How to Make a Wild Herbal Succus: Cleavers

How to Make a Wild Herbal Succus: Cleavers

A succus is essentially a fancy word for a medicinal, concentrated herbal juice, typically preserved with some kind of alcohol. I’m going to make a cleavers succus for acute gentle lymph support, especially when this is so needed during recovery from illness or a time when the body is under prolonged stress. 
Vibrant Violet Soup

Vibrant Violet Soup

Looking for something to do with all those violet greens you just weeded out of your garden bed? Try this creamy summer soup, equally good hot as it is cold. The mucilage of the violet greens compliments the creaminess of the soup base so delightfully.

Violets

Creamy Violet Green Soup
(adapted from Healing Wise by Susun S. Weed)

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced leeks or wild leeks
4 cups violet leaves
4 cups water
Salt to taste
4 cups fresh milk
Violet blossoms
Dusting of nutmeg

Sauté leeks and onion in oil for three minutes. Add chopped violet leaves, stir for a minute. Add water and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook about 15 minutes, then puree in blender or through a sieve. Reheat, adding milk. Garnish with a few violet blossoms and a dust of nutmeg before serving. Also nice served cold.

Violet Soup

 

July 30, 2015 — Heather Wood Buzzard
Cordially Yours: Elderflower Cordial

Cordially Yours: Elderflower Cordial

In early summer, when the roadsides are covered in masses of this plumy whiteness…oh, what’s an herbalist to do? Make elderflower cordial, of course! This sweet, citrusy, and very floral syrup serves as an insanely delightful cocktail blend, pancake drizzle, ice cream topping, yogurt add-on, or cake glaze. This recipe is truly incredibly easy, and a perfect lazy summer activity. The bulk of the work, really, is waiting (which you may find difficult once you smell it for the first time!). You will need:

~45 elderflower heads

9 cups water

3 1/3 lbs sugar

3 organic lemons

3 organic oranges

3 oz citric acid

a large pot, a cloth, a spoon, and two days time

Clip about 45 fully open heads of elderflower (Sambucus nigra or Sambucus canadensis…not Sambucus racemosa!) and use them immediately or refrigerate them until you can get around to making the cordial. They will last for a day or two in the fridge, but not much longer.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a large pot, and cool down. Grate the lemon peel and add to the water, and then cut the lemons into slices and stir those in. Do the same thing with the oranges. Stir in your citric acid, and then finally stir in the elderflower heads (stem and all is just fine).

Cover the pot with a cloth and let sit for 24-48 hours. Strain, use, and refrigerate. Delish!

 

 

Experimenting With Syrups

Experimenting With Syrups

What could be more evocative of the summer than a light and sweet, floral and fragrant drizzle of a fresh blossom syrup on your morning oatmeal or in your evening cocktail (or just by the plain old spoonful)? Herbal syrups are a delight – both to create and to consume. An abundance of those herbs that make for syrupy goodness pop out in mid-late spring and early summer. Those herbs which best tend to lend their powers to syrups are often those herbs that are themselves the most, well, syrupy! Think of our favorite demulcent, nourishing, gentle, slightly sweet, moist, mucilaginous plants: violet, linden, marshmallow, slippery elm. These blooms, barks, and roots already have those slippery sweet qualities that we associate with syrups, so when they are infused or decocted and cooked down with some good-quality honey, a nourishing herbal medicinal treat is the natural product.

Violets

We’ve been trying out a couple of different herbal syrups this week which highlight two of the most showy purple flowers here in the Appalachians. The first, violet blossom syrup, is a timeless tradition. Creme de Violette, the classic purple-hued Italian liqueur, is a staple in drinks like the Aviation, a popular craft cocktail during the warm months. Your everyday weedy lawn violets will work just perfectly for this syrup, and you may munch on the leaves while you’re harvesting the blooms. Fill a quart mason jar with your harvested violet blooms, pour boiling water over the flowers so that they’re covered, and let that steep 4-8 hours or overnight. Strain the flowers out, and gently heat the remaining liquid on very low heat with honey/sugar (an equal amount by weight). Until your desired sweetness is achieved. This is a wonderful activity for getting the whole family involved in the harvest, unless you don’t mind spending a sunny afternoon picking violet blossoms (if you offer to pay a penny per flower harvested, we’ve found this generally works pretty well on the younger ones).

Violet Syrup

Violet syrup is a well-known traditional soother and softener of tissues and may be a gentle stimulant to the lymphatic system. Violet leaf and blossom nourish the waters of the body and are used in tandem to ease coughs and chest congestion. The royal turquoise-amethyst colored syrup is a delicate medicine, a friend of sore throats and sometimes of tummy troubles, and traditionally a specific for nourishing the breast tissue. Children love violets, adults love violets…what’s not to love? And now we head to the experimentation station, where we’ll meet with a not-so-classic herbal syrup. In fact, this one may never have been made before! For this recipe, we used the lavender colored flowers of the Princess Tree, or royal Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa). This invasive tree is not well-loved due to its non-native status, but in our corner of the world it grows so prolifically that we have accepted it and decided to make the best of it. In contrast to the violets, the princess tree flower harvest takes only a few minutes. The edible blooms are so hefty and decadent that they fall from the tree, making harvesting a cinch. Like the violets, we collected about a quart’s worth of paulownia blooms and poured boiling water over them, lidded it, and let it steep overnight. The resulting liquid had turned a deep amber hue, and smelled vaguely of vanilla.

Princess Tree

We preserved our Princess Tree syrup by stirring equal parts (by weight) sweetener into it (you may gently reheat to get the honey/sugar to dissolve). Or you can add equal parts simple syrup (one part water to one part honey/sugar). We added a few teaspoons of vanilla to pull out more of that sweet flavor. You may refrigerate the syrup for a few weeks before it will begin to ferment. Those of you who believe that rules were made to be broken will already know what we’re about to say – don’t hold steadfast to this recipe! Recipes are made for experimentation! Why not try making a syrup from your favorite bloom? Dandelion, calendula, or birch bark? Why not? Want more syrups? Check out the basic proportions here. Or check out our new Wild Cherry Bark Syrup here.

Allergy Alert: Support in Season

We all know it’s coming – some of us may already be in the thick of it. The congestion, the bleary eyes, the runny nose, the headaches, the pains, the stuff. Allergy season is in prime time at the moment, and it happens to fall right at the time of year when the dogwoods are exploding into blossom, the birdsong is melodious, and all we want to do is be outside. “What a cruel joke nature plays!” we may think to ourselves while sniffling and gazing longingly out the window. We’ve heard of all the natural remedies: local honey, bee pollen, and locking yourself indoors until summer…but have you met the nettles?

Know Your Nettle

NettlesStinging nettles, Urtica dioica (and also wood nettles or Laportea canadensis, which can be used fairly interchangeably), are an incredible green ally for those with persistent allergies and seasonal symptoms. On top of using locally produced bee by-products like honey, royal jelly and pollen to combat allergies, incorporating nettles as a superfood and super-infusion can give springtime allergies a kick in the pollinated pants. Mineral rich, incredibly high in iron and chlorophyll, and densely nutritious, nettles are a food-herb and can be consumed in abundance with absolute safety. Mid-late spring is the optimal time to harvest nettles, when their formic acid content is lower and they are more tender and less fibrous than their summer or autumn selves.

In her book Healing Wise: The Wise Woman Herbal, Susun Weed advises that “Nettle is an ally which – combined with the Wise Woman ways – can help the gradual healing of a person with a condition such as hay fever, allergies etc… Try a cup/250 ml of nettle infusion, or a half cup/125 ml cooked fresh greens and pot liquor, or a teaspoonful of the juice every nice spring day for at least a month.”

Nettles are best used as a tonic herb for chronic allergy sufferers. Expect to use nettles regularly for one week to one month before realizing significant improvement and relief. See Susun Weed’s website for more on this juicy food and medicine. Need nettles?

Rusty on the exact process of making a full-strength medicinal herbal infusion? Lucky for you, it takes less than the time it takes to brush your teeth, and we’ll remind you how simple it is in this article in one of our earlier newsletters. Check out our archived newsletter for a recipe for a rich Russian Nettle Tonic to get even more nettles into your life.

Osha: An Ocean of Possibilities

Osha Root

While nettles is one of our best green allies for allergies over the long-term, a wise woman surrounds herself with not one but many friends. Sweet, spicy osha (Ligusticum spp.) is another one of these allies that are useful in soothing the redness and inflammation of the allergy season. But unlike nettles, osha is fast-acting to support at the scene of the issue.

In the form of a potent low-dose botanical, the aromatic osha root assists in allergic reactions and anaphylactic situations until one can seek medical treatment should an acute situation arise. On an allergy that manifests itself through redness, irritation and inflammation on the skin such as hives and rashes, osha tincture can be used both topically and internally in tandem to support the body’s extreme histamine response. Got an itchy throat from allergies? Osha is helpful for soothing the esophageal passages.

If you or someone you know has an allergy – whether bee sting or nut butters – it’s a wise investment to have a bottle of osha tincture on hand for those unexpected reactions. As a bonus, osha is also excellent for use on any painful, swollen insect or animal bites or stings that you might experience. Don’t be caught without this powerful root medicine, and may the osha and the nettles help you to enjoy an allergy-less spring singing with the birds!

April 29, 2015 — Heather Wood Buzzard

Spring Chickweed Pesto

by Jackie Dobrinska

The spring greens are sprouting up all over the place and chickweed is one of our favorites.  It is densely packed with minerals and nutrients, including Vitamins B-1, B-2 and C. With all of this wild abundance, it’s easy to try something new and nourishing – like Chickweed Pesto!

Chickweed Pesto:

*3 cups fresh chickweed
*3 cloves garlic
*1/2 cup olive oil
*1 tsp sea salt
*fresh ground pepper
*zest from 1/2 lemon
*1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds, or toasted pine nuts, or pecans, or walnuts. . .whatever you have.

Rinse chickweed well. Spin in a salad spinner to dry. Blend chickweed, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon zest and seeds/nuts in a food processor briefly. With blade still in motion slowly pour in olive oil to create a paste. Serve on meat or fish, toss with roasted fingerling potatoes or pasta or spread on sourdough. Enjoy the taste of Spring!

(Recipe from “Girl with an Apron“)

Marvelous Mints for the Family Herb Garden

by Corinna Wood and Lee Warren

First published in the Mountain Xpress, 2010

Imagine a glass of ice-cold peppermint tea on a hot day. Or the cheerful, earthy fragrance of lemon balm when you pinch a leaf as you walk by. Or a playful young cat rolling with ecstasy in the catnip in the nearby herb garden.

Cooling in nature and filled with aromatic oils, plants in the mint family delight us in countless ways. In particular, peppermint, lemon balm and catnip are some of our favorite, easy-to-grow herbs.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
First of all, when transplanting peppermint, make sure to put it in a place where you’re prepared for it to expand, as it spreads aggressively by roots. Our peppermint patch sends out runners several feet beyond its bed, even in the midst of a gravel path (you can also pull it out of those places you don’t want it). Planting in an outdoor planter is an option for containing it.

Fresh peppermint leaves can be picked and chewed for an instant hit of flavor or used in recipes that call for mint such as tabouleh (a middle eastern salad) or lamb dishes. Traditional herbailists used peppermint for easing digestive distress of all kinds.

Because it smells good, tastes yummy, and is very safe, it’s often used for children. In fact, since Corinna’s son Dylan was a wee toddler, he’s harvested fresh peppermint for the family at teatime. At grandma’s house, with the peppermint patch at the edge of the driveway, he would routinely pick a handful of stalks to play with, sniff, and eat, to stave off carsickness on the curvy roads back to their mountain home. 

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Super easy to grow, lemon balm thrives in the cool season (spring and fall), withstands the heat like a champ, and even tolerates some shade. Red Moon Herbs recently expanded from a few lemon balm plants to a lush bountiful circular bed more than 20 times the size of the original plants. We duplicated the plants from cuttings by taking the top couple of inches off an existing lemon balm plant, stripping the bottom leaves, and keeping these watered in some sandy potting soil. The cuttings soon grew roots and were ready to be planted. In less than a year, we had as much as we could harvest!

Just crushing the leaves of this plant and inhaling deeply will give you, immediately, a sense of its traditional use as a gentle mood supporter.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
As the name implies, cats love this plant as it contains a constituent that causes them temporary euphoria! Not euphoria producing in humans, it is nonetheless a lovely plant to include in the home garden for beauty and function. As easy to grow as the others, we usually start them from transplants. Catnip is a pleasant and relaxing tea for the stomach or just winding down before bedtime. As you plant your garden, note that catnip crosses with lemon balm, so it’s best to keep them separate.

August 24, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) Nourishing Herbal Infusion

Love of Nettles

by Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women

My early love affair with herbs – which led to my life’s work- started with nettles. I’ve heard similar stories from other herbalists: one special plant reaches out and speaks to us. Not usually in words, but through the body, helping us heal something….

Stinging Nettles as Food and Medicine

In my case I was suffering from a collection of mysterious symptoms, which I know now to be adrenal exhaustion, manifesting as lower back pain, lack of energy, decreased libido, amenorrhea (infrequent menstruation), and a pervasive tendency towards feeling chilled. I was studying biology in college in the Northwest, at Evergreen. Far from home and studying hard, I valued good nutrition and self care but was very thin and too over-concerned about body image to nourish myself the way my body really needed.

On my bike route from home to school lived a magical nettles patch under a glorious grandmother oak. I had been taking botany classes and doing independent study in herbs and was delighted to discover the nettles. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), otherwise known as barn nettle or English nettle, is plentiful in the Northwest. Our area of Western North Carolina, which shares the propensity for abundant rainfall, is also home to barn nettle, as well as her cousin, wood nettle (Laportea canadensis). Barn nettle resembles a large mint, with serrated, blue-green, opposite leaves. Wood nettle has alternate leaves and prefers to settle around forest streams.

Curious about wild foods, I decided to try incorporating nettles into my diet, as I had read about her veritable cornucopia of nutrients: calcium, magnesium, iron, B complex vitamins, C complex Vitamins A, D and K as well as protein, cobalt, trace minerals, potassium, zinc, copper and sulfur. Nettles are especially rich in chlorophyll, which is only one molecule removed from hemoglobin, so they feed the blood.

Harvesting and Cooking Nettles 

Soon enough, I stopped buying vegetables from the store. I ate nettles almost every day. In the spring and summer before it went to flower, I would simmer it and then stir in sweet white miso, incorporate it into recipes from soups to stir frys in place of spinach, and blend it up in dishes such as pesto. When it grew tall, I would harvest it and string it in my bedroom to dry for herbal infusions for the rest of the year. I thank goodness that either my intuition was strongly intact or the nettles spoke loudly, or both, because in short order I just couldn’t get enough of the stuff! My body was craving it and I indulged.

The Bioavailable Benefits of Nettles as Optimal Herbal Nutrition

Shortly after this powerful introduction, I went to study with Susun Weed, renowned herbalist, author and voice of the Wise Woman Tradition. I realized how the plant was helping me heal and regain my strength. come to find out, nettle has long been revered for its benefits to the kidneys and adrenals. And it was only then that I fully realized that the collection of symptoms I’d been experiencing were adrenal related…and had been easing considerably over the last Nettle year.

The kidneys allow us to expel toxins and the adrenals help us to respond to stress (think adrenaline) – so given the challenges of modern life, most folks can benefit profoundly from nettle’s medicinal properties. Additionally, she offers relief from seasonal allergies, strengthens the bones, hair and nails and nurtures the lungs, nervous, hormonal and immune system. Add in nettle’s bounty of iron and it adds up to a fortifying tonic for anyone who is anemic, or for pregnant, lactating or menstruating women. My menopausal friends treasure her for her support of the bones and the hormonal system as well.

Also, one of the wonderful things about nettle is that her nutritional benefits are delivered in a very balanced form and are easily assimilated and absorbed into our system. Few plants provide such a rich resource to help nurture our wellness and nourish our bodies. It certainly proved true for me, and others that I work with.

June 16, 2012 — Heather Wood Buzzard

May Day

by Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women

May Day is the half-way point between the spring equinox and summer solstice. It is the time that marks the greening of the earth and the move into greater abundance and fertility. All around flowers are beckoning us and insects are pollinating.

At Earthaven – the community where I work and live – we honor this transition with a traditional May Day celebration. Three generations come together to weave crowns of flowers, dance around the May Pole (which becomes winter’s Yule Log), and jump over the Beltane fire. Jumping the fire traditionally symbolizes the stengthening of bonds between lovers, but at Earthaven we welcome all bonds that wish to be affirmed – those between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, whole families, and friendships we wish to strengthen. By the end of the jumping, pairs and triplets of children and adults alike are running at the fire from every direction!

For me, May Day also signifies a turning of my energy, from my more inward, body dance of winter to the more outward, mind engagement of summer. From now through October, I will be more focused on teaching, writing, organizing, cultivating and harvesting.

May is a fertile time –  the plants, the pollinators and the community. May you receive the fruits of the season as well.

May 01, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs

Senecio: A Bright Yellow Cluster of Flowers Bring Spring

by Lee Warren

They are so early. They even arrive before the violets. And before little bud and tree leaf-outs. The only ones who hit spring harder are the dandelions–who by now, most of the way into March, have bloomed many times over.

Senecio aureus is now apparently Packera aurea. Named for John Packer at the University of Alberta, Canada who has been differentiating those Senecio species originating in the old world (Europe) and those native to the Americas.

Commonly known as Golden Ragwort or Lifewort ours is the native perennial. They contain two entirely different kinds of leaves. A basal rosette of blunt and dark green leaves sits low to the ground and the stem contains narrow pinnate leaves.

They can appear on the edges of woods or in meadows in full sun – where I’ve seen them in colonies. The bright, yellow, daisy-like flowers appear from early spring to early-summer. The name Senecio (which again is no longer applicable) is from the Latin senex, which means “old man”, and referred to the white-haired seeds.

Golden Ragwort has been known classically as a “female regulator”, and was used by Native Americans for childbirth and other female issues. Because this plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, much like comfrey, it is said to be toxic to the liver. It is now used mostly externally.

Mostly I enjoy their beauty and the knowledge they they’ve been in the Southern Appalachians far longer than I have.

March 26, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs