Monday, July 6, 2020

Pokeweed





     Having been raised in North Florida, by a family who has been in the South for many a generation (most of us are in Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas), I was raised with a few Appalachian traditions. One of these traditions was “Poke Salat.” Now, my parents didn’t prepare this traditional dish, but I did hear about it quite often and some other family members did prepare it occasionally. Though it sounds like a springtime salad, it’s actually a pot of cooked greens. I promise you that if anyone ever serves you a salad and calls it Poke Salat, you should run away as fast as you can. This is because Pokeweed is highly toxic and it has to be cooked several times over in order to be edible.

     Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a poisonous, herbaceous plant that has long been used for food and folk medicine in parts of eastern North America, the Midwest and the Gulf Coast where it is native. Poke is a member of the Phytolaccaceae (Pokeweed) family and is a perennial herb. It grows up to 11ft tall, though the variety commonly found in the South tends to stop at 8ft. Single alternate leaves are pointed at the end with crinkled edges and an unpleasant smell. The stems are green, pink, or red. Flowers greenish-white in long clusters at ends of stems that will develop into dark purple berries resembling blueberries or elderberries. Pokeroot is best dug up in the fall after the plant has died back for the winter. This is when the plant is the most medicinal and the least toxic. The next best time to dig the roots is in the early spring when the leaves are just coming out (as long as you're sure what you're picking!). The leaves and berries are harvested from Autumn to the following Spring and can be found in North & South America, East Asia & New Zealand. Though it has become naturalized all over Europe. It’s often found on edges of fields or cleared lands and roadsides. Pokeweed poisonings were common in eastern North America during the 19th century. The roots were often mistaken for parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke, or horseradish. The berries are often mistaken for elderberries. Use caution! And remember, if you’re not 100% sure of your identification, DON’T consume/use the plant!



     Poke is predominately toxic to mammals, though some small mammals have a resistance to the toxin. The berries are an important food source for birds and can be eaten by them because the small seeds hard outer shell simply passes through the birds' digestive system. It’s also a valuable host plant for a number of butterfly species found here in Florida.

     
I recently filmed a video about this beautiful plant.



Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Poke, Pokeweed, Poke Salet, American Pokeweed, Cancer-root, Cancer Jalap, Inkberry, Pigeon Berry, Pocan, Poke, Poke Root, Pokeberry, Reujin D Ours, Sekerciboyaci, Skoke, Virginian Poke, Yoshu-Yama-Gobo, Yyamilin 

Scientific NamePhytolacca americana and P. acinosa 

Edibility- Pokeweed is edible when cooked properly. The young shoots and leaves are boiled in two changes of water. The leaves taste similar to spinach and the shoots taste similar to asparagus. Properly cooked Poke is known as "Poke Salet," not Poke Salad as it is commonly called. Poke berries are cooked and the resulting liquid used to color canned fruits and vegetables. Caution is advised as the whole plant is poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

Summary of Actions- Alterative, anodyne, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antitumor, antitussive, antiviral, cathartic, detoxifying, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, hypnotic, lymphagogue, narcotic, purgative, and resolvent. 

Energetics- Acrid, slightly sweet, root slightly bitter. The root is slightly cooling and drying. The berries are slightly warming.

Parts Used- Leaves, Berry, and Root 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Shang Lu, Poke affects the liver, spleen, bladder, and small intestine meridians. It clears toxins, reducing the swelling associated with goiters, arthritis, neuralgias, breast lumps and tumors, eczema, skin dermatitis, ulcers, and similar wounds. Shang Lu removes statis, especially when associated with abdominal distension, nausea, heavy feelings, moodiness, and constipation. It also clears up Liver Qi stagnation, which is commonly associated with breast lumps, tumors, acute mastitis, as well as chronic benign and malignant lumps. Like in Western Herbalism, Shang Lu is considered to be drastically purgative. 

Traditional Native American Uses- Some Native American tribes used Pokeweed as a purgative (to stimulate bowel clearance) and an emetic (to promote vomiting). Many traditional cultures believe that doing so "cleanses" the body, expels bad spirits. The fruit was made into a red dye used in painting horses and various articles of adornment. The Delaware Indians were likely the first to prescribe pokeweed in medicine, using it as a cardiac stimulant. Indians of the Rocky Mountain region used pokeweed to treat epilepsy, anxiety, and neurological disorders. The Pah-Utes fermented berries in water to make a narcotic tea. The Cherokee used poke in a number of different ways. The leaves were often combined with Lemon Balm and made into a tea to reduce phlegm and calm the chest when there was a cold our cough. The root was used as a blood purifier and antibiotic. It was considered especially potent in treating kidney infections. It was also used to increase metabolism.

Antibiotic- Most herbalists turn to Goldenseal for its use as an antibiotic. However, it’s an endangered species. Pokeweed is also a great antibiotic with many of the same properties, but as a bonus, it’s not endangered. It’s often considered a problematic weed in the South. 

Lyme Disease- I know of several herbalists who have successfully used a tincture made from the root to treat Lyme disease.

Rheumatism & Fibromyalgia- Some modern experts believe that rheumatism was used as a blanket term for several issues in older medical texts. One of these issues is believed to be fibromyalgia. Most older medical texts that include the use of Poke have described it as being fairly effective in the treatment of rheumatism. The berries were consumed whole or a tea made from the leaves was drunk for this purpose. Sometimes Prickly Ash was added to the tea for rheumatism.

Endocrine Regulator- Poke helps to regulate your hormones. It has the most profound effect on the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, and sex glands. This makes it a prime herb to use in cases of sterility, impotence, low sperm count, and prostate issues.

Skin Conditions- Pokeweed has frequently been used in folk medicine to treat skin conditions, including psoriasis, eczema, and scrofula (tuberculosis of the neck). However, caution should be used with this plant as the sap can cause irritation, swelling, and an itchy rash in people with sensitive skin. Despite that, it is believed to have amazing anti-inflammatory effects that may help relieve localized pain and swelling.

Detoxifying- It is one of the strongest herbs known to promote cleansing and clear toxemia that also acts on the glands. Because of this, it has a long history of use for detoxifying the blood and body.

Thyroid- Poke is an old-time Appalachian remedy for hypothyroidism, especially goiter.

Auto-immune Disease- The root is taken internally in the treatment of auto-immune diseases (especially rheumatoid arthritis), tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis etc. 

Dye, Ink, & Food Coloring- A rich brown dye can be made by soaking fabric in fermenting berries in hollowed out pumpkin. Using the fermented berries, without the pumpkin, yields a pink-ish red dye. It was often used as red ink or dye in the civil war era. Many letters written home during the civil war were written in pokeberry ink, which now appears as brown ink. Pokeberry has also been used as a red food coloring and as a wine coloring agent. 

Toxicity and Dosage- It is a strong herb so dosages must be monitored and respected. (Even just one to two drops of tincture is enough and not more than ten drops is recommended.) Because it is so strong it is usually used in combination with other herbs that can help soften its approach without lessening its properties. In Appalachian folk medicine, the berries are swallowed as a treatment for arthritis and for immune stimulation. Only swallow one berry (either fresh or dried) at a time. One berry is the equivalent of one drop of root tincture. At doses of 1 g, dried poke root is emetic and purgative. At lower doses of 60 to 100 mg/day, the root and berries have been used to treat rheumatism and for immune stimulation; however, there are no clinical trials that support these uses or doses. 

Side Effects- Individuals show widely varying tolerance for poke. Some people can't handle more than three or five drops per day, while others can take 25 or 50 drops with no adverse effects. The side effects of poke include mental unclarity, spaciness, and out-of-body feelings. If you notice such feelings, it means you've found your tolerance level, so back off to a lower dosage. If you take way too much (such as mistaking dropperful for drops, which some people have done!), you may encounter more severe side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- All parts of the plant are toxic with roots being the most toxic, stems and leaves are less so and the least toxic is the fruit. The raw berry is toxic. If cooked improperly the juice from the leaves can cause severe stomach cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions, death. The plant sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people. The plant contains substances that cause cell division and can damage chromosomes. These substances can be absorbed through any abrasions in the skin, potentially causing serious blood aberrations, and so it is strongly recommended that the people wear gloves when handling the plant. Do not use this plat during pregnancy! Ingestion of poisonous parts of the plant may cause severe stomach cramping, nausea with persistent diarrhea and vomiting, slow and difficult breathing, weakness, spasms, hypotension, severe convulsions, and death. 






     I only included a basic introduction to this wonderful Appalachian herb. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!




Resources:


Books:





Websites

Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere: American Indian Health and Diet Project: http://www.aihd.ku.edu/foods/pokeweed.html#:~:text=Uses,to%20humans%20and%20some%20animals. 

The Health Benefits of Pokeweed: Very Well Health: https://www.verywellhealth.com/can-pokeweed-provide-health-benefits-4587368 

Poke: Southeast Wise Women: https://www.sewisewomen.com/poke 

Poke (Shang Lu): White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/poke/ 

Pokeweed: Drugs.com: https://www.drugs.com/npp/pokeweed.html 

Pokeweed: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/p/phytolacca-americana=pokeweed.php 

Pokeweed, An Herb For All Things Pokey: The Herbwife’s Kitchen: http://crabappleherbs.com/blog/2007/07/31/pokeweed-an-herb-for-all-things-pokey/comment-page-2/ 

Pokeweed Herb: Alternative Nature Online Herbal: https://altnature.com/gallery/pokeweed.htm 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

DIY Vegetable Bullion




 

       As much as I love spending time in my kitchen, and as much as I’d love to be able to take the time to make certain foods 100% from scratch, I also have the very modern problem of not having the time on my hands, all the time, to do so. Some things that tend to help me make sure my family is fed in the healthiest way possible involve preparing certain staples to keep either in my pantry or my freezer. One of those things is bullion. I know, I could easily buy bullion (and have done so before) at the store, so why bother making it? One of the reasons is that I am not always able to find the healthiest, most natural bullion in the stores. A lot of bullion tends to contain ingredients that are not the best, such as MSG. Another reason is that sometimes I want to make something a little different and the flavor of the bullion kind of restricts my creativity. If I have my own bullion blends on hand, I can customize them almost endlessly, and I can also make sure that they are healthy. So here are some of my favorite blends for DIY Bullion.




1. This is the basic flavor profile of just about every kind of bullion. Want something more exotic? Try replacing some of the herbs in this for other seasonings. Try throwing in a little lavender or mint to give it more of an interesting flavor. Try using all Indian or Mediterranean seasonings.



Basic Vegetable Bullion Powder


Ingredients
3 tbsp Garlic Powder
3 tbsp Onion Powder
2 tbsp Parsley Flakes
1 tsp dried Sage
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Basil
½ tsp dried Rosemary
½ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Celery Seed
½ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper




Instructions:
     Add all ingredients to a jar and shake or to a bowl and whisk thoroughly until blended well.

     To use, for broth, combine one heaping tablespoonful to one cup hot water: 1 Tablespoon mix + 1 cup hot water. You can also use this as a seasoning blend for a wide variety of foods.

To make it more powdery:
     Add all ingredients to the blender or food processor and process/blend until the desired consistency is reached. Because the final product is broken down more, you’ll want to adjust the measurements when using to 1 teaspoon mix + 1 cup hot water.



2. This one reminds me of a beef bullion, because of the mushrooms. They add a very “meaty” kind of flavor to the mix.


Magical Mushroom Bullion


Ingredients
1 ounce dried Wild Mushroom Mix (Really, you can use any mushrooms you find tasty. Morels are delicious, but pricey. Many people use Shitake here, sometimes I just use Maitake.)
3 tbsp Garlic Powder
3 tbsp Onion Powder
2 tbsp Parsley Flakes
1 tbsp powdered Reishi
1 tbsp powdered Shitake
1 tbsp powdered Chaga
½ tsp dried Thyme
½ tsp dried Oregano
½ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Celery Seed
½ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper


Instructions:
     Place mushrooms into a clean spice grinder, blender, or food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Allow a couple minutes for the powder to settle. Remove the lid to you food processor and add all other ingredients. Pulse and process until a fine powder.

     To use, for broth, combine one heaping teaspoonful to one cup hot water: 1 Teaspoon mix + 1 cup hot water. You can also use this as a seasoning blend for a wide variety of foods.

3. I love lemon chicken soup. This is my attempt at creating a vegetarian bullion with that same flavor profile. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Lemon Pepper Vegetable Bullion


Ingredients
2 tbsp Garlic Powder
2 tbsp Onion Powder
2 tbsp Parsley Flakes
1 tbsp dried Lemon Zest
½ tsp Black Pepper
½ tsp dried Lemon Balm
¼ tsp dried Oregano
¼ tsp dried Basil
¼ tsp Turmeric
¼ tsp Celery Seed
¼ tsp Sea Salt



Instructions:
     Add all ingredients to a jar and shake or to a bowl and whisk thoroughly until blended well.

     To use, for broth, combine one heaping tablespoonful to one cup hot water: 1 Tablespoon mix + 1 cup hot water. You can also use this as a seasoning blend for a wide variety of foods.

To make it more powdery:
     Add all ingredients to the blender or food processor and process/blend until the desired consistency is reached. Because the final product is broken down more, you’ll want to adjust the measurements when using to 1 teaspoon mix + 1 cup hot water.


4. This bullion blend is one that I use when my family is going through majorly stressful times. It’s full of adaptogenic herbs that help us to deal better with stress. If you don’t like the herbs I have chosen, feel free to substitute your own favorite adaptogens.


All’s Well Bullion


Ingredients
2 tbsp Garlic Powder
2 tbsp Onion Powder
1 tbsp Parsley Flakes
½ tsp dried Sage
½ tsp dried Oregano
¼ tsp powdered Reishi
¼ tsp dried Rosemary
¼ tsp Turmeric
¼ tsp Celery Seed
¼ tsp Sea Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper


Instructions:
     Add all ingredients to a jar and shake or to a bowl and whisk thoroughly until blended well.

     To use, for broth, combine one heaping tablespoonful to one cup hot water: 1 Tablespoon mix + 1 cup hot water. You can also use this as a seasoning blend for a wide variety of foods.

To make it more powdery:
     Add all ingredients to the blender or food processor and process/blend until the desired consistency is reached. Because the final product is broken down more, you’ll want to adjust the measurements when using to 1 teaspoon mix + 1 cup hot water.





     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Feel free to play around with these recipes and experiment with different seasonings. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Reishi


   


     Mushrooms are associated with many things. From magic and spirituality, to danger and poison. And, to be fair, many mushrooms do a little bit of it all. Today, however, I wanted to introduce you to the mushroom that has been used medicinally for the longest time in recorded history. Reishi.

     Reishi, Ganoderma lucidum, is a polypore mushroom that are soft corky and flat, with a red-varnish, kidney shaped cap. They do not have any gills on their undersides. They are hard to the touch, with a leathery feel, meaning they are resilient and can last for many years, as opposed to many other fungi that only last a few days. They grow as a parasite, or saprotroph, on a wide variety of trees and aid in the decomposition process of wood. There are around 219 species of Ganoderma in the world, 80 of which are of commercial use. There are six different species used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and several other close relations used by herbalists world wide. Ganoderma grow in the North Eastern Hemlock forests and have a worldwide distribution, typically in both tropical and temperate regions. When found in nature, Ganoderma prefer to grow at the base of deciduous trees, and are particularly fond of maples. The Ganoderma genus is becoming more and more complex as we develop and use DNA analysis. Every year we are finding out more and more about Reishi, and other fungi, and learning that we know even less than we thought we did. Several species of medicinal Reishi have recently been found to actually be multiple different species, which could go a long way to explaining the different variations that exist within this genus. While Ganoderma has been used, in TCM, for over 2,000 years, there are really six dominant species that have been in use, each of which is classified by color and potency. Our local varieties are the Ganoderma curtisii and the Ganoderma zonatum.

     While there are so many species that have medicinal value, I tend towards the utmost caution when it comes to our fungal friends. Mushrooms tend to have varied effects from species to species. Some species may not have a noticeable effect at all, and some may be so strong as to be considered toxic. This is one medicinal I would only get from a trusted source, at least until I have enough experience working with it myself (preferably under the guidance of a mycological mentor).




Medicinal Uses:

Common Names- Reishi, Red Reishi, Mushroom of Imortality

Scientific Name- Ganoderma lucidum, G. lingzhi, G. curtisii, G. zonatum 

Edibility- It’s edible, but very bitter.

Summary of Actions- Antiallergic, antiatherogenic, anticonvulsant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, diuretic, immunomodulating, laxative, sedative, and tonic.

Parts Used- The whole mushroom

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Ling Zhi in TCM tradition, there are six different types of Ganoderma lucidum. Each one is classified by color and each has slightly different properties. The most commonly used, and most potent, is the red variety. It is used to calm Shen, tonify Wei Qi and Blood, nourish the heart, remove toxicity, disperse accumulations, and support the Three Treasures (Jing, Qi, and Shen).

Stress Management- Reishi is an adaptogen, a classification of herbs that help flush out harmful stress related toxins and help our bodies adopt a healthy response to stress. This helps to alleviate anxiety and improve symptoms associated with stress, such as insomnia.

Increased Immunity- While some details are still uncertain, test-tube studies have shown that Ganoderma can affect the genes in white blood cells, which are critical parts of your immune system. What’s more, these studies have found that some forms of Ganoderma may alter inflammation pathways in white blood cells. There is a question to Ganoderma’s effect on healthy people as some studies have shown that there is no increased white blood cell activity in healthy patients, only in ill ones, or in athletes who have been exposed to stressful situations.


Fatigue- One study examined its effects in 132 people with neurasthenia, a poorly defined condition associated with aches, pains, dizziness, headaches and irritability. The researchers found that fatigue was reduced and well-being was improved after 8 weeks of taking the supplements. Another study found that fatigue was reduced and quality of life was improved after 4 weeks of taking Ganoderma powder.

Cardiovascular Health- One 12-week study of 26 people showed that Reishi may increase “good” HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides. The effect of Reishi on blood pressure is conflicting. Taking Reishi doesn't seem to lower blood pressure in people with only slightly high blood pressure. But it seems to lower blood pressure in people with more severe high blood pressure.

Cancer- Studies seem to suggest that cancer patients who supplement with Ganoderma extract are more likely to respond positively to chemotherapy and radiation than those who do not supplement. However, it does not have a significant effect on killing cancer cells when used alone. Patients taking Ganoderma have reported a better quality of life, but no studies recorded whether or not patients who took Ganoderma lived longer than those who did not. Other research in cancer patients has shown that some of the phytochemicals found in the mushroom can increase the activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells, which fight infections and cancer in the body. Consult your doctor before supplementing with Ganoderma as it does interact with certain medications and treatments.

Allergies- Reishi has been used for allergies and allergic asthma reactions for quite a long time. Modern studies have shown that the ganoderic acid present in Reishi acts as an antihistamine, reducing the body’s histamine response. Some of these studies have also shown that Reishi, while supporting the immune system, can also regulate the body’s immune response, helping to stifle an overactive immune system.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Reishi mushroom extract is safe when taken by mouth, in the correct dosage, for up to one year. Reishi mushroom is safe when taken by mouth in a powdered form for less than one month. Use of powdered Reishi, for longer than one month, has been associated with toxic effects on the liver. Reishi mushroom can also cause other side effects including dryness of the mouth, throat, and nasal area along with itchiness, stomach upset, nosebleed, and bloody stools. Drinking Reishi wine can cause a rash. Breathing in Reishi spores can trigger allergies. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking Reishi mushroom if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use. There are some drug interactions reported, if you are taking any medications please consult your doctor. Reishi is associated with increased risk of bleeding in people who have bleeding disorders. Consult with your doctor if you think you are at risk. Also, discontinue the use of Reishi for at least 2 weeks prior to any surgeries as it may increase your risk of complications.






     I only included a basic introduction to this wonderfully useful fungus. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!




Resources:


6 Benefits of Reishi Mushroom (Plus Side Effects and Dosage): Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/reishi-mushroom-benefits

The Benefits of Reishi Mushroom: Four Sigmatic: https://site.foursigmatic.com/blog/reishi

The Benefits of Reishi Mushroom: Landish: https://landish.co/pages/reishi

Everything You Need To Know About Reishi Mushrooms: Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326520

Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): Herbal Medicine – Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/

Polypore: Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polypore

Reishi: White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/reishi/

Reishi Mushroom: The ASCO Post: https://www.ascopost.com/issues/august-10-2018/reishi-mushroom/

Reishi Mushroom : Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/reishi-mushroom

Reishi Mushroom: WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-905/reishi-mushroom

Reishi, the Queen of Medicinal Mushrooms: Ayurveda Mandala: https://ayurveda-mandala.com/blog/reishi-the-queen-of-medicinal-mushrooms/#:~:text=Reishi%20or%20Ganoderma%20Lucidum%20as,spirit%20and%20calm%20the%20mind.

Scientific Research & Medicinal Fungi: North American Mycological Association: https://namyco.org/scientific_research_and_medici.php

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Five Ways to Eat Florida Betony





     So you’ve found some Stachys floridana, Florida Betony, and have heard lots of lovely things about how they taste, but you have no idea where to start. You’ve come to the right place. I have decided to share five of my favorite Stachys recipes with you. All of these recipes involve the root, and some even involve the leaves and/or flowers. I hope they give you some ideas of how to prepare this tasty Florida native.



1. Pickled Betony and other Veggies (Lactofermentation method). This recipe is actually a mixture of veggies, but you can just use a single one if you want. It’s based on the Italian Giardiniera or pickled mixed vegetables. I use a few different wildcrafted Florida plants here, but you can use store bought ones as well.



Florida Giardiniera

4 cups Florida Betony Tubers
2 cups sliced Carrots
1 ½ cups sliced Red Onion
2 cups sliced Celery
2 cups Purslane
2 cups sliced Hearts of Palm (Saw Palmetto hearts)
2 thinly sliced Jalepenos (leave the seeds in if you want more heat)
3-5 Garlic Cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
3 tablespoons Sea Salt (do not use iodized salt for fermentation)
6 cups filtered mineral Water (using tap water may prevent fermentation)
* 1-2 Grape leaves for each fermentation vessel you are using



Instructions:
     Prepare your brine by dissolving the salt in water. Mix all the ingredients except the brine in a large bowl. Add them to the Fermenting Vessel(s) of your choice (I tend to use mason jars) packing them down as you go. Fill each jar with the brine, leaving 1½ - 2 inches of headroom (the space at the top), between the rim of the jar and the top of the vegetables. Weight the vegetables so they are completely submerged in the brine. Place a1-2 grape leaves on top of your veggies. This will help prevent the formation of mold and the tannins from the grape leaves will help you veggies stay crunchy. Cover the top of the vessel with a lid, coffee filter, paper towel, cheese cloth, or tea towel. Be sure to secure towels with a very tight rubber band or the ring from the canning jars. Place the jar out of direct light. Ferment at room temperature 4 days before checking the flavor. If you prefer the flavor more sour, continue fermenting. If to your taste transfer the jars to the refrigerator. Burp the jars once daily (to release any built-up gasses) the giardiniera does continue to ferment while in the refrigerator. I usually prefer mine at 1 week, but you can allow the fermentation to continue up to 6 weeks.



2. Florida Betony Refrigerator Pickles. This is a simple, and tasty method of pickling. No cooking or waiting necessary with this recipe. Simply put all the ingredients in a jar and leave them overnight. They’ll be ready to eat the next day.


Betony Refrigerator Pickles


Enough Betony Tubers to fill your jar mostly full, with a little space at the top
1/4 cup Sweet Onion, sliced
1 teaspoon powdered Turmeric
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Water
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 ½ teaspoons Sea Salt
¼ teaspoon Sugar or Honey
¼ teaspoon whole Peppercorns
¼ teaspoon whole Mustard Seeds



Instructions:
     Pack a clean pint-sized jar with sliced cucumbers, onion slices, and dill sprigs. Leave a ½ inch of space at the top of the jar for liquid. In a small pot heat the vinegar, water, garlic, and all spices until the mixture comes to a simmer and salt and sugar/honey dissolves. Cool the brine down to warm and fill the jar so everything is covered with brine. Close the lid tightly and refrigerate for over night before eating.


3. Betony as a Pasta Substitute? Yes! Some of you may be familiar with a type of pasta called Gnocchi. Betony can be substituted in any recipe that calls for that pasta. This is one of my favorite recipes that does just that. For those of you that eat meat, you can easily add shrimp, chicken, or prosciutto to this dish and it’s just fabulous!

Florida Betony with Asparagus and Lemon Garlic Sauce


1 pound Betony Tubers
1 bunch of Asparagus
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 small Sweet Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped
2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour (I use Gluten free)
¼ cup Vegetable Stock
1 cup Almond Milk
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
Salt and Pepper to taste



Instructions:
     Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil and get a bowl of ice water handy. Boil the Betony tubers for 2 minutes, then move them to the ice water to cool, then set aside. Meanwhile, wash the asparagus and snap off the woody ends. Chop the asparagus into bite size (1-2 inch) pieces. Add the asparagus to a baking sheet Drizzle 2 teaspoons of oil over the asparagus, and rub it around with your hand to make sure it's all coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 for 9-10 minutes. The asparagus is done when it can easily be speared with a fork. Coat the bottom of a large pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for about 30 second more, until very fragrant. Stir in the flour. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the flour forms a smooth paste and coats the onions. Stir in the vegetable stock, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about 4 minutes, until reduced by half. Stir in the almond milk. Bring it to a boil, lower heat and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until smooth and thick. Stir in the lemon juice, zest, Betony and Asparagus. Cook about 30 second more, stirring to coat the vegetables with the sauce. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot and enjoy!


4. Soup is my favorite comfort food. So why not add one of my favorite Florida vegetables to it? Check out this delicious and comforting recipe that uses the root, leaves, and flowers of Stachys floridana.


Easy Veggie Soup


2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 ½ cups Yellow Onion, chopped
2 cups Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 ¼ cups Celery, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, crushed and minced
2 pints Vegetable Stock
2 (14.5 oz) cans Diced Tomatoes (undrained)
3 cups Betony Tubers
1 ½ cups fresh Green Beans, cut
1 cup frozen or fresh Peas
½ cup chopped Betony Leaves
¼ cup chopped Parsley
2 Bay Leaves
½ teaspoon dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
*optional fresh Betony Flowers for garnish



Instructions:
     Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute 4 minutes then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Add in broth, tomatoes, Betony tubers, Betony leaves, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then add green beans and peas. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer about 20 - 30 minutes.



5. Salad is the easiest way to add different vegetables into your diet. This one makes use of fresh Betony tubers, leaves, and flowers.

Cucumber, Betony, and Wild Greens Salad


1 small Sweet Onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Avocado Oil
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 ½ pounds Cucumbers, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 pound Betony Tubers, sliced thin
2 cups fresh Parsley Leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ cup Betony Leaves, chopped
¼ cup Betony Flowers
¼ cup young Spanish Needle Leaves, chopped
¼ cup Peppergrass Leaves, chopped



Instructions:
     Whisk onion, oil, and vinegar in a large bowl. Add all the veggies and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!





     Do these sound tasty? Let me know what you think! Feel free to play around with these recipes and make them your own! I’d love for you to share your experiences! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Florida Betony




     Alright. It’s time for a soapbox. The word “invasive.”

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride. 

     I hear people use the word “invasive” all the time. In most cases, it’s used correctly. However, there are several plants where it is definitely NOT used correctly. If you live in Florida, and use this word to describe Florida Betony, you are not using the word in the correct manner.

in·va·sive

/inˈvāsiv/

An invasive organism is one that has arrived in a place from somewhere else and has a harmful effect on that place (Cambridge Dictionary)



     You see, Florida Betony, Stachys floridana, is native to Florida, and until it was moved to other Southeastern states during the 1940s or 1950s (in nursery containers), it was endemic to Florida (meaning it was ONLY found in Florida). Thanks to those accidental volunteers in nursery containers, it is now found from Texas to North Carolina. So if you live anywhere but Florida, and you’re referring to this plant, feel free to keep calling it invasive. However, those of us in Florida should refrain from describing such a lovely little native as invasive.

     Soapbox over.

     You see, this is one of my favorite natives. And yes, it is quite tenacious and will take over your lovely garden beds. But I welcome it into mine. It’s absolutely delicious and one of my favorite wild edibles. However, it’s also a great herb to get to know for it’s medicinal properties as well.

     Wood Betony, Stachys officinalis, is a very very close cousin to Stachys floridana, and the two plants can be used, mostly, interchangeably. The main difference is that our little Betony doesn’t pack quite the punch that Wood Betony does. However, for centuries Wood Betony was thought to be the best herb to use in almost every situation. The people of ancient Greece felt this plant was more important than clothing. They thought it could cure at least 47 disease states and even had magical powers to keep away evil spirits. These beliefs held on through the Roman Empire and into the Middle Ages where both men and women wore betony amulets to ward off evil. Some claim the name Betony derives from the Celtic word bewton (“good for the head”), referring to its use for cerebral afflictions, such as headaches, nervousness and even hangovers. The herb’s reputation for healing continued well into the 17th century, when Betony was used to treat asthma, bronchitis, kidney problems, excess sweating and to purge the body of worms. In the Middle Ages, it was also the principal remedy used to exercise demons.

     Stachys floridana is an aggressive, perennial herb typically found in lawns, gardens, and landscapes. It has been called wild artichoke, but it is not related to the artichoke, it is actually a member of the Mint or Lamiaceae family. This plant produces quite a few seeds, but it’s main means of reproduction is by rhizomes and tubers, which is why it’s so hard to eradicate from gardens. Small segments of these rhizomes can sprout into new plants or the tuber may be transported to a new area. The only real way to control this plant in your garden is hand-pulling, with careful removal of all the tubers. The plants are characterized by hairy, erect stems reaching 19 inches high that are square in cross-section with flowers in long clusters, heads, or interrupted whorls on the stem. The distinctive pale-colored tuber is segmented in such a way that it resembles the rattle on the tail of a rattlesnake (or a grub), hence the common name of Rattlesnake Weed. The oppositely arranged leaves have blades up to 2 inches long. Flowers grow in clusters of 3 to 6 from the upper leaf axils. The tubular, hairy calyx of sepals has pointed lobes. The two-lipped corolla is up to a 1/2 inch long and white to pink with purple spots. The fruit is a schizocarp less than an inch long that splits in half.

     As I mentioned above, this is one of my favorite wild edibles. The leaves are slightly bitter, but when mixed with other fresh greens, can make a pleasant salad. The flowers are also edible and tasty. However, the tastiest part of this plant is the tuber. It’s mild and earthy, crunchy, and reminds me of a mild radish or even water chestnut. I’m also not the only person to think this way. Another close relative, Stachys affinis or Crosnes, is famous for it’s tubers and those tubers can fetch the hefty price of $150.00 per pound. There’s a great little write-up and recipe for them here. Now, our little Betony may not fetch that high of a price, but I find them super delicious. I toss them into a surprisingly large number of dishes, from salads to soups, sauteed up with a little butter and/or olive oil, yum. But my favorite way to eat them is pickled. They make a great little refrigerator pickle, just add some seasoning and some vinegar and plop them in the fridge. Or you can ferment them. Here’s a post I made on Fermented Lemons a while back. Just substitute the tubers for the lemons, or get really crazy and try both in the same jar!



Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Florida Betony, Florida Hedgenettle, Rattlesnake Weed, Rattlesnake Root, Wild Artichoke

Scientific NameStachys floridana

Edibility- The whole plant is edible, but the root is a choice edible.

Summary of Actions- Alterative, anodyne, antidiarrheal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-tumor, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, aromatic, astringent, bitter, cardio tonic, cholagogue, diaphoretic,  emmenagogue, expectorant, mucolytic, nervine, nervous system trophorestorative, sedative, stomachic, styptic, tonic, and vulnerary

Parts Used- The whole plant

Upper Respiratory, Cold, & Flu- A tea or tincture made from the leaves of this mint, not only tastes wonderful, but can help to soothe a sore throat, open up blocked airways, and fight mild fevers.

Headaches- Much like it’s close cousin, Florida Betony can be used to ease headaches, especially headaches accompanied by anxiety or digestive upset. It also has been shown to be effective in some migraine cases, but not as potent as it’s cousin, Wood Betony.

Anxiety, Sleep, and Psychological Health- Wood Betony has historically been used as a remedy for all “head” related conditions. It’s cousin, Florida Betony, can be used in much the same way. It helps to calm anxiety, for which I’d recommend a tea as the act of brewing the tea itself can be soothing as well. It is also a great nervous system tonic, helping to soothe frayed nerves. In many cases, it’s also a mild sedative, especially when the sleepless condition is brought about from anxiety and/or over-thinking.

Panacea- This little herb can be used in just about any herbal formula. It’s helpful to each and every system of the body, and especially to the nervous system. This makes it a great herb to get to know. Historically it was used as a panacea (all heal, or cure-all), and it’s close cousin Wood Betony was even used as such in ancient Greece, where it was known to treat over 47 different maladies.

Skin & Wound Care- The astringent properties of this little herb, especially combined with the antimicrobial properties, make it a wonderful choice for skin and wound care. Not only will it help to cleanse any minor wounds you have, it’ll encourage your skin to heal. A strong tea may also make a great face wash for acne.

Digestive System- Florida Betony can be used to help reduce any ulcers. It’s also a great herb to help treat diarrhea. But this is also where the roots shine. The tubers are delicious, and this alone is a great reason to eat them, but they also are a wonderful prebiotic food. This means that the fibers are not fully digestible, but they are a great food source for beneficial bacteria. Consuming Betony tubers can promote the over-all health of your gut flora which is a great benefit for your whole body.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Florida Betony is considered to be a safe herb to use, even in substantial doses, for the young or old, and during pregnancy or breastfeeding.





     I only included a basic introduction to this delicious and usevul Florida native. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!




Resources:


Betony, Wood: A Modern Herbal: https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/betowo35.html

Betony- Rich Root, Poor Root: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/florida-betony-150-a-pound/

Edible and Medicinal Plants: Native Plant Consulting: https://www.nativeplantconsulting.com/Edible%20and%20Medicinal%20Plants.pdf

Florida Betony- Both Native Edible and Weed: University of Florida: https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2014/07/15/florida-betony-both-edible-native-and-weed/

Florida Betony (Stachys floridana): The Family Herbalist: https://thefamilyherbalist.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/florida-betony-stachys-floridana/

Florida’s Raddish- Betony: The Florida School of Holistic Living: https://www.holisticlivingschool.org/floridas-radish-betony/

Herb to Know- Wood Betony: Mother Earth Living: https://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/wood-betony

Plant of the Month- Florida Betony: The Florida School of Holistic Living: https://www.holisticlivingschool.org/plant-of-the-month-florida-betony/

Stachys Floridana: North Carolina Extension Gardener: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/stachys-floridana/

Wood Betony: The Medicinal Herb Gardens at ONU: https://webstu.onu.edu/garden/node/441

Wood Betony: Richard Whelan: https://www.rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/wood_betony.html

Wood Betony- A Monograph: Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine: https://www.eclecticschoolofherbalmedicine.com/wood-betony-monograph/

Wood Betony Stachys officinalis: Annie’s Remedy: https://www.anniesremedy.com/stachys-officinalis-wood-betony.php

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Five Tea Blends for Respiratory Health




       Everyone is concerned about the health of their respiratory system these days, and with good reason. I figured that I’d share some of my favorite teas (or tisanes) for respiratory health. Most of these are just your standard, loose leaf, herbal teas. The first one is the most complicated, but is a personal favorite for the flavor and the benefits. Enjoy!

Brewing Your Tea:


For a Cup:

1) Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of the loose leaf tea blend for one cup of tea. You can either use a large tea ball (2 inch diameter so the leaves can expand).
2) Pour just boiled water over the herbs, cover, and let steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Generally, herbal teas take a little longer to steep than black or green tea. The longer steep time allows you to obtain the most benefits from the leaves/flowers. You can let it go even longer for an even stronger tea. Just do some taste testing and find out what times work best for your tastes!
3) Sweeten (or not) to taste.


For a Quart Amount to Drink & Enjoy All Day:

1) Put about an inch (and even a bit more)of the herbal tea in the bottom of a quart size Mason Jar.
2) Pour just boiled water over the top to within about an inch and a half from the top of the jar.
3) Put a lid on loosely (Steeping with a lid keeps the volatile oils and beneficial plant constituents inside your tea instead of allowing them to escape with the steam.)
4) Allow to steep for at least 30 minutes....or like we do, just leave for several hours (you can even leave it over night). It will cool down, of course, so if you don't mind cooled and very strong tea, this is a good way to go.
5) Strain out the herbs.
6) Sweeten (or not) and enjoy throughout your day!

The Blends:


1. Chai Tea is a traditional tea made with warming spices that are great for the respiratory tract. This version replaces the black tea with a combination of Tulsi and Rooibos, so it’s safe for those who can’t handle the caffine. Cardamom increases circulation of blood within your lungs which helps relieve breathing problems. Ginger helps to break down mucus and helps improve circulation to the lungs while reducing inflammation. Cinnamon helps fight various kinds of infection, espeically those specific to the lungs. Black pepper contains a chemical called piperine, which improves breathing and reduces inflammation. Cloves work as an expectorant, loosening mucus in the throat and esophagus. Tulsi helps prevent certain respiratory illnesses ranging from cold and cough to bronchitis and asthma. Rooibos has long been sought after for its ability to clear the sinus and respiratory system.

     One of my favorite things to do when making this tea is to crush and lightly toast the spices before I use them in this blend. Toasting is totally optional. This recipe is also not written in the same way that I have written the others, it’s made to make 3 cups at a time. If you want more, simply double or triple the recipe.


Tulsi Chai

2 tbsp loose leaf Rooibos
2 tbsp loose leaf Tulsi
6-8 Green Cardamom Pods
2-4 slices fresh Ginger
1 tsp whole Black Peppercorns
1 whole Cinnamon Stick
3-4 whole Cloves
2 cups Water
2 cups Milk or Dairy-free Milk of your choice

Instructions:
     Gently crush your spices (cardamom pods, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves) and place them in an oven safe dish and toast at 350 F for 5-10 min (toasting is optional, but opens up the spices so much). Combine your toasted spices with Ginger in a pot on the stove. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer on medium/high heat. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add in the Rooibos and Tulsi. Cover and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove cover, add in the milk and any sweetener you may want (I prefer honey or unsweetened personally). Re-cover and allow to steep 5 more minutes. Strain and enjoy!


2. Hibiscus may not be the herb we typically think about in regards to the respiratory tract, but it does have some great benefits. This tea is a tasty way to support your lungs, especially during cold and flu season. Hibiscus is used for treating colds, upper respiratory tract pain, and inflammation. Elderberry reduces the duration of upper respiratory symptoms like cough, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, and sore throat. Licorice has been used traditionally for cough, asthma, and other breathing problems. Orange peels contain histamine reducing compounds and provide support for problematic respiratory conditions by breaking down and expelling congestion.


Sweet Hibiscus

2 parts Hibiscus
1 part Elderberries
½ part Licorice Root
½ part dried Orange Peel




3. This tea is one of the simplest to make, and has a huge impact on breathing. It opens up the respiratory tract before you even take a sip. So brew it up, sit back, and take some deep breaths. Peppermint helps you to breathe easier, opening up your lungs, and helping to expel mucus. Lemon Verbena helps soothe the respiratory tract. Eucalyptus can decrease mucus and expand the bronchi and bronchioles of your lungs.

Deep Breaths

2 parts Peppermint
1 part Lemon Verbena
½ part Eucalyptus Leaves



4. This tea is formulated with Asthma suffereres in mind. Mullein is a great herb for lung support, in general (read more here), but Ginkgo Biloba has a special role in this tea blend. Ginkgo specifically targets the mechanisms that cause wheezing. Larger doses may cause nausea, so it’s regulated to a smaller portion of this blend. Marshmallow roots help to soothe the mucus membranes, Hawthorne berries help to reduce stress and nervousness (which often constrict breathing), and Ginger root helps reduce inflammation and improve the general health of the lungs.


Wheeze Eaze

2 parts Mullein
1 part Ginkgo Biloba
1 part Marshmallow Root
½ part Hawthorne Berries
½ part Ginger Root




5. This is my super expectorant formula. It may not taste as good as some other blends, but it seriously does the trick. Lemon Balm Traditional respiratory uses of Lemon Balm include: asthma, bronchitis, chronic coughs, colds and influenza. Coltsfoot and Comfrey are the expectorant powerhouse of this formula. Coltsfoot is used as a respiratory disinfectant, expectorant, and cough suppressant and makes an effective tea to clear congestion. Comfrey has a general soothing effect on the mucous membranes, making it invaluable in soothing sore throats and coughs. Marshmallow is used for dry cough.

Cough It Up

2 parts Lemon Balm
1 part Coltsfoot
1 part Comfrey
½ part Marshmallow






     Do these sound tasty? Let me know what you think! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Mullein





     Today I thought I’d share with you a plant that is fairly famous in the herbal world, and infamous in the world of ecology. Mullein has a number of medicinal uses, and is an herb I call on for many issues in my home. However, it’s invasive as heck and has a tendency to disrupt a number of native habitats here in the US. It was brought over here, from Europe, by the settlers. Likely due to a combination of it’s usefulness in a number of medicinal complaints, and it’s folk use as an herb for protection from evil spirits. Of course, since it spreads fast and likes to follow people around, the Native American tribes picked up on the uses for this plant. However, there is a debate on whether the Native Americans learned of these uses from the settlers, or vice versa. Likely, there was a fairly even exchange going both ways, especially since we know the settlers rarely used the roots, but a number of Native Americans used the root quite often. However, I’m going to take us back to the folk uses for a brief tangent. Mullein was always considered by the ancients as a plant of protection from dark forces. It was the plant Ulysses took with him on his famous sea voyage to protect himself from the enchantress Circe. In India mullein is considered a safeguard against evil spirits. Medieval Europeans dipped the plant in suet and used it as a torch during ceremonies or when overcoming the presumed evil. Later, the European settlers would wear the leaves around their wrists and ankles to protect themselves from the evil winds that carried diseases such as malaria.

     Mullein, Verbascum thapsus, is a plant in the Scrophulariaceae family, or the Figwort family. This family is closely related to the Mint family, or Lamiaceae, and shares some of the characteristics such as square stems and opposite leaves. However, when the leaves are crushed you will not notice a strong scent, or really much of any scent at all. First-year plants form a rosette of large, velvety leaves up to 1 foot long. These rosettes can grow up to 3 feet tall. In the second year, a velvety flower spike grows to 8 feet tall. The stalk has alternate leaves that clasp the stem, a nifty arrangement that directs rainwater down the stem to the roots. From June to September, five-petaled yellow flowers bloom randomly in the dense, club-shaped terminal cluster. The three upper stamens, which are short and woolly, contain a sap that lures insects to the plant. The two lower stamens, which are longer and smooth, produce the pollen that fertilizes the flower. Mullein is a widely distributed plant, being found all over Europe and in temperate Asia as far as the Himalayas, and in North America. However, it is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, with highest species diversity in the Mediterranean. It is invasive in this country, which is good news for herbalists who can harvest and use as much as they want want. Usually I caution to not take all of a plant to preserve the native habitat, but in this case over harvesting will help preserve the native habitat (in the US)! While we’re on the topic of harvesting, many herbalists harvest the leaves in first year only, but as long as you harvest the leaves before any flowers bloom it should be just as potent, and you can still get benefit from the leaves throughout the life of the plant, as long as they’re not brown. The thought process behind this is that when the flowers bloom, all the energy of the plant is focused in those flowers. This reduces potency in other parts of the plant.

     If you take a close look at this plant, and think about the doctrine of signatures, you’ll notice little hairs on leaves that resemble the cilia of the lungs. This points to the main use of this herb, for upper respiratory complaints and infections. Mullein soothes the mucus membranes, cilia, and inflamed tissues in the respiratory tract. It’s also a great antibacterial and antiviral herb, which helps to fight those kinds of infections along the way. Those hairs also help the leaf to be fairly soft and absorbent, making them great to use, in an emergency, as bandages, toilet paper, and diapers. Though you may want to do a spot test to make sure those hairs aren’t going to irritate your skin.

     One of the YouTube channels I follow is full of great herbal information. Check out Herbal Jedi and see what Yarrow Willard has to say about Mullein.




Medicinal Uses:

Common Names- Mullein, Common Mullein, Great Mullein, Cowboy Toilet Paper, Bunny’s Ear, Flannel Leaf, Candlewick Plant, Hag Tapper, Jacob’s Staff, Jupiter’s Staff, Aaron’s Rod, Fluffweed, Golden Rod

Scientific Name- Verbascum thapsus

Edibility- Considered to be inedible, but it’s not toxic.

Summary of Actions- Adrenal tonic, analgesic, anesthetic, anodyne, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, mucolytic, relaxant, sedative, and trophorestorative.

Parts Used- Leaves, flowers, and root

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Jia Yan Ye, Mullein is used on the lung, stomach, and intestinal meridians. It’s flavors and energetics are considered to be a little Sweet, Astringent, Bland, Cool, and Moistening. It promotes Lung Yin, moistens sore throat and lungs, coughs, and asthma. Expels phlegm, helping in cases of whooping cough as well as coughs with yellow or white phlegm. Reduces inflammation and dry mucous dampness associated with nasal and head congestion, watery discharge, hay fever, chronic intestinal infections, and painful urination. Soothes bladder irritation due to any cause. Softens boils and expels pus in wounds and irritated skin conditions.

Traditional Native American Uses- Some Native Americans also used the plant’s roots. The Creek Indians drank a decoction of the roots for coughs; other tribes smoked the roots or dried leaves to treat asthma. Some tribes also made necklaces, from the dried roots, for teething babies. The Cherokee rubbed mullein leaves in their armpits to treat “prickly rash.” Leaf poultices were used to treat bruises, tumors, rheumatic pains and hemorrhoids. Mullein flower oil (made by steeping the flowers in warm olive oil) also has been used for treating hemorrhoids, as well as earaches. Menominee tribe smoked the pulverized dried roots for respiratory complaints. The Mohgans smoked it to relieve asthma.

Smoking Herb- A number of Native American tribes would smoke Mullein after having smoked a bit too much tobacco, to help the lungs recover. It’s also a good smoking herb to help reduce smoker’s cough, that dry and raspy cough. Some other herbs, like coltsfoot, can be added to the smoking blend to help soothe the irritated tissues of the respiratory tract as well. If you don’t want to smoke it, try burning it as an incense.

Flower Essence- Used for those who have difficulty hearing their inner voice. Those with a weak moral fiber, often leading to confusion and indecisiveness. Those who use lies or deception with themselves and others. Mullein flower essence relates to men who are searching for true intimacy and security in expressing a soft, gentle, humble nature, or for women who want to strengthen yet soften their masculine nature. Mullein flower essence also helps soften the edges of people who have become hardened by events in their life.

Upper Respiratory, Cold, & Flu- Mullein tea is most well known for relieving the symptoms of asthma and soothing the mucus membranes of the respiratory tract. The flowers and leaves are used for treating a wide range of respiratory ailments, such as cold and flu, tuberculosis, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, tonsillitis, and tracheitis. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties that make it perfect for treating those infections. Mullien mixed with horehound, coltsfoot, and lobelia makes a great tea for most upper respiratory conditions.

Ear Infections- Tea made from the leaves, and flower infused oil are traditional ear infection treatments. The oil seems to be the most potent, particularly when accompanied with a gentle lymphatic massage around the ear and along the jawline. Adding other herbs, such as Garlic or St. John’s Wort, can help improve the effectiveness of Mullein oil as well.

Lymphatic System- Mullein leaves or flowers can be applied as a compress to any instance of glandular swelling. Mullein leaves be made into a strong decoction, then that water can be used to wet more leaves that then can applied externally over any glandular swelling. A decoction of the root can also be taken internally to help improve the overall function of the lymphatic system.

Urinary System- Mullein root is excellent remedy for treating urinary incontinence and loss of urinary control due to a swollen prostate because it tones and strengthens the trigone sphincter at the base of the bladder. Mullein root also has mild astringent properties which reduce inflammation in the mucosa of the bladder. It does not irritate or over stimulate bladder or kidney function. Mullein root can be used as a long term tonic for individuals with urinary incontinence, recurring bladder infections, interstitial cystitis, and benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). A tea made from the leaves can also help to strengthen the bladder, remove toxins from the kidneys, and improve overall urinary function.

Bruises, Burns, & Skin Conditions- Mullein leaves possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help treat skin problems. You can also use the flowers, infused in oil, to get relief from a variety of skin infections, eczema, and other inflammatory skin conditions. Boil the leaves, just until tender, and spread the leaf onto burns, bruises, sores, and wounds to help reduce inflammation, protect against infection, and soothe any aches.

Hyperthyroidism- Some evidence suggests that intake of mullein tea may improve thyroid-related problems. The tea may help treat hypothyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland). A formula created by a noted doctor had mullein as one of its constituents. This formula was specifically targeted to treat thyroid issues. However, more research is needed.

Domestic & Practical Uses- A yellow dye extracted from the flowers has been used since Roman times as a hair rinse as well as to dye cloth. The whole plant can be used to make torches, and the flower stalks have traditionally been coated with tallow and made into candle wicks. The dried leaves and stalk are also useful as tinder and fire-starters. The leaves are soft and absorbent so they can be used as makeshift bandages and toilet paper.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Mullein is widely considered safe. This herb may cause skin irritation for some people, so be sure to exercise caution if you’re handling the herb directly, and the tiny hairs of the plant can also irritate your throat and other mucus membranes. It’s a good idea to see how you react to a small amount of mullein before consuming it or smearing it on your body. And always strain the tea thoroughly to remove any stray hairs. This herb also has several drug interactions, so please consult your doctor before adding this to your daily routine.






     I only included a basic introduction to this wonderful Florida native. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!




Resources:


11 Impressive Health Benefits of Mullein Tea: Style Craze: https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/health-benefits-of-mullein-tea/

Health Benefits of Mullein: Very Well Health: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-mullein-89575

Herb to Know- Mullein (Verbascum thapsus): Mother Earth Living: https://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/herb-to-know-mullein-verbascum-thapsus

Mullein: Wild Rose College of Natural Healing: https://wildrosecollege.com/encyclopaedia_entry/mullein-fe/

Mullein Flowers (Verbascum thapsus): Planet Ayurveda: https://www.planetayurveda.com/mullein-flowers-verbascum-thapsus/

Mullein, Great: A Modern Herbal: https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mulgre63.html

Mullein (Jia Yan Ye): White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/Mullein/

Mullein- The Medicinal Herb that Fights Infections and Inflammation: Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/nutrition/mullein/

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus: Traditional Roots Institute: https://traditionalroots.org/mullein-verbascum-thapsus/

Verbascum thapsus: Hebpathy: https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Verbascum-Thapsus-Cid2841

What is Mullein Tea? Benefits, Side Effects, and More: Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mullein-tea

Monday, March 30, 2020

COVID-19 part 2





   
     This post may be a bit of a departure from my normal style, but I figured that unusual times call for unusual postings. With all the questions that have been coming my way, and all the people who have been asking my advice, I decided to gather together a good bit of my research and thoughts here. I apologize as this may be a bit long-winded. With that in mind, I’ve broken things up into two separate posts. This is the second post in this series. The first post covered what this Coronavirus is and the symptoms. This post will be about prevention and some possible herbal support.

     If you haven’t read the previous post, you can find it here. It goes into more detail about the virus itself.

     Though I have a general disclaimer on this blog, I just want to reiterate that I am not a medical doctor. I do not work in the medical field. I am an herbalist and have a background in nutrition, not infectious disease. If you feel you may have become infected, please call your medical service provider to ask for further advice.

     Once again for those in the back...If you are sick and think you may be infected, call your doctor for advice and testing.

     Now, with that out of the way, lets move on to something that may be of use.

What can we do to prevent infection?





     This virus is new to our species. Unfortunately this means that our immune systems are confused by it. So what can we do to try and perk up our immunity and make it a little bit more ready to fight back?

Don’t over do it on the quarantine cocktails! 

     Excessive alcohol use can dampen general immune function. While yes, alcohol can help to kill the virus, we’re not talking about sanitizing our hands here. When you consume alcohol it slows down your responses, including immune responses. That isn’t saying that having a glass of red wine at night is a bad idea, it may help you get better sleep. Maybe just don’t consume the whole bottle out of boredom.

Take it easy on those quarantine snacks!

     Sugar is not the best of things for your body in the best of times. It, like alcohol, when consumed in excess, can reduce immune function. So maybe limit yourself to 1 Little Debbie snack a day. Maybe stock up on fruit instead. After all, you’re home right now, so why not go for that home made smoothie?

Cut out the smoking (not just tobacco people).

     This virus attacks the lungs. Smoking, in general, weakens them. We are all aware of how dangerous tobacco can be for our lungs, but most of us aren’t aware that cannabis can be almost as bad when smoked in excess (not that it isn’t a great medicinal). So while you’re sitting on the couch, maybe only hit that joint a little bit (or switch to edibles for the time being) and don’t over indulge..

We are all aware of this next tip, but just to make sure… WASH YOUR HANDS!

     This virus can survive on a number of surfaces for hours. You never know what you’ll pick up on your supply runs. Washing your hands can go a long way.

Eat right, drink often, get some sunlight, and get some rest

     Vitamins D and C, as well as Zinc are great for improving immune function. Make sure you are getting enough of these valuable vitamins and minerals either from your food, or from sunlight. Staying hydrated is also super important. When we are dehydrated, our immune function is compromised. Drinking enough water can help you stay healthy.

Herbs and other recommendations

     Drinking herbal teas is a great way to stay hydrated. So why not choose some herbs that boost your immune system and that tone your respiratory system.  Chai is a great blend of herbs, all of which help to boost immunity and most of which help to improve the respiratory system as well. Also consider using peppermint, thyme, mullein, licorice, marshmallow, chamomile, and lavender. You can also drink teas made from adaptogens, such as tulsi, to help you manage the stress you’re experiencing right now. Also, since you are likely eating more home-cooked meals right now, consider adding some extra spices to it. Culinary spices such as thyme, oregano, garlic, onion, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric (as well as blends such as herbs de province or garam masala) can be great immune boosters.

Let’s talk Hand Sanitizers for a moment.

     In general, hand sanitizers are antibacterial and not specifically antiviral. Not to say that it’s not good practice to use them, just that they may not be as effective as most people believe. Granted, the viral envelope (the cell walls of the virus cells) of COVID-19 are susceptible to alcohol, you have to have a minimum of 60% alcohol in your sanitizer for it to be effective at all. Studies have shown that this virus is actually more susceptible to regular soap and thymol. Thymol is the active chemical found in the herbs Thyme and Oregano, and is extracted in the process of making essential oils. If you’re going to make your own soap and/or hand sanitizer, consider adding in a few drops of Thyme or Oregano essential oils to make it more effective. The EPA, FDA, and CDC all recommend that any homemade hand sanitizer be made with high proof alcohol (rubbing alcohol or everclear), and if you want to include essential oils, you want to use one that has a minimum of 0.25% thymol. Essential oil of thyme has around 30% thymol while essential oil of oregano has about 5-10%, so you may have to use more of that if you choose to use oregano. Also, concentrations of thymol can vary from batch to batch, Benchmark Thyme attempts to standardize these concentrations.


What herbs and preparations should you take if you show symptoms?





     Once again, I am not a medical doctor. If you believe you are infected, please call your doctor for advice and testing.

     The following recommendations are all things I might do before calling my doctor, but once I talk to my doctor I recommend following all of his/her instructions and leaving off these herbs if that is what they recommend. If you follow these recommendations, make sure you tell your doctor about them so that they are aware of what is going on.

Bidens

     There are 230 to 240 known Bidens species, the two most commonly found in Florida are B. alba and B. pilosa. Bidens is best known as a weed, but it’s one of my favorite herbs. Not only is it super nutritious, and tasty, it’s also my go-to herb for dry coughs. That’s why I immediately think of Bidens when I’m thinking about COVID-19. It’s most distinct symptom is a dry cough. It’s also an excellent mucus membrane tonic as it not only removes pain, but also heals the tissue. Which is another point in it’s favor for use against this virus. It is also a great anti-malarial herb. Granted, malaria is not a virus, but it does have a lot of the same symptoms. Also, a few of the most promising medications that seem to have an effect on the Coronavirus are malaria medications, so there may be another connection.
     When I take Bidens for any length of time I try to use it as a tincture (alcohol), with a small amount of black pepper to help act as a catalyst. I use a 1:5 ratio (dry herb/menstruum) using 9 parts Bidens and 1 part Black Pepper (if you have gastro-intestinal issues you might want to leave out the pepper and just use bidens). For dosage, I recommend starting with 2 ml, 3 times a day when you start showing symptoms.
     Cautions and warnings: Bidens is generally considered safe, however this herb does effect your blood pressure and blood sugar. So use caution if you have issues with either.

Tulsi

     Ocimum tenuiflorum, or Tulsi is another herb I think about in regards to this illness. However, this herb is not so much for the virus as it is to help mitigate the stress you are under. I recommend this herb to absolutely everyone. It tastes great and helps us manage our stress so much better. Just holding a warm cup of Tusli tea can help calm me down on a high-stress day. However, it also has benefits that may work specifically against COVID-19. Tulsi is a respiratory herb, helping to relieve symptoms of typical colds and flu. It also helps to reduce fevers. All around it’s a great herb for Coronavirus.
     I recommend drinking tulsi tea often (1-2 tsp of dry herb in a coffee mug full of hot water, allow to steep, covered, for 20+ minutes). At least 1 cup an hour, warm is best but not 100% necessary.
     Cautions and warnings: This herb is generally considered safe, however this herb does effect your blood pressure and blood sugar. So use caution if you have issues with either.

Marshmallow

     No, not the candy. Althaea officinalis, commonly known as Marshmallow, is one of my favorite demulcents. Demulcents help to moisten and soothe dry, inflamed tissues. COVID-19 is characterized by starting off with a dry cough. This leads me to think that a demulcent may be a great herb. This herb is also specifically great for dry cough.
     I recommend preparing a cold, overnight infusion (put 1 oz of marshmallow root in a quart of cold water and allow to sit, at room temperature, 8 hours or overnight) with this herb and drinking the infusion throughout the day and as needed for cough. You can also make a cough syrup using marshmallow root and raw honey.
     Cautions and warnings: Talk to your doctor if you’re taking other medications before starting marshmallow root, as it’s been found to interact with lithium and diabetes drugs. It can also coat the stomach and interfere with absorption of other medications.

Wormwood

     I recently read that some current studies have been showing that Artemisia annua, or Sweet Wormwood, may be effective against COVID-19. The only thing I can think is that it is also effective against malaria, so this may be a good herb to fight the symptoms, since COVID-19 and malaria do have some similar symptoms, including fever.
     I would recommend taking this as a tincture. 1:5 ratio (dry herb/menstruum), drop 10 drops into a glass of water and drink 3 times a day.
     Cautions and warnings: The FDA lists wormwood unsafe for internal use due to the toxicity of thujone oil. However, it’s considered to be safe when taken by mouth in the amounts commonly found in food and beverages, including bitters and vermouth, as long as these products are thujone-free. Using wormwood for longer than four weeks or at higher than recommended doses may lead to nausea, vomiting , restlessness, insomnia, vertigo, tremors and seizures.

Diaphoretic Herbs

     This classification of herbs includes a number of herbs that help to induce sweating. This generally helps to break fevers. Some diaphoretic herbs include Yarrow, Peppermint, Ginger, Fennel, and Chamomile. However I think I would, personally, choose a combination of Lavender and Catnip. Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia or Lavendula officinalis) will help reduce pain and inflammation as well as providing some much needed calm. It will also help you sleep and sleep is one of the best things you can do when your sick. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) has a long history of use in breaking fevers, but in addition, it is also great at gently easing muscle aches. Both of these herbs are also in the mint family, which is a family known for their use in respiratory conditions, which is another thing in their favor for use against Coronavirus.
    I would mix these herbs with your other preparations. For instance, I would put Lavender and Catnip in a tea with Tulsi.

Expectorants

     Expectorants help to open up the chest and expel the mucus that may collect in the lungs. Many of these are warming and spicy, such as ginger, fenugreek, thyme, and fennel. I mentioned above that this virus seems to be susceptible to thymol, which is found in the herb Thyme. Thyme and Ginger would be the two expectorants I would choose to fight against COVID-19. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) will help to expel the mucus and hopefully fight the virus directly as well. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is also a diaphoretic, so it is another dual purpose herb, helping to expel mucus and fight the accompanying fever.
     These herbs I would actually recommend to be added to broths (preferably bone broth). Not only would they improve the flavor of the broth, but the broth itself has healing properties. Also, the more liquids you can consume, the better, to keep you from becoming dehydrated. I would add 1 tsp of dried thyme to each bowl of broth, or 2 slices of fresh ginger. Allow the broth and herbs to steep for 20 minutes or more before consuming.

Lymphatic Herbs

     The lymphatic system is super important for immunity, so we should not neglect it in times of sickness. I recommend herbs such as Chickweed (Stellaria media), Polyporus (Polyporus umbellatus), and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) are great herbs to help improve lymphatic function.
     I would honestly add at least one of these three to each of my preparations (except the marshmallow, I think that’s best on it’s own). Maybe throw some chickweed into my tulsi tea and make my broths with both of the mushrooms.

Hot Showers and Steams

     Roughly 1/3 of the people who are afflicted with COVID-19 are reporting sputum (thick mucus in the lungs) production. Steam helps to keep this mucus from drying out. Add a few drops of essential oils to help open up those airways and soothe the throat. I recommend Peppermint, Thyme, and/or Eucalyptus (avoid this one if you are prone to seizures) essential oils.



Don’t Neglect Your Recovery!


     Americans are so ready to go and get things done that they often neglect the importance of the recovery phase, post illness. The most important thing is to be gentle with yourself as you are still weak and feeling the effects of your illness.

Gentle Tonic Herbs

     Tonic herbs help improve your overall health. These are great herbs to call on during your recovery period. Look to herbs such as Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus) and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) to help support your health during these times.

Lung Support

     Remember, this virus attacks the lungs. Your lungs will be weak for a while after your illness. Make sure to support them and help get them back to full health. Herbs that may be great for this include Mullein (Verbascum thapsu), Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Peppermint (Mentha piperita).




     This is where I will end this series. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them down below. Follow me on Facebook (Bat Lady Herbals) and Instagram (BatLadyHerbalist) for updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!



Resources: 


Coronavirus Alternative Treatments, Can Traditional Chinese Herbs and Treatments Help?: Medicine Net: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=228775

COVID-19, One Herbalist’s Thoughts on the Coronapocylapse: Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine: https://www.eclecticschoolofherbalmedicine.com/covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR2chq5q82xmxIdCDGbtwE1I77_E1vQoPJOTDJEsQ041LSuSLjjYs3GC6W4

COVID-19, 5 Reasons to be Cautiously Hopeful: Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/covid-19-5-reasons-to-be-cautiously-hopeful

List of Personal Things You Can Do To Stay Well in a Time of COVID 19: Rupa Marya, MD: https://medium.com/@radiorupa/list-of-personal-things-you-can-do-to-stay-well-in-a-time-of-covid19-cd10ff0df106

Pantry Medicine for When The Plague is Upon Us: Wonder Botanica: http://wonderbotanica.com/newsletter-archive/pantry-medicine?fbclid=IwAR3Lgtv1Icdt7IdSm6z5Nj0rLwDCEKguQ-Cr8nMLzXPjDgWk8MGmNAIhNNk

Traditional Chinese Medicine & COVID-19:WVTF Virginia’s Public Radio:https://www.wvtf.org/post/traditional-chinese-medicine-covid-19#stream/0

The World Health Organization Backs Call to Avoid Ibuprofen for Coronavirus: The Jerusalem Post: https://www.jpost.com/HEALTH-SCIENCE/World-Health-Organization-backs-call-to-avoid-ibuprofen-for-coronavirus-621408?fbclid=IwAR1V4lFRjETb_hNgPVR6qmN2Rj0nN1KmSQxqTNCK3rNR9_OL4iud75eqdCM

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     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...