Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Simple Medicines in the Making

I've been busy gathering wild plants and making simple (but effective) medicines for my family's use. These extracts, infused oils and wines are easy to make, really no trouble at all. All you need is the plant: flower, seed, leaf, twig, root, bark; clean jars; alcohol; extra virgin olive oil and/or lard; and water, sugar, maybe a few other ingredients.

For the extracts, or tinctures, all I do is wash and chop up the plant, put it into a clean and sterilized jar, cover it with alcohol (usually vodka or rum or brandy), label it and put it aside for six weeks. After the six weeks, I strain out the herb (which goes into the compost), rebottle the extract, and label it again with contents and date. Then I store it until I need it.

For salves, I was and lightly dry the plant material. Then it too is chopped and put into a clean jar and covered with olive oil. This waits its month or six weeks, then it is strained. The oil is then warmed slightly in a double boiler on the stove, beeswax is added and when it is all melted, it is poured into little (clean, sterilized) jars. It will cool and become solid, voila, a medicinal salve.

Wine is a little trickier, but not much. The plant material is put in a big pot, so much water added, and boiled for a short time, depending on the recipe. Then sugar is added, and the mix is cooler to room temperature. Yeast is then added, along with yeast nutrient (if called for in the recipe). For me, for these simple wines, I have used baker's yeast and a small piece of toast for the nutrient. I am planning on getting the real wine-making stuff, but that's waiting on a trip to town.

Here's what's in the works:

Nettle--for its vitamin/minerals and general nutritional properties
Horsetail--for the silica, for bones, skin, nails, hair and maybe calcium (see earlier post)
Roots--a combo of dandelion roots, burdock root and yellow dock root--all excellent for the liver
Red Clover Blossom--blood cleansing, nutritional
Catnip/Skullcap/Chamomile--my sleepytime nervine, for tense times
Jewelweed--for poison ivy (use the extract with clay to dry the rash, draw out the poison)

Infused Oils
Jewelweed--for poison ivy (for a salve)

2 gallons of dandelion wine
1.5 gallon of nettle wine
2 gallon of sassafrass wine

OK, so the wines aren't strictly medicinal. :) The recipes I used, all of them from Jack Keller's fabulous wine making page at www.winemaking.jackkeller.net. I'm an absolute beginner at this, and I don't know if the wines will be palatable or not. Last year's dandelion wine was very tasty so we'll see. I'm betting they'll be drinkable. If they're good or even really good, that'll be a plus! And like I said, making these products doesn't require much time, money, special ingredients, or even effort. Take a baby step and try a few things.

I've been foraging and gathering so many things that I see I've neglected to write about some of them, nettles for one. So stay tuned, I'll get to it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Foraging Morning

Today is Sunday, and I took some Amish strawberries down to the barn to see if Fred and I could sell them. They are higher in cost that the berries currently selling in our local grocery stores, but these are organically grown, freshly picked lucious strawberries. They sold, no problem.

Once home, I went down to harvest some of the asparagus that grows wild at the bottom of the hillside. There was a goodly bunch of it, so I picked it to give to a neighbor. I've been harvesting lots of asparagus, so it was time to pass some on.

Then I picked a bunch of lambquarters, growing wild nearby at the top of the hillside. Got enough for dinner tonight. I also picked a lot of wild horsetail, to dry some for tea, and to make a tincture with the , rest. More on horsetail in a bit.

Let's see, then I saw a slew of red clover blossoms and naturally enough, went all over hill and dale getting a bag full of them. As a forager, I ALWAYS carry plastic bags, a Swiss Army knife, and all the rest of my foraging tools are in the car (shovel, hand trowel, root digger thingy, zillions of plastic bags, etc.).

In about an hour, I gathered enough horsetail for tea and medicine; enough red clover blossoms for the same purposes; and enough lambs quarters for a hearty side dish. Of course, processing it all takes a bit more time. Everything gets washed and rinsed, then cut up if that's part of the deal, and processed (i.e., putting out to dry or putting in a jar with vodka poured over to make tincture, chopped to eat, etc.). This all takes another hour or so. But it is work I enjoy, so I can't even really call it work (unless I'm talking to my husband, whereupon I rely heavily on the concept of all this activity being work).

I also gathered a bunch of melilot (melilotus officinalis), which I recognized for the first time today. YEAH. In early spring, the leaves are tasty and quite edible. Being as it is a bit later in spring, I didn't harvest it to eat, but to dry. I'll use the leaves in tea, as well as make a nice toilet water with it and some other herbs. Melilot has a wonderful vanilla scent to it, smells like you'd want to put it in cookies and such. I'll probably powder some dried leaves and do exactly that.

On horsetail, I've written about this herb a while ago. It is a rich source of silicon, a necessary and important trace mineral. One day, I was reading another blog and what books the blog author recommends, and I came across this bit:

Louis Kervran was a biological researcher who discovered decades ago that biological creatures routinely transmute chemical elements. He's still almost completely unknown, and scoffed at by people terrified of the changing their thinking even a tiny bit. One of many implications of his work: to build calcium in your body, you do not eat calcium, but organic silica, which your body changes to calcium. Kervran's book is Biological Transmutations.

I have yet to find and read Kervran's book, but that bit was really interesting. My thanks to Ran Prieur for his fascinating blog! Anyway, if you need more calcium (and who doesn't?), horsetail tea or tincture might be the thing for you. When Fred broke his elbow last fall, I made him lots of horsetail tea and comfrey tea. He healed readily, at least from the break. His arm is as good as it was prior to the break--but with his Rheumatoid Arthritis, I can't say his arm is "as good as new." Wish I could.

Foraging wild plants for foods and medicines is as old as anything. In a couple of pleasant hours, plants for both food and medicines were easily gathered. Honestly, folks, if you're not already foraging, please consider adding it to your repertoire of skills. The exercise is good for you (walking, bending, twisting, stretching), falling on your butt when your foot slipped on the hillside is good for your character, and certainly, eating and drinking the dishes and drinks you made from God's own free produce is good for you. It's win-win all the way.

The Amazing Hemp Plant--Part II

The "Marihuana" Trick: A Brief History of the Federal Campaign to Destroy Hemp
by Doug Yurchey

Part II

(Part I here)

The campaign against hemp begins. In the 1930s, innovations in farm machinery would have caused an industrial revolution when applied to hemp. This single resource could have created millions of new jobs generating thousands of quality products. Hemp, if not made illegal, would have brought American out of the Great Depression.

William Randolph Hearst (Citizen Kane) and the Hearst Paper Manufacturing Division of Kimberly Clark owned vast acreage of timberlands. The Hearst Company supplied most paper products. Patty Hearst's grandfather, a destroyer of nature for his own personal profit, stood to lose billions because of hemp.

In 1937, Dupont patented the processes to make plastics from oil and coal. Dupont's annual report that year urged stockholders to invest in its new petrochemical division. Synthetics such as plastics, cellophane, celluloid, methanol, nylon, rayon, Dacron, etc. could now be made from oil. Natural hemp industrialization would have ruined over 80 percent of Dupont's business.

Politics and special interests. Andrew Mellon became Hoover's Secretary of the Treasury and Dupont's primary investor. He appointed his future nephew-in-law Harry J. Anslinger to head the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Secret meetings were hald by these financial tycoons. Hemp was declared dangerous and a threat to their billion dollar enterprises. For their dynasties to remain intact, hemp had to go. These men took an obscure Mexican slang word "marihuana" and pushed it into the consciousness of America.

Media manipulation. A media blitz to poison the public mind against the use of hemp while renaming it marihuana raged in the late 1920s and 1930s. Hearst's newspapers ran stories enphasizing the horrors of marihuana. The menace of marihuana made headlines. Readers learned that it was responsible for everything from car accidents to loose morality.

Films like "Reefer Madness" (1936), "Marihuana: Assassin of Youth" (1935), and "Marihuana: The Devil's Weed" (1936) were propaganda pieces designed by these industrialists to gain public support for the passage of anti-marihuana laws.

Reefer Madness, the best known of the three films, characterized marihuana as "a violent narcotic" that compelled people to commit "acts of shocking violence," caused "incurable insanity" and had "soul-destroying effects." The film even depicts a man who, while under the influence of the marihuana, "killed his entire family with an axe" and explained that "the menace of marihuana" is "more viscious, more deadly even that these soul-destroying drugs (heroin, cocaine)!"

Reefer Madness did not end with the usual "The End." The film concluded with these words plastered on the screen: "TELL YOUR CHILDREN."

In the 1930s, people were very naive; even to the point of ignorance. The masses were like sheep waiting to be led by the few in power. They did not challenge authority. If the news were in print or on the radio, they believed it had to be true. They told their children and their children grew up to be parents of the baby boomers.

On April 14, 1937, the Prohibitive Marihuana Tax Law, the bill that outlawed hemp, was directly brought to the House Ways and Means Committee. This committee is the only one that can introduce a bill to the House floor without it being debated by other committees. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Robert Doughton, was a Dupont supporter. He insured that the bill would be passed by Congress.

Dr. James Woodward, a physician and attorney, testified too late on behalf of the American Medical Association (AMA). He told the committee that the reason the AMA had not publicly opposed the Marihuana Tax Law sooner was that the association had just discovered that marihuana was/is hemp.

Few people, at the time, realized that the deadly menace they had been reading about on Hearst's front pages was in fact passive hemp. The AMA understood hemp to be a MEDICINE found in numerous healing products sold over the last hundred years.

In September, 1937, hemp became illegal. The most useful crop known to man becaem a drug and our planet has been suffering ever since.

Congress banned hemp because it was said to be the most violence-causing drug known. Anslinger, head of the Drug Commission for 31 years, promoted the idea that marihuana made users act extremely violent. In the 1950s, when America was preparing to fight the communist threat, Anslinger claimed the exact opposite: marijuana will pacify you so much that soldiers would not want to fight.

Today our planet is in desperate trouble. Earth is suffocating as large tracts of rain forests disappear. Pollution, poisons and chemicals are killing people. These great problems could be reversed if we industrialized hemp. Natural biomass could provide all of the planet's energy needs that are currently supplied by products made from crude oil. Hemp could be the solution to soaring gas prices and petrochemical pollution.

The wonder plant. Hemp has a higher quality fiber than wood fiber. For fewer caustic chemicals are required to make paper from hemp than from trees. Hemp paper does not turn yellow and is very durable. The plant grows quickly to maturity in a season where trees take decades.

All plastics should be made from hemp oil. Hempen plastics are biodegradable. Over time, they would break down and not harm the environment. Oil-based plastics, the ones we are very familiar with, help ruin nature; they do not break down and are causing great harm. The process to produce the vast array of natural (hempen) plastics will not ruin the rivers as Dupont and other petrochemical companies have done. Ecology does not fit in with the plans of the oil industry and the political machine. Hemp products are safe and natural.

Medicines should be made from hemp. We should go back to the days when the AMA supported hemp cures. "Medical marihuana" is given out legally to only a handful of people while the rest of us are forced into a system that relies on chemicals. Hemp is only healthy for the human body.

World hunger could end. A large variety of food products can be generated from hemp. The seeds contain one of the highest sources of protein in nature. ALSO: They ahve two essential fatty acids that clean your body of excess cholestrol. These essential fatty acids are not found anywhere else in nature! Consuming hemp seeds is the best thing you could do for your body. Eat uncooked hemp seeds.

Clothes should be made from hemp. Hemp clothing is extremely strong and durable over time. You could hand clothing, made from hemp, down to your grandchildren. Today, there are American companies that make hemp clothing; usually 50 percent hemp. Hemp fabrics should be everywhere. Instead, they are almost underground. Superior hemp products are not allowed to advertise on fascist television. Kentucky, once the top hemp producing state, made it illegal to wear hemp clothing. Can you imagine being thrown in jail for wearing quality jeans?

The world is crazy...but that does not mean you have to join the insanity. Get together. Spread the news. Tell people, and that includes your children, the truth. Use hemp products. Eliminate the word "marihuana." Realize the history that created it. Make it politically incorrect to say or print the M-word. Hemp must be utilized in the future. We need a clean energy source to save our planet.

The brainwashing continues. Now, the commercials say: If you buy a joint, you contribute to murders and gang wars. The latest anti-hemp commercials say: If you buy a joint...you are supporting TERRORISM! The new enemy (terrorism) has paved the road to brainwash you any way THEY see fit.

There is only one enemy; the friendly people you pay your taxes to; the war-makers and nature destroyers. With your funding, they are killing the world right in front of your eyes. Half a million deaths each year are caused by tobacco; half a million deaths each year are caused by alcohol (and nearly a million people each year die from pharmaceutical drugs).

Ingensting THC, hemp's active agent, has a positive effect; relieving asthma and glaucoma. Hemp tends to allieviate the nausea caused by chemotherapy, causing people's appetites to return so they can take on nutrients and being feeling better so the healing process can begin.
There is physical evidence that hemp is not like any other plant on this planet. One could conclude that it was brought here for the benefit of humanity.

Hemp is illegal because billionaires want to remain billionaires.
End of part II.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Amazing Hemp Plant

The "Marihuana" Trick: A Brief History of the Federal Campaign to Destroy Hemp
by Doug Yurchey

(This article was published in the February 18, 2009 issue of the Idaho Observer, a 24-page newspaper published by Don and Ingri Harkins. I asked for and received permission from Don Harkins to repost the article in my blog. Because of the article's length (and the limit of my typing) the article will be posted in two sections.

This is an amazing history. I knew of hemp and its many benefits to the human family. I was not aware of how extensively it was grown and used, nor of the machinations of Big Government and big Business to outlaw it. It is an excellent illustration of exactly how stupid and evil are Big Government and Big Business, especially when they act in concert. HM)

Part I

And I will raise up a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land. Ezekiel 34:29.

Where did "marihuana" come from? In the mid-1930s, the M-word was created to tarnish the good image and phenomenal history of the hemp plant. The facts cited below, with references, are generally verifiable in the Encyclopedia Britannica which was printed on hemp paper for 150 years.

All schoolbooks were printed on hemp or flax paper until the 1880s; Hemp Paper Reconsidered, Jack Frazer, 1974.

It was LEGAL TO PAY TAXES WITH HEMP in the 17th and 18th centuries from 1631 until the 1800s; LA Times, August 12, 1981.

REFUSING TO GROW HEMP IN AMERICA in the 17th and 18th centuries was AGAINST THE LAW! You could be jailed in Virginia from 1763 to 1769; Hemp in Colonial Virginia, G.M. Herndon.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson GREW HEMP; Washington and Jefferson Diaries; Jefferson smuggled hemp seeds from China to France then to America.

Benjamin Franklin owned one of the first paper mills in America and it processed hemp. Also, the War of 1812 was fought over hemp. Napoleon wanted to cut off Moscow's export to England; Emperor Wears No Clothes, Jack Herer.

For thousands of years, 90% of all ships' sails and ropes were made from hemp. The word "canvas" is Dutch for hemp. Webster's New World Dictionary.

80 percent of all textiles, fabrics, clothes, linens, drapes, bed sheets, etc. were made from hemp until the 1820s with the introduction of the cotton gin.

The first Bibles, charts, maps, Betsey Ross's flag, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were made from hemp; US Government Archives.

The first crop grown in many states was hemp. 1850 was a peak year for Kentucky's production of 40,000 tons of hemp. Hemp was the largest cash crop until the 20th century. State Archives.

Oldest known records of hemp farming go back 5,000 years in China, although hemp industrialization probably goes back to ancient Egypt.

Rembrandt's, Gainsborough's, Van Gogh's as well as most early canvas paintings were principally painted on hemp linen.

In 1916, the US Government predicted that by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and that no more trees needed to be cut down. Government studies show that 1 acre of hemp equals 4.1 acres of trees. Plans were in the works to implement such programs. Department of Agriculture.
Quality paints and varnishes were made from hemp seed oil until 1937; 58,000 tons of hemp seeds were used in America for paint products in 1935; Sherwin Williams Paint Co. testimony before Congress against the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.

Henry Ford's first Model-T was made to run on hemp fuel and the CAR ITSELF WAS CONSTRUCTED FROM HEMP. On his large estate, Ford was photographed among his hemp fields. The car, "grown from the soil," had hemp plastic panels whose impact strength was 10 times stronger than steel! Popular Mechanics, 1941.

Hemp was called a "Billion Dollar Crop." It was the first time a cash crop had a business potential to exceed a billion dollars; Popular Mechanics, Feb., 1938.

Mechanical Engineering magazine (Feb., 1938) published an article entitled "The Most Profitable and Desirable Crop That Can Be Grown." It stated that if hemp was grown using 20th century technology, it would be the single largest agricultural crop in the US and the entire world.

The following information comes directly from the US Department of Agriculture's 1942 14-minute film "Hemp for Victory" encouraging and instructing "patriotic American farmers" to grow 350,000 acres of hemp each year for the war effort:

"...(When) Grecian temples were new, hemp was already old in the service of mankind. For thousands of years, even then, this plant had been grown for cordage and cloth in China and elsewhere in the East. For centuries prior to about 1850, all the ships that sailed the Western seas were rigged with hempen rope and sails. For the sailor, no less than the hangman, hemp was indispensable.

"...Now with Philippine and East Indian sources of hemp in the hands of the Japanese...American hemp must meet the needs of our Navy and Army as well as of our industries.

"...the Navy's rapidly dwindling reserves. When that is gone, American hemp will go on duty again; hemp for mooring ships; hemp for tow lines; hemp for tackle and gear; hemp for countless naval uses both on ship and shore. Just as in the days of Old Ironsides sailed the seas victorious with her hempen shrouds and hempen sails. Hemp for Victory!"

Certified proof from the Library of Congress, found by the research of Jack Herer, refutes claims of other government agencies that the 1942 USDA film, "Hemp for Victory," did not exist.

Hemp cultivation and production do not harm the environment. The USDA Bulletin #404 concluded that hemp provides 4 times as much pulp as wood with at least four to seven times less pollution.

From Popular Mechanics, Feb. 1938: "It has a short growing season...it can be grown in any state...the long roots break and penetrate the soil leaving it in perfect condition for the next year's crop. The dense shook of leaves, 8 to 12 feet above the ground, chokes out weeds. Hemp, this new crop, can add immeasurably to American agriculture and industry."

End of Part I

(Note: This post concerns the entire hemp plant; I'm not discussing medical marijuana here, but in case you're wondering, OF COURSE medical marijuana should be legal and available. Marijuana, hemp, has been in the materia medica for thousands of years, materia medica being all plants used medicinally.

For more info on hemp, you might want to read this. I snagged the pix at the top of the post from here. Stay tuned for Part II, maybe tomorrow. HM)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Cost of American Lawns

This is an excerpt from an article in the May/June 2009 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal. The article is "Edible Estate: Trade your grass lawn for an edible garden," by Susan M. Osborn. It's a wonderful article on how a older lady, Margie, tore up her dumb lawn and created a urban garden that supplies 35-40% of her food. How cool can it get?

The article has a section on the environmental benefits of discarding your grass for a garden. This is the part I thought you might want to read:

Approximately 70% of American residential water is used for landscaping. The average lawn needs 10,000 gallons of water each summer. To irrigate 45 million lawns in the U.S. requires 200 gallons of water per person, per day. Margie waters only three times a week for five or ten minutes.

Lawnmowers use 800 million gallons of gas each year. Gas-powered lawn equipment produces as much as one-tenth of the smog-forming pollutants from all mobile sources. In one year, a gas mower produces as much air pollution as driving 43 new cars 12,000 miles each. The pollution emitted from a power mower in one hour is equal to the amount from a car being driven 350 miles. Margie uses no gas-powered equipment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 70 million pounds of pesticides are applied to lawns each year. This is ten times more per acre than the pesticides that are applied to agricultural crops. Some 40-60% of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to lawns ends up in surface and groundwater, contaminating these waters. Manufacturing pesticides and synthetic fertilizers requires fossil fuels and contributes to global warming. Margie uses no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

Yard waste makes up over 50 percent of the nation's landfills. Margie recycles kitchen and yard waste through a compost pile.

NASA photographs indicate 32 million acres of US land are covered by lawns. This makes grass the nation's largest irrigated crop. If we're going to devote precious natural resources to cultivating a crop, shouldn't it be edible?

****************end of extract********

As for me, I've always thought lawns were a dumb idea. I've never owned a home, so never had to figure out what I'd do, but if I had, I have torn up a lawn and at least planted some ground cover that I wouldn't have to mow. This article goes on to explain some background and history of lawns. Lawns might have made some sense in England where there is abundant rain, but here in the States, it's an idea whose time has long gone.

In this issue, there are also articles on making a simple feta cheese from goat milk, and a very interesting article on how Middle Eastern countries use sumac as a spice. Apparently, the sour-lemony taste of sumac makes it a highly regarded condiment, used in a lot of dishes. Recipes are included. If you've got to spend money on magazines, this is a fine one to get!