Bookmark

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As summer comes to a close and I prepare to begin graduate school, I write this post to put a bookmark on this chapter of my blog. Both my journey with plants and my passion for well-being inspired this blog, while both continue to be core values for me, I have a lot to focus on with school. I hope to write more in the future, but for now, I am focusing on what is directly in front of me.

I am inspired on my journey and humbled into graciousness. One of my favorite astrologer’s, Kaypacha, noted this week that (1) change takes time, the ‘new paradigm’ will not be birthed tomorrow, but rather the process is part of being the change and (2) we are not here to manifest a paradigm shift alone, we are here to connect with others and to open our hearts. Thank you to everyone who read my posts over these few years, you’ve made me feel more connected!

This summer was an incredible journey in itself. I have learned about a lot of new plants local to the Southern Appalachians, where I continue to root down and to build my home. As life in this society increases in pace and buildings and roads encroach on natural space, I hope we remember to stop often, to appreciate all the natural areas we have, to scale back consumption, and to open our hearts to the emotional space of being human.

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Image from Botanical.com

Yarrow (Achillae millefolium) is coming up as a noteworthy plant to mention here, now. Various species of yarrow grow wild throughout the world. It is a low-growing herbaceous plant with white umble flowers (although, it is actually an Aster). The plant and flowers are used in treating deep wounds, as an antiseptic, to clean gums, to aid varicose veins, to strengthen blood vessels, and fluid movement throughout the body. The tincture of Yarrow is included in my first aid kit as it is used first for wounds. In addition to its heroic and similarly tonifying qualities, Yarrow is used energetically either in small (spirit) doses (1-2 drop) or as a flower essence. The essence of yarrow is for psychic protection from overwhelming social situations, from environmental toxins and radiation, from over-extending yourself and to remind oneself where your own boundaries stop and another begins. This quality may help someone in differentiating the Self in a relationship.

This is a reminder that we must maintain our own boundaries to care for ourselves. It is too easy to get lost in work, interpersonal problems, or political dramas and to forget our own inner emotional world and our own needs for physical healing. This attentiveness to ourselves is central to the maintenance of well-being, I believe. While this is the foundation, we all need others to help us on our own journeys and community to support the maintenance of health and healing. As I enter into a new community at graduate school, I am saying ‘see you later’ to all of the readers of The Weekly Apothecary. Thank you!

 

 

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Aloe vera

 

These images are almost as soothing as Aloe vera itself! When I look at this plant I feel relieved.  The juice inside of this succulent is perfect for applying to burns and to dry skin. It also may be taken internally (although I’m not sure of the preparation of this, Aloe vera drinks are readily available), to help with gut issues.  One tip is that you can harvest an entire Aloe rind and put it in the freezer for later use.  It’s helpful to have this in the kitchen since it’s easy to reach for if your skin gets burned.  Another tip about growing Aloe in a container is that it does not to be watered frequently.  Since it’s a succulent, Aloe uses water very efficiently and can be watered twice a month, or every two weeks, only when the soil through the container is dry.  Happy Aloe!

Lobelia inflata

Lobelia inflata

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This plant is native to the eastern united states and parts of Canada.  The common name for Lobelia inflata is Indian tobacco.  The flowers are tubular in shape and blue or white in color, although the parts used medicinally are the leaves, seeds, and seed pods. I have not been acquainted with this plant in its wild form, but the reputation of its medicinal uses precedes it.

I was taught about Lobelia inflata as a necessary addition to any first aid kit.  The tincture of the dried plant is used in emergent situations from anaphylactic shock and asthma attacks to other situations that may require regurgitation.  The tincture may cause vomiting, but this dosage is dependent on age and weight, and varies from two drops to a whole dropper-full.  The recommendation is that if lobelia is needed, then vomiting would be a mere side effect to a state of shock or labored breathing.

The tea of lobelia dried is also a used as a nervine tonic.  It is soothing, and can be mixed with mullein to promote smoking cessation.  Or mixed with chamomile to soothe a headache.  In addition to an alcohol based extract (tincture) and infusion (tea), a fellow herbalist told me that she used a salve (oil extract) with lobelia to soothe muscle spasms.  In soothing the nervous system, organ and muscle functioning is aided and regulated.

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This herb is a great example of a plant which has many uses, and different applications for each respective preparation.  I think the way in which the plant chemicals are extracted from the plant lends to various potencies.  I have not been in the situation where I needed to use lobelia as an emergency herb.  But I have experienced its soothing effects from an infusion: I bought dried lobelia from an herb shop where they sell bulk herbs, and prepared tea.  It is without a doubt potent, but I did not vomit!  Rosemary Gladstar recommends that when learning about herbs, it is best to try the herbs, smell them, look at them, and keep a small amount in your apothecary.  In doing this, you will assemble a small index of plants and refer to their uses and preparations time and time again, so that a stranger becomes a new friend.

Successes and Failures

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This past week I had an experience that caused a need for first response!  How poignant since this is what I have been thinking about a lot.  As an  herbalist, every situation of need is a learning experience.  But this time, I was challenged to examine my tool kit, my judgement, and my faith in a plant based modality.

The situation in question was a bee sting, poison ivy, and plenty of bug bites to go with it. Nothing life threatening, but of course these conditions may turn into cuts which are then open to things like infection (oh my!).  When I think about ‘first aid’, most of the time I think blood, wounds, breaks and sprains. But ‘first aid’ also refers to little scratches, bug bites, headaches, cramps, and bruises. Believe it or not in living an active and out of doors life style these issue come up more often than not.

Sometime I see plants as companions in the body’s natural function, such as Calendula or Comfrey as helping the body to produce more cells to grow skin or soft tissue. Other times I see natural remedies as supporting natural defense mechanisms.  At the first thought of infection due to a cold or even a small cut, or spider bite, I am reaching for garlic as quick as I can say infection!  This might be a fear mediated response, but I guess better safe than sorry.

Despite having an idea of what plants to help in respective situations, having them in a prepared form (such as powder, salve, tincture, etc.), on hand, and easily accessible are all part of the art form of this plant based lifestyle! It’s not easy to drive to the store as immediately as the need, not to mention the unknown quality and source of the products sold on the shelves.

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It is an on going process for me to assemble a kit that I know is trusted, fresh, potent, and versatile. I’ll let you know when I come up with it. Of course, aside from the basics, each family will have a different sub-set of issues, ailments, and situations.  What are your successes (and maybe failures) with herbal first aid?

An Aster and A First Responder

Credit: Beautiful Photo by Graziano Propetto
Credit: Beautiful Photo by Graziano Propetto

Some miracle stories exist about the healing powers of plants; people who were healed from cancers, gangrenous limbs, infections, and other debilitating diseases from herbal preparations.  I do think that it is possible, in many cases, for plant medicine to make an extraordinary difference in people’s lives.  While the heroic uses of herbs are possibly, it is beneficial and, even, essential to be aware of the plants which are first responders in everyday life and are an addition to any first aid kit. One such plant is Arnica.

There are several different species of Arnica (Arnica sp.), which are classified in the Aster family, scientifically known as Asteraceae or Compositeae.  Other plants in this family include: calendula, chicory, dandelion, goldenrod, and yarrow.  While I was under the impression that Arnica flowers are purple, I learned that they are YELLOW, with broad leaves at the base of the plant.  Arnica is native to most areas of North America and grows in sandy soil. While I didn’t find this in my research, I believe that this wild plant likes to grow at high altitude.

I almost always have Arnica within reach, in the form of homeopathic beads to take internally and cream for external use.  More than a handful of times since I discovered this remedy, I have relied on it for healing for sprains, bruises, sudden impacts/falls.  While Arnica is helpful for external use, it is not recommended if the skin is broken.  I also find that it helps most when taken immediately from the injury.  The healing properties of Arnica stimulate circulation, so an increased blood supply to the damaged area as soon as possible is crucial in healing.  It is good to carry Arnica on your person when out for a hike, bike ride, or other possibly dangerous activity.

Since this remedy comes to me in the form of a homeopathic remedy, I feel strangely disconnected from the medicine as a plant. But I know that it is happily growing all over the country (and the world, ie: Europe).  Majestically yellow, and with the bumps, bruises, strains, and sprains along life’s journey, Arnica is a companion.  This plant is one I have yet to meet face to face, but I look forward to the day when we do!

Post Script Notes about homeopathic remedies: There are different dosages available in the homeopathic pellet form, smaller is usually better but in cases of sever trauma (car crash, for example) a large does would be helpful.  Avoid caffeine, coffee, or tea as this is a contraindication.  Store in a cool-dark location away from radiating frequencies.

Thank you to all of the sources for this article:

http://www.homeopathy-homeopathics-remedies.naturalhealthdoc.net/Homeopathic-Dosage-Recommendations-Guidelines.htm

The New Age Herbalist. By: Richard Mabey, Anne McIntyre, Michael McIntyre

Photos from: http://luirig.altervista.org/flora/taxa/index1.php?scientific-name=arnica+montana