Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mullein - A Light unto the Night -


I first met mullein in Arizona a year before we sowed the seeds, which resulted in four healthy plants. We planted our gathered mullein seed in Fall 2015 and they began to send up their flower stalk in June of this year.

I've had the pleasure of using this plant's medicine in various stages since cultivating it. Most recently, I used oil soaked leaves as compresses to move lymphatic congestion in the pelvic area, which worked like a charm!


Two other mullein plants already in flower were crowding one that had yet to form a rosette so I harvested my first homegrown mullein roots. I learned about some of the root's medicinal use by reading jim mcdonald's wonderful herbcraft.org website. Jim credits his learning from conversations with Matthew Wood about its use and through the sharing of collective knowledge. It helps support back ailments centered around the spine and like jim says ,"aligns joints”.


Kyle Denton, herbalist at Tippecanoe Herbs also learned about mullein root from jim and has used it in his practice with much success. Kyle also shares that, “It works amazing for TMJ problems, Bell’s Palsy Paralysis and with nettle root for urinary incontinence.” Thank you so much for sharing Kyle.


This weekend I'll be straining out my mullein root tincture to support back/spinal issues. I noticed how dark the tincture turned and rather quickly too. Right away that made me think of this plant's energy and medicine and some of my favorite common names for it, like Hecate's Staff, Hag's Taper, Graveyard Dust, and Old Lady's Flannel.

Growing low to the ground as to ready for a sturdy flight into the greater atmosphere, I think displays this plant’s essence perfectly. Balance between what lies below and what lives above. Some say the flower stalk is a torch that guides and protects us through darkness.


After letting the bees indulge themselves with the first round of blooms I decided to start gathering a few to add to pain liniments, I’ve used mullein flower brandy tincture for an earache before and it eased the pain so much, which, in turn eased my anxiety. I learned that folk method through collective knowledge so it’s hard to credit one person.


Watching this plant grow has probably been the most fascinating of all garden plants so far. The transformation of the rosette that forms and then shoots up towards the sky has been such a blessing to observe and learn from. To date, they keep forming new flowerstalks that huddle around the main one. 

I've noticed their flowering period really responds to water nourishment, much like the fluids that keep our lower backs and spine happy.


And just when I thought this plant couldn’t get more magickal I observed it crying black tears from flower bud pest piercings, mullein resin! I bravely tasted some and it had a mild earthy and vanilla flavor. According to Kiva Rose’s blog on Mullien this resin may be a "psychotropic ally" when gathered and tinctured. There wasn’t nearly enough to be tinctured to experiment, however, it was super cool to be surprised by and taste.

Mullein is serving to be a great addition to our resilient medicinal garden and I look forward to saving seed and letting them go to seed to continue their garden reign, it will be fun to see where they re-seed themselves. 




Content credits: Jim McDonald, Kyle Denton and Kiva Rose. Links above.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cooling Cactus Slime


Cereus peruvianus cactus is one of the most prolific cactus growers that I’ve seen. It can become somewhat invasive if planted in the wrong environment, like, be sure not to give it too much water or you will be trimming it almost every month. I’ve even seen some lift up roofs from houses. Because it produces so much makes it a great cactus candidate to harvest from.

I usually only harvest the fruits of this cactus, the inside of the fruit resembles pitaya. The fruit’s flavor tastes like sugar cane juice with mild floral notes. This summer I had the idea of making some type of topical moisturizer from this cactus’s flesh since it is so abundant and since I needed something extra cooling to cool me down during our last heatwave. 

This species of cactus contains many kinds of polysaccharides within its mucilage making it ideal for supporting the skin’s natural ability to hydrate and retain water so that it can repair itself. Damaged skin needs extra protection so it can heal from within. All natural facial masks that carry polysaccharides like the one we are about to discuss can add that needed protection for skin healing. 

  
I made one cutting about 2 ft. long and removed the spines from the cactus first. I then made cuts along each indentation. From those cactus cuts I then began to remove the skin by pulling it upwards from the cuts I made. Once you do that you can slice off all the excess flesh. 


Cut up your skinless cactus and place in freezer until frozen. Once frozen, blend with a cooling hydrosol or natural mineral water. I used a rose hydrosol and it was amazingly calming and cool, a perfect pair. Slowly pour in the liquid of your choice till you make a cactus slime of sorts. I used a nutribullet to make my slime. 


Once you have your cactus slime you can now smooth it over your skin and/or put some into our hair. It will hold in the refrigerator for a few days but it will lose its vibrant green color. Let the slime dry before washing if off.

I am so glad I decided to experiment more with this cactus species because now I’ve discovered an abundant natural source for moisturizing, cooling and calming skin and hair treatments in my own backyard.

Resource Links: 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Gardening as the Earth’s Energy Increases: Ushering in Summer

Source: Prawny CP
Greetings from our Garden!

Here in Southern California we get a really short springtime where we bask in the burst of new growth and blooms, damp pregnant soil, birds chirping and cool breezes and then the Sun makes us say Bon Voyage to all that loveliness by late April, early May.

Now is a good gardening time to do the following:
  • Bring more mulch into your garden to protect your soil and plant roots from the scorching sun. I'll be doing this for our entire landscape this season and will probably increase the depth to retain more moisture.
  •  Place intention on deeper watering and organizing ways to provide your soil with deeper waterings like the use of Ollas or creating waffle gardens. Waffle gardens are a traditional technique practiced by indigenous dry-land communities, particularly by the Zuni, in which you dig into the earth for your soil bed rather than raising it or planting at ground level. 
  • Let wildflowers and other annuals re-seed, this will help establish a good eco-system foundation for your plant communities.
  • Weed your garden of invasives by ensuring they do not go to seed. I’m dealing with lots of wild lettuce and morning glory right now. However, healing ‘weeds’ like dandelions are allowed to re-seed.
  • Whatever you do, don’t get into the plant frenzy mode and start planting new perennial plants during this time. You will end up watering them more for establishment because they will want to grow towards the sun, spending almost all energy on new green growth rather than root growth, which happens during darker seasons like Fall and Winter. It will also take them a bit longer to mature.
  • Do start seeds for your summer crops and get some annual herbs in as soon as possible before the heat really sets in. Part-shade is perfect for annual herbs. I encourage you to seek out drought-tolerant/resistant heirloom varieties. Especially for water guzzlers like tomatoes. Here are some great varieties: http://shop.nativeseeds.org/pages/seeds
  • Nourish your surrounding soil by inoculating it with compost 'bombs' in patterns around root systems. Gather some compost in your hands, roll into the size of a baseball and bury into your soil. You can bury them in a grid of sorts, see image below. Bury about 8-6 inches deep. This approach will feed more of your soil web than if you simply place compost near your plant’s roots extending the use of your compost as well. 



  • Tend to your compost more often by ensuring that it is staying moist during dry and hot spells. 
  • Harvest and dry garden herbs that are about to flower of that have just flowered. During this phase most of these herbs will have a high content of essential oils.  
  •  Don't be afraid to plant densely (close together), in the photo above the medicinal plants in that box behind me are very close together and they love it, this also helps retain soil moisture.
  • Feed your soil some herbal or seaweed infusions. Remember, feeding your soil is feeding your plant and healthy soil retains more moisture. Here is a  nifty list of infusions your plants and soil will love:  http://tipnut.com/plant-brews/
  • You may want to also consider adding a bird bath for birds to drink and bathe in. During droughts like our current one, water for wildlife strategically placed in our gardens can be a lifesaver. You may find some bees and dragonflies taking in some H20 as well. 
Here is a great gardening resource from Yvonne Savio that provides monthly tips, see below. I had the pleasure of being in the 2011 Los Angeles County UCCE Master Gardener class that was led by this wonderful lady.  

Gardening in L.A. Monthly Tips: http://www.gardeninginla.net/monthly-tips.html 

 

What's growing on in your garden? Feel free to share or ask any gardening questions below.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Make Your Own Medicinal Vinegars

I've been making lots of herbal vinegars as part of my welcoming in Spring routine. Last season I made just a few and went through them rather quickly. Using vinegar to extract and capture the healing properties of plants is probably one of the tastiest ways to enjoy plant medicine.

For this first round, I used organic apple cider vinegar and made one jar of herbal infused vinegar with borage leaves and flowers, another jar with common sage leaves and flowers along with some red sage flowers (salvia greggii) and one more with a combo of burdock root and ginger. The burdock and ginger root combo was inspired by this wonderful blog post, which is a really great read too. The intent was to make burdock pickles, but I also love how the vinegar will also be of great use and nutrient content once the pickled roots are consumed.

My plant selections for herbal vinegars are determined by desired medicinal and nutritional properties and of course, taste. I mostly use organic apple cider vinegar because of it's mild taste and versatility with flavors.

I like taking herbal vinegars as nutritional mineral supplements and have been looking into the mineral content of plants for this reason. "All green plants contain vitamins, minerals and trace elements from infinitesimal to plentiful proportions." - J. Meyer.

Here is a short list of plant sources and mineral content from The Herbalist by Joseph E. Meyer. I selected the less obvious ones like stinging nettle and burdock root.

Calcium
  • Chamomile flowers
  • Plantain
  • Cleavers
  • Chives
  • Shepard's Purse
Iron
  • Mullein leaves
  • Strawberry leaves
  • Parsley
Magnesium
  • Black Willow bark
  • Carrot leaves
  • Mullein leaves, again
  • Parsley, again 
  • Primrose flowers
  • Walnut leaves
Potassium
  • Primrose flowers, again
  • Borage leaves
  • Carrot leaves, again
  • Chamomile flowers, again
  • Parsley, again (also rich in vitamins A & C) I need to grow parsley!
  • Yarrow
Phosphorus
  • Chickweed
  • Marigold flowers
  • Sorrel
To make your own herbal vinegar simply chop up your desired contents, then fill up a clean mason jar with your chopped herbs, roots, and/or whole flowers to the top and then fill with vinegar. Place parchment paper or cloth over your lid and close, cause metal and vinegar don't fix. Shake every now and then and let sit away from direct sunlight for 4-6 weeks. Strain and enjoy.

A variety of herbal infused vinegars are great for topical use. My borage infused vinegar is very cooling to the skin and with some added rose petals would make a most divine smelling and soothing facial toner, especially after long periods of sun exposure. If using topically be sure to dilute the infused vinegar before applying with natural mineral water. I suggest testing your skin sensitivity on your arm before using on facial skin. Vinegar can be harsh for some sensitive skin types and I wouldn't suggest daily use. Mainly for first aid conditions that require immediate relief and cleansing.

Add a little ceremony to the process, if that's your thing, and place intentions into your harvesting and crafting space while making your herbal infused vinegar. Let the cosmos and plants guide you in creating combos and blends. Pause, give thanks, ground & contemplate in stillness, flow, create, magick, healing. We are capturing the essence of new growth through mother earth, harness and open yourself to all that this medicine has to offer. Raise your frequency to meet the beauty fully. 
 

Monday, March 14, 2016

LA Cloud Seeding: Answer to California’s Drought or Tough on Mother Nature? via Garden-Eats.com



Los Angeles just experienced some nice rainfall, yet most residents were unaware that silver iodide seeding was to thank for the extra precipitation, not El Nino.

The last time clouds were ‘seeded’ with silver iodide was in 2002. Developed and initially tested in upstate New York in 1946 and used during the Vietnam war to circumvent foreign operations by the US, cloud seeding has been in question by the greater scientific community since its first use.

Read the entire post on Garden-Eats.com, where you can also find more contributions from EcoKatLA. 

Headline art by Chilean artist Xaviera Lopez

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Foot Bathing for Circulation


Pine offerings... 

...courtesy of the wind, for our New Moon in Aquarius altar and for a foot bath that will promote leg circulation. I am "that" person on campus, hands full of plant life and I'm also wearing an herb patterned blouse and leaf earrings. Always makes for great conversation! 


A few days ago I made a pine needle and bark decoction for a foot bath that promotes blood circulation in the legs. I boiled the pine needles and bark (from a fallen branch) in water, after chopping them up a bit, for 10 minutes and then I let the pot of pine simmer for about 15 minutes.

You'll start to see oils floating on the surface you may not want to use a pot you love as it might get some resin on it, it's easy to scrub off though. I let the decoction cool just a bit and then added it to an equal amount of cool water. I added essential oils of spruce and rosemary to boost circulation and I can't recommend this practice enough, especially if you have a desk job or travel a lot for work. 

Practicing this kind of self care can prevent such things as deep vein thrombosis. My left leg suffers from minor inflammation from time to time due to stagnation and this foot bath eliminated my inflammation and dullness in my leg within 5 minutes. Oh, I also rubbed on some of my Rosemary and PiƱon Body oil onto my feet before submerging them, which I only have a few left of in my etsy shop.


Other plants the support blood circulation that you could use:

Rosemary
Ginger
Culinary Sage
White Sage
Pink Peppercorns (From the Schinus molle tree) 


And on a side note, a Pine Tree grounding meditation. 

This was my meditation view before picking up a fallen branch for our new moon altar and my foot bath. I sunk and grounded downwards like the roots beneath my being with my head and back against the pine's trunk, breathing into my belly and letting the mind clutter clear. The is what folks call a grounding meditation. Simple practices like this can really support connection to nature and can lay a good foundation for healing. Try envisioning roots growing from yourself into the earth like the tree you are sitting next to.


A message from the Pine Tree as I departed and made my way back to my office space. 

Cut me and I will continue to grow, as a matter of fact, I will flourish. Persecute me and I will continue to practice my rituals with an ever increasing faith. I am nature, I am fluid, I am constant, I am you and you are me.