Alchemilla vulgaris



Lately I’ve been sitting in the shade of a lovely plum tree here at the Blessed Maine Herb Farm, as the weather has been hot, and I appreciate the cool shade this plum tree’s graceful arching branches provide.  The plum stands right next to a lush and lovely bed of Our Lady’s Mantle and so I’ve been enjoying its presence and watching the many pollinators working the flowers, since the plants are now in full and glorious bloom.

Our Lady’s Mantle has also been showing up prominently in my visits to other gardens, most recently while teaching a class at the beautiful Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine.  This is a plant that I greatly value and I’d love to share with you here some of what I have come to know of this spectacular women’s herbal ally.

Regarded as an herb that offers a wealth of both magical and medicinal qualities, Our Lady’s Mantle spreads her wild-heart-woven healing cloak like a mantle of strength, wisdom and healing.  As her common name implies, she does indeed have a special affinity for women.

Our Lady’s Mantle’s genus name, Alchemilla, is derived from the Arabic word alkemelych  (alchemy), earned by virtue of its wondrous workings. I believe the old wives who say drops of dew (or its vascular secretions) held in the cup formed by the leaves of Our Lady’s Mantle is a magical elixir, enhancing the potency of any medicine it is added to. I like to lick and lap these waters up, and often offer them to visitors so they can experience the subtle healing energies too.

This delicate appearing, yet rugged, hardy and beautifully flowering herb has long been associated with the healing energies of the Divine Feminine in her personification as Earth Mother.  In the beginning of the Christian era the plant became dedicated to Our Lady, the Blessed Mother.

In Germany, Our Lady’s Mantle is called frauenmantle, as its scalloped leaves resemble a lady’s cloak worn about the shoulders. In France it is pied-de-lion, lion’s foot, for its growing habit: big, wild lumps of lacy accordion-like leaves with delicate sprays of tiny yellow flowers.  In Italy it is known as Madonna Mantello, or the Madonna’s cloak.

ImageIf you look at each leaf closely, you will notice the leaves of Our Lady’s Mantle are actually formed by beautiful connecting hearts.

During the Protestant Revolution, the name Our Lady’s Mantle was changed to its current, more generic form, Lady’s Mantle, in an effort to break the association with Mary, mother of Jesus.  As a devotee of Mary, and in honor of the Divine Feminine from all times and cultures around the world, I prefer to call this plant by its long standing and original name, Our Lady’s Mantle.

Our Lady’s Mantle is an excellent uterine tonic and has a strengthening and astringent effect on the entire female reproductive system. To help regulate menstruation or control menstrual flooding, wild hearted wise women take 10 drops of lady’s mantle fresh plant tincture three times daily for a week or two before the expected onset of menstruation. Constituents such as astringent tannins and glycosides, salicylic acid and other sedatives make Our Lady’s Mantle an effective ally for those dealing with menstrual cramping or uterine discomfort. Our European grandmothers used it to help shrink fibroids.

Our Lady’s Mantle has a special affinity for the breasts and is a valuable ally for women dealing with breasts that are lumpy, swollen, or achy before menstruation. Regular use of this plant – either as a water based medicine consumed as a tea or used as a wash or compress, as an alcohol or vinegar tincture taken internally, or an oil used for external application, will restore tone to sagging breasts.

Poulticing with the fresh or dried plant material works well also.  My friend Jan, dealing with sagging breasts after pregnancy and lactation, applied Our Lady’s Mantle poultices to her breasts several times a week and also massaged her breasts daily with an infused oil made from fresh leaves and flowers. She said that not only did Our Lady’s Mantle tone and firm her breast tissue it also helped ease her daily tension.


I prepare a formula I simply call Beautiful Breasts, with Our Lady’s Mantle as the primary ingredient, along with dandelion roots, blessed thistle, violet leaves and licorice.  This formula has great success in smoothing out lumpy breast tissue, easing the pain of achy breasts and shrinking bumps and cysts.  Breast Care Oil, applied topically, also contains Our Lady’s Mantle along with dandelion and violet leaves.

Many cultures have used Our Lady’s Mantle to ensure fertility and it is still in common use throughout the Middle East for this purpose. I make a delicious, hormone-nourishing, mineral-rich fertility brew with equal parts dried red clover blossoms, red raspberry leaves, wild grape leaves, and lady’s mantle leaves and flowers. I encourage women who want to conceive to use one ounce mixed herbs to a quart of water and make a full-strength infusion by steeping for at least 4 hours; drink 2-4 cups daily, sleep in the moonlight, and make love often, not just when ovulating. Studies show we’ve got to keep our hormones pumping all month long for optimum fertility cycles to occur. I suggest they begun gathering diapers and baby stuff because they’ll soon conceive.

The tannins in Our Lady’s Mantle help dry up excessive discharges, treat vaginitis, vulvitis, genital sores, and herpes, and heal perinea tears after childbirth. To treat these problems, I make a well-strained infusion for use as a sitz bath. For centuries, healers have used the infusion of its leaves and flowers as a wash or fomentation on wounds, especially those that are old or hard to heal. A blood coagulant, Our Lady’s Mantle quickly stops bleeding.  Its astringent properties mean it will help resolve diarrhea as well.


Our Lady’s Mantle infusion can be used as a mouthwash after a tooth is pulled as it will stop the bleeding and speed healing.  Used regularly as a mouthwash, it will soothe and astringe bleeding gums and can be used as a gargle to soothe a sore throat as well.  A dropperful of the tincture can be put into water and used as a gargle or mouthwash, the same way you would use the infusion.ImageAncient legend tells us that adding a moisture-laden leaf to any magic pouch will seal your intention and magnify the power within.

Our Lady’s mantle tolerates a sunny spot, but is much happier with shade, such as that provided by the plum tree in our Blessed Maine Herb garden, at least for part of the day. The plant is very hardy here in Maine. We start seeds in early spring and set the plants out eight to ten weeks later.


The seedlings grow slowly and are a bit difficult to transplant when small, so we usually put them in a small protected bed to grow for a season before going out to their final homes.  Our Lady’s Mantle plants grow to only a few inches in diameter the first year, but thereafter they come on strong and grow quickly. Mature plants produce a cluster of large, green, circular, fan-shaped leaves extending on foot-high slender stems from a base several feet wide. Tiny, yellowish-green flowers appear in mid-summer, springing out in loose clusters above the leaves.  These flowers are much appreciated by florists and home decorators, as they add a nice airy touch to most flower bouquets.

I gather the leaves and flowers of Our Lady’s Mantle during the summer months at the peak of bloom. I tincture them while fresh in alcohol or vinegar, infuse them in oil and in honey and dry some on screens for teas and infusions.

Excerpted in part from Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards

You’ll find our Hand crafted Certified Organic Our Lady’s Mantle tincture here: http://www.blessedmaineherbs.com/tinctures1.html

Beautiful Breasts and Fertility Tonic here: http://www.blessedmaineherbs.com/comfor.html

Breast Care Oil here: http://www.blessedmaineherbs.com/infusedoils.html

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged | 1 Comment

Valerian – Valeriana officinalis

VALERIAN – Valeriana officinalis – VALERIANACEAE

Lovely in bloom and sweetly aromatic, Valerian is a mineral-rich tonic that is exceptionally nourishing to the nervous system.   It is a powerful nervine, carminative, and acts as an antispasmodic agent as well. This herb exerts a remarkable effect on the cerebrospinal system. Valerian is warming, slightly bitter and has mild anodyne properties, so it helps to alleviate pain and promote deep, relaxing sleep. It is widely used as a sedative.

Valerian is an effective tranquilizer that is not addictive in recommended dosages and does not cause morning grogginess.  In my opinion it is a much wiser choice of tranquilizer than pharmaceutical drugs, which can have many side effects, including decreased coordination, decreased mental functioning, inability to concentrate, and memory loss.  Did you know that the risk of breaking a bone is five times greater when using tranquilizers?   In addition, tranquilizers are addictive and drug withdrawal can lead to anxiety, restlessness, sleep disturbance, headaches, and seizures.

Small doses, 5-10 drops of valerian fresh root tincture or half a cup of dried root infusion, have a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system. 10-20 drops might put you to sleep. In larger doses, valerian can cause hyperactivity and headache.

One of my former students, Belinda, is a devoted horsewoman. She told me her horses are high-strung and don’t naturally travel well. She loves taking them to horse shows, so routinely gives them a bit of valerian in their feed before leaving. Belinda tells me her horses are calm and well behaved both during the trip and upon arrival, due to calming valerian.

Hildegard of Bingen, one of my favorites of the “old time” herbalists, recommended valerian as a tranquilizer and sleep aid. Valerian is a superior sleep inducer. To ensure a good night’s sleep I’ve taken 5-10 drops of valerian tincture in a bit of water, or drunk a cup of infusion half an hour before bed. Valerian can become habit-forming so I don’t suggest using it consistently for more than three weeks in a row without a break. Scullcap, oatstraw, chamomile, passionflower and St. John’s wort are all good and effective alternatives.

Valepotriates are the active sedatives in valerian. They are found in all parts of the plant  including its leaves and flowers, but are most concentrated in the root. Valerian’s other constituents include valerian, formic and acetic acids, boneol, and pinene, a glycoside, alkaloids, and resin.

Animal studies show valerian reduces blood pressure and suggest it possesses anticonvulsant properties. European herbalists have long used valerian to treat epilepsy. Several other studies demonstrate valerian’s anti tumor effects.

In magical lore, valerian is considered an herb of protection and an herb of witches. The plant was used to clear the energy of an area, and also for self-purification.  I’ve used valerian flower essence to help develop a calm, serene, well-balanced approach to life.

Valerian is a beautiful perennial plant and grows quite happily in any moist, rich place. In my garden and around the farm, it reaches about six feet tall. The plants have bright-green, deeply toothed, longish leaves that form a rosette the first year. From the second year on, valerian puts up a tall stalk topped with an intoxicatingly fragrant whitish-pink umbel. Just smelling these blossoms is enough to relax me after a stressful day. But the roots are another matter!  Some people love the aroma of valerian roots, others cannot stand it.  It’s well known that rats are attracted to the strong odor of the root. Legend describes the Pied Piper with valerian roots in his pockets as he led the rats out of Hamelin.

There are more than 150 species of Valeriana growing all over the world in temperate climates. It is the species officinalis that is traditionally used for medicine making, though some other species have been used as well.  We start valerian seeds in early spring to transplant out about six weeks after  germination. Valerian’s white roots grow in a dense cluster with many little rootlets and look like a thick head of dreadlocks. The freshly dug roots smell like earth to me, and I love them. I’d say that Valerian just isn’t an herb for those people who find the odor offensive.

We dig valerian roots in fall after the plant has died back and tincture fresh valerian roots in alcohol or vinegar or dry them on a screen in a well-ventilated place, out of direct light. We store the dried roots in a canister or other air-tight container for later use as teas and infusions.

You’ll find our hand crafted MOFGA Certified Organic valerian root tincture here:  Blessed Maine Herb Farm  http://www.blessedmaineherbs.com/tinctures1.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments



Astragalus membranaceus

Last night I was sharing information about the wonders of Astragalus with my Herbal Medicine Correspondence Course students, as we have just begun our lesson on the Immune and Lymphatic System.  Since it is an herb with inestimable value for so many and with such a long lived and respected reputation, I was inspired to share about it here with readers of the Way of the Wild Heart blog as well.

Astragalus has been growing in our gardens for nearly twenty years now.  It is quite hardy and withstands even the coldest Maine winters. It grows into a large bush, is quite feathery, bright green and very pretty looking, with dainty, fan-like yellow flowers in mid to late summer.

Oftentimes, when closely observing nature, you will notice that the gifts of a plant make themselves known to you in the manner in which the plant grows, the conditions it requires, and its degree of hardiness.  When a plant thrives no matter what, take a deeper look and you may find that it will help you to do the same.  Astragalus strikes me as such a plant. Rugged, resilient, strong, powerful, long-lived, graceful, and elegant.

Astragalus is a tonic and restorative food and a potent medicine plant.  The Chinese have been using this plant to strengthen immunity for centuries. They say it “strengthens the exterior,” or protects against illness.  Known as Huang-qi, astragalus is written about in the 2,000-year-old   Shen Nong Ben Cao Jin, and is still considered to be one of the superior tonic roots in traditional Chinese medicine.  Its name literally means yellow, referring to the inside of the root, and leader, referring to its medicinal potency.

Mildly sweet, moistening, slightly warm and stimulating, astragalus invigorates vital energy, is nourishing and restorative, will strengthen resistance, restore damaged immunity, promote tissue regeneration, is cancer inhibiting, antiviral, adaptogenic, protects and strengthens the heart and the liver, is tonic to the lungs and enhances digestion.

Many scientific studies have verified its immune enhancing action.  Astragalus is a powerful “non-specific” immune system stimulant.  Instead of activating our defense system against a specific disease organism, astragalus nourishes immunity by increasing the numbers and activity of roving white blood cells, the macrophages.  Macrophages are the cells that T-lymphocytes “call” to come engulf invading organisms.

As an immunostimulant, astragalus engages and activates every phase of our immune system into heightened activity.  In one study, the activity of macrophages was significantly enhanced within six hours of treatment with astragalus and remained so for the next seventy-two hours.

In Chinese medicine astragalus roots are said to tonify the spleen, blood, and chi. They are used as a tonic for the lungs, for those with pulmonary disease, frequent colds, shortness of breath, and palpitations. Astragalus is also prescribed for those who suffer from fatigue, from any source, chronic nephritis, night sweats, prolapsed uterus or rectum.

Its tissue regenerating and anti-inflammatory abilities make astragalus an excellent ally to heal chronic ulcerations and persistent external infections, as well as to heal hard-to-heal sores and wounds and to drain boils and draw out pus.

Astragalus roots processed in honey is a specific against fatigue, used to boost vital energy, to nourish the blood, and also against incontinence, bloody urine or diarrhea.

In a study conducted by the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston, researchers compared damaged immune cells from cancer patients to healthy cells.  Astragalus extracts completely restored the function of the cancer patients’ damaged immune cells, in some cases surpassing the health and activity of the cells from healthy individuals.

The extract of astragalus also significantly inhibited the growth of tumor cells in mice, especially when combined with lovage, Levisticum officinale (cousin of angelica). According to a study reported in Phytotherapy Research, astragalus appears to restore immunocompetence and is potentially beneficial for cancer patients as well as those suffering with AIDS. It increases the number of stem cells present in the bone marrow and lymph tissue and stimulates their differentiation into immune competent cells, which are then released into the tissues, according to one study reported in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Astragalus also stimulates the body’s natural production of interferon, increases its effectiveness in treating disease, and increased the life span of human cells in culture.

Astragalus protects adrenal cortical function while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation and helps modify the gastrointestinal toxicity in patients receiving these therapies.  Chinese doctors use astragalus against chronic hepatitis, and many studies have demonstrated that astragalus protects the liver against liver-toxic drugs and anti-cancer compounds commonly used in chemotherapy, such as stilbenemide.  When used as an adjunct to conventional cancer treatments, astragalus appears to increase survival rates, to increase endurance, and to be strongly liver protective.

Astragalus helps lower blood pressure, due to its ability to dilate blood vessels, and protects the heart.  Scientists in the Soviet Union have shown that astragalus protects the heart muscle from damage caused by oxygen deprivation and heart attack.

According to reports in the Chinese Medical Journal, doctors at the Shanghai Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases found that astragalus showed significant activity against Coxsackie B virus, which can cause an infection of the heart called Coxsackie B viral myocarditis, for which no effective treatment exists.  In a follow-up study, astragalus helped maintain regular heart rhythms and beating frequency, and Coxsackie B patients showed far less damage from the viral infection (as much as 85%).

In Chinese medicine, astragalus is often combined with codonopsis.  This compound is said to strengthen the heart and increase the vital energy while invigorating the circulation of blood throughout the body. It is also traditionally combined with ginseng and used as a tonic against fatigue, chronic tiredness, lack of energy, enthusiasm, or appetite, and to ease “spontaneous perspiration” or hot flashes.

Japanese physicians use astragalus in combination with other herbs to treat cerebral vascular disease.  According to a research paper published by Zhang in 1990, adolescent brain dysfunction was diminished more with a Traditional Chinese Medicine formula containing astragalus in combination with codonopsis, than with Ritalin.

Integrating astragalus roots into your diet, especially during the winter months, as the Asians have been doing for years, turns out to be a very good idea. Scientists have demonstrated that astragalus will not only prevent colds, but cut their duration in half. Astragalus possesses strong antiviral properties, and in one study regenerated the bronchial cells of virus-infected mice.

Astragalus has been safely used throughoutAsiafor thousands of years.  The Chinese typically slice astragalus roots and add them, along with other vegetables, to chicken broth to create a nourishing and tonic soup.  Discard the root after cooking, and consume the broth.  No toxicity from the use of astragalus has ever been shown in the millennia of its use in China.

The genus Astragalus is the largest group of flowering plants, with over 2,000 species, most of which are found in the northern temperate regions.  Plants in this genus are amazingly diverse, some are nourishing and medicinal, some useful as raw materials, and others, such as the locoweeds, are toxic.

Astragalus membranaceus grows in the wild along the edges of woodlands, in thickets, open woods and grasslands.  It is native to the Northeastern regions of China, but grows excellently in our Maine soils and temperatures, as do most Chinese medicinal plants we’ve attempted to grow thus far.

Astragalus appreciates deep, well drained, somewhat alkaline soil. Seeds are easily gathered and when planted in the fall require no prior soaking.  They will germinate the following spring as soon as conditions are right.  The seeds have a hard seed coat, and some people nick the covering with a file or soak the seed overnight to hasten germination.  Give each plant plenty of room, as much as a foot all around, and harvest after the fourth or fifth year of growth.  Use whole or sliced, fresh or dried root for tinctures, honey, infusions, syrup, or in soups.

You’ll find our Certified Organic tincture of Astragalus membranaceus here:  http://www.blessedmaineherbs.com/tinctures1.html

Our Mushroot Chai Deep Immune Tonic contains Astragalus and American ginseng along with a selection of medicinal mushrooms, you’ll find it here:  http://www.blessedmaineherbs.com/muchto.html

Our Liver Support Blend as well as our Lung and Digestive Blend, both contain Astragalus and can be found here: http://www.blessedmaineherbs.com/adbl.html

Many healthful blessings to you!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Burning Times

When early Christianity was spreading throughout the lands, itinerant priests and traveling monks used commonly found flowers and trees as teaching aids.  This nature language was easily understood, and in fact, was a commonly shared knowledge among all people.  These agrarian people based their plant associations on deep inherent knowledge of the plant’s physical properties, its growth habit, appearance, aroma, color and form as well as its more subtle energetic qualities.

The lily, so soft and feminine yet strong and resilient, became an emblem of Mary, and associated with the Annunciation.

St. John’s wort, well known for its spirit healing and pain easing  properties is associated with the Passion of Jesus as well as the heartache of Mary.

A deep, reliable knowledge of plants existed, based on generation upon generation of using them and understanding their many gifts, both physical and energetic.  This deep body of knowing acquired over many thousands of years, about nature and specifically about plants, was nearly lost during the several hundreds of years around the Protestant Reformation.

The Inquisition – After purging Europe of most of the religious heretics, most notably the Cathars, the Inquisition turned its attention to “witches.”  During these times many people, especially women wise in the ways of healing with herbs and understanding the language of nature, faced the danger of being labeled as witches.

A lot of misinformation exists about this period of European history, sometimes referred to as the Burning Times.  According to differing accounts, anywhere from 50,000 to as many as 9 million people, mostly women, were executed during these several hundred years.

But a flood of new information on this period has been brought to light, and much of it casts serious doubt on many of the commonly held ideas about who, how many and by what means people were actually killed for being witches during this time.

To the early Christian mind, mares, strigae and lamiae (night spirits) were unsophisticated Pagan superstitions. In the early days of Christianity, the Church officially urged all Christian kings to forbid their subjects from killing women accused of being mares or witches.

The laws of the Pactus Alamannorum (613-623) created penalties for people who hung or harmed witches. The Edict of Rothari, dated 643, proclaimed it un-Christian to accuse women of such things.  These laws suggest that as Christianity spread through Europe, witch hunting declined.

The Catholic Church tried most witches during the Middle Ages, and penalties were actually fairly mild.  The Inquisition’s job was to reconcile heretics, to bring them back into the Church. The records show that an accused witch, willing to acknowledge the error of her ways, was treated with considerable leniency by the Inquisitors. Few witches actually died during this period.

The worst persecutions occurred in central Europe from 1550 – 1650, during the Protestant Reformation, one of the worst periods of religious warfare Europe ever experienced. During the 16th century the rate of persecution and death skyrocketed. The witch trials dramatically decreased during the last half of the 17th century until they virtually disappeared by the end of the 18th century.

The truth is that less than 20,000 executions are recorded in Europe.  As modern day historians studied the records of trial verdicts, they learned that previous estimates of the European death toll had been greatly exaggerated.  Scholars are now confident that somewhere between 20,000 and 60,000 witches died during these times.

In his meticulously researched study, Night Battles, Carlo Ginzburg demonstrated that most Italian witches were indeed drawing on pre-Christian traditions and, like the Good Walkers he describes, combined both Christian and ancient shamanic beliefs which were tied to prehistoric agrarian practices.  Many of these practices are still in use today.

Women made up approximately 80% of those accused of witchcraft, though this varied dramatically depending on time and place.  Some northern countries put as many men as women to death, perhaps even more. In Iceland, for instance, 95% of those killed were men. But overall, far more women than men were executed, sometimes as many as 20 women for every one man.

Most of those accused as witches were poor.  But in some places, especially where the witch hunter could confiscate his victim’s property, accused witches are found among the wealthy as well.

A significant number of those accused were herbalists, healers and midwives. Jenny Gibbons, a scholar and historian of Medieval times and the Christian conversion of Western Europe, writes extensively on this period of history.  She says that as many as one-quarter of those accused possessed knowledge of herbs and healing, or used some form of healing magic. Elderly people, unmarried, independent women and widows were assailed most frequently.

European people of the time believed they were threatened by a Satanic conspiracy.  Since Satan was believed to grant his followers both magical powers and great knowledge, midwives, prophets, healers, scholars and even artists could be accused of being witches.  Fear of the curative powers that herbalists, healers and midwives possessed caused these skills to be demonized.

Satan was the father of heresy and encouraged all evils, especially sexual ones, so homosexuals, sexually independent and especially beautiful women and criminals all fell under suspicion. And, since all ugliness was also the work of Satan, the elderly and the physically or mentally handicapped were also suspect.

Although it is hard to believe, Gibbons explains that all segments of European society supported the witch trials. Beginning in 1022, the Church began executing those it considered heretics, people who disagreed with the core of its teachings.  When the Burning Times began, Europeans had already become accustomed to burning heretics and religious dissidents.

The Catholic Church actually killed very few witches. Most of the religious courts imposed non-lethal penalties, like penance or imprisonment. However, the Church did encourage the intolerance and stereotyping that caused the trials, and its practice of murdering dissidents laid the groundwork for executing witches.

The Inquisition played a crucial role in the persecutions by diabolizing witchcraft.  But the truth is that contrary to what we’ve all heard, the Inquisition did not kill many witches. They investigated charges of witchcraft from 1300 to 1500, a time when the death rate was very low. After the Reformation, the Inquisition was quietly fazed out of most European countries.

When the witch crazes swept Europe, the Inquisition existed in only two countries, Spain andItaly, both of which had exceedingly small death tolls. In fact the Spanish Inquisition killed less than 1% of those accused.  In northern Italy several hundred witches were put to death, but in southern Italy there was not a single life lost.

After eradicating the Cathars from France, the Inquisitors turned their attention to witches. They re-defined witchcraft as a heresy; it was no longer perceived as a harmless superstition requiring no punishment.  Heretics were killed.

The Malleus Maleficarum – The earliest witch hunting manuals were written by inquisitors Bernard Gui, Johannes Nider and Heinrich Kramer.  Kramer authored the Malleus Maleficarum with some help from a Dominican scholar, and this book, as well as other witch hunting manuscripts, helped to spread the fear of witchcraft throughout Europe.

The Malleus Maleficarum has been held up as proof of the Catholic Church’s lust for the murder of witches during 500 years of European history.  But, according to Gibbons’ extensive research, this was absolutely not the case.

Heinrich Kramer, also known as Henry Institoris, was a German Inquisitor of the late 15th century.  He was not well respected and his views on witchcraft were considered both weird and extreme by most of his peers, who continually opposed and hindered his trials.

Kramer conducted a large trial inInnsbruckin 1485, where 57 people were investigated. No one was convicted.  The bishop ofInnsbruckwas so disturbed by Kramer’s focus on the sexual behavior of the accused women that he closed down the trial, remarking that Satan was in the inquisitor, not the witches.

The Malleus is usually circulated along with the papal bull “Summis Desiderantes,” which rants against witches and those who oppose Kramer and his co-author, Jacob Sprenger. But Pope Innocent had not read the Malleus when he wrote Summis Desiderantes.  The Malleus was also accompanied by a supposed recommendation from the Faculty of Cologne, the Inquisition’s top theologians.  Both these endorsements are misleading.

Kramer had complained to the Pope about the poor reception he was receiving from other priests, and the Pope, who greatly feared witchcraft, tried to help by giving him the Papal bull. Pope Innocent also asked a Dominican scholar, Jacob Sprenger, to help Kramer write the Malleus. When the writing was completed, Sprenger presented the Malleus to the Faculty atCologne, asking for its approval. Instead, the Inquisition resoundingly condemned the book.

The Inquisitors publically stated that the procedures the book recommended were unethical and illegal, and that its demonology was totally inconsistent with Catholic doctrine. Unconcerned, Kramer forged an enthusiastic endorsement.

The Faculty quickly discovered this and was enraged.  Kramer and Sprenger parted on bad terms, and the Inquisition condemned Kramer in 1490, just four years after the Malleus was published.

It was not the Catholic Church, but actually the secular governments who did most of the killing during these times.  In fact, it was the fortunate witch who was tried by the Church.  The death toll was always lowest when and where the Church ran the trials, and their courts usually killed less than 1% of the people they tried.

The truly damned were tried by the secular courts.  They tried far more witches than the religious courts did; the records show that most of the great witch crazes and trials were carried out by secular officials. These local, secular tribunals were often no more than slaughterhouses and as many as 90% of those tried by these courts were killed.

Documents show that most of the intellectuals of the time not only accepted, but openly supported the persecutions.  In fact, after the 15th century, witch hunting manuals were being written by secular intellectuals.  These manuals, and vivid descriptions of the trials, were among the earliest and by far the most popular books printed in England.

Peasants were also active participants in the trials. They initiated most of the trials and were usually the main witnesses against the accused.  Lynching and vigilantism were common and suspected witches were often brutalized; to break a supposed curse, people slashed an alleged witch’s face with a knife. 

They murdered witches’ familiars, threw rocks at their homes and held their heads underwater until they promised to remove a hex.  And when a professional healer couldn’t cure a disease, he or she often blamed the sickness on a witch.

Because of the intense fear of witches and all things pagan, folk wisdom and shamanic practices associated with plants, healing and nature became suspect.  This great body of knowledge, the wisdom accrued over millennia regarding the healing properties of the wondrous earth and of the herbs, flowers and trees was forced underground.  It went under the surface,  hidden in plain sight, and for the most part forgotten.  But this knowledge was not, nor could it ever be, entirely lost.

This is the wisdom of our cells, formed over eons of co-evolution with all the other life forms on our earth.  This is the wisdom of life itself living within us.  We can trust it.  We need only remember.   Deep meditation with the plants is one way to do this.  There are many others.

For insight into this period of history and the dynamics of the witch trials, I  highly recommend the play Saint Joan of Arc by George Bernard Shaw.

Saint Joan of Arc  Though quite accomplished at feminine skills such as sewing and embroidery, Joan of Arc preferred the life of a soldier. Passionate that France not be lost to the English, Joan donned masculine attire and convinced the King to let her lead the battle in defense of France.  A heroine when good fortune led to success for the French forces, Joan lost the good will of her supporters when she fell in battle.  She was burned at the stake as a heretic and fifty years later was proclaimed a saint.

Consider visiting Jenny Gibbons’ extensive website:  www.summerlands.com/crossroads/remembrance

excerpt from: Through the Wild Heart of Mary; Teachings of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and the Herbs and Foods Associated with Them by Gail Faith Edwards

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hawthorn Crataegus spp.

I’ll readily admit to having a great fondness for hawthorn trees. I find them to be particularly graceful and exceedingly magical, I love their compact growing habit, the unmistakable shape they form and all the legends and lore that surrounds them.   And I love their astounding generosity!  Hawthorn trees offer two harvests a season; leaves and flowers in the spring-time, berries in the fall.  This time of year they really call to me.

A wild hawthorn tree has a very sturdy yet enchanting presence and exudes a mighty strength for such a relatively small tree.  I like to say they have charisma.  I often enjoy just basking in their presence, just being with the wild trees we have growing here on the farm through the seasons, admiring their beauty, absorbing their medicine and magic.

Botanists describe hawthorn as a spiny tree or shrub and we’re told that it’s indigenous to northern temperate zones of Europe, Asia and North America.  I can tell you without reserve that its flowers, leaves and berries all make a superlative medicine.  Hawthorn has been a daily ally of mine for years now, but I’m far from the only one who appreciates its unique gifts. Anti-spasmodic, hypotensive, cardiotonic, diuretic and nervine-sedative, the hawthorn tree has quite an impressive history of use throughout millennia.

Hawthorn includes the species C. douglas C. colombia, C. cuneata, C.laevigata, C. pinnatifida, C. monogyna and C. pentagyna.  All are used interchangeably with C. oxyacantha which gets its name from the Greek words Oxus, which means sharp, and Akantha, meaning a thorn, and which is the best studied species of the Crataegus genus..

As a member of the Rosaceae family, hawthorn is incredibly nourishing and like many other members of this plant family, offers exceptional benefits for the heart.

The fruit trees in the Rosaceae family are ancient cultivars that have evolved down through the millennia by natural cross breeding as well as by intentional refinement. Their fruits are the very essences of common, abundant, nourishing and delicious!  They present us with a wide range of nutrients vital for health and well being.  Fruits provide us with an excellent foundation for sound and vigorous health; people who eat an assortment of fruits have a greatly reduced risk of many chronic diseases.

Regular consumption of fresh, cooked and juiced fruits of the Rosaceae family has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and to protect against certain cancers, such as mouth and stomach, colon and rectum. In addition, the risks of both bone loss and developing kidney stones are decreased with frequent consumption of Rosaceae family fruits. such as apples, pears, cherries, plums, blackberries, strawberries and hawthorn berries.

Hawthorn is a trophorestorative for the heart and circulatory system.  Its fruits, or berries, as well as its leaves and flowers, present a remarkably safe and effective long-term heart tonic for maintaining overall cardio-vascular health.

The ancient Italic tribes, Greeks, northern Europeans and Native Americans all made use of the hawthorn tree for its heart nourishing properties. Today, it is one of the most commonly used herbs throughout Europe. In fact, when it comes to the heart and circulatory system, hawthorn is a super star.

In European countries hawthorn berry extract is considered an effective therapy for mild to moderate congestive heart failure.  Hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries are used by herbal practitioners in the UK to treat hypertension in conjunction with prescribed drugs.

 Regular consumption of hawthorn berries will keep your heart functioning optimally into old age and will especially benefit those with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, angina and heart arrhythmia.  In fact, Hawthorn has the unique ability to help regulate both low and high blood pressure.

European physicians began experimenting with hawthorn for heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders in the early 19th century, and since then its reputation as an effective heart tonic has steadily increased.

Today numerous laboratory tests and clinical trials support this use by demonstrating that hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries contain chemical compounds that increase blood flow to the heart muscle, as well as positively affect other aspects of cardiovascular health.

Hawthorn berry, leaves and flowers improve oxygenation of the blood and brain, which has an immediate beneficial impact on energy levels.  Hawthorn’s reputation extends to improving blood flow through the heart arteries, increasing the strength of heart contractions and preventing plaque buildup in the arteries.

In addition hawthorn has been found to relax blood vessels so that blood flows more efficiently, to prevent high blood pressure and to stabilize collagen. Collagen is the body’s most abundant protein and is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the arteries as well as the ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Hawthorn cross links collagen fibers to reinforce the collagen matrix of the connective tissues.  If you are healing from any injury or need to improve the integrity of these structural areas of the body for whatever reason, hawthorn will be your trusty ally.

Hawthorn also exhibits anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties; it prevents the synthesis and release of inflammatory promoters such as histamines, serine proteases and prostaglandins.  Hawthorn may be useful as part of a protocol dealing with hyperactive immunity, or allergic responses of any kind, including asthmatic response, allergies to natural substances such as pollen, itchy, inflamed or irritated skin conditions, and for the relief of inflamed joints.  Its anti-oxidant properties help forestall the deterioration of the body associated with aging.

Hawthorn is an excellent nervine; it is calming and relaxing without being overly sedative. It has traditionally been used to ease anxiety and irritability, prevent bad dreams and eliminate insomnia due to stress.  It is also highly regarded as an herbal treatment for those who are hyperactive, have a hard time concentrating, are considered disruptive and cannot sit still.  To enhance the nervine properties of hawthorn combine it with herbs such as rose petals and hips, milky oats, lemon balm and passionflower.

While there are no acknowledged side effects of hawthorn, it is known to enhance the effects of digitalis, making it more potent.  European doctors often prescribe hawthorn to support digitalis and sometimes recommend it as a substitute when digitalis cannot be tolerated or when they want to avoid its side effects.

Hawthorn may also increase the effectiveness of beta blocker drugs.  If you are being treated for a heart-related condition, be sure to let your physician know if you are considering taking hawthorn, as some of your medications may need to be adjusted.

Hawthorn may best be seen as a heart nourishing herb with preventive properties that can be relied upon to slow down the beginning of cardiovascular damage.  It is entirely safe for long-term use and needs to be taken over a period of several months to achieve results. The usual dose is 30-40 drops of tincture three times daily to begin, and then it drops down to twice daily as a maintenance dose after about one month.

The most recent research tells us that our heart is an acutely sensitive organ of perception. Scientists tell us that our heart more closely resembles the brain than a muscle, that it contains millions of neurons, and is in constant communication with the thinking brain. Our heart and brain appear to act in concert, with the heart functioning as the feeling part of our brain.

Learning to open our wild hearts, to connect with the physical earth, cultivating love and compassion for nature, people, plants and animals, touching and being touched, expressing joy and acceptance, all help keep our hearts well toned and functioning optimally.

Heart-healthy foods include fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as sardines, salmon and herring, and flax seed and hemp seed oils.  Other foods and beverages that bring a host of benefits to the heart include herbal meads and fermented beverages in moderation; green tea; nuts and seeds rich in essential fatty acids; oatmeal; seaweeds; antioxidant-rich blueberries and other anthocyanidin-rich fruits, such as blackberries, elderberries and grapes; foods rich in carotenes, such as carrots and sweet potatoes; and potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, apples and potatoes.

Some of my favorite herbs for nourishing and toning the heart include motherwort, dandelion, oatstraw, ginkgo, rosemary, angelica, ginseng, ginger, nettles, hawthorn, elderberry, garlic, lemon balm, red clover, willow and rose.

A poultice of crushed hawthorn leaves or fruit has strong draining powers and has been used for centuries for the treatment of embedded thorns and splinters.

Hawthorn has long been considered a sacred tree and there are many ancient legends linking it to our origins.  Welsh legends tell of the Goddess Olwen, the White Goddess of the Hawthorn, who once walked the empty universe.  It was the white track of Hawthorn petals she left behind her that became the Milky Way.

Old European grandmothers say that where oak and ash and hawthorn grow there lives one wise in the ways of plant medicines.

In Christian times hawthorn became associated with the crown of thorns and also became the flower used in May processions to crown the Virgin Mary.  Long before that it was the maypole and the flowers were  used  to crown Our Lady of Spring, called Flora in Italy, but known by many other names throughout all of Europe.

The hawthorn is a long lived tree, often surviving to 100 years or more.  I think that a strong, wild heart and enduring spirit are just two of the many gifts of hawthorn.  Fertility, good fortune and peace are said to be others.  Hawthorn berry syrup is one of the tastiest gifts, of that I am sure!

Here’s a recipe for hawthorn berry syrup:  pick your berries right off the tree, place in a pot and cover with water by an inch or two over the top.  Very slowly, on low heat, with the pot covered, bring to a low simmer.  Simmer for ten minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for a couple of hours.  Strain.  Pour the infusion back into the pot, again on very low heat, and sit right there until you see steam escaping from the pot.  As soon as this happens you’ve reached the evaporation point…turn down the heat as low as it will go and let the infusion evaporate by half its original volume.  This can take half an hour or all day depending on how much liquid you start with.  When you’ve evaporated your liquid by half, take it off the heat and add one half of what you’ve got left in honey.  If you have 1 quart of liquid you add 1 pint of honey.  Mix well, bottle and refrigerate.  A teaspoon or two daily is a typical dose.  Note: If you use dried berries, ratio to begin with is 1 ounce of berries to one quart of water.

Dosage: Infusions of leaves and flowers and/or berries – typical dose is 2 cups daily.

Tincture is approximately 30 drops up to three times daily for the first month, then once or twice daily afterwards as a maintenance dose.

I usually throw a small handful of hawthorn berries into the teas and infusions I make.  I take the tincture once a day as well and use the syrup when I have it on hand.

Chemistry: Chemical constituents of hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries: include Vitamin C, Flavonoids : Quercetin,  Hyperoside, Rutin, Flavonoglycosyls,Vitexin-4′-rhamnoside, Glycosides, Oligomeric procyanidins (OPC) – epicatechol, Anthocyanidins and Proanthocyanidins, Saponins and Tannins, Cratetegin.  Also, Cardiotonicamines: Phenylethylamine, Tyramine, Isobutylamine, Omethoxy phenylethylamine;  Choline  and acetylcholine; Purine derivatives: Adenosine, Adenine, Guanine, Caffeic acid; Amygdalin; Pectins;  Triterpene acid.

You’ll find certified organic hawthorn tincture at Blessed Maine Herb Farm http:www.blessedmaineherbs.com/tinctures1.html

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Assumption Day ~ First-Fruits Festival

The special flower of this day is Clematis, the fragrant virgin’s bower.

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a day of great importance to those who honor Great Mother. It’s a celebration that dates back to our early ancestors, those who honored the Divine Feminine as a way of daily life. Celebrated on August 15th, the feast of the Assumption commemorates Mary being received into heaven and crowned as Queen, and evolved from ancient traditional harvest celebrations held at this time of year, the annual blessing of fruits, herbs and flowers.

Mary assumed the role previously played by Hecate/Trivia and Artemis/Diana, both of whom were traditionally honored on the full moon of August as the protectress of herbs, flowers and fruits, and particularly of grapes and grain. In ancient days the calendar was based on lunar phases and each month began with the new moon, thus August 15 would have fallen on a full moon.

The Feast of the Assumption was proclaimed a special feast day in honor of the Blessed Mother in 600 A.D. in the East, and was adopted approximately 50 years later in the West.

The story of Mary’s Assumption comes down to us from ancient stories called the Obsequies of the Holy Virgin, which were written in Syria at the beginning of the third century. One of these stories, called “The Departure of My Lady Mary from this World,” describes how Mary’s body was lifted up into Heaven.

These early stories say that Mary’s Assumption took place at Ephesus, where she lived under the care of the apostle John. Ephesus was the site of one of the most renowned sanctuaries of Artemis and the home of her well-known statue with many breasts, symbolizing the productive and nurturing powers of the earth. Our Mary, well known for her nurturing and protecting qualities, clearly carried on this role.

And the apostles decreed that there should be a commemoration of the Blessed One on the thirteenth Ab (August), on account of the vines bearing bunches of grapes and on account of the trees bearing fruit, that clouds of hail, bearing stones of wrath, might not come, and the trees be broken and the vines with their clusters…

In the East, where the Assumption Feast has its roots, the day is still commemorated with elaborate ceremonies for the blessing of fruit trees and grain. In modern Syria, both Moslems and Christians celebrate the Feast of the Assumption in similar ways. They make bouquets of newly harvested wheat and bake small triangular cakes. These gifts are graciously offered to Great Mother, as was the way of their ancestors for many millennia before Mary.

In many Catholic countries throughout Europe, Assumption Day still marks the period for invoking blessings on vineyards, herbs and grain. Traditionally, freshly gathered herbs are carried to the church on this day to be blessed and then used for medicine and healing or bound into a sheaf and hung in the home all year to protect against infirmity.

Throughout central Europe, this feast was also known as Our Lady’s Herb Day and it marked the start of Our Lady’s 30 Days, a period of special benevolence lasting for one full month. During this time animals and plants were believed to lose any harmful qualities and all foods were considered wholesome. This period of munificence coincides with the Weeks of Comfort, seven weeks following the full moon in the Jewish month of Av during which the spiritual readings are comforting, promising peace and prosperity.

Armenian communities all over the world still bless grapes on Assumption Day and also celebrate it as the name day feast of all the local women and girls named Mary. Large trays piled high with freshly harvested grapes are carried to church to receive the blessings of the priest. After Mass the people assemble in the vineyards to eat grapes and celebrate the village Marys.

When Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption an article of faith in 1950, Carl Jung perceived it as a critical juncture in Western culture; the image of the divine feminine was coming back into the light. The Queen of Heaven was being acknowledged once again in the West.

In Greece, the Assumption is called the Dormition or Kimesis (Sleeping), and is the most important of the summer holidays. During this full month devoted to Mary her icons depict her dead on a bier, with Christ behind her, holding her soul in his arms like an infant.

One description of the Kimesis celebration as held at Kefallonia tells of snakes called “the snakes of the Virgin,” slithering over the sacred icons, the offerings and the people in the congregation. In other parts of Greece the Dormition is celebrated like Easter, with funeral ceremonies and processions for Mary, like those marking Christ’s death on Good Friday.

You might choose to make some time on this sacred full moon day in August to honor Great Mother, as has been done for many,many millennia before us. Step into the timeless dance of feminine grace and beauty, celebrate the harvest and the bounty of Earth Mother, by whatever names or attributes you know her. It is the way we woman have been loving her back for a very long time.

On St Mary’s Day, sunshine brings much good wine. Traditional proverb in the Roman Catholic tradition

excerpted from Through the Wild Heart of Mary; Teachings of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and the Herbs and Foods Associated with Them.

Through the Wild Heart of Mary www.blessedmaineherbs.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


Chronic pain often long outlives its original cause. It usually worsens over time and takes on a life of its own. There is probably nothing more debilitating than chronic pain. Defined as pain lasting for six months or longer, chronic pain afflicts 50 to 80 million midlife Americans and costs us over $100 billion in social costs every year.

Recent research has shown that chronic pain is destructive to the body. The longer chronic pain goes untreated, the worse it becomes. Chronic pain unleashes a cascade of harmful hormones, such as cortisol, that adversely affect the immune system and kidney function.

Much has yet to be learned about chronic pain. For instance, doctors used to think that severed nerves could not transmit pain, and nerve cutting was typically prescribed to treat pain. Cut motor nerves cause paralysis, but sensory nerves are quite different. Sometimes damage to these nerves kills them and they stay dead, causing numbness. Sometimes sensory nerves grow back irregularly, or begin firing spontaneously, producing stabbing, shooting, and electrical sensations.

The body’s pain system is plastic and is easily molded by pain to cause more pain. A metaphor that is often used to describe this process is that of an alarm continually being reset to be more and more sensitive. At first the alarm is triggered by an animal, then the breeze, and then, for no apparent reason, it begins ringing randomly or continuously.

Additionally, pain nerves appear to recruit others in a “chronic pain wind-up,” and the entire central nervous system becomes involved, revving up and undergoing a kind of central sensitization. Research at University of California at San Francisco has shown that with prolonged injury, progressively deeper levels of pain cells are activated in the spinal cord.

Most chronic pain in not in the muscle, bone or tissue, but in the invisible hydra of the nerves. Of course, not all chronic pain is neuropathic. There is the shearing pain of inflammation, and muscular pain, or the very real pain of a broken heart. But many chronic pain conditions such as backache, once assumed to be musculoskeletal, are now being revisited and realized to have a neuropathic element.

Many chronic pain sufferers wind up taking huge amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs. The NSAID’S (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen put them at risk for gastro-intestinal bleeding and liver dysfunction, and the newer class of pharmaceutical pain relievers, the COX-2 inhibitors, while an improvement in terms of side effects, still may cause some abdominal distress.

Anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin and Aleve, were implicated in the deaths of 16,000 people in the USA in 2000, due to bleeding ulcers and related complications, according to the Federal Drug Abuse Network.

Research is also uncovering the fact that anxiety and depression are not so much responses to pain, but are the consequences of it. Pain and depression share the same neural pathways, the same circuitry. Serotonin and the endorphins that modulate healthy brain functioning are the same ones that modulate depression. Chronic pain uses up serotonin like a car running out of gas.

Functional-imaging scans reveal similar disturbances in brain chemistry in both chronic pain and depression, and the same medications are used by allopathic physicians to treat depression and pain. Depression and stressful events can enhance pain, and chronic pain sufferers usually respond to stress with more pain.

Chronic pain, it turns out, is not simply a sensory, affective, or cognitive state. It’s a biological disease afflicting millions of people. Perhaps the biggest question surrounding current pain research is whether the pathological cortical reorganization, the cellular memory, the deeply dug chronic pain channels, can be undone.

Scientists acknowledge that treatment can help suppress the abnormal nervous system sensitivity. They also know that it is far easier to prevent the establishment of abnormal channels than to treat them once they have become established. This means that when pain strikes, you must act to relieve it immediately. It is absolutely counterproductive to tough it out.

Do not allow acute pain to become deeply entrenched chronic pain. It appears from the research that substances which nourish, calm, and soothe the nervous system, can help relieve chronic pain. Pain relieving herbs in many cases are the same herbs that are used against depression.

Herbal Allies for Pain Relief

Some of my favorite pain relieving herbal allies include skullcap, cannabis, valerian, turmeric, poppy, willow bark, St. John’s wort, angelica, motherwort, black cohosh, wild yam, lavender, cayenne, kava kava, and rose.

Teas, infusions and syrups, tinctures and elixirs, foods, oils, creams and salves can all be effective herbal delivery methods, depending on the herb and the need.

Essential oils of pine, lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, rose, clove, frankincense, rosemary, ginger, juniper, bay and birch also are traditionally used as pain relievers and are well-documented analgesic agents. Put 10-12 drops of any one of these essential oils in one ounce of a carrier oil such as pure olive or coconut. Shake well and then rub into painful, swollen joints to allay pain and inflammation.

Skullcap Scuttelaria lateriflora – If you suffer from chronic pain, try drinking four to six cups of skullcap infusions daily, or take 10-15 drops of skullcap tincture four to six times daily. Use skullcap as needed, as often as every few minutes, in acute situations. Skullcap quiets the nervous system, and so will be a valuable ally if you suffer from chronic pain. A combination of equal parts skullcap, St. John’s wort, and oatstraw is particularly effective for calming the nervous system, and thus easing pain.

Valerian Valeriana officinalis is another well known and especially effective pain easing and anti-inflammatory herb. I find that 10 drops of tincture in water is a sufficient dose for easing most general aches and pains as well as sedating after trauma.

St. John’s wort Hypericum perforatum – I rub St. John’s wort oil, scented with essential oil of lavender, liberally onto any part of me, or anyone else, that hurts. This simple remedy is especially helpful for the relief of any kind of muscular or neurological pain. I also use 30 drops of St. John’s wort tincture to ease muscular spasms, aches and pains, joint inflammation and nerve pains.

Willow bark Salix spp. – 20-30 drops of willow bark tincture is usually an effective dose to ease the pain and inflammation of arthritis and rheumatism, as well as headaches and muscle aches and pains.

Rose Rosa spp. – is a soothing pain reliever, and any part, whether used fresh, or as an infused or essential oil, tea, tincture, glycerite, or flower essence will assist in the alleviation of any physical or emotional pain. I like rose oil to help heal the trauma after surgery and to heal the surgical incision without scarring.

Angelica Angelica archangelica, A. sinensis
, is rich in constituents that quiet the nervous system, it is grounding and helps establish ease. It’s rich supply of steroidal saponins makes angelica especially effective for relieving pain and bringing down inflammation. This is one of my favorite allies for alleviating arthritic aches and pains, and its antispasmodic properties make it useful for easing menstrual or muscular cramps as well.

The roots of ginseng Panax quinquefolius, angelica, wild yam Dioscorea spp., and black cohosh Cimicifuga racemosa, are all rich in these anti-inflammatory, pain easing steroidal saponins. 20-30 drops of tincture made from the fresh or dry roots of any of these herbs helps ease sore, painful joints. Synthesized steroidal drugs, unlike natural herbs, often have a negative impact on the immune system, and are known to stimulate osteoporosis.

Equal parts of black cohosh, wild yam, and St. John’s wort tinctures are highly recommended for relieving back ache (20 drops as needed).

Anti-inflammatory herbs are usually brimming with salicylates and/or steroids. They can also be nourishing, immune strengthening, bone building, and hormonal balancing. The buds, leaves, and bark of willow, birch, poplars, black haw, and wintergreen are all rich in salicylates, and so pain relieving and anti-inflammatory. Vinegar is an excellent menstrum for extracting the salicylates, one teaspoon being equal to one aspirin.

Sipping ginger syrup or applying a warm ginger (or its especially anti-inflammatory cousin, turmeric) poultice will help ease the pain and inflammation of arthritic joints. Sweat lodges, saunas, water baths, and steam baths, especially when using ginger, are all deeply penetrating and initiate healing energy.

Relaxation therapies are vitally important to those who suffer chronic pain. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and visualizations are all techniques that can be utilized for pain relief.

Gentle, low-impact exercise, such as walking, swimming and gardening, is also an important ally for those whose pains are chronic, because exercise releases feel-good, mood-enhancing, anesthetizing chemicals such as endorphins, and helps to keep our body limber, flexible, and pain free.

Excerpt from Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause; Herbal Allies for Midlife Women and Men by Gail Faith Edwards Copyright 2003 Gail Faith Edwards

Visit the Blessed Maine Herb Farm Herbal Apothecary at www.blessedmaineherbs.com

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


“When the sun fell low in the sky the apprentices gathered Rosa rugosa blooms from the hedge in the garden and the bushes around the cellar house. These they brought to her. She put her writing down and joined them in the herb kitchen. She took a good long look into the bags filled with roses; let her eyes soak in the soothing sight of the cool and colorful white and pink petals piled high. She took a long inhalation from one bag, taking the scent and essence of the roses deep into her lungs, and into her bloodstream. She believed part of the beauty of the herbs was in their subtlety. She knew that by taking the molecules of the herbs in through the olfactory system, she was in fact receiving the essence of the herb into her body, and that it was affecting her physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Of this she had no doubt. The essence of rose was also absorbed by their hands and fingers as they worked at chopping the petals into tiny pieces on the wooden chopping board. They placed these into small jars, and then covered them with pure honey. The light golden amber honey mixing with the slivers of white and pink rose petals was an absolutely mesmerizing sight, so beautiful. They all remarked on it as they stirred it all together with a freshly gathered ash stick. They put the jars of rose honey on a shelf behind a floral curtain, as they did with all their herbal extracts, to protect them from direct sunlight, and each returned to her former task.”

Rosa rugosa and other Rosa species, Rosacea family – Rose is a superlative and indispensable herbal ally. Rose…the name itself is such a beautiful sound. Almost like a purr. So soft and silky, yet strong and present, just like the rose.

Roses have prehistoric origins. Native to Asia, the rose is believed to have traveled to Egypt by way of Greece and Southern Italy, where the Romans cultivated it. The Italic peoples wore rose garlands, used roses to crown young couples, and decorated graves and funeral processions with roses. Roses still play a prominent role in Southern Italian culture and tradition today.

The remains of rose petals have been found in ancient sites throughout North America, some carbon dated twenty to forty thousand years old. American Indians used the rose both for its beauty and for medicine.

Mixed with bear grease, the fresh petals healed mouth sores. A powder made from dried petals was applied to fever sores and blisters. Iroquois ate rose hips to treat diarrhea and the Cherokee rid themselves of worms (and relieved dysentery) with an infusion of the bark. Roses infused in rainwater were used to bathe sore eyes.

People all over the world have known and used the rose as a soothing balm, a skin softening agent, an aphrodisiac, a hormone balancer, a heart tonic, an antidepressant, and a nerve tonic throughout millennia.

Roses are antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial and the fresh petals can be used against infection. I sometimes use a few rose petals as a protective covering over a cut or sore. I use an infusion of dried rose flowers as a gargle to relieve sore throat and drink it as a remedy for diarrhea. Honey infused with rose petals is incredibly delicious and a very effective and soothing remedy against sore throats.

Smelling roses makes most of us feel very good. The aroma alone has a therapeutic effect on both women and men. One remarkable thing roses do for men is speed up their sperm motility, thus boosting male fertility. You may have wondered why roses have been offered universally as a symbol of love for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. One reason may be as deep as survival of the species.

Roses encourage procreation. They encourage, nourish and support fertility. Think about all the art you’ve ever seen with roses depicted. They are present as a symbol of health, vitality, sensuality, prosperity, abundance, fruitfulness, fertility and blessedness.

Roses are laid at the feet of the Blessed Mother, even today. In fact, they are called Emblem of Mary. Roses have long been considered a flower sacred to Great Mother; beloved by Isis, one of the flowers of Aphrodite, and said to have sprung from the blood of Venus. One ancient legend tells us that Cupid was responsible for the creation of the rose.

Throughout the ages, the rose has been considered the quintessential expression of love. When Mark Antony visited Cleopatra in her palace, the floors were reportedly covered knee-deep in rose petals. Roses are known the world over as an aphrodisiac. The ancients used both the Damask rose, Rosa damascena, and the Gallic rose, Rosa gallica, in erotic perfumes. R. gallica officinalis is the original apothecary rose, well known and used as medicine throughout Europe during the middle ages.

Roses are renowned for their tonic and regulating effects on female and male reproductive systems. The leaves, leaf bud, flower and fruit (rose hip) of the wild roses, Rosa rugosa, and sweet briar, are rich in phytosterols and bioflavonoids. These phyto-nutrients are especially necessary for us as we age.

Phytosterols act as building blocks for hormones. As long as we are supplying these essential nutrients, our endocrine system is able to do its job of producing the correct balance of hormones for our body, whether it is estrogens or androgens we need. For hormonal help, especially during menopause, I’ve frequently enjoyed infusion, tincture, or honey of rose.

Rose petal infusion relieves menstrual cramping and regular consumption of a simple rose infusion daily can be an effective guard against osteoporosis as roses are strengthening to the bones.

Bioflavonoids are biologically active, brightly colored substances found in plants. The bioflavonoids in roses and their fruits help maintain the health of blood vessels and are favorable to the production of estrogen. They are necessary for the absorption of vitamin C. With a toned and healthy endocrine system, both interest in sex and the enjoyment of it is enhanced.

The Chinese use the flowers of Rosa rugosa which they call mei gui hui, as a chi nourisher and a blood and liver tonic. Blood is the mother of chi, and chi commands blood, which is the essence of life. Healthy, well nourished blood means a healthy body/mind/spirit and good vital energy.

Recipe: A wonderful health building, sex nourishing tonic is a simple rose honey or syrup to which is added a few drops of pure vanilla, ginger, and a tincture of damiana or cinnamon. This elixir is most warming and nourishing, stimulating, energizing, aphrodisiac, and tonic.

Ayurvedic healers consider rose to be cooling and astringent, and so use the flowers to poultice wounds and inflammations. Roses strained out from an infusion can be used to poultice inflamed joints. Use the infusion as a wash over surgical wounds or incisions, or use it as a compress or apply the infused oil.

Rose water effectively eases acne and irritated skin conditions and is wonderful splashed on your face after washing. Roses are esteemed the world over for their nourishing and healing effects on all skin types and are especially kind to aging skin. Roses are a great addition to any kind of face cream, skin lotion, moisturizer, massage oil, after shave, antiseptic spray, or healing salve or balm.

Added to the bath, roses are cooling, refreshing, relaxing, and simply luxuriant. If I have some on hand, a few drops of essential oil of rose is wonderful, but a handful of dried blossoms tied inside a face cloth or piece of cotton muslin and soaked in the tub or basin also works fine. I like to mix sea and Epsom salts with roses and put some of this into a foot bath to relax my feet after working in the garden. It feels so good! I also like combining roses with seaweeds for an extra special body rub or soak.

Infused rose oil, used as a pain easing, nerve soothing, stress relieving, relaxing massage oil, can send the recipient straight to nirvana. Aromatherapists use essential oil of rose to ease anxiety and depression. Rose creates an aroma that is both sensual and relaxing. I like to use a cool poultice of fresh rose petals to help ease a headache, but even just a bit of tincture in a cup of water into which a rag is placed, soaked, wrung out and applied to the forehead will help.

Roses and rose hips possess antiviral properties and help to strengthen immune function, so I regularly add both to most of our winter time teas to help prevent colds and flu. Roses are an excellent, all-around, preventative medicine.

To stay healthy through midlife and beyond, enjoy a strong, fully functioning immune system, protect yourself from heart disease and cancer, and enjoy a mind as sharp as a tack, consider integrating roses and rose hips into your weekly herbal routine.

Rose hips are high in vitamin C, B complex, bioflavonoids, carotenes, vitamin E, and selenium. They also offer abundant chromium, niacin, phosphorus, protein and sodium. These nutrients make rose hips especially nourishing to the brain and help enhance focus, attention, and concentration. All those antioxidants and bioflavonoids help protect us from cancer as well as heart disease.

Rose petals and hips are nourishing to the heart and circulatory system. Try making a cup of rose petal/hip tea a few afternoons a week, or blend some rose petals with oatstraw, hawthorn and lemon balm and drink often to nourish and protect yourself from heart disease, or accumulated stress. Roses and the heart have a long history of working together.

Roses not only nourish our physical heart, but also soothe and heal a broken heart. If you are dealing with the pain of a broken heart, heart wrenching emotional pain, from any source, the pain of divorce, or the break up of a long term relationship, in the midst of menopausal depression, singing the blues, feeling down and out, lost, weary, tired, exhausted and feel you have nowhere to turn, turn to rose.

Rose will soothe your pain, ease your fear, and help restore equilibrium. Anoint your heart area with rose oil often. It encourages awareness of the many manifestations of love and beauty all around us. Keep a potted rose in your home or plant roses around the outside of your house to enhance your ability to love and to share that love in a joyful, open way with others.

Rose glycerite is an incredibly delicious way to enjoy the taste and subtle properties of rose. Glycerin draws out the hormonal precursors, and so a rose glycerite is a wonderful hormonal balancer for both women and men. Try a few droppersful in a quart of cold water.

Making and consuming rose mead is another fun and delicious way of welcoming the spirit of rose into your life. And it’s a great way to take your medicine! Rose flower essence helps us open our wild hearts to love in all its forms, and rose jams, jellies and honeys are fantastic!

I love roses! I gather rose buds and flowers as they appear all summer. When gathering roses, be sure to take only the petals, leaving the center behind to develop into the hip. I tincture fresh rose petals, leaf buds, or hips in alcohol or infuse them in glycerin, oil, or honey. I dry rose flowers and hips on screens and also enjoy stringing rose hips with needle and thread into long strands that we then hang to dry. They look so beautiful hanging in the kitchen, inviting their use.

Fresh or dried rose hips make a nourishing, delicious vinegar. A glycerite of fresh rose blossoms captures and enhances the rose flavor beautifully and a dropperful of rose glyercite in a quart of fresh spring water makes an awesome, delicious, cooling and refreshing drink after working in the garden on a hot summer day.

I find Rosa rugosa very easy to start from seed. I gather rose hips still on the bushes in late winter and break them open, separate the seeds from the pulp, broadcast them on the surface of my starting mix in flats, and gently work the seeds into the top layer of soil with my fingers. It takes two months for rose seeds to germinate in my cool spring conditions.

Seedlings go into a protected bed, placed fairly close together and kept well weeded. In the spring of their second year, they’re ready for a permanent home. They look so beautiful blooming in the garden and around the root cellar. Rugosa hips are big, bright red, and so delicious!

Recipe: Rose Water
Pick rose blossoms on a sunny day when their scent is at its peak. Put into a stainless steel or enamel pot and cover with fresh spring (or distilled) water. Cover and slowly heat to just below a simmer. Turn the heat as low as it will go, and continue heating for about ten minutes tightly covered. Steep overnight. In the morning, strain the beautiful, fragrant rose water off. I add a bit of organic alcohol or witch hazel as a preservative, bottle and keep in a cool dark place. I splash this fabulous rose water over my body to tone and refresh my skin. As a wash it helps heal acne.

Hint: Try rose water in your pound cake recipe, Incredible!

For rose glycerite and rose oil visit our online apothecary at Blessed Maine Herb Farm www.blessedmaineherbs.com

May the roses share their beauty, love and joy with you!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Organic Herb Gardening and Medicine Making

Organic herb gardening and medicine making can be simple, easy and lots of fun. I’ve spent the last thirty five years doing it! Sure, there’s some hard work involved, but that can be experienced as enjoyable and a form of soul nourishment all its own.

We moved onto our homestead, which we call the Blessed Maine Herb Farm, back in 1977 and as the years passed, have created over an acre of permaculture gardens surrounding our home, herb house and teaching center. Each spring we start new seeds under cover, care for tender seedlings and eventually transplant them into their new homes in the garden or around its wild edges. We also seed many things directly in the garden during spring, summer and fall. We’ve planted woodland medicinals and also assorted fruit, nut and medicine trees and shrubs.

Some seeds need to be covered with soil in order to germinate, others require light. Some need to be stratified, some soaked overnight and others need to be nicked with a knife or abraded with sandpaper before germinating. Some plants like shade and lots of moisture, others thrive in dry sandy soil with a full day of sun.

Good medicine making requires that one pay a great deal of attention to the subtle messages of the plants. One plant needs to be gathered before flowering, another while in full flower, and yet another after flowering. And then there’s the issue of which parts to gather. Observation, research, consulting herbals written by real herbalists and keeping careful notes from year to year will all serve you well here.

There’s much to learn for sure, (I’m still learning!) but it’s mostly knowledge gained by the doing…one learns as one goes along. So don’t be afraid to just dive in and begin. And ask for help as needed.

Sometimes an experienced guide, an elder neighbor who has been gardening for much of her life-time, can be a help. That’s where this present blog entry comes in.

Our Blessed Maine Herb Farm and processing facility has been MOFGA certified organic since 1989. And as is required of any certified organic farm and processing facility, we keep thorough logs of all our growing, harvesting and processing activities. The herb planting and harvesting calendar below details the day to day work in our Blessed Maine Herb gardens from March through early July. I share it with you here so that if needed, it might be used as a general outline for your own herb gardening and medicine making work. Many blessings to you!

March 18 – Today we planted six flats of Rosa rugosa seeds that we saved from last year’s fruits. We dried the rose hips thoroughly after we harvested them, then placed the whole hips in a paper bag and placed that in an airtight container. Just before planting, we break up the hips and separate the seeds. We scatter the seeds quite thickly in a flat or in a well worked bed in the greenhouse. Germination usually takes four to six weeks; these seeds do need a period of cold stratification. I’ve been told that Rosa rugosa cannot be planted this way and do not come true from seed, but I’ve been doing this for years and have beautiful roses.

We also seeded lavender, bee balm, feverfew, mullein, anise hyssop, rosemary, delphinium, ginkgo, codonopsis, lemon balm, lady’s mantle, angelica and yarrow. Most of our herb seeds come from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, FEDCO and Horizon Herbs – seed companies with reputations for reliable seeds. The seeds we planted today will have several weeks of cold stratification (a cold, moist period) in the greenhouse and will then germinate as the temperature warms.

March 31 – After a night of heavy snow, the weather is perfect for working inside. We dug more beds in the greenhouse this morning and planted seeds of St. John’s wort, licorice, passion flower, wild marjoram and more Rosa rugosa. We also sowed lettuces and salad greens, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi seeds. Next we’ll plant seeds of fresh and dried flowers for pretty summer bouquets.

This week we also began retrieving the bare roots of medicinal plants that we dug from the garden, packed in sawdust and put into our root cellar last fall to store through the winter. We’ve been dividing the roots of valerian, astragalus, codonopsis, lavender and licorice. After careful division, the roots are counted, packed in sawdust, wrapped in recycled grain bags, and sent to FEDCO for its catalog sales. Working with the plants again feels great: smelling the rooty, earthy aromas, having soil under our fingernails, appreciating the incredible strength and beauty of a tiny sprout. Giving thanks for the wonders of new life!

April 5 – We started seeds of delphinium, statice, larkspur, sea lavender and more passion flower this week. The anise hyssop (licorice mint) is up, and so is the wild marjoram, licorice and salad greens. And the snow is coming down!

April 30 – The greenhouse is packed with flats of seedlings, and everything is growing beautifully. Hollyhocks, delphiniums and larkspur are tall and green, licorice is putting out its second true leaves, and the long awaited passion flower vines are finally sprouting out of their dark, moist soil. The beds in the greenhouse are bursting with new growth. Lavender, lemon balm and angelica are all up, and so is yarrow. Anise hyssop and wild marjoram are fantastically lush, but we are still waiting for the lady’s mantle to pop up. Lots of hardy perennials are green and beautiful in the herb garden; everything seems to have wintered over fine. Angelica is sending up lots of new green leaves, garlic tops are up, and we’ve been digging roots of lavender, codonopsis and ginseng for spring sales. Spring cleanup is in full swing, and everyone is either raking or moving piles of wood. This is a good time to plant peas and assorted greens for summer salads.

May 19 – We have been preparing a site for a new shade house for ginseng, which we seeded last fall in the garden and which seems to be germinating well – right through a layer of hay and leaf mulch. I love the way the seedlings emerge, looking like delicate, unfurling claws reaching for the sun.

We’re eating dandelion and nettle greens!

The apprentices have transplanted two beds of wild marjoram and a long bed of anise hyssop in the garden. We’ve also planted three rows of strawberries and mulched them with newspaper and hay.

We’ve all been on our hands and knees in the garden making new beds. After going through with a rototiller, each bed is worked with a fork and is then thoroughly gone over by hand. All roots and rocks are removed to a depth of about 1 foot. We place roots in a wheelbarrow and dump them in a special compost pile on the edge of the herb garden. Rocks are mounded in piles and then collected in pails and either dumped at the side of the garden or used in a variety of creative ways. This tedious and time consuming work makes a fantastic growing area with very few weeds. When the bed is finished and smoothed, we sprinkle a light application of compost, and voila! We are ready to seed or transplant!

Once beds are planted, they are mulched on both sides with hay, usually with damp newspaper underneath. Layering sheets of newspaper, hay, kitchen waste and other organic matter over the soil is known as sheet mulching, or lasagna gardening. This is an effective yet simple and relatively easy technique to control weeds and build soil, and the mulch helps the soil retain moisture and stay cool through the heat of the summer. As summer progresses and the organic matter begins to decompose, we continue to add more layers of hay and other organic matter. Because we don’t disturb the soil, plenty of beneficial bacterial and fungi grow. And because the soil in the planting bed is not compacted, worms and billions of microorganisms thrive, naturally building and enriching soil. The perennial herbs especially appreciate an environment like this. Most of our perennial herb garden is prepared and maintained this way, in a kind of permaculture. Garlic thrives with this treatment, as do astragalus, hyssop, lavender, licorice, mints and fruit trees.

Four apprentices work in the gardens three days a week now. Our gardens are filled with laughter and high energy, and the plants respond with beautiful growth. Bed preparation will continue for quite a while, as plenty of flats filled with healthy seedlings sit in the greenhouse, awaiting their homes in the herb garden. They require constant attention and daily watering now.

Our garlic has been sprinkled with compost and will soon get another layer of hay over that. Jack and I weeded the echinacea beds, and we planted a few more rows of potatoes. He put in some colorful Indian corn, and I planted two beds of calendula, more lettuce for salads, and a long bed of big red zinnias! I have enjoyed working on my hands and knees in the dirt since my childhood. I give thanks and praise for this little patch of earth to plant, tend and enjoy!

May 20 – We’ve weeded, applied compost, and mulched beds of catnip, marshmallow and butterfly weed. We’re just finishing weeding several beds of hyssop. The plants remaining in the greenhouse are growing stronger by the day, and most are ready to be transplanted. Beginning this week they’ll all be finding their way into their new homes in the garden.

Cherry and apple trees are bursting into bloom along the hedgerow lining the driveway. Cheerful yellow masses of daffodils are peaking, and tulips are plump and about to open into sturdy blooms. Today we’re working in the herb house, pouring tinctures into bottles and labeling.

May 29 – We’ve had a full week of cloudy, rainy weather – just perfect for transplanting! We’ve put in a wide bed of lupines and another long bed of hollyhocks. We’ve also been cleaning up the lavender beds – cutting away dead parts of plants and weeding around them so that the fresh new growth underneath has full access to the sun. All of the lavender appears to have made it through winter, and the new growth looks strong and vibrant. After the beds are cleaned up, they’ll get a light sprinkling of compost, and more hay or other organic matter will be added to each side of the beds. We often add leaves of mineral-rich comfrey to these layers, and other soil nourishing herbs that we have in abundance, such as nettle and mugwort.

Zinnias and calendula are coming up strong, and everything we planted in the vegetable garden looks good. I cannot wait to eat the dill and fennel, cilantro and basil, fresh young onions, and all those salad greens. The peas are thick, and potatoes are sprouting through the soil. Yesterday we planted another batch of oats, five long rows of corn, green manures (rye, peas, clover and brassicas), and we put a few rows of cantaloupe in an especially rich corner of the garden.

We’ve begun creating shade for the ginseng beds. Ginseng has been growing successfully here at Blessed Maine Herb Farm for a decade. It now grows in two locations, and both need new shade arrangements. Ginseng requires between 75% and 90% shade and rich soil with plenty of humus.

Today a new bed of licorice will be transplanted, but the hot peppers still have a week or two in the greenhouse before we can put them into their new homes. Bed preparation continues.

June 10 – We’ve been transplanting the last of the perennial herbs – lemon balm, lavender, licorice, rosemary, astragalus, bee balms, licorice and thyme – and lots of hollyhocks, foxglove and delphiniums into their beds. We’ve also planted blessed thistle, milk thistle and more calendula seeds. The oats are now an inch tall and bright emerald green. The apprentices have been diligently caring for beds of sage, lavender and echinacea, and everything in the garden is beautiful. All proceeds at a steady, calm pace.

June 17 – Jack is already cutting hay with his hand scythe on this beautiful, sunny day! The hay looks so pretty drying this morning in long rows across the top of the garden. All plants are growing rapidly now.

The roses are just beginning to blossom. We’ve already harvested and processed several batches of their silky, pink petals, and many, many more will be gathered over the next month or so. When we gather roses from our rugosa plants, we’re careful to lift only the petals, leaving the center of the bloom behind. We’ll come back later to harvest the bright red fruits that form here, the rose hips, in late summer. Meanwhile, we’ve put up jars of rose oil, a jar of rose glycerite, and started a batch of rose mead.

Raspberry leaves are perfect for gathering and drying on screens in the herb house now. Horsetail is also drying on a screen there, and comfrey is ready for its first cutting. We’re eating fresh salads every day. We made flower essences with sage, rose and clematis blossoms.

July 3 – We’ve been weeding, weeding, weeding…And in between, harvesting, harvesting, harvesting…We’ve cut some comfrey and made comfrey oil, and gathered several more baskets full of roses. We must go out every day now to check all our potato plants for bugs. We’ve been going out morning and evening with a branch and gently swishing it against the plants to knock off any bugs. We’re eating dill, fennel, cilantro and all kinds of salad greens from the garden now. Two huge beds of calendula are looking real pretty right now, and the zinnias are growing well also. Soon those beds will be flowering. Our statice and larkspur are now just beginning to come into flower. The foxglove continue to bloom and look fantastic.

Yesterday I potted up 14 baby ginkgo tree seedlings. They look so cute in their little pots. The rose seedlings are now ready for a protected home in the garden where they can grow until next spring when they will be transplanted into their final home. And we still have a hump of delphiniums that must go into the garden on the next rainy day.

The St. Johns’wort is just coming in to bloom here. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be putting up gallons of St. John’swort oil and tincture, and drying a lot too, for teas. Our tomatoes got a good going over the last couple of days. First we weeded them real good, then gave each plant a generous side dressing of well composted manure. Hopefully they’ll start doing something soon!

That takes us through the month of June. I’ll continue with July through the end of the year in another segment.

Enjoy your spring gardening and may your work bring you great joy and an abundant harvest!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Natural Substances to Protect Ourselves From Radiation

The entire world is watching in horror as events continue to spin out of control in Japan. The country remains in a state of emergency after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck and appears to be facing what could potentially be the worst nuclear crisis in human history. All eyes and ears are now focused on the very real threat of radiation poisoning traveling around the globe. As events at the Fukushima nuclear plant escalate dramatically by the hour, people all over the world are scrambling for potassium iodide tablets and sea vegetables to protect themselves in case the radiation particles come their way.

Yet, in our everyday lives we seem oblivious to the impact of radiation on our health. Many of us are swept up in the euphoria over an endless parade of wireless devices. We actually seem addicted to radiation and completely unconscious of the jack-hammering effect it has on human cells.

Today 285 million Americans have mobile phones and 83 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are “wired” all the time and sleep with their cell phones next to their heads.

Mounting scientific evidence suggests that non-thermal radio frequency radiation (RF)—the invisible energy waves that connect cell phones to cell towers and power numerous other everyday items—can damage our immune systems and alter our cellular makeup and eventually lead to cancer, even at intensities considered safe by the FCC.

It has been know for a decade that RF/microwaves from cell phones and tower transmitters cause damage in human blood cells that results in nuclei splintering off into micronuclei fragments. The development of micronuclei heralds the development of pre-cancerous conditions. Many victims of Chernobyl developed blood cell micronuclei that rapidly turned into full blown cancers.

Numerous animal studies have demonstrated that mobile phone radiation quickly causes DNA single and double strand breaks at levels well below the current federal “safe” standards. A six-year industry study showed that human blood exposure to cell phone radiation had a 300 percent increase in genetic damage in the form of micronuclei.

In addition, industrial activities, mining, and nuclear power activities all release relatively large amounts of usually unseen toxic metals into our air, water, and our food crops on a daily basis.

Radioactive medical wastes are increasingly a source of radioactive metal poisoning and we are exposed to radioactive isotopes released into the air by way of gaseous emissions as well as radioactive substances released into cooling water from nuclear facilities around the world.

A huge pile of research has confirmed that non-ionizing communications radiation in the RF/microwave spectrum has the same effect on human health as ionizing gamma wave radiation from nuclear reactions. Injuries resulting from radioactive radiation are identical with the effects of electromagnetic radiation. In the U.S., deadly high frequency radiation is now blasting from tens of thousands of cell towers and rooftop antennas all over the country. What all this means is that you don’t need to wonder if the radiation from the Japanese catastrophe is going to reach us. It’s already here from numerous ongoing sources.

So in light of these combined threats from radiation poisoning we all face on a daily basis, I‘d like to share with you some proven ways we can protect ourselves and our health and detoxify our bodies.

RosemaryRosmarinus officinalis – Rosmarinus has been revered for its protective qualities down through the ages. It’s now been found that two compounds in this wild Mediterranean plant, Carnosic and rosmarinic acids, naturally deter radiation poisoning.

In a study published this year in the British Journal of Radiology, February 2 edition, scientists in Spain reported finding that nothing fights radiation damage to micronuclei as well as rosemary. The fact that these compounds found in rosemary are fat soluble allows them to provide highly significant protective anti-mutagenic activity. Even the most powerful water-soluble antioxidants lack the capacity to protect against gamma ray induced damage.

In another study published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology, the generation of radiation induced cellular DNA damage to skin from free radicals was the focus. The researchers sought to demonstrate that rosmarinic acid from rosemary would act as a photo-protector both by acting as a scavenger of free radicals and as an inducer of the body’s own endogenous defense mechanisms. They found that formulation of toxic production was delayed by the use of rosmarinic acid, and the protection factor was 3.34 times greater than for other compounds studied, as measured in micronucleus testing.

So, how can we use rosemary to protect ourselves from radiation damage? I’d suggest taking 30 drops of rosemary tincture once to three times daily in a bit of water, depending on your level of exposure. Rosemary infused oil, applied to the skin will also be effective. Use dried rosemary often in your cooking, and drink rosemary teas and infusions.

Foods containing Caffeic Acid – In a study done in India, and published in the 2008 Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology scientists investigated the radio-protective potential of caffeic acid against gamma radiation-induced cellular changes. Lymphocytes were pre-incubated with caffeic acid and controls were not. All the lymphocytes were exposed to different doses of radiation and then genetic damage and biochemical changes were measured. Gamma irradiated control lymphocytes showed a radiation dose-dependent increase in genetic damage and a significant decrease in antioxidant status. Caffeic acid pretreated lymphocytes positively modulated all radiation induced changes. There was no damage caused to the cells whatsoever.

So which foods and herbs contain caffeic acid? Apples (An apple a day…I love the way these “old wives tales” continue to reveal their truths over the eons.) all citrus fruits, and the entire Brassicaceae family of plants, which contain vegetables such as broccoli, mustard, cabbage and cauliflower.

You might consider that a daily bowl of any of the following greens or roots is indispensable for ensuring your good health and protection from all forms of radiation: radish, turnips, shepherd’s purse, bok choi, napa, Chinese cabbage, broccoli rabe, kohlrabi, mustard greens, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cress.

Members of the Brassica family offer uniquely important health-promoting properties. In addition to the wide array of necessary vitamins and minerals they provide, Brassica vegetables also contain a number of especially potent health enhancing and protective phytonutrients.

For instance, certain compounds in these vegetables known as glucosinolates reduce the potential of carcinogens through their ability to stimulate liver detoxification enzymes. These phytonutrients inhibit enzymes that normally activate carcinogens and induce other enzymes that help to dismantle active carcinogens.

All the vegetables in this family are sulphur rich – they contain Sulforaphane, which is actually formed when these vegetables are chopped or chewed. It, too, is known to trigger the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing chemicals.

Remember that most of these bioactive compounds are water-soluble; during heating they leach into the cooking water. Because of this, it is recommended to cook these vegetables in the minimum amount of water (as in steaming) in order to retain their nutritional benefits and drink the liquid.


Brown Algae such as the Laminaria and Saccharina, Fucus, Sargassum muticum.

Regular seaweed consumption should be a part of our daily diet and especially noted for their radiation protective qualities are wakame, kelps and bladderwrack.

The negative health effects of radiation poisons can be prevented or suppressed by regular consumption of algin-rich brown seaweeds which slow the bioaccumulation of neurotoxic metals.

Shep Erhart, who runs the Maine Seaweed Company in Franklin, Maine, has been eating, harvesting, working with and enjoying seaweeds for the past thirty years. He taught me that sea vegetables contain the broadest range of minerals of any food – the same minerals found in the ocean and in human blood, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and iodine.

A few summers ago Shep took me and a small group of apprentices to one of his favorite seaweed gathering spots on the coast of Maine. One of the seaweeds we found in abundance on that day was Luminaria longicruris, or kelp, a beautiful brown seaweed that grows 4 to 8-foot-long broad golden fronds.

Kelp offers exceedingly high amounts of these minerals, and is an unparalleled source of other essential trace nutrients, particularly iodine. “Our cells and those of seaweed are both bathed in a similar ocean of dissolved mineral matter. The ratio of sodium to potassium is nearly the same in blood and saltwater.” Shep said.

Kelp has been found to have a normalizing action on the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which are especially vulnerable to absorbing radioactive poisons from the environment. A healthy, functioning parathyroid gland means you can absorb all those minerals to your best advantage.

Numerous researchers have discovered kelp’s ability to bind with radioactive isotopes in the body, thus allowing them to be safely excreted. Consuming kelp regularly will offer protection to the cells in your body during and after radiation treatments, after any routine x-rays and most notably during and after any kind of radiation poisoning.

Studies also suggest that kelp has a positive effect on the balance of healthy flora in the intestinal tract, actively destroys cancer cells, and stimulates T-cell production in our immune systems. All sea vegetables are strongly immune enhancing.

Kelp is a versatile seaweed and there are many ways to integrate its use into the daily diet. It is superb when lightly toasted or fried; it can be pickled in brine or simmered in soups; it’s great sautéed; and it’s indispensable in bean dishes, as it helps to tenderize beans, shortens the cooking time and aids in digestion.

You don’t even have to eat it to benefit from its radiation protective and health nourishing properties…just soak in a seaweed bath. The sea greens help to balance body and skin chemistry. Electrolytic magnetic action of the seaweeds releases excess body fluid from congested cells and dissolves fatty wastes through the skin, replacing them with depleted minerals, particularly potassium and iodine. The vitamin K in sea vegetables helps regulate adrenal function, thus a regular seaweed bath or rub helps ensure well balanced hormones and a more youthful physical appearance, in addition to offering its radiation protective benefits. The mucilaginous fiber in seaweed helps to prevent the reabsorbing of radioactive strontium 90.

“Following the bombing of Nagasaki, a group of surviving macrobiotic doctors and their patients avoided radiation sickness simply by eating brown rice, miso and seaweed.

Another excellent source of high quality seaweeds can be obtained from Larch Hanson in Stueben, Maine. Larch gathers his seaweeds from pristine places along the coast of Maine as well.

Adaptogens – those all important natural substances that help the body adapt to stress. In order to meet the criteria as defined by the word adaptogen, a substance must be non-toxic, produce a nonspecific response in the body which boosts the ability to resist multiple stressors, and exert a normalizing influence on physiology. By definition, adaptogens strengthen the immune, nervous and glandular system, increase metabolic efficiency and reduce susceptibility to illness and disease.

Many of these substances have a history of use that extends for hundreds and thousands of years and a huge body of experience has been accumulated and recorded regarding their therapeutic application. Three of my favorites are reishi mushrooms, American ginseng and Baltic amber. You can rely on all three of these substances to offer you protection from radiation poisoning.

Baltic amber – In my experience natural Baltic amber is one of the most indispensible, as well as perhaps the most universally applicable, of the known adaptogens. Warming, stimulating, aromatic, bitter, it is both a potent medicine and an amazingly protective substance and has been revered as such for millennia.

Baltic Amber is proven to act as a shield, providing protection from harmful radiation emitted from computers, cell phones and wireless devices, microwave ovens, electrical appliances as well as radiation emitted from industrial accidents.

In fact, the succinic acid found in the amber cortex, or outer layer of the stone, is employed by European scientists and military doctors to bolster the body’s immunity to radiation from industrial accidents. It is touted in Russia and other European countries for its and cell rejuvenating properties and is commonly used in anti-aging formulations and to aid recovery of cancer patients after undergoing conventional medical treatment. It has been shown to strengthen immunity to ionizing radiation, infections, alcohol and other toxins.

Though not especially well known and rarely spoken or written about in American herb culture, Baltic amber actually has a long and illustrious history of medicinal use in China, India, the Middle East and all of Europe, from the northern Boreal forests to the Mediterranean Sea many people are not only well aware of, but also make regular use of, the vitality boosting and energetically protective qualities.

What is Baltic Amber? Baltic amber is a fossilized resin produced by coniferous trees from the Pinaceae family which grew in Northern Europe around the Baltic Sea 40 million to 200 million years ago.

As atmospheric change occurred and the climate warmed, the conifer trees began exuding large amounts of resin in an effort to adapt to the changing earth environment. As the millennia progressed, these exudations sank to the Baltic Sea floor and gradually, over the eons, became stable through oxidation, the action of micro-organisms and other processes.

Extensively traded since remote antiquity, natural Baltic amber was worn as a protective amulet by the ancient Nordic and Scandinavian peoples, as well as by the Celts, the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean: the Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans, the Arabs, Egyptians and the Chinese, all of whom knew and used Baltic amber (succinite) many centuries before the Common Era.

Baltic amber’s considerable electrostatic properties are an essential part of its health boosting abilities. This substance has long been respected as a natural ionizer; it possesses the ability to produce negative ions, known to help to ease pain, boost over-all immunity and stimulate the healing process.

Negative Ions and our Health – Extensive research has shown that our good health is in large part dependent on the amount and quality of the negative ions in the air around us and in our bodies.

The human body consists of billions of cells, each enclosed by a membrane. This cell membrane performs many important roles, such as the absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste. The function of the entire cell and its membrane is enhanced when there are enough negative ions within and outside the cell. This electrical material exchange revitalizes cell metabolism so that optimum nourishment is absorbed and waste material is eliminated efficiently.

According to results of research on negative ions conducted at the Nanzandoh Medical Clinic in Japan, negative ions help speed recovery from illness, slow the aging processes and offer protection from the harmful effects of environmental stressors such as electromagnetic fields and radiation.

And, while this negative ion producing property of Baltic amber’s is nothing short of amazing, it’s not by any means the only thing responsible for its potent healing effects. There’s more!

Succinic acid – Baltic amber has high concentrations of a unique substance known as succinic acid, and with from 3% to 8% succinic acid by weight, is one of the most important natural sources of succinic acid in the world.

It has long been believed that by wearing raw or polished natural Baltic amber against the skin, a “homeopathic dose” of succinic acid is absorbed into the body, enough to exert its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immune enhancing, protective and vitality boosting influence.

Since the thyroid gland is very susceptible to absorbing radiation poisoning, wearing a Baltic amber necklace or pendant over or near this gland is especially important. I am never without mine. You’ll find more about the many uses and benefits of Baltic amber in another post on this blog.

Potassium iodide – The US government, military, hospitals, etc. stock Potassium Iodide, which is the ingredient added to your table salt to make it iodized salt, in case of a nuclear accident. They suggest that to protect against the negative health effects of nuclear radiation exposure, this substance be taken orally in very small quantities 1/2 hour to 1 day before radioactive iodines are swallowed or inhaled. According to reports doing so will prevent approximately 99% of the damage that would otherwise occur to the thyroid gland. Potassium iodide blocks the thyroid gland’s uptake of radioactive iodine and thus could help prevent thyroid cancers and other diseases that might be caused by exposure to airborne radioactive iodine dispersed in a nuclear accident.

Potassium – carries an electrical charge and is “wed” to sodium in many of the electrical/chemical balancing chores it performs in our bodies. Adequate intake of potassium is critically important when exposure to radiation is a threat because abundant potassium in the blood stream will block rapid absorption of Cesium-137. Food sources of potassium include potatoes, avocado, raisins, sardines, flounder, orange juice, winter squash, banana, apricots, cantaloupe, tomato, milk, salmon, beans, sweet potato, beef liver, peaches, steak, haddock, pork, lamb, turkey, tuna, and chicken. Herbs with high levels of potassium include sage, catnip, hops, dulse, peppermint, skullcap, kelp, and red clover. You’ll also find it in horsetail, nettles, borage, and plantain.

Liver nourishing roots such as American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius, dandelion Taraxacum officinale and burdock, Arctium lappa. are loaded with mucilaginous properties and assist with the elimination of toxins out of the body…they act as a kind of magnet, pulling these radioactive elements to them and helping you excrete them through the eliminative organs.

Additionally Panax quinqeufolius, is proven to be radioprotective; it specifically protects human DNA from damage due to radiation particle ingestion, protects human peripheral lymphocytes from radiation induced stress, prevents radiation induced illness and protects against Cesium-137 exposure. 30 drops of tincture in water, once to three times daily should be an effective dose of any of these roots. Adding them to soups and stir fries and making water-based decoctions and/or syrups are all effective ways of using them.

Buckwheat is high in rutin and helps to protect against radiation and also stimulates new bone marrow production.

Research on animals indicates that curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound found in turmeric, may help protect against radiation-induced damage to the skin.

Other research has shown that Ginkgo biloba may act as a shield against organ damage resulting from radiation therapy.

Aloe vera is a natural remedy for radiation-induced skin changes, preventing or minimizing radiation-induced skin reactions.

Immune modulating medicinal mushrooms such as, Reishi, Turkey Tail, Matiake, Shitake and Chaga are all very important and well documented to enhance over-all immunity, protect against cellular changes and act as effective protectors against radiation poisoning as well as all manner of toxins that we ingest through out environment. I prefer consuming my medicinal mushrooms in a water base, often decocting them and then adding half of the volume in raw honey, turning it into an optimally absorbed food/medicine. A tablespoon or so of a well made syrup of any of these mushrooms taken once or twice daily, or simply adding these mushrooms to any soups you make, will provide a great deal of reliable protection.

ReishiGanoderma lucidum and Ganoderma applanatum In addition to its ability to protect us from radiation poisoning, Reishi has long been believed by the Chinese to protect the Spirit and to nurture the growth of intelligence, wisdom and spiritual insight. These are qualities we all need living in the modern day world and facing disasters that appear to be occurring ever more frequently. Reishi is a superb anti-stress herb and its effects seem to be cumulative, gradually strengthening the nerves and actually changing how we perceive life. It is routinely used by mountain hermits, monks, adepts and spiritual seekers throughout Asia because it is believed to help calm the mind, ease tension, strengthen the nerves, improve memory, sharpen concentration and focus, build will power and, as a result, help to develop wisdom. Reishi helps to improve the quality of life by improving the inner life of a human being.

Use reishi mushrooms on a daily basis to assist in developing wisdom, to deepen your connection to our great, abundant and oh, so precious planet…and then take it upon yourself to share your growing wisdom in whatever means you have available, for the benefit and healing of all peoples, plants and animals and for our Mother Earth herself.

I hope you’ve found at least some of this information to be useful to you. My prayer for all of us today is that we focus on all that is good and beautiful, that we radiate light, peace and calm and remember that Great Mother is holding us all in her loving and protective embrace.

You may be interested in our Mushroot Chai Deep Immune Tonic, made with certified organic medicinal mushrooms and American ginseng roots, as well as our line of certified organic tinctures, adaptogen blends and infused oils. You’ll find our offerings here: www.blessedmaineherbs.com/muchto.html

Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments