GMC Classes: Diagnostics + Therapeutics

Since the very inception of Plant Healer events, we have always placed a strong emphasis on the most practical building blocks of herbalism. Many of these elements are especially useful for the home, community, or clinical herbalist and can be widely applied 

Diagnostics and therapeutics make up a vital part of an herbalist’s skill set, and it’s especially exciting to see the ongoing expansion of diagnostic techniques in the Western herbal traditions and communities as experience grows and wisdom deepens and is shared. From addiction to tongue diagnostics to the microbiome, these classes offer an opportunity to increase your understanding of how to better treat those in your care. Particularly important is the amount of nuance included in many of these classes, including those regarding vaccinations, cholesterol, and addiction. 

I have worked as a clinician off and on during the 15 years I’ve been an “official” herbalist, but I’ve found diagnostics and therapeutics just as important when I’m practicing more informally, or even just trying to suss out the cause behind my daughter’s chronic iritis or addressing the symptoms of Wolf’s 50 year stint with HCV. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of being able to recognize patterns and symptom sets, and diagnostics are absolutely vital for that purpose. 

You can check out the entirety of the schedule right here on the Good Medicine Confluence site, along with more about all of our amazing teachers and details about the event!

Chronic!: Treating Reoccurring Illness With Herbal Medicine:

(1.5 hrs)

7Song

The goal of this class is to help practicing herbalists and advanced herbal students gain practical skills working with people with chronic health care issues, We will cover a number of medicinal plants, therapeutic categories and ways of putting together formulas for individuals. This includes using various preparations such as teas, tinctures and external applications as well considerations such as dosage and patient compliance.

Essential Herbs For Toddlers & Their Families 

(1.5 hrs.)

Juliette Abigail Carr

What herbs are the most helpful for this unique, transformative time? Let’s go deep into specific herbs for an era of deep physical and emotional development, as well as incredible spirituality and newfound connection with the broader world, an age that often needs our support. We will also focus on herbs to support the larger constellation of the toddler family. Specific formulas and creative ways of getting medicine into squirmy kids (and grouchy partners!) will also be discussed. 

Oh Shit!: Pattern Assessment & Treatment of Bowel Imbalances

(1.5 hrs)

Betsy Costilo-Miller

Digestive imbalances are one of the most common complaints that draws people to working with herbs and food.  Living with chronic constipation, diarrhea, pain or discomfort impacts not only digestive function, but quality of life as well.  This class will focus on assessing the why behind the symptoms- is a person constipated because of disrupted nerve signaling to the bowel, or are they constitutionally dry and therefore unable to maintain normal tissue function? We will explore methods of assessment, from tongue diagnosis to stool patterns, and discuss an extensive materia medica that is focused on meeting the needs of unique tissue patterns in the bowel. 

Face, Tongue, & Body Diagnostics

(1.5 hrs)

Emily French

Our bodies are constantly telling us about where they could use some strengthening, some detoxing, some warmth, or cool, moisture, nutrition, rest .. you name it. Brought to the awareness of modern western herbalists by William LeSassier and others, and fleshed out (excuse the pun) by Chris Marano, Margi Flint, Matthew Wood, and other contemporary herbalists, face and body diagnostics have once again become an indispensable part of the practice of many health care practitioners.  Eye troubles? Snappy joints? Let's take a look at your liver. Learn about where each of the organ systems opens to the face/head and tongue, how to read a person's thyroid health in their neck, how the shine in our hair and the ridges in our fingernails, or lack thereof, are indicative of kidney and adrenal function, how our tone of voice reflects the health of our organs, even what butt pimples are trying to tell us about our lungs. Each and every part of our external body is relaying messages about what's happening on the inside.

If you have a little handheld mirror here in Durango with you, please bring it along. It’s great to be able to see these things right in the moment. I’ll bring some too, but the more the merrier!

Lyme Disease: The Great Teacher

(1.5 hrs)

Emily French

The Lyme saturation in which we find ourselves is a powerful teacher about post-antibiotic medicine, the sophisticated movement of plant medicines through ecosystems and the human body, the incredible ability of bacteria to adapt, survive, and continually strive toward balance, and about turning to the plants for healing when few other options remain and watching them literally bring life back. The Lyme complex of infections, the ticks, the forests and fields, do not have to be our enemies – in fact, they are our teachers. And once we understand what's happening in our bodies when faced with these infections, we don't have to feel afraid – we know what to do; we can move toward healing.

This in-depth workshop will cover herbal approaches to the following facets of Lyme Disease: deterrence, infection, acute care, and chronic support. Learn about the most potent plant medicines for Lyme borreliosis and common co-infections, as well as lifestyle and dietary guidelines to strengthen immune health and improve quality of life, whether the goal is avoiding or healing from a long-term Lyme infection. With the right approach and a little bit of luck, people come out the other side feeling healthier, more truly themselves, and more connected to the green world than they did before they got sick. There are great teachings in this…

Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad, & The Bullshit

(1.5 hrs)

Marija Helt

We hear a lot about cholesterol, especially with negative connotations. From the news media, from healthcare providers and for some of us, from the scientific literature.  A careful reading of the latter will show that much of what we hear about cholesterol is outright BS or otherwise oversimplified.  Does a high level of cholesterol cause cardiovascular disease? Not necessarily. Can a high level of oxidized cholesterol cause cardiovascular disease?  Absolutely.  But the key word here is “oxidized”.  More on this in the class.  

Cholesterol is, in fact, a critical molecule for health.  It is part of our cell membranes, it is the scaffold from which our corticosteroid hormones are made and it plays a role in immunity.  Did you know that elderly folks with what would be considered high LDL live longer than similar aged folks on statin drugs? Or that older folks with higher levels of cholesterol have a longer predicted lifespan and a lower risk for neurological issues? And that statin usage in general has not resulted in a reduction in the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease? 

HDL (high density lipoprotein), what we often hear called “good cholesterol”, is a carrier composed of proteins and lipids that transports cholesterol to the liver for breakdown or recycling.  LDL, what we often hear called “bad cholesterol”, is a fairly similar carrier that transports cholesterol out into circulation so it can get where it needs to go to do its important jobs. The mantra has been that high levels of HDL in circulation indicate a reduced risk for heart disease, while high levels of LDL are indicative of increased risk.  You will see it stated as irrefutable dogma.  A critical look at how research is done and interpreted, who does the research and, in some cases, how data is ignored, shows that not only is this idea of good versus bad idea is (in the least) over-simplistic or (at worst) may be largely inaccurate.  We’ll look into the scoop on HDL, LDL, statins and even get into an important CVD risk factor that’s less often tested for, vLDL (very low density lipoprotein).  Oh, and some herbs!  : ) 

The Importance of Bonding & The Human Microbiome: Germs Aren't So Bad

(1.5 hrs)

Sharon Hockenbury

What if I told you that there are 2-3 pounds of microorganisms living in your gut and they are your friends?  This intricate and delicate system, call the Human Microbiome is the catalyst for gut health and the foundation of the immune, nutritional assimilation, behavioral and neuro health and it starts with the birth process.   Come and learn how we can establish a healthy Microbiome system and continue to support it through a lifetime.

Winter is Coming: Warm Remedies For Cold Constitutions

(2 hrs)

Juliet Howard

Do you shiver and ache deep in your bones at the coming of winter? Are you seemingly always cold and bundling yourself in a cocoon of socks, layers, and blankets? You may have a cold constitution that is forcing you to have barriers to your experience of abundance in the cold seasons. 

Herbalism is not a one-size-fits-all science. Unlike allopathic medicine, herbalism looks at the whole person, the whole plant, and how the two can create synergistic healing. Each person is markedly different and requires methods of healing that differ accordingly. In my studies in constitutional herbalism, I have learned that although you cannot change your core constitution, there can be a change in the ways you nourish it. Learning to warm yourself from the inside can drastically change your life and perspective. There is beautiful ritual in every season we encounter. Those who run cold often loathe the winter months, and I hope that by providing folks with remedies and rituals for the colder months that they can look forward to winter, rather than dread it. 

I hope that you will leave this class prepared, and dare I say, excited to take on winter. You will have the tools necessary and some printed reference materials to help keep you warm through the colder months using food, herbal medicine, and ritual. Winter is such a powerful time of reflection, restoration, and creativity, and this critical time should never be dampened by dread of the cold. My goal for this class is for you to feel inspired to throw medicine-making parties in the fall and winter to prepare and celebrate this beautiful time of year. 

This is a hands-on class where we will be making warming medicines

Using Plants to Support an Individual Approach  to Childhood Vaccines

(2 hrs or 2.5 hrs)

Jaunita Nelson

If there’s a topic sure to create polarized views it’s whether or not to immunize our children.  Whether you are an anti-vaxer or a pro-vaxer or somewhere in between, this class is designed to do two things: provide facts about the vaccines and give practitioners options for herbal treatments. When we as practitioners help folks make choices that are individualized for them and help take the charge out of their choices by giving them tools designed to support them we empower them.  When we can provide non-judgmental support and compassionate care we can enhance their relationship with plants as well as help them improve their family’s health.

Addressing Sexually Transmitted Infections  From an Herbalist’s Perspective

(2 hrs)

Jaunita Nelson

Sexually transmitted infections have skyrocketed in the last few years in some cases increasing 75% over previous years.  Gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, all are on the rise.  Public health clinics across the country are being closed for lack of funding and support.  This is the environment that many folks find themselves in today.  As herbalists we have a unique opportunity to step up and support folks who are struggling with these infections from a different perspective helping them as whole, unique individuals.  This class will talk about the medical model of care and provide options for treating and supporting the whole person using herbs.

Menopause in Preschool:  Helping Older Moms & Grandma’s Raising Kids Through The Change

(1.5 hrs)

Jennie Isbell Shinn
There are increasing numbers of women giving birth in their 40s, and grandparents raising grandchildren. These are not brand new realities, but they are renewing trends and growing in frequency. Herbal support for menopause, including wholistic, and counter-cultural mental- and emotional shifts away from external mirrors and judgments toward inner clarity and power are just one piece of the menopause pie. When the requirements of parenting, from young children to teenagers overlaps with menopause and croning, what’s a mama-Crone to do? In this workshop, we will take a look at the numbers to see how common these circumstances are and in what communities it is most prevalent. We’ll also look at a handful of common physical menopausal symptoms and possible solutions (like disordered sleep, mood swings, new hair here there and not where it used to be, body temperature changes, fatigue), but our real focus will be on care of heart- and mind- for women and families navigating many life stages at once. What are the most nourishing things for body, mind and spirit at this time? What needs to be grieved and how to manage that flow? Are there new rituals for these women? For their partners? 

Radical Self-Care for the Generative Systems

(1.5 hrs)

Emily Stock

This class will explore a myriad of external therapies to bring circulation and healing to the generative system, more commonly referred to as the reproductive system. Our generative systems, regardless of gender, are just that: the creative power center of our beings. Taking care of ourselves in this way allows a window of opportunity not only to find better cycles, less pain, less stagnation, and an easier way of being, but also to make time for ourselves in a way that opens and lifts the spirit and grounds our sense of place through the root and second chakras. 
While you may have heard reference to pelvic steaming, moxibustion, castor oil packs, and pelvic floor work, this class will demonstrate ways to do each of these things in an applicable way, along with proper indications and herbs to take alongside pelvic treatment. These practices are deeply healing when done with proper care, attention, and consistency.

Many of the things often described as “women’s care” can also be applied to people who don’t have vaginas, and we will be focusing on the pelvic bowl as an entity that deserves healing for all genders. 

Elements Part I

Elemental Interactions: Understanding Chinese 5 Elements
(1.5 hrs)

Emily Stock

In this class we will comprehensively review the Chinese 5 Element system, with special attention to how the elements and their corresponding organ systems interact with each other. 

Wood ~ Fire ~ Earth ~ Metal ~ Water.

The foundation of Chinese medicine is both poetic and practical. We will be using classic metaphors of nature to deepen our understanding of patterns within the body. While some perspectives offer a ‘personality test’ view on the 5 Element theory, we will be instead focusing on how each elemental interaction happens within any given person and identifying the ways to see each of the 5 elements at work in one body. A particular clinical challenge is being able to see which pattern rises above the rest, and how to identify where to begin with treatment. We will use clinical examples and natural metaphors. 

This class will also focus on the ways in which the elements interact within the body, revealing both generative and control cycles between organ systems, emotions, and tissue states. This is where the 5 Element system comes to life in our bodies and in our clinical practices. Once an element is identified as being out of balance, how do we influence it? How can we anticipate what that might mean down the road for other organ systems? And how can we trace back to the beginning of an imbalance to see where it all started? Come to explore this ancient perspective on balance.

Elements Part II

Elemental Spirits: Understanding The Spirit Aspect of The Chinese 5 Elements

(1.5 hrs)

Emily Stock

An important part of the Chinese 5 Element system is the spirit aspect of each element and organ system. 

Hun ~ Shen ~ Yi ~ Po ~ Zhi

While it was once integrally incorporated into the Chinese 5 Element system of thought, the spirit perspective has been left out of modern practices and has been largely left to the Taoists to continue the lineage. Clinically, the spirit aspect of the 5 Element system can lend much to both our understanding and efficacy of treatment. This is where we become whole, where the thread between what is surfacing and what lies beneath becomes clear.

We will discuss each spirit element in detail, creating a map for emotions and spiritual work. This will include how they can relate to one another, and how it all fits within the modern more physical approach to Chinese medicine. 

When separated into 5 aspects, which are then related to their corresponding organ systems, the nebulous idea of spirit starts to take form. Understanding how aspects of ourselves nourish and regulate other aspects, we can then start to embody our own spiritual evolution. 

When Plants Are Abused

(1.5 hrs)

Angie True

Struggles with addiction, food sensitivities/allergies, mental/emotional health, environmentally-induced chronic illnesses such as autoimmune disease and other common modern maladies are the primary reasons for seeing healing facilitators of any type, and all of these go back in one way or another to dysfunctional relationships with plants and nature. We probably share or have shared those symptoms ourselves, and talk about them all the time: in our practices, in the classes we take, the things we read and write, to our families and friends. 

So how come making simple changes -- dietary, lifestyle, herbal – can be so hard? Why do intellectual explanations only go so far, with ourselves, with clients, with our nearest and dearest? Could it be because we’re still looking at chronic conditions through the same reductionist lens that allopathic medicine uses?

Join us to create multidimensional maps of meaning to explore personal, ancestral, cultural, global and cosmic relationships with plants and planet. Learn how to connect with your own and your people’s relationships with food and medicine plants, re-contextualizing the shame and self-blame for chronic conditions that our culture has taught us. 

Hands-On Workshop:  Focus On The Feet: Tending & Pampering

(1.5 hrs)

Lisa Valantine

Our feet are meant to walk the earth, touch the earth intimately, and yet as often as not, our feet are neglected and incased in shoes and sandals and do not receive the healing benefit of earth's electrical charge or the awareness and reverence that they deserve.  Through loving rituals of cleansing and purification we will engage with the intricate history surrounding the ceremony of washing the feet as a means to demonstrate humbleness and to invoke a sacred act that honors the divine in ourselves and others.  We will learn ways we can support the care of the feet on a daily basis - from earthing and exercise, acupressure and massage, wraps and masks, soothing balms and healing foot baths.  There will be a wealth of information and demonstration, as we all practice on ourselves.  Much of the information in this class will be helpful for those engaged in elder care.

Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Vitex & Other Herbs For Women’s Challenging Times

(1.5 hrs)

Ellen Zimmermann

Meet and learn from Vitex-agnus-castus, my plant ally.  She is an an exceptional herb used to balance the sex hormones of the body including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.  During several passages of life, a women’s body needs support to ease the difficulties of these changes.  Vitex, as well as other herbs we will discuss, can assist during these challenging times.  We will also explore the mind- body-spirit connection during these passages and learn how herbs, foods, relationships and lifestyle, can be optimized so you can be the best you can be at each life stage.

GMC Classes: Magic, Ritual, & Story in Herbalism

Herbalism can be so much more than plant chemistry applied to our chemistry (although, that is certainly its own form of magic), and throughout the ages, plants have been deeply interwoven into human lives in the form of magic, ritual, and story. Over the years of hosting the Good Medicine Confluence, Wolf and I have witnessed how powerful these topics can be for our HerbFolk community and we make concerted effort to bring together a diverse array of perspectives and voices to teach about the plants in a magic and story infused way. What I love how our teachers work to make these topics infinitely applicable to the daily life of an herbalist, whether celebrating the seasons of life, healing through story,  or grieving the death of loved ones.

While many more of our classes could actually be placed under this category, here’s a sampling of those that most directly relate to the topics at hand. I hope you’ll enjoy this look at peek at the upcoming Good Medicine Confluence, and I can’t wait to see many of you there!

Head over to the Good Medicine Confluence page to see a full list of the classes, a look at our amazing teachers, a tentative schedule, purchase tickets, and more!


The Herblore of Midsummer: 

Plant Magic of the Summer Solstice 

Rebecca Beyer

(1.5 hrs)

The Solstice approaches! The culinary, folkloric, and medicinal uses of the sacred herbs of the Summer solstice will be examined through the lens of Western European plantlore. This class aims, through the deeper knowing of key plant species and their rich stories, to create space for understanding the ways in which European-ancestored people or those interested in European plant lore, can tap into the lore of their own lineages to more deeply connect to their ancestral lines all the while helping to combat the rise of cultural appropriation in these challenging times.

Sunday Intensive: 

Narrative Herbal Medicine: 

Weaving Words & Healing Herbs

Heather Wood Buzzard

(2.5 hrs.)

So many of us have turned to herbs. So many are now turning to words. Narrative medicine and herbal medicine, distinctly, are the two oldest forms of healing. In the times when these were the two primary forms of care, chronic disease was less rampant, infectious disease was a number one killer, and both narrative medicine and herbal medicine were called upon daily to save lives and move mountains. Today, both narrative medicine and herbal medicine have been thrown by the wayside in favor of high-tech, clinical, and sterile modern medicine, which can save lives but can also kill and comes with marked side effects, something narrative medicine does not come with and herbal medicine comes with very rarely.

A primary tool of the narrative herbal medicine practitioner is close listening to the client, a muscle which can be an exercised and strengthened through close reading and reflective writing. Close reading builds the skill of deeply listening without adding or subtracting from the story or attempting to place it within society. The skilled witness must interpret within the story which areas are sacred, which profane, which aspects are vital to the teller and which are footnotes, what shocks and revelations they have dealt with, and what they have done and what has been done to them to bring them to their present condition.

The story of a client is unexplored territory which the process of close reading gives us the tools to map. When we as practitioners try to locate ourselves within our client’s story intentionally, we may find it unfamiliar. The principal of minimal departure tells us that we expect to hear or witness something that doesn’t vary too greatly from what we already know. This is good and to be expected. But the patient wants to be seen and found, whether or not their narrative fits within the circumference of our comfort zone. Care givers may assume that a client is speaking from a baseline of reality somewhat close to their own truth, but this is not necessarily the case. 

In this exploratory class, we will navigate our way through mapping the space where herbs and words coincide. We will cover topics including, but not limited to, narrative humility, the doctrine of signatures, poetic medicine, tools for narrative knowledge, the language of the body, the language of the plants, and constitutional medicine.

Death & Dying Part I: 

Preparation, Acceptance, & Herbs For Grieving

(1.5 hrs.)

Julie James

“A culture that does not know how to die, will live in fear of the unknown.”

The dominant culture in America has become wholly and unhealthily removed from the process of death and dying. We tend to see any open discussion of death as ghoulish, we deny death and at the same time have a bizarre obsession with images of violent death, horror, and ideas of what comes afterward. We have come to this state in a relatively short period of time– as recently as our grandparents’ time, families still honored their beloved dead at home, tended lovingly and mindfully for their bodies, and during the process of dying, stayed with their loved ones, caring for them and surrounding them with community, family, and children. Now, too often the process of dying is relegated to sterile hospitals, with the dying isolated from their community, accompanied often by only their doctors and nurses. And when the body finally dies, it is whisked off to a mortuary, unseen and untouched and unloved until it is finally presented in a sterile, artificially preserved and painted manner. Families who seek to care for their dying at home are seen as oddities, and if they then choose to care for the body of their beloved dead themselves, atrocities.  And yet the right to care for our dying and our dead is so very human, and is a deeply healing way to come to terms with death. We are able to more closely work through our grief and loss when we are not disenfranchised from it, when we can openly and publicly mourn, when we can properly honor the relationship that we had and the transition of that relationship. And with that more profound understanding of the process of death and dying, we receive the unmatched gift of emotional and psychological acceptance and closure that can support us in the process of grieving. 

In this class, we will look at historical death traditions in American culture and how and why that changed so much, as well as the many cultures that still honor the process of death. We will discuss how herbal allies can help us to be present and supported in the process of dying, how we can ease the passing over that threshold by our beloved, and how we can work through the grief and loss after death.

Death & Dying Part II: 

Home Funeral Practices, Legality, History, & Rituals

(1.5 hrs.)

Julie James

In Part 2, we will examine how to be with death in a more personal, direct manner, and examine how herbalists can work in and with hospice, death doula, and home funeral organizations, how we can offer pre-death care to the dying and to the community, and how we can help clients regain their incontrovertible right to home death, and become, if they choose, an active participant in the transition as well as the honoring of the body after death. 

We will look at the physical process following death, how to care for the body, and the legal issues surrounding this process. Regulations are already in place that protect our right to home funerals, and disposition of the body, including alternatives to embalming.

By speaking clearly and plainly about death, we hope to start a larger discussion that will continue in our communities and beyond. It is long past time that we take back this extraordinary final journey, making it our own and embracing a deeper understanding and acceptance of our own death in the process.

Old World Meets New World: 

Wax Pouring, Bone setting, & Folk Herbalism/Folk Healing Practices 

in The Ukrainian Settlements of Western Canada

(1.5 hrs)

Dionne Jennings

Moonshine, Goose fat, axle grease, beeswax and holy water—what does this have to do with herbal medicine? Join Community Herbalist Dionne Jennings and explore the folk healing and herbal practices of Ukrainian immigrants & descendants in the Ukrainian settlements in Western Canada. 

Herbal medicine is of course, the medicine of the people. Let’s learn more about how our Ukrainian ancestors practiced it, and honor the hard work, hardships & resourcefulness that contributed to our body of herbal knowledge & these largely forgotten traditions.

Newcomers to Canada from Ukraine came in hopes of acquiring land and a better life for themselves & their children. On long, sea-sick ridden voyages across the ocean, they brought with them grains, seeds, herbs, plant cuttings, tools, as well as many healing practices which were very much needed while surviving their first long & harsh Canadian winters. Access to doctors & hospitals in the settlements was extremely limited. Hardship & poverty were daily obstacles to endure & overcome & the people had to be resilient & self-sufficient out of necessity, as well a reliant on their closest neighbors & community members. We will explore support for healing the physical body as practiced by Plant Doctors & the Bone-Setters, as well as the practices of sweating, steaming, cupping & leeches. We will also explore where the physical & spiritual intersect, examining the idea that sickness was a result of imbalances, evil spirits, or spiritual crisis. Spiritual Healers, sometimes also known as wise women or “witches” practiced “Wax Pouring” a divination ritual to cure “Fear Sickness” or the Evil Eye that had been cast on them. 

Part of folk medicine practice at the time was augmenting herbal treatment with influences of the spiritual/supernatural. This would include many familiar herbal practices such as making infusions, poultices, & salves with blessed plants and herbs, but also using other ritual objects as instruments of healing such as knives, holy water, candle wax & ribbons from church. First Nations medicine and intersection with spiritual practices certainly also influenced the folk medicine as it was practiced and developed at the time. Plant medicine-our original system of medicine-was practiced by all of our ancestors, as was medicine & ritual for the spirit. Come hear some stories of mine!

Babas & Botany: Flora, Fauna & Cosmology 

in Ukrainian Healing, Ritual & Folk Art 

(1.5 hrs)

Dionne Jennings

Like all world cultures, the Slavs had a deep connection to the plants and to the land. Spirituality, ritual, and religions that came after all have strong connections to the natural world. Let’s explore the influence of & connection to the natural world as part of Ukrainian folk tradition-from the gathering, use & blessing of aromatic plants and herbs, as well as the symbology and influence of plants and flowers in various facets of Ukrainian folk art. We will discuss some herbs that we are familiar with the the Western materia medica and some rituals around harvesting them on the Summer Solstice for best healing & charms, along with: 

•Pysanky: Pysanky are Ukrainian easter eggs made by a resist technique with dyes from local plants and beeswax. They are pre-christian & have many associations & with fertility rituals, symbology to sun gods, the tree of life, the great goddess, and there are many plant, animal & celestial symbols that are used to adorn them. 

•The ritual & symbolism of Motanka dolls. Motanka are dolls of protection, or ritual charms, made by hand using plant material, bits of fabric scraps & rags. Intention, wishes & prayers go into making the dolls for health, fertility, & protection. Motanky have connections to the goddess Rozhanytsa which can be traced back to ancient Slavic & Trypillyan culture 

•The symbology of the Tree of Life & it’s connection to Great Goddess in handcrafts such as embroidery, also known as “vyshyvky” for clothing & protective “rushnyky” used in ceremony and for the home. 

•We will also explore Flora & Fauna in traditional Ukrainian Folk Tales including mythical tales of blooming ferns, magical trees, & the ideas of certain trees being favored by the gods. Let’s share some traditional tales and explore their symbolism & mythology together as a group. 

Ancestral Women Healers: 

Ukrainian Folk Herbal Practices

(1.5 hrs)

Dionne Jennings

Seers, Solstice, Seneca Root & Survival: this class is dedicated to the strength of the Ukrainian women in our ancestral lineage. Herbalism and healing as we know it today looked a little differently as practiced in the “Old Country”. Let’s explore the role of woman as healer in Slavic culture. This class will be 2 parts: an exploration of herbal and folk medicine practices by and for women in the Old Country, and a dedication to the resilience & strength of those women & those practices that were brought with them to Turtle Island.

Herbs & plant medicine were known & called upon for thing like day-to day healing of the household to ritual practices that were in the realm of the psycho- spiritual healers, often known as witches, involving incantation, divination & prayer. Harvesting herbs on certain ritual days & incorporating them into charms, spells, ritual and divination were common place in Ukraine several generations back, & some of those rituals are still practiced today. Using herbs to maintain health & treat sickness & illness, as well as visits to the local healer for things outside the realm of the physical (the evil eye, possession) were common place only a generation or two ago in what is now also known as North America, and yet much of those practices have slowly been lost and faded from our cultural consciousness. Doctors were sparse in the Ukrainian settlements & reliance on ones own knowledge of healing practices, local & cultivated plants for tending the sick & injured was a necessity. Reliance on strength & fortitude were necessary to survive the first harsh prairie winters and much of that fell on the shoulders of women.

There is a rich and ancient thread connecting current cultural & christian practices that stretches back millennia to pre-christian practices with origins in the pagan & shamanic. There is a rich connection to plant medicine that’s been all but severed from the women who came before us. Let’s explore what we know, what’s been left behind, and how we might continue to incorporate it today. Come share in some stories dedicated to those times relating the fortitude of the feminine and their connection to the land. 

Grieving Our World With Plants

(2 hrs)

Jasmine Kocie

There is a collective grief that lies under so much of the pain, anger and projections we see in the outer world. Influenced by the state of outer reality, social and cultural breakdowns and breakthroughs, the poignant words of nayyirah waheed, and the teachings of plants, Jasmine brings this class forth to explore the act of grieving with plant allies that support this much needed process in these times. We'll be introduced to a variety of herbs and their energetics, discussing how we can work with them for personal and collective grieving. We'll discuss the power of witnessing grief and spend the end of our time here going inward for an inventory of what we are grieving. 

Medieval Remedies: 

A European History of Nine Sacred Herbs

(2 hrs)

Dani Otteson

The history of Western herbalism is long and winding, with many fascinating periods of development. The medieval period saw blending and transition in culture and belief, which stretched into all aspects of life. Several medieval medical texts featuring the use of herbs, chants, and rituals survive today. What’s more, preparations from said texts have recently been proven in a University setting to be extremely effective against virulent pathogens. 

This offering will explore plant medicine and magic as they came to be in medieval Europe. Class will include an analysis of the Anglo-Saxon nine herbs charm from the Lacnunga, discussion on the medicines of the plants featured, and how these herbs fit in to modern ritual and herbal practice. We will make medicine bags based on these writings, and come away with a deeper understanding of some familiar (and maybe not so familiar) medicinal plants, as well as a feeling of connection to this element of history. History of medicine is a deeply intriguing study, as it introduces us to our earth-based medicines as ancient, ancestral, and also deeply effective in the modern world.

Poetry as Medicine: 

Building an Apothecary of Encouragement 

(1.5 hrs)

Jennie Isbell Shinn

Herbalists and teachers of herbalism often tout the holistic nature of the herbal medicine. This workshop is about building an apothecary of encouraging words— poetry and other metaphoric prose — to use when an intake process or an unfolding case study indicate that a common theme of the human experience is active. From isolation to inspiration, mystical encounter to mundane recollection, poetry and metaphor touch us in the deeps of emotion, intuition and our collective unconscious. As herbalists we address nourishment, lifestyle, presenting symptoms and general vitality; we can also develop assessment skills and a file of poetry as medicine for soul health. In l.this workshop, we’ll consider common emotional states that go with physical conditions and life stages, touch briefly on the risks of transference and projection, start building a poetic apothecary, and imagine what prescribing inspiration might look like. 

Plants as Allies: 

A Journey Into Plant Spirit Medicine

(2 hrs)

Megan Waddy

This workshop will focus on deepening your relationship with plants, nature and community through the use of heart-centered perception. Participants will be guided through a meditation practice and be offered small doses of plant medicines in order to experience a deep sense of embodied presence and connection with the unique energy of each plant. Exercises to cleanse and protect your energetic body, open and deepen your innate intuitive gifts, and use intuition based diagnosis in a clinical setting will be explored. 

Wychwood: The Earthen Healing of the Elm

Originally published in Plant Healer Quarterly

Spreads in the midst her boughs and agéd arms

an elm, huge, shadowy, where vain dreams, 'tis said,

are wont to roost them, under every leaf close-clinging.

  –Virgil, The Aeneid

Choose willow of the burn, choose hazel of the rock, choose alder of the bog, choose birch of the waterfall, choose ash of the shade, choose yew of the resilience, chose elm of the braes, choose oak of the sun. 

Carmina Gadelica


Common Name: Elm, Slippery Elm, Wych Elm, Scots Elm, Skogsalm, Siberian Elm, Leven, Elven, Leamhán, Slóibhe, Phoenix Tree

Botanical Name: Ulmus rubra, Ulumus fulva, Ulmus pumila, Ulmus glabra, and allied mucilaginous species.

Energetics: Neutral, moist

Taste: Bland, sweet, earthen (as per Matthew Wood),

Impression: Mucilaginous, slightly astringent 

Actions: Demulcent, sl. astringent, expectorant, drawing agent, nutritive, relaxant nervine. 

Tissue States: Atrophy, Excitation

Resilient, rot resistant, and strong, the Elm has played an important part in the lives of people in both Europe and North America, from the making of Welsh bows to shipbuilding materials to being hollowed out for water pipes in early plumbing to the Dancing Elms of Devon that were used during May Day dances. 

One species native to the British Isles is called, Ulmus glabra, is common known as the Wych Elm, and the term Wych comes from the Old English wice, meaning pliant, refers to the tree material’s “bendability” and suppleness, which is part of why it was considered so ideal as a material for bows in Wales. The tree has sometimes been associated with melancholy, grieving, and death in the British Isles and in Greece, and has a history of being used to build coffins from. 

Elm has also played an important part in medicine in Western culture. While many of us in the United States think only of Slippery Elm, Ulmus rubra, as an herb, many species in Europe and beyond are traditional parts of the pharmacopeia. In Traditional Chinese Medicine alone,  at least four different species are used as medicine, including Lang Yu Pi, Ulmus parviflora, and Yu Shu, Ulmus pumila. The latter being a very common introduced tree in much of the western United States. 

Trees of the Underworld: 

Dutch Elm Disease

One of the greatest tragedies to befall the plant world has been the enormous loss of life due to Dutch Elm disease. Millions upon millions of Elms have sickened and died in the last century, and even now the disease continues to spread across Europe, North America, New Zealand, and beyond. 

Dutch Elm Disease is a vascular wilt disease, most commonly caused by the fungus Ophiostoma novo-ulmi in the North America and Western Europe at this point in time, and spread by the elm bark beetle. The first signs of infection generally include yellowing and wilting of leaves on individual branches. Initially, they may impact only one part of the tree’s crown, but eventually, whether months or years, the tree will die. The pathogen acts by preventing fluids and nutrients from reaching the extremities of the tree, causing death by starvation to the elm by blocking sap transmission.  

The fungi overwinters in the bark and outer wood of infected and recently killed trees, and even in elm logs. The European elm beetle and the American elm beetle both nest in dead or dying elm wood, and hatch their larvae there. Once the larvae have matured, they then feed on the wood, and consequently distribute to the Dutch Elm Disease spores to other trees, and spread the disease. These spore-contaminated beetles seem to be the most common way the disease is spread, but root grafting between individual trees is another method of transmitting the pathology. 

Dutch Elm Disease is believed to have originated in the Himalayas, and spread to Europe by way of the Dutch East Indies in the late 1800‘s. The first species of Dutch Elm Disease, Ophiostoma ulmi to impact Europe and North America, was originally found in northwest Europe around 1910 and spread to Britain by the 20‘s. It was far less virulent than the current species but did cause fatalities of 10-40% of the Elms in the European countries it was found in. By the 1940’s, the worst of the epidemic had passed, and many were optimistic that the elms would then be able to recover and re-proliferate. 

However, in 1968, elm logs infected with the new strain of the disease, O. nova-ulmi, were transported from Canada to England and consequently rapidly infected the native elms there. In 1976, it finally found its way to Scotland, and in the 1980’s it moved into the highlands and it continues to spread northwards across the country. 

In Britain alone, more than 25 million elms have been lost since the 70’s, and in Edinburgh,30,000 out of the original 35,000 Wych Elms have succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease after nearly 9,000 years of thriving in Scotland. In the United States, we have lost 70% of all our mature elms since the 1930’s. The last few years have seen severe outbreaks in locations as far flung as New Zealand, which suffered an epidemic of the disease just this year in 2013.

A very small proportion of trees appear to demonstrate some immunity to the disease. Additionally, some East Asian species, such as Ulmus pumila, seem naturally resistant to the disease. American and European organizations have been working for decades on creating resistant cultivars, in addition to using insecticides and other chemicals to attempt to suppress the disease. Sanitary pruning and destroying of infected trees is also in use in affected areas, but all of these approaches have thus far not stopped to the spread of Dutch Elm Disease. Unfortunately, some of the chemicals used in the war against Dutch Elm Disease have even resulted in numerous species of birds being harmed and killed by the very substances meant to save the trees.  Scientists in British universities have also been experimenting with genetic modification to try to create trees entirely immune to the disease, but as with all GM projects, there’s simply no telling what the results will be in the long term. 

Please exercise both caution and compassion when harvesting and working with Elm trees medicinally. Be aware that Ulmus rubra has been the victim of both overharvesting and of Dutch Elm Disease, while it seems to be somewhat more resistant to the fungus than other native American elms, it’s still frequently sickened and killed by it, and is also especially vulnerable to predation by the elm leaf beetle. 

If you buy Elm bark, please be sure to buy it from a source that specifies that it has been cultivated, not wildcrafted, so as not to further existing sustainability issues.

A Spectrum of Elms: Species, Energetics,  & Ecology

Nearly everything written about the medicinal properties of  Elm in the United States refers specifically to Slippery Elm. However, this is not the only medicinal species in the world, or even in this country. I’ve had a few people in classes express total disbelief that any other species could be even remotely analogous to the revered Slippery Elm, but as per my usual, I explicitly encourage everyone to try it for themselves instead of taking my word for it. Not all Ulmus species will fit the bill, but the test is a fairly simple one. If you slice a bit of bark off a branch or twig, and then apply a bit of water to it and it creates long strings of slippery mucilage, that’s one clue. The next is if you taste the bark and it’s bland, a bit sweet, and slightly astringent. If all of these things are true, you can move on to trying that species in place of Slippery Elm, and you’re likely to have very good results. I think it’s especially important to find a variety of species within the genus that can work effectively for medicine given the prevalence of Dutch Elm Disease. Not all species are hit equally hard by the disease, and the ones struggling to survive are likely best left to try to heal and survive, rather than being harvested from, especially those in the wild.

The Elm I use most often is referred to as Siberian Elm, or Ulmus pumila, a native of eastern Asia that has gone rather invasive in the US. It's considered one of the quickest growing hedge plants available, and it certainly can shoot up out of nowhere even in the semi-arid lands of the SW mountains. Incredibly drought resistant, it can out compete most native plants for water and ground space, and quickly colonizes roadsides, disturbed areas and yards. According to my research, it grows from Utah to Kansas, and north to Ontario, giving it a large range in the Southwest, Midwest and Great Plains. And the USDA map says it grows in nearly every state in the US, with only two or three exceptions, as well as through much of Canada. Because of these conflicting sources, I'm not actually clear on where exactly its range extends to, but I do know that it is common throughout the mountainous SW and Rocky Mountains. It can grow from 50-70 feet, which is funny since pumila seems to mean dwarf.

While I don't recommend cultivating this Elm where it could become invasive and detrimental to local ecology, I do think that it would a wonderful plant for nearly everyone to regularly use. U. pumila generally possesses all the wonderful qualities ascribed to Slippery Elm, being incredibly mucilaginous, soothing, healing and preservative in nature. I use it in the same sorts of preparations Slippery Elm is known for, including salves, infusions, lozenges, food (as a thickener and general nutritive agent) and as a poultice.

Slippery Medicine: An Overview

Much of Elm’s healing properties have to do with the copious amounts of mucilage it contains, making it very suitable in the treatment of any affliction characterized by inflammation and dryness. This can include bronchitis, ulcers, all manner of hot-natured belly problems, sore throat, UTIs (urinary tract infections), and constitutional dryness resulting in systemic inflammation. The gruel made with powdered bark is very nutritious and ideal for a weakened digestive system. Topically, the powdered bark of an infusion made with the bark is soothing, very healing and helps to draw boils and splinters out. The infused oil helps to preserve other oils and makes a great salve for irritated, abraded skin conditions.

It’s exceptionally useful as a demulcent partly because of its neutral temperature which won’t aggravate a cold constitution. There are a whole lot of people out there with cold, dry constitutions that need a big dose of a demulcent herb but can’t use Mallow because of how cooling it is. Elm powder can be added to oatmeal or something similar and eaten straight or it can be added to your daily nourishing infusion and sipped slowly through the day.

Patterns of Healing

Elm is appropriate for both chronic and acute conditions, with two symptom patterns standing out as most indicative.

  1. Soothing 

Elm specifically excels at lessening inflammation and excitation of the tissues. We often think of soothing herbs as those that are so mild as to verge on useless for any serious condition, and Elm is an excellent plant for correcting that flawed mindset. Elm is gentle enough for internal use by weakened infants or elders, but a powerful enough healer that it is often invaluable in acute injuries and severe chronic conditions where inflammation and heat from overexcitement of the tissue is a significant factor.

While not commonly thought of as a nervine, Elm’s relaxing and moistening qualities can indeed calm a manic, agitated state in those who have symptoms of dryness, malnourishment, and heat. It’s important to remember that the nervous system can be impacted through any other system in the body, and certainly by the overall tissue state. In folks who are perpetually dried out and have signs of inflammation, agitation can stem directly from constitutional dryness, especially in the mucosa. Addressing that dryness can result in a marked improvement, sometimes almost immediately. 

Wherever the mucosa is hot, sensitive and painful, Elm can most likely be of use. I’ve frequently used it in formulas for gastric ulcers and other irritated gut conditions, such as healing after removing a food intolerance. The mild astringency Elm tends to demonstrate is of great value here as well, tightening the tissues, reducing inflammation, helping to prevent infection, while soothing and nourishing. This is true both topically and systemically. 

Elm bark, along with Mallow root, powder frequently makes up most of the base of the pastilles I make for sore throats. It also makes a soothing mouthwash for mouth ulcers, burns, and hot, irritated conditions of the mouth and throat mucosa. Like Mallow, Elm seems to have a systemic reflex action upon the body’s mucosa, meaning that when taken internally it cause a system wide moistening effect even though it’s not actually touching the tissues topically. This is excellent, since huffing or snorting Elm bark powder to soothe hot, dry lung or sinus mucosa would likely be both unpleasant and harmful. Because of this reflex action, a gruel or infusion of Elm bark will moisten the mucosa throughout the body, including the urinary tract and respiratory system, allowing the herb to have a soothing effect on inflamed, painful tissue. 

Urinary tract infections accompanied by sensations of burning and scanty urination can be soothed by an infusion of Elm bark, and can help provide immediate relief while anti-microbial herbs work on addressing the actual infection. Similarly, Elm can be very useful for hot, dry bronchitis, sinus infections, smoke inhalation, and even some cases of pneumonia.

2. A Nutritive Tonic

The other pattern and tissue state that elm is specifically appropriate for is tissue atrophy, particularly when recovering from a weakening illness, an ongoing severe illness such as cancer, or chronic malnutrition. This is especially true where the illness is related to digestive issues that have reduced absorption of nutrients. I have seen terminally ill cancer patients in the last stages who otherwise cannot seem to digest anything given them, be able to eat and absorb elm bark powder gruel with relative ease. I consider it a very important herb, along with Marshmallow root, in the treatment of those dealing with radiation and chemotherapy and the accompanying nausea, digestive upset, overall dried out tissues, and nervous exhaustion. 

I also find it very useful for folks dealing with inflammatory bowel disease, recovering from food intolerance related irritable bowel syndrome, or simply dealing with a lingering case of the stomach flu. If oats are well tolerated, it often works to stir either a bit (start with 1-3 teaspoons) of the bark powder or to add a bit of concentrated elm bark infusion to the oatmeal before consuming.  Not only does it provide nutrition, but it also lessens inflammation and pain in the gut, often within about an hour, sometimes more quickly, depending on where in the gut the inflammation is most concentrated. 

Topical Applications

While many folks don’t necessarily think of Elm as an external medicine right off, it certainly is useful that way. Historically, it has been well known for its use in healing wounds and injuries, but now seems to have fallen out of favor for this use in North American herbalism. For example, the bark has traditionally used in the north of Ireland as a salve and throughout rural countryside of that country as a topical medicine for many sort of inflammations and swellings.

Elm is an excellent topical medicine for almost any injury accompanied by swelling, inflammation, and damaged tissues. I frequently combine elm with Solomon’s Seal root, Comfrey leaf or root, Mullein root, Goldenrod flowers, and resinous Cottonwood buds for a general joint liniment. This is extremely helpful in reducing pain and trauma and speeding healing to all sorts of joint injuries, including recovering from ACL surgery or in conjunction with physical therapy for other join injuries such as rotator cuff strain. I have even used it in formulae for slow healing fractures with good results, especially when combined with something warming and stimulating to local blood flow, such as Cottonwood buds. 

Preparations

Elm bark doesn’t tincture too well with all the mucilage, as you can imagine, it wants to precipitate right out. Infuses very well into oil though. Mostly, I use the dried bark in either powder form or chunks of bark or bits of twigs for internal use. It’s very stable and lasts at least several years. It can be made into cold or hot infusions (both nice and slimy) or the powder can be added to food or taken straight with a bit of water or milk. The powder also makes great, slippery honey pastilles for sore throats and other mouth/throat inflammations. 

Externally, it works well infused into oil for salves, as a cold water foment, or as a simple poultice.

Cautions & Contradictions

Not necessarily for frequent internal use by those who already suffer from excess moisture, as per thick, copious white mucus and chronic congestion, among other kapha like symptoms.

Resources & References

Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition: An Ethnobotany of Britain and Ireland by David E. Allen and Gabrielle Hatfield

Irish Trees: Myths, Legends, and Folklore by Niall Mac Coitir

The Scot’s Herbal: The Plant Lore of Scotland by Tess Darwin

King’s American Dispensatory by John King and Harvey Wickes Felter

The Earthwise Herbal, New World by Matthew Wood

The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism by Matthew Wood

The Wych Elm Project http://www.wychelmproject.org.uk

GM Trees fight Dutch Elm Disease http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/1512210.stm

The Highland Council/Comhairle na Gáidhealtachd: Dutch Elm in the Highlands http://www.highland.gov.uk/yourenvironment/agriculturefisheriesandforestry/treesandforestry/dutchelmdisease.htm

The Decline of the English Elm Tree http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/8912727.stm

Good Medicine Classes: Materia Medica + Constituents

This year’s Good Medicine Confluence, our 10th Anniversary (!!!), has some of the most unique and interesting (subjective, but I’m allowed) classes of any we’ve hosted or that I’ve seen listed other places. Every year classes seem to come in and almost arrange themselves in discernible patterns that we can neither predict or entirely control. We try to be adaptable to what’s coming for applicants and attendees and schedule classes accordingly.  Our focus on practical skills, ecology, the plants themselves, sensory delight, and story are a constant through all the other changes, but I’m always excited to see what new topics will arise!

Herbalism is such a vast and diverse field that there seems to be endless opportunities for new ways of looking at and practicing herbal medicine. While many of us primarily think of herbalism as a clinical healthcare field, there’s plenty of room for more indulgent ways of working with plants, as with brewing and aromatics. Likewise, medicine making can be, by turn, either simple and common sense, or intricate and delicate work, and we try to present a broad spectrum of possible complexity and difficulty. 

I know that many of the folks interested in the Confluence would like more information and insight into what they’re getting when they sign up for a ticket, so I’ve planned out a series of posts highlighting the classes scheduled for this year, and the teachers presenting them. Even for those of you unable to attend, I hope you’ll find some inspiration in these topics and their descriptions. I know that I’ve often found myself pondering a whole new way of approaching a subject after reading about someone else’s class. 

I’m going to start where I always do, with the plants! I would venture to say that all of our classes delve deeply into the wisdom and ways of the plants, but these classes are focused around a single plant, a group of plants such as a plant family, or specific constituents. And in one very interesting class, we’ll learn how the fungal and bacterial critters that grow along and within the herbs and seem to, in many cases, either critically impact or actually BE the medicine of the plant. Dr. Marija Helt’s class on endophytes is a fascinating jumping off point for materia medica, constituents, and how we view and experience plants as medicine. 

I don’t even know how to arrange all this amazing stuff. A whole class on Thistles?! Misfit weeds? Archetypal plant medicines of Oz? I mean... wait, what? I think our teachers are brilliant and incredibly creative, and while some of the credit certainly belongs to the plants, I’m proud to have each of these folks teaching! I hope you enjoy perusing the classes, and I’ll be back soon with more classes in the different categories. Brewing + Mixology next, or Ancestral Herbalism? I can’t decide....

Also, if you ARE interested in attending our 10th anniversary Good Medicine Confluence, then be aware that the ticket price goes up at the end of the month, so get your tickets now! Also, this is the last year the Confluence will be available in this format. What comes after is still a surprise... but if you love the huge number of herbal classes, labs, and intensives concentrated into these five days and have always wanted to come, be sure to do it this year! Find out more at http://planthealer.org - there’s even a tentative schedule available, as well as all the class descriptions and logistical information!

-Kiva

Solomon's Seal: 

The Gift of Rhizome Medicine

Rachel Berndt

(1.5 hrs)

Solomon's Seal is one of our most underused and underappreciated North American herbs. It is a sweet nutritive herb, considered a "structural panacea", having a strong affinity for the musculo-skeletal system. Solomon's Seal works to deeply nourish our connective tissue, restore essential fluids to the body and to soothe and cool irritations.  In my practice it is my go-to herb for anyone experiencing  fractures, sprains, injured ligaments or tendons, arthritis, tension myositis syndrome or other trauma related tension/injury. It is also a superb herbal ally for hot, tense digestive issues and for hormone health. Solomon's Seal is safe, easy to cultivate and holds a wide range of application.  Surely it deserves a spot in every American herbalist's apothecary!  During this workshop I will present to you a monograph on Solomon's Seal, formed from research of traditional uses, folklore and through my own personal clinical experiences. With this workshop I seek to inspire you to deepen your relationship with Solomon's Seal, and I seek to explore with you the gift of rhizome medicine.

Everything Good About Thistles

Katrina Blair

(1.5 hrs)

This class by Durango area herbalist and noted wildcrafter Katrina Blair will highlight the brilliance of thistle as food, medicine and as stewards of the earth.  We will learn how to use all parts of the thistle for culinary delights and medicinal health support including the roots, stems, leaves, flowers and seeds.  Thistles are often seen as a weed and this class will offer examples of how they regenerate and fertilize disturbed lands while offering a haven for pollinators.  We will also learn the basics of organic weed mitigation for thistles when this path is required by current regulations.  This class includes delicious edible samples and experiential learning.

A Motley Crew of Misfit Herbs: 

The Medicine of Plants People Love to Hate 

Phoenecia Monet Chaidez

(1.5 hrs.)

You have heard of them. You may have even seen them. Called them a few nasty names; given them the stink eye upon finding them in the organized chaos of your wild garden. Oh no, Knotweed! Ragweed... achoo! We are all probably guilty of throwing out a few expletives upon meeting these plants, no matter how profound our love for herbalism may be. The suffocating ways of Kudzu, blistering Trumpet-Vine, Albizia and her countless offspring, the messy Sweet Gum and more. One of them sneaks in to conduct reconnaissance, then after determining the path of least resistance, they invade en masse. But are they truly invaders come to conquer an ecosystem and manipulate a biome, or are they possibly refugees in a mass exodus from an otherwise unsuitable habitat? Maybe they are groups of healers tasked with repairing an ecosystem that was on the verge of destruction or that has suffered damage at the hands of our human species. These misfit botanicals have, at times, been blamed, vilified, and sentenced to the death penalty simply for existing. Or are they guilty of aggressively coexisting and domination? Could it be that in their abundance, they are asking to be of service? In this class, we will discuss all sides of the issue, while discovering the medicinal and ecological value these plants possess. From fighting the flu to purifying the atmosphere; cleaning up skin afflictions to likewise cleaning up heavy metal toxicity in the earth, these cursed plants have stood the test of time, therefore deserving of their place in our hearts, our apothecaries and the earth.

Hands-On Demonstration Lab:

First Aid From The Trees: 

Create Your Own Kit With Poplar, Fir & Siberian Elm

Natasha Clarke

(2 hrs)

Balm of Gilead, soothing throat lozenges and traditional European coniferous resin salve are 3 of the exciting, ancient and well proven effective first aid medicines that we will be making in this workshop. Bringing in stories of traditional and non-traditional uses as we toil and trouble over the boil and bubble of the pots of sticky goodness, we will be talking in depth on the many applications of tree medicine, including how in many bioregions it is the most sustainable and accessible medicine in a survival situation. Medicine, preserver of foods, fire starter, light giver are to name just a few of the uses. We will be talking about proper Identification, sustainable harvesting, tricks and tips for an easier and cleaner harvest, preservation techniques as well as a detailed materia medica of each tree covering the medicine we make and the various uses in first aid situations. First aid is not only medicine but also an attitude. As we prepare the medicine to take home for our own First Aid Kits we will discuss pros and cons to packaging, best types of bandages, what is often available in the wild to be used and what essential tools are best to have with as well as wound care guidelines.

The Many Medicines of The Rose

Natasha Clarke

(1.5 hrs)

"Look at the thorn and see the rose" –Rumi

An oft quoted flower, well-worn myth maker, worn in water, oils and lotions, celebrations complete with the rain of petals, thorns piercing, bushes tended or run feral, world travelled in location and time, the rose has been in our hearts and of our hearts for as long as humans remember. In this class we will move through the many medicines of the rose, celebrating all that she has to offer from top to toe, collectively creating, while tasting, an in-depth material media of the extensive uses and applications of rose medicine. Sampling exquisite distillations and essences, leaf tea's and poultice, rose hip electuarys, thorn wisdom and root bark syrups and powder's, we will cover all the facets of this ancient and loving companion while wondering, in amongst all the incredible herbal heart tonics, what is it in the rose that captures us so timelessly? We will story into the traditional and new, discussing how now more than ever rose is a medicine of our times.

Mint Family Magic:

From Monarda to Skullcap, Peppermint, & Beyond

Emily French

(1.5 hrs)

This amazing family's deep and generous support of our bodies is crucial to our well-being, and even to our evolution as human beings. I think our nervous systems would be very different animals indeed had we not been raised up by the mints for as long as we've been people. This become especially evident when we look at our ability to connect, to calm down and tune in, to support the metabolization of our food (and of our experiences), and to harmonize the centers of consciousness living in our brain,  heart, and gut. We'll look at materia medicas for a diverse range of lamiaceae plants, case studies, cutting edge research on the three big centers of consciousness in the body, and histories of mints as medicine from around the world.

Endophytes: 

Think You’re Making Herbal medicine?  Think again!

Marija Helt

(1.5 hrs)

“Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em.

And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so, ad infinitum. 

And the great fleas, themselves, have greater fleas to go on,

While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on…”

- Jonathan Swift 

Many of us think of ourselves and other beings as an “individuals”…Jane, Joe, Rex the dog, Tiger the cat.  In reality, life is more similar to a fractal, or perhaps a set of Russian nesting dolls.  We’re each a hodgepodge of many smaller individuals; a collection of our cells as well as fungi and bacteria that do more than just tag along…they influence how we are. Don’t even get me started on the the viruses that infect our resident bacteria and fungi and influence how they are.  Even “our own” cells contain viral genetic sequences integral to our DNA. So microbial tag alongs may even influence who we are.  Not to forget the other end of the spectrum, in which we’re but one component of the larger organism of the planet.  “Individuals”, indeed. 

Plants are no exception to this nesting doll reality. When we make plant extracts, we are in fact making plant, fungal and bacterial extracts. Medicinals such as Chamomile, Mints, Saint John’s Wort, Skullcap, Rosemary, Geranium, Fennel, Artemisia and many others have been studied for their fungal and bacterial tag-alongs, called “endophytes”, meaning “inside plants”.  In fact, all plant species tested to date contain endophytes, critters who hang around inside living tissue without causing disease. Wash the plant all you want before extracting and you don’t get rid of them. Endophytes exist either inside of or squeezed in between the plant cells. And, really, you may not want to get rid of them.  

“So what?”, you may ask. Well, endophytes may be a key determinant of the quality of our plant medicine.  Come geek out on endophytes and learn why our medicine isn’t from our favorite plants alone.

Phytochemistry Through Plant Families

Heather Irvine

(2 hrs)

Learn about some of the most notable phytochemical classes in the context of botanical families.  This will include a categorization of many of the main phytochemical classes, as well as some challenges and thrills for more advanced participants.  Phytochemical classes we will focus on include: Terpenes, iridoids, alkaloids, flavonoids, resins (including a look at what is a resin anyway? – and the various definitions of resins), saponins, coumarins and more.  We will focus on some of the common actions of phytochemical groups parallel to common actions of plant families which possess a considerable number of constituents of those groups.

Glycosides: 

Medicine On The Side

Heather Irvine

(1.5 hrs)

"Glycosides" - Sound fancy, convincing, important, medicinally active, dangerous?  Has a ring of... cardiac glycosides, Foxglove, digitalis, the Black Cherry bark minor controversy, and wait, Rose family glycosides!?  Let us clear up some confusion about how a plant can have these strong medicinal compounds and still play well with critters.  This will cover many of the glycosides in medicinal plants, even some commonly used plants which you may not have realized contain glycosides, and how this mechanism of putting a nutritional component and a strong medicinal plant secondary metabolite make sense as a potent delivery from the flora to the fauna.

Hands-On Demonstration Lab: 

Pinaceae Flavors: 

Tree Cookery

Erika Larsen

(2 hrs)

Cooking with trees! Nuts, resin, immature cones, needles, twigs, branches, bark. We'll talk about identification and seasonal ethical harvest of small amounts of different conifers for use in cooking and the medicinal properties of these trees. I live with the Ponderosas, limber Pines, Douglas Fir, bristlecones, Colorado Blue Spruce, White Fir, and Engleman Spruce, and will talk primarily about them, because they're whom I'm the most familiar with. We'll have a brainstorm of the ways people cook with the Pinaceae to share all of our knowledge. I'll bring examples and samples, and we'll prepare some seasonal evergreen dishes and do some eating and drinking! 

Oats as Food & Medicine: 

Porridge, Panacea, & Scottish Culture

Jenny Solidago Mansell

(1.5 hrs)

From hearty Scottish “parritch” to milky oats tincture, the oat plant has a humble but long history both as a food and herbal remedy. Although the culture at large often limits oats to a quick breakfast of instant oats at best, there is a vast scope of delight and healing to be found when using this plant. For those of us with Scottish ancestry, it is a food which literally kept our ancestors alive and for that alone we should sing its praises. Although no herb is a panacea in the strictest sense of the word, all of the aboveground parts of the plant have been used in one way or another to support healing and it has a surprisingly wide variety of applications. It is also a gentle, food-type herb which often makes it a good choice for children, elders, and others with more delicate systems. In this class, we will delve into various medicinal preparations of oats, how to make them, and when and why you might use them. Learn how to plant your own oat patch, how to harvest and tincture milky oats at just the right point for maximum benefit, and how to make oatstraw nourishing infusion. This class will also cover traditional food practices surrounding oats. Find out the benefits of a spurtle, how to make decent oat porridge, the process to make sowans, and what goes into a good bannock. We will explore the role oats played in Scottish culture, the folklore and customs surrounding it, and how you can bring this folk wisdom into your own life.

Hands-On Demonstration Lab:

Nourishing & Restorative Herbs

Sage Maurer

(1.5 hrs)

Come learn about some of our most beloved healing plants! For many herbalists, the foundation of our practice rests on nourishing restorative herbs. These nutrient rich wild and cultivated plants are taken daily as tea, food, or diluted juice to help restore our health and vitality. As so many people are feeling exhausted, depleted, and over stressed, nourishment and rebuilding is deeply needed right now. These nutrient rich plants help to build up our vital energy and strengthen our exhausted over-taxed systems. Nourishing herbs give our cells, tissues, and organs the vital nutrients and life force needed to thrive. Their constituents help restore function, balance, and repair damaged tissue due to chronic inflammation, exposure to toxins, infections, poor circulation, adrenal depletion, injury/trauma, chronic stress, poor nutrition and digestion. We will explore nourishing herbs through tea meditations, fresh juice, medicine preparation and tasting, lecture, and discussion. Come receive their healing energy, and explore how these plants can be incorporated more deeply into your daily life and practice! Plants we will work with and talk about in class include Nettles, Chickweed, Oatstraw, Red clover, Violet, Burdock, Dandelion, Yellow dock, Linden, and other nourishing herbs used by many cultures all over the world. Come get deeply nourished and spend time connecting to these beloved green allies.

One Plant, Many Preparations: 

Exploring Lemon Balm

Rose Nuffer

(1.5 hrs)

Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, is an herb with a long, beautiful history of use and a plethora of preparations that are beloved by many people. This plant, belonging to the mint family, is a plant that grows easily and abundantly, though, in my experience, it seems that often people to not make full use of all the medicine it has to offer us. So in this hands-on, exploratory class we will dive into a deeper understanding of lemon balm and get creative with how to use this lush, lemony mint plant. We will make, use and/or taste fresh and dry plant preparations of lemon balm, from poultices and infused waters to tinctures, syrups and more. With each preparation we will examine our own reactions as well as historical to modern interpretations of each preparation. We will also go over detailed explanations for the various preparations. Not only will this class celebrate lemon balm, but it will also help deepen your understanding of this lovely plant. And we may all come away calm and uplifted. 

Hearts, Brains, & Courage: 

Archetypal Medicines of Oz

Dani Otteson

(1.5 hrs)

This class will explore in depth various archetypes of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. We will discuss flower essences and materia medica for various herbs that align with these archetypes. 

The word “archetype” derives from Greek and Latin, and means “the original form from which copies are made.” Archetypes are recurring symbols and characters that arise across culture – often in literature and art, from the Hero to the Trickster and beyond. Archetypes can also be used to represent different experiences and demeanors that we encounter and embody as we navigate through life.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of American literature’s best known stories. It has been translated in over 50 languages, and continues to be adapted in film, television, and literature. The Library of Congress has acknowledged it as "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.” Conceivably, one of the reasons this story is so well loved is that the characters within embody highly relatable archetypes. One of the story’s most compelling elements is the idea that the protagonists already possess that which they each seek; each character holds his/ her/their own medicine.

This offering aims to demonstrate the medicine of a range of archetypes – both from an herbal perspective and from a perspective of appreciation and non-judgement. Connections and creative thinking developed here can be applied with compassion in our everyday lives as herbalists and humans.

Milkweed Medicine: 

The Healing Wisdom of Asclepias

Dani Otteson

(1.5 hrs)

Milkweed plants are grouped into the genus Asclepias – named for the Greek god of medicine. Many plants in this genus contain toxic components, and yet several milkweeds hold potent medicines. These medicines apply not only in the physical and spiritual realms, but also in the wider ecology of the planet. Milkweeds have garnered attention recently, as they have key bonds with many pollinators – perhaps most famously with monarch butterflies. Milkweeds are complex beings – elaborate flowers with sophisticated relationships. 

This offering explores the myth, medicine, and ecological importance of plants in the genus Asclepias – the milkweeds. Class will include materia medica on a selection of medicinal milkweeds, history and lore related to Asclepias plants, and a guided meditation featuring milkweed flower essence. This class aims to inspire herb folk to stay open to personal allies in the green world, to plant milkweeds for pollinators, and to walk away with a beautiful understanding of a transformative plant.

The Wisdom of Plants

Dara Saville

(1.5 hrs)

There are many ways of knowing plants.  We can discuss plants as purveyors of healing herbal actions, sensory pleasures, nourishing foods, as biological entities, or ecological players.  We can also get to know them as sentient beings with their own life experience and stories to tell.  Another level of wellbeing can be achieved by deepening our relationships with plants and opening ourselves up to their offerings that cannot be put into a bottle or jar.  The wisdom of plants is indeed a gift that the seeker may receive in an infinite variety of ways.  This class is an opportunity to hear herbal tales of relationship, bonding, and growth founded in reciprocity and love. Join me for an exploration of the wisdom of Yarrow, Mullein, Pedicularis, Cottonwood, Juniper, Salt Bush, and Baccharis and find out how plants can teach us to be better people, living our lives with their inspiration as a guide.  Bring your own stories to share.

Kiva RoseComment
The Bramble & The Rose: An Exploration of the Medicine of the Rosaceae 

The Rosaceae is one of the most widespread and abundant plant families in temperate North America. Most of us are familiar with their uses as astringents and anti-pyretics in herbal medicine but the finer nuances of their abilities, especially in regard to wound healing, moderating histamine response, and acute care tend to be less well known. 

Rose Family Astringents

There are many ways to group plants based on their traits and actions, and oftentimes this is possible within a genus or family. In this case, the majority of the Rosaceae are often grouped as what is generally called Rose Family Astringents. I first learned this term from my teacher, Michael Moore, and it appears to now be in popular use in Western herbalism. It’s useful in that it tells us one of the primary categories most of these plants fall into. Astringents contract tissues, and therefore offer a variety of related actions, including reducing inflammation, bleeding or other loss fluids, and lessening or preventing infection.

On the other hand, I have frequently seen that it also seems to have the effect of oversimplifying the complex medicine this family contains. Major healing components in the Rosaceae are their flavonoids, which are responsible for many of the anti-viral, immune enhancing, cardiotonic, and anti-inflammatory actions. In fact, I would say the intense flavonoid presence in this family is probably far more significant for most herbalists than the astringency. 

Rose Family Flavonoids 

Antioxidants are big talk in the natural health world these days, with Green Tea being touted as the new universal panacea in many cases. And yet, the leaves of most species of Rosa contain more antioxidants than any kind of Green Tea. Flavonoids are one of our most widespread and important classes of antioxidants, they’re easily extracted and preserved through simple herbal processing techniques such as infused honeys, water-based infusions, tinctures, elixirs, and many more basic preparations. 

Anthocyanins are a type of antioxidant that are colored pigments that occur in most plants, especially in flowers and fruits. Berries such as Elderberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Grapes, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Cranberries, and Hawthorn fruits tend to be especially rich in them. These compounds protect against oxidative damage, and have an enormous impact on overall human health. Most of the specifics are beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll touch on a few important points that clearly apply to herbalists and their practice. 

 Anthocyanins appear to strengthen the vascular system, and some studies indicate that they can lower blood pressure, prevent clots, lessen bruising and varicose veins, as well as reduce excess bleeding. Additionally, we know that anthocyanins can markedly increase visual acuity, even reversing vision loss and night blindness. Clinically, I have clearly seen anthocyanin rich plants increase vascular strength, including in acute vasculitis and I have also seen cases where cardiac health has been significantly improved, and vision loss has been reversed or stopped. Theoretically, they also inhibit cancer cell proliferation and I have seen some clinical work that corresponds with that idea but have no personal experience to cite here.

Rose Family Action + Energetic Patterns

A knowledge of the tissue states as laid out in Matthew Wood’s The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism is helpful here, but not specifically necessary. Similarly, a basic understanding of energetics, Western herbal actions, and even TCM diagnostic and herbal energetic terminology will give more depth to the information presented here, but is not strictly required. 

Many of the Rosaceae have specific actions and traits in common, some of the ones you may the see the most often include: 

  • Astringent

  • Relaxant nervine

  • Hypotensive or cardio/circulatory tonic

  • Diuretic

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Febrifuge

  • Anti-viral

  • Anti-histamine

Rosaceae Members

Hawthorn: Lady of the May

Common Names: Hawthorn, Lady of the May, 

Botanical Name: Crataegus spp.

Part: Fruits, leaves, flowers, thorns

Thermal Energetics: slightly warming

Fluid Energetics: 

Taste: Sour, sl. sweet. sl. bitter

Impression: permanent

Actions: astringent, cardiotonic, diuretic, relaxant nervine, cardioregulator, 

Diagnostic Keywords: Deficiency + Stagnation + Lability

Overview: The need for Crataegus can be simplified down to deficiency, stagnation, and lability. This is an herb nourishes, regulates, tonifies, warms, and moves energy and fluids in the body. It provides stability with movement, regulating fluctuations and swings while allowing the body to retain flexibility to adapt to stressors.

Connective Tissue Injury + Weakness: Apparently due to the flavonoid content, Hawthorn is wonderful for protecting, healing, and reinforcing connective tissue through its collagen stabilizing effect. I have found Hawthorn incredibly useful, especially when combined with Solomon’s Seal, in the treatment of any injury where connective tissue is involved.

Especially pertinent is the treatment of the hypermobility type Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an incurable genetic connective tissue disease characterized by hypermobile joints, chronic joint pain, elastic skin, and frequently, mitral valve prolapse. EDS is especially common in those on the Autism spectrum, and Hawthorn’s focusing, calming, and heart spirit restoring properties are often especially valuable for folks on the spectrum.

Moving the Blood: Hawthorn excels at moving the blood, which can both relieve pain and improve circulation in those who it is impaired. We often think of Crataegus in cases of hypertension, but my experience indicates it’s at least as useful, especially as a simple, for labile, swinging, unsteady blood pressure, and I find it more useful for consistent hypertension when combined with herbs like Achillea.

Hawthorn is especially called for when there is erratic heartbeat with chest pain and cardiac weakness.

Healing the Heart: Hawthorn is healing to both the physiological and emotional heart, possessing the capacity to stabilize mood swings, contribute to focus,  and resolve grief alongside its more well known actions on the cardiovascular system. 

This herb is well know for building cardiac and circulatory strength, and is especially useful where there is labile blood pressure, general deficiency with anxiety and heart palpitations, mood swings, and inability to focus. Unlike the most common classes of drugs which decrease heart function in order to reduce the demand for oxygen, Hawthorn increases/improves actual heart function without increasing coronary blood flow. In cardiovascular issues, look specifically for exhaustion, cold extremities, as well as lability of blood pressure, mood, focus, and energy levels.

Hawthorn seems most valuable in treating the early stages of congestive heart failure, but is useful at any stage, and also potentiates cardiac glycosides so that smaller doses of the glycocides can be used in treatment.

Protecting the Spirit: Not simply relaxing, Hawthorn also stabilizes both emotional lability and energy level swings while also assisting in focus and balance. It is specifically useful for many folk on the autism spectrum, and also has an important part to play in moderating the negative or stressful symptoms that can occur in attention deficit disorder and bipolar disorder.

Formulation + Preparation Tips: Hawthorn plays well with other herbs, and is one of my favorite plants to formulate with. Here are a few of my favorite pairings. 

Hawthorn + Solomon’s Seal: Phenomenal internally, for stabilizing collagen and reinforce or heal damaged or weak connective tissue. Highly recommended to those with chronic injuries, a slow healing acute injury, or even Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Also a useful formula externally as a liniment or compress for treating slow to heal connective tissue injuries, Comfrey may also be added in such a situation.

Hawthorn + Milky Oats: Wonderful for balancing moods and energy levels without overt stimulation or sedation. Strengthens the heart and nervous system while increasing focus and groundedness.

Hawthorn + St. John’s Wort: Ideal for treating disturbed heart spirit issues with anxiety attacks, mood swings, and heart palpitations.

Rose: Sweetbriar

Common Names: Rose, Sweetbriar 

Botanical Name: Rosa spp.

Part: Fruits, leaves, flowers, thorns

Thermal Energetics: slightly cooling

Fluid Energetics: drying

Taste: Aromatic, sweet, sour

Impression: permanent

Actions: astringent, cardiotonic, diuretic, relaxant nervine, liver relaxant

Diagnostic Keywords: Heat + Excitation 

Overview: The underlying property of Rose is one of fluids/energy/blood movement and regulation, which explains many of seemingly disparate effects on the different organs and tissues of the body. It has an innate intelligence that gives it the ability to adjust the flow of the body’s varying energies and substances. It can calm heart palpitations, eliminate hepatic pains, reduce nervous tension or lessen menstrual cramps depending on where heat and irritation are being held in the body.

Liver Relaxant + Relaxant Nervine: While the healing power of the Rose is pervasive in how it touches nearly every part of a person, perhaps the most remarkable aspects of this flower are found in its ability to affect the heart and spirit. Long praised for its anti-depressant qualities and ability to open the heart, it has been used across the world to raise the spirits and heal broken hearts. An amazingly uplifting herb, I often use it as an antidepressant/anti-anxiety agent, especially for those who have been the victim of violence, sexual abuse or betrayal as well as anyone who can use more self-love. It has a profound opening effect on the heart and on sexuality, and is a deeply nourishing tonic for the nerves.

A very gentle (except for those thorns) plant, Wild Rose can be used by just about everyone though some traditional peoples warn against use in pregnancy due to the blood moving effects. I have not yet seen much in the way of constitutional aggravation from the temperature or humidity of this herb. In fact, I use the tincture much like Rescue Remedy for trauma, stress etc. And personally, I have found it to be more effective than Rescue Remedy for most things. For the ultimate herbal Rescue Remedy formula I do one part Wild Rose, one part Monkeyflower (Mimulus) and 1 part Milky Oats (Avena spp.) or Blisswort (Scutellaria), that’s some good stuff there! As a side note, some people find Wild Rose tincture fairly mind altering (generally in a very nice way) while others can’t feel the nervine effects when they first start working with it. I have seen some cases of people being shocked at how much it affected their thought process and emotional state.

A wonderful relaxant to the liver, Rose excels at moving stuck energy and relieving tension in the liver/gallbladder area. I use it frequently when treating cases of acute hepatitis or chronic/viral hepatitis where there’s signs of inflammation. And of course, it makes a wonderful heart-settling nervine suitable for nearly anyone, and gentle enough for a baby. In fact, the smell of Roses significantly decreases overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system while also reducing adrenalin output in the body. Likewise, several different major systems of traditional medicine also consider the hips and flowers both a tonic for weak kidneys and adrenals. I frequently include some part of the plant in formulas for clients with adrenal fatigue with symptoms of heat, nervous exhaustion and internal dryness.

Blood Moving: I’ve found it to be very useful in treating general pelvic congestion resulting in scanty menses, cramps, water retention, cysts and mood swings. Rich in the building blocks of hormones, Rose helps nourish the endocrine system through its provision of these basic hormonal elements. An age old aphrodisiac, stirring up both blood and libido as well as opening up the heart, it has a history of treating “sexual dysfunction” such as impotence and lack of sexual drive, even where there is interest.

Partially due to these same blood moving decongestant properties, Rose is also strengthening and healing to the heart and circulatory system. It is especially indicated in high blood pressure and/or poor circulation in individuals with Pitta symptoms such as inflammation, constipation, headaches, feverishness, red face, heart palpitations and hot flashes. Note that several of these symptoms can also be caused by a congested or inflamed liver, which Rose also serves to relax and cool.

That same uptight, overworked and congested liver can also cause any number of digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, gastric inflammation, IBS, hyperacidity and conversely, food fermenting in the stomach from sluggish digestion (usually rooted in stagnant liver Qi). Rose can help these symptoms through addressing the liver problem at the root, as well as cooling, healing and protecting the gut lining, assisting the digestive process to help things move a bit better and by generally nourishing the mucosa as well as the intestinal bacteria. I have personally found Rose petal infusions to be a very effective long term treatment for IBS with signs of internal heat and inflammation (diarrhea, food allergies, nausea, burning/churning stomach, red, cracked tongue with anxiety and restlessness).

Anti-inflammatory: Topically or internally, Rose is an effective anti-inflammatory and I regularly employ it in my infusion blends for those recovering from gut inflammation due to food intolerance (concurrent with removing the offending foods) or similar. Topically, it acts in the same way and is great for reducing redness, swelling and pain from any number of sources, including insect stings/bites, abrasions, blunt trauma and even puncture wounds.

Scandinavian studies show that Rose hips and seeds significantly reduced the need for painkillers in individuals suffering from osteoarthritis. I have found all parts of the rose to be strongly anti-inflammatory, and have used a liniment of rose petals for traumatic injuries, sore muscles and chronic muscoskeletal pain in individuals that fit the Pitta type profile Rose is most useful for. I’ve had remarkable success treating dislocated discs with accompanying swelling, stiffness and pain with topical applications of Rose petal liniment and infusion. Just this liniment, with no other treatment, recently resolved a dislocated disc with severe pain, swelling, tension and loss of movement. It’s also been effective in less serious cases typified by inflammation and pain. The flower has also been long recognized as a primary medicine in Ayurveda and Unani Tibb, and has been found to significantly contribute the “good” bacteria in our bellies.

Hyperimmunity: Rose can effectively balance hyperimmune disorders where the body overreacts to every perceived threat. It also generally enhances immune function through its cooling, cleansing effect. I use Rose as a standard remedy for any cold or flu type illness, the hip is traditional for this but I often use both hip and petal in my preparations. Many Native tribes were known to use the root or bark in the treatment of cold and flu, and while I haven’t yet tried this, I imagine it will be at least as effective as the petal or hip. I make Rose petal pastilles with honey for sore or inflamed throats. Rose infused honey can be used as a syrup for the same symptoms. And an infusion of petal and leaf will also help symptomatically with sinus congestion, runny nose or damp heat in the lungs.

Anti-Infective: While not popularly known for its anti-infective properties, it can indeed by a helpful herb in combatting bacterial/viral/fungal infections. Being a mild plant, it doesn’t have the immediate kick of something like Echinacea or Alder but nonetheless is an effective and useful herb for treating many infections topically. 

Hemostatic/Styptic: Rose is mildly to moderately astringent (depending on species and part used), not astringent enough to tie your guts up in knots but strong enough to help stem the flow of blood when used topically and tighten tissues to help prevent the loss of further blood or the wound from becoming boggy and oozy. This in turn promotes quicker wound healing and less scarring. 

Insect Stings/Bites: Rose, like many of the Rosaceae, has a distinct effect on histamine responses (see resources below for some research based validation of that traditional knowledge), moderating and sometimes preventing allergic type reactions. My experience does not indicate that it is as strong as, say, Prunus persica (Peach) or Prunus serotina (Black Cherry and allied species.) However, it’s plenty effective enough to be very helpful in the treatment of many insect stings/bites that trigger small histamine type responses. Rose petal poultices are great for reducing the pain, swelling and redness of bee/wasp stings and similar, even better with Plantain or Alder leaves. 

Additionally, plain old Rose tincture or elixir is also a quick and effective treatment for mosquito bites and many other itchy afflictions.

Abrasions & Minor Wounds: Compresses (of strong tea or diluted infuse vinegar), petal/leaf poultices, crushed dried petals/leaves and a number of other preparations can be very useful in reducing pain and bleeding and speeding healing of minor wounds and abrasions. Children are often very fond of this remedy, being intrigued by the scent and color of the petals and often the very idea of such a well known flower being used as medicine. Adults are more likely to scoff at you, probably for the same reason the children are impressed. 

Rashes: Itchy, red, hot rashes often respond very well to the application of crushed Rose petals/leaves, compress (with strong tea or diluted infused vinegar) or simple soak/bath. This is an old and widespread remedy that remains applicable today.

Note that if your rash is from poison ivy or some other contact dermatitis that it’s imperative that you remove the irritant (this includes washing with soap in the case of poison ivy) before treating. 

Burns: Rose infused vinegar is my favorite treatment for general sunburn treatment, just dilute the Rose petal and/or leaf infused vinegar to about 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water and apply as compress or soak to affected area. 

Similarly, Rose tincture or vinegar works very well for minor burns where the skin has not been broken. For more serious burns, where the skin has broken and especially where there is any potential for infection, I prefer to use Rose infused honey as a dressing. Rose formulates very well with other appropriate herbs such Alnus, Monarda, Oenothera or similar. 

Cellulitis and Other Bacterial Infections: First off, serious bacterial infections, including cellulitis, should generally always be treated internally as well as externally whenever possible. That said, topical treatments via compress, soak, poultice and similar can be very helpful and initiate the healing process quickly. Where there is any chance of serious infection or cellulitis, I strongly suggest that you do NOT use an oil/fat based topical treatment, as I have seen this actually spread the infection on multiple occasions. Trapping moisture and encouraging bacterial proliferation is probably not your therapeutic goal so stick with with water or vinegar based preparations in these situations. 

Rose’s ability to firm boggy or damaged tissues, reduce inflammation and lessen bacterial proliferation while encouraging the growth of healthy tissue makes it ideal in the treatment of many microbial infections. I tend to use it in formulae with Monarda spp. leaves, Plantago spp leaves/flowers and Alnus spp., leaves for cellulitis or serious infections with heat signs along with addressing the issue internally.

Formulation + Preparation Tips: Rose can be prepared just about any way you can think of. As a nervine or heart medicine I prefer a fresh plant tincture/elixir of the flowers, leaves or hips made with brandy, and perhaps 10-15% of honey or glycerine. The tincture will work great for mosquito bites, burns, sore throats and many other things as well. It also makes a fine liniment for nerve pain, muscle inflammation or similar issues. I use a dosage of anything from a drop or two as a nervine to a couple dropperfuls for a sore throat or upset belly. The infused vinegar is great for sunburns, salad dressing, headaches and sore muscles. and can be made with fresh or dried petals, it can be used diluted or straight, as needed. The oil of the petals is trickier, and usually requires a high volume of petals, freshly dried and twice infused in oil to make something that really smells like Rose. The hydrosol is great for SO many things and can be added to elixirs and potions to make them even stronger. The dried petal or petal and leaf makes a wonderful tea or infusion for either external or internal use. Fresh petals or leaves make a great poultice. Rose petal mead is something every person should try before they die, it's amazing. Rose infused honey is delicious and a wonderful medicine. Dosage on all of these is pretty much to taste and as needed.

Cherry

Common Names: Cherry, Chokecherry, Wild Cherry, Black Cherry

Botanical Name: Prunus serotina, Prunus virginiana, and allied Prunus spp.

Part: Bark, leaves, flowers

Thermal Energetics: slightly warming

Fluid Energetics: moistening

Taste: Aromatic, bitter, sweet

Impression: permanent

Actions: astringent, cardiotonic, diuretic, relaxant nervine, liver relaxant

Diagnostic Keywords: Deficiency + Irritation + Anxiety

Overview: Cherry is specifically indicated where there is pronounced deficiency accompanied by irritation which may initially look like excess, but is actually inflammation from weakness. The irritated tissue state is often present, along with significant amounts of anxiety/nervousness manifesting in the respiratory and digestive systems. 

Relaxant Nervine: Flowers and leaves are very relaxing and calming. Similar to the bark, but a bit stronger in the flowers. It borders on euphoric but is not noticeably sedating. It’s quite the mood enhancer and carries over well to the tincture. The tincture of the flower, leaves and bark together smells similar to that of Peach, and stronger than that made just with Cherry bark. The scent is, as expected, very much like a very strong tasting cherry or almond extract. The inner bark tastes sweet, slightly bitter and strongly aromatic. The flowers are sweet, astringent and have that somewhat overripe smell that Hawthorn flowers also have. The leaves are astringent, bitter and somewhat aromatic.

Chokecherry is especially useful as a nervine when the stress is centered in the heart/chest region, and threatening to keep you from breathing. A feeling of pressure or constriction around the lungs and heart is common. Heart palpitations or pounding may occur, as well as nervous stomach and shakiness. There's also often signs of heat such as a red tongue, flushing, sensations of excessive heat and inflammation throughout the body. The symptoms will often have a normally sane, articulate and well managed person ready to climb the nearest wall or down the closest bottle of Valium. Five drop doses are usually quite sufficient to calm, and ten drops will usually stop a full blown set of heart palpitation gently but firmly.

Heart Palpitations From Weakness: The bark has long been recognized as a specific for those with cardiac weakness, especially when accompanied by a chronic cough, palpitations, high blood pressure, digestive impairment and signs of heat and irritation from weakness. I’d venture to say that the flowers perform these functions, and then some. I’ve noticed that wild cherry flowers can sometimes elicit the same minor but noticeable momentary irregular heartbeat that Hawthorn does in some people. Clients have often been able to feel an immediate slowing or smoothing in their pulse. Very relaxing, verging on euphoric in sensitive individuals. An excellent nervine for use in cases of grief, broken-heartedness and hysteria. I have found a few drops of the tincture useful in stopping my own heart palpitations on occasion, and also notice the steadying and slowing of the pulse.

My clinical and personal experience shows Cherry to be very effective in the treatment of mild to severe anxiety attacks and heart palpitation, both as a strengthening preventative and as an in the moment treatment. Southern herbalist Tommie Bass considered Wild Cherry to be a wonderful treatment for heart problems of any kind (as well as one of the most important liver herbs he knew of). 

Nervous Stomach: Cherry relaxes liver tension and is also useful in the treatment of dyspepsia, IBS, and reduced appetite where weakness, heat, nervousness, and tissue irritation is a an issue. Cold infusion works well, but so does the flower + twig elixir or tincture. Cherry, like Hawthorn, Rose, and many other Rosaceae, seem to exert their tonic influence best over a period of time using small but consistent daily doses. 

Respiratory Irritation and Weakness: Cherry bark is most well known for treating irritable coughs, asthma, and insomnia from respiratory irritation or tension. It is indeed very useful in these situations, especially as a percolation, although a cold water infusion can certainly suffice. It is especially effective in cases where there is both irritation and weakness, including in many cases of childhood onset asthma with pallor, exhaustion, dyspepsia, and a desire to remain still. 

Anti-Histamine: Like Peach and Rose, Cherry is useful for moderating histamine response to insect bites/stings and similar. While Peach often gets more credit for this particular use, I’ve actually seen Cherry work faster and stronger with a smaller dose on several occasions. 

Formulation + Preparation Tips: Cold infusion or percolation of bark and tincture or elixir of bark, flowers, leaves are my favorite, and seemingly the most active, preparations from Cherry.

Peach 

Common Names: Peach

Botanical Name: Prunus persica

Part: Leaves, bark, flowers, fruit/seed

Thermal Energetics: cooling

Fluid Energetics: sl. moistening

Taste: Aromatic, sweet

Impression: permanent

Actions: astringent, anti-histamone, diuretic, relaxant nervine, 

Diagnostic Keywords: Heat + Dryness + Irritation

Overview:

Relaxant Nervine: In the South, Peach leaf tea is still sometimes given to someone before telling them a piece of hard to hear news, illustrating its time-honored ability to relax the nerves and reduce stress. Peach is especially useful where anxiety and irritation are making it difficult to relax or rest, and there’s a feeling of overheatedness and frustration, often with underlying exhaustion. The tisane or elixir can both work well, often calming and soothing within ten minutes of ingestion. 

Anti-Histamine: I hesitate to give a label such as anti-histamine to this plant since I have no way of knowing the exact mechanism by which it works but I have seen through repeated experience that it can be invaluable in the treatment of venomous insects stings/bites, even when the person is clearly having some degree of allergic reaction. Like most treatments in this situation, Peach works most effectively when given immediately or as soon as possible after the initial bite or sting. Where someone has been stung by a bee, I apply a few drops of tincture directly to the sting site after brushing (NOT pulling) the stinger away if it still remains, and if I have a small piece of gauze or similar on hand I may soak the cloth with tincture and keep it applied to the site. I have also soaked fresh Alder leaf poultices with Peach tincture and applied that directly and find it works even better. I also give 1/2-1 ml of Peach bark/leaf tincture internally as an adult dose. I repeat this dose every 15-20 minutes until the swelling, redness and pain begins to recede. Usually this happens within 1-3 doses. 

Two of my clients who are moderately allergic to bee stings have been able to successfully use Peach rather than their epi pens when stung by bees. They still carry their epi pens as well as the Peach tincture but in the five years one client has been using Peach and the two years of the other, neither have had to resort to the epi pen even once. 

Additionally, I have found that Prunus persica is remarkable useful in the treatment of the bites of Cone Nosed Kissing Bugs (of the genus Triatoma), insects which inject their saliva into the victim before ingesting their blood. This injected chemicals can (and often do) cause moderate to severe itching and pain in the victim for 24-48 hours that is not only local but can effect up to 80% of the body and welts at bite sites may be present for several days. This swelling and itching is thought to be an allergic reaction at least in part and anaphylactic shock is possible, especially if symptoms include swelling in the tongue and throat. Severity of reaction to bites appear to increase with repeated exposure. I previously used a topical infused oil or tincture of fresh Larrea tridentata leaf to treat these bites in clients and students and observed that the intensity and spreading of the itching/pain was reduced by 10-20% most of the time. However, about five years ago, I experimented with Prunus persica tincture on a Triatoma bite based on my success with Peach in other venomous insects and discovered that the Peach tincture applied topically on the welt and taken internally (1/2-1 ml in an adult) reduced itching, pain and swelling within ten minutes and eliminated it entirely (with the exception of a barely visible red mark at the bite site) with half an hour. I have repeated these results in 14 cases over the last five years, in both adults and children. I always apply a few drops of tincture topically to each bite site (Triatoma will often inflict a series of bites if not noticed and stopped) in addition to giving the tincture internally. 

Morning Sickness + Hyperemesis: I also find Peach exceptionally helpful in cases of morning sickness or even hyperemisis with obvious heat signs and where Ginger may aggravate instead of assist. I have seen several cases where women who were previously too nauseous to have an appetite or vomiting so profusely as to be unable to keep any food down regain some appetite with a single dose of Peach tincture. I originally read these indications as written by William Cook and have found Prunus persica to be a reliable and valuable remedy in this context.

Heat Sickness + Heat Triggered Asthma: Peach is the perfect herb to explore during the long, hot days of Summer. It helps to soothe the irritability that often comes with extended periods of heat, as well as lessen  the nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, and lack of appetite that can go with it. Here in New Mexico where Summers can be exceedingly hot and dry, some people develop a dry, hacking cough in response to the climate and I have found that the Peach Elixir works very well to soothe it. It works similarly on asthma aggravated by heat, and I always keep it on hand for my daughter who finds both it and our local Chokecherry, Prunus serotina, in easing her breathing issues during the hot months. The local Hispanics of my region think of Peach leaf as an overall Summer tonic, and given how many heat induced ills it can alleviate, I’m inclined to agree with them.

Formulation + Preparation Tips: While I often use a beverage strength tea of dried Peach leaves as a reliable relaxant nervine, it is the tincture of the fresh leaves and twig bark (and sometimes flowers) that I use for most acute purposes, especially those involving venomous bites or stings. It is my experience that in order for Peach to be most beneficial as a medicine it should have a notable fragrance when the fresh leaves are crushed or the bark is abraded. Less fragrant specimens may still demonstrate some nervine properties but don’t seem to be as effective in the treatment of allergic-like reactions. I have never purchased Prunus persica and the bulk of my experience is directly drawn from working with the leaf, bark and flower I wildcraft from local feral Peach trees that grow along acequias and in abandoned homesteads here in rural southwestern New Mexico.

Silverweed/Potentilla

Common Names: Silverweed, Fair-Grass, 

Botanical Name: Potentilla anserina and allied spp.

Part: Leaves, flowers, rhizomes

Thermal Energetics: neutral to cool

Fluid Energetics: drying

Taste: sour, bitter

Impression: permanent

Actions: astringent, diuretic, relaxant nervine, 

Diagnostic Keywords: Laxity + Dampness + Heat

Overview: A strong astringent with a specific affinity for the intestines and uterus. One of our most straight forward Rose family astringents, with the added benefit of being useful in nervous system tension resulting from overall tissue laxity. 

GI Heat + Laxity: Acute diarrhea with burning sensations and potential bleeding

Clearing Heat + Tonifying Laxity Topically: Externally useful as a poultice or compress in the treatment of burns and hot, swollen, potentially infected wounds, boils, and similar. Also useful for external treatment of prolapses and other tissue laxity, as in sitz baths for uterine prolapse or hemorrhoids. 

Silverweed and Rose petal infused vinegar is an excellent treatment for sunburns and minor to moderate burns, as well as 

Relaxant Nervine: Silverweed (and all of the Potentilla spp.) are mild relaxant nervines that seem to have particular affinity for helping folks grow boundaries while remaining calm and centered. This action is often most specifically designated to Potentilla and Agrimonia, but it’s a common gift among the Rosaceae, thanks to their thorny but vulnerable natures. 

Bramble + Berry: Rubus Medicine

Common Names: Blackberries, Raspberries, Salmonberry, Thimbleberry, Bramble, 

Botanical Name: Rubus spp.

Part: Fruits, leaves, flowers, thorns

Thermal Energetics: cooling

Fluid Energetics: drying

Taste: Sour, sweet

Impression: permanent

Actions: astringent, diuretic, relaxant nervine, anti-viral, 

Diagnostic Keywords: Laxity + Blood Deficiency

Overview: All the Rubus species are astringent with high flavonoid content, an affinity for the pelvic area, and anti-viral tendencies. 

Rubus fruits are an effective treatment for kidney deficiency with frequent urination, and also useful in mild to moderate cases of diarrhea, although the roots and bark, being more tannic, will be of more use in cases of moderate to severe diarrhea or dysentery. 

Similar to Blueberries and other Vaccinum species, Rubus spp. have a traditional reputation, with modern clinical backup, for the treatment of diminished vision via their flavonoid content. 

Anti-Viral: Similar to Elderberries, the fruit of Rubus spp. can be very useful in staving off or shortening the lifespan of many viral infections. Also like Elderberries, they work especially well if used at the earliest sign of onset, usually when there’s still a fever. This applies to viruses as varied as cold/flu and any of the herpes viruses, including shingles and Epstein-Barr virus. 

Uterine Tonic: Often only Raspberry leaf gets credit for this particular action, but it appears to be widespread through the Rubus spp. and pregnancy teas and similar are definitely effective when gathered from numerous other species such as Thimbleberry and Blackberry. Just note that the amount of tannins in the leaves of these different species can vary, and you don’t want to bind up the gut excessively. 

Formulation + Preparation Tips: For medicinal applications, I find it useful to dehydrate berries to be later crushed and made into an infusion or decoction. In a pinch though, fresh/frozen berries or even a good jam (meaning that it actually contains copious amounts of the fruit) can be very useful. Blackberry syrup is a traditional remedy for diarrhea in pale, weak infants and is both nutritive and effective. 

Meadowsweet: The Queen of the Meadow

Common Name: Meadowsweet, Queen of the Meadow

Botanical Name: Filipendula ulmaria

Part: Flowers or flowering tops

Thermal Energetics: cooling

Fluid Energetics: drying

Taste: Sour, bitter, sl. aromatic

Impression: Permanent

Actions: Astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic

Diagnostic Keywords: Heat 

Overview: Meadowsweet’s specialty is clearing heat. Heat from anywhere in the body, but with a specific affinity for the digestive and urinary systems. Especially useful in chronic disorders where there is systemic heat and a feeling of almost “radioactive” type inflammation in the body.

Gastric Heat, Ulceration, & Pain: An excellent herb for the treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and any GI disorder causing inflammation, heat, cramping, pain, and diarrhea. While it cannot cure a functional disease like IBS, it can certainly greatly reduce symptoms and discomfort, especially when taken over time and combine with elimination diets, proper nutrition, and increased health and diversity in the gut microbe ecology.

Meadowsweet combines well with Crampbark or Wild Yam where there are painful gut spasms, including gallbladder or other duct spasms. Excellent with Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp.) when there is chronic GI inflammation or someone is recovering from longterm food intolerances. It is frequently combined with Licorice in the treatment of peptic ulcers, but do be aware that some folks with autoimmune complications can react adversely to Licorice, so proceed with caution. 

Urinary Infection, Heat, & Pain: Meadowsweet is useful in nearly any case of cystitis or urethritis where there’s heat, irritation, and tension. The herb’s astringency tightens up lax tissues and helps protect the mucosa from microbial infection or reinfection while the flavonoids reduce inflammation and accompanying pain. The diuretic action also relieve the discomfort of retained or scant urine. Combines well with demulcent Viola spp. where there is more burning and retained urine, or with Alnus spp. and Monarda spp. where there is moderate to severe microbial infection. 

Diaphoretic: One of my favorite diaphoretics to combine with Yarrow, Elderflower, and a stimulating Mint family plant like Mentha arvensis or Monarda fistulosa to help prevent or quicken the passing of any sort of influenza virus, especially where there is generalized joint and body pain, sensations of heat, scant urination, and little sweating. 

Formulation + Preparation Tips: Best used with other herbs that more precisely direct the energy and movement of the herb, as Meadowsweet tends to prioritize clearing heat without much actual movement. 

Whenever healing gut or urinary tract inflammation, it’s generally best to use water based preparations whenever possible to allow the herb the most direct access to the affected mucosa. Water based preparation are also generally preferable when using Meadowsweet as a diaphoretic.

Thorn. Leaf. Blossom: A Few Rosaceae Potions + Brews

Peach Elixir

Ingredients

For your elixir, it’s helpful to have on hand:

•A pint canning jar (or other glass jar that seals well)

•Fresh Peach leaves and/or flowers and twigs (the more aromatic the better, and either feral or domestic varieties will work)

•About a pint of high quality brandy (the better the brandy, the better your elixir will taste)

•Appr. 1/3 pint of raw honey (preferably local, and of a lighter wildflower type since darker honeys can muffle the Peach taste a bit)

•A good stirring spoon

Step by Step Instructions

  1. •First, fill your jar all the way to the top with Peach leaves or flowers/twigs, you don’t have to pack them in but push them down a bit to minimize the air space in the jar. 

  2. •Now, pour the honey in slowly, stirring as necessary, until the plant matter is well coated.

  3. •Next, fill to the top with brandy, against stirring as necessary to remove air bubbles and fill the jar evenly.

  4. •Now cover the jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake carefully to finish the mixing process.

  5. •Let macerate in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks (or as long as you can stand to wait. 

  6. •When straining, reserve liquid. 

  7. •Bottle and store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight until needed.

Optional Additions

  • Rose petals compliment the medicine of Peach and they taste amazing together!

  • Cinnamon warms and spices up Peach, making it more appropriate year round.

  • Apple bark combines well with Peach specifically for gastric upset accompanied by heartburn.

  • Chamomile amplifies the digestion soothing properties of Peach, and they taste lovely together.

  • Chokecherry, Prunus serotina, bark and flowers have similar histamine moderating and respiratory relaxant properties, and work very well with Peach for those purposes.

Ideas for Application

  • Internally for soothing irritability and insomnia when the weather is hot or the tongue is bright red and the person feels overheated.

  • Internally for nausea, and vomiting from sun sickness, being overheated, morning sickness, and in any case where the tongue is red and the person feels excessively hot.

  • Internally for any gut upset, including nausea and diarrhea, with signs of heat and tension.

  • Internally for anxiety, tension, and irritability aggravated by the heat or resulting in feelings of overheatedness. 

  • Internally for autoimmune flareups, especially those that cause inflammation of the gastric mucosa.

  • Topically and internally for insect stings and bites.

Rose Infused Vinegar:  My Favorite Sunburn Soother

Rose vinegar is supremely easy to make and has about a million uses. Here’s how you make it: get yourself a jar, fill it about halfway with dried Rose petal or leaves, or all the way up with fresh petals and/or leaves. Fill to top with a high quality apple cider vinegar. Let infuse for at least two weeks, and preferably six weeks. A plastic lid will prevent the Rose vinegar from eating through the normal metal canning lids (turns your vinegar black too, very unpleasant). Your vinegar will turn a lovely shade of reddish pink to brilliant ruby if you use colorful petals (dunno how yellow comes out it, I’ve never used them).

A cloth can be soaked in this lovely preparation (dilute to 1 part vinegar to about 7-10 parts water) can be used placed on the forehead for headaches (especially heat caused headaches), wrapped around a sprained ankle or used to wash itchy bug bites and heat rashes. It excels at pulling heat from an inflamed area in a very short time. It is especially powerful at rapidly quenching the redness and pain from a sunburn in to time flat. In fact a medium sunburn, if caught within the first 24 hours, can be nearly erased in three or four applications of vinegar over a period of six hours or so. Even where there is threatening sun poisoning and blistering skin, it can greatly ease the pain and lessen the general trauma to the body. While not a replacement for emergency care in severe burns, it is nearly always incredibly helpful.

 Sunburn Treatment

  • First, do yourself a favor and don’t smother your sunburn in salve or oil. It just holds the heat in and worsens it, no matter how healing the herbs contained therein may be.

  • Depending on the size of the burn, pour about 1/3 a cup of Rose Vinegar into a bowl, then add several cups of water and mix thoroughly.

  • Get a soft, absorbent cloth and dip into the liquid. Gently wring it out, being sure the cloth is still quite wet. You may want to use very large cloths/towels if the area burned is very large.

  • Place the cloths over the affected areas, it will very cold at first but the cloth will rapidly become hot. Keep re-dipping and wringing as soon as the cloth gets warm. Depending on the severity of the burn, I usually re-apply at least a dozen times during the first session.

  • Let the skin airdry. For a medium burns, I repeat the application about once every two hours. For severe burns, every hour. For light burns, as often as is needed.

  • Before bed, a topical application of fresh Aloe Vera gel can be applied (from the plant, not weird preserved stuff from a bottle) to the area.

  • Keep up the treatment until the area no longer feels hot to the touch. If the burns are very severe and there is the possibility (or existence) of infection, dress the burns with Rose and/or Beebalm honey between vinegar applications.

  • Once the area has cooled off (and stays that way) it’s ok to use a healing salve or cream like Rose, Alder and Elderflower to speed the skin’s complete recovery.

  • If there’s no Rose vinegar on hand, plain or similarly herbal infused (Elderflower, Chickweed, Alder, Plantain) apple cider vinegar may be used.

  • This is such an effective treatment that I wouldn’t dream of traveling without it or not having several quart jars of it in my pantry and medicine chest.

Heart of Guadalupe Elixir: Courage & Vitality for the Sacred Heart

This bittersweet blend of heart opening and vitalizing herbs is uplifting, reducing grief and anxiety while strengthening the heart on both emotional and physiological levels. It’s also stimulating to the digestion, circulation, and general energy levels. 

Cacao and Magnolia are a traditional heart formula from Mexico, both with distinct actions on the heart, nervous system, and circulation. Magnolia is fairly unknown as a medicine in the United States, but has a long history of use in Mexico, which is where I first learned about it. There it is called Flor de Corazón, Flower of the Heart. This is a relaxing, soothing, and strengthening herb that can help lessen hypertension, as well as address grief and fear on a heart deep level. 

The Rose and Hawthorn bring further power and flavor to the blend, while the hot pepper increases peripheral circulation. Both are well known for their heart opening and strengthening effects, and for their inflammation reducing actions on the whole body. They’re both also fantastic relaxant nervines, and excel at lessening anxiety and nervousness while enhancing the mood.

Altogether this is an effective remedy for all sorts of grief, sadness, lethargy, mild to moderate depression, and some forms of burnout. In cases of burnout, do consider using this alongside something exceptionally nourishing to the nervous system, such as Milky Oats tincture and mineral rich decoctions of herbs like Oatstraw and Nettles. 

Some folks do have negative reactions to Cacao, and in that case the Cacao can either simply be eliminated, or replaced with another aromatic bitter such as Calamus root. This will significantly change the flavor, and to some degree, the effect of the elixir, but many wonderful variations are possible. 

Overall, this is a fairly balanced formula suitable for most constitutions who are dealing with sadness, grief, lethargy, depression, apathy or lack of motivation, and difficulty with focusing.

Ingredients

  • 1 part Roasted Cacao beans, nibs, or brick 

  • 1 part Magnolia root and/or flower

  • 2 part Rose petals

  • 1 part Hawthorn berries 

  • Pinch of Chile Piquin or Cayenne

  • Raw honey

  • Tequila, rum, vodka, or similar spirits

  1. Directions

  2. Fill a jar about half way with mix of herbs, noting that parts are by volume. 

  3. Add honey, just covering herbs.

  4. Stir well, evenly distributing honey.

  5. Fill jar with spirits.

  6. Stir again to mix honey and spirits, and to release any air bubbles.

  7. Top off with spirits if necessary.

  8. Cover with airtight lid.

  9. Allow to macerate for 4 weeks in a dark, cool place.

  10. Strain, reserving liquid. 

  11. Bottle and store in cool, dark place.

Rose in Winter Spiced Tea: A Warming Brew for the Cold Moons

This spicy, aromatic blend has become one of my favorite uplifting blends for the cold moons. I especially love it with the conifer needles included, and when prepared just right, the first taste will be of orangey-sweet conifer leaves that transition to richly flavored spices, with the lingering flavor of a thousand roses blooming on your tongue. 

I tend to prefer preparing this tea with whole spices or large pieces, rather than any powdered herbs. It’s certainly possible to use powdered spices, but the texture will be different, and the flavor may be less robust. This recipe is based on parts by volume, so that you can make any size batch you like, from a single fragrant pot to big jars full to share with family and friends in the future. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 part Ginger pieces (this is with dried, you can also substitute fresh Ginger)

  • 1 part hulled Cardamom (or 2 parts whole Cardamom)

  • 2 parts Cinnamon chips or crushed sticks

  • 1/2 part whole Cloves

  • 1/2 part whole Black Pepper

  • 2 parts whole Star Anise

  • 5-7 parts roughly chopped Fir, Douglas Fir, and/or Pine Needles (optional)

  • 2-3 parts Black Tea (I like Darjeeling or Assam for this purpose)

  • 2 TBS - 1/4 C Rosewater per serving

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients except conifer needles, tea, and rosewater in a mortar and grind enough to break down into fairly uniform pieces. This is to allow for easier extraction of flavors during the decoction process. 

  2. Now place crushed spice mix in a bowl, then add the tea and conifer needles, and stir well. You can add more or less black tea depending on how strong you like your brew.

  3. From this point, depending on how much volume you’ve made, you can either store the blend in a jar or other airtight container for later use, or make yourself up a pot right then. 

To Brew:

  1. Add spiced tea mix and water to a pot, approximately 1 TBS per 2 cups of water. Use more or less depending on how strong you like your brew.

  2. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

  3. Strain, reserving liquid and herbs.

  4. Pour liquid into mug.

  5. Add 2 TBS - 1/4 C of Rosewater to each mug, depending on how much Rose flavor you want and how large your mug is. 

  6. Add cream and sugar/honey to taste.

  7. Now, take a deep breath of your fragrant brew, swoon, and enjoy

Notes

You can reuse the already boiled tea mix at least one more time. 

You can also substitute a different base herb for the tea, peach leaf can work well, and some people like honeybush or roobois for this purpose. 

This brew tastes extra fine when spiked with some Cinnamon & Rose infused tequila.

The Healing Roots of Home: Welcome To The Wildling

As some of you know, my Kiva’s Enchantments blog was recently hacked, and partially destroyed. After attempting to restore it, I realized that it would take longer to scavenge the myriad pieces then it would to build something new. And so I set out to create something more true to my current self and practice/perception of plant healing and herbal knowledge. In addition to restarting a blog, I’ve also archived many of my old blog’s posts here as articles, and also added some brand new content and updated information.

Despite all the chaos and work the hacking incident created for me, I’m actually please about it, because it’s resulted in something much more organized, lovely to look at it, and hopefully more usable for my readers!

So here’s my first Wildling blogpost, on a topic near and dear to my weedy little heart. Bioregional herbalism, and the whole premise of healing coming from home, from the soil that surrounds, and the land we live with is what I’ve built my entire herbal practice, and my life, around…. in other words, dirt magic! This piece is an excerpt from the recently released The Practice of Herbalism, from Plant Healer Press. It includes several pieces by me, as well as from folks like Val Camacho (aka Maleza Furiosa), Phyllis Light, Guido Masé, Jim McDonald, Laura Quesinberry, Dave Meesters, and many more!

The Healing Roots of Home:

A Journey Into Bioregional Herbalism

There is no substitute for watching, handling and talking to the plants in person. They are our teachers. They are our support and our strength.   -Christopher Hedley

Come walk with me along the floral ridges of Durango or the wild mountain woodlands of my home. You’ve gathered here with me to learn to speak to the sprouting, reaching, seeding green ones, to enter into the deep relationship that can exist between woman and plant. You’ve journeyed here to find your roots of healing, so that when you return back to your own land you’ll find yourself better equipped to nourish and be nourished by the Green World.

Healing begins at home, growing from the same rich soil we spring from. The plant medicines’ lives are intertwined with ours: blooming uninvited outside the front door, growing from the terra cotta pots on our kitchen windowsills and shooting up in well-tended community gardens. Using herbs from close to home is a tradition honored by the bean feasa and the wortcunner, the babka and the modern wise woman. Traditional healers have long known that the medicine we need the most, grows very near to us.

Do you see this little pink flowered plant trailing along the ground right here? Yes, it’s hard to see among the Mugwort and Dock, but this humble little plant, Malva neglecta they call her, is an amazing tonic used across world to nourish the vital fluids of the body and to cool heat from inflammation and infection, it can also gently support your immune system, building your resistance to stress and infectious disease. It is among the best and most widely used medicines in the world, and there’s a very good chance it grows in your back yard or a nearby park. So remember to look around, sometimes the healing you’re searching for is growing right under your foot!

Come closer, all of you. Put your faces against this ancient Ponderosa Pine, breathe in her amazing vanilla fragrance, feel the puzzle piece texture of her bark and notice the deep green of her needles. Now look around at the smaller plants growing in her shade, at the Oregon Grape Root trailing down the hillside beneath her and the mushrooms crowded around her base. See these beautiful little lavender flowers? They grow only where the Ponderosas grow and nowhere else. Oh, do you hear that chattering? That’s a tassel eared squirrel, it’s dependent on the Ponderosas as well, harvesting pine nuts and the underground truffles that grow among the tree’s roots. And in turn, the Ponderosa needs the squirrel, as it helps to propagate the trees, spreading their seeds through the forest. The Ponderosa forest is a small ecosystem within the larger ecosystem of the Gila, within the Intermountain Southwest within the American West. One inside the other, like concentric rings, with some species completely endemic to just the Ponderosa Forest, like the tassel eared squirrel, and some expanding out to the whole American West, such as the Western Mugwort

This reciprocal need and provision creates a beautiful and interlocked family of beings. And when we humans stay in one place long enough to see more than one season, when we take part by planting and harvesting, or by just noticing and appreciating, then we too are a part of that network. Through this integral participation we are connecting back to our own source on a very deep level. We are not just making medicine for physical ailments, we are healing the wound of our spirits caused by the illusion of our separation from all beings, from the spirit that connects all life.

Follow me deeper into the forest, let me tell you the stories of this place, let me show you what it means to connect to your roots. 

Herbalism is based on relationship — relationship between plant and human, plant and planet, human and planet. Using herbs in the healing process means taking part in an ecological cycle. This offers us the opportunity consciously to be present in the living, vital world of which we are part; to invite wholeness and our world into our lives through awareness of the remedies being used…

-Wendell Berry

Central to finding the roots of healing is discovering where we are. Whether we know it or not, we are each members of unique ecosystems called bioregions. Each is a specific life region defined by its watershed and indicator species, and by their relationships to each other. By its wildflowers and red earth, by Ponderosa Pines and Prickly Pears of the Gila, or by the Mangroves and Cherokee Roses of the Everglades. Bioregions are not subject to or confined by man-made boundaries like national borders, state or county lines or city limits. Instead, they flow along the lines of weather patterns and rainfall, migration routes and watersheds.

Everywhere we are, we exist within a bioregion. We don’t have to live in a virgin wilderness or lush forest to connect to place, the plants of our regions pop up in ghettos and suburbs, in barrios and busy downtown districts. And cities have their own internal ecosystems of street tough weeds and wildflowers. I’ve collected delicious wild greens from inner city parks and baskets of wild mulberries from a rundown alleyway, the plants are all around us, waiting for us to notice and hear their unique message of healing, wholeness… and belonging.

The first step, after all, is simply to notice the place where you are, finding the relationships between species and places. Next time you see your favorite wildflower, note whether it’s growing in sun or shade, is the soil sandy or it it hard clay, and what’s growing near it. Then when you see the same species elsewhere, ask similar questions until you observe a pattern. Within the pattern is the beginning of understanding the relationship between plant and plant, soil and plant, human impact and plant. It’s amazing how much you can learn about flora and our shared home through observation. We form a closer connection to the plants we work with, and a better understanding of their spirit, and more able to notice the enormous beauty we’re both surrounded by and a part of. Each flower becomes an expression of our own joy, each plant a child for us to tend and love as well as a wizened teacher to learn from.

On a practical level, to live bioregionally is to acknowledge and participate in the ecosystem we are a part of, rooted – in a very literal sense – in the land that we live on. It may mean eating local and wild foods, using materials that occur naturally near us, and participating in the ecosystem by caring for it. What this means for each one of us will vary according to the needs of the land, depending on whether restoration is the most beneficial course of action for that particular area, whether establishing trees or restoring the soil by replanting species like Stinging Nettle. Or simply helping maintain the diversity that already exists with careful harvesting practices and a prayerful attitude towards the spirit of the land.

Humans living in a place or ecosystem for many generations are intimately healed in unseen ways by multigenerational contact with the local herbal communities just by living with them… After gardening in the same place for 30 years I feel that the soil and plants and I are the same extended organism. Food from other gardens does not seem quite right no matter how flavorful or lush. It is strange, it is other.

- Ryan Drum

Using the plants where you are creates a very special bond, no matter how much you love the pricey but powerful Ginseng from your favorite herb store, it can’t compete with the Hawthorn flowers or Devil’s Club roots from your own back yard or whatever special spot you gather your herbs from. As useful as herbal books and teachers can be, there’s simply no replacement for a personal relationship with the plants that grow from the same soil we do. Charts of actions and energetics may give us a head start on what kind of situation to try out a certain plant, but a single experience will often tell us much more than any book, and years of devoted attendance to the spirit and inner workings of each living being will teach us more than even the best teacher can.

When we gather Rose hips from the same five bushes at a certain spot down by the river every year, we learn what it’s like to have an intimate relationship with the plants, we remember the ancient wisdom of our foremothers: of mano y metate, of root and water. We see the plant each year, noting how it’s grown or suffered that year, tasting the differences in rainfall or frost in its berries, noticing the exact pattern of thorns and leaves on this one that makes it different from any other Rose bramble. This intimacy is the key to truly understanding the language of the green ones. There are trees here in my special canyon home I know so well that I could identify them in the dark with just my hands and nose, I would recognize them as the individuals I have hugged and harvested from, that I have confided in and prayed my thanks to. I have memorized them as I have my own daughter’s face: by heart.

We cultivate intimacy by working with the plants. Once there, we revel in the tactile sensuality and messiness of gathering, propagating and preparing the herbs. The dirt, the unique smell of the plant as it is cut or unearthed, the textures of bark and petal, the memory of you here, doing a task that people have done for as long as we have walked upright, and longer. The connection to ancestor and archetype, the medicine woman, the midwife and the warrior, gathering herbs for childbirth, for wounds, and even for the dead. And at the core of the experience is the power and awe of connecting to something larger than yourself, and the joy of being a part of that something, realizing we are cells in an intricate and enormous body.

Go ahead, touch and smell, taste and look closely, don’t be afraid to really experience the dirt and the flowers, the cool flow of the river and midday heat of the Southwestern sun. Yes, get down flat on your bellies, so as to better see the microcosmos, the whole worlds that exist inside that single Sacred Datura flower. Only through this sensory engagement can we really enter into the spirit of the earth and her plant children. When we’re plugged into whatever bioregion we have our own roots in, we’re better able to hear the subtle voices of the living green that surrounds us.

If you only end up with ten or fifteen plants that you know well and trust, then you are indeed blessed. That is all a curandera uses most of the time, that is most of what a good Chinese herbalist needs… and that is the number of plants I imagine traditional healers have mostly relied on for fifty thousand years… You don’t need a whole bunch of different plant medicines… You just need to know the ones you gather, and know them intimately.

-Michael Moore

Modern Western Medical Herbalism promotes having a huge materia medica and a working understanding of literally hundreds of plants, but while it’s great to work with an abundance of herbs so that we can see the full spectrum of herbal medicine, it’s even more important to really know a few local herbs that you’ll use over and over. Once you form an intimate alliance with a certain plant, you’ll often be surprised by its range of uses and responsiveness to your healing needs. In some traditions, a healer might spend her entire practice using only a single plant, dedicated to the thorough learning and partnering with that plant. In Western Medical herbalism a particular herb is often pigeonholed as a simple anti-inflammatory or astringent, yet most have an extensive range of uses.

That beautiful Goldenrod growing under the Ponderosa on the hillside there is a good example of a little understood and underutilized plant. When most people use Goldenrod medicinally they almost always immediately think of its astringent effect on the mucus membranes, since it is commonly used in sinus congestion and allergies. But did you know that Goldenrod is also a first rate wound and bruise herb, wonderful for menstrual cramps, cystitis and yeast infections as well as being one of the finest remedies for injured, sore or tight muscles? It’s also purported by a few sensitive herbalists to be an effective anti-depressant, and it has even been used as a kidney yin tonic and digestive remedy. Rather than looking at the lists of actions or constituents often available in herb books about a plant, it might be wiser to get a fuller sense of the herb’s personality and energy. Goldenrod has a gentle, feminine spirit that is encouraging and cheerful. Most people find her slightly warming and her healing powers are primarily aimed towards the mucus membranes, stomach (and extension of the mucus membranes), reproductive organs and especially the kidneys. She makes a wonderful ally for those who often feel a little sad, especially in the wintertime, have little endurance and difficulty following through. Her sunny disposition can brighten spirits and restore lost energy and drive. And lean in closer, smell her exquisite honey scent, I can feel her magic working already.

Interacting with the same plants on a daily basis, we start to make connections and notice affinities with individual herbs. Though we may have a dozen plants for wounds in your front yard or apothecary, we will probably find that a particular one seems to work best for us personally. For some, it’s Comfrey, for another it’s Plantain. It all depends on what’s available, our individual personality and what the plants have in mind for us personally. If we have young children, a very gentle and safe plant like Plantain may work out especially well for us, easily recognizable and accessible to little ones with a scrape or bug bite. On the other hand, if we have specialized needs like psoriasis or arthritis a more specific ally may call to us. Either way, the power of the healing lies in its personalization to us and its integration into our everyday life.

Get close to each plant as an individual, start with a single ally and slowly expand to about twenty or twenty-five locally available species, ideally including several native wild species. If we know even six intimately we’ll find that we need little else for personal and family use. Even, or perhaps especially, commonly maligned weeds such as Dandelion, Nettles and Plantain can provide us with a wealth of food and medicine.

It’s easy to pass off a common plant as just another parking lot pest but this is our short-sightedness and loss; looking into history we see that many of the currently blacklisted weeds like Mallow and Yellow Dock have been revered as powerful medicines in the not so ancient past. And we can see for ourselves, if we look a little closer at the star shaped blossoms of Stellaria or the nourishing root of Burdock, the powerful healing powers and amazing spiritual presence that these plants have.

Beginning with a single plant gives us the luxury of a in-depth courtship, with no distractions or complications caused by attempting to focus on too many friends at once. That small blue flowered herb over there was my first medicine ally, a native Gila Skullcap, she taught me to relax, chill out and dream a little. Spending time in her calming embrace gave me the ability to slow down long enough to get to know the other plants as well.

We might think we know exactly what we need from a plant partner, but we’d be foolish to imagine that we are solely responsible for choosing the herbs we use, as they often as not choose us. It’s fair to say that the plants often see us better than we see ourselves, through the all encompassing eyes of Gaia and her endless expressions. Skullcap came to me right when I needed her, without any active looking or desire on my part. Had I researched all the herbs living nearby in a comprehensive book, I might have chosen a different ally, say Prickly Poppy, I would have missed out on the unique gifts that Skullcap was ready to provide.

A certain pink flowered plant may call to you from a corner of the garden, a weedy little Vervain or a prickly Hawthorn tree keeps grabbing your attention as you try to weed the Lilies or water the Roses. Pay attention to these subtle messages, and you’ll be rewarded with powerful medicine. Working with the plants is very much like a marriage, a reciprocal partnership that evolves and changes with time, each season leaving us more whole and fulfilled.

As we rediscover our relationship with plants –and what more intimate pathway than through the gateway of healing– it ignites a love, a passion for the green nations, and enables us to become caretakers of that which we love most…

-Rosemary Gladstar

Just as the plants heal us, they depend on us to care for them and the land they grow from. The more intimate you become with your allies the more natural it will be to treat them as an extension of your family, or even your own body. It will be second nature to protect them from outside forces such as development or pollution. You’ll also be more sensitive to your own harvesting habits and be more likely to prayerfully harvest and propagate. As each season passes, we’re able to see the effects or our actions, when we’ve taken too much and the plant shrinks back or when harvest gently and propagate wisely so that the population flourishes and grows. Yet when we buy our herbs in sterile, sealed foil bags from foreign countries harvested by underpaid workers it’s impossible to predict or know how the herb was treated or processed, and even more difficult to know if the population is being damaged or even slowly exterminated by careless harvesting techniques. When we learn that everything we need is right here, it seems less important to import herbs from China or the Amazon. Instead, we step outside and look around, listening for the familiar song of the plants of our home.

While it’s tempting to create a lovely garden for your favorite plants and fence the rest out, it’s important not to let ourselves imagine that we can separate the herbs from their wild source, isolating them into a pampered herbal Eden. Wild plants are just that: wild, willed and full of the irrepressible energy of an ever evolving planet and bioregion. It’s also useful to know that they often – through the stresses and trials of their tougher, more demanding habitat – have stronger medicinal effects.

Other guidelines for protecting and caring for bioregional herbs include noticing if your ally is rare or at the edge of its natural range in your ecosystem. If so, try growing it in your garden rather than depleting already small populations. When you harvest wild plants, take only a fraction of existing healthy plants so they can easily recover. When you harvest the roots of plants, be sure to propagate by root division or by planting seeds, in fact, unless a plant is invasive it’s almost always a good idea to encourage it’s growth through replanting and other methods. Also, try to immediately to take care of the herbs you’ve harvested, spreading them out to dry in a cool, dry area or otherwise processing the fresh plant so that the spirit of the plant is respected and nothing goes to waste.

So let’s gather the last of this season’s Goldenrod blooms, take them gently and with prayer. Cut them quickly and lay them in the woven basket with reverence. After we carry them back to the cabins, we’ll place them in raw honey and a fine brandy, creating a golden elixir to warm us when the Winter storms arrive. And we’ll hang a few bunches from the rafters, to make a fragrant tea for cool mornings come Autumn. This is truly the medicine we most need, engaging in the ancient traditions of healer and plant, the medicine woman and her sacred roots.

Go now, and take these stories back with you to your bioregion. Dig deeply into the land and let yourself be interwoven with the plants, allow yourself to grow from the healing roots of home.