Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Banning GMO's County by County

Does it seem like you just can't get anything done at the federal or state level as far as GMO's? Well here is a group in Jackson County (Ashland/Medford Oregon area) that  is attempting to get a county ordinance on the ballot for November that would ban the growing/cultivation of all GMO crops in Jackson County.  Syngenta, a big-ag friend of Monsanto, has been planting GMO sugar beets all over Jackson County for the past several years and not obeying the USDA regulated 4 mile distance from other beet/chard fields (it's now deregulated, so they can plant anywhere currently).  The sugar beet cross-pollinates with many other beta variety plants like Swiss Chard and this has caused quite a stir down there.  For more information, check out GMO-Free Jackson County  - and if any of you are interested in possibly putting forth a similar county measure in your area, please contact GMO Free Oregon.

Grazing as the Best Nourishment

I tend to graze in the gardens during the summer. I take a bite of this and that as I am working outside or moving around the gardens. It may include a snow pea or a small summer squash or a handful of berries. I eat pollen and nectar from the flowers and breathe in their incredible odors. I drink dew off the leaves or guttation drops that the leaves have exuded from themselves.  I have grown to realize that this activity of grazing is a necessary part of my daily health.  I utilize nourishment from nature in ways that seem very natural and necessary, yet I was never taught to do this. How did I learn?

My body taught me.

I have always felt my body knows best what it needs to eat. When in the gardens, I let my body lead me to the most delectable goodies available.

My gardens feed me what I need. The plants are receptive to and react to my needs. In return my loving care, attention and appreciation feeds them. Spirit provides me with abundance.

I enjoy having my own little plot of land and growing my own nourishment on that land. The vegetables, fruits and herbs on the land sustain me. They provide nourishment not just for my body, but also for my soul.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Herb Class May 6th

My goodness we looked at a lot of different herbs during this class. We did not take photos but I have some I took before and after class that will help you to remember most of the plants we saw this May. I have also noticed that those of you receiving this blog by email are still getting the words rearranged and the photos are out of place. You might come direct to the blogsite to read these blogs so you get the original typeset.

Echinacea tincture in bottles
We started class by filtering our Echinacea purpurea tincture and everyone got to take some home with them. We also pressed out our vinegar extract started from the prior class and added dried ginger and nettle to it.

As soon as we were done with our inside fun, we moved outside to enjoy the sunshine and look at herbs. 

Herb Walk

Celandine flower
 We looked at Greater Celandine - Chelidonium majus which was in flower. We examined the bushy plant and noted that when you break the stem an orange colored sap oozes out. This sap has escharotic activity. This means it eats away at tissue. It is used to eat away warts. This plant is in the same family as Bloodroot that we saw last week and the Opium poppy. That family is Papaveraceae. Although it has been used historically for liver disease, we discussed the cases of cholestatic hepatitis that has taken place with this plant and the possibility that it might be more of a choleretic than cholagogue which might cause  a problem for folks if they don’t use an additional cholagogue with it. However, it is best for folks who are not a skilled practitioner to simply not use this plant internally. This plant is also an ingredient in the injectable cancer medicine called Ukraine.

Angelica archangelica spring
We collected quite a few roots. We dug up some Angelica archangelica, Geranium root, Poke root and Yerba mansa root. We also collected some Plantain.  We took our roots inside and cleaned them.

Angelica early summer

The Angelica archangelica, Geranium maculatum and Yerba mansa are all drying as well as the plantain.

Angelica - Angelica archangelica is a wonderful carminative that not only helps with gas but is also useful as an antimicrobial and antispasmodic in food poisoning formulas. It also makes a pleasant addition to cough formulas as an expectorant and antimicrobial.

Geranium late spring

Geranium - Geranium maculatum is a strong astringent. I know you all know what astringents do in detail and won’t go over that again. This is one of my favorite astringents although there are so many at our beck and call.

Yerba mansa - late spring

Yerba mansa - Anemopsis californica is so darn good smelling. I just can’t get enough of the smell of those roots.  Another astrinent but also anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and a diuretic. It is wonderful in sore throat formulas of both viral and bacterial nature.

Plantago lanceolata
Plantain - Plantago laceolata and major is such a fantastic herb. It is healing to the skin and mucous membranes. It is my favorite herb to use as a healing spit poultice. I put it in healing salves and use it internally any time I want to heal up an irritated mouth, throat or gut. It is also soothing to the urinary tract. It is an all around wonderful vulnerary. It will decrease inflammation and has some direct antibacterial action.

Poke - spring
The Poke root - Phytolacca decandra (americana) went into olive oil to make a Poke oil and the other roots are drying on drying racks. There are photos of them drying at the end of this blog. The Plantain is also drying and will be used as part of a healing salve that we will make in another month or two. As always, we tasted the roots to get better aquainted with the plants.

Poke in oil heating slowly
Poke oil filtering
We discussed that Poke is a low dose botanical and can be toxic so only trained professionals should use this plant. Poke root oil is used externally for mastitis and over enlarged lymph nodes. The root is also used internally in small doses as a lymphogogue. Practitioners use it as a lymphagogue in cancer protocols as well as for acute and subacute infectious conditions with lymphatic stagnation and enlarged lymph nodes. We discussed specific situations it is used in such as strep throat. Poke is specific for hard enlarged lymph nodes.

We took another look at Bloodroot to see what it looks like as it is growing. 

Goldenseal flower
Goldenseal - Hydrastis canadensis was also up. It is growing in the same bed as the bloodroot as they both like to grow in 75% shade. The Goldenseal was starting to bloom. Goldenseal is bitter,  astringent, antimicrobial, laxative, styptic and adrenolytic. It contains berberine which is the same constituent we talked about for way too long when we looked at Oregon Grape.

Cramp bark flowering
The Cramp Bark - Viburnum opulus 
Cramp bark bush
was blooming. The bark of this large bush is a wonderful nervine. It is a very strong antispasmodic. Although best known for use in menstrual cramps, it is useful for all manner of spams be they of skeletal muscle tissue or smooth muscle fibers. This means it helps with stones causing gall bladder spasms and ureter spasms as well as spastic muscles when you tweak your back.  It relaxes the muscles in your arteries thereby lowering blood pressure and yes it does relax the uterus when it is spastic so it has been used in menstrual cramps and threatened miscarriage due to spasms and premature contractions. After labor its ability to act as an astringent helps restore normal tone and prevent uterine prolapse. I think the plant is under utilized. It’s fruits are antioxidant and high in vitamin C and flavonoids. They have also been shown to have gastrodudodenal protective effects. The berries have been shown to increase super oxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase.

Wild ginger flower
I just love seeing the Wild Ginger - Asarum caudatum blooming. It is gorgeous. I pointed it out to everyone as it is one flower you just do not want to miss. I warned folks that the roots contain aristolochic acid and so it should never be used except in very small amounts if at all. It does have a ginger taste to it and many have used it for its flavor as well as its medicinal effects but due to it having the possible side effect of damaging your kidneys, I suggest folks just admire its beauty.

back of leaf on Cascara

front of leaf on Cas
We examined the Cascara - Rhamnus purshiana by the creek. We discussed the use of Cascara bark the week before but did mention once again that it is a strong purgative laxative and should be dried and aged one year before using.

Istatis tinctoria

The Isatis tinctoria was blooming. This herb is used in Chinese medicine a lot. It seems to be their go to herb for both viral and bacterial sore throats and other infections of a contagious nature according to Michael and Lesley Tierra. If you are interested in Chinese herbal medicine I suggest you get their book called Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine Volume II – Materia Medica and Herbal Resource. Both the leaf parts as well as the roots are used. I have not tried this plant myself yet but intend too soon. You can get their book directly from them at their website here.

Sterile horsetail shoot
Horsetail - Equisetum arvense was at the perfect stage for harvesting. I missed getting it this year. Darn! It is a great source of soluble silica, but you have to get the sterile shoots before they get very big. They should look like they do in this photo. Don’t bother harvesting them when they are bigger as the silica will not be soluble and useful any more. This soluble silica is helpful for growth of bones, cartilage, hair, nails, and skin.  Horsetail is also a diuretic and astringent and is used sometimes in urinary tract problems where there is passive bleeding such as gravel or inflammatory bacterial infections. Don’t take too much horsetail without taking vitamin b1 (thiamine) as it contains thiaminase and can deplete thiamine when used long term.

Caraway in bloom
Caraway - Carum carvi was also blooming. This spicy and aromatic seed is used as a carminative, antispasmodic and galactagogue.

Blueberry/Bilberry/Huckleberry - Vaccinium spp.
We looked at the blueberries. (Remind me I need to show you the huckleberries next class.) These plants, especially the berries are high in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have more research on them than you can shake a stick at. Basically they are strong antioxidants and perform a great job stabilizing collagen, and maintaining elastin. This supports connective tissue which is found all through-out our body as the most abundant tissue in our bodies.

The leaves are high in chlorogenic acid. Plants with clorogenic acid  seem to be all the rage as a diet aid nowadays.

So, you won't be surprised to find out this group of plants has a wide range of uses. The leaves have a history of being used as a hypoglycemic and recently there has been research showing the berries may also be hypoglycemic. This sheds light on why so many diabetics have reported being able to eat them. They do contain sugar so I always warn diabetics to be cautious if they try eating them. Research does show that a diet rich in blueberries decreases the chance of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The berries are used for hyperlipidemia, protection from vascular damage, easy bruising, enhancement of cognitive abilities, hypertension, neurodegeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity and the list just goes on and on. The leaves are astringent and as such can cause gastrointestinal irritation if ingested in excess. This is similar to black tea which is also astringent.

If you grow your own blueberries or you pick at a local organic farm, you can preserve them by either drying or freezing the berries. Both methods will maintain the anthocyanin content. This way you can eat these tasty treats all winter long!

I also have some photos of various things drying. Here they are:

Yerba mansa before cutting it up.
Yerba mansa on top and geranium on bottom

Geranium roots prior to cutting up

Plantain drying

It has been so long since class that I probably forgot some of the things we looked at. I know we discussed Osha but I did not take any photos and we saw quite a few additional things at the creek. Sorry, I did not get them all posted here. Wait until you see how much we have to look at next class. All the plants are delighting in the rain and warm weather and growing… well like weeds.

See you all soon. Take good notes at our summer classes and bring your camera as I will not be posting notes much the rest of the summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Herb Class April 1st, 2012

Please realize this information is for educational purposes only. Some of the plants discussed below are toxic and should not be used by anyone but a professional trained to do such. Do not ingest these herbs. These notes are posted for 2012 herb class. The class is not posted in its entirety. These are brief notes to help remind my class of what we covered.
I am late getting these notes and photos up from the April herb class, but here it is. The weather was nasty this day  and the creek was a mess from the storn, so we did not get to see as much as I had wished. I don’t have everything here, but have tried to include most of what we saw and discussed. You can find dosage information in my book. I have not listed it here due to lack of time.

First we started our discussion on Oregon grape. We discussed it last time but I forgot to mention that the older the plants are the more berberine they contain and the berberine content seems to be higher from plants collected at lower altitudes. You also find the highest concentration in the root bark although the stem bark is also used.

Then we went over the different categories of laxatives used in herbal medicine and talked about the herbs in each category. Next time we will look at the Cascara by the creek. No one wanted to be outside any longer so we went inside seeking shelter from the rain and cold before finishing our herb walk.

Overview form the morning discussion on Laxatives.

Bulking laxatives: Act via fiber such as oat bran and psyllium husks.

Stool Moisteners: Act to moisten the stool such as fresh mucilaginous or rehydrated mucilaginous herbs such as marshmallow or slippery elm bark, oily seeds such as flax (also a bulking laxative), cholagogue herbs such as dandelion or oregon grape and don’t forget water.

Stimulating Laxatives: These are the purgative herbs which increase bowel activity when there is insufficient peristalsis. These include cascara, aloe, and senna as examples.

Sedating Laxatives: Antispasmodics used when there is constipation due to a spasmodic bowel. Seen with alternating diarrhea and constipation accompanied by pain and chronic spasms.

Echinacea Processing

We pressed out the Echinacea and will filer it during our next class. We also filtered out the popular bud tincture we made last time.

 The Herb Walk

When it warmed up outside, we went out for a little walk to collect horseradish root, and nettle. We also looked at Red current, Wasabi, Uva ursi, Rosemary, Dandelion, Pulsatilla, Bloodroot, and a variety of other herbs poking their heads out of the ground.

Stinging Nettles - Urtica spp.
My nettles are behind time here at this altitude, but Cari brought some to make up for it. We made a lovely pesto with them. I have already went over information on nettles and the pesto on an earlier blog. You can find it here.

Wasabi - Wasabi Japonica
 The taste of wasabi comes from glucosinolates. Glucosinolates can also be found in horseradish, turnips, pak-choi, rutabaga, mustard, cabbage, brussel sprouts, brocolli, caulifolower, kale, kohlrabi, watercress, rapeseed and radish.

When we eat wasabi or another gulcosinolate containing plant, the act of chewing it alters the glucosinolate. We activate an enzyme in wasabi that changes glucosinolate to isothiocyanate or thiocyanates or other compounds. If the wasabi has been dried the enzymes gets destroyed in the drying process unless it undergoes freeze drying.

For you science buffs, glucosinolates are hydrolyzed by either the enzyme glucosinolase or thioglucosidase into glucose, HSO4- , and one of the following aglycone derivatives: isothiocynates, thiocyanates, nitriles, or related compounds such as oxazolidine-2-thiones. The enzymes for hydrolysis are produced by plants and by rumen organisms. They react with the glucosinolates when plant tissue is crushed, for example by mastication (chewing), or when the plant is consumed into the rumen of a ruminant animal such as a goat, cow or bison.

Isothiocyanates have been found in research to be anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antioxidant, protective of kidney neprhons, and protective of the cardiovascular system.

Isothiocyanates are irritating to mucous membranes and not readily consumed in sufficient quantities to be toxic. However, if they are consumed as glucosinolates and then hydrolyzed to isothiocyanates via mastication or in the gut, they can have powerful antithyroid effects and interfere with the synthesis of necessary thyroid hormones.

In animal studies they have identified that the animals can tolerate 10% of their diet being rapeseed (also contains glucosinolates) before they have symptoms of poisoning from the glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are thioethers. These compounds often contribute a bitter, "hot" taste to condiments (mustard, horseradish) and may exhibit goitrogenic or antithyroid activity.

Uva ursi - Arctostaphylos uva ursi
This plant is also known as Kinnikinnick  which was the Algonquian word for “mixture”. Uva ursi was mixed with tobacco and smocked. Some people still smoke it today.  Some how the name Kinnikinnick began being used for Uva ursi itself. Ursi is most known for its use in urinary tract infections. The leaves contain arbutin, an antiseptic that is hydrolyzed by gut bacteria to hydroquinone.  In alkaline urine, hydroquinone is an effective antimicrobial agent and uva ursi itself tends to alkalinize the urine. Arbutin itself also contributes to the antiseptic activity in the urinary tract. Consumption of this herb may cause a green tinge in the urine.

This plant is usually used short term as larger doses or use long term is contraindicated. It should not be used in pregnancy because of the oxytocic properties. Toxic doses can cause nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, difficult breathing, and really excessive doses can cause convulsions and loss of consciousness. Arbutin inhibits the degradation of insulin and may be problematic for those with hypoglycemia.

Dandelion - Taraxacum officinalis
Dandelion is a mild laxative, diuretic (especially the leaf) coloagogue, choleretic, blood thinner, antioxidant and blood thinner. It has been used in arthritis, gout,  edema, gastric headaches and a variety of liver ailments. The whole plant, especially the root, is beneficial to the liver but is slow in producing the desired action. Autumn roots are roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The high inulin content, especially in the autumn makes dandelion root a good food source for beneficial gut bacteria.

Red current - Ribes rubrum
Red Current
Red Current
 All the Currants are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. Red Currants have mildly laxative, astringent (leaves especially), appetite increasing, diuretic and digestive properties. It can calm stomach upsets. Tea made from dried leaves can be helpful in relieving the symptoms of gout and rheumatism. The leaves can also be useful in treatment of slow healing wounds, and as a gargle in cases of mouth infections.

Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary was beginning to bud out and although damaged by the storm, was still beautiful. This common cooking herb has a long history of medicinal use. It has been used as a nervine, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, choleretic, hepatoprotective, antispasmodic, diuretic etc....

Its strong antioxidant effect has gained the interest of food processors in the past who have tried to use it as a natural preservative but they decided they did not want all their food tasting like rosemary so it did not catch on in a big way.  
Rosemary has always been said to help with memory and recently research investigated its use in this way. They found that indeed it does seem to help with cognitive abilities but smaller doses were more effective than larger doses.

Bloodroot - Sanguinaria canadensis
 This is a low-dose herb. This means it is toxic and you should not use it unless you are a professional trained to do such. It is used by health care professionals to support people in cancer therapy.

Bloodroot is in the poppy family. The part of the plant used is the root. It is very bitter and acrid tasting. Not a plant you consume as a food for sure.

Bloodroot is an antispasmodic, expectorant and diaphoretic as well as diuretic and choleretic. However, due to its possible toxicity other herbs get used in its place generally. It does get used sometimes in acute or subacute respiratory tract illness by practitioners. You will see it used in bronchitis, laryngitis, nasal catarrh and after pneumonia where debility persists. The most common traditional use has been for internal  use in cancer formulas and even more so, externally in cancer salves. It is of course illegal for anyone but an oncologist to treat someone for cancer currently. However, there are people still making salves and herbal formulas for this use but they are not allowed to treat cancer with them.

Studies show the constituent, sanguinarine, helps reduce and limit the deposition of dental plaque.. You will find it in some toothpastes as an antiplaque agent.

 Contraindications: It is contraindicated in pregnancy due to the emmenagogue effect and uterine stimulating activity of the alkaloids, berberine, protopine and chelerythrine, as reported in animal studies. Over-dosage can cause nausea and vomiting, hepatitis, vertigo, visual disturbances and prostration. Do not use this herb unless under the guidance of a trained health care practitioner. The fresh root is more dangerous than the dry root.  Professionals do not use more than 1-2 drops every 2-4 hours in acute phase, then 1-2 drops per day after the acute phase.

Pulsatilla - Anemone pulsatilla
This is another low-dose herb. This means you should not use it unless you are a trained professional. It gets used in very small doses.

Pulsatilla is in the Buttercup family. The whole plant, especially the root is used. It has an acrid and bitter taste to it.

Pulsatilla is an anti-inflammatory, sedative and analgesic. Used for people who have nervous conditions like fearfulness, general nervousness, dejection, emotional lability, and weep easily. Often the person feels exhausted and perceives that they are not in control. They may have heart palpitations and insomnia. The individual is gentle, with a yielding disposition, and has changeable symptoms and moods. It is used for amenorrhea following wet cold feet, endometriosis, ovarian neuralgia ovarian congestion and inflammation, with dull, nagging, aching, tearing pains. It is useful with unbearable headaches prior to menses.

Contraindications: An overdose can cause toxicity with sensations of burning in the mouth and throat, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, slowed pulse and breathing, hypo-thermia, sensory and motor depression, stupor, coma and convulsions. Because it is a uterine stimulant, it is contraindicated in pregnancy.

Artichoke - Cynara scolymus

This is a common garden plant with a lot of healthy kick to it. It is a strong antioxidant used to protect the liver  from damage and to regenerate damaged liver tissue. It is a cholagogue and a choleretic. Research shows it lowers cholesterol and lipids, decreases atherosclerosis and acts to thin the blood. It is also helpful in preventing gall stones, and irritable bowel. The artichoke flavonoids appear useful in supporting cardiovascular health by supporting endothelial integrity via increasing endothelial nitric oxide production. The part commonly used as a medicine is the leafy parts early in the spring when still young and fresh.

Lily of the Valley - Convallaria majalis

Lily of the Valley
We also looked examined Lilly of the Valley which is used in congestive heart failure (Another botanical that only trained folks should use.) Some students dug up and took some of this wonderful smelling plant home with them.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Help Defeat Monsanto

Monsanto has been threatening every state that even considers passing a GMO labeling law with a lawsuit. This seems to be working for them as most of our representatives and Governors are backing down when threatened. Thankfully some states have a voter initiative process that allows them to vote on laws by getting enough signatures to add the bill to the ballot for public approval. California has produced the required signatures and a GMO labeling bill will be on the ballot for the public to vote on. However, Monsanto is going to try to defeat it by massive negative advertising campaign to attempt to scare the public. We have to be able to fight back and that takes people and  money.
Many groups. Reaching out to millions of people. To raise millions of dollars. To take back our food supply.
This battle in California - initiated and powered by the 99% - will largely determine the future of what we eat and what we grow. Once we force GMO labeling in California - the eighth largest economy in the world - consumers will stop buying foods containing GMOs. Food manufacturers will be forced to stop contaminating our food with GMOs.

It happened in Europe. It can happen here., the largest alternative health website in the world, along with a group of leading organic companies including Nature's Path, Lundberg Family Farms, and Eden Foods,    pledged another one million dollars to the campaign - but only if the campaign reaches the goal of $1 million by May 26.

Please help them raise $1 million by May 26 for the California Right to Know GMO Labeling Campaign so they don't miss out on this $1 million matching gift! You can donate online, by phone, or by mail.
Please donate today - online, by phone, or drop a check in the mail. Every dollar you contribute will go directly into the California Right to Know ballot initiative and other state GMO labeling campaigns, including a legal defense fund to defend states that pass GMO labeling laws from Monsanto lawsuits.

If you want to know more about this campaign click on this photo .
Money Bomb Monsanto