On the other hand, many people find themselves performing another solstice ritual (though they might not quite see it that way)…by scratching their poison ivy! If you’ve been enjoying the summer so much that you’re now dealing with some poison ivy – or sister ivy as she is sometimes respectfully referred to in the plant community – never fear…
Women's Health and Herbal Medicine
If I told you that I'd found a delightful summer sipping beverage that could make you live forever, would you believe me?
Reishi: The Immune-Enhancing Mushroom of Longevity
Perhaps immortality is a stretch - though reishi (Ganoderma tsugae/lucidum) is well known as the 'mushroom of immortality' in Chinese medicine - but it has performed well in many studies indicating that it is an effective longevity promoting tonic herb that increases the human lifespan (this study, for example). To enjoy the many benefits of reishi mushroom decoction or tea, I usually cook the dried mushroom in broths, soups, or stews, or boil it into a strong tea. While these are fantastic ways to access the medicine, none of them sounds particularly appealing in the heat of summer. That's where Long Life Lemonade - a cooling, nourishing, sweet, and nutritive beverage - comes in. It takes less than five minutes to make a batch and will last in the refrigerator for a few days.
Everything about this recipe is in-exact, as any good kitchen witch knows, so play around with it. Throw in some cardamom pods or cloves, use limes instead of lemons...experiment!
Long Life Reishi Lemonade Recipe
1/2 - 1 oz dried reishi slices
6 cups water
1 - 2 cinnamon sticks
2 - 4 tbsp lemon juice
stevia, sugar, maple syrup, or honey to taste
Place your dried reishi slices and cinnamon sticks in the water and bring to a boil. Simmer this mixture on low heat for one hour to even up to half a day or longer. The longer you simmer the mixture, the stronger the reishi will become and the more of its medicinal components will be imparted to the water.
Strain the liquid off from the herbs, and mix in your lemon juice and sweetener while it is still warm. Refrigerate several hours or until cold. Serve over ice with a lemon or lime wedge to garnish.
This Long Life Lemonade was a hit with my 10-month-old (I only let him have a few sips because it was quite sweet, but he would have happily chugged it all down).
Not into the lemonade idea? We also offer reishi as a simple, potent dual extract, as part of our Long Life formula (along with astragalus and burdock), and in our Mushroom Elixir (along with chaga, turkey tail, and maitake).
Here's to endless summers, long life, and good health!
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.
Creamy Violet Green Soup
(adapted from Healing Wise by Susun S. Weed)
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
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.
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!
by Anne Knoflicek
Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, is a flowering plant with beautiful orange horn shaped blossoms that bloom from early summer and into the fall. It is also known as spotted touch-me-not, because of how the mature seeds spring out from the pod when touched.
Jewelweed tends to grow in moist soil, often near creeks or streams.
The juicy stems and leaves can provide some cooling relief from the irritating itch of the poison ivy rash. If applied soon enough after coming into contact with poison ivy, it can sometimes help ward off the rash from appearing at all.
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.
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.
by Lee Warren
Did you know that the phytonutrient qualities of berries rival most of the green plant matter we all love?
Edible and Medicinal berries are chock full of antioxidants (as well as polyphenols, tannins, anthocyanidins). The super dense concentration of these elements help lower cancer risk, prevent heart disease, as well as support optimal organ function, brain development, and provide the body with large doses of natural vitamins and minerals.
Research indicates what our ancestors have always known – that berries are one of the most healthful foods on the planet.
And not just the ones we think of as medicinal like Elder, Schizandra, Hawthorne, Bilberry, and Vitex. But also Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Acai berry, Goji berry, and more.
Let your food be your medicine.
by Lee Warren
There is no other herb that bespeaks more of sunshine than St. Johnswort, or St. J’s, as we fondly call it. It loves sunny open places, blooms at the height of summer solstice, soothes the skin after sunburn, and even brings sunshine into our lives through its mood elevating properties.
The most well known, most widely used species of St. Johnswort is Hypericum perforatum, studied for its uses against depression—especially the kind of dark moods that come from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
We have our own wild varieties in Western NC, including Hypericum punctatum, but it is not found in great abundance as it is in some other parts of the country. It’s best to plant this herb in your home garden—it’s easy to grow, strong in establishment, and will bloom year after year. You’ll appreciate the beauty it adds to your garden, as it’s truly lovely, with 5-petaled yellow flowers, small seed pods, and delicate yellow-green leaves.
At Red Moon Herbs, we have about 170 St. J’s plants that we started over the many years. We saved the seed from our original garden plant, started them in a tray, watered them for several weeks until they germinated, and planted them out in the spring. We established them along a fence line, which helped stabilize a sloped bank—and they also provide food for our bees, beauty, and medicine.
Once established and thriving, harvest the top third of the plant, including the flowering tops, at peak potency. Peak time for St. J’s is when the flowers are 1/3 in blossom and 2/3 in bud. If you take a yellow flower bud and squeeze it, you’ll notice it exudes a red juice. This is the hypericin, a constituent in St. J’s which contains medicinal properties.
Once harvested, you can pack your flowers, stalks, and leaves in a dry jar and cover in olive oil to make medicinal oil; or fill with 100 proof vodka for some tincture. Let them steep for 6 weeks, and then strain out the plant material. One word of caution: sometimes folks who are taking St. J’s regularly become more sensitive to the sun (there’s that sun association again), so pay attention if you’re noticing your eyes or skin being more sensitive, and back off of internal use of St J’s if needed.
St. J’s genus name (Hypericum) is derived from the word hyper, meaning above, and eikon, meaning picture. This referred to the traditional style of hanging the plants around the house to ward off “bad spirits” (maybe an old fashioned word for depression).
Even if you don’t make extracts from your St. J’s, the plant will bring sunshine into your life.
by Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women
At Red Moon Herbs and Southeast Wise Women, our primary focus is on women’s health. We offer classes and events that are dedicated to this focus, offering a women-only space.
However, this sunny time of year draws our attention toward honoring the yang, solar, male aspects as well. As I watch my son in his adolescence, I find myself endeared and humbled to witness the tender stages of development boys go through to embody that truly yang, enlightened masculine force.
Ema Carmona, my right hand woman, began working at Red Moon Herbs 9 years ago when her son Noah was 6 years old. Today, he’s a sophomore in high school and almost as tall as she is (see right)!
When you call Red Moon Herbs about your herb order, you’ll likely speak with Julie McMahan (pictured below). Doing Customer Service at Red Moon Herbs and mothering her son Forest has kept Julie on her toes this first year of his life!
Solar energy is active, dynamic, and expansive. It is embodied by both women and men, yet most traditions associate it primarily with the masculine. Not the wounded masculine of the patriarchy, but rather the sacred masculine – that pure force we see coming through our sons, partners, inner selves.
On this Solstice, let us remember that the sun is balanced by the moon, lightness is balance by darkness, and yang is balanced by yin. Take a moment to honor the pure masculine in its many forms, knowing that both polarities are needed to dance into dynamic balance.