letting it steep for one to one and a half hours. This extracts a broad range of nutrients for optimal benefits. Drink 1-2 cups a day as part of your midlife rejuvenating program. Red Clover has been used to improve urinary tract and breast health, enhance memory, and bone strength. Combined with Motherwort and Chickweed it makes a good formula to ease hot flashes. Red Clover tincture also contains salicylic acid making it a natural pain reliever to ease joint pain. Express Yourself I recently bought a bumper sticker that says “Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.” That is good advice to keep the throat chakra clear and to optimize communication both in the form of compassionate listening and speaking up. Communicating your truth as it unfolds creates a pathway for successfully bringing your passion and purpose into physical form. Red Clover blossoms assist in allowing a free flow of communication and self-expression. Prepare a cup of tea to sip on during a difficult conversation to promote speaking from the heart. Red clover can also support articulating emotions and memories that have been previously locked in the body but are now bubbling up for release. This makes Chakra Elixir #5 blended with red clover blossom tincture, lapis gem elixir, and snap dragon flower essence a great adjunct to counseling and sound healing sessions. Sow Good Red clover offers many health benefits for your body and soul. When you see red clover blossoms growing in a unsprayed area, may you feel inclined to help them fulfill their purpose of supporting you to build your health naturally. Be sure to gather herbs respectfully thanking all that made the plant possible, the wind to carry the seeds, the sun for supporting the plants growth, the rain for water, and the earth for all the minerals and nutrients for the plant to root and thrive in. Plants love songs of gratitude, seeds, and intentional offerings in exchange for their healing gifts. It is also respectful to gather some but not all of the plants that you find. Be sure to leave some for the bees and the rabbits. As I was writing this blog my mother called and said the rabbits loved eating the clover in her rural New England yard.

Beneficial Burdock

Befriending Burdock
Many people see Burdock as a pesky weed to be destroyed, but it has been valued around the world as a health food and medicine for generations. Articum lappa is a member of the sunflower family and made its way to North America from Europe and Asia where it is sold at markets as Gobo or Wu shih. Burdock is known as a neutraceutical for prevention as well as symptomatic uses that has no known toxicity.

Growing/Gathering/Drying Tips
Burdock is easy to grow from seeds that you plant in the spring. For the most potency, harvest the root in the fall of the first year. Big roots require the use of a pitchfork and shovel to loosen the soil. You can dig a big hole, often 2’ wide and 3-4’ deep, around the deep single tap root.

You can find Burdock growing wild in many parts of the world. To help you identify burdock in the wild, when you rub the large leaves, a bitter taste is left on your fingers. Reddish stalks and deep veined leaves make it look similar to rhubarb, but the white underside of burdock leaves is a distinguishing factor. In the second year the characteristic velcro-like burrs form. The seed heads contain more than 2 seeds compared to cocklebur which only contains two.

The root can become too hard to cut into usable size once it dries, so it is best to use a hand grater or knife to chop the fresh root before it dries out. If you need to store it, keeping the roots in a cool place can make it easier to prepare when you are ready to use it.

Medicinal values
The root is used in herbal medicine as a tonic and to purify the blood. A tea made with the roots is beneficial to restore healthy functioning to the liver and gallbladder. Burdock assists your body in eliminating metabolic wastes as well as accumulated environmental toxins. A daily dose of the tea or tincture can be beneficial if you work or live in a toxin environment. If you are exposed to pesticides, airborne chemicals, or heavy metals, make Burdock your friend. Drinking 2 cups of tea day can help remove radioactive isotopes from the body, which makes Burdock useful after radiation treatments. It is safe to take over a period of time and is good preventative medicine that helps your body receive the nutrients from the food that you eat.

The seeds can be gathered and prepared by infusing them in olive oil for a soothing skin or scalp oil. Pour 1 pint of olive oil over ½ jar full of the seeds. Let it sit for a few weeks. Strain off the oil and store in a jar. Compost the herbs. Rub into the scalp to relieve itching.

For chronic skin irritations, burdock root can offer relief from itching and inflammation, when taken internally as a tea or externally as a skin rinse. Make a topical wash for skin disorders with the roots or leaves by pouring boiling water over ¼ cup of dried roots or 1 cup of cut fresh leaves in a quart jar. Allow to brew for ½ hour or until cool enough to be soothing for the skin. Burdock root tea or topically has the ability to work with the lymphatic system to clear irritations beneath the surface of the skin. I have used the leaves for cooling poultices on a friend’s legs aching legs while waiting for the sweat lodge fire to heat the rocks. The swelling was reduced when applied in this way.

For your pets, burdock root is a good addition to chamomile, and willow bark to ease arthritis inflammation and pain. I create a blend of the powdered herbs for horses at a local rescue. The blend is also safe for smaller companion animals. Usual dosages are 1/2 tsp. to 1 Tbls. of the herbs depending upon the animals weight.

Edible portions
The root pieces can be used fresh in soups and added to vegetable stir. Simply dig the root, peel it, and cook. The fresh root contains calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. If you are using the dried root, add 3x as much boiling water to soften the root before adding to soup. The leaves and stems have a bitter favor and can be steamed or stir-fried in small amounts.

Banish Excess Emotional Baggage
Burdock root when taken as a tincture helps to process resentments and grief held deep within the cells of the body. During those times when you feel you are carrying emotional toxicity from the past, reach for burdock to help your banish that extra emotional baggage.

When you feel stuck, daily use of a tea or tincture of Burdock root lifts you out of inaction or oppression. This realigns you with what is being offered in the present time rather than dwelling on the past. It helps you to make healthy choices in relationships and can help you break free from co-dependent patterns.

Grief is a multi-layered issue that requires patience and time to process. Whenever there is a present time loss, it can trigger other unresolved feelings of loss, grief, and helplessness, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Burdock offers deep cleansing of the cells down to the core level so that you have a clean slate to begin again. Its is like pressing the restart button on your cellular computer.

To make a tincture chop fresh burdock root into a quart jar. Fill almost to the top with the fresh root then pour in enough vodka to cover the roots. When making a burdock tincture with dried root, fill the jar 1/3 of the way with the dried root then fill almost to the top with vodka. Let sit for about 6 weeks before straining off the liquid into another jar. Compost the herbs. Add 1/2 tsp. of tincture a day to water as a beneficial tonic for your whole health.

May you see food and medicine when you look out in your yard and local meadows.

See my blog posting from last year to watch my Youtube video for more about gathering and preparing burdock root.