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. 
Pine Needle Cough Syrup

Pine Needle Cough Syrup

Making pine needle cough syrup is super easy and essentially no more work than making a very strong pine tea and then 'holding' it with good quality, preferably raw, local honey. Pine is an expectorant for thinning and moving mucous in the lungs. It's warming, somewhat drying, and has a sweet and sour flavor blend that can only be described as piney.

Forsythia Flower Syrup

Forsythia Flower Syrup

Chinese medicine traditionally uses the steamed and de-seeded fruit of the forsythia bush or 'golden bell' for clearing heat and expelling wind. It has an affinity for the heart, lung, and galbladder meridians. Make a honey based syrup from its spring flowers to keep in your medicine cabinet for wellness all year long.
Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 4: Nursing and Lactation

Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 4: Nursing and Lactation

I can't imagine going through this nursing journey without the help of botanicals. Let's delve into the areas of lactation where herbs can offer their benefits the most: increasing and decreasing milk supply and in specific breastfeeding complications. Since tiny amounts of some herbal remedies taken internally can wind up in your milk supply, it’s critical to be aware of what you’re ingesting and in what form and what amount, whether it’s chamomile or catnip. 
Herbs for Toddlers and Young Children

Herbs for Toddlers and Young Children

If illness is the great teacher, it certainly doesn’t spare the littles. But as parents, we have such a diverse arsenal of herbal medicines available to us that using them one way that we can best show our babes to appreciate the natural world. Let's walk through some basic information about safely and effectively incorporating herbs into our everyday routines with our kids, using herbs for immune system regulation, digestive health, the nervous system, and skin health. 
Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 3: Labor and Birth

Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 3: Labor and Birth

While there are a few things they can’t do, there are many more situations during labor and birth during which herbal remedies can play a major role in supporting a healthy mama and healthy baby. Here, I'll share with you a few of my favorite herbs to have on hand to support a smooth labor and delivery, whether medicated or not, at home or in a hospital.
Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 2: Improving Well-Being

Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 2: Improving Well-Being

If you’re like me, you rely on herbs and nutrition in regular, non-gestating life to not only keep you well but to improve your immune response when you do come down with an illness. But during pregnancy, the world is turned topsy-turvy. It’s hard to know what herbs and other natural remedies are safe to continue using during pregnancy. Let's explore pregnancy safe herbs which affect the immune system, nervous system, uterus, and digestive system. 
Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis Herbal Remedy Poke Root to the Rescue

Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis: Poke Root to the Rescue

Issues like mastitis and clogged or plugged milk ducts can pop up when least expected - and least wanted - especially during times of stress and depressed immunity. Poke root oil or poke root salve is a wonderful herbal remedy for nursing mamas who are looking for a safe, traditional, effective treatment that really kicks the healing up a notch.
Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 1: Nourishment

Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 1: Nourishment

Real, whole food, whole herb nourishment during pregnancy is not hard to come by once you familiarize yourself with herbs like nettle and oatstraw herbal infusions, which represent some of the highest sources on earth of trace minerals and nutrients and are even rich in protein. The benefits of herbal vinegars include their ability to balance out the pH of the body, their helpfulness with digestive difficulties, and their friendliness to the health of the gut. 
Why We Wildcraft

Why We Wildcraft

Here at Red Moon, we have strived for over 20 years to carry on a rich tradition of locally wildcrafting much of the plant material that goes into our tinctures, tea blends, and dried herbs. While many herb companies may have started out wildcrafting their materials, they have quickly realized the true task of collecting plants from the wild: the wild is unforgiving, it is always in a state of flux, and it is never the same two years in a row. It resists management and it laughs in the face of quality control and harvest minimums.

Therefore, it is often easier to turn to cultivation, which can be dependable, regulated, and predictable. But we have stayed true to our course as wildcrafters, true to the Wise Woman Tradition, and true to those wild plants which can be so much more medicinally potent than their cultivated varieties. But why, when the challenge of the wild is so much steeper?

Wildcrafting dandelions

Wildcrafting for the Planet

When we wildcraft in conscious relationship with the ecosystem, we actually work to improve the robustness of the flora and fauna in that environment even as we boost our own health. By gathering the bounty of the wild around us, we encourage the plants to continue blooming, and bloom prolifically: more, faster, longer than before. When we get a haircut, the fibers of our hair react by growing more vigorously and robustly than before; when we prune a vitex bush or wildcraft the bark of a cherry tree’s limbs for medicine, the plant responds by growing faster and producing more buds, blooms, and those incredible phytochemicals – flavonoids, polysaccharides, and alkaloids – that we call medicine.

As wildcrafters, we strive to always familiarize ourselves with the mini ecosystem around us before a harvest. When I go out to gather red clover or nettles to dry for infusions, I remember that these are food herbs for the bees, deer, and rabbits who live in that field or creekbed. Just as they are food herbs for us, bringing us nourishment in the form of proteins, minerals, and vitamins, they are also a major part of the diet for wildlife foragers.

The one-in-three principle is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind. Harvest one, leave two to grow. Take one out of every three blossoms, buds, or berries. While this rule applies to plant populations that are growing in abundance, the rule shifts to one-in-ten among herbs that are rarer or take longer to grow and establish themselves. In reality, there is no clean this-for-that rule when wildcrafting. It is a matter of knowing your ecosystem, the needs of the flora and fauna in it, and the way those species interact with the plant you are harvesting. Always check with resources like United Plant Savers to tell if a plant is rare, threatened, or endangered before harvesting it.

Wildcrafting for Our Physical Health

The superior nutritional and medicinal properties of wildcrafted plants, versus their cultivated counterparts, are well documented. According to a New York Times article on the subject, we are effectively “breeding the nutrition out of our food” the further our cultivated varieties of produce get from their wild origins. Apples have become progressively sweeter over time, as have most fruits, evolving with our sugar-loving taste buds. Fresh cultivated vegetables, even those that are organically grown, have become less potent due to our manipulation of the bitter medicinal alkaloids out of them.

These bitter constituents that are so prevalent in wild food, however, are one of the primary medicinal tonics for organs like the liver and the gallbladder. Digestion is a process that relies on the body’s creation of food-appropriate enzymes that only occurs when food is properly tasted. The bitter components of wild plants help our digestive organs to recognize these foods and produce these enzymes that help us to maximize the nutrition that we derive from them. It is no wonder that a bunch of wild dandelion greens, bitter as they may be, contain far more nutrition, vitamins, and trace minerals, than even the most beautifully grown organic kale. Frank Cook, renowned naturalist, ethnobotanist, and wild foods educator, told us to ‘Eat something wild every day’. This advice, if carried out, goes straight to the liver.

Harvesting wild cherry bark

Spending time in nature – whether wildcrafting, walking, or simply wandering – also comes with a slew of health benefits that are undeniable. Lifespans are at an all-time high (at least for the modern world) and those who spend more time outdoors are more likely to be able to live that lengthy life to its fullest and longest, according to research done by the Journal of Aging Health. Their study found that the seniors who went outside each day complained less about sleeping issues and aching bones, among other things, than those who did not. This increase in lifespans may be due to several factors of spending time in the natural world, including: reduction in stress, increased feelings of happiness and contentment, improved health of the lungs and bloodstream because of exposure to clean air, vitamin D exposure, or lowered blood pressure because of reduced anxiety.

 
The opposite of spending time outdoors has been termed “nature deprivation” and is linked to massive amounts of screen time in front of TVs and computers. This screen time overload is related to increased risk of death, according to research by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. On the contrary, people who spend time in nature may live longer than those who do not. Over five years, a Japanese study was conducted among senior citizens which concluded that those who had accessible, walkable green space were more likely to live longer than those who didn’t. Another study showed that hospital patients exposed to plants expressed lower blood pressure and heart rate, lessened pain and reduced anxiety. It has been proven in several studies that the elderly who spend time outside experience reduced blood pressure, allowing them to prolong their life. If this is what happens by just bringing plants into a room, imagine what happens when people are brought into a whole wondrous landscape of plants to wildcraft them for medicine and food!

 
Forest bathing, a term that has been created to reference people spending time in nature and receiving healing benefits from it, is a side effect of wildcrafting. It refers to the act or the art of spending quality time, unplugged, in a forested setting and simply witnessing the beauty of that world. While you are likely to get more dirty than clean, it is the good kind of dirt, the kind of soul-dirt that fills us and satisfies us and permeates our vision. Those who ‘forest bathe’, or whatever your version of that is, have been documented to live longer, have less stress, and are able to fight off cancer more effectively, according to a number of clinical journals.

Wildcrafting for the Soul

 Wildcrafting yellowroot

But does it go to the soul, too?

As we have seen, the evidence says yes, in many ways and in many languages, both scientific and anecdotal. Wildcrafting and basking in the outdoors nourishes our souls in ways that unspeakable, but universally acknowledged. We connect with wild plants in a way that is carried forth to us in our blood, in our genetics, in our fingerprints. Plants have always been our life source and life force, and when we gather them in their natural habitats we are returning, if ever so briefly, to a moment in our ancestry when we needed them for sustenance, when they were our primary form of health care, and when we were helpless without their generous nourishment.

We wildcraft because we must, we wildcraft because it is part and parcel of our genetic heritage, and we wildcraft to further forge our relationship with the gifts of the wild outdoors and the wild within all of us. So when you see the word ‘wildcrafted’ on one of our labels, you will know that herb originated in the remote hills and valleys of Appalachia, was bartered for with bears and wild boars, and comes from a heart place of primitive connection between our hands and the untamed land of our ancestors.

March 08, 2016 — Heather Wood Buzzard