August 5th, 2009 § § permalink
Raspberry leaf, Rubus idaeus and wild species. Raspberry’s astringency, nutritive and tonic qualities lead to being well-known as a woman’s herb, especially during pregnancy. A hot cup of tea made from the dried leaves is quite pleasant with honey, or blended with other herbs. I do not have an exact quote on this (my copy of her pregnancy book is out on loan), but I think it was Aviva Romm that mentioned something about drinking raspberry leaf tea with a juice from a fresh-squeezed orange. Not only does that sound delicious, but it adds to the vitamin C content as well.
What makes raspberry leaf so toning besides it’s obvious astringency? One known chemical constituent that lends to this is fragarine. Fragarine is an alkaloid that has been long linked to raspberries toning action. I say ‘been linked’ because there are many other properties/constituents in raspberry, like the flavonoid quercitin, tannins, vitamins and minerals (it is very high in manganese), ect… From Herbal Amanda’s Rant blog:
“Fragarine was thought to be the ‘active’ constituent of raspberry leaf, the one that cause uterine muscle tissues to strengthen, but it is now postulated that is a more complex reaction that isn’t due to any one constituent, but a combination of many. This particular conclusion seems to be more and more excepted for most herbal medicines, as main constituents are usually found to not work, or have different actions when isolated.”
This makes perfect sense.
Need astringency for excessive menstruation? How about a cup or two or four of raspberry leaf tea drank as needed, combined with other herbs as desired (I love shepherd’s purse and lady’s mantle for this) or over many months as a tonic. That is a beautiful choice since raspberry can boost some of the nutrients lost from the lots of bleeding, as well as tone pelvic muscles, including the uterus. It has also been used for painful cramps, too, although it may be best combined with stronger spasmolytics. Don’t forget to use raspberry after pelvic surgeries or any kind as a general healing tonic.
When used for labor, raspberry has both uterine relaxing and contraction inhibiting actions, which seems contradictory. In 1970 the leaf (not only fragarine) was tested, and the researchers…
“…suggested that Rubus would prevent or reduce the risk of in-coordinate uterine action (a common cause of difficulty and failure to progress in labor), by regulating the action of the uterine muscles.” (Tricky, 423).
To use raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy, start drinking it after the first trimester. Don’t hesitate–steep strong! One tea bag in one cup of hot water steeped 10 minuets is not going to have the same effect as a medicinally prepared tea. Dried raspberry is quite fluffy, so go more for a fourth or third cup of the dried herb steeped, covered, in 3-4 cups hot water for 2 – 4 hours. Strain and drink daily. Blend with other herbs like nettle, oatstraw, or alfalfa if desired.
Strawberry leaf, Fragaria vesica. Let’s not forget the beautiful strawberry leaves, which have a similar sweet but astringent taste. I like making a lunar infusion of fresh strawberry leaves, covering a small handful of the leaves with water and letting steep over night.
Strawberry leaves are not used as much as raspberry, and thus not mentioned in the herbals as much either. I guess this makes sense, especially looking around in the woods. Raspberries are everywhere, spreading like mad, while little strawberry plants are much less conspicuous and have just a few leaves to each plant. And thus, it’s uses are often lumped with raspberry.
It’s astringent, cooling (as a member of the rose family), and nutritive. Rosemary Gladstar says “it can be combined with raspberry leaf and squaw vine for an exceptional tonic blend to drink during the entire pregnancy” (178).
Culpepper speaks of the cooling nature of strawberry:
“The leaves and roots boiled in wine and water, and drank, do likewise cool the liver and blood, and assuage all inflammations in the reins and bladder, provoke urine, and allay the heat and sharpness thereof. The same also being drank stays the bloody flux and women’s courses, and helps the swelling of the spleen.”
Culpepper, Nicolas. http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/66/113/frameset.html
Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women.
Hoffmann, David. The New Holistic Herbal.
Trickey, Ruth. Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle.
Weed, Susun. Breast Cancer? Breast Health!
Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal (Old World)
August 4th, 2009 § § permalink
It has been an interesting summer. Things are behind; the linden trees just bloomed two weeks ago–usually they peak in mid-June. In May I started marigolds, spilanthes, hearts-ease and bacial scullcap to give as favors for Rob and I’s big party last weekend, but they weren’t even close to flowering. It has been so cool, too, mid 60′s as average. Actually it is pretty nice; I haven’t even brought up the fan from the basement, let alone turn it on!
Currently, berries of all sort are ripe and ready for the picking. Raspberries, wild and cultivated, strawberries, blueberries, June berries, thimble berries are just screaming to be picked. Echinacea, Queen Anne’s lace, teasel with it’s wild band of lavender blooms, valerian spread wide and far, and roses lingering on are just a few of the plants in bloom.
Time seem to be standing still. I often don’t know what day or time it is, and I know I am not the only one. I get lost in the moment, and find myself enchanted over nothing, sitting, watching and listening. Strangely, I have no desire to harvest herbs except for roses, I am content to gaze upon them. I can’t figure it out.
I think it is partially because I left my job working with youth in May to be self-employed as a gardener for the summer, and partially because I know this is my last summer in Duluth, and I want to savor every moment.
Although I don’t know exactly when or how, Rob and I are moving to Portland sometime in the next year. I have been accepted to a Chinese medicine and acupuncture school called OCOM (Oregon College of Oriental Medicine) and have differed enrollment until next year. As much as I’d love to start this fall, I need some time to cinch up loose ends. I am excited to begin this formal education, learn new modalities, the energetics of Chinese medicine and the details of acupuncture. But mostly, I am craving a community, peers, teachers, regular study and a supportive learning environment.
I am savoring this summer, making visits and paying my respects and biding farewell to the plants, parks, neighborhoods and trails who seem like old friends.
May 19th, 2009 § § permalink
Next month I am going to Portland. Yea! To accommodate the trip, the herbal study group and herb walk will be moved to Monday, June 22nd.
Also, the time for the woman’s health circle will be moved back from 2 pm to 5 pm. Same place and dates, just different times. This Sunday (the 24th) the topic is Hormones. Come add your expertise and input! Check out the page for more details.
January 3rd, 2009 § § permalink
Every herbalist has a few standby cold and flu remedies stocked up for the winter. I have accumulated the following herbs based on my own needs and those closest to me. Your own list will vary based on your individual needs; for instance, milder onion plasters may replace mustard for chest pain and congestion, osha or horehound may replace wild cherry for the types of cough you may have, or slippery elm and licorice may be more soothing to your sore throat than astringent sage. I generally do not have sinus infections, so my list is lacking sinus openers like horseradish and eyebright. Luckily, part of the beauty of herbalism is that plant medicines are not set into strict categories. Rather there are opportunities for overlap; I could employ the essential oil already on my list, eucalyptus, for sinus congestion as a steam, if need be.
1. The homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum is one I always have on hand. Use it for chills, sweats, achey bones, headache, and other flu symptoms. What more can I say? This is one of the few “products” that I personally recommend. Take it as soon as you can, like within hours, to increase your chances of warding off the flu.
2. Echinacea phytocaps. This is the second “product” I have to have around. Typically, I order these from Gaia herbs, because I have visited their North Carolina farms and facilities twice and became familiar with their line while working in an herb shop. This does to colds what Oscillococcinum does for the flu; potentially stops it in its tracks. Suck on a capsule and let the echinacea drip down the back of your throat slowly, repeat every two hours for the first day. The reason I prefer this to my homemade echinacea tincture is it seems to be more effective for sore throats, which are a major problem for me. When I have a cold without a sore throat, I use the tincture instead, saving the caps for when they are truly needed.
3. For swollen throat and glands, itchy, and congested ears, mullein flowers and garlic ear oil is a year-round favorite, but gets extra use in the winter time. You can tailor an ear oil for your own needs; I add a bit of St. John’s wort oil for nerve pain. Warm up the bottle in a cup of hot water for a minuet before adding a drop to each ear, twice daily if needed. For some people, uncomfortably cracking and itching ears are the first sign of a cold; using ear oil at the onset of a cold may ease symptoms or ward off the cold completely (as I have experienced a few times).
4. I always have a bag of mustard seeds in my cupboard, ready to be freshly ground in the coffee grinder, mixed with lukewarm (not hot) tap water and spread on the chest as a mustard plaster. Do not apply directly on the skin, instead lay a thin cotton cloth down first (flour sack towels work great) before spreading on the mustard plaster on the upper chest while laying down. After about 20 minuets, peel off the cloth with plaster intact, and place it on top of an old towel before laying down on it, this time with the plaster treating your upper back.
The mustard plaster is very useful for extreme chest pain and infection. It warms to break up congestion and relieves pain. “Warms” may be an understatement; it becomes down-right hot! As soon as you feel chest pain accompanying a respiratory infection, as if your chest is cut and bruised and feels painful to touch and breath, head for the mustard plaster. Use once or twice a day as needed until the pain recedes, all the while taking your choice of lung herbs and eating simple, nourishing and warm foods and soups. As mentioned above, you may get the same relief from an onion poultice, so try that first if you have any doubt about the powerfully stimulating properties of mustard, or for children.
5. Fresh garlic are always handy. To receive full effects for the immune system, consume 1-3 raw garlic cloves a day. Make a garlic “sandwich” with thin slices of fresh garlic between apple slices to help it go down the trap.
6. Some medicines you just crave; shiitake mushrooms is one of them for me. The last time I felt a cold knocking at my door, I drank a quart of shiitake and ginger tea a day for three days. I use dried shiitakes for tea. They are easy to prepare and store. Once in a while I will splurge at the grocery store for some fresh shiitakes, which I enjoy simply stir-fried with olive oil and crushed garlic.
7. There are dozens of dozens of essential oils that stimulate and support the immune system. It is utterly amazing! I choose to keep Eucalyptus (spp. globulus) because I have had great success using it for post nasal drip, as a chest rub, and for blocked sinuses. Plus, it is one of the most easily accessible and relatively affordable essential oils. Not all eucalyptus essential oil is crated equal; my favorites are from the Minnesota company Plant Spirit and David Crow’s Floracopeia.