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Archive for the ‘Folk Herbalism’ Category

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It was time for me to harvest the lavender blossoms today. I planted a few French lavender babies three years ago and now they make a small hedge in my little herb garden by the house.

The bee’s are loving their visits to my house. I have intentionally planted nectar producing plants for the wee ladies- lavender, calendula, sweet peas, vegetables, berries, nasturtium, are all blooming in my garden right now.

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We gathered up another days worth of calendula. This time I had help… my son really wanted to help out with “picking heeeerbs”, as he puts it. One of the greatest gifts I offer my child is plant knowledge, he can identify so much at 4 years old and has even shown an older child how to make a plantain spit poultice. Way to make me proud!

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The bees were hard at work, drinking from our lavender blooms. Have you ever tried taking a picture of a bee at work? It’s not so easy, they really are busy bee’s…

I was sure there was a bee there...

I was sure there was a bee there…

Then things got more intimate, the bee’s accepted my relaxed presence and rather than flying away, they worked along side me as I crouched in the lavender patch among them…

Face first!

Face first!

The lavender patch is THE place to bee…

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Lavender nectar is sooo good!

Nom nom nom!

Nom nom nom!

Check out this last pic, do you see her wee tongue slurping up the good stuff? So precious! We love bee’s around here, can you tell?

Lavender blooms are for slurping.

The problem with beeing a bee lover AND a lavender lover is when you go to harvest the lavender, the bee’s doth protest. I had a few ladies stare me down and tell me off for cutting the lavender blossoms. I felt quite bad about it so I left enough blooms for them to enjoy their fellow foraging. I figure, we are all in this together, the lavender, the bee’s and I.

Lavender love to you,

Danika.

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It’s Stinging Nettle season in the Okanagan.

I get pretty excited leading up to this part of the year and start to dream up stinging nettle recipes weeks before the nettles are ready to pick. I also have an irrational tendency to panic over not having enough nettles to last me a year even if I have jars and jars of dried nettle leaf and plenty steamed, chopped nettles in the freezer. And why wouldn’t I?

Nettles make you feel good…

Nettles, as a food, deeply nourishes and restores arguably better than any other. It’s absolutely delicious as a green vegetable, mineral dense and slightly salty, so rich in broths and green smoothies.  It dries easily and blends well with many other herbs for nourishing infusions, and a pinch added to tisane blends adds depth of flavour and colour.

I like to blend nettle tea with red clover and peppermint for an enjoyable, full flavoured tisane that not only tastes great it supports the adrenals, balances hormones, boosts fertility, settles the stomach, and helps prevent cancer; all while being rich in vitamins, minerals and life giving vibrancy.

I’m not going to go in depth as to why nettles are awesome, today. Instead I am going to share a recipe. I’ll probably make a nice monograph for nettles another time.

I’m in the mood to make, taste and experience good food made from nettles, so when I got home with the first of my harvest I made a batch of this delicious and nourishing soup. It is a creamy soup but not your traditional stodgy, thickened with flour, cream of chicken soup. It is light yet rich, made with fresh spring cream and scratch made chicken broth . A simple seasonal dish that is easy to make and very delicious, if not a little French rustic.

Creamy Nettle & Chicken Soup

nettle soup

Ingredients:

8 cups of freshly picked nettles

1 whole chicken, rinsed well (Pasture raised, organic, is best but work with what you’ve got.)

2T olive oil

1T butter

2 onions, fine diced

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

1T apple cider vinegar

Bay leaf

1 cup fresh cream (Again, the best is from pastured, organic cows, and watch out for funky additives.)

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Chopped spring chives and chive blossoms to garnish

In a stock pot that will accommodate a whole bird, sauté the onions and carrots in the olive oil and butter until they soften and become deeper in flavour, releasing their aromatics. This will be your flavour base for the soup. Don’t over colour your onions and carrots, this soup is on the delicate side of flavour profiles. You want to enjoy the subtle flavours of nettles, broth, cream and chives and a more fresh and purifying sense in the mouth, unlike the colder months rich, slow cooked, winter soups.

Throw in the chopped garlic and bay leaf and sauté until there is a release of aroma. Add the vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan. Drop your bird into the pot then cover with fresh, cold, filtered water. Add a good tablespoon of salt and some cracked pepper to the pot and turn up the heat. Bring the broth to a boil then immediately turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.

After about 10 minutes a little bit of scum will surface. Grab your ladle and skim it off. Now you can use the pot’s lid to partially cover the stock pot so that the steaming broth can baste the top of the bird, as it will tend to float a bit as it cooks.

Leave your broth to simmer for an hour. While the broth simmers you can very lightly steam the nettles in a pot, just until they turn a gorgeous, bright green. Strain them, reserving the green liquid to add to the broth. Once they cool enough to handle roughly chop them up and set aside for serving.

After the broth has simmered for about an hour, test the doneness of the chicken. The meat should slip easily off the bone. Remove the cooked bird, strain the juices that run off but pour them back into the pot. Keep the broth simmering uncovered to reduce and concentrate the flavour while you deal to the chicken meat.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the meat off the bones and chop half of it for the nettle soup. Save the rest of the meat for another dish tomorrow, it will have a lovely flavour and should be anything but dry.

Once the broth has reduced enough to your liking, take your ladle once again and skim off any undesired fat. There will be a layer floating on top. You may wish to keep it all, it is good fats after all. Or, like me, you may prefer a less oily soup and leave only enough to make yummy looking pools of goodness around the edges of the bowl. Now add the chicken meat back to the pot, add the cream and check the seasoning….

Is it good? No? Try more salt. Scratch made broth needs a good amount of salt in it. Not too much though, the nettles are a bit salty as they are mineral dense, but you won’t notice so much as not need extra salt once served.

Let everything warm back up together.

When ready to serve, portion the nettles into each bowl then ladle the hot soup on top of the greens.

Garnish with chopped spring chives and chive blossoms. Season if desired.

Serve with a salad of wild spring greens and slices of baguette spread with fresh butter.

Enjoy your yummy, creamy, nettle goodness.

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I have some more nettle greens recipes to share and I might do some tutorials on preparing nettles for the freezer, in vinegars for nutrient dense vinaigrettes,  and drying them for teas and infusions.

Or I might not. I have a strange perspective on blogging right now, currently feeling it’s a bit vain and self promoting, because, well it kind of is, hah! But on the other hand there are some great benefits, like getting to nerd out and write a monograph that has to be good because it will be scrutinised.

And I like that I have decided to share recipes. I have a skill and a passion for food, and now that I am not working in the culinary arts I no longer have to treat food (crap quality, so-called food that is) as a profit margin.

I love that I am falling in love with my culture of food and dining all over again. It’s like re-immersing myself into my true beliefs towards preparing and sharing nourishment that also tastes amazing. It’s about home grown and hand gathered, about slowing down, taking time, sharing with the ones I love and hanging out in bliss over a dish with a good glass of wine. Remembering my own food culture actually helps me deal with my homesickness. Now that’s got to be healthy.

It’s just too good not to share. We shall see what happens next…

Until next time, eat your weeds!

Danika.

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Image by rgdaniel.

This is the beginning of a series of posts about water based herbal preparations. It’s all about the basics and a great place to begin your herbal journey!

Water based preparations are more than just a cup of simple chamomile tea, as wonderful as a cup of chamomile tea is. Water based preparations are, in my opinion, the best place to start when working with herbs especially nourishing herbs such as stinging nettles, oat straw and red clover. Water is available freely in most places, and safe to work with. Water can be used hot or cold and left to infuse with herbal goodness in solar warmth or lunar coolness. Water based preparations offer hydration. Water is the universal solvent, it dissolves plant minerals and vitamins rendering them bio-available and carries vital plant constituents to the body. Water also allows for flavour and scent to work it’s magic on the olfactory system, helping to deliver effects swiftly.

One of the first exercises I did when beginning my herbal studies was to compare different water based preparations. Using just one kind of herb I made hot water infusions with dried plant material and hot water infusions with fresh plant material. I made cold water infusions with  dried plants and cold water infusions with fresh plants. I used lots of plant material to make rich infusions and small amounts of herb to make tisanes or teas and compared the differences in flavour and effect. I simmered the herb and made decoctions. I set infusions out under the Sun to brew in warmth and under the Moon to brew in coolness. And that is where we will begin now, with my favourite water based preparation style for Spring and Summer blossoms:

Lunar Herbal Infusions.

Evening Primrose Flower and Red Clover Blossom lunar infusions with the Moon peeking over the clouds.

Oh my goodness, I am so excited to share this with you. Especially as it is Summer here in BC and there are plenty of blooms to choose from for a lunar herbal infusion.

Lunar infusions could be made with any fresh herb, or dried too. But the real magic happens with lunar flower infusions. I first experienced a cold water lunar infusion in Spring at herb school, it was a Dark Moon Violet lunar infusion. A jar was filled with little Violet flowers and wild waterfall water, then left out overnight under the dark new moon. When my teacher had me pour the infusion into pretty little tea glasses and hand it out to my beautiful class mates I was not expecting much at all. So when I took my first sip as we all stood around the warm fire pit I was taken by surprise, my eyes went wide and I do believe I exclaimed “Holy crap!!! I feel like bursting into song!” followed by the inspiration to actually sing a lyric written by Bjork (although I shyly spoke instead of singing), well, it’s not exactly her lyric (the correct word is blood, not flowers) but it is the words invoked in me at that beautiful moment:

“I’m a fountain of flowers, in the shape of a girl”

To taste a Violet lunar infusion was like being inside of the Violet bloom itself, to be wrapped in her petals and be drenched in her incredible aroma, her nectar gliding down my throat and through my body until I was filled with Violet vibrations and burst into a fountain of flowers. Woah. Who needs psychoactive drugs when you can burst into an explosion of flowers with one sip of Violet lunar infusion? Another very good reason to ditch the stimulate/sedate path and re-sensitize, don’t you think?

Suitable blooms for cold water lunar infusions include fresh Rose, Violet, Red clover, Evening Primrose, fruit blossoms such as Apple, Lilac (for bathing), Elderflower, Hibiscus, Lavender (just use a little Lavender or it will be too strong to drink, but excellent for bathing and beauty), Honeysuckle…. There are endless possibilities. I personally prefer flowers that are rich in aromatics because they remain vibrant and alive using the cold water lunar process. Hot water infusions change and dilute the aromatics.

Darke Lake Rose.

Last week my little family and I went out to Darke Lake near Summerland and camped for a few nights. The wild roses were in full glory so I filled a big jar with petals, topped it up with clear, fresh, wild mountain stream water then set it out under the stars for the night. Next morning I took my jar of Rose lunar infusion, a towel and a small basin up the creek to a waterfall and indulged in a private waterfall pool Rose bath, under a fallen Cottonwood and giant Devils Club leaves. I offered some to the water first, rinsed and then used the petals to wash my face and body. I finished with shower of Rose infused water and petals, allowing it to run into my mouth. Then I watched as the petals floated away downstream, feeling absolutely incredible. Yet another way to enjoy your lunar infusion.

My waterfall bathing pool.

So… Do you wanna try this out for yourself? Hell yeah!

Here’s how to make your own Lunar Herbal Infusion:

Gather your blooms fresh.

Fresh Evening Primrose flowers. They make an incredible, very moistening and cooling lunar infusion. Could be used for facial cleansing too.

Gently fill a mason jar with the whole, intact flowers, or petals, if you are gathering wild rose for instance and want to leave the rest of the flower to ripen into rose hips.

Pour filtered water over your beautiful blooms, seal with a lid then give a very gentle shake or tip upside down a few times.

Hug and kiss your jar of magical infusion. Give it some love!

Place your jar of goodness under the Stars and Moon and leave to the power of Luna for the night.

Upon rising in the morning find yourself a glass and a strainer then go out and get your incredible Lunar infusion. Strain into your glass and sip joyfully. Be careful… You might just explode into a fountain of flowers.

With Luna Love,

Danika.

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A Spring outing with my son to gather Arrowleaf Balsam Root leaves.

Well there goes May, and with it Spring leaves me as early Summer rolls on in. My month of May was impeded by a chest infection but I still managed to get out to my Herb School classes and spend time wildcrafting and medicine making. I have welcomed into my life the act of prayer. In the past I had always associated prayer with religion and so avoided it. But as I grow older and connect deeper with Nature through my studies and passion for herbal folk medicine, my perception of life expands and opens, and my heart asks me to be more still, more quiet, so I can listen to the voices of the forest, of wild water and animal chatter, and if I am lucky perhaps for a moment I will hear the song of their Spirit. Prayer gives me a way to offer my intentions to all of creation here on Earth, be it of healing given or needed, love shared and received, joy and sorrow. It opens the door to communion with loving, healing, spiraling consciousness. And maybe it does far more… For me it is also a way to give offerings of love and to announce my intentions when working with the plant world.

Belly to the Earth, intoxicated by the scent of Oregon grape inflorescence.

Arrowleaf Balsam Root (Balsamorhiza sagittata)

Leaving the magical Nettle forest…

May brought fresh Nettles once again, something that makes me very, very happy. I have a weird fear of not having enough Nettles! I can’t live without them. On Mothers Day, I drove out to a friends farm with my son and husband and we spent the day picking beautiful, vibrant green Nettles. I dried about 10lbs, steamed off some for the freezer, made nettle infused oil for an under eye cream I am working on for Herb & Petal, my herbal skin care line, and cooked with nettles to my hearts content. I made a very yummy rustic nettle and goat cheese pie with whole grain sage pastry. I wasn’t completely happy with the result, next time I will add more creamy goodness to it like cultured cream cheese and mix the filling well with it, rather than leaving the cheese in chunks, to make for a richer, moister pie. When I have perfected my recipe I will share it with you…

Drying Nettles on an old screen.

Chopping Nettles for oil infusion.

Making Nettle oil infusion for skin care.

Cooked Nettles.

Making Rustic Nettle and Goat Cheese Pie with Sage Pastry.

Nettle and Goat Cheese Pie.

May also brought a ‘Super Moon’, which was very beautiful, although by the time the Moon rose over the mountains behind my house I had  missed the effect of it’s largeness. It was still an energy charged night and I was determined to have a fire outside to enjoy it. I searched around for a second hand brazier to enable backyard campfires but there was no way I was going to pay much for one. So I got my spade out and dug a lovely fire pit for free. 10 minutes later I had an awesome, rock lined fire pit and we have been loving it! Besides, I can cook on my backyard fire pit. Braziers are for….

The full Moon as it drifted over my side of the mountain.

I also had the opportunity to go to Summerhill Organic Winery for the Fertility Festival and interviewed local folk punk band The Dirty Earth. Lots of fun, yummy food and wine, artists, artisans, music and beautiful, shining people everywhere. I’ll post the interview in a separate blog entry soon!

The Dirty Earth played in the Kekuli at Summerhill’s Fertility Festival this May.

Well, I had more to say but I am fading in my enthusiasm presently. It’s been a long week, motherhood has been trying for me lately with low energy levels and the lingering infection in my lungs. Finding time to do all I must and rest to recover is almost impossible. I haven’t even set up shop at my farmers market yet this season, something that bothers me to no end. I must persevere and hope that I am filled with boundless energy soon!

Thanks for stopping by, see you again real soon!

Danika.

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Photo credit: Barbara DuTot

Early Sunday morning, two days before Valentines day I found myself up early and driving north up the Okanagan valley to the “heart” of the Shuswap on my way to Wild Roots Herbal Learning Centre. Barbara DuTot, Wise Woman Herbalist and founder of the herbal learning centre, had invited me to assist her in running an all day Love Medicine workshop. How could I say no? The very intrigue of the thought of love medicine had me curious and excited about how the day would unfold.

But first lets back track…. How did I go from lonely herbal wanderer, seeking kinship and community through a blog to assisting a beloved local herbal teacher? Well, it has been some time since we last got together on Girl Gone Wild and Weedy and I have been keeping my adventures secret, shall we say?

Barbara DuTot. Community Herbalist. Seen here enjoying some dandelion love.

I met Barb in person last year at the end of summer by attending her Heartfelt Hawthorn plant study class. How I never came across her school when I was looking in earnest for a local, grass-roots herbal teacher is beyond me but it was actually through Kiva Rose of Anima Herbal School, New Mexico, that I found Barb. I became Kiva’s student because I could not find a local teacher!  Actually, one of my first assignments from Kiva was to find a traditional healer in my area so when I found Barb I was very excited.

Well for some reason Barb must have thought I was all right because she has kept inviting me back. Through Barb and her school, a community of home and folk herbalists is forming and uniting. Women (and men) from up and down the Okanagan/Shuswap Valleys are celebrating their love of plants and nature, nourishing their bodies with weedy wonders and strengthening their bond with the natural world through the gift of heartfelt knowledge, offered by Barb. How lucky am I to be a part of that?!

Photo by Barb DuTot.

Back to the road trip to Wild Roots… I arrived early at Barb’s adorable homestead in the beautiful Trinity Valley and was put to work minding the beets roasting in the oven and tending the rising bread, setting up the tables with pink and red cloth and laying out cups and glasses for herbal rose petal vinegar water and hot herbal love cacao.

Photo by Barb DuTot

As the guests arrived I hugged familiar folks and poured glasses of waterfall water with a splash of rose petal vinegar to sip while we pondered this: Five words to described what you feel love is and three things you love about yourself.

I should have kept the paper with my answers, well, I was under the influence of damiana and cacao by the end of the day… but it went something like this:

1. Passion. Love is passion.

2. Babies! Baby boy’s, baby girls, baby animals, baby plants…. Love is new life.

3. Patience. Any mother of a 2 1/2-year-old boy will tell you, love is patience.

Hmm, I am having trouble recalling the last two as there were so many good answers from all the people there that they are all merging into one memory. There was some great ones. Let’s go with how I feel right now about love…

4. Willingness. Love is willingness to love and be loved. Love is the willingness to see the ugly, the dark, the grotesque,  and the sick and not shy away, love is letting healing take place.

5. Love is universal. Not a living thing on this Earth is immune to the power of love.

Love is Babies in violet fields! Photo by Barb DuTot.

I like the way Barbara puts it: “Love is multifaceted”. There are so many things love is to each of us. What a great way to get your students thinking about the topic of love medicine. It is not a black and white topic of interest by any means. It is multifaceted.

As for the three things I love about myself… That’s private. 🙂

Heart loving Hawthorn. Photo by Barb DuTot.

After introductions our conversation turned to the heart, physical and energetic. Barb explained the function and intelligence of the heart. She introduced us to the magnetic field that pulses beyond the physical body around the heart area of your torso. She led us through an exercise, perceiving our own ‘heart field’ and then opening up to perceiving a partners. We pondered the reasons why we feel love and heartache in our hearts and not another part of our selves. And then we moved on to the herbal aspects of the day….

As Barb said “so there are a myriad of ways to experience Love, so are there are a myriad of herbs to facilitate Love. With such a plethora of plants from which to choose, Barb decided to focus on herbs that nourish and open the heart and to “spice it up” with some herbal aphrodisiacs!

We sipped and tasted tinctures, honeys, elixirs and teas, familiarizing ourselves with the taste, impression and effect of each plant: rose, hawthorn, self-heal, oatstraw, violet flowers, nettle (heart of the world – Rudolph Steiner), tulsi, motherwort, cacao, damiana, kava, macca and we discussed so many more . We sampled incredible elixirs made of wild rose petals and powdered cacao, brandy and honey. (I had to restrain myself from running away and hiding with the jar of cacao elixir so we could be alone…)

Photo by Barb DuTot.

“In the Tantra, the mystical and spiritual philosophy that exalts the union of opposites at all levels, from the cosmic to the infinitesimal, and in which man and woman are mirrors of divine energies, violet is the colour of female sexuality; which is why it has been adopted by some feminist movements.” -excerpt from “Aphrodite, A Memoir of the Senses” Isabel Allende.

We experienced food as love medicine, sharing a beautiful, simple meal. If you happen to be at Barb’s house, you know you are going to eat well! Her basic philosophy is “Food is Medicine” and she advocates choosing local and organically grown food whenever you can for the most nutrient dense foods for building health.

Lunch included butternut squash soup – high in beta carotene– important for the production of estrogen and keeping the mucous membranes lubricated and healthy, nibbled home-made focaccia, and snacked on super yummy roasted beet salad, so good for libido and health, dressed in “heart-healthy” hawthorn and honey vinaigrette. We shelled and ate cacao beans and sipped glasses of bubbly and sweet raspberry, hawthorn and elderflower spring water spritzers. And then we delighted in dark and chocolaty tofu brownies with rose petal whipped cream. Then, we all basked in the afterglow…

After our senses regained we moved on to arguably the best part of a Wild Roots Herbs class- the medicine making! We made pink St. Johns wort lip balm for puckering up, Aphrodites Atomic Love Bombs- handmade truffles with a sesame paste base, chocolate chunks, honey and plenty of macca. (Macca is said to increase a mans potency by 200%…!!!  That’s pretty potent!) Love Elixir- a blend of damiana and raspberry syrup that totally transports you to a dreamy lovey state, and sensual creamy massage oil that we each scented to our personal desire with my plentiful essential oil kit that I brought along. I chose to enhance the chocolate aroma (from the cocoa butter) with rose otto and cinnamon. It is so good it is literally edible. So warming and deeply sensual, a match made in heaven!

Photo by Barb DuTot.

I left feeling incredible, with an armful of delightful creations to bring out on Valentines day…

Valentines day: It fell on a Tuesday. Dance night! I learn American Tribal Style Bellydance at Blackthorn Bellydance and the Valentines day class was one of the best so far. So much awesome energy shared between women who love to dance with each other. I came home on a high to my child already fed and bathed and ready for bed. My man had a meal cooking in the oven for me –  the most perfectly cooked, organic, local rack of lamb I have ever had. (Well done, husband!) Served with roasted baby potatoes and asparagus roasted with romano cheese and a local cabernet sauvignon. We sipped wine and savoured our meal over beeswax candlelight, left the dishes and retired to our deep red and earthy bedroom to finish our wine and get into our love potions. I played the dreamy music of Solace as we sat on the bed chatting and eating love bombs in the flickering light. We switched our wine for love elixir, it tasted so good! Feeling dreamy and sensual myself and still in costume of tucked and layered gypsy skirts, nettle hip scarf, deep red choli and beautiful coin bra I got up and danced a serpentine dance for my love, for the very first time. He had never seen me dance before then. Maybe it was the love bombs, maybe the wine or the damiana kicking in but I have never seen my husband so mesmerized. The rest of the night was blissful….

Love medicine is potent. 😉

Want to try making your own creamy, dreamy massage oil? Here’s a recipe for my take on the creamy massage oil we made…

Rich Chocolate, Cinnamon & Rose Massage Oil for Lovers.

  • 1/8 cup pure prime pressed cocoa butter- wild or organic
  • 1/2 cup wild rose infused almond oil or grape seed oil (you can use plain almond or grape seed oil if you don’t have rose infused oil but do try making your own rose oil if you ever get the chance. It’s pure love in a bottle!)
  • 4-5 drops best quality cinnamon essential oil (be careful, cinnamon can be irritating in too strong doses, it is a stimulant to the skin… Ooo tingly!)
  • 15 drops pure rose otto

To make your creamy massage oil, gently melt your cocoa butter in a small pot on low heat.

Once the butter has melted pour in your rose infused oil and swirl or stir your mix with a chopstick. You may have to gently warm the blend if the cocoa butter hardens a bit after adding the oil.

Add the essential oils and stir again with your chopstick. Make sure your massage oil is well blended.

Pour into a swoon worthy bottle that will entice you from the bedside.

Give your creamy massage oil a gentle shake before using to make sure the cocoa butter stays incorporated in the oil. If it gets cold, you may find you need to warm your oil if it stiffens. Do so by placing the bottle in warm water for a few minutes.

This massage oil blend smells incredible and may make you want to devour the skin it comes in contact with. Resist! Or don’t… It’s totally edible, as long as your lover doesn’t mind.

Violet Honey. Photo by Barb DuTot.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you have enjoyed your read and perhaps found a little inspiration for making your own love food and aphrodisiacs. Have fun! And remember…. “Love is the greatest aphrodisiac”

With wild and weedy love,

Danika.

I want to give a big, heartfelt thank you to the lovely Barbara DuTot for being, among other things, an editor extrodinaire, lending me quotes from Isabel Allende’s beautiful book and the use of her beautiful photos. Thank you Barb! <3<3<3

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Mullein. Sweet and caring, tall and strong, nomad of the wild garden. As all gypsies, you are misunderstood by many, and as all gypsies, you are always welcome in my home and garden!

Mullein Flower in my garden.

I think most folks have at least seen this weedy wonder in the wild, the roadsides, the field or as a youngling trying to get a foot hold in one’s garden. If you happen to live by my house then you would also have seen it in my front garden growing tall and proud, probably to my neighbours confusion.

Often misunderstood, I have heard one young man proclaim “Mullein. It’s SO ugly!”. No you’re not mullein, no you’re not. I find it amusing that the same young man accepted a herbal syrup made by me for his sick girlfriend made of rosehip, elderberries, honey, and MULLEIN! She recovered quickly and I hope they have made peace with the giving, loving, mullein.

If you are not familiar with Mullein lets start with the basics…

Mullein.

Botanical name: Verbascum spp.

Species living in BC: Verbascum thapsus.

Botanical family: Scrophulariaceae

Folk names: Mullein, Our Lady’s Flannel, Hag’s Taper, Hedge Taper, Torches, Wild Ice Leaf, Candelaria.

Ecology in BC: Widespread and common at low to mid elevations in disturbed, especially gravelly sites, fields and pastures. Mostly absent from wet Columbia Mountains.

Parts used:  Leaf, flower, roots, flower stalk resin.

Taste: Bland, salty, some say vanilla. I think the flowers smell/taste like a strange sweet spice….

First Nations use: According to my field guide the BC Interior native peoples smoked the leaves. Personally, I think they would have fully embraced this gently powerful medicinal herb and smoking it is just one way to utilize the healing powers of Mullein.

Mullein in my front yard growing tall.

Mullein is a Eurasian plant that followed the immigration of European Peoples to North America and indeed anywhere else they settled including my homeland, New Zealand. It is now widely established all over the world. I love my teachers thoughts on Mullein. She considers it a guiding light and calls it:

“An important guardian plant, emphasized in how it followed European immigrants to the Americas, and served as an herbal bridge between old world and new world healing traditions, to the point where very few herbalists or folk healers could imagine a practice without this beloved and widespread remedy.” – Kiva Rose Hardin.

Mullein is a biennial, the first year showing a lovely, soft basal rosette of leaves. The second year, growing skywards until it’s flower stalk reaches up to 2 metres high!

I have observed it to be habitat to many small insect creatures who live amongst the shelter of the soft leaves. In fact, during a visit with a wild Mullein plant my young son and I came across a pretty spider living in the leaves of a first year rosette. Now anytime Aries see’s a Mullein plant he squeals in delight saying “Hi! Bug!”. Oh, small children are so sweet.

The flower stalks. One main stalk and on this plant, a couple off shoots too.

Medicinally Mullein has a tradition of being used for respiratory ailments and is very effective used for dry hacking coughs when you need some help expelling the phlegm. Indeed it can be used in many lung remedies but Mullein doesn’t stop there.

It is famous for it’s use as an ear infection oil and perhaps your own mother treated you with Mullein oil in your childhood. Do use caution if you intend to use Mullein oil to treat an ear infection, it works wonderfully, however a ruptured ear drum needs immediate attention and should not be subjected to any oil or otherwise. So if there is any risk of rupture, do seek medical attention immediately.

Mullein leaves. Soft and prickly at the same time.

I am learning this wonderful plant is of great benefit to lymphatic stagnation and can be used internally as an infusion or externally as a poultice made from the fresh leaves dipped in hot water or pounded and then placed on the glands.

Much to my surprise and satisfaction I have learned of Mullein having great affinity to the musculoskeletal system and is a useful ally in cases of slipped discs, broken bones and pain in the neck and hips, reducing pain and inflammation in both humans and animals. I look forward to learning more of its musculoskeletal medicine.

Mullein also has powerful uses for the nervous system, the urinary system, and as a wound healing salve bringing relief and healing to the injured.

Most notably for me right now is the golden light Mullein shines for those feeling lost in the dark. I have recently felt a little uncertain, unsure of myself and found I had lost my own shining light amongst confusion and feelings of inadequacy and worries of  nonacceptance that stemmed only from within myself. No one likes feeling that way and one must go within to find the source. But sometimes you need a little help from loving friends to resurface with confidence. (Thank you, Gwendolyn <3)

Making Mullein tincture. It turns bright yellow when first made.

This is where Mullein offers her sweet yellow flowers to lend a helping hand in the form of a tincture. Even the act of harvesting the flowers and placing them in vodka to see it turn a sunshine yellow is uplifting and cheering. Mullein flower tincture, when taken, holds up that guiding light, showing a way out of the darkness and “providing an internal sense of safety and confidence” (Kiva Rose).

So while I am alone in the darkness of an internal night, perhaps a little scared I will wander deeper, I turn to Mullein. She offers me her golden torch to guide me through a darkness with no Moon. And at the darkest hour there she is, the Golden Dawn.

Mullein flowers in vodka.

Resources:

Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest; Parish, Coupe, Lloyd; Lone Pine Publishing.

The New Holistic Herbal; David Hoffmann; Element Books Limited.

From the Ground Up course work in Traditional Western Herbalism; Kiva Rose Hardin; Anima Herbal and Lifeways School.

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Join this awesome FREE webinar by following this link. I can’t recommend Learning Herbs or Kiva enough! They are offering a free class to help demystify herbs, I’ll be there!

http://www.learningherbs.net/onlinemeetingsnow/herbwebinar/

Happy Herbal Adventures!

Danika.

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