Black Walnut, Part III

The Walnuts that I collected weeks ago have finally dried. I went ahead and made powder from the hulls, which turned from bright green to dark brown, using a mortar and pestle.  This was my first time processing the Walnut hulls, and it couldn’t have been better! I found that most of the hulls were easily pulverized by gently crushing them by hand.  I plan to prepare a tincture with this, and to keep some powder dry.

In her book Healing Wise, Susan Weed recommends a ratio of:

5 oz (volume) of liquid menstruum

for every 1 oz (weight) of dry plant material

The menstruum is a liquid vector which extracts the compounds from the plant material.  This can be brandy, 100 proof vodka, a homemade dilution of pure grain alcohol, or vegetable glycerine.  If you’re making tinctures at home, choose what works best for you.

Once you begin your tincture, be sure to keep it in a cool, dark place for up to six weeks.  Then strain with a piece of cheesecloth, bottle, and be sure to label the end product. Injoy!

photo 4


Autumn Alliance


It’s harvest time! Honestly, autumn is my favorite time of year. It always feels profound to experience this major transition each year.  The leaves have nearly all fallen here, but there are still some vibrant yellows, oranges and red colors along the horizon.  Squash, apples and onions are fresh from the farm and are jam-packed with the nutrients we need to support our immune systems through the change.

I was listening to an archived interview last night, from The Herbal Highway.  I think this radio show has been on for a long time and has followers all over the country, it is streaming online. Find it here. Thanks to my sisters at the SEWW for telling me about this program!

The show that sparked my creativity to write this blog! The interview is with an herbalist from the pacific northwest, and she talked about plants that I often miss: such as Oregon grape root, elderberry, huckleberries, rose hips, and white pine. All of these plants have tremendous potential for maintaining health and healing certain conditions.


I don’t want to go into all of the uses for these plants here, but I really am feeling connected to this idea of the essence of plants, and of the connection these amazing fresh foods and herbs have with the harvest time! The huckleberries and the elderberries and rose hips all become ready to harvest this time of year (this post is either at the tail end or missing them, actually).  Similar to the smell of the autumn out East, musty, damp leaves and tannic black walnuts.  Native Americans named the moons to remind themselves what time of year it was, and the harvest moon takes on a whole new meaning when you’re tuned into what it actually means for your health and survival.

Black Walnuts Growing

In my own way, I am taking a moment to really be thankful for the plants that mark this seasonal change, and the influence that has for well-being. Tender moments like this, it becomes evident that the dance with nature is on-going and blessed.  The connection that we have with the lands where we live are superior to the box stores that you find in anywhere-America.  And the notion of living with the support that is being offered to us by those lands makes the herbal remedies more potent than a product from a store.  Furthermore, the responsibility we all have as herbalists to steward, revitalize and protect the land is great.  What is your favorite aspect of Autumn?

I hope you have a happy Autumn and harvest responsibly! Love and Light you Y’all..


Have you called The White House Today?

Leonard Peltier;
Leonard Peltier;

On the daily there are so many issues that crave our attention. I guess we literally choose what to focus on, and sometimes it’s just our own lives because sometimes making that work is enough. Recently though, I heard about a surge of support for Leonard Peltier, which has really inspired me.

Leonard Peltier is a Native American elder, artist, and humanitarian who remains behind bars because of racial profiling and a flawed system.  As the election circus happens [again], Leonard Peltier is incarcerated in a maximum security federal prison. The Lakota Grandmothers, the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, and many more autonomous groups are all calling for Executive Clemency for this man who means so much to so many people.

An incomplete history of Native American people is covered in history class, but their struggle is not over.  The Native people, who tend the land and honor Mother Earth and all the beings here, sends a strong message to a fast-growing world which is disconnected from the devastation of the Earth and the separation of people and animals.

Leonard Peltier is from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, a place that speaks so strongly and so loudly that it will move you to tears (which was my experience when I visited there).  The land and the people are so infinitely intertwined as they share their struggle, their oppression, as well as their beauty, their inspiration, and their spiritual strength.   I believe that the land-based movement has a part in the conversation for racial justice and ultimately spiritual solidarity. Calling for the support of Leonard Peltier’s will give voice to calls unheard by so many. President Obama, please listen and free this innocent man!

More about Leonard Peltier can be found HERE. And more about the case is HERE.

This movement has no central fundraising, and your voice will speak louder than any other contribution, so, Please, call The White House Today at 202-456-1111 and leave a message for President Obama. If enough of us call, he will listen.

Yours in Solidarity.

Volition of Nutrition


Last weekend was the Southeast Wise Woman Conference.  This was my first year as a participant and a partial volunteer. Despite the rain, wind, and cold weather, women still gathered from near and far to learn, to share, to heal, and to be present with each other.  I learned so much about physiology, nutrition, herbal healing, and community herbalism, and have weeks of inspiration to draw from for this Blog project that I’ve been working on for over 5 months. Thank you to all of the presenters!

First and foremost, I want to share some things about a nutrition based lifestyle, specifically, as it relates to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. A proper diet is the center of health and healing as we know it. This aspect is growing in importance as our food security within the global community is jeopardized by large agriculture business, genetically modified foods, overpopulation, and fossil fuel scarcity.  Food security, in my opinion, is the root of healthcare.

On the cellular (and chemical) level, that which we ingest becomes a part of us. In addition, that which we put on our skins is integrated into the body’s system as well. I heard a lot of women this weekend say, “don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat.” Wow!

Just like the most basic cycle that we all learned about in elementary school, The Water Cycle, our bodies are cycles of input and output.  Each chemical message that our body receives, it responds to, either with a normal functioning response or with an immune response.

Our bodies utilize the nutrition it receives to send messages, to contract and relax muscles, to think, to talk, and function each day and night.  The body’s immune response is a defense mechanism.  Similar to the nervous system response to threats (ie: “Bear! Run!”), antigens prompt white blood cells to travel through the body to a site of inflammation, irritation, and distress.  The stress response and the immune response are different, but so very linked.

Back to inflammation. Depending on someone’s propensity to inflammation, the body may be in a feedback loop of continually responding to messages of distress.  We need nutrition to help soothe this imbalance and to nourish the body so that it may reorient from a mode of distress back to normal functioning.  Easier said than done, but not completely out of reach.

Without going into many details, below are some supplements known to assist in this healing process.  Tumeric, black pepper, fish oil, antioxidants! Antioxidants include foods with color such as blueberries, sweet potatoes, greens, fruits, and so on; spices such as: cayenne, cumin, mineral salt, garlic, ginger; aromatic herbs: marjoram, rosemary, thyme, mint, sage; and green tea is known to have antioxidant powers. These foods need to be consumed with regularity and consistency to have a serious effect on the body. Once you start a routine incorporating antioxidant rich foods, it will be hard to go back to the absence of this nutritious regiment.
If you’re in an emergent situation of imflammation, then the body should be flooded with more than a typical amount.  For instance you might want to intake higher doses per day of tumeric with black pepper to increase its absorption. Make a change, from coffee to green tea. Changing your regular patterns is a necessity.

Undergoing the change into living a healthier lifestyle centered around nutrition will bridge the gap between natural healing and emotional or spiritual growth.  This is because it is not easy to relinquish old patterns, and emotions and emotional patterns surrounding food run deep.

The conversation on this topic is ongoing and, as always, you wonderful readers are welcomed to leave comments, thoughts, suggestions. I wish you happy days and healthy foods!

Love and Light…

Black Walnut Part II


I was able to collect a bunch of Black Walnuts this past weekend! They are sitting here in a box now, waiting for the green hulls to turn black so that I can remove the hull from the nut and use that for a tincture.  An amazing herbalist who I asked for recommendations about Black Walnut said that grinding up the brown, dried hulls for powder is a good addition to any apothecary too for use at a later time in the form of a poultice. The tincture may be used internally, digestion issues, and the poultice is topical, athlete’s foot.

I’m also really excited to eat the walnuts this winter! The nuts are known to be high in fats.  The Black Walnut tree bears a fruit that has many uses for healing and sustenance.  In the past, I’ve collected pounds and pounds of Black Walnuts, but this year I am keeping the harvest to a manageable size for one!

Juglans nigra, the Black Walnut tree is so amazing to me. They grow to be very tall, and of course is a hard wood. The bark is grayish and the leaves are single toothed, a long ovular, and alternate on the stems. Stay tuned for further pictures and posts about the progress of the autumn project!

The squirrels were here, gathering food for winter!
The squirrels were here, gathering food for winter!

Black Walnut Part I

My, how times flies! Already four weeks into the Fall 2015 semester, and haven’t posted to the blog since.  The squirrels are busily moving about, as are the students!

I love, love, love September. It’s the month of my Birthday. It’s when the eastern seaboard becomes ablaze with oranges, yellows, and reds from the deciduous trees. It’s when apples ripen, cider is made, and the scent of apple cider doughnuts warm a crisp morning.  The change of the seasons is upon us.

Notably, it is also time for black walnuts to fall from trees.  The green hull of the walnuts are one of my favorite smells. Musty and tannic yet sweet and full.  This is an East Coast treasure for sure, and there are so, so many black walnut trees here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and on campus too.

I’ve long held a wish to prepare a black walnut tincture.  Aside from the meat of the nut being completely eatable, the hull that surrounds the nut has medicinal properties. I have seen black walnut used in formulas for anti fungus (ie: athlete’s foot) and digestion issues.

Next week I will add another part to this blog about Black Walnuts as I gather more nuts, pictures, and begin to prepare the tincture. Further reading from Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Legacy:

Successes and Failures

plantain soothes at times

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.


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?