Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Herb Class Series February 5th, 2012

This Sunday was our first class of 2012 and we spent the day digging up roots and collecting some bark.  I can’t go through all 7 hours of the day and the uses of the plants in detail, but here are some highlights as well as the photos that Peggy was so kind to take for us. For more details on these plants go to http://www.herbaltransitions.com/MateriaMedica.html where there is a free materia medica on my website. You can get the updated materia medica in the latest printing of “Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth."

Digging Echinacea purpurea
The roots we dug up were Echinacea, Valerian, Elecampane and Marshmallow.

Echinacea purpurea root
Echinacea purpurea root
We dug up quite a bit of Echinacea. Many folks took some of the root home for personal use or to grow in their garden. We started a fresh Echinacea tincture. We learned that Echinacea purpurea grows best in our local Willamette Valley soil and wet winters, while Echinacea angustifolia does not do well here. We also learned how to use clay and Echinacea poultices for brown recluse spider bites and use Echinacea leaves as spit poultices for stings. Internally we learned to use the root and seed for wounds and all manner of infectious disease. (I will post the directions to make Echinacea tincture in the next blog.)

Digging Elecampane
Additionally, we pressed out some Elecampane tincture that had been started previously this winter and added additional fresh elecampane root to the menstruum. It is now macerating in a dark area along with the Echinacea where both of them get shook once each day for the next month before we will press it out again. We discussed the use of elecampane as a lung and digestive tonic. It is good for all manner of lung complaints.
Washing Elecampane
Especially think of it with chronic infectious disease in debilitated individuals. It has antibacterial properties, is an expectorant, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulating herb which all help assist in a variety of infectious respiratory tract conditions. Some of these same actions along with its antiparasitic action, bitter tonic, and carminative activity make it helpful in a variety of digestive tract complaints. Definitely a handy herb to have around and such an easy herb to grow. It has so many different uses.
Elecampane root

Cari took home the marc (spent herb from tincture) from the elecampane tincture to make a tea out of it and put it in her bath. We look forward to hearing how her bathing experience turns out.

Washing Valerian root

Valeriana officinalis

We dug up some fresh Valerian also and tasted it. Students took some home to preserve it or to put in their garden.We discussed the use of Valerian in anxiety, sleep disorders, angina, and hypertension as well as other situations.

Marshmallow root
 Marshmallow was cut up into strips to dry by the wood stove for use during our next class. We will learn how to use this plant to make a tea, slurry and how to ingest the powder without putting it into a capsule. Additionally, if we have time and enough marshmallow, we may make the original marshmallow candies. If I have time, I may dig up some more to dry so we have plenty. We learned that marshmallow is a wonderful vulnerary (promotes healing of wounds or irritated tissue). It is anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. It is beneficial for external use as well as internally in the digestive tract, respiratory tract and the urinary tract. Check out a past blog link on marshmallow flowers here.

We also tasted some Popular buds which were almost ready to harvest but not quite. Everyone learned that they contain resin and that resin is very sticky and will adhere to your teeth. Resins do not dissolve in water and it is best to make a tincture out of them with 95% alcohol to preserve them. We discussed various uses for Popular buds and I explained that my favorite use was as a stimulating expectorant in cough elixirs where besides acting as an expectorant it also adds a nice flavor and is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.

The pussy willows had started to put out their furry little catkins and the Witch Hazel was attempting to bloom. Both had been slightly stifled by the cold, lingering frosty nights we have been experiencing. We sampled some bark, and they taught us how to identify astringent (causes contraction of tissues) plants.
Echinacea purpurea in winter
I am including the skeletal remains of the plants we dug up here So you can learn how to ID them. It is good to learn how to identify the plants by their winter skeletons so you can know where to dig up the roots.
Elecampane in winter

Close up of Echinacea purpurea in winter

Marshmallow in winter
Close up of Marshmallow in winter

Reminder: I asked you to consider the plants we learned about on Sunday. Use them before the next class or read up on them, talk to them, write poems about them and bring back some words of wisdom, a haiku, a personal story of your experience of the plant, fun historical data on the plant etc to share with the others next class. It can be anything that moves you.

I am so excited about our next class as many things will be starting to poke their heads out of the ground. Yesterday I saw the first crocus up here at our farm.
  There are so many more herbs to discuss and we have more things to make next time. No tinctures in March but if you have questions about those we made, let me know. We will probably finish the elecampane tincture and there will be more tincture making in our future classes.
Regarding the photos, I did not get any releases from folks to put their smiling faces on the website, so I am not posting photos with faces in them even if they are a great herb shot. I am unsure if you all want to be incognito or no one remembered that needed to be done to include photos with you in them.

Thank you to Peggy, Susan, Pam and Glenna who stayed and helped clean up that incredible mess we made!

Until next class, may you walk in beauty!

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