Offerings at ElderMoon School of Herbs
Learn how to make your own herbal remedies. Begin anyway! Your inner herbalist is calling...
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Let's deepen your connection to the plants. It's easier than you think.
Offerings at ElderMoon School of Herbs
Learn how to make your own herbal remedies. Begin anyway! Your inner herbalist is calling...
Learning how to make herbal medicine preparations is key to having a good experience with the plants as healers. It's our birthright to know how. Come learn these ancient techniques our ancestors utilized in crafting medicine from their direct and personal relationship to the medicine plants. Presented in a relaxed and easy format, the focus is specifically on building your skills as a medicine maker and I walk with you throughout the course to guide you through. I've been medicine making for over 25 years and love showing people all the little nuances that actually bring you to successful and potent medicine making for yourself and your beloved people. This is the first step to honoring the plants as medicine carriers. We begin with honing your new skills and creating your own home apothecary space for holding your medicines in a sacred, protected way. xo-Jen
Details in Link. New Class Launches 10/16/16. Self-Paced. Sign up Anytime.
Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons - On-Line Course, In-Person Course, and including 'Payment Plan' options - Receive 15% Discount on these courses until November 30, 2016. Yes, you get the discount even if you start the payment plan on 11/30/16.
New Moon Lodges ::: Monthly ::: Free ::: One Hour ::: On-Line ::: Private ::: Exploring Being Woman Infused with Herbal Wisdom
Juniper Berry - Juniperus communis
Have you ever approached a tree and compared what it's like to be near it versus to be near other herbaceous plants? It's profoundly different, right? Each tree has a distinct way about it too, I've come to notice, and if you're like me and want to know such things, we can. Juniper is the one I speak to today. Juniper is a hardy one with a 'fierce Mama' way and carries myths and legends through her aromatic branches, forward and backward in time and place, of embodying renewal, being a great source of protection, being a talisman against misfortune, poor luck or disease, and overseeing the safety of women and their babies.
Many see the trunks mysteriously twisted and there are so many ancient tales of how this has come to be. From energy vortexes to trade winds, supporters fervently debate this phenomena, and Juniper just thrives and keeps doing what Juniper does. It's able to grow in some inhospitable places too, clinging to craggy moors and mountain sides, arid dry landscapes, and also within open meadows with plenty of Sun. Juniper will bend to the elements and consider the weather, and much more I'm sure, and yet continue to just be.
Our First Nations People of North America honored Juniper for medicine and food and some tribes ground the dried berries and made them into patties to eat for keeping them strong during the later winter months or in times of need. They say it "keeps the body and soul together". Their general belief is that Juniper berries help us get tougher, meaning more able to resist illness and firm up our boundaries with the microbial world as well as resist the conditions of poverty associated-disorders and other such conditions as dysentery, cholera, intestinal parasites and the like. Some tribes teach of toasting the branches and making tea with this to help relax a mother into childbirth. Juniper berries are found in many a remedy for the common cold and flu and it was also decocted as a blood tonic with other plants to treat anemia and re-energize the body. For the Navajo, these mystical berries are called "ghost beads" or "juniper eyes," and were worn as jewelry to prevent nightmares and keep one from "getting lost in the dark". Juniper berry tea was given to pregnant woman as 1-2 cups per month to strengthen the womb for birth and a safe delivery and they continued this several months postpartum, yes while breast feeding.
Medicinal & Edible Parts:
Needles, berries (cones), wood, and bark for purification smoke; needles, female berries (cones) and root for medicine; female berries (cones) for food.
The potent diuretic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, carminative, uterine stimulant, vermifuge, and pain relieving properties of Juniper (Juniperus communis) lend themselves well to treatment of a variety of internal and external conditions. Historically, Juniper berry has served as a treatment against many infectious diseases as well as an aid for childbirth. The hypnotic aroma of the burning, aromatic wood binds groups around a fire as much as one alone, with their universe. Making smudge bundles from the needled branches are an ancient practice as well as grinding the dried or crushed berries into aromatic incense the original way, if one chooses to learn this skill instead of burning the toxic adulterated offerings of incense so commonly found today. I have a few recipes for Kyphi that contain Juniper berry and it's so intoxicating when burned. Place a few dried berries on a hot coal from the fire will release this aromatic smoke.
Here's a common question many herbalists hear:
"The Juniper tree beside my house is loaded with blue berries. When is the best time to harvest them?"
My honest and safe response:
Possibly never unless you know the Latin name of your tree.
Of the near 40 species of Juniper, only a small number are poisonous and a majority have bitter fruits. Only a few yield edible berries, which are technically modified cones, and only one is routinely used for flavoring and medicine. It gives gin it's distinct flavor which people either love or hate. The berries are often worked into our sauerkraut recipes and marinade or brine recipes for wild meats. We learned of this from ancient stories of Juniper in food preparation and it's truly exquisite how just a few in a pot of stew can tap into ancestral memories that calm and nourish the soul.
The Juniper most commonly called upon for medicine and food, at least today in the modern herbal world, is... Common Juniper, Juniperus communis. It occurs naturally in Asia, Europe and North America, and it's the parent of dozens of popular ornamental varieties. When it comes to medicine making though, know your plant well.
Juniperus virginiana - Red Cedar - take a good look at the needles, shape of the berry (cones) and the fact that there are no immature and mature berries ripening together. These can be harvested but are not as aromatic as Juniperus communis. Honoring the medicine means knowing your plant well before making medicine with it.
In the wild, Common Juniper can be any shape from low spreading shrub to, less commonly, a 25-foot tree. Usually it stays around 6-10 feet or so. Many Junipers turn out to be Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana. This native species is probably the most common Juniper in many North American gardens. Although Red Cedar berries are edible, they are only faintly aromatic compared to Juniperus communis. If you want tasty, medicinal Juniper berries and do not have a Juniperus communis, it would be best to find and plant one. Even better, find a female Juniper! Arborists are a great resource for finding Junipers to plant.
Junipers bear both male and female berries (cones). Most Junipers are dioecious, meaning male and female berries (cones) are found on separate trees. Ash, Holly and Nettles are dioecious beings too, to name a few others.
The smaller male cones produce pollen sacs that release pollen grains in spring and summer for Juniper is wind pollinated. The female cones have succulent and fleshy scales called sporophylls, and these scales fuse together after pollination. Enclosing the hard seed coat, the berries (cones) take one to three years to ripen depending upon the species which is why you will see green and ripe blue ones together on the same branches. It's rare to have generations of berries ripening together at different rates on the same plant, and for me is a signature of the magical nature existing within it's medicine. The berries (cones) range from bluish to purplish-black or red and have a smooth, whitish bloom that gives them the appearance of a polished blueberry.
Be warned that birds and small mammals love Juniper berries as much as we do so respectful negotiations with them will need to happen if you want some of the bounty.
*Honor the medicine of a stronger ally means being safe and wise.
Taking Juniper Berry as medicine means short-term, or pulsed doses.
This is a potent medicine not intended for long-term dosing. Infusions, decoctions and tinctures of Juniper berry are intended for short term dosing of up to 6 weeks to get through acute situations. 'Pulsing' means taking your remedy in a rhythmic dosing pattern, For example, taking one cup per week. They are impressively anti-inflammatory and a strong carminative making them a useful remedy to soothe the gastrointestinal system during conditions such as upset stomach or indigestion, heartburn, flatulence, bloating, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal infections, and intestinal worms. The antiseptic properties in Juniper disinfect the urinary tract to provide treatment and relief for conditions like urinary tract infections, urethritis, kidney stones, and bladder stones. Juniper is a diuretic to help flush excess fluids from the body. This can help rid the body of excess uric acid which can lead to gout flare ups. Ingested Juniper is high in natural insulin precursors and therefore helps balance blood sugar levels. Please remember, do not take this instead of some daily regime from your doctor for your blood sugar regulation. This is not for regular daily medicine taking. Juniper also alleviates problems associated with menstruation with intense PMS symptoms and scanty or no blood flow. It is a uterine stimulant and so directs blood flow to the uterus for stimulating delayed menstruation as well as for stagnant circulation through the pelvis which can look like PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) and endometriosis, to name a few conditions.
Topical Applications of Juniper Berry
Juniper Essential Oil can be applied topically to treat skin ailments and conditions that are starving for deeper tissue rejuvenation actions. As a superior detoxifier, it has the ability to stimulate repair and smooth the skin and complexion and is thus helpful in conditions of acne, athlete's foot, warts, skin growths, psoriasis, and eczema. The antibacterial properties make topical applications an obvious one for wounds but it also provides pain relief for joint and muscle pain and so has it's place in remedies for those suffering from arthritis and rheumatism as well as minor traumatic injuries such as sprains and strains. Juniper berry is a great treatment for skin wounds and snakebites but I prefer to make a decoction for wound washing in these cases. I've also mixed this with Calendula flower as a decoction for soaking puncture wounds of the feet with great results.
Women with stagnant pelvic circulation, PCOS, and endometriosis respond well to making a plaster over the womb by mixing equal parts of bentonite clay with ground dried Juniper Berries and a touch of castor oil or Mugwort infused oil to make a paste and applying this moist over the lower abdomen. Rest with a warm compress for 30 minutes and rinse off in the bath or shower. Repeat weekly or more often if needed.
Medicine Forms of Juniper Berry:
Juniper berry is available in dried form for making capsules (my least favorite way to work with most herbs) and for infusions/decoctions in boiled water for ingestion, moist compresses and soaks. It's also available as an essential oil for topical applications in infused oils and salves, hydrotherapy (salts and scrubs are my favorites), and aromatherapy inhalation. Fresh berries can be tinctured or dried if you have a good source for fresh harvesting. Remember, short-term daily doses and pulsed doses for up to 6 weeks is considered the safe and wise window for taking internally for most people. Smudge bundles of the stems with needles and berries can be make for burning and loose incense making with whole or crushed berries and loose needles or shaved wood or bark burned on a piece charcoal is so aromatic, clearing, cleansing and truly hypnotic! May you find your way with Juniper in your home apothecary.
Thank you for honoring the medicine of Juniper. xo- Jen
Come deepen your walk with our original medicine plants and make them part of your primary healthcare system for you and your loved ones. In our Becoming the Roots 10 week course we walk together through building your own apothecary filled with potent medicines you learn to make yourself. This a starter course for just that, to get you started with a commitment that is perfect for beginning. In the Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons course all the medicine making skills are in there too, along with more advanced skills and we then deepen your practice and skills as a home or community herbalist. Let's tighten the weave of who you are, right where you are, as you begin to birth and walk the path of your inner herbalist. Herbal courses on-line are designed as a start at anytime program for you with Jen Costa, Herbalist, Critical Care RN, CST, and Teacher. Live in-person classes begin each May in Woodstock, NY - Details in links below. Honoring the medicine is our way. xo-Jen
Discount 15% Through November 2016!
In honoring your learning and ElderMoon School's service to the plants as well, there's a 15% Discount on 2017 In-Person courses and current On-line courses of 'Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons' through 11/30/16. Yes, on payment plans too! 'Becoming the Roots' is a new offering of learning to make herbal products ... to get you started anyway! Offering Details Below.
The Medicine and Mystery of Indian Pipe
Spirit Plant, Ghost Plant, Corpse Plant (Monotropa uniflora)
Maybe you've seen this unique, chlorophyll-devoid plant in your wanderings as it pokes up through the brown leaf litter in the forest and along its edges? Have you wondered about it and been fascinated by it like I have? This is Indian Pipe, also called Ghost Plant or Spirit Plant, (Monotropa uniflora) and it’s a traditional shamanic plant that offers many spiritual and medicinal properties.
Indian Pipe, by lacking chlorophyll, cannot make its own food and so must make agreements with others in order to survive. It absorbs its nutrients from a mycorrhizal fungi group living in the root zone of the forest. Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial (symbiotic) organisms that vastly expand the absorptive surface area of a tree’s root system and aid in the uptake of specific nutrients. In exchange for scavenging for nutrients the tree reciprocates by providing carbohydrates for the fungus, in the form of fallen leaves.
Germinating seedlings of Indian Pipe chemically mimic the tree’s root system causing the mycorrhizal fungi to attach to the roots of the newly forming Indian Pipe plant. Some call it a kind of ‘biological identity theft’. This doesn't resonate for me and I think more understanding will unfold as one spends time with Indian Pipe who is connected to the complex network of trees. The tree sends its sugars produced in photosynthesis to the fungus mycelium which in turn passes some along to the Indian pipe. This arrangement is technically called epiparasitism, a ‘parasite feeding on a parasite’. This word parasite conjures some negative thinking but it belongs within the realm of symbiotic relationships and I believe our scientists have not yet uncovered how Indian Pipe actually gives back within the cycle of things within the forest.
Indian pipe is only able to feed on one group of mycorrhizal fungi, the often colorfully-capped ones known as Russula. These beneficial fungi are able to attach to a wide variety of tree species including Oaks and Beech. Cool, moist and shaded conditions favoring the accumulation of thick deposits of leaf litter favor the development of the mycorrhizal fungus and mark the kind of location where Indian pipe is likely to grow. Indian Pipe is often a quietly unassuming part of the workings of the complex forest ecosystem.
Because it can only feed on Russula, Indian Pipe is an extremely rare plant and is never intolerant of cultivation or being transplanted. There are many lessons to learn from plants that require impeccable timing, a trust beyond the logic of a scientist, and bringing us to them while they move about mysteriously with growing requirements so detailed that we can understand them but cannot manipulate their existence. This plant should be harvested sparingly, only when large colonies are found, and with profound respect for the spirit of the plant.
Medicinal Parts: flowering tops, flowers
Best Preparations: Fresh Infusion, Fresh Tincture 50%, Flower Essence; dried is only useful for the compost pile so please do not bother with this.
Honoring Multi-Level Medicine...
Our First Nations People honored this plant for its medicine and mystery, physically and spiritually. This is an ally of medicine carrier healers who work deeply for their people by walking the healing road themselves. The appearance of white plants, as well as animals, is truly unusual and draws a deep reverence from all original people. Since we all carry the blood of our ancestors, and so we are undeniably connected to them, you may find yourself kneeling down in front of this one should your paths cross. Do this. Take this moment of reverence for Indian Pipe. I hold such a deep reverence for this beauty, and because of this, only make a flower essence when called to honor Indian Pipe’s mystical, magical way.
On the more physical level, Indian Pipe was employed instead of quinine to treat West Nile Virus and Malaria for some time. It’s an extremely potent nervine often used to treat seizure disorders, convulsions, insomnia, mental health disorders, PTSD, and chronic muscle spasms. It was also combined with other plants to bathe inflamed eyes though I suggest the easier grown and effective Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Chickweed (Stellaria media), or Calendula (C. officinalis) instead, though I have to notice that it speaks loudly to 'clearing vision'. This may be part of Indian Pipe's alignment medicine. Many stories are told that it’s an excellent pain reliever as one of its main constituents is salicylic acid, which is aspirin. So if you’re thinking it will be stronger than opioids to just kill pain, I would say this is not the plant for you. It may have a place in pain management but Willow Bark (Salix alba) and Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) provide the same physical medicine and are easier to find and grow, if we are talking physical medicine only. It also may produce compounds we do not understand yet which is why the stories speak to addressing conditions that aspirin does not touch. If you’re interested in digging deeper into why pain has become the language of your existence then yes, this is the plant for you. Please turn to Indian Pipe Flower Essence for this deeper unraveling.
The True Gift of Indian Pipe
So it is here that the true gift of the Indian Pipe sits for me. Flower essences always meet the person where they are to correct imbalances. They’re work is subtle and transformative, rooting down to the core of an issue. Indian Pipe works on the alignment of both the root and crown chakras so we align with the Earth below and the cosmos above, to become the ‘hollow bone’. The stems are just like hollow bones, or clear conduits. Rooted deeply into the Earth itself, and assisting with the translation of the trees, Indian Pipe helps ground those who struggle to find their way.
I sometimes combine this essence with Lavender (Lavanula offcinalis) or Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) for deep dream work. It illuminates hope to those who seek their truth and are willing to do the work and face their fear and pain. Indian Pipe flower essence assists us in standing with the truth of our pain and to bear witness to it, instead of confining it to an expression within the confines of our physical nervous system or energetic emotional body. Think 'alignment', 'hollow bone'. To journey into the pain and ask the hard questions is the medicine of Indian Pipe. It is a still and quiet plant, and only those who are truly ready to bear that silence, which sits beyond fear and pain, will gain the full benefit of what this plant has to offer around personal truth. It brings brightness and is a beacon of light within ‘the dark night of the soul’ we all must travel at some point in life, guiding one back to a place of understanding, balance, and peace. Indian Pipe will stand strong next to one who faces their fears in the name of moving forward.
It moves from year to year and place to place...
I’ve noticed over the years that it grows near me on the last three pieces of blessed land I've lived on. I don’t find it every year, though I’m sure it is out there. It also moves around. Some plants we know will come up in the same place because that is their nature. Indian Pipe seems to dance around mysteriously and magically from year to year and place to place and I sometimes dream of it or have a flash of it before our paths cross while tending to something else. This is part of its medicine as well. I just came upon it the other day and I'm now retrieving my mother essence bottle from my apothecary, which I made the last time it appeared. Somewhere in our bones we all have the ability to recognize that when a certain plant shows up, it is for a good reason.
Key Terms for Indian Pipe Medicine: soul alignment, course correcting, staying on path, unearthing core issues that bind, entering the silence beyond fear or pain, clearing vision, honoring the hard questions we must bear, becoming the hollow bone for spirit.
Honoring the Medicine of Indian Pipe – Spirit Plant - xo – Jen
ElderMoon School of Herbs
Come deepen your walk with our original medicine plants and make them part of your primary healthcare system for you and your loved ones. We walk through building your own apothecary filled with potent medicines you learn to make yourself. Let's tighten the weave of who you are, right where you are, as you begin to birth and walk the path of your inner herbalist. Herbal study is on-going with Jen Costa, Herbalist, Critical Care RN, CST. Start anytime on-line. Live classes begin each May in Woodstock, NY - Details in link.
Lamb's Quarters is our star and offers one way to feed our 'Wild'...
Feeding our 'Wild' is something that effortlessly begins to happen the moment we decide to seek wild edibles. Already the soul jumps up and we feel an enticing, excited sort of coaxing from within to get outside and find the more nutritious wild plants that feed our original self and call it forth. The body relaxes more in the presence of solid nutrition plugged into Nature. Our soul or wildness always responds and steps closer when spending time in Nature. While there are many ways to feed our 'Wild' and some have nothing to do with food, let's explore this through a walk with Lamb's Quarters, our Wild Spinach lovely found all over that makes it easy for us to just start.
'Wild-ing' your favorite recipes is so easy. You simply look over the elements that are cultivated and consider what the wild is offering us and then substitute. Then I consider making adjustments for personal flavor choices, such as I love the tangy flavor of goat cheese so I work that in. You may love the flavor onion or green scallions, so Ramp leaves (please leave the bulbs as they are becoming endangered due to wild food harvesting without concern for the plants survival), or onion grass leaves and bulbs will increase the onion flavor and nutrition from some of our wild, original foods.
Lamb’s Quarters is a delicate, leafy green and may be used as a substitute for baby spinach in any recipe you have. I eat this in fresh and cooked preparations. Used widely in Latin cuisine it is often paired with fresh cheeses, chile sauces, fresh citrus and berries, nuts, strong cheeses, spring vegetables such as peas and asparagus, eggs and potatoes, or tossed with hot pasta or grains until barely wilted. For me, Lamb's quarters has a more mild, creamy, and less metallic flavor than mature spinach and is complimented by vinaigrette, fresh herbs, garlic, toasted bread and beans. It goes into my wild weed pesto and most soups while in season. I love it in scrambled eggs with chives or spring onions just cooked a moment before adding the eggs and a favorite cheese. This is one of those versatile ones that enhances any dish so it's easy to add handfuls to just about anything in my kitchen.
They will easily grow in with your cultivated greens, will be one of the first to sprout in newly disturbed soil, and be found in many wild non-cultivated areas. The deer adore this one and will eat this before all others so let it grow near the plants you don't want the deer to eat. It's worked for me for years so we can all live together peacefully. When the nights are still cool in spring or getting cooler in the fall, young plants will have this gorgeous pink hue to their new growth. Delicious and beautiful works on my plate.
Lamb’s quarters ~ Chenopodium album
Lamb’s quarters is the perfect substitute for spinach in any recipe. It's particularly good for people who have to watch spinach intake due to being a kidney-stone-maker because it lacks the oxalates that are found in some of over one hundred varieties of kidney stones made by humans. While I warn you that oxalates should not be the main focus for such a condition, Lamb’s quarter does offer an even greener, earthier, creamy, mineral flavor. Some describe the taste of this young, wild spinach as reminiscent to asparagus and cabbage. It has a distinctly unique flavor and is very creamy in texture which is what I love about it.
Producing scalloped, triangular velvety-textured leaves, the entire plant, including the stems, is edible. Small black edible seeds on the plants are most often not fully developed when wild spinach is harvested and are still encased in tiny green pollen-like balls, which are also edible. You can only nourish the one's you feed Lamb's Quarters. All is edible; nothing is poisonous.
Lamb’s quarters, botanically known as Chenopodium album, is also frequently known as lamb's quarter spinach or wild spinach, Indian spinach, goose-foot spinach. Lamb’s quarters is a European cousin to quinoa and beets. Lamb’s quarters is found growing prolifically throughout North America where it’s commonly regarded and discarded as a weed. Usually available spring and summer and year-round in moderate climate regions, this is one the deer LOVE so I love for it to grow big near others they nibble and they will devour this one first and move on.
High in vitamin C and rich in riboflavin, one cup of cooked lamb's quarters provides an excellent source of vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamins E, B6, and thiamine. Lamb’s quarters actually contains substantially more nutrients than all cultivated spinach! It's a super food so work it into your meals.
Lamb's Quarter, Beet & Grain Salad
Yield 6 Servings
Interesting and Delicious Additions:
I find that bringing in the WILD ones makes my recipes more satisfying. I simply don't get hungry as often. I suspect it's the boosted nutrition from the wild additions that just pack a greater nutritional punch than our cultivated foods, even when grown well. Then there is that which eludes being measured and weighed. It's quite possible that in slowing down to seek these kinds of foods and figuring ways to bring them into our bodies in a beautiful, delicious way actually feeds that wild place that comes forth and eases the body and the mind that struggles with this modern way. Indeed, this is how the wild ones feed me.
Are you ready to deepen your walk with the plants as medicine keepers and make this part of your primary healthcare for yourself and your family? Maybe you're longing to design your own apothecary with potent medicines for when needed? Maybe listening to the plants directly is a calling for you. Take a look at our on-going herbal classes.
There's a start anytime on-line course to get you started or begin the process of tightening the weave of who you are, right where you are, with the medicine plants. In-Person courses start each May in Woodstock, NY. where we walk together for 13 Moons and learn how to find your own way of moving with the medicine plants as an Herbalist for yourself, family and loved ones. Full descriptions below.
Elder – Sambucus nigra, Sambucus canadensis
As we cycle around again to this high solar and masculine time of the year of the Medicine Wheel in anticipation of Summer Solstice, I honor how Elder, connected deep to the essence of woman, is gathering the essence of man through capturing bits of sunlight into her flowers. Ultimately these swell with these bits of light and water and air and earth to create the round berries we cherish taking during the Winter as the sun recedes. These berries strengthen us to endure, to release, and to keep good boundaries as we wane into Winter and the great season of gratitude and release . Cycles and the support through them with feeding across the wheel happens all the time and is embodied in the medicine of Elder.
I've included here a Plant Profile of Elder as is given to my students at ElderMoon School. A profile is just that, and informational writing of my experience of Elder, with practical information I have learned from others and from the plant directly.
Parts Used Medicinally:
Leaves, flowers, berries, bark and some Herbalists have taken in the root but be careful with taking in only small amounts for severely acute illnesses only. The flowers are a prized edible for salads and fritter making, in ancient facial care formulas such as Queen of Hungary's Water, and for making liqueurs and are the base of St. Germain's liqueur made in France. This proves to be a magical, delicate and delicious addition to drinks of all kinds.
Contains: Scientists have isolated proteins that appear to protect our healthy cells from the invading actions of viruses by literally making a protein coating they cannot penetrate. Ongoing clinical trials continue for HIV, herpes and flu.
Medicinal Actions: Antimicrobial, febrifuge, antiviral, diaphoretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory
Common Names: Black Elder, Common Elder, Pipe Tree, Bore Tree, Bour Tree
Habitat and Description:
Elder grows throughout North America and Europe and are quite abundant. Elders produce large clusters of small white or cream colored, delicately aromatic flowers in the late spring, and are followed by clusters of small red, dark purple or black berries. The shrubs can live over a hundred years. Gather the darker berries of black and dark purple; avoid red berry varieties which are more toxic. I stay with the S. canadensis which is more shrub-like and the European species of S. nigra which grows more as small tree. There are many hybridized varieties too but I seek the older known species for medicine making.
Elderberries grow best in moist, fertile, well-drained soil but will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. Elderberry plants are generally free of pests, which makes them great for landscape plantings. However, the deer can and do devour them if Elder is in their usual grazing path here in Woodstock, NY. Harvest elderberries in late August through early September before the birds get them all. It is an ancient practice to consider negotiating with birds if you want berries and know howto enter such negotiations as they often strip the bushes while the berries are still green.
Elder took root in the center of one of my vegetable gardens years ago. I deeply honor this plant for healing. I love how the plants work with the insects, animals and particularly the birds in order to be mobile across the land. It makes gardening as an herbalist full of welcomed surprises. It's a different way of gardening and much easier! So Elder stayed there and we adjusted who and what grew around this beauty. She has edible flowers too that make their way into salads, garnishes, drinks of the muddled sort, and fritters!
Ancient Harvesting Practices:
Looking into past harvesting practices will easily uncover many a story about how Elder grows at energetic portals or doorways deep into the Earth and if she chooses to grow near you then she has agreed to be a guardian of your home and tribe. The roots are said to lead to other worlds and are connected to the Mother of us all - the Dark Mother and Goddess of Earth Magic - that reigns stronger during the Winter Solstice time. Her essence resides in the Elder and must be consulted with before harvest or removal of any part or whole plant. Great warnings of mishaps that can ensue if one does not ask abound. It is common practice to ask within the heart and be sure to self-reflect on greed or ulterior motives for this will be seen.
Spiritual and Energetic Medicine:
In pre-Christian times the ancient vegetation Goddess presided over the cycle of life - birth, life, death and regeneration. This rhythm is reflected in the waxing and waning of the moon, the cycles of the season and naturally was also thought to govern the lives of women and men. Thus, in one of her aspects she was revered as a Goddess of the Underworld, who guarded over the souls of the dead. Green twigs of Elder were often placed into coffins or buried in graves to offer protection for the deceased on their journey to the other world. Elders were also planted on graves and in some places it was a custom for the driver of the hearse to carry a whip made of Elder wood to keep focused and safe while escorting the dead to their final resting place. Crowns were woven and worn of tender Elder branches and leaves at Samhain, near Halloween, to facilitate communion with our dead beloved ancestors who do return to visit and assist.
Elder Flower Essence helps one appreciate self and all beings by enhancing the ability to see the value in how things truly are. Elder removes the walls and ceilings of comfort and dissolves judgement and fixed ideas. Elder brings us deep within to our emotional blockages and helps us dissolve these as well. Past life recall as well as accessing blurred events of one's current life is enhanced when necessary for aiding understanding of where one is now and how healing can flow.
Elder flowers and berries are used in herbal medicine to treat colds and flu, coughs, constipation, hay fever, mouth ulcers, sore throats, tonsillitis, rheumatism, herpes, wounds, bruises, and muscle sprains. The berries are also made into syrups, jams, teas, vinegars, honeys, cordials, and wines. They are cherished by children and easy tasting as a syrup, though the natural dominant flavor is sour.
Taking elderberries into the body is widely accepted as a potent antiviral, though please do not take this in place of practicing the best healing art of convalescence. These expectations are too tall for nearly all medicine forms.
Elder flowers make an excellent cough remedy. The flowers are considered a powerful expectorant and make a useful addition to cough syrups as simple infusion with lemon and honey. They reduce phlegm, stimulate the circulatory system, promote sweating, increase urinary flow, and when applied topically, are anti-inflammatory.
Elder flowers are known to soften the skin and are often added to lotions and creams. They help heal chapped skin and are a good addition to hard working hand lotions. Elder flower water can be infused in the sun and moon to drink and bathe the body to rejuvenate the physical and spiritual self. Elder flowers are infused in olive oil or other oils and added to salves for the treatment of bruises, sprains, strains and open cuts and scrapes.
The infused flower oil makes an excellent lubricant for sexual play too; particularly during menopausal times when thinning and drying of the vaginal walls is a complaint. The first medicine for this is cultivating regular sexual pleasure and expression. Yes, this flower infused oil can enjoyed at any age too and sometimes I mix in a bit of coconut oil. I have also mixed it with Comfrey leaf for enhanced moistening and softening properties and Chamomile when sexual expression is hindered by old stories of sexual abuse. These are also infused oils and one may add some essential oils to enhance and direct the aroma and therapeutic actions.
Elder flowers and berries are a good remedy for feverish colds and flu. Gypsy Tea is an old recipe resurrected by Rosemary Gladstar of equal parts of Elder Flower, Catnip, Peppermint and Yarrow for wise fever management which is also so easy to drink for it's delicious! Mixing Elder flowers with Nettles and Red Clover and taken in as a daily tonic by infusion, strengthens the upper respiratory tract and can help ease hay fever and allergies if taken early in the year before pollen season arrives; do add local raw wildflower honey to this for is contains local pollen to help with desensitization of your immune system to your local plants.
Elderberries help rid the body of toxins by promoting sweating (diaphoretic) and urination (diuretic). It can be taken as a laxative in cases of stubborn constipation. Elderberry syrup is popular to take in the treatment of coughs and deep lung congestion. For added strength, I sometimes combine with Thyme into a delicious syrup. Percussion (drumming) over the lungs on the front and back of the body is an added help and wise ancient practice still utilized in critical care settings of the hospitals today. Elderberries are a rich source of vitamin A and C. The berries can be dried for use as a nutritious food. In days before oranges and other citrus fruits were commonly available, elderberries were made into wines and syrups and taken to prevent scurvy.
Elderberries are also juiced and applied as a hair dye to impart funky blues and purples to lighter colored hair.
Elder bark was sometimes given to promote vomiting historically. The bark is also a liver stimulant, hence the emetic properties, but in today’s herbal medicine practice it is rarely used for this purpose and has been replaced with ER visits for giving charcoal and nasogastric tubes to empty the stomach. Poison control centers are fantastic resources for how to get the poison out. Vomiting can sometimes do more harm. No matter how you look at it this is an unpleasant situation and the road one must endure should anyone be found in such a situation.
Elder leaves can be poulticed for wounds in emergency situations but should not be taken internally as infusions. Applying as a poultice is localized to a small area and poses no harm. When crushed and rubbed to the skin, they will keep insects away for up to an hour; many aromatics will too and I love Rosemary and Lavender for this too. Carole Guyette, in her book Sacred Plant Initiations, has an entire chapter dedicated to Elder plant dieting for deeper healing with Elder. She describes making a sacred anointing oil she calls ‘Green Oil’. It’s made by soaking fresh green chopped leaves in warm olive oil until is changes to a beautiful green color, about 4-6 hours. Strain, re-bottle and place on your altar for when needed in sacred ceremony and moments.
Elder wood is hard and close-grained. It is used for making skewers, toys, and quickly carved flutes once the pith is removed in younger shoots.
Remember too - the more flowers you harvest, the less berries you will get later in the summer so think of this as you plan your medicine harvesting. Elder returns every year so you need only enough to get to next year's harvest.
May you enjoy this Summer Solstice and seek the company of Elder in bloom or in whatever stage it is at. Even if only to seek the company of and sit near one of these ancient medicine keepers to enjoy the sunshine. Sip tea from her berries or flowers, warm or cool, and know I am too and am in celebration of this high holy time of the Sun. Blessings, Jen
Lemon (or Orange), Elder Flower & Honey Liqueur
Elder Flowers are the color of butter and smell sweet and just a bit spicy but delicate. Their beauty fades fast, however. You will need to pick them before noon, as the aroma fades once the afternoon sun hits the flowers. Time is quite important: You want to make this liqueur within an hour or two of picking the flowers to get the best effect. I fill my jar while picking and often make in the garden in order to encourage the essence forth in the moment of harvesting and making. This really could not be any easier!
ElderMoon School Herbal Classes
Are you ready to deepen your walk with the plants as medicine keepers and make this part of your primary healthcare for yourself and your family? Maybe you're longing to design your own apothecary with potent medicines for when needed? Maybe listening to the plants directly is a calling for you. Take a look at our on-going herbal classes.
There's a start anytime on-line course to get you started or begin the process of tightening the weave of who you are, right where you are with the medicine plants. In-Person courses start each May in Woodstock, NY. where we walk together for 13 Moons and learn how to find you own way of moving with the medicine plants as an Herbalist for yourself, family and loved ones. Full descriptions below.
Time for some pleasure... the Lilacs are here! Lilacs are such a welcomed spring flowering shrub. There are about 25 different varieties, the main differences being flower color. Light purple is most common, and there is also white, dark purple, pink, variegated, and a double blossom. The flowers grow in a panicle cluster, and many varieties are fragrant. The leaves are opposite in arrangement and are heart shaped. Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is often planted as an ornamental shrub in yards. Make sure the bush has not been sprayed before you gather your flowers.
There are many recipes for 'Candied Lilac Flowers', 'Lilac Flower Syrup', and 'Lilac Flower Jelly'. Candied flowers are made by brushing the individual tiny flowers with beaten egg white and sprinkling them with superfine sugar. Yes, a time consuming process, and should be done on a dry day. The results are pretty, and make lovely additions to sweet creations. Syrups are added to seltzer and other mocktails and cocktails for pleasure. Many require cane sugar and so limit who can or will make such recipes these days with cane sugar mindfulness and sensitivities.
I love the floral scent, of course, and taste initially. This gives way to a subtle bitterness with hints of citrus. One would think, 'bitter'? Well yes, in spring we need bitter components in our diet to assist with the seasonal transitions. Bitter helps our kidneys, liver, and digestive systems make the shift and bring each major filtering organ a beautiful spring tonic too.
Long respected and still whispering ancient wisdom through the two volume book "The Modern Herbal", Maude Grieves also speaks of lilac flowers, leaves, and fruit as having a long history of carrying medicinal qualities. "Used as a vermifuge in America and as a tonic anti-periodic and febrifuge; may be used as a substitute for aloe to treat skin issues and in the treatment of malaria". Vermifuges are for ridding the body of parasites, hence the bitter component it embodies. Febrifuges are a group of plants that help reduce fever.
Lilac Flower Essence is easily made if you've been taught how or easily sourced as well. Matthias and Andrea Reisen of Healing Spirits Herb Farm provide one form their gorgeous organic and biodynamic farm and suggest it be called on for assistance with 'standing tall, uprightness with lightness: Helps those who burden themselves, refusing help from others. Brings in laughter, easing painful memories and restoring joy'.
Here are two of my favorite recipes for Springtime. ENJOY! xo-Jen
Recipe: Lilac Flower Infused Honey
~ Fill jar with freshly picked flowers with a little room at the top.
~Pour over honey to the top, stir with a chopped stick to get the air bubbles up and out.
~Now you have two choices on how to proceed:
Recipe: Lilac Flower Infused Massage Oil
~Fill jar with wilted flowers. We allow the flowers to wilt which simply means water is leaving. This is good when making oils as they can spoil more quickly with the water present.
~Cover with carrier oil and cap.
~Allow to infuse for up to 6 weeks. Stir and watch to be sure no air bubbles are present and if so just stir with a chop stick in circular motion to release them.
~After 6 weeks strain through several layers of cheese cloth or muslin
~To Use: Add to all-purpose salve formulations or as a base for an aromatic massage oil by adding 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil. Any citrus one you love, or Lavender goes well with Lilac Infused Oil. This can be applied for tired muscles or as a back, chest, and neck massge to help reduce fever. Maybe an all over massage just for pleasure because we all work hard is the medicine needed. Enjoy!
Are you ready to deepen your walk with the plants as medicine keepers and make this part of your primary healthcare for yourself and your beloveds? Take a look at our herbal classes starting soon.
There's an on-line apprenticing course to get you started, or fill in the gaps right where you are, if that is what you're needing. There's a live course starting in May 2016 where you walk with Jen Costa, Herbalist, for 13 Moons and learn how to find you own way of moving with the plants. Full descriptions below.
Spring Equinox 2016 - Honoring Balance & The Spaces In-Between with Cream of Watercress & Asparagus Soup
Equal light and dark is one of the gifts of the Spring Equinox. Honoring balance is something I'm thinking about by carefully looking at what's needing balancing in my world. Balance is a dynamic state anyway. Even scales wobble or need a hood to reduce the wobble. We don't live there. Maybe nothing does, or maybe we swing through it and sometimes pause a bit and oscillate around it until the full spectrum measures 'balance’? They’re calling for snow for the Spring Equinox. It's not a new thing here for New Yorkers. It makes me turn to the soup pot again with soft, understanding eyes. I'm not sure how to survive without my soup pot. I most likely could, but not well. The markets are rolling in asparagus and watercress and I love them both! Potatoes from the fall are still around and needing to be consumed so the balance of fall and spring, in one pot to feed our bones, is the way of our weekend within this tribe.
Many are still moving the flu around so the bone broths and thyme, with all the luscious green, help boost our resistance while offering flavor and keeping us in flow with Nature. My dearest friend, Caroline, taught me this recipe with watercress we would harvest in the watery areas we knew of. She was one of those people you are blessed to know, who showed me deep sisterhood at a much needed time, dragged me to my first herbal conference, and then pointed the way for me. Life did an about-face and she was suddenly gone in an accident and many lives changed forever by knowing her. She died on Valentine’s Day decades ago now. I always make this soup in honor of our time together as deep sisters, in gratitude for showing me the herbal world before she had to go, and in great anticipation for the blooming of the Magnolias which was her favorite flower that brought her deep peace from chronic pain. She comes forth through these blooms for me and the worlds are more interwoven than we think when I sit with Magnolia and fill my belly with one of my favorite soups from my dear sister, Caroline.
In deep honor of these days, may you enjoy welcoming Spring and our swing through 'balance' in your way. xo- Jen
Honoring the Plants as Medicine Keepers
Interested in deepening your relationship with the plants as medicine keepers? Full descriptions are available in the links below. Thank you for sharing. xo-Jen
Good Mouth Care the Herbal Way
Using tooth powder is definitely not a new thing. Many today globally still use some form of clay to re-mineralize and clean their teeth daily with consistently good results. My husband lived in Germany for many years and that's what many use in Europe. It comes in a light weight cardboard box too. When I think about all the toothpaste tubes heading to the dump, I'm concerned. How will these ever breakdown? Even if recyclable, what about the toxic processes necessary to recycle certain plastics? Plus many the ingredients in commercial toothpastes are just not good for us. The mouth is full of blood vessels and mucosa designed to absorb significant amounts, quickly, straight into the bloodstream, including much of the unwanted chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and dyes that are known neurotoxins. The rest of it ends up in our water supply after spitting them out. There is another way, yes? The main ingredient in many tooth powders is Bentonite Clay. Not only does it bind to and draw out heavy metals and toxins but it is alkaline and full of minerals.
There are many simple herbal tooth powder recipes that are so easy to follow. Just beginning is the hard part. Most health food stores will have all your ingredients or try Mountain Rose Herbs on-line.
Basic Tooth Powder Recipe:
Mix Equal parts of: Baking soda, Bentonite Clay powder, Myrrh powder, and Sea Salt powder (grind the salt in a clean coffee grinder for a minute to powder so it is less abrasive). I love adding Spearmint, Peppermint, or Fennel Essential Oil to up the flavor and the antimicrobial action. Add 30 drops per 1 cup of mixed powder. Sift the powders through a fine mesh sieve, including the essential oils to break them up because they form little beads of oil in the powders. Once combined well, spoon into a small glass jar, label, and you're ready. When you need to brush, pour a small amount in your hand, wet your toothbrush, and brush as usual. There are times when I add other powdered plants to this mix to up the re-mineralizing and healing properties of the blend.
Homemade Herbal Mouth Rinse
This is a strong and effective mouth rinse particularly for those with gingivitis and periodontal disease. Also helpful for toning gums, keeping them tight to the teeth, and for cold sores, sensitive gums and teeth. Those with festering infections up around the tooth roots that actually drain into the mouth will benefit from this used daily. These active situations as well as the low lying infections of periodontal disease, have been linked to bone and tooth loss, heart disease and stomach cancers. Gum flapping has many promises, is very invasive and traumatic, and I have seen dentists unable to tell what quadrant was done once healed. Sometimes we need surgery. But the point of invasive surgeries is to change the situation, yes? Laser treatments and antibiotic injection to the tooth roots are other options. Insurance companies won’t pay for the care needed either, unless we pay more, which completely disturbs me and makes me look honestly at our healthcare system. Treating our gums is far more cost effective than treating heart disease and cancer.
Yes, we still have options for supporting tooth and gum health. I’ve made this herbal based mouth rinse and given the recipe out for more than 20 years with great reports of great results. You begin by making a full strength tincture. When done, it has a few additions to ease the alcohol content but keep it stable and improve taste and healing properties. Those with alcohol dependency issues cannot use this remedy and so I suggest salt water gargles daily for them, which work great too. We have to tend more to the openings in our body that are more susceptible to microbes from the outer world. Here is another one for tending to the mouth.
Ingredients & Instructions:
Your yield for 1 batch of full strength tincture? I estimate you can make FIVE 17oz. bottles of finished mouth rinse! Maybe six depending on the dried versus fresh herbs you get. Yes, it's Earth and body friendly, effective, and very cost effective too.
May you find simple, powerful healing among the medicine plants like so many have. The plants wait for us and are gifted medicine keepers we have evolved on. Each of us must come in our own time back to some of the simpler ways of tending to our health.
Interested in learning more about medicine plants?
This is part of one of our recent lessons for the new herbalists coming into the world this year through "Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons" , an on-line course I designed for training you to know how to make simple powerful medicines right from your own well-stocked apothecary designed by you, for you and your family. I walk with you through the whole course and it's a good, strong journey together deep into the plant world our ancestors knew well.
A new group is starting in April and there's a discount until the end of March. See the full description for all the details in the following links. Questions Welcomed.
ElderMoon School xo-Jen
Are you a medicine carrier?
I'm sure you are. Navigating the herbal world can become very overwhelming today, yes? As is finding reliable resources to learn from. It didn't used to be this way not too long ago. I see this as a beautiful sign of expansion among our people as our desire to remember the ancient ways, needed to navigate our modern times, is the call we are putting forth collectively. Discernment is more of the task at hand. The journey begins with ourself and the 'Birthing of Our Inner Herbalist-Healer in 13 Moons' is a course I designed to cultivate you all along the way. Join me for a good, strong medicine journey that will have you walking strong alongside our healing plants.
Maybe you've decided herbs are for you but being an herbalist is not. That's understandable. Maybe you know you need a deeper walk with someone who has been down the road a bit. That's understandable too. Maybe you would love to know how to make your own medicine and have a personal apothecary at your fingertips? I know this one well. Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons is a course I designed for the person who wants to be an herbalist, the medical professional that wants to know the plants and learn to integrate this knowledge, and the caregiver who knows that in any situation, from caring for yourself to caring for your loved ones, this IS the path for you. Sometimes we just know deep within our bones where we must travel.
So my mission, vision, and desire is to create space for our remembering of our birth right to sit with a medicine plant and know how to connect and learn directly from them. We all carry this wisdom deep inside. Let's nudge this way forward and integrate it creatively in your life as a path leading to being of service. The plants are here and available and you can do this. Knowing your medicine IS helping your people, yes?
With over twenty-five years under my belt making medicine and teaching about herbs, plus walking the hospital halls for ten years now, I've come up with a course that is full of tips for addressing common ailments at home with your very own, incredibly cost effective and potent tinctures, syrups, poultices and salves and more, right from your own personally designed apothecary.
March 2016 Discount of $99 off Course Fee until 3/31/2016
How does the course work?
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It's our way this year. It's all about the pull of spring and the return of the warmth. Winter is ebbing now and seed buying, garden planning, burning the greens of Winter Solstice, cleansing the home a bit, filling our bellies with delicious feasting food, and acknowledging the return of the sun is Imbolc in action.
With Imbolc, on February 1, we usually begin the night before with preparing a family feast and light up the home after a good cleansing This holy day is the actual marking of seasonal change where the first pull of spring is felt and the return of the sun is noted. We honor the successful passing of winter and the rebirth of the Sun. It is also a day of celebrating the Celtic Goddess Brigid, whose name literally means 'she who rises'. Brigid is the Goddess of Poetry, Healing, Protection, Wells & Water, Midwifery, and she is strongly associated with Oak trees. If you can make it with your hands, Brigid rules it. She is a triple Goddess, so we honour her in all her aspects. This is a time for communing with her, inviting her in with graitude for her protection and guidance so needed at the start of anything. At this time of year, many light multiple candles, white for Brigid or your Divine, yellow or red for the Sun returning, and I love a midnight blue one for gratitude and release of the past year and to remind us of the passing of winter and the entrance into spring, the time of the Sun. This is a good time for initiations and birthing new ways. It is also a festival of light and of fertility in many cultures, and so I also honor the Goddess Amaturasu of Japan as a bringer of Light in spring.
So the hard work of beginning another year occurs at Imbolc. Possibilities are endless and eternal at this time. The whole year stretches before us and we have the power to mold it into whatever we desire. Imbolc is a good time for gaining inspiration, releasing more of the old to bring in the new, getting more realistic about those New Year's resolutions that I rarely bother with, creating and increasing the warmth and love within a household-relationship-family (since we are most likely still cooped up together), creating prosperity, and welcoming personal growth.
Each year our family picks 'a something', an action, a sharing, and a feast to honor this sacred time of Imbolc as the fire of spring begins to return. It's not as grand as the Equinox in expression for us. There's more of an intimate, quiet acknowledgement as we continue to move through; much like birth is at it's best. Here are a few ideas our family enjoys:
~Bake something outrageous or so comforting on Imbolc. Feasting with friends and family is part of each high holy day. Traditional foods for this holy day, called a sabbat, include bread and dairy. I've got my eye on making bannock in honor of my Scottish ancestors. Cheese making is another we have enjoyed to honor the flow of milk from the birthing mothers of the animals we humans tend for their milk. There are some goat cheeses and yogurt cheeses that can be made overnight. Straining ricotta over night and sweetening with lemon zest and honey is one I love!
~Check out your candle supply and take note of what you're running low on. Our holiday this year was enjoyed with many candles and I already did some of this.
~Do a little 'spring' cleaning, and open the windows for ten minutes to let some fresh air in. Smudge the house and play loud, sacred music you love while you clean to break up the stagnant energy and cleanse the space. Wash windows and mirrors. Seek out dusty cob webs. One hour of this makes an incredible difference in how our homes feel. We do this as a tribe and it goes quick with all hands in motion.
~Plant and seed catalog shop by the fire. Bless the seeds you've chosen for your spring garden for beauty, food, or medicine. Plan a new garden with diagrams and all. When will you start some seeds? Now is the time to plan. What plants are calling to be near you or want to be moved around this year? Now is the listening and visioning time as we await warmer days. Gardens are live paintings, art in action, never done and always changing. They have a collective voice or an essence you can connect with.
~Brew a pot of herbal tea from last summer's bounty and enjoy it as you reflect on the personal goals you've accomplished in the past year. What's nudging you this year and deeply on your mind for manifesting in 2016? Good thoughts become and need our time, right?
~Light a gathering of candles on Imbolc to inspire the Sun and Spring to return. I'm trusting your always safe and tend your candles. Clean out your fireplace and get it blazing if it's still chilly. Burn the Holiday/Yule greens to send winter on its way with gratitude for not only being here but for trusting it will come again.
~Make a new altar in honor of Imbolc. Tiny is perfect if space is limited for it's all about your planning and feeling when created. This altar can be a source of support right through to Spring Equinox. Include items with deep meaning for you, and have family add to it over the next few weeks.
~Hang or refill birdfeeders. Food gets scarce now for the birds at this time of year. The bears are not awake yet so hanging suet and seed is a perfect Imbolc gift for those of us that move in and out of dreaming daily.
~Honor your Divine. Brigid is the Celtic triple goddess of fire, healing, protection, and poetry, and is often celebrated on Imbolc. Read or write poems, or read from your favorite author by the fire with a medicinal brew or a special herbal cordial.
~Make something in honor of Imbolc like a Brigid's Cross, a dream pillow, or a new medicine pouch.
-Visit a greenhouse or arboritum! I need this and make it a regular weekly thing come February thanks to a local garden center that has a massive yearly functioning one for our community. My soul jumps up and gets rejuvenated when I go in there with the plants. I worked in greenhouses all my teenage years and the memories are priceless when winter feels too intense.
There is only your way.... Celebrating this is all about your desires and your way. There is no right or wrong so allow your creative fire to emerge. Recognizing such holy days is much like walking a compass for the year and staying synchronized with what is moving around and affecting us. There are eight holidays each year with six weeks in between each; Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, Fall Equinox, Samhain, and Winter Solstice. These are globally recognized and root into all cultures. I don't know about you but I'm all for more holidays in this culture. If you look close enough you'll see that some we do have are synchronized with this ancient compass; such as Groundhogs Day and Candlemas... yes, Imbolc.
Beer Bannock - Our Bread for Imbolc
The flatbread ‘cakes’ of my Scottish ancestors were oatcakes and barley bannocks. Wheat bread, although aspired to, was very uncommon. Ordinary households did not have ovens and baked on an iron girdle hung over the fire right into the 19th century. This replaced a bakestone placed on the embers directly in the fire, which had been the method of making bread since prehistoric times. Wheat was seldom grown until late in the 18th century, for oats and barley were more reliable crops. From a flatbread that was an everyday staple, the traditional bannocks of Scotland have changed much in character over the years.
The ‘old method’ relies on heating up milk with some butter and salt, and adding the barley meal (flour) when it's hot. This swells the meal and makes a pliable dough. If you don’t have a girdle, the bannock can be cooked on a heavy frying pan. It should be crisp on the outside and just slightly moist within. It was eaten hot, thinner than the version I am making here, and crispy. Think of traditional barley bannocks as a Scottish version of the many flat breads from India made entirely with local ingredients.
I love following the tradition of embellishing the "plain", bannock in this case, with sugar, spices, dried fruit, cheese, cream or yogurt, fresh herbs, and seeds for festive occasions such as Imbolc. Bringing the memories forth and infusing them into our modern experience is a form of deep honoring, right?
Beer Bannock Recipe
3 cups flour; you can use gluten free and add 1 tsp of xanthum gum powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 stick of butter melted and cooled a bit; any fat/oil you prefer will work here too.
1/4 cup sugar, honey, or maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
12oz beer; homebrewed with herbs is my first choice; locally brewed and dark is my second
OPTIONAL ADDITIONS: First of all, it's great plain so you can start there.
1/3 cup raisins, minced dried apricots, or dried cranberries , 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds, 1 teaspon caraway seeds - any or all
1/4 cup minced scallions, 4 oz. gorgonzola, cheddar, or goat cheese, sprinkle of pepper (pic above)
-this is a campfire recipe I adapted to the kitchen; if on a campfire you flip after 10 minutes to finish each side.
-otherwise preheat oven to 425 degrees.
-place flour, baking powder, salt, and your sweetener of choice into a bowl, mix in about 1/2 of your butter and it will be a bit lumpy.
-stir in the beer; mix to a soft sticky dough; now add your additions if you like some.
-warm a 9" cast iron pan on the stove and add some butter to coat; coat your palms with butter and gather the dough up and transfer to the pan patting it in place; you could also rustically roll them like scones.
-Bake 20-25 minutes; check for done with toothpick as usual. Start checking at 15 minutes if shaped individually. These are delicious with stews, soups and a fresh salad. Oh yes, and more butter or soft cheese for serving, if desired. Enjoy and Happy Imbolc from my tribe to yours! xo-Jen
Interested in deepening your knowledge of the medicine plants and developing earth medicine skills?
Please Note: the 10% Discount on Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons on-line course ends today.
Me too. I always think about the skin as our first line or boundary marker. It's like the line drawn in the sand where the landscape changes from what is outer to what is inner; what all can see to what no one can see. What rules these inner and outer landscapes changes too. Boundaries are so important, yes? So we can start with the physical level. What we eat and drink, how we rest and exercise, and more all make a difference in our skin quality. These choices we make are actually the easy part when it comes to boundary work! Keep it simple and turn to chemical free care of body and home. There are so many cosmetic and cleaning chemicals isolated in cancerous tumors today for the body has no idea how to break these substances down. Yes, I read labels or make products I can't find to fit this way of being. All you need are some very basic kitchen skills.
So here's one solution that works in our house. One quality I love about massaging this Shea Butter Plus into my moist skin after bathing is that it's not greasy at all. After a few minutes the skin drinks this deep into the lower layers of our protective barrier and you are left with a silky soft skin texture. The Rosemary is an anciently rooted skin healer meaning we have known for a long time that it will soothe chapped irritated areas, protect open areas from opportunistic microbes looking for an easy ride into our bodies, and strengthen the barrier structure of our skin so it can repair and do as it's designed to do by staying intact and protecting our inner landscape.
Shea butter comes from a nut from the African Shea Tree and is an off- white or ivory-colored fat extracted from the nut of this tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). It’s highly revered globally as a skin protectant and healer which began with the people who are profoundly fortunate to live among these trees. Shea butter is honored among drummers and dancers for protecting the integrity of overworked and overexposed skin. When blended into this butter, this can be massaged all over the body. This works for wherever you need it from tired, sore drummer-gardener-farmer-stonelayer-baker-worker hands, to massaging as a hair pomade into the scalp and hair, to massaging on tired feet from long hours of walking and working, to chapped cheeks from too much cold or wind or saltwater swimming skin.
Here's to nourishing your skin.... xo-Jen
Shea Butter Plus
4 tablespoon rosemary infused olive oil
3 tablespoon shea butter
1 tablespoon beeswax
1 tablespoon cocoa butter
1 tablespoon coconut oil
30 drops lavender essential oil - or any essential oil you love (this is optional - this salve can stay unscented too if you prefer that by just leaving this out).
1. Make your rosemary infused olive oil. Easy - warm fresh rosemary from the healthfood store or your garden in a double boiler with gentle boiling water underneath. Add 4 tablespoons of fresh leaves to 1/2 cup of olive oil and warm, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 hours. You can chop up the leaves too and this will allow the medicine to come out more quickly. Carefully strain and pour into a glass container, label with the date, and store in cool shaded area. You will have enough for a two batches of this recipe now.
2. Wipe out your double boiler and re-set on the stove with a pan of simmering water underneath and add all your ingredients to the pan and warm until all is just melted.
3. Pour into a wide mouth jar and allow to cool. Make a funky personal label and enjoy! Yield 5oz. which is enough for one winter.
Interested in deepening your knowledge of the medicine plants and developing earth medicine skills?
I have to say that when your throat is on fire, a good cough drop can save the moment!
There is the issue of sugar when making these for we know too much sugar can suppress the immune system. We cannot live without glucose and our brains will actually seize up and die fast without it. I had to get okay with some quality sugary sweet products, seek quality sugars, and realize that it’s like water and the sun, too much will kill us. We still need them all, right? Sweetness is part of the chemistry of preserving the medicines we make and it just improves flavor for some situations.
Here’s an easy recipe for honoring what White Pine can offer us when we have fiery throats, lots of mucus, and coughing from ailing lungs. Honey does not have the chemistry for this to work. I tried with poor results and hate cooking honey most of the time. I do have an old canning book that uses honey exclusively for making jams and they are delicious! Yes, you loose some of the benefits of raw honey but you never sacrifice flavor or health benefits.
So let's visit White Pine for a moment. Many forget to tun to this tree when we have colds and flus. White pine is usually right outside or near, depending on where you live, and you can simply pinch the tips with much gratitude for her greenery in the winter! This tree has a strong mothering kind of energy when we are sick and needing help. Making tea for drinking or pouring into the bath are ancient practices available to us for addressing infections and flus deep in our respiratory system and for keeping mucus fluid and flowing outward. This is the body's way of healing itself. Decongestants dry us out and will only compound the problem of making mucus too thick to move and then the bacteria have a perfect world to thrive in and secondary infections begin, such as bronchitis, sinus, or ear infections. Think rest and fluid, rest and fluid.
I added Thyme to this for I had so much from the summer abundance! Thyme is a fantastic immune supportive herb, is a potent bronchodilator, meaning opens airway passages for better air movement, and has much to offer for antimicrobial strength too. Why do you think it made it into our food so long ago? It was for these very reasons when we were without refrigeration and still learning about germs, right?
These are a hit in my house and they're pretty easy to make and delicious too. Bringing the outside in and remembering that winter does end, so enjoy the now, is good medicine this time of year. White Pine in the belly works for me!
Mama White Pine, Lemon & Thyme Cough Drops
ElderMoon School of Herbal Medicine and Earth Awareness
Cultivating lunar awareness is what it's all about here. Synchronizing with the Moon as our ancestral women did keeps us in flow with the cyclic nature of our world. We make better choices from this place of being and this affects ourselves, our families, our communities and the collective whole. Yes, it will make your life easier. Yes, it starts with you. Join me for a once a month virtual MoonLodge that I pray sparks in-person lodges for your community women. Thank you for sharing. xo- Jen
A lunar connecting blend to grace our walk with the Moon as we circle and hold council together. It can be a challenge to stop and drop down into ourselves these days, right? But life is easier when we make this happen. Support is all around with the New Moon and the medicine plants beckoning us to do just this. Try drinking this around the New Moon and see for yourself how easy it can be. Deliver some to a sister in need and watch how easy it is for her too.
3 parts each Red Raspberry Leaf and Nettles
2 parts each Oatstraw, Lemon Balm and Hibiscus
1 part Jasmine Flower and Roses
-Blend your dried herbs together and store in a glass jar with a label.
-Add 4 heaping tablespoons to 1 quart of boiled water, cover and steep 1 hour.
-Find your favorite mug for sipping, add honey if you like, and plan to sip it all over the course of each New Moon. ENJOY!
Trust your way, wise one. May our paths cross soon. Thank you for commenting and sharing. xo-Jen
Midwifing the Sun Back into Being
One way we can honor the Winter Solstice is by creating a releasing ritual at home or in circle with family or others in order to release what is out of date, outmoded and no longer serves you and therefore the greater whole. Winter Solstice is the shortest day, and longest, darkest night of the year. It holds the promise of the Light, just on the other side of it, beginning to return. We help birth the Sun back into being just by simply releasing what is no longer needed. We are deepest and longest, on this very day, with the Divine Feminine within her dance with the Divine Masculine, which peaks on the Summer Solstice. This ancient practice honors the dance, the medicine generated from their dance, and helps us open to healing. We need only to make ourselves available through simple, intimate acts with our Divine. Creating an altar, making releasing bundles, time together, and sparkling celebratory drinks are our way on the Winter Solstice. My third son was born today and this deepens the already special night that it is for our family. He always tells me he's from the Sun. I believe him.
Being an herbalist means I deeply desire to fill your belly with something nourishing, especially when we work deep in the darkest time of year. My celebratory contribution this year to my tribe includes Elderberry Bellinis and Elderberry Sparkling Water. I share in the hope that you'll fill your belly with the goodness of Elder. xo-jen
Elderberry Bellini & Elderberry Sparkling Water
1-2 tablespoons Elderberry syrup
Mix gently in a beautiful glass and enjoy!
Elderberry Sparkling Water
(The Non-alcoholic Bellini)
Yes! Simply use sparkling water with your syrup. Children rave over this and delight in having beautful drinks in elegant glasses with their favorite grownups. As I'm writing this, I'm sipping this one... it's in the pics and so good! The Prosecco is in the frig for tonight.
Our immune systems often get taxed this time of year, right? Elderberry provides. Elder shores up the boundaries in all directions to the possiblity of passing colds and flus around as we celebrate through the holidays. This is such a delicious, gorgeous, and easy way to celebrate. Who said medicine usually tastes awful? Never with Elder!
– Quick & Easy Elderberry Syrup Recipe–
1 cup fresh (or 1/2 cup dried will do) Elderberries
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup raw wildflower honey
½ tsp fresh chopped ginger root
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ tsp Cinnamon powder
Making Winter Solstice Releasing Bundles
This is another way to honor the releasing season we are in. As we reflect on the year passing and what worked, what bloomed, what was a complete bomb, and how we may have tripped ourselves up, making bundles to burn today solidifies our accepting of our part in it all. It's a simple act with deep rippling effects on so many levels.
Here's what you'll need to gather to make your releasing bundle:
What if, in this release, the inspiration and energy comes forth to fund your forward motion towards a dream for yourself? What if your dream-made-reality is actually connected to the whole as your gift to making this world a better place? Would you choose to step forward through the simple act of letting go? I pray you do. xo-Jen
Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons - You want to make good medicine, right? And deepen your knowledge of healing yourself too. Me too and it started an outrageous journey into the world of plants for me years ago. Come join me. Our new group begins April 2016 - This is an interactive on-line course in herbal medicine for 13 Moons together. Our time will provide you with a solid foundation for learning not only the skills and language of an herbalist and the science of the body but also the way we approach Nature and the plants in order to learn directly from them. We cultivate ourselves all along the way too. The on-line course starts March 18, 2016 and the in-person course begins May 28, 2016. xo-Jen
Enjoy a 20% Discount on Classes through December 2015!
Come learn the language of the plants and deepen your way of healing yourself, your family, and your community. It's time. It's always an outrageous journey! And it's easier than you think.
Are you stocking your pantry with medicinal mushroom yet? Packed sinuses and congested lungs always open to such medicines as this. Thinning secretions so they can run out along passageways that are less inflammed is the name of the game here. You can literally live on this broth for days with herbal teas and honey-lemon water and get through the roughest of flus in less time if you choose to stay in bed too. This is simple and tasty and satisfies all eating styles (omit the butter for vegan diets). Most health food and specialty grocery stores stock these items. The Reishi and Astragalus are easily sourced on-line if need be to get your pantry stocked well for flu season. I shave my whole Reishi mushrooms with a wood rasp which sounds like work but not really. Reishi mushrooms weigh nearly the same fresh as dried and are quite solid as they carry very little water in their cells. Health-wise they are worth the little extra effort. Rasps are found in hardware stores, are inexpensive, and mine lives with my knives. Otherwise buy it already shaved. I plan ahead and stock up by buying enough for a pot 1-2x/months through peak flu season.
Let's look a little deeper at some of the ingredients...
Astragalus Root – Astragalus membranaceus - Astragalus Root slices are a regular item in my pantry for more than 20 years now which was when I first learned of this anciently rooted plant that has walked with us humans for a long time. Related to our common vetch plants that grow easily here, Astragalus has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It is a powerful adaptogenic herb and supports deeply restorative and surface immune responses. Astragalus has gained popularity recently as research has emerged about the "possibility that it can protect DNA and increase longevity". Such a broad, safe statement for what time has already taught us about this one, right? I was taught that it needs to be cooked to get the full benefit so I encourage this way instead of pills. Each slice can be cooked for up to six hours before all medicine is released.
Shiitake Mushrooms- Lentinula edodes - Shiitake’s flavor is 4 to 10 times more intense than that of ordinary button mushroom. Ordinary button mushrooms actually should be eaten in low to moderate amounts due their toxicity. Not shiitakes though! It is a fleshy fungi and is rich in nutrients. It contains proteins (18%), potassium, niacin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Another ancient medicine brought in on a food level to enhance and organize immunity, this thins secretions so they can move and opens respiratory passage ways by reducing inflammation. Did you know that Shiitake is said to love music? Yes, classical and rock and roll. It also likes company and flashlights. At least that's what some farmers report who grow Shiitakes on a daily basis. They assert that when you grow Shiitakes on an isolated log, it does not produce as much as when the log is in a cluster of logs. Word has it that it also produces generously when the people attending to it emit positive energy. If there are some clumsy people near it or arguments or fighting going on, Shiitake tends to be defiant and wilts. We drum and play music for our medicine plants here as well and this is an ancient practice too that even some modern grape producers for jelly making won’t talk about but actually do.
Reishi Mushrooms - Ganoderma lucidum - Regular consumption of Reishi, and there are a few different species that all have medicinal value, can enhance our body's immune system and improve blood circulation, thus improving any health condition. Reishi is also anciently rooted in use with humans and is recommended as an adaptogen, immune modulator, and a general tonic. Reishi is also used to help treat anxiety, high blood pressure, hepatitis, bronchitis, insomnia, and asthma. I love the immune enhancing and organizing characteristics of Reishi. The immune system has great power but can get dis-organized and over or under reactive even to the point of being life threatening, such as anaphylaxis (over reactive), and sepsis (under reactive). To this extreme, one usually needs modern medicine interventions to live through the ordeal. Coming down the intensity spectrum a bit, we can still see immune system disorganization and over or under responsiveness that is not life threatening but definitely not life enhancing either. There are a beautiful number of plants, and mushrooms, that carry this beautiful way of shoring up the immune system and reminding it that it can get organized and fight the good fight for re-establishing the boundaries necessary with the microbial world in our inner world. Indeed, boundary maintenance is one of the biggest jobs our immune system has. Reishi can help.
Mushroom Broth Medicine - The Recipe
1. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the carrot, celery, leek, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and leeks have softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant which only takes a minute.
2. Add the mushrooms, bay leaf, and peppercorns and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms start to release some moisture, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to the low and simmer with the lid on the pot until the vegetables are completely soft and the stock has a pronounced mushroom flavor, about two hours.
4. Remove from the heat and add your parsley and thyme. Cover and allow to cool to warm for an hour or so. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large heatproof container or saucepan; discard the contents of the strainer. Stir in the salt or tamari and taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. If not using immediately, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Therapeutic Dose: 3 big mugs per day or 2-3 bowls of soup using this broth as the base. Turn this into a pot of soup or do as I do and drink it hot by the mug full with a splash of tamari. You can also cook grains in it or make traditional noodle bowls. Boundaries get re-established with the microbial world deep within thanks to the deeply nourishing and medicinal actions of broths like this. I trust the mushrooms to keep my people strong and well and bow deeply to these magical, mysterious medicine keepers found often in the forest who foster deep connections between all species there. Enjoy. xo-Jen
Great Reference & Read: Medicinal Mushrooms by Christopher Hobbs
Interested in deepening your knowledge of medicine plants?
Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons is starting up a new group again in March 2016 - This interactive on-line course in herbal medicine will provide you with a solid foundation for learning not only the skills and language of an herbalist and the science of the body but also the way we approach Nature and the plants in order to learn directly from them. We cultivate ourselves along the way. The on-line course starts March 18, 2016 and the in-person course begins May 28, 2016. See our classes at:
~ Seasonal Digestive Tonics ~
Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons is starting again in March 2016 - This an interactive on-line course in herbal medicine that will provide you with a solid foundation for learning not only the skills and language of an herbalist, and the science of the body but also the way we approach Nature and the plants in order to learn directly from them. We cultivate ourselves along the way. The on-line course starts March 2016 and the in-person course begins May 2016. See our classes at: