OH, it’s a FUN plant ID contest May 15, 2013
Hello, friends. I present here for your botanical pleasure 10 plant photos. Feel free to enjoy them with no attachment to the System of identification. However, if you’d like to try your hand at ID here is the deal: first person to id all 10 correctly will win one 1 oz. tincture from Fellow Workers Farm apothecary. Tincture is of your choice, and will be shipped to you or– if you’d prefer– you can pick it up in the apothecary.
Please post guesses in the comments. You must get all 10 to win.
black haw kicks ass March 12, 2013
One of my absolute favorite herbal medicines is Black Haw-Viburnum Prunifolium. It spent years in the Caprifoliaceae family amongst the lovely Honeysuckles and Elders but someone moved it to Adoxaceae, I’m going to need to mull about that one for a bit. The Viburnums are a pretty big bunch and also includes the more well-known Crampbark plus Nannyberry, Arrowwood Viburnum and Possumhaw. What’s a haw? It means fruit, as in “Hawthorne”. Oh, and it also means “a command to a horse, telling it to turn left”. Just in case you’re reading this on horseback.
So Blackhaw-it’s a shrub. On the large side for a shrub, with opposite branches and it flowers in late spring with tiny flowers not unlike the Elder’s flowers. I’d call it cream color, and the bark is grey and sturdy. It is a common shrub in my area of upstate NY but is native to the whole northeast and midwest area and has been, in my experience, pretty easy to grow in a moist to medium area with part to full sun. I have yet to see it decimated by critters and the haws are not super desirable because they are mostly seed-one big flat seed in each dark purple haw, sometimes called a drupe amongst botanical types.
To make medicine I harvest bark and twigs, taking just a bit from each shrub so as to not be a jerk, and tincture it fresh. I use it both internally and externally. I will make a liniment with rubbing alcohol for external use only and a tincture with grain alcohol for both internal and external use.
My most important use of Black haw tincture is to address spasms and muscular tension. Our muscles spasm for various reasons-tension, dysmenorrhea, “charlie horse”, injury, overwork, asthma. I take a high dose-1/2 to 1 dropper-internally for menstrual cramps and I’ll do so every 2-4 hours if needed. But all types of so-called uterine colic responds to Black haw including the pain of endometriosis, fibroids, threatened miscarriage, afterbirth pains, ovulation pains, and -I haven’t tried this-but Winston says testicular pains.
“As a uterine tonic it is unquestionably of great utility”-King’s American Dispensatory. Yup.
The urinary tract also responds to Black haw and I’ve started to add it to my standard UTI formula of Alder/Monarda tincture if there is pain of a spasmodic nature.
I also use it in tension headaches. I will use it straight up or mixed with Crampbark and Lobelia-a little bit internally, and a lot externally. In my first aid kit this blend is in a spray bottle-it is a great way to get tincture on places you can’t reach that well or-when you are in the throes of a debilitating tension headache or spasm- to just push the sprayer and avoid messing around with a dropper. I strongly recommend addressing tension and other headaches BEFORE they get bad, thus the joy of carrying such a blend about. Of course, no tincture will deal with all tension, and I recommend combining herbal treatment with deep breaths, tree time and whatever therapeutic practice works for you. My favorite meditation to use with Black haw is “let go”.
For neck pain I blend it with Goldenrod tincture-fresh flowering tops. Aviva Romm recommends adding Jamaican Dogwood bark for headache, which I love for menstrual headaches but is a bit more relaxing than some folks may want. Experimentation is always called for when formulating!
The Eclectics call it a specific for leg cramps and I have used it externally on very intense calf cramps to near-miraculous effect. It is indicated for restless legs, pregnancy induced leg spasm, pain from overwork or over exercise in all parts of legs, feet, and it has a place in back pain formulas.
Matthew Wood calls it a nutritive tonic which improves the powers of digestion and nutrition and Margi Flint indicated it for high blood pressure, these are 2 areas I have yet to explore but seem to make sense to me.
Black haw is an ally which has been used for a long time and has no reported negative qualities that I’ve found. It is a special plant which I love in every way and which deserves a place in our forest gardens, in our first aid kits and medicine chests.
birch, past present and future of the forest. November 7, 2012
people, i’d like to introduce you to my friend, white birch. you may have seen birch before, but have you ever looked very very closely? have you seen the scars, the mycelium, the underside of the polypores, the chaga, the bark?
(yes, my friends, i can spell. it’s a play on words.)
“i contend that the planet’s health actually depends on our respect for fungi.”-Paul Stamets
ah, the futility of recycling. we carefully sort our stupid soda cans, cosmos and bath salt jars into blue and green bins while completely disregarding the entire amazing process of decomposition going on below, beside and all around us.
yo, where do ya think that shit’s going?
we open cans of slimy-ass button mushrooms and horrify our children with them, never realizing that those stupid cans end up in the aforementioned recycling bins.
we spray poison on the fungi, bacteria and wrigglers who are our only hope for long-term survival on this planet. then recycle the containers.
we humans are much better at naming things than loving things.
fungi are powerful warriors. they can be our allies, and we can be theirs. yet we resist, choosing to ally ourselves with products. for that IS what we are doing. we are very much telling the fungi kingdom, telling the plant kingdom how we feel about them, what we think about them-if we bother to think about them at all–by our actions. they may not be writing about it in their journals, they may not be making tv shows about it, but don’t think they have no idea. animals know we dumo them off by the milions in so-called “shelters”…to be gassed to death in heaps. don’t think non-human life hasn’t noticed how we feel, what we are doing, and how we’ve repressed it all.
and the point here is not to induce “guilt”. guilt paralyzes us. f that. the point is to toss guilt into the fire and find our core, find our action, find our calling.
i very much believe that other living things wish to form alliances.
i very much believe that plants can form symbiotic relationships with each other and with other beings.
i very much believe that a relationship with a plant or a fungus is a “real” relationship.
i believe that ALL natural substances have the potential to be psychedelic, “mind manifesting”, heart manifesting, relationship-forming, alliance forming, to pass through us physically and otherwise, to bridge the massive gaps between humans and earth. we should be sick of merely being ON the earth, floating coolly above it all, we are OF the earth. and we are sick. we are.
and what are we going to do about it?
well, i’ll tell ya what. this blog sure isn’t going to save the world. my wandering around in the woods tripping out on “the colors” isn’t going to save the world. voting isn’t going to heal the earth or stop the obscene amounts of garbage from piling up.
but plants, animals, insects and fungi do have the potential to help humanity shift the way forward from steamroller to watering can. from dumpster to garden.from sewer to compost. and from a culture of rape, abuse and addiction to one of mutual aid, reverence and connection.
plants and fungi have the ability to show us that we ARE all connected. that an injury to one IS an injury to all. that our walls are NOT serving our souls. and, finally, that absolutely everyone has the ability, at any time, to at least START to make a change in their body, mind and/or soul that can help contribute to the future we want to see, that we must see if there will be any tomorrow what. so. ever.
on the joys of doing nothing October 10, 2012
so…nothing. it is my #1 medicine. no, i am not a nihilist. cause they are obsessed with nothingNESS. big difference. i am into standing by, quietly, while stuff happens without my meddling. why does nothing work so well? because the human body is a little ecosystem which has built-in ways to resolve much of the challenges that come along.
i am not talking about the ebola virus, people. i mean self-limiting illness. the common cold. non-fatal wounds. mild to moderate gas. just wait.
it is fun to support ourselves and others when moderate non-fatal illnes comes along-chicken soup, hot nourishing infusions, basic hygiene, rest, herbal steams. addressing symptoms has a place in the world. however, it is amazing to realize that with or without us and our potions the human body exhibits the will to heal. need a salve for wound healing? not really-wounds heal. herbs may be better used here to keep it clean. need some herbs to dry out mucous? just remember, mucous is often there for a reason. dry it at your own risk. echinacea/goldenseal to “ward off” a cold? not only is a cold natural, we can drive illness deeper with endless faux immune boosters.
additionally, why not live everyday for health? i often see folks get ill and decide to temporarily swear off their normal 3 pounds of sugar a day, cram a ton of vitamins and herbs in, and increase their rest from 4 to 6 hours. good health is like a savings account that you make deposits into every time you nourish yourself! you cannot draw health funds out forever without replenishing. basic self-care is a life skill worth practicing all the time, not just in times of crisis.
the other day my son came home with a fever, headache, tiredness and mucous. i propped him in front of the woodstove with a balnket and an infusion that provided vitamin c, fever support and lymphatic moving. i did nothing to lower his fever. he ate very lightly and put himself to bed very very early. the next morning he was back to normal.
now, had i placed him next to a himalayan salt crystal lamp or rubbed him with overpriced hemp seed oil and precious endangered goldenseal i could have said “see! those things work!” and if i see a salt lamp regenerate a severed limb i will be impressed. but until then my dreaded indoor electro-smog is not keeping levi from overcoming his self-limiting illness naturally and quickly.
this may sound funny coming from an herbalist. but i am not an herbalist IN ORDER TO sell products. i provide herbal tinctures to those who want or need them becasue i love to share my love of plants and humans. but moving product by any means necessary does not drive my day.
and all this is not to say don’t use herbs. not at all! DO use herbs-for nourishment, for support, for emotional and physical and spiritual wellness! and use movement, use grounding, use rest and therapeutic talking and writing, use healthy sexuality and love and ferments and meditation and baths and dance and sunshine and a shot fo whiskey. lord knows in this world we can use all the help available to make it through. but do not let these goods and services take the place of your own life force, the most amazing-and free-medicine available.
welcome to the official stump lovers appreciation gallery. now, featuring even more symbiotic relationships!
now accepting log lovers, lichen lickers and slug buddies.
“if a sunbeam wounds me, i shall succumb on the moss”-arthur rimbaud
worms eat free every wednesday!
join me in an appreciation of all that rots.
well, it’s 1-2-3, what are we rotting for? don’t ask me i don’t give a damn. next stop is lichen-land.
spores make the forest go around.
yes, my friends, you too can enjoy stumps. for free! all you need to do is go outside, you are almost guaranteed to find one eventually. stump-spotting makes an excellent date activity and all you need are a pair of sensible shoes and a spotty dog.
stumps do appreciate your attention, as they are often overlooked by those who stand on them to look at other stuff like birds, “the colors”, stupid sunsets and such.
stumps come in all shapes and sizes! somewhere out there is the right stump for you.
and remember, i’m not just the stump club president, i’m also a client.
muck, mud, swamps and the primordial ooze. June 27, 2012
recently i spent some time looking for a home. and let me tell ya, those realtors sure do downplay the muck that exists. “oh, don’t worry you can fill that shit in, honey.”
NO! give me muck! i love it! i live for muck. no, really.
cause have you all seen what springs forth from the primordial ooze?
have you seen the jewel of a lotus bloom from the muddy depths?
is it not a blazing freaking neon metaphor for life, the magical beautiful flower coming up from the sludge of muck to bloom and grow and bloom and make seeds and make friends and bloom and bloom and bloom? and then to give back to the cycle….
and is the miracle not fleeting, and a statement on life and US and our whole “human” deal?
sometimes the joy is not as obvious and easy as we would like it to be. sometimes the joy doesn’t look like a better homes and gardens centerfold.
but isn’t life worth getting muddy for? isn’t it worthwhile to roll up your damn pants and dig in, to find some soothing scullcap or some delicious calamus root or some queenly angelica? to hear the song of the ancient bullfrogs and see the buzzing blue dragonflies? to enjoy the swoops of bats flying and the slithers of snakes crawling?
i do believe that good things come to those who are not afraid to get a little mud on their outift, literally and figuratively, and even better things come to those who ARE afraid but do it anyway. and if there is nothing else i contribute to this paved-over wetland of an earth which i so love, i would like this one point to be chiseled on my gravestone while i slowly turn back into the swamp from which i came:
all things which are good and beautiful in this world owe their existence to the mysterious, the muddy, the dark, and the sludge in some way, shape or form.