Friday, October 31, 2008

Field Garlic

What to do when the S has HTF and there's no store around that is open and has garlic? Chances are, and depending on where you live, it probably is growing somewhere near you. Yep, even in cities. It likes lawns, gardens, backyards, disturbed soil, open woods, and roadsides, at least in the East, from north to south.

This one pictured is allium veniale (veniale meaning it also likes vinyards, say Wildman Steve Brill). The neat thing about the allium family is that they all smell like garlic and onions. There are poisonous lookalike lillies, but they don't smell. If you find any wild onions, garlic, chives, and they smell like onions and garlic, then they are edible. If it looks like field garlic, but doesn't smell like garlic, then don't eat it.

But this family is pretty easy to identify, and once you're seen it, you'll know it. Here's a neat video of a cooking show host who needed some garlic for a recipe and went out and found some in her garden.

Allium veniale and allium canadense are available from late fall to early spring. This time of year, when foraging is getting a bit scarce, I can still find wild alliums--chives that got loose from a neighbor's garden and now clumps of them grace a hillside near me, and field and wild garlic. I hope they will be available all winter, and that I can see them over the snowfall. In the spring they will grow up to 3 feet tall, but I think these new shoots are not quite so big. Still, they're upright and green and in a barren field, that will definitely help!

The field and wild garlic have the same medicinal properties as cultivated garlic, so feel free to find them and use them liberally. They will add a lot of flavor to your food, and is a great addition to a stored-food diet.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Garlic is Better than Ten Mothers

Garlic: Nature's Super Healer
by Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen

What a neat and informative book. It's available from Amazon as a hardcover for $30, or it starts at $.75 used. Guess which I would buy. :) I love Amazon, but not that much.

I got this copy from the library, one of my favorite places. It was written by the Wilens, who are not food writers per se, but researchers, writers and television hosts, as the back book cover says. They write on folk healing and remedies, which is currently an interest of mine. This is a terrific book to have as a resource, for it turns out that garlic has many more uses than I have ever considered, and I've used garlic as a home remedy for many things--but not athlete's foot, nightmares, lyme disease or melanoma. Now, however, after reading the Wilen's book, I think I would use it. You bet.

Garlic is something everyone should have in their home, for both food and medicine. If you can't stand it as food, then I pity you truly. Some folks can't eat it or maybe even shouldn't, if they have a medical reason. . . . Even so, you should still keep it for medicines. It's been used for centuries upon centuries by every culture that has ever become aware of it. I consider garlic super-food and super-medicine. In our home, garlic goes into everything except desserts. We eat it raw daily. Michael likes his clove through a garlic press, followed by a teaspoon of jam or jelly, but he's civilized. I chew mine and swallow it (as quickly as possible!) with water.

Garlic: Nature's Super Healer has the following chapters:
No Matter How You Say It . . . Garlic in 45 languages
Garlic's Believe It or Not (vampires, etc.)
Garlic as Medicine (general doses, supplements, raw, suggestions on other foods to take it with)
Remedies (a list of illnesses and complaints and garlic's uses in them)
Garlic Remedies for Your Pets
Health-Giving Garlic Preparations (garlic oil, baths, enemas, formulas, juice, syrups, etc.)
Growing Garlic
Garlic as Food
Recipes (some incredible kick-ass recipes!)
Appendices with Garlic Festivals and Resources

Pretty much everything you'd want to know about this godsend to mankind. I'll include a few excerpts here for your entertainment (the authors have a great sense of humor) and information.

How/Why Does Garlic Work:

The Wilens quote William Blot, chief biostatistician of the National Cancer Institute: "Every time you slice or crush a clove of garlic, you initiate a complex sequence of biochemical events. The merest bruise unleashes an enzyme called allinase, which goes to work converting another molecule, alliin, into allicin. That the reaction is instantaneous is obviously because at precisely this moment, garlic begins to smell like garlic.

"Allicin spontaneously decomposes into a group of odoriferous compounds which provide much of garlic's medicinal punch. Those compounds quickly form still others--dozens of them--depending on whether the bulb is fresh or aged, raw or cooked, natural or processed in pills, extracts, and capsules.

"Garlic's quicksilver nature creates problems for researchers. No one really knows which form delievers the greatest benefit."

I'm glad "researchers" have problems, aren't you? Keeps 'em busy and off the streets. At least, in studying this, they are not studying what makes dogs bark or why men are attracted to busty women....

In the Believe It or Not Section, there's a bit on how vampires became associated with (and repelled by) garlic:

Everyone knows that you repel a vampire with garlic. But do you know how the legend came to be? Dr. James Scala explains: "Porphyria is a hereditary disease that occurred in isolated areas of central Europe, especially Romania, where Transylvannia is located. People with porphyria need iron in the form of hemoglobin from blood. They must avoid sunlight or any strong indoor light or their skin becomes inflamed and produces toxins that make them very sick. They are exceptionally hairy, have large teeth, and very light skin. Most importantly, diallyl sulfides make them violently ill. Garlic is the best source of diallyl sulfides. Therefore, whoever has hereditary porphyria looks and acts like a vampire and will avoid garlic like the plague."

I would never have known this (and don't really need to know it now) but I find this kind of information fascinating.

Here's a cold remedy I'm going to definitely going to try:

If garlic is rough for you to take, even though you have a cold and may not be able to taste anything, then peel and crush 6 cloves of garlic and mix them into 1/2 cup of white lard or petroleum jelly. Spread it on the soles of the feet. To keep the feet warm and to prevent messing up the bed linens, put each foot in a plastic bag, secure the bag by tying ribbon or cord around the plastic (not too tight, you don't want to stop your circulation), and leave it on overnight. It should help bring down a fever and clear up the cold.

Or chop it up and put in your socks before you put them on. Seems like that might work too.

Here's something you can do for gangrene, if there is no doctor or other medical professional around. The authors consulted Lalitha Thomas, an herbalist, for this suggestion:

To prevent or possibly retard gangrene or blood poisoning, pack the entire area thickly with pulverized garlic directly in and around the wound. Clean out dead tissue and any pus, etc., with strong garlic water (see Preparations chapter). One way to do this is to soak the area for 10 minutes and then repack it with a fresh garlic poultice (see Preparations) at least 3 times a day. In some cases the red lines of blood poisoning actually begin retracting within a few hours, or at least by overnight. At this point in the process the dead gangrenous flesh may start cleaning out of the wound. With that the re-infection cycle is stopped, and the wound begins healing normally.

I've read of treating gangrene with maggots--I would certainly try the garlic first!

The Wilens also include a section on how to get rid of garlic breath--fenugreek seeds, cloves, cinammon, wine, milk, coffee bean, but the best way they've found to take raw garlic is to crush up the clove, mix it into a dollop of yogurt and swallow it down. Avoiding garlic breath is a noble thing to do for your friends, I guess.

There is a lot of information here useful for just about everyone.

Next time you're feeling sickly, try a garlic footbath. "The footbath will draw toxins from the entire body, soothe tension and anxiety, rejuvenate sore or tired feet and legs, help treat athlete's foot, speed recovery from colds and flu, relieve toxic buildup from a daily job environment that may be physically or emotionally polluted or stressful, and much, much more."

The Preparations chapter includes Lalitha Thomas's Enhanced Garlic Formula. It is well-known that garlic is an antibiotic and the authors report that this formula doubles or even triples the "strength and effectiveness of garlic alone, while it helps the body to more quickly assimilate the garlic and thus put it to work." Here it is:

Enhanced Garlic Formula

1 part garlic powder (bought in bulk at health food or herb store)

1/4 part cayenne powder
1 part powdered calcium ascorbate (a form of Vitamin C that's available at health food stores and has a potency of 1/4 teaspoon = 1 gram vitamin C)

Depending on the amount of the formula you intend to make, 1 part can equal 1 pinch, 1 tablespoon, 1 ounce, and so on.

If you prefer, you can mix only the garlic and cayenne together as powders and take 1 gram of vitamin C in tablet form with each dose as needed.

It is advisable to make a large enough quantity so you always have extra on hand for emergency use. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for best shelf life.

Well, hopefully this will be enough to get you going with garlic. Keep some at home, handy in the kitchen, and you'll always have one of God's best medicines available to you.

Note and Disclaimer: This information is for entertainment and information only. It should not be taken as medical advice.

Have to get that nonsense out of the way. Keep in mind when reading here, OK?

Next post: Where to find garlic outdoors for when the stores close. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Diggin' Roots: Burdock, Yellow Dock, Dandelion, Sassafrass

I've been digging roots, as many as I can find. And here's a confession of a beginning forager: It simply didn't occur to me to mark plants whose roots I wanted to dig. See, you are supposed to dig the roots after the plants have died down; however, when the plants have died down, I can no longer find the plants! Isn't this the dumbest thing? Why didn't I think to mark exactly where those evening primroses were? Or the jerusalem artichokes? Jeez. Well, next year.

What you see top left is a first year burdock, the basal rosette. It is the first year roots you want. The plant is a biennial and will grow again next year, sending up a large flower stalk. These plants get HUGE. Here's a picture of a second year plant.

He's a big guy, ain't he? Anyway, I've been spending hours here and there digging roots. It is not like picking up a head of lettuce at the store. Foraging is work, good hard work, enough to lessen my guilt for not taking up Shy Wolf's exercise routine. :) And after you get your roots home, then it is another hours of time cleaning the roots and chopping them up. That, of course, is when my back spasms and goldenrod oil is called for.

I find the burdock all over the place. There's some in the garden, some at a neighbor's house when I went over to bring him some garlic syrup and elderberry extract (first cold/flu of the season), and some by a roadside. They are handsome, virile plants--I tend to think of them in masculine terms, apparently.

The first year roots are both edible and medicinal. Burdock is a capital blood-purifier, containing lots of minerals and trace minerals. It is a good and gentle detoxifier, and will strengthen the body. Check out its nutritional value here, and be sure and scroll down the page.

Prodigal Gardens has a nice section on burdock, complete with recipes. I want to eat some of what I gathered and save the rest for an extract. I've already eaten a couple of the root slices and found them tasty, if a bit woody.

I've already discussed yellow dock and dandelion, so I won't get into them here. Besides eating the greens, the dandelion roots can also be eaten (yellow dock roots are too bitter), but I think I'll be using these as teas and extracts. It is easy to tell the yellow dock root from the dandelion--the yellow dock roots are intensely yellow, and dandelion roots are whitish and sweeter. I picked them both at the same time, but had no trouble telling which roots were which.

There's a veritable host of little sassafrass saplings to the side of our garden, so I tried digging up a bunch of them. Digging tree roots is a lot harder than the other plants mentioned here. Yowsa. I guess I'd better start getting in better shape to dig these fellas. I did get three good size roots, though, and shaved off the bark to use for sassafrass tea. The shaved roots went into a pot with about a quart and a half of water, boiled for 10 minutes. The tea became a bright, handsome red and smelled terrific. I know that the FDA has banned safrole, the essential ingredient in sassafrass root and bark, reporting that it can cause liver damage and perhaps cause cancer. Well, maybe so, but a few cups of delicious sassafrass tea probably won't hurt.

Besides, I tend not to believe the FDA, since I don't think it is a good idea to trust an agency that has lied to me before on many things. The FDA likes pharmaceuticals (as in, they know where the money is), and I like plants and herbs. Both pharmaceuticals and plants can kill you and make you sick, but except for the rare poisonous plants, plants and herbs are far better for you than the chemical stews of Big Pharma. Just my 2 cents worth.

I also took the sassafrass leaves to dry. Dried and powered, they can be used to thicken stews and gumbos, and probably used for tea as well.



Goldenrod Oil

I first read about goldenrod oil at Witchen Kitchen and at Medicine Woman's Roots. Both of these excellent herbalists/wise women mentioned that goldenrod oil was good for achy muscles among other things. Since I have a bad shoulder (chronic) and nowadays a muscle spasm in my back when standing at the sink cleaning plants, and Michael has a carpal tunnel thumb problem from shelling zillions of beans, I decided to make some myself. That, of course, was earlier in the year, back in August/September when the goldenrod was goldening heartily.

Here's what Tammy of Witchen Kitchen has to say about it:

In addition to its use as a bath oil, I have also found Goldenrod oil to be a wonderful oil for working out tight, spasmed muscles and relieving pain. My neck tends to spasm from an old whiplash injury, so when it starts cramping really bad, giving me a headache, I just rub the oil deeply into the tissues and I am usually pain free soon after. And the pain doesn’t return for a long while. The drops of oil in the bath water just enhance this relaxing, pain-relieving effect all through the body.

And Kiva Rose of Medicine Woman's Roots:

Another resoundingly effective treatment has been with Goldenrod liniment/oil for muscular cramps. This has a wide range of external uses, from eyelid twitches to severe uterine cramps to separated muscles. I make a pain liniment with Goldenrod and Cottonwood/Poplar as primary ingredients that’s so effective and popular with clients that I can hardly keep it stocked . Again, take note, these are incredibly common plants that are easily used by anyone.

So I went out and collected goldenrod flowers, enough to make about a pint of the oil. Making an infused oil is easy. Place the flowers (or plant or root) into a clean, sterilized mason jar. Pour extra virgin olive oil over it to cover it thoroughly. Make sure you get all the air bubbles out by mixing up the plant and oil with a wooden spoon or something. Cap it and you're done.

For the goldenrod oil, I put the jar in the sun and let it work for 6 weeks, enough time for the oil to absorb the flower's properties. Then strain it carefully through a sieve and cheesecloth, and voila, goldenrod oil.

The first time I had Michael rub it on my spasming back, I was surprised--it worked! It stopped the spasm right away. From an awful pain to feeling good in seconds. Honestly, I never expected anything to work so fast. Then I put it on Michael's thumb and he said it felt better. We've been doing this daily, or whenever my back spasms and it seems to both of us to be pretty effective.

A friend was over last Friday, and he had a sore knuckle from the cold rainy weather. I told him I didn't know if it would work since it was more for muscles, and sure enough, it didn't work, at least not right away. About 15 minutes later, though, he told me it was better. The pain was not completely gone, but better. Hey, it's an herb, growing wild and free to me, so I'll settle for better! I gave him some to take home, as he said his wife has neck muscles soreness.

The constituents of goldenrod are as follows: Flavonoids, including kaempferol, rhamnetin, quercetin, quercitrin, astragalin, and afzetin; also saponins, essential oil, germacrene, pinene, limonene, hydoxycinnamic acid, caffeic acid, and tannins.

I don't know what all those things are, but some of them must be good, for this oil works for us. In an email with Tammy she mentioned mixing yarrow oil with the goldenrod oil, that the two oils work together and improve the resulting oil. Excellent! I'll make some goldenrod/yarrow oil next season.

Using the plants, hell, the "weeds" growing all around you is easy. All it takes is a bit of effort to learn the plants and what they are and do. Making your own simple medicines is also easy and cheap as the plants are readily available most of the year. Give it a try.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Country Folk Medicine

Country Folk Medicine: Tales of Skunk Oil, Sassafras Tea, & Other Old-Time Remedies
Gathered by Elisabeth Janos

(I got this book from the library, but I'm going to have to buy a copy. It is one I want to have around.)

Elisabeth Janos had the sterling idea of gathering stories from old folks about what kinds of things they did when there was a medical problem, but a doctor wasn’t around, or a family couldn’t afford a doctor. She went to senior centers and nursing homes around New England, Yankee-land, and simply asked this question to the elders. And she got answers, lots of answers, many in agreement, about various folk remedies. This is a fascinating book on many levels: what folks actually did, what kinds of remedies they used, what worked or seemed to work, how the remedies were applied, etc.

Janos wisely allows the elderly folk to tell us in their own words--she provides lots of quotes and stories. There’s a real feeling of authenticity here. For instance, for colds:

Three drops of turpentine on a spoon of sugar--the greatest thing there is for a cold. My doctor said that a long time ago. Take it at night and in the morning the cold is better.

Cut raw onions in big slices and place in a pie plate. Cover them with brown sugar and put them in a warm oven. The heat melts the sugar and goes through the onions and makes a syrup. When it’s cool, take a teaspoon whenever you cough. (She Survives had this in her post on Favorite Herbals a while back. Seems this one works!)

What did these rural country people use for medicines? Whatever they had available in their kitchens, barns, woods, fields, and occasionally something from a store or a neighbor. During the early part of the last century, many people were poor. There wasn’t as many of doctors then either, and most rural doctors were combination allopath (what you think of as a normal doctor) and folk medicine. If a plantain leaf would work on a bee sting, then the rural doctor would get a plantain leaf. There wasn’t a big supply of pharmaceuticals either--most drugs hadn’t been developed yet. So people used what they had.

Janos includes a section on what she calls sewage pharmacology--the use of cow manure or human urine as medicines, usually topical, applied to the skin (mostly). The use of manure and urine is ancient, and is still practiced in parts of the world today. As it was in New England, early in the 20th century. For example:

We had a large family. When diphtheria struck, Father made us horse-bun tea. He steeped it on the stove. The ones that took it lived, the ones that didn’t died.

When we’d get poison ivy on our feet, Ma would have us walk barefoot through cowflops. I used to like the feel of it oozing between my toes.

In World War I, the outfit that my father-in-law was with had no gas masks. They would urinate on a hankie and put it over the face. It would keep gas away from the throat and eyes.

Hmmmmm. I don’t think I’d walk barefoot in cowflops for poison ivy, but if I’m in a crowd of people and the cops were spraying tear gas, then I would definitely try the piss in a hankie over the face trick. Seems to me that one has possibilities. Human urine is sterile and therefore potentially quite useful. I know that urine therapy is practiced in India (and probably worldwide), but it isn’t talked about in this country.

What were the medicines? Pine resins, spruce gum, Gilead balm beads, turpentine, kerosene, various animal oils such as skunk oil, snake oil, bear grease, clay and mud, herbal teas, spices, mustard plasters, dirty old socks, flannel, red ribbons and many other items were the pharmacopia of the day. The one that really caught my eye was skunk oil, yes indeed, the oil from a skunk. Actually, the oil that comes after you render the fat of a skunk.

The folks Janos interviewed swore by skunk oil. It was used for colds, rubbed on sore muscles, taken by the teaspoonful or as a few drops of the oil on a teaspoon of sugar, or rubbed on bones that didn't heal properly.

There is nothing so good as skunk oil, nothing. When I needed some of the oil, I would take a BB gun and shoot a skunk in the head. I never knew the oil to go rancid. We used it for everything. We rubbed it on the feet to keep them smooth and soft. Sometimes women even rubbed it in themselves for contraception.

My mother fell and shattered her elbow so that the arm was all contorted. I shot some skunks and hung them up. I took the fat and put it in a double boiler until it melted. I brought two quarts to my mother, with instructions to heat it until it was very warm, then massage it in and cover it with flannel. She was to do this at least two times daily. This straightened the arm in a year and a half. The doctor couldn't believe that the arm straightened, and asked her how she had done it.

Janos even includes a story where skunk oil was used to cure laryngitis.

It seems to me that there is much that is useful in this book, and since we’re all likely to be as poor as the folks in the book were, we might keep some of these items and stories of their use in mind. Unfortunately, turpentine and kerosene are not made the same way anymore (says Janos), so it probably would be ineffective and dangerous to use them today. But for the piney resins, kitchen produce, herbs and spices and other ingredients? I would give most of them a try.

You see, I don’t think people used these things medicinally simply because they were “dumb,” or “hicks” who didn’t know any better. I’m sure they used them because they WORKED--maybe not every single time, but often enough. These were cures passed down from generation to generation. Hell, some of these cures go all the way back to the Egyptians and ancient Greeks and Arabs.

I’m not sure where the dirty sock for a sore throat idea came from, but it seems to me there must have been something to it. Some odd chemical/electrical/magnetical or who knows what reason.

For a sore throat, we’d wrap a dirty sock around the neck. I’d use my brother’s or father’s. All there were, were wool socks in those days. You’d wear them five or six days in a row--they didn’t wash every day like they do now, had to wash by hand.

When I had a sore throat, I would grease my throat with chicken fat or lard. Then I would take my mother’s or father’s warm, dirty sock and tie it around my neck before I went to bed. It really made me sweat.

Hmmmm. I may try it. Just to see if it would really work, because if it did, how curious, how interesting would that be? How could I explain it? Things like this make me wonder.

Here's one cure that is really odd. A spry old gent interviewed by Janos said it was an old Indian cure for broken bones and sprains:

Take a half pint of night crawlers and a half pint of heavy cream. Bring it to a boil, simmer it for ten minutes. Let it cool. Skim off the top. Use the stuff you skimmed off for broken bones; run it on a few times a day. I had a friend that broke some fingers adn he couldn't move them. After two months of this treatment, his fingers were fine.

This is a fascinating book and I highly recommend it if you are interested in simple ways of healing. As always, take it all with a grain of salt, be curious and openminded, but don’t be stupid. If something seems dangerous, it probably is, so don’t do it. Or do it at your own risk.


PS. Sorry--can't resist. Some more info on Skunk Oil. :)

The only place I could find to purchase skunk oil was from Cabelas, where it is sold as a product to kill human scent for hunters. If I can’t get one of our young men to trap or shoot me a skunk, maybe I'll just buy some from Cabelas.

Where/What is Skunk Oil?

Skunk Oil A:

Skunk oil is an oil that is obtained from the two lateral glands that run the length of a skunks back. Skunks store fats in these glands for use during hybernation or semi-hybernation in warmer climes. There is very little odor to this oil. Skunk oil was used by the Native Americans as a healing balm or as a liniment. When rendered from the glands, over a low heat, it has the consistency a SAE10 motor oil and the feel of a coal oil when applied to the skin. It has gives warming sensation as a mild liniment would.The early explorers and fur buyers, especially in Canada, found that this oil was a very useful addition to their medical kits. They paid the Indians a premium price for his product.

Skunk Oil B:
However, in Country Folk Medicine, I got a different impression of what skunk oil is:

When I needed some of the oil, I would have my husband go out and shoot a skunk. I would skin it, clean it, and cut it into quarters; then I’d put it in a hot oven to get all the grease out. After it was about half cooked, I’d put slices of raw potato in the bottom of the pan to clarify the oil. When we used it on rheumatism, it’d make the ache stop.

Another article on skunk oil.

As far as I’m concerned, modern American medicine has shown that it is far more interested in money than in healing, and is therefore mostly worthless. Trauma care, however, is said to be great here. I’ve only had that experience once, and the docs and nurses in the ER did a fine job of patching me up after a car accident. But American medicine for diseases? Illnesses? Actual sickness? So they can apply as many life-threatening drugs and treatments as can hike up the bill? Even granting them some humanity, in that they really wish to help people, I think modern doctors, allopaths, have taken a really wrong turn with their reliance on pharmaceuticals and invasive medicine, and operations.

No thanks. I’ll stick with herbs, nutrients, real living food, and maybe even some skunk oil. If my husband thinks garlic syrup is bad . . . Just wait til he gets dosed with skunk oil. This blog may end abruptly, in that case. We’ll just have to wait and see. Onwards!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things I Do When I First Start Feeling Sickly

I'm not feeling sickly, but last night I was in a group of people and heard all the coughs and sniffles, sounds of incipient weakness in our various immune systems. It occurs to me to share what I do at the first signs that all is not well with me.

I subscribe to the idea that when a person gets sick their immune system is down or suffering some setbacks. I also think that yes, there are bacteria and viruses and bugs that cause disease; however, when the person succumbs to that bug, the person is simply too toxic to resist it and gets ill. I think we share the world with bacteria and viruses--ALL the time. They are constantly present, in the air, soil, food we eat, etc. And most of the time, we simply don't notice them because we don't have to--they won't make us ill. Sometime last year Johns Hopkins put out a medical report that says most people get cancer up to seven or eight times in their life. Most of the time, the immune system catches the abnormal cells and flushes them out of the system. When the person is weakened or stressed or elderly or young or whatever, then the cancer can take hold. I've been looking, but haven't found the report again yet. If any of you out there knows where on the net it dwells, let me know!

So the first thing to do when starting to feel sickly is NOTICE IT AND PAY ATTENTION. Symptoms of illness are your body's way of talking to you and telling you that something is wrong: "Yo, dumbass! Take it easy for a few days, would ya? Stop eating all that crap and let me do my job, here." Many of us are way too busy and too self-absorbed to listen to our own bodies, but that can be changed. When your body tells you to take a break, listen and do as it asks. I believe you can cut out all manner of illnesses by simply paying attention. Oh, I know, you have that workshop and this lesson and that report to file and blah blah blah. So you ignore the signs and get sick. The choice is yours--but you'd do well to pay more attention and let go when you can. There are ways you can still do what you have to do AND obey your body's needs. I'll get to that.

Second thing is don't name it and don't claim it. Do so in the silence of your mind, notice the signs and pay attention to them, but don't get all hypochondriac about it. When you put a name to it, you're claiming it. To say "I have a cold," means you are now invested in having a cold, you've gone along with it. Your subconscious notes that you are now involved in "having a cold" and can and will make reality fit that paradigm. (Note how scientific I am, all the medical studies I'm citing. Hah! This is just all my outrageous theories and you can take it or leave it.) You might let others know you're feeling a bit under the weather, but let that be it. Don't make a big deal out of it, or you will just be playing a game. I learned this from Michael, who learned it from Daniel, and both men have mingled with wisdom.

OK, now for the stuff you CAN do:

1. Stop eating crap. Stop eating is even better, but it is essential to cut out eating any junk. The energy your body doesn't have to put into digestion, it can put into healing. First thing I do is make up a batch of chicken soup and garlic and usually onions. Garlic and onions are heroic warriors when it comes to battling the badguys that make you ill. Heavy, heavy on the garlic. Don't know what it is about chicken soup, but it has been a standby worldwide for eons and it is very comforting. Get that broth thing going early on--make enough to last you a week, 3 big cups or bowls a day. And let that be your food, your only food. Don't add much of anything--just the broth and garlic and onions. A few other veggies maybe, but the easier it is for your body to digest, the better. Fruits are OK too, but ideally, you need to cut out food for a few days.

2. Immune boosting: Vitamin C and E, goldenseal and echinacea, cayenne pepper, our buddy dandelion, root and leaves. If what you've got is potentially flu--use elderberry syrup or extract. Sambucol is commercially available, but you can also order dried elderberries from online herb suppliers (Penn Herb Co. Ltd, for example), buy some vodka or everclear grain alcohol and make your own extract or tincture. Do lots of immune boosting things by upping your vitamin intake, taking herbs in teas or tinctures, and THINK well, I'm feeling good--my body is doing well. Eat raw garlic. Peel a clove or two and chop it up and if you can stand it, chew it, or if not, swallow it with water. I always get a big boost from doing these things--after I stop grimacing and dancing around howling, that is. :) If you've got Garlic Syrup around (a previous post), then 3 tablespoons a day.

3. Look honestly at your obligations and cut what you can so you can get more rest. Taking it easy and allowing your body to rest is important. The energy you are not expending running around doing stuff will be used by your body in healing.

4. If you are strong enough, and willing, don't take drugs to cut the symptoms--let your body do it's thing in getting rid of disease. A fever is your body's effort in burning off the badguys. Let it. Your body needs to expel toxins and you are best off just letting your body do this. Yes, you'll feel awful. But you will get better faster, much faster. I'm not good at this step myself, lessen you think I'm Ms. Super Pure--hell no. I reach for the drugs just as I've been trained to do in this culture. These days, though, I'm more likely to use herbs or cayenne pepper or whatever is on hand in my kitchen. And that's good--while people are sick around us, Michael and I are usually well.

5. Take a hot, hot bath. Drink cold water while you're in the bath. This will open the pores of your skin and allow your body the chance to dump a lot of toxins. Be careful to not let yourself get too lightheaded or dizzy--if you're prone to that, be very careful. This step will really help you. If the water turns greyish as the bath goes on, then you are succeeding.

6. Take an herbal laxative, relatively mild, and let your body dump toxins thataway too.

The idea of all this is to let your body expel toxins while simultaneously giving it some needed nutrition and immune boosters. And resting so that your body can use available energy in healing.

And that's it. These are the steps I take when feeling the first sign of any illness. I don't stop living my life--though I may stay home and not go to a social function--I go ahead and do the things I really have to do, but I get mindful of what my body needs and I try to supply what support I can for the process.

It works--to whatever degree. It is rare that I get really sick. For me, most cold/flu things are very shortlived--I believe because I go along with what my body is asking me to do. Allow the process, help it along, and get over whatever is bugging you quickly.

Note that this is not medical advice and please stick in all the usual disclaimer stuff. Like everything you read on the web, take it with a grain a salt (in the chicken broth, natch).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spring Greens in the Fall?

Yesterday I went out to the fields and the garden to harvest some "spring" greens. Dandelion, curly dock, woods sorrel, plantain and some leaves from my neighbor's herbs, rosemary, sage, dill and thyme all went into the harvest bag. Yes, this time of year you might well find some young curly dock, often growing not far from some older dock plants that have already gone to seed. Dandelions too lose their bitterness this time of year and the greens become palatable again. The plantain is looking lush and tasting really green and fresh and there's wood sorrel to add some lemony bite to the mix.

These greens are common in the spring, and to my delight, common in the fall here too! So I loaded up a big bag full of them, brought them home, cleaned off the dirt, and cut them up. They will either go in salads, or as potherbs, or in various casseroles. It is incredibly useful to have a bag of free greens--full of vital nutritious vitamins and minerals--in the fridge, ready to hand. Rather than taking some multivitamin/mineral tab made by some industrial pill-producer somewhere out of who knows what chemicals cooked up in a lab, try gathering your greens. I'm hoping I can do this right up until it snows or the greens start to disappear or start tasting weird or bitter. If I'm hard up for something nutritious, I'll use them even if they are bitter. I can always infuse them or boil them for a bit and then drink the water since it'll have most of the vitamins.

Here's some information on each of these vital herbs.

The link there will take you to Botanical's pages and pages of info on this incredible plant. It grows worldwide, is recognizable to everyone, and is one of the better greens around. Taste-wise, it is flavorful in spring and in the fall. In the summer, the leaves get bitter to protect the plant while it is busy reproducing itself, which is does extremely well. This time of year, in the fall, is the time to dig the roots as well as get the greens. If you are serious about adding to your family's stores of nutrition, read up on all the wonderful things dandelions can do for you. It is a very useful plant--you can make dandelion wine from the blossoms, you can eat the greens, or make a tincture or tea from them, and the roots are a storehouse of other vital properties. Botanical's exegesis on the dandelion is a great start--it even has some recipes for the teas and tinctures. However there's lots more out there. This herbalist, for instance, swears by her dandelion oil (made by infusing olive oil with dandelion blossoms) for achy muscles. As someone with a bad shoulder and near constant neck and shoulder pain, I'm just waiting for those springtime blossoms to come 'round again! In the meantime, though, I'll be gratefully using this powerful plant and thanking God for this not-so-hidden manna!

This concept of manna--the wild foods all around us, but unseen by most people--belongs to my friends Ra and Morgan. I'll see if I can get them to write something as a guest post here about it. I found it quite intriquing...

You can find some good pix of this plant here and here. These pictures show what young curly dock plants look like--as they get older, they put up a large flower stalk, which turns reddish in the fall. But the pictures at Prodigal Gardens show what the curly dock is looking like now--the young plants I'm picking leaves from. I'm also digging the roots, but from the older plants with the flower stalk. The leaves of rumex crispus are sour, lemony, a taste I like, but one my husband finds too bitter. The bitterness if probably the oxalic acid--which in large quantities may not be good for you. In moderation, however . . . delicious! I do want to try to ferment some more greens, and so I may use a portion of the bagful in the fridge for that. If I do, I'll describe the process for you in another post.

Here is an excellent article on the medicinal properties of curly dock root. Very beneficial for cleansing the lymphatic system, and cleaning and building the blood. All in all, curly dock is a good plant to know. Especially if it can be available both spring and fall!

The link in the title here leads to a neat cooking with sorrel article, including recipes. Fun stuff! Woods sorrel is high in Vitamin C, and another tart, lemony-sour flavored herb. While too much of this herb would be overwhelming, except perhaps in soups and sauces, I think a bit of it in a mix of other greens in potherbs or salads would be wonderful. I don't much like taking pills, so eating my vitamins in their natural forms is well, a natural for me.

Hmmmm. While as a forager, I'm glad to find curly dock and woods sorrel in the fields around and in the garden, as a gardener, I'm not so happy. Both of these plants are a sign that the garden soil needs improving, needs strengthened and sweetened. Nothing a bunch of dead fish and aged horse manure couldn't handle... and we'll be putting those into the garden shortly. Maybe next year I'll have to go farther afield to find my dock and sorrel.

Pretty much a miracle plant, in terms of its actions on all kinds of skin disorders, itches, scrapes, bug bites, and used internally it is a good detoxifier. But up til now I haven't really eaten much of it. My readings told me that it gets too fibrous to really eat, unless you get rid of the fibers, a time-consuming task. But early in the spring, and maybe later in the fall, well, we'll see! It is mild-tasting plant, and thus will go well with the dock and sorrel. I'll let you know what I think about plantain as an edible in a future post. For now, let me say it looked very fresh, lush and inviting--a hint to me to give it a try? I'm stay tuned.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Foraging: A Future Career??

"For those who enjoy spending large amounts of time in the great outdoors, becoming a full-time wild food forager, I think, will become an economically viable profession of the future."

The quote is from Sunny Savage, author of the Wild Food Plants blog. Scroll down to read her entry on Canada Goes Wild. Very interesting--for those of us who live in rural areas and are losing jobs like crazy. We could use some of Canada's creativity in this country.

One part of me thinks this is a neat idea. The other, more cynical darker part of me figures that if everyone is out foraging, then the wonderful plants I want to forage will become rare and harder to find and I'm too selfish to want that to happen.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting piece of information about foraging.

In the Drying Corner...

We have a nice wide windowsill on the south side of our middle room. I dry my plants and roots there unless the weather is hot and dry, in which case they get moved out to the sun table on the porch. Right now, what I've got drying:

Poke Berries

Many foragers and herbalists say not to mess with Mr. Poke unless you have experience. Poke can be poisonous and can and will KILL you if it is misused. On the other hand, I've been reading herbalists who do use Poke cautiously, usually an extract of the root or eating the dried berries, a few a day for a few days. I'm a curious sort and so I gathered a bunch of poke berries when our bushes were bursting with them. To me, a poke bush in full glory looks like...well, like some crazy thing that belongs on another planet in an alternet universe and somehow stumbled through a time/space hole and ended up here. A poke bush is big, bold, bursting with color, a strong magenta-pink-purple and these lucious purple-pink berries. So very beautiful and so potentially deadly. The berry juice can be used as ink--Thomas Jefferson used poke berry ink to write many of his letters, and the poke ink has held up to this day.

I have read that poke root extract or the berries can be used for many different problems, and some studies in Germany are showing the plant may be effective in treating HIV and lymphomas and childhood leukemia. Not to mention aches and pains and illnesses resistant to other, gentler herbal treatments. That's why I decided to dry some berries. Cautiously. Very carefully. One berry at a time. You can read more about poke here, here, here and here.

If you decide to investigate and use poke, please be very careful. I am NOT advising anyone to use poke--it has definitely nasty side effects, it can make you quite sick and it can kill you. I am NOT an herbalist, nor a doctor, nor any kind of expert at anything--I'm just a beginner forager. I am willing to try poke but can only be responsible for myself. So just put in all the usual disclaimer stuff here.


A while ago I made myself a dream pillow. I first read about this years and years ago in a book called Herbs and Things: Jeanne Rose's Herbal (A compendium of practical and exotic herbal lore). This is a really fun book--full of herbal recipes for makeup and cosmetics, herb baths, hair potions and conditioners, herbs for wild dreams, etc. I dried a bunch of mugwort, stuffed it into a little pillow I'd made and sewed it up. Nothing fancy. Wild dreams? Yes, but then dreams usually are. But lots of fun and fascinating dreams followed, rich, lush dreams in full color. If I make an effort to write them down, I'd be able to tell you some of them, but I'm afraid I didn't. Still, I'd recommend this to the curious.
Years ago I made these pillows for friends. One person couldn't stand the smell, but the rest of the people really enjoyed them. I'm drying more mugwort now and will probably make some more pillows for friends--if I can find some of those sweet old lacy handkerchiefs that women used to carry, I'll use those for the pillow material.

Mugwort is a nervine and good for insomnia as well as for dreaming. Or, make an infusion (add one oz dried herb to one pint boiling water and let it steep for a while) and add the infusion to your bath water to relax sore muscles.

Is gathering an herb from a neighbor's herb garden (with permission) "foraging"? Probably not. But I'll "forage" wherever I can find what I need and I have permission. It includes dumpster diving and curb-side "shopping" as well.

The other sundry items are chopped dandelion roots, rosehips and juniper berries. The roots and hips are for teas, and I don't know what all use I'll find for the juniper berries, but they sure are pretty. All of these were free for the finding of them. Ain't it grand?


Monday, October 13, 2008

Foraging with Friends

Yesterday was really fun. Ra, Sharek and their daughter Morgan came to the valley for a visit. Ra is into foraging, Sharek teaches primitive living skills, and Morgan is fully involved in 4H and FAA. Great people! Ra and I have been emailing about various plants so when we got together to visit, naturally enough we womenfolk headed out to the woods and fields to do some gathering. Ra and Morgan introduced me to lots of new plants--or rather, I'd seen those plants around but hadn't figured out what they were yet. I loved it! It is a great way to learn new plants and what they're good for. We found lots of yellow dock--lots of new young yellow dock, apparently seeded from older plants from the springtime. We found burdock, lady's thumb, woods sorrel, nettles, dandelions, some baby pumpkins in the garden, mint, rose hips and probably lots I'm forgetting here.

If you ever get a chance to go foraging with a friend, do it. You will learn to ID new plants, and get ideas for how to eat the plants and what else you can do with them. Ra and I and Morgan are relatively new to this--but even so, we gathered bags and bags of wild plants for food and medicine.

BTW, the young dock leaves can be eaten as greens this time of year, as well as early spring--cook them lightly by adding a little water and steaming them for five to seven minutes. They're a tad sour, tart and lemony. They'd probably be terrific fermented, something I'm going to try with the batch we found yesterday. My man doesn't like them--finds them too bitter. But I like 'em--I love it that they are free, wild, and nutritious. He can eat spinach, I'll chomp down the wild greens anyday.

What's Happening?

First of all, a brief apology for not having posted in quite a while. It's a beautiful fall here in southern Indiana and I've been outside in the glory of it all, foraging and harvesting. Gathering plants, berries, roots, etc. takes time, but one is definitely rewarded richly for the effort. And it is harvest time in the fall.

This is the best time of year to gather roots--dandelion, burdock, yellow dock root, and any of the other roots available. This time of year, the plants are getting ready for winter and they send their energies to their roots. So I've been getting roots. Went to the words with a friend to gather some yellow root (goldenseal). It is still lush here, though I understand the plant is becoming endangered due to over-gathering. Mostly for money--this herb is hard to cultivate and domesticate, so a lot of goldenseal is wild-harvested. Both my friend and I gathered enough for our personal use--his wife was ill and needed some goldenseal to boost her immune system, and I wanted enough to make an extract for our use this winter. That's a picture of the plant to the left. I cleaned the roots, then cut them up and put them in a jar and poured vodka over them. I'll leave the extract alone for 6 weeks, shaking it now and then. That will be our immune-booster this winter.

I've also been digging dandelion root, burdock root and yellow (curly, sour) dock roots. The yellow dock root will become an extract. The dandelion and burdock roots will either become extracts or dried and saved for teas this winter. I've discovered I really like dandelion root tea, and it is wonderful for a sluggish liver and a host of other winter blah sorts of minor malaises.

These will become our medicines this winter, along with the elderberry extract and syrup, the garlic syrup, and whatever else I can forage, find, cook up. A friend of ours had been feeling sickly, so I told him he'd better get well or I'll be sending him homebrew concoctions whose taste alone will scare him well. :)

There's lots more to write about, but this will have to do for today. I'll be back with more, though. Promise.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Liquid Vitamin C: Dandelion Greens and Pine Needle Tea

(Dandelion pix from, a companion site to Wildman Steve Brill's foraging page.)

Urf. I've been feeling pretty lousy the past couple of days. No energy, an excess of mucus in my system (most of it in my nose), tired, achy feeling, like a bad allergy time or starting a cold.

Yesterday I ate a bunch of garlic--good antibiotic properties and kicks the immune system into line. Since I was peeling garlic cloves anyway, and had a good store of garlic and had just seen a recipe for garlic syrup in a book called Healing Teas: How to Prepare and Use Teas to Maximize Your Health by Marie Nadine Antol, I decided to make garlic syrup. Here's the recipe from the book

Garlic Syrup

Garlic does "brew" into a quite marvelous syrup. The effectiveness of this natural medicine is so powerful, that it simply had to be included here in some form. Accordingly, here's a very old recipe for Garlic Syrup.

1 pound peeled and crushed garlic cloves [I used a half pound plus a few other heads]
apple cider vinegar
pure water
1 cup glycerine (available at pharmacies)
1 cup honey

1. Put the peeled and crushed garlic cloves in a wide-mouthed 2 quart jar [I used my 1 qt jar]
Add equal parts apple cider vinegar and pure water until the jar is 3/4 full. Cap the jar loosely and let the mixture stand in a warm place for 4 days. Shake the jar several times a day.
2. Add the glycerine. Shake to blend. Allow the mixture to stand in a warm place for 1 more day, shaking several times.
3. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or muslin, squeezing to remove all the exhausted bits of garlic. Return the mixture to the jar. Add the honey and stir until thoroughly mixed. Store the garlic syrup in a cool, dry place.

Great-grandmother's directions:

For coughs, colds, sore throats, bronchial congestion, high or low blood pressure, heart weakness or nervous disorders, take 1 tablespoon of the syrup 3 times a day before meals.

It'll be ready in a few days. Can't wait to try this!

Since I have a tough time taking pills, I wanted to boost my immune system further by taking echinacea and goldenseal and Vitamin C with rose hips. But I keep gagging on the the Vitamin C tabs. So I went out and gathered dandelion leaves and pine needles. The power guys had been by yesterday cutting off tree limbs to keep the power lines clear, and there were many white pine boughs just lying there for me to use. The dandelion grows all over the place on the lawns by our pond, which are not sprayed with anything. I boiled water, added the dandelion leaves and pine needles, adding a handful of lemon balm for flavor, and let it steep for half and hour.

I expected my tea to be quite bitter, as dandelion leaves are bitter until the first fall frost, or so I had read, but it isn't bitter at all! It tastes good--piney and rich.

Both dandelion leaves and pine needles are rich in Vitamin C. Dandelion greens also have Vitamin A, Potassium, Phosphorus, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Check out their nutritional portrait here. Liquid vitamin C tea!

So if the SHTF, and you can't buy your vitamins, remember where those vitamins came from in the first place: green plants. Gather up a bunch of vitamin C rich plants and brew yourself a quart or two of tea. In my opinion, it is far better to get your vitamins and minerals from a plant source than from a pill anyway--you get the benefit of the synergy of the whole plant thataway.

Making your own medicines doesn't have to be hard or complex. Just go out for a walk and make friends with your common weeds.

Hopefully, this cold/bug/whatever will leave me in a day or so. I can't abide feeling sick.
Onwards, the only direction there is,