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 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. 
Four Wise Women Who Are Changing the World of Medicine

Four Wise Women Who Are Changing the World of Medicine

We’d like to highlight four of the wisest women we know and share how they are doing their part to spread plant love and optimum nourishment of the body and spirit.

1. Susun Weed

Susun Weed

Some know her as a women’s health expert, some know her as the founder of the Wise Woman Center, and some know her as the lady with the goats. Susun Weed is a spritely spit-fire of a woman who has forged a name for herself and weedy, abundant herbs everywhere. Susun is unique in that she plays the part of both shaman and scientist – she is equal parts plant spirit and peer-reviewed journal.

We love her holistic approach to wellness that she calls the six steps of healing, in which she incorporates story medicine (the narrative around a symptom or condition) serenity medicine (doing nothing) and occasionally invasive medicine (surgery).

Susan hosts a weekly BlogTalk radio show, in which she invites listeners to call or email in their questions to be discussed on air. She promises that the show will “Enlighten, surprise and delight you,” and in each episode, we’ve never been let down. She is the author of seven books on herbal wisdom, including her latest book on the reproductive health, “Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way.” Find her on www.susunweed.com.

2. Jody Noe

Jody NoeDr. Jody Noe is an all-round incredible woman and healer. Not only is she a naturopath (N.D.) who runs her own integrative medicine practice, but she is a traditional Cherokee herbal medicine woman who spent years in training with her Cherokee elders. She approaches the body with the traditional indigenous view that all things are sacred, and spirit is in all things, including our beloved herbs and stones.

Dr. Noe specializes in integrative oncology, and is the author of a well-researched tome on the subject, Textbook of Naturopathic Integrative Oncology. Her energetic work encompasses a vast range of healing tools that are both allopathic and homeopathic, including herbs, diet, lifestyle, and spiritual counseling.

Find Dr. Noe online at www.drjodyenoe.com.

3. Corinna Wood

Corinna WoodSteeped in the Wise Woman tradition, Corinna Wood is a voice for local foods and medicines which feed both body and soul. Rather than practicing with plant medicine that uses herbs from distant regions or traditions, Corinna’s attention as a community herbalist is on the weeds and wilds in our own backyards. She focuses on attuning women to the cycles of the earth, the plants, and the moon.

Holistic women’s education has been Corinna’s primary focus over recent years, and out of this effort she has led thousands of women from all paths of life into the green world of herbal medicine. Corinna shares her knowledge and her loving connection with mother nature by engaging women in the sphere of plant medicines each spring during her yearly Wise Women’s Herbal Immersion.

Corinna studied extensively with Susun Weed before launching Red Moon Herbs, which has consistently carried out its mission of providing safe, effective and abundant herbal remedies to the community for over twenty years. Corinna now directs the annual Southeast Wise Women’s Herbal Conference, the largest women’s herb gathering in the US.

4. Rosemary Gladstar

Rosemary GladstarIf there’s one name that nearly everyone in the ‘herbie’ world knows, it’s probably that of Rosemary Gladstar. But not only is it a nice name to know (who doesn’t like rosemary, after all?), she herself is a wealth of inspiration and encouragement to all wise women who walk along the healer’s path. To list the accomplishments of someone like Rosemary is beyond our scope, but let’s just say the books of Rosemary Gladstar are to some a sort of “gateway” into herbal medicine.

Got a friend who wants to start making body care products for herself and her family, but doesn’t know anything about herbs? Give her Rosemary’s book. Have a buddy who gets indigestion after eating and wants to do something about it, naturally? Give them Rosemary’s book. Her writings are beautiful, easy to understand, and accessible, no matter your level of expertise.

Rosemary also acts as an advocate for the endangered and rare plants of the world. She is the founding energy behind United Plant Savers, an organization that raises awareness for and protects exotic species. Her work in this area has spurred a widespread movement towards using as many local and widely growing plants as possible, whenever we can.

Rosemary will be coming to speak to us in October at the Southeast Wise Women’s conference. As a headliner, she will be speaking on some of her favorite remedies and recipes with us, as well as sharing her thoughts on Preserving our Herbal Traditions.

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

Honoring the Moontime

by Corinna Wood

During menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, our emotions and perceptions are heightened. There is a primal urge to remove ourselves from the daily routine and allow these feelings to move through our bodies and our spirits. We crave the Moon Lodge.

In traditional societies where the natural order of things was revered, the Moon Lodge offered a retreat, or cradle to receive women when they felt most vulnerable. Women gathered there during their bleeding time.  Not an exile imposed upon the ‘unclean,’ rather the Moon Lodge offered a sacred space—tangible or otherwise—that enables those who acknowledge and accept it to feel reverence and connection with the spiritual, to be immersed in reflection, to be still and truly be.

These days, our busy lives don’t always afford us the option of leaving our responsibilities behind for a week, but we can honor this need by taking a Moon Day (or even an hour!), either just before our bleeding begins or at its height (usually the second day). Many women find that taking a Moon Day does wonders to prevent menstrual woes and pains; when we’re already in the Moon Lodge, our bodies don’t need to yell so loudly to call us back there!

With the high incidences of stress-related illness and the women challenged by reproductive issues ranging from infertility to menstrual disorders, it is simply good common sense to take some time to care for ourselves, whether as a preventative or a restorative.

The key to creating a healthy, embracing approach to our life-long lunar dance is to treat it, and ourselves, with the respect and nurturance that we extend to all those we care for. Nourish your body and your soul, and you will be well prepared to nourish others.

Vintage Botanical Illustration Poke Root (Phytolacca americana)

Honoring Grandmother’s Wisdom with Poke Root: How to Make Poke Oil and Salve

by Corinna Wood

Growing up in the Northeast, I loved playing with the purple pokeberries, painting designs on my skin. My parents allowed this, though they made it clear that I shouldn’t eat the berries of this “poisonous, invasive weed.” The huge poke plants were such a bane in their garden that they would actually tie a rope around the roots and use a Jeep to pull them out!

Medicinal Benefits of Poke Root

Poke salve and oil have traditionally be used for lymphatic support when applied externally or on lymph glands, lumps, bumps, growths and tumors.

Poke root is best dug up in the fall, after the plant has died back for the winter. This is when the plant is the most medicinal and the least toxic.

Once you’ve dug up the root (and parked the Jeep), the next step is drawing out those medicinal properties. . .

How to Make Poke Root Oil and Salve

Making poke oil:

1) Wash the root

2) Chop it into small pieces (Important: wear gloves to protect  skin from absorbing the medicine.)

3) Leave it out to air dry in a warm place for a few hours, until it is dry to the touch.

3) Fill a jar with the chunks of root, and add oil to cover the roots. (Note: Any oil works. Olive oil resists rancidity.) 

4) Leave on your counter for six weeks, topping off the oil level as needed to cover the roots.

5) After six weeks, strain out the roots.

Making poke salve:

1) Grate a tablespoon of beeswax for each ounce of infused oil.

2) Warm the oil on low heat, add the grated beeswax, and stir until melted.

3) Pour liquid into jar and allow to cool and solidify.

(Note: if consistency is too hard, remelt and add more infused oil, if too soft, remelt and add more wax.)

 “[Poke] speaks to our blood…What a perfect maturity it arrives at! It is the emblem of a successful life…What if we were to mature as perfectly, root and branch…like the poke!” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Are Standardized Extracts Better?

At Red Moon Herbs, we focus on using the whole plant in making our extracts.  Sometimes people ask us why.  Here’s an excerpt from an article by Nancy and Michael Phillips to help address that question.

Green Blessings ~ Corinna

Philosophy enters deeply into the debate on standardizing herbal preparations. People oriented towards a scientific point of view feel the need to quantify healing possibilities by knowing the concentration of the chosen active principle (constituent) used to achieve proven results. Others view synergy and spirit as working in ways we may not fully comprehend but have certainly observed with whole plant remedies that embrace healing, often in more ways than one.

Standardization generally refers to chemical extraction of the deemed active constituent. Two assumptions come immediately to the fore. Does one ingredient alone reflect the curative power in a given plant medicine? And does this ingredient become more potent in a concentrated extract than in the whole herb itself?

Few herbs are actually standardized to a relatively pure isolate. A single constituent is usually under 12% in nature. A strong solvent (hexane, methyl-chloride, acetone, benzene) with an affinity for the designated constituent is used to achieve the desired concentration, often in conjunction with a different solvent to precipitate out constituents deemed superfluous. Under such a regime, the complicated, interactive chemistries of such herbs are destroyed. The valid medicinal use remaining accepts both the limits of concentrated isolate and the possibility of side effects. Such phytopharmaceuticals are more akin to allopathic drugs than the original whole plant remedy.

Whole herbs come with life force intact. The subtle constituent balance herbalists have entrusted for millennia is put in arrears in a standardization process that focuses in on a single isolate. Such borderline pharmaceuticals have the potential to give herbs a bad name through misapprehended side effects or just inactivity.

A good example is salycylic acid, chemically extracted from willow bark to make aspirin. This ubiquitous drug has been found to have side effects in some people, including internal bleeding, leaky gut syndrome, and in some instances death. Herbal preparations of willow help reduce pain without this concentrated risk. The wide-ranging benefits that make up the gestalt of the whole herb are lost in a narrow science that ultimately promotes plant medicine as being only guaranteed by laboratory technique.

The marketing hype spread by some companies that standardized extracts are safer and more effective is untrue. “Claims for the clinical superiority of standardized products are unethical commercialism and an attempt to dupe the public in the name of science,” says Northwest herbalist Jonathan Treasure.

Herbal medicine has been called the medicine of the people precisely because the plants and the traditional knowledge of how to use the plants are accessible to rich and poor alike. The assertion that quality lies in a standardized preparation seeks to break the essential link of every person to the plants that heal.

“The starting quality of the herb used in the extraction process is far more relevant to quality of the final product than any laboratory manipulation or ‘correction’ during manufacture. Many companies offering standardized product start with crude herb purchased by third party brokers in the international marketplace, the provenance and quality of which is inevitably beyond their direct control. The old adage-garbage in, garbage out-is pertinent.”

“Herbalism is about holistic healing, about Gaia,” says Mimi Kamp in Arizona. “Squeezing our plants into isolated elements is not herbalism.” “A standardized extract,” chimes in Joyce Wardwell in Michigan, “is a poor substitute for a complex interaction and vitality found in whole herb preparations, especially if a person further empowers themselves by gathering their own medicine. But then I prefer driving a whole car rather than sitting astride a running engine.” Southwest herbalist Michael Moore sums this all up with characteristic clarity, “The active principle is the whole plant.”