It’s Book Day!

Today is the day that my shiny new (and first ever) book, Herbal Adventures, takes flight out into the world. I’m a bit awe-struck by the whole process, from being asked to write it, to spending an entire summer season experimenting, photographing, and writing about herbs.

And just like that, it’s a real thing that I can hold in my hands.

And – as it turns out – so can you! So many of you have already emailed to tell me that your copy already arrived, and you are already curling up with cups of tea and eager kids to read and explore.

The idea that your kids will grow up knowing more at a young age about herbs than I did as a kid? Well, that makes my heart glad.

If you haven’t yet picked up a copy, there’s still time. I stocked them in my own shop, and you can find them in plenty of local bookstores. (When you order directly for me, be sure to add the code “DOUBLE HERB BOUNS” for a couple of happy extras as well.) And if you share any public posts about the book or your family’s creations, add #herbaladventuresbook so that I might see it, too.

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What more is there to say? Except: happy tea-brewing, poultice-chewing, balm-making, oil-infusing, and syrup-crafting, dear ones!

I can’t wait to see all that you and your family create.

 

Digging roots

It had been raining on and off for more than a week. Sometimes a cold, driving rain, others a depressing and meek but soak-you-through-anyway drizzle. I had planned to dig roots, but nothing about an unseasonably wet, windy October was calling me out to take on the task.

Finally, the clouds broke, the sun peeked out, and the roots (and leaves, and flowers) called.

We went for it.

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From New England asters and mountain mint to one last abundant round of nettles, to roots of burdock, dandelion, chicory and yellow dock, there was so much to harvest–it was hard to know when to call it a day.

Finally Sage’s voice drifted down to the stand of asters where I was crouched, slowly picking, down in the creek bottom. “Mama, dinner’s ready!” (My kids each cook one dinner per week. This was his night, affording me the time to slip off and forage, since he’s self-contained in the kitchen.)

It was music to my ears. I picked a few more sprigs and headed home through the marsh.

20181003-DSC_764020181003-DSC_760120181003-DSC_762820181003-DSC_763320181003-DSC_7634tableBack in the kitchen, Sage’s meal enjoyed and the dishes done, processing time began. We scrubbed roots, chopped leaves, filled the dehydrator, and jarred up fresh tinctures and oxymels and elixers.

Lupine’s gigantic burdock root (pictured in her hands above) was the crown jewel of the day, and she carefully scrubbed away the soil, then tucked it into the fridge, researching recipes for her bounty. She’s considering giving it to Sage to use in his next batch of root beer, or perhaps making sweet-and-sour gobo, pickled (live-fermented) burdock root, or chopping and drying for tea. She’ll decide soon, then we’ll work on it together.

And today, I expect, we’ll set out again–this time to the garden for elecampane, marshmallow, and horseradish roots. Destined for homemade elecampane cough syrup, dried marshmallow root for winter colds and tummy aches, and horseradish to add to our fire tonic.

Oh, I do adore this time of year.

What’s happening in your kitchen, garden, or forest this week?

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P.S. For those of you who pre-ordered my book, Herbal Adventures, they’re shipping soon! (Squee!)

Be sure to tag me on any social media posts when your book arrives with #herbaladventuresbook, and let me know which recipes your family is excited to try first.

Look what just arrived!

When Pete checked the mail this weekend, he brought inside a large padded envelope. Handing it to me he asked, “Are you expecting a package?”

My heart leapt.

The advance copy of my book!

Lupine squealed, found a pair of scissors, and stood beside me (literally jumping up and down) while I opened the envelope.

And there it was. My book! In my hands, for the very first time.

And it was every bit as thrilling as I thought it would be.

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If I’m being honest I would admit to being a bit terrified as well. (What if it didn’t live up to my expectations on some level – the book, my work, or this long-awaited experience?)

But all of that fretting was for naught.

The book is big, beautiful, fun, and inspiring. It blew away more best expectations with how lovely it is! And to see my photos (and our friends!) glowing out at us from every page, well, my heart was in my hands.

Lupine and I curled up together on the couch, and slowly flipped through all 170-plus pages, drinking in the experience of holding our copy for the first time.

We laughed at some of the goofier photos of her, remembered many of the captured moments, and gushed over how lovely it all looked and felt.

My very own book. At long last!

To each of you who has encouraged me along this path, I want to express my profound thanks. To have found my niche and my voice and to bring together my love of herbs, my passion for writing, and my background as an educator–well, it’s a feeling that is difficult to describe.

And you helped me do that, by coming here and reading my words, by attending retreats and summer camps, and by otherwise connecting and encouraging me along. So… thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

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As an aside, for those of you who were waiting to pick up your own copy (or copies for gifts this holiday season), there is a wild and crazy sale running right now on Amazon. The book is just $16, but I’m not sure for how much longer. (If you pre-ordered already, don’t despair! Your price will drop to this one as well.)

You can find that deal right here.

If you’d prefer to pre-order your copy from your local bookshop (yay, you!) you can find one who carries it here by clicking on the red “I” icon next to US, or the appropriate link for your country if you’re not in the States.

Wishing you each Herbal Adventures of the most delightful sort.

 

This is summer

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Summer is a curious one for me.

In my childhood memories, it is the epitome of freedom. Lingering days that spin on for what feels like forever; riding off on my bike at lunch time; my only agenda to be home before dark.

While it was never my favorite season, I enjoyed it fully.

As an adult (and as homeschoolers), summer is different. In truth, this season isn’t distinct than any other as our learning and work time go, except that our school friends share some of our freedom. Then there is the heat, and here in Wisconsin anyway, the near 100% humidity for days, even weeks on end. (Have I mentioned that I’m a spring and fall girl? It’s true.)

This year, though, I’ve made an effort to embrace these sticky hot days. To let it sink into my bones, then relish the relief found in a plunge in our spring-fed creek, the unheated outdoor shower, or a mist from the icy-cold garden hose.

And this year, of course, we began gardening again, which has fed my soul–and my family–in the most nourishing of ways.

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And then, of course, there is the foraging.

This time last year I was in the thick of book writing and photography. There was an intensity to my need to get out and harvest, photograph, and recipe test while I had the chance. I found myself racing against time, catching blooms before they faded, the season at its peak. There was an urgency to the season that I am unaccustomed to.

This year though it is simply for the joy and pleasure of the harvest that we forage. No agenda, no deadline, no fuss. We’ll fill our bags and our jars and our larder or we won’t. No pressure, just the joy of this process and this moment in life, in season, in time.

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With that in mind, Lupine and I set off a couple of days ago in search of bee balm, yarrow, and magic.

And, indeed, we found all three.

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We filled our foraging bags with more monarda than we had picked all year, then set to work picking a late flush of St. John’s Wort, some self-heal, and blue and hoary vervain. We picked mullein flowers and motherwort, yarrow and more.

And then Lupine looked over, as I paused, my hand slowly moving over a flower.

“Are you petting a bumblebee, mama?”

“Yes,” I whispered.

“That is the cutest–the cutest–thing I have ever, ever seen!

“In my entire life,” she added.

The next thing I knew, Lu and I were wandering the pasture in search of docile bumblebees to pet. It’s something I’m certain we will never forget.

20180722-DSC_3994And then it was time to go. We said goodbye to the bees, and headed home to process our bounty.

In my world, I suppose, this is summer. It’s not water parks or swimming pools; it’s not store-bought ice cream or bright and busy theme parks. It’s foraging bags brimful with a fragrant harvest; it’s petting bumblebees in a pasture as the sun sinks low, it’s the scent of bee balm on my hands.

This is summer–in its abundance, in its magic, in its simple, messy, homegrown perfection.

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Four recipes for homemade rose remedies

June is rose season. From the old cultivated roses that crowd our back walk, to the wild pink roses along our road, and the smaller white blooms in the neighbor’s pastures, they’re a sight–and a smell–to behold.

If ever there was a case for smell-o-vision, this would be it.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose remedies are (emotional) heart remedies. During times of grief, trauma, fear, and transitions they can be a soothing comfort. These remedies do not stand-alone, of course, but represent one more piece in your healing journey. Rose also provides an energetically protective space in which to process, grieve, and heal.

Rose remedies are a balm for those feeling alone, vulnerable, tender, or broken. Stephanie from Sweetbriar Farms sent me two bottle of rose glycerite when Charlie died last summer, one of which I subsequently passed on to a friend whose brother was dying. This act of kindness was healing in and of itself, all roses aside.

I like to keep rose remedies on hand to share with friends going through painful transitions or experiencing loss, as well as for soothing our own bumps in the road of life. Rose is also an ally for soothing inflammation and reducing pain.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

I spent much of the week making five different types of rose medicine. Sage also dried some petals for culinary use, and Lupine infused a jar of honey for a friend with her harvest.

I wanted to share some recipes and a quick how-to with you, incase your neighborhood, too, is overrun with these fleeting beauties.

Field ID

To identify roses in the wild, you will observe stem, leaf, habitat and flowers.

Wild roses bear curved thorns along their woody stems, and toothed, compound leaves. They grow in pastures, along country lanes, and at the edges of forests.

Blooms vary by species. I will focus on the two species found in my region. There are many wild rose species throughout the world, so ID yours, and use that instead if you don’t have the same type as me.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rosa carolina

Here in Wisconsin (and throughout much of the US) you will find mainly two species of wild rose. One is native and one is invasive.

The native wild rose in my region most commonly found (pictured with larger pink blooms, above) is Rosa carolina, or Carolina rose. Single blooms bear five petals each and the flower center is dominated by a large cluster of yellow stamens.

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Rosa multiflora

The second species is invasive Rosa multiflora, or multiflora rose.

Also bearing five petals (these white and frequently heart-shaped) around a center of yellow stamens.

Multiflora rose (along other fun transplants like house sparrows, wild parsnip, Asian beetles, and Japanese honeysuckle) is a distinctly human problems. Like so many invasive species, it was touted as a solution to our many problems and a pretty one at that. It was intentionally introduced, passionately promoted, and then promptly got out of our control.

There is a strip through the central US (from the Dakotas in the north, angling southward to Arizona) where this species has yet to gain ground; otherwise you can find it from coast to coast.

For so many reasons, I’ve always been partial to the native sort, and have had a bias against the invasive for as long as I can remember.

Because: it’s invasive. What could I possibly love about an invasive? (Remember, I was a naturalist before I was an herbalist.)

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But plants, of course, have so much to teach us.

And I realized at last that an invasive species is not an bad or evil plant; it is simply a plant out of place, doing it’s best to survive. And it’s doing it well.

So slowly, unconsciously, I began to shift my bias. Instead of seeing the multiflora as an invasive and rolling my eyes at these hillsides of delicate, fragrant blooms, I took a step back and viewed it–for the moment–as simply a rose.

And that, of course, changed everything.

And with that in mind, I spent the week making rose medicine from both our native and non-native roses. Because of the abundance of multiflora rose, I focused primarily on them, but we did two special projects with the native roses as well.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Making rose medicine

Below, I share how to make five of my favorite rose remedies (rose petal honey, rose elixir, rose tincture, rose oxymel). I also made wild rose flower essence, but that’s its own creature that I can go into in a separate post if you are interested. (If so, please let me know.) Choose one or more to make yourself to have on hand when you or your loved ones might need it.

The general process outlined below applies to all of the other remedies. Always work with roses that are free of surface moisture. 

1. Harvest roses

There are two different methods for harvest wild roses: picking flower clusters or picking petals. The method you choose will vary by the way you intend to use your roses.

Whichever method you use, always pick in the morning on a dry day, after the dew has dried on the flowers. (However tempting, wet flowers do not make good remedies, as the resulting medicine is prone to spoilage.) Only pick from areas free of car traffic (50 feet from roadways), pollution, chemical sprays, and pet waste. Never make remedies with purchased, conventional roses.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Flower clusters are chosen when you are infusing the medicinal qualities of the rose, then straining.

To forage flower clusters, use a hand-held pruner to gently clip the entire flower cluster (with a leaf or two now and then). Place the flowers, stems, leaves and all a tight-weave basket.

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Flower petals are harvested when the rose itself will be consumed or when you want to avoid the woody qualities: say in baked goods, infused honey, or tea.

To harvest the petals, gently grasp the flower head (for the native rose) or flower cluster (for multiflora rose) and pull. The petals will easily slip off, leaving the center of the flower behind. Drop these into a very tightly woven basket to keep them from escaping.

2. Clean your harvest

Back home, pick through your harvest and gently remove and release any interlopers. Pick out and discard any dirt or debris or really questionable flowers or petals.

Never rinse or wash your harvest, as it will introduce too much moisture and your remedies will easily spoil. (Plus you will wash away much of the fragrant essence of the flowers.)

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

3. Make your remedies!

Now it’s time to make some medicine and treats. Below you will find basic instructions for rose petal honey, and three other rose remedies.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Petal Honey

The flavor of this rose petal honey is ethereal. Make enough to last the year, to stir into warm milk or almond milk, or enjoy straight off of the spoon. Useful to treat first degree burns as well – apply the honey directly to the cooled burn.

Using: petals only.

Instructions

  1. Loosely fill a glass jar of your choice to the top with freshly foraged rose petals. Do not pack tightly, but fill it so it’s fluffy and loose.
  2. Cover with raw honey.
  3. Stir wit a knife to release air bubbles and top off with more honey.
  4. Allow to infuse for 4 days to one week, inverting or gently stirring daily, and enjoy by the spoonful, in tea or warm milk, or on toast (No need to strain, as the petals are very soft.)
  5. Store finished honey in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Elixir

I love elixirs. One part tincture, and one part infused honey, the bring the best of both to the table. Tasty yet potent, elixirs are easy to love. Useful for healing conditions of the heart.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves.

Instructions

  1. Without removing the stems or leaves, coarsely chop your blossoms. (I have done this with both a sharp kitchen knife and a strong food processor, so choose your whichever method suits you.)
  2. Fill a clean, dry jar 3/4 full of the loosely packed chopped blossoms. Pour in brandy or other 80+ proof alcohol (a mild tasting alcohol is strongly preferred!) until the jar is 3/4 full. Add honey to fill to the shoulders.
  3. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  4. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  5. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  6. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in a cool, dark place, elixirs will keep for at least 1 year.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Tincture

Tinctures are powerful remedies. Take by the drop as needed when working through acute trauma, like you would rescue remedy.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves

Instructions

  1. Process your roses and fill jar as above. Pour in brandy or other 80+ proof alcohol (a mild tasting alcohol is strongly preferred!) until the jar is full to the shoulders.
  2. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  3. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  4. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  5. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in a cool, dark place, tinctures will keep for at least 2 years, and in some cases indefinitely.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Oxymel

We love oxymels. This sweet-and-sour mixture of vinegar and honey infuses different properties of the plant than a tincture or honey, and we love having the variety on hand. It’s also a nice alternative to the elixir for those who prefer alcohol-free remedies. Take by the spoonful or stir into water or carbonated water.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves

Instructions

  1. Process your roses and fill jar as above. Pour in raw, organic apple cider vinegar until the jar is 3/4 full. Add honey to fill to the shoulders.
  2. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  3. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks.
  4. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  5. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in the refrigerator, oxymels will keep for at least 1 year.

 

What is your favorite wild rose remedy?

 

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Tincturing Solomon’s seal, and questioning what we really know

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal alliesTincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies-DSC_2742

Looking upon Solomon’s seal as a naturalist I would tell you that yes, I “knew” this plant.

I knew Solomon’s seal by sight, it’s common name, Latin name, habitat, and range. I knew how to distinguish it from false Solomon’s seal, whose latin name I had also memorized.

(Sidebar: Because the educator and naturalist in me will not die and I know at least one of you are wondering: true Solomon’s seals bears understated clusters of flowers beneath it’s elliptical leaves, versus false Solomon’s seal’s single showy terminal cluster, above similar leaves.)

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

I  first learned Solomon’s seal in a college Plant Taxonomy class. This was my first favorite class since the high school art room, and I credit it (and my instructor there) for helping redirect my life’s path.

I spent hours after class in the herbarium, the city spilling out beyond our windows; me, thumbing through page after page of glorious dried plants, lost in the bliss of taxonomy and botany, amidst a sea of pavement and glass.

I ached for nature.

I remember my instructor looking up from his grading one day and asking thoughtfully, “Why are you here?”

I knew he didn’t mean in the lab, I was always there. But in that city; at that college. And I didn’t really have an answer. He told me then about the college that I ended up transferring to the very next year, one with a College of Natural Resources and an Environmental Education program; a college made for plant geeks like me.

But I digress.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

Back to Solomon’s seal. And what it really means to know.

With plants, I am realizing, knowing comes with time, with experience, with history. Knowing means learning much more than what is offered in a basic botany class. It springs from curiosity, intuition, and an open heart. It is rooted in our honoring of the past, humility in our present, and curiosity and passion leading us into the future.

For me, it comes from sitting with the plants, and sitting with myself.

And so truly, I do not know Solomon’s seal, though I do hope to someday.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

But let’s dig in anyway. Just to get us started, here a few more things that I do know, (about Solomon’s seal as a medicinal plant, that is):

Solomon’s seal has a long history of medicinal use, specially by First Nations peoples in the Eastern half of North America, dating back countless generations. These are the herbalists who knew and who know Solomon’s seal, deep within their very bones.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

It’s an apt analogy, as bones are one place that Solomon’s seal is a powerful herbal ally.

The nodular, white rhizome even looks something like a bone. (This commonality between a plant’s appearance and it’s medical usefulness is known as the “doctrine of signatures”.)

Solomon’s seal is used to treat injuries and inflammation of ligaments, tendons, bones and joints.

I’ve felt pulled to dig some for many weeks, after noticing it more and more in my neighborhood while I simultaneously navigated my first (and hopefully last) bout of plantar fasciitis. I finally decided that now was the time (despite early spring or late fall being a more proper time for digging most roots).

I found a plant that felt willing to share a length of rhizome with me, then using what I learned from Jim McDonald’s work, I felt around in the soil with my bare hands to determine where last year’s plant had grown. This was the place to dig, to prevent damaging this year’s plant or next year’s growth.

Because, as it turns out, when we learn just a little more before racing out the door; when we pause before we dig, as it were, we can lessen our impact.

I like that notion very much.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

After a profound amount of scratching about in the soil–and with earth clear up to my armpits–I came home with a small section of the largest Solomon’s seal rhizome I had ever seen. (They’re normally the size of a pinkie finger. This one was more like the meat on a chicken leg.) Within minutes of emerging from the earth, it was washed, grated, and ready to be tinctured.

This little mason jar will sit patiently in my herb cabinet for the next 3 to 6 months, and I will shake it gently every day that I remember it is there. Then it will be ready to strain and use.

I will make more Solomon’s seal tincture in the fall, when the time is more suitable for digging, but for me, right now, this is enough.

This exercise in listening and learning and getting my hands into the earth… that’s my path toward knowing.

A path I am grateful to be on.

Perhaps someday this is a plant that I, too, will know.

* * * This seems an appropriate place to mention that Jim McDonald, the herbalist mentioned above from whose work I first discovered Solomon’s seal has suffered a huge health crisis. If you have the means to support the Kickstarter set up for him and his family, please do so. Many thanks. You can find it here. * * * 

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

Too much of a good thing?

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There is a distinct possibility that I pushed myself a tiny bit too hard this weekend.

But I woke on Saturday feeling good (really good!) for the first time in more than two weeks. No vertigo, scant dizziness, and a clearness in my head, heart, and limbs that I haven’t felt for a while.

I couldn’t stop myself.

There were adventures to have and plants to find and roots to dig and remedies to make and a caterpillar house to set up and… you get the idea. I was alone for the weekend as well, a rare event indeed, while Pete and the kids were off on an adventure and I was in charge of farm and pets and home.

Mostly, I stayed home to rest. Which promptly went out the window at 6:45 AM on Saturday, when I set out, foraging basket in hand.

And what a morning!

I made wild rose flower essence, Solomon’s seal root tincture, and so, so much more. Partway through the day, though, and after a flurry of activity, I had to pull the brake.

On account of my overzealous day, the dizziness and brain fog had returned with gusto. I felt much like I had in the weeks before, and took it easy for the rest of the weekend to further recuperate. Darn.

Or, to quote Lupine: “So you felt good and decided to overexert yourself?”

Something like that.

But the vibration of all that goodness on Saturday morning was enough to carry me right through until Sunday. A day that I spent, a mug of nettle tea in hand, finalizing the very last round of book edits! One step closer!

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Today? I’m still feeling ‘meh’ but that’s making me think die-off, which makes me thing this might have been the right path after all.

Or maybe it’s just my gut flora dying and my brain not knowing what to make of it.

Either way I’ll be back here later this week, sharing some of the projects I was working on this weekend. After the fog clears!

Until then, never mind my spelling (it always goes to heck when I have Lyme), and I’ll see you soon.

Love,

Rachel

10 tips for self-care during times of need

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Navigating Lyme once again has given me a wonderful opportunity to practice some good, old-fashioned self-care. (You can’t keep this Pollyanna down. Silver linings abound, I say.)

And whether you’re on a month-long course of antibiotics or just feeling a bit under-the-weather, the suggestions below will surely boost your health, energy, and general wellbeing.

But these tips don’t just serve us during a time of physical struggle. Many are helpful when your crisis is emotional or spiritual as well.

All herbal recipes mentioned below can be found at the bottom of the post. Won’t you join me by making some to nourish yourself or your dear ones?

(A few afflinks follow.)

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1. Slow down

During times of physical, emotional, or spiritual stress the first step in self-care is to slow down.

This pause allows us time to turn inward and restore ourselves in whatever way feels best.

Since beginning my Lyme treatment, I’m putting slowing down first. I’m doing only what I need to do and giving myself a pass on the big projects that were on my plate for this week and next. That wallpaper stripping project and planting out a few more garden starts, and drying another two gallons of nettle and horsetail and catnip? They can wait. And saying “no” to things that pop up on my calendar while I really need to heal? I give myself permission to take a pass.

Instead, I am making space for smaller, more nourishing projects that are a balm for body or heart. Harvesting some catnip here, making a motherwort tincture there, and spending a little extra time with my knitting. It’s soul medicine.

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More than just doing less, I’m also prioritizing sleep. A daily nap when my body begs for rest; going to bed earlier in the evening when my body asks for sleep once more. And while I am fortunate enough to never have to wake with an alarm, it feels that much more nourishing these days to sleep until I am rested. Make space however you can for better sleep.

2. Magnesium epsom soak

Soaking in a hot bath with 2 cups of epsom salts is a wonder for body and spirit. Some claim detoxifying properties of this simple soak. At the very least it dissolves muscle tension and deeply relaxes us to our very essence.

This is the kind that I buy, but honestly – epsom salts are epsom salts. Pro tip: If you pick yours up locally, be sure you’re getting unscented, as some are treated with synthetic fragrance oils, and that’s not going to help with anything.

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3. Stay hydrated

Whether with good, fresh water, herbal teas, or other deeply nourishing drinks, stay hydrated. Your body and mind will function and feel better. Keep a water bottle on your nightstand, and sip soothing herbs like tulsi, lemon balm, and elderflower throughout the day.

If you are experiencing grief, rose flower infusions with lemon balm can be very soothing. For agitation or anxiety, see how your body responds to catnip and chamomile. Limit caffeine and other stimulants which can exacerbate stress during illness or periods of unrest. 

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

4. Nourish with nettle

When I feel well and when I feel down, I make a habit of drinking a quart of nettle infusion per day. (My how-to/recipe is at the bottom of the post). Honestly, I can’t say enough about this deeply nourishing habit. Be sure to steep your nettle infusion overnight to extract the most goodness possible from your herbs.

I harvest and dry my own nettle, but if you don’t have a local source to forage, by all means purchase some.

Though often maligned, nettle is, perhaps, my very favorite herb. To know her is to love her, in my opinion.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

5. Support your immune system

During times of physical or emotional stress, be sure to give your immune system some love. Elderberry is our family’s favorite immune supporting herb, and can be taken to prevent (ie: before) an illness, as well as during and after. Gummies (like those pictured above) are an easy way to enjoy them at any age, but a homemade tincture is even easier. (My tincture recipe is here.)

Another preventative we adore is astragalus, while echinacea is ideal during an acute sickness. Medicinal mushrooms like rishi and chaga, and the lichen usnea (old man’s beard) are also on our immune allies list.

Research these herbs to see if they are a match for you and your own family.

6. Herbal tonics

We make a habit of herbal tonics (or oxymels) over here. Oxymels are tasty medicine, made without alcohol by macerating herbs in vinegar and mixing with honey. Deeply nourishing, I find they are just what I need when my body feels taxed.

Customize your tonic to suit your family’s needs, your own herbal allies, or the plant medicine you can grow yourself or source locally. My recipe is below.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

7. Liver support

Because I am taking antibiotics, I want to support my liver that it detoxing my body from all the Lyme die-off debris. My liver needs love! Yours probably does too, even if you’re not taking meds. Truly, our livers work hard and do such important work for our bodies. A little herbal support can go a long way toward overall health.

If you’ve never made a tincture before, this is a fine place to start. Made with just four herbs plus alcohol for extraction, it’s a cinch to put together. But plan ahead–tinctures need to steep for a minimum of 6 weeks, with 6 months being even better.

Make it now, so you’ll have it when you need it.

8. Probiotics supplements

My daughter asked me what “antibiotics” meant. I had her break the word down. “Anti-life?!” she asked, incredulous. Never fear! We’re adding plenty of probiotics to the mix as well.

Our integrated medical doctor strongly encourages us to take these probiotics while on doxy or other antibiotics. And so we do. They are insanely expensive, but the really seem to help. Ask for a probiotic recommendation at your local coop or natural foods store or from your holistic health care provider.

9. Feed your flora and soothe your gut

Find nourishment in satisfying, nutrient-dense, gut-soothing bone broth. Stir in a spoonful of miso for added nutrition and healthy bacteria. Homemade bone broth supports overall health, is easy to digest, and loaded with the nutrients your taxed system needs. For more gut-soothing, sip gentle herbal teas like licorice root, tulsi, and peppermint.

Gut flora take a beating when we take antibiotics and other prescriptions. And it takes a long time to recover what was lost. To feed your gut flora, homemade probiotic lacto-fermented vegetables are key. We eat them at every meal regardless of there being an acute healing opportunity at hand. And unlike the probiotics linked to above, they cost almost nothing to make. All you need is a cabbage and some salt to be on your way! (Here’s a recipe sharing how.) Currently I’m making a batch of gingered carrots and a cabbage-and-nettle kraut. I can’t wait to dig in on both batches!

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

10. Trust

Finally, find trust. Trust your body, your inner wisdom, your capacity for healing, and your path. Because therein lies the real magic of finding your center once more.

 

The Recipes

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Nourishing Nettle Infusion

As I mentioned above, I drink this nearly every day. Putting together a batch each evening is my nightly ritual, and I’m always disappointed when I forget. My body craves this, and my daughter loves to drink it too.

Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried nettle leaf
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger root, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 3 tbsp dried peppermint (optional)
  • 1 quart of water

Instructions

  1. Place nettle, ginger, and peppermint in a clean quart-sized mason jar.
  2. Bring water to a boil, then add a small amount to the jar to gently warm the glass and prevent breakage. Loosely cover and allow the steam to warm the jar to the top.
  3. When the jar is warmed, fill with freshly boiled water and loosely cover again.
  4. Allow to steep for 6 to 12 hours. I normally infuse mine overnight.
  5. After steeping, pour infusion through a fine mesh strainer. Compost solids and enjoy your infusion cold or at room temperature.

Drink one quart (or more) of nettle infusion daily for adults and up to a pint for children.

Storage

Nettle infusion will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Discard if it becomes sour, or better yet use to water your garden or houseplants. (It’s their ideal food, too!)

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Herbal Oxymel

Plants are eager to give up their minerals to vinegar, creating rich, nutrient-dense tonics for us to enjoy. We’ll make this tonic as an oxymel, or vinegar-and-honey extraction. Delicious and nourishing. The herbs used here are infinitely flexible. Anything mineral-rich will do!

Take daily as a mineral-rich tonic.

Yield: approximately 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup grated fresh beets
  • 2 cup wilted fresh nettle leaf, or 1 1/2 cups dried
  • 1 cup dried raspberry leaf
  • 1/2 cup dried oatstraw
  • 2 tbsp dried horsetail (optional)
  • Raw apple cider vinegar to cover
  • Raw honey

Instructions

  1. Place beets and herbs in a 1/2 gallon glass jar, or mix then divide between two quarts. Jars should be approximately 2/3 to 3/4 full.
  2. Fill jar with vinegar to the shoulders and gently stir.
  3. Cover with plastic lid or line metal lid with a piece of a plastic bag or waxed paper (as metal may corrode). Label jar with plant name and date.
  4. Place on a saucer in a dark cupboard for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking daily. (Add additional vinegar if needed to keep your plant material well submerged.)
  5. After 4 weeks strain your mixture by pouring through a fine mesh strainer. Squeeze or press with your hands to extract all the liquid that you can. Compost solids.
  6. Measure the volume of liquid extracted, and add 1/2 the amount of honey that you have vinegar extraction (1/2 cup of honey per cup of vinegar extraction). Stir gently to combine.
  7. Transfer your oxymel to a clean glass jar or bottle, lid and label. Store in the refrigerator for up to one year.

To use: Adults take 1 to 2 tbsp daily or as desired; children take 1 to 2 tsp. Stir into water, or–better yet–use as a salad dressing, drizzle on cooked greens, or try it as a simple sweet-and-sour soda syrup.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Liver Support Tincture

This tincture has become a standard in my home apothecary. You will notice it is made with 100 proof alcohol, not my usual 80 proof. (The irony of making a liver support formula with such potent booze is not lost on me.) This is because milk thistle is particularly difficult to extract and requires a stronger solvent.

Yield: ½ pint

Take daily to support healthy liver function.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp (.3 oz.) milk thistle seed
  • 2 tbsp (.07 oz.) nettle leaf
  • 1 tbsp (.28 oz.) Dandelion root
  • 1 tbsp (.20 oz.) yellow dock root
  • Approximately ¾ cup 100 proof vodka to cover (do not substitute 80 proof alcohol unless omitting the milk thistle)

Instructions

  • Combine herbs in a half-pint jar.
  • Pour alcohol over herbs, being sure to fully submerge all plants. (Don’t fret if some float to the surface.)
  • Cover with plastic lid or line metal lid with a piece of a plastic bag or waxed paper (as metal may corrode). Label jar with plant tincture name and date.
  • Shake daily for at least one week, then shake weekly (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  • Strain tincture through a fine mesh sieve or through a piece of cheesecloth, carefully squeezing as much liquid as you can from the herbs.
  • Transfer tincture to a clean glass jar or amber dropper bottles. Label and store in a cool dry place.
  • Keeps indefinitely.

Dosage: Adults may take 1 dropperful, one to two times per day.

Contraindications: Milk thistle and yellow dock may affect the function of several prescriptions medications types, including some allergy medications, some antipsychotic and seizure medications, and Coumadin, as well as general anesthetics. If you take prescription medications, check with your doctor before taking milk thistle to ensure safety.  Check with your midwife or doctor before using if you are pregnant or nursing.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Big, big news (It’s a book!)

I’ve had a big project tucked away since this time last year, and I’m so thrilled to finally share it with all of you! (It’s been terribly hard to keep under wraps for so long.)

Last spring, shortly after I announced Green Magic Summer Camp, I was contacted by a publisher who wanted me to write and photograph a children’s book about herbs and herbal remedies. A book about wonderful weeds, homemade remedies, edible and medicinal plants, and so much more.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

I spent much of last year out and about in the countryside near my home – foraging, dreaming up new recipes, and photographing ten of my favorite common edible and medicinal plants. (And dragging willing friends and family out into the fields and forests for photo shoots all season long.) And what fun we had.

The result was this: my first ever book. Pinch me!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Honestly, I couldn’t be more delighted. The concept, the process, the plants, the recipes–everything! This project brought together my lifelong long love of the natural world and passion for photography with my current love affair with herbs, and my my skills as a writer, naturalist, and educator. It’s the book 10 year old me would have done cartwheels over. (And, as it turns out, 45 year old me as well.)

Herbal Adventures begins by providing kids and their families with safe foraging basics. Then we dig deeper, exploring ten safe, common, backyard plants. Many of which you and your kids will already recognize!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Children get to know the plants through first-person introductions, then head outside to safely gather their own herbs for the recipes that follow. Or if you prefer, most recipes will accommodate purchased herbs as well if you’d like to skip the foraging and just get making.

Then snacks and drinks, oils and balms, sodas and syrups, and so much more are crafted with easy-to-follow instructions and recipes. I’ve even thrown some whimsical herbal crafts like flower crowns and seed bombs!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures is the perfect first-step for beginners–or next-step for children and parents who have already dabbled in herbs, but want to take their knowledge further using safe, local plants.

In essence: this is the book that I wished I had for my own kids (and myself!) not so long ago.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures is available for pre-order now!  (Release date in early December.) Or add your name to the email sign-up form below, then I’ll be sure to drop you a note when the book is released.

What a year this has been! And what a joy to put together this book for you and your kids. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Which brings me to one more thing. One very important thing that needs to be said:

Thank you.

Thank you for coming here to read my words, week after week, year after year, some of you since the bumpy beginnings back in 2009. Through your feedback and having someone to write for, I have found my voice and further discovered my passion for sharing these things that I love with the world. Without you this book truly would not exist.

You did that. And I’m profoundly grateful.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures includes:

  • Foraging safety and basics
  • Introduction to plant medicine
  • Field ID and uses for 10 common, safe, and easy-to-recognize backyard plants (chickweed, mullein, bee balm, plantain, nettle, catnip, dandelion, elder, yarrow, and pine)
  • Nearly 50 recipes for herbal snacks, syrups, teas, treats, balms, and more
  • 10 craft projects ranging from herbal seed bombs to fairy houses to natural dyes
  • Basic, adaptable recipes to use with other edible or medicinal herbs of your choosing

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

What fun I have had! And soon, so will you and your kids.

Big love,
Rachel

Herbalist Day/Birthday

rampsbdaynettle6a010535f3a090970c01bb08e02c79970d6a010535f3a090970c01b8d1c645f8970c(photos from previous birthdays, since today we’re covered in a blanket of snow and ice!)

When I stumbled upon “Thank an Herbalist Day” earlier this week, and discovered that it fell on my birthday of all days, I was tickled. Because what better newish holiday to overlap with my birthday than this?

And though here in Wisconsin this year Herbalist Day/my birthday looks more like Winter Solstice, I’ll take it!

But enough about birthdays (psst… 45!). Let’s talk about herbs.

nettle2

Several of you have reached out to ask if I’ll be hosting another Women’s Herbal Retreat or Green Magic Summer Camp this year. And the short answer is: no. (Not yet anyway.) While I absolutely loved doing each and every retreat I have done so far, other projects have risen to the top and retreats are on hold until further notice. (More on that very soon. I promise!)

In the meantime, I’ve been expanding my own herbal knowledge, which feels fabulous. After months of research, I finally decided on where to study and signed up for a class with Herbal Academy (afflink). They offer classes at a variety of levels, from beginner to advanced, and the kids and I decided to study together as a part of our homeschool and my continuing education.

Herbal Academy is currently releasing a foraging and botany class that looks lovely, and speaks to skills many of you have asked me for tips to develop. (They have the class discounted today on account of Herbalist Day, so I thought I would mention it for those of you who were interested in furthering – or beginning – your study.)

Learning new things is, perhaps, the best part of growing older, don’t you think?

And with that, I have birthday goodness to get on with. We’re off to make pottery together, drink good coffee, and eat all manner of delicious foods – cooked by my favorite people.

Happy Herbalist Day, friends!