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Implementation, Part 2

Before I continue with the list of herbs, let’s look at storage of herbs, and some basics about tinctures.

Herbs need to be stored in airtight, opaque jars in a cool, dark, dry place. Light, heat and oxidation degrade the quality of herbs as their constituents evaporate, oxidize, and other otherwise lose their potency. Powdered herbs will only last about 6 months or so; same with tea bags! (They have a use by date stamped on the bottom…and yes, many of mine are past their prime). Whole dried leaves (the best way to home dry, as the more a leaf or root is pulverized, the more surface area is exposed to the air) can last a year; whole dried roots up to 3 years. Alcohol-free extracts (usually glycerites) last 3 or so years, and alcohol extracts or tinctures can last 7 (or lots more) years.

Any of the herbs from yesterday, today, or this weekend’s lists can be (used, made or bought as) tinctures. The dosages of store-bought should be on the label. If a range of doses is given, the middle dose is usually for a 150 lb. adult. If you are making tinctures at home, check out the books offered through Iris Herbal  HERE  to find a good text to help you make and use herbal tinctures correctly and safely. You can also call the Iris Herbal office (toll-free 877-286-2970) and talk to Cathy about buying single herb (or ready-made combinations and/or special blends) tinctures (with all the new FDA regs, this is no longer possible online through the shopping cart).

Nettles: a very versatile edible herb; it is an astringent good for discharges (especially hay fever, diarrhea, nose bleeds); a alkalyzing diuretic; and useful for arthritis & eczema. Pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 3 teaspoons of dried herb and let steep, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Do 3 times daily.

Burdock: another very useful plant disparaged as a weed; it aids liver, gall bladder and kidney function, and is especially good for the treatment of systemic imbalance that manifests as skin problems (eczema, psoriasis, dandruff), arthritis and gout. Put 1 teaspoonful of the root into a cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this 3 times daily.

A note about dosages: before I continue, the amounts to make and use have so far come David Hoffmann’s The New Holistic Herbal and reflect a robust relationship between human and plant. When first taking any new herb, you may want to half the dosage and start with once a day, and work up to larger dosages. Sometimes taking herbs can exacerbate a symptom, often referred to as a “healing crisis” as toxins are discharged (and the body is supported in dumping metabolic waste). Some herbalists are gung-ho here and exhort the patient to press on. Since we are doing “gentle detox” my advise is to slightly back off, drink more water, go to sleep earlier, continue cleaning up your diet, and calmly persevere. Also, when a herb is specifically for digestion, take your tea  just before eating; otherwise, (in general) take the dose 45 minutes 1/2 hour before a meal.

Oregon Grape/Mahonia: this root is a bitter tonic for impaired salivary and gastric secretions (especially for difficult fat and protein digestion); is a stimulant to liver protein metabolism; and is an anti-microbial for both the skin and intestinal tract. Prepare like Burdock; take 2 to 4 oz. in the am and before retiring; do this for at least 2 weeks. (Thank you, Michael Moore).

Sarsaparilla: this alterative is good for systemic tonification, especially where there is chronic skin irritation and problems, rheumatism, herpes, gout and deficiencies in the adrenal and gonad hormone production. Put 1 to 2 teaspoons of the root into a cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this 3 times daily.

Yellow Dock: another wonderful weed! For all chronic skin eruptions and complaints, especially when accompanied by constipation; also for jaundice from liver congestion. Make and use as for Sarsaparilla.

Cleavers: excellent tonic for the lymphatic system; good for swollen glands, cystitis, and skin conditions. Pour a cup of boiling water over 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried herb and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this three times daily.

Red Clover: fabulous herb for children (childhood eczema, whooping-cough, mono) and for adults (chronic skin problems and infections, increases lactation). Pur a cup of boiling water over 1 to 3 teaspoons of herb; infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Take 3 times daily. DO NOT use if PREGNANT.

Red Root: good for lymphatic congestion, especially accompanied by sore throat, inflamed spleen, and/or fluid cysts in sexual organs (male or female). Use like Sarsaparilla.

Echinacea: this is our premier anti-microbial herb; good for all infections anywhere in the body (use at first sign of upper respiratory problems). Also beneficial to tendons and ligaments (in chronic inflammation) and for any swollen areas on the skin (whether due to septic cuts or insect bites. For acute symptoms it’s easier to take a tincture (up to 40 drops per hour) and in chronic conditions, see Sarsaparilla.

Calendula: this flower is useful both internally: ulcers, mouth sores, indigestion with gall bladder pain and fungal infections; and externally: inflammation due to bruising, minor burns and sprains, as well as fungal problems. Pour a cup of boiling water on 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herbs and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this 3 times daily.

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Spring Tonics

Stinging Nettles

Before supermarkets offered all fruits and all vegetables all the time, winter diets in the Northern Hemisphere were heavy on root vegetables, grains and beans, breads, cheese, and meats, often combined in soups. Spring saw the proliferation of wild greens and the planting of gardens, increased trade with other communities as the snows melted, and the understanding that the heavier fatty meals could lighten a little as the temperatures rose. Diet was a construct of the interplay of culture and environment, as well as one’s family’s class. You ate what your parents ate, and barring famine, that system worked fairly well for hundreds of years.

Alfalfa

For those of us who wish to re-connect with the natural rhythms of the seasons, eat more nutritious foods, and recognize that this transition from winter to spring is important, I offer you three fabulous spring tonics: nettles, alfalfa and chickweed.

Nettles are my personal favorite. People have been collecting and using stinging nettles for food, medicine, fiber and dyes since the Bronze Age (or earlier). You must wear gloves in the gathering, but once cooked, the stinging chemical is inactivated. Nettles are the quintessential spring tonic, and have traditionally been used to rebuild the systems of the chronically ill, as well as help gently release  toxins. Medicinally they are useful as an expectorant (help thin and expel mucous), for chronic coughs, to treat cold and flu, as a gentle and safe diuretic (increase the flow of urine and reduce edema or swelling due to fluid retention), and as a restorative for the kidneys and bladder.  Nutritionally nettles contain high amounts of chlorophyll, protein (up to 10%, more than any other vegetable), and minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, silica, iodine, sodium and sulfur. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, beta carotene and the B complex vitamins. Recipe hint: substitute for spinach, especially in a Quiche. Gather in the early spring until they flower. Once they start producing seeds, they are not so good for either food or medicine.

Alfalfa comes from the Middle East, and a tea made from the leaves and flowers has been traditionally used as a spring tonic and blood thinner, so it is especially good for arthritis and gout.  The green leaves contain 8 essential enzymes and aid digestion. Alfalfa contains over 10 vitamins, and is especially high in A, C, D, B2, B6, and K. Plus you get some iron and calcium.

Chickweed
Chickweed is a European annual that has naturalized through much of North America. It has even shown up in my greenhouse, and is now a regular part of my diet. Medicinally it is soothing and useful to help treat skin conditions, upset and ulcer-prone stomachs, as well as bladder and liver problems. Excellent as a nutritive tonic eaten fresh in salads (or cooked into omelets), chickweed is high in Vit. C, rutin, biotin, choline, inositol, PABA, Vit. B6, B12, Vit.D and beta carotene. It is another mineral powerhouse with magnesium, manganese, sodium, copper and silica.
All of these herbs are also considered “weeds” because they grow so easily and profusely. Nettles especially can become invasive. However, because of this ability to not need much of our assistance or attention (except in a desert or high desert climate: you will then need to water) they are excellent for the ” gardening challenged.”  Both Nettles and Alfalfa are perennials, and Chickweed, though an annual, easily (almost scarily  so) reseeds itself: therefore, once planted, they will be your constant and generous companions.