Hurray, I made a start! This is the very first of what I hope will be a long-running series called "Ask an Herbalist." This video covers how I got started as an herbalist, and one plant that I consider to be essential for every home herbalist. A transcript follows after the video. Hope you enjoy, and don't forget to join in by posting YOUR questions in the comments section!
Eatin' Wild Series: Cleavers
Eatin' Wild is my series of articles on edible or medicinal plants that grow wild around us, including edible weeds that you may have been spraying or mowing over. This installment of the series covers a great spring/summer edible weed that is both food AND medicine!
Just this week I found a fantastic wild edible growing on my property for the first time this year. I was so excited that I shot a quick video to share a few details about this highly useful weed known as cleavers.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) have a lot of nicknames, but the ones that I hear most commonly are sticky weed, sticky plant, goosegrass, or velcro weed. One touch of the leaves or stems, and you'll quickly learn why cleavers have picked up these monikers. Tiny hooks on the leaves and stems cling to just about everything, including your skin, your clothes, your pets, and even itself. Once the plant seeds, well, they'll cling to you too. But there are a lot of good reasons not to mow this sticky plant down! Read on to learn more about cleavers, and how you can use them for food and medicine.
Make Your Own Herbal Honey
Sweet, rich, healing honey. It’s delicious medicine all by itself, known for being:
Herbal honey is so easy to make that this how-to is going to be very short. You’re basically going to combine fresh or dried herbs in honey for an arbitrary amount of time. The result is an herbal honey that can be used in a variety of ways.
In the Herb Garden: German Chamomile
For so many of us German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) was our first introduction to herbs as a remedy. We were given cups of hot, honey sweetened chamomile tea when we were sick, had a tummy ache, or had trouble turning ourselves off at night. Chamomile soothed and calmed with its gentle, yet steady action, helping us to digest our food better and slip off to sleep.
It’s that gentle reputation that has made this member of the Asteraceae family so popular as a safe herb for children. Don’t let chamomile fool you though. She’s neither weak, nor just for the very young. She’s there for us when we aren’t feeling quite ourselves, whether that’s from:
So grab a cup of this aromatic, golden tea. Let's get into German chamomile, and talk about how we can grow, store, and best use her wonderful benefits!
Herbology Day Camp
If you're local to North Texas, you might like this 3 part event beginning in March 2016. Camp Tonkawa's Herbology Day Camp is offering 3 days of learning about herbs, plants and wild edibles. Each all day event will dig deep into specific plants, covering medicinal uses, gardening tips, poisonous properties (if any), culinary uses, and more.
I'll be helping out the director by doing an herb demonstration at each meetup.
"This class series was set up for adults interested in building a special relationship with plants. We will investigate Culinary, Essential oils, and Medicinal values of different plants each session. It will include Wild Edibles, Poisonous plants and Gardening tips." April Holtzman, Director, Camp Tonkawa
Camp Tonkawa sits on 35 acres of woodland, and has lots of trails to explore, ponds, pasture lands, and teaching areas. The campground includes a longhouse for teaching, organic gardens, fishing, outdoor kitchen, and rustic composting toilets. The crew there has lots to show us about homesteading, connection with Nature, survival skills, gardening, horsemanship, and more.
The herbology camp meets for 3 days, 1 each in March, April, and May. You can sign up for all 3, or drop in for whichever days that you're available. Sign up is required though, so be sure to do that via Camp Tonkawa's website.
Herbal Remedies and Their Actions on the Body
Herbal remedies are a wonderful way to use plants, the people's medicine, as healing assistants. They do work, though usually gently and over time. Have patience with them, and give them time to work. Remember that herbal remedies cannot substitute for clean eating, healthy body movement and stress management. They are assistants that can nourish us and help us to mitigate unpleasant symptoms while we work to repair our diet and lifestyle, but they will refuse to mask a poor lifestyle. There is no miracle cure in either pill or natural remedy. You must work to make positive changes to your way of living. I know that's hard. I live it too, but it can be done!
"They are assistants that can nourish us and help us to mitigate unpleasant symptoms while we work to repair our diet and lifestyle, but they will refuse to mask a poor lifestyle."
The other thing to know about plant medicine is that it isn't one size fits all. Specific remedies and plants are not guaranteed to work on everyone. While there are some well studied, very reliable plants that seem to work well for the vast majority of people (ginger comes to mind), sometimes a particular herb or remedy just won't do it for you. Don't fret. That's okay. This is normal and natural. Evaluate your condition to ensure that a visit to the doctor and/or a prescription isn't warranted. If your condition isn't severe enough to require Western medication, then consult your herbalist and work to find alternatives that may work better for you. Mother Nature has blessed us with many, many medicinal plants, and there is a LOT of overlap. Sometimes, a switch in herb or a switch in method is all that's needed. If your herbalist is me, then don't hesitate to contact me. We'll put our heads together, and see what we can come up with. If a custom formula is needed, I will happily make it for you if I can.
I'm finally getting the teas added to my Etsy shop. First up is Relax & Digest, an herbal blend that I handcrafted to help with relaxing the body and encouraging digestion, especially when you're feeling over full! Featuring kid friendly chamomile and other soothing herbs, Relax & Digest is gentle and delicious. Teabag and loose tea options are available. Click here for more details.
I'm Jennifer Capestany, a clinical herbalist and freelance writer with a practice in North Texas. Helping people deal as naturally as possible with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic illness and other chronic conditions is my calling.