Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Reishi to the rescue!

Since posting about the Reishi mushroom patch, i have thrice used Reishi to heal myself for various things.  As I mentioned in that first post Reishi is a fantastic ally because it is an anti-viral and anti-cancer agent and is supposed to aid with pain and fatigue.  I regularly get bouts of shingles, which is a painful viral upflare of herpes zoster or chicken pocks.  The virus stays dormant in all of us who had it as kids and later may give you shingles.  It forms little blisters on your skin which tingle and burn.  There are expensive anti viral medications that you need to get prescribed and you can get pills or cream, each costing anywhere from 40-80 dollars.  What I do instead, and I have found it to be very effective, is to make a Reishi mushroom decoction and apply Tea Tree oil on the affected area.  Tea Tree oil is also an anti-viral and helps relieve the pain.  A decoction is sort of like making tea, but you simmer your herb for much longer and at very low temperatures.  The Reishi decoction in particular is done over a period of 45 minutes.  I took 5 grams of dried Reishi mushroom and chopped it up as fine as I could and mixed that with 1 cup of water in a pot.  I turned the stove top burner to very low and let it heat up very slowly until it was simmering, all this over a period of 45 minutes.  By the end you get a very bitter, brownish mushroomy tea.  I’m not going to lie to you, it tastes awful.  So what I did was mix in a lot of fresh almond milk and agave syrup.  That definitely makes it bearable.  Today I didn’t have almond milk so I mixed it with some echinacea tea I was already drinking.  The taste is awful, but the effects are marvelous.  I woke up feeling pretty bad this morning, thinking I was coming down with a flu and after drinking my decoction I felt way more energized.  Last month when i had the shingles I drank the decoction at night and the next morning it hurt a lot less.  I kept applying Tea Tree oil after that and it was gone fairly quickly.    Reishi is very amazing.  I know that you can buy tinctures or pills, but i do recommend buying a mushroom kit and growing it yourself.  Its just fun that way and you know for sure where its coming from and that you can count on the potency.  I’m on the lookout for hardwood logs so that I can buy plug spawn for Reishi and other edible mushrooms.

Mugwort love

Mugwort is one of my favorite allies. I’ve actually been working with mugwort for quite some time, it was one of the first plants that I really began working with, and one of the plants that really sparked my interest in the possibility of developing a further relationship with the flora around me. Mugwort has been used by the people of this area (Southern California Chumash) for a long long time. It’s a beautiful beautiful plant that grows in areas near water, often under or around fallen trees. The leaves are lobed, and are a gorgeous silvery shade of green that looks like moonlight.

It is best to harvest mugwort before it flowers or seeds, when all the energy is still being put into the leaves. Also,the best time to harvest mugwort is in the morning, before the dew evaporates from the leaves, and before the sun heats it. Mugwort is known for being able to quiet the mind, so that dreams may come at night. Also, it helps bring connection between our physical and spiritual selves. Many people believe that mugwort helps give you more dreams/lucid dreams. For me, I am always more attuned to my subconscious when I am around mugwort. Other people smoke it, I have rolled it with tobacco, for a nice smoke. People I know have told me that it gives them incredibly lucid dreams, others have had no effect that they noticed, and I end up being up all night and having intense spurts of creativity. I think it depends on the person.

I like to make little pillows out of the fresh leaves to sleep with at night. Adding lavender and chamomile make a really relaxing bedtime mix. Or, you can burn a few of the dried leaves before you go to bed. Mugwort is a feminine plant, and has been believed to be a protector of women. It helps to regulate the cycle of women, since mugwort is a uterine stimulant. To make a tea to ease pms or cramps, make a tea from about a finger length piece of mugwort root. You will have to use your judgment here, as some roots/stems are much thicker.

Some of the roots can be pretty gnarly, and hard to get out. Using a piece of the stem as close to the root as possible works just as well. Steep root in hot water for at least five minutes. Drink and enjoy!

Attack of the Reishi!

So I’ve read so much about Reishi mushrooms and how incredibly amazing they are and what amazing allies they make, that I just HAD to grow some.  I didn’t want to buy a capsule form or dried form.  I wanted to rear it myself.  So I bought a reishi mushroom indoor patch from fungi perfecti.  I love that site.  When i have my own garden in a month or so I’m going to setup a kickass mushroom garden with some edibles and maybe some more Reishi.  So what are some of the benefits?  It is effective against fatigue, coughs/asthma, diabetes, cancer, viruses, neuralgia, and other infections.  Its supposed to be good for shingles, which is one of my many ailments, which is a viral flare up inside specific nerve-endings.  Basically, Reishi sounds like a miracle herb.  You can make a strong tea out of the dried (and if you want pulverized) mushroom conks and drink it when you’re sick or during a detox or just to build immunity.  I already harvested one and its so weird looking!  I had fun with my camera and zoomed in on it so that you can’t tell if you’re looking at some bizarre underwater sea creature up-close or some alien planet.  The growing experience was fun.  When i got the patch it was just a big blob in a bag with some antler-like knobs.  Soon they got bigger and expanded out into saucer-like growths.  Then came the sporing stage and that was crazy.  The spores were everywhere inside the bag.  The fine brown dust covered everything.  I wish i could save everyone and propagate the patch.  Supposedly I can if  I place the leftover patch into a hardwood log.  I’ll give it a try of course, but the results are supposed to be variable and it could take over a year for me to see new growth.  I still have 2 more little guys growing in the patch which i guess I’ll harvest in a few weeks.  Mushrooms are so incredible, they don’t quite fit inside the animal kingdom or the plant kingdom, they’re an in between.  And there is so much lore surrounding them, both positive and negative tales, they seem to emanate a pure and alien magic.  I highly recommend growing your own mushrooms, either edible or medicinal.  Its just fun to watch them grow and develop.

Milkweed Thistle Seeds

When I heard that milk thistle heads can be eaten like artichokes, I wasted no time seeking them out. Artichokes are basically domesticated thistles.  Anyhow, thistles are incredibly common, and are often growing as a weed in gardens. When I found some thistles near me, I realized that this particular area had already gone to seed, and the heads were hard and EXTREMELY prickly and unable to be harvested. It took me a a few very sharp thistle pricks to give up on these guys. If you want to use the leaves and green of the plant, it is best to catch it earlier on in the season when everything is tender and nutritious. Once you chop the spikes off the leaves, you can actually use them as any other leafy green vegetable. These bad boys had been around for quite some time.

However, now is the perfect time to catch the seeds. A gentle tug to the tan fluff should give you a nice grip of seeds. If not, the plant is not ready to let them go.

The seeds are supposed to be especially good for the liver, because they contain an active compound called sylmarin that works to combat free radicals. They are also very potent in amino acids and proteins, having extremely strong anti-oxident powers. Now… how to use these seeds. Some ideas

– Sprinkle on salads, soups, put into breads, muffins, throw into trail mix

– You can simmer a teaspoon of seeds in water for half an hour, then strain and serve them.

– Grind seeds into a powder to use in anything you would like for extra nutrient boosts!

– Grow your own thistle sprouts to eat!

California Poppy Tincture

I have issues with tinctures because I cannot metabolize alcohol, so even a few drops of tincture of any kind, can make me a little high.  However, its a very effective way to preserve the medicinal value of plants.  That being said, I’ve begun to realize how strong you really have to make tinctures to make them effective.  My first tincture was a dandelion tincture.  Looking back on it, i realize I did not make it strong enough at all.  According to Green’s book, for fresh plant material you take the amount of material you have in grams and multiply that number by two and that is how many mL of ethanol you have to use.  So for example, I brought home a large amount of California Poppy from the garden I volunteer at, and I put aside about 70 grams of it for the tincture.  This mean I needed 140 mL of ethanol.  When I put those amounts in the blender, the plant material reached to the top of the blender while the alcohol barely filled in the bottom of the blender jar.  I had to blend and push down the plant material until it was all very well compacted.  Another way to do it is to fill a jar to the top and very packed with your plant material and then fill the rest with ethanol.  Blending it is better because you expose much more surface area of your plant material to the ethanol and so extract more medicinal value from it.  If you don’t have a blender you can just chop it as fine as possible.  California poppy is related to the infamous Opium Poppy, and while it can have many of the same effects on the human body, it has none of the negative effects so its a very interesting alternative to pharmaceutical analgesics.  I made the tincture the other day and have the jar tightly capped sitting on top of my fridge.  That way I see it every day and remember to shake it.  I have to keep it like that soaking for 2 weeks and then i can strain it and try it.  I’ll let you know how it works!

Yarrow Surprise!

I just started being interested in medicinal plants.  As of a year ago I didn’t know anything about them.  Now that I’m learning to identify plants I find surprising amounts of resources in public spaces.  I happened upon a lot of Yarrow the other day while biking.  Its literally a few minutes bike ride from my house.  I collected some and left behind a lock of hair as an offering.  I’m currently drying it in a paper bag in the closet for future use as tea.  I’ve drank a strong tea of it during the first couple of days of my period to help alleviate cramps and other discomforts.  Its very soothing and tastes nice.  I definitely look around more when biking or walking and I take note of what plants people decide to use in their gardens.  In the town I live in, for example, I’ve noticed a lot of people love California Poppy, Lavender, Jasmine and Rosemary.  I essentially have limitless amounts of Rosemary at my disposal.  Its wonderful to start noticing how many beneficial plants are all around us and to gain an appreciation of what having these plants readily available can do for your own well being.  I feel like natural resources are there to help me when I need them, like my environment is truly alive and that I am part of it in a symbiotic way.  These plants need us for nurturing and we need them.  I remember going to a show a few months ago of a politically minded beat box duo who made a point of saying that the majority of people can recognize hundreds of corporate logos but most people cannot identify 10 native plants in their agricultural zone.  Plants are out there advertising themselves to bees and to us all the time yet we look to billboards instead.  I really try to avoid looking at billboards now.  I don’t want corporate logos to take up space in my memory banks anymore.  I would much rather make room to store away information about the plants in my area.

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Spring and early summer are prime time for harvesting these tasty plants. Even though at first glance they seem intimidating, spiky, and hostile, stinging nettles have more iron than any other plant source! Cooked briefly, the stinging hairs on the nettles are de-activated, and make for a great spinach substitute. Use them however you would use a dark green, leafy vegetable. There are unlimited possibilities! However, it is important to make sure you use these plants before they flower, because otherwise the nettles will become tougher and not as nutritious, since they will be dedicating their energy towards spreading their seeds for next year. Stinging nettles are found in areas with moist soil, often in areas with high levels of phosphate and nitrogen in the soil.

After locating some nettles….the easiest way I have found to harvest them is by snapping off individual leaves. Not the quickest way, but it  saves space in your pack when you are trying to carry home a decent amount of nettles. Make sure you are wearing thick, sturdy gloves! Grasp nettle stalk in one hand, and individual leaf in the other hand, gently snap leaf from plant.

After coming back to the kitchen, wash your nettles in cold water. Drop nettles into boiling water for one minutes to remove the stinging hairs. Drain and squeeze water from the nettle leaves. Simply use these nettles like you would cooked spinach. Or…make some amazing nettle pesto!

Stinging Nettle Pesto

In a food processor, combine

– 2 cups boiled nettles

– 4 cloves garlic

– 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup olive oil

– 1 cup walnuts/pine nuts/ or almonds

– t tsp salt

– 1 tsp black pepper

– 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano

Use in sandwiches, put on toast, or use a pesto sauce for pasta. MmmmM! Enjoy! I made a big batch of this and ate it for weeks!

Turnip Cough Syrup – Needs various spoonfuls of sugar to go down.

I was sick last week and decided to take only natural products to aid in my recovery.  I did buy some awesome herbal cough drops, but I’m wondering if I can make my own in the future.  I know menthol is the main ingredient in cough drops and I think it can be found in eucalyptus.  I found out there are a few eucalyptus trees nearby.  If I figure this out I’ll try it.  Otherwise, a very easy remedy is to just suck on a sage leaf or probably a eucalyptus leaf.  I actually did that as a teenager to get rid of bad breath or incriminating smoky smells.  There were huge orchards near where i grew up.  Anyway, I made my own cough syrup out of turnips and sugar.  I had read about this a long long time ago and finally decided it was time to try it.  I looked online and found a great list of different home cough syrups and it said to cut and peel a turnip into thin slices and layer it with sugar in alternating layers.  So i did just that:

I layered the whole turnip and then covered it and let it sit at room temperature for 10 hours.  In the morning it looked like this:

Somehow the sugar extracts juices from the turnip and makes this thick turnipy liquid.  So I strained it and actually kept the turnips for cooking for later and drank several tablespoons of it in the morning and again in the evening.  It tasted pretty strange.  Although it was very sweet I couldn’t escape the intense turnip flavor.  But it was no worse than the weird flavors they put in commercial cough syrups.   Turnip prepared in this way is supposed to be a great expectorant, which means that it helps liquefy your mucus more in order for your body to have an easier time to cough it up and get rid of it.  It did help.  My cough was less intense and it was more productive.  Turnip is extremely good for you anyway, or so I’ve read, so it felt great to consume it and know that it was performing multiple positive actions in my body.  I recommend this method in the future for anyone with a cough.  It sucks that it takes 10-12 hours but, if you get sick and you’re not at the coughing stage yet, you likely will get there so you can just make it before the cough sets in.  Its incredibly cheap anyway, you just have to buy a fresh turnip.

Calendula Salve

I love making my own cosmetics and its really quite easy.  The trick is to find the best ingredients.  In Green’s book there is a recipe for calendula salve that is especially wonderful for people who are breastfeeding and whose nipples need some relief.  Well I do have a good friend who is in that very predicament, and her baby is starting to teeth!  Another friend of mine has mondo amounts of calendula growing in her garden so one day she let me come by to harvest some petals.  According to Green’s book you need to use the dried petals of the plant.  I harvested about 7 flower heads and put all the petals in some cheese cloth, then i hung the cheese cloth in a dark place in my house.  After a few days the petals were totally dry yet still have their vibrant color.  As I understand it that is what you’re looking for in dried herbs.  It should be dry, but still have a nice look to it.  If its brown or very faded then its no good.  So the next step I took was to macerate it in ethyl-alcohol for at least 24 hours.  I used the petals from the 7 flowers and added just enough alcohol to cover it.  My scale was not nearly sensitive enough to make an exact measurement.  But I was supposed to use whatever amount of grams and add that much amount of liquid in mL.  I know i know, I didn’t do a very exact job there.  Maceration simply means to soak your herb in a medium such as alcohol (ethanol not rubbing alcohol) or glycerin.  I went over the 24 hours because I didn’t really time it right to have enough time to carry out the next steps.  I don’t think that’s a problem, if anything it should have made the extraction stronger.  So a few days of maceration pass and hopefully the alcohol has extracted some valuable medicinal compounds from the petals.  Next I poured the ethanol-petal mix into the blender with about 5 times as much olive oil by volume.  So 1 part alcohol-herb mix to 5 parts olive oil.  Actually, because I had coconut oil as well I decided to use 1 part alcohol, 4 parts olive oil, 1 part coconut oil.  I blended it on high until the blender got slightly warm.  Next I poured this new mixture through some cheese-cloth to strain it into a double boiler so it was inside a glass cup which was sitting in a pot of simmering water.  Next I just let it cook until I couldn’t smell any more ethanol evaporating from the mix.  The idea is that you heat it until all the alcohol evaporates.  Technically some of the valuable volatile compounds that came from the flowers originally might have also evaporated.  I don’t know how potent this mixture ended up being.  But, I added some beeswax to harden it a little and I also added some sweet orange oil.  The whole cooking process took 2.5 hours.  Once I really couldn’t smell any alcohol I sterilized some containers (a jar and some heart-shaped plastic boxes) and just poured the mixture into them.  The mixture looked like a bright orange oil.  Once it all cooled which I let it do over night, it hardened to a nice soft salve consistency.  I was going to label the one for my friend in some clever way hoping to include the word nipple but I decided just to label it with the ingredients.  I delivered it to her husband who is also my friend and pseudo-coworker.  We got into a discussion of making your own medicine and how fun it is.  I’m hoping to start a revolution people and that was definitely part of it, just sharing the process and letting people know how easy and fun it is.  She emailed me later saying she loved it!  She also mentioned that its great for diaper rash and that usually that kind of stuff is really expensive.  So I’m glad its multi-purpose.  I’ve attached some pictures of the petals, the beeswax in my scale and the salve before and after cooling.

Here is just he small amount of ethanol-petal mix in the blender before adding the oil.

Here is the salve simmering in the double boiler.

It makes it easier to sort of shave the beeswax, it will melt faster.  Beeswax can be pretty tough and if you get it in a bowl or on a knife, be prepared to have it on there for a while.  I guess boiling water will soften it enough to remove it from utensils, but then the residue might be in whatever container that has the boiling water.

There is the salve still in its liquid form.


And its cooled!  A beautiful bright orange color and a subtle smell of orange.   Its very soft and rubs on the skin very smoothly.  Yeay for salve!

PLANT ALLIES ZINE!!!

Welcome to grow native know.  By now I hope you’ve read why we are here and what our goals are.  For our first post I wanted to share with anyone who is reading the zine that we made as part of our plant allies workshop at the skill share retreat.  Anyone can print it out and share it with the world.  It is all hand drawn and has some  basic ideas on how to bring plants into your life as your allies in keeping your environment clean and your system healthier.   There is much more to come.  I have recently made tinctures and salves which I will share with you soon.  My coauthor has also been busy.  Enjoy!