Guarding our Herbal “Gold”
Monday, October 1, 2012

The chill of October sends energy downwards. Plants draw their juicy potential from leaves and flowering tips and direct it into their roots as they prepare to survive the long winter. It is for this reason that autumn is the traditional root harvest season; roots are at their most potent, fully charged from a spring and summer of photosynthesis.

The use of roots as medicine is highly valued in American Appalachian herbalism (goldenseal, black cohosh, ginseng, stone root, etc… ) Partly due to concentration of active constituents, the romance of the root can also be attributed to the unfortunate influence of commerce. Commerce places a higher value on that which can be stored and sold when it suits the market and roots tend to last longer sitting in a burlap bag or on a shelf than a flower or leaf.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is one of our most famous herbal residents in Appalachia. Its beautiful yellow root is traded around the world. The yellow color signifies it contains berberine, which is a bitter alkaloid that acts as a powerful anti-microbial. Goldenseal has been shown to be extremely effective against many feared pathogens, such as e.coli and staphylococcus, both in practice and in laboratory testing. Goldenseal is also a mucus membrane tonic, meaning it improves both the structure and function of mucosal tissue, such as your gut lining, nasal passages and skin. This is an invaluable double action –both fending off unwanted microbial overgrowth, and making the terrain of your body stronger and more resistant to a micro-floral imbalance in the first place.

With all of these wonderful benefits, it is no wonder the root is extremely popular, Unfortunately, this popularity had its price. When the root is harvested, the life of the plant is sacrificed. Goldenseal was so overharvested that wild populations dwindled and most herbalists began to call for discontinuing its use. Luckily, many farmers have begun growing it and each day more and more of the goldenseal available on the market comes from a cultivated, and therefore, sustainable source.

Another way to reduce pressure on goldenseal populations is to encourage the use of the leaf, an often discarded portion. Instead of ignoring the leaf in the desire for the root, we can gather it for medicine without disturbing the root, or use it in combination with the root. I was first trained to use the leaf by my former teacher, Michael Moore, and have observed positive results in my practice. Recent clinical research also suggests that the combination of leaf and root is even more powerful than the root alone! This is due to synergistic effects between the leaf, which is higher in flavanoids, and the root with higher concentrations of berberine. This means less root is needed for equal effect!

As residents of the magical Southern Appalachians we are both benefactor and guardian of many herbal treasures. Let’s work to promote the preservation of goldenseal so we can enjoy her company for many years to come.

**Sevananda carries the leaf and root in the bulk herb section.

Lorna Mauney-Brodek
Herbalista
First appeared in Sevananda Co-Options Newspaper October 2012

September Herbal Happenings
Saturday, September 1, 2012

I am very appreciative of the green thread that runs through my life. It is strong and flexible, a thread to follow when I wander into unknown territory, providing loving purpose, and most importantly, weaving me to others. When I walk the streets of Atlanta, the herbs are strung along sidewalk cracks and empty lots, gardens and city parks. This past month, as I explored the Oregon coast, the green thread led me through many diverse bio-spheres. I met quite an interesting cast of characters–wind-buffeted dune and cliff dwellers, quiet forest recluses, bog squatters who were knee deep, and lake loungers, who dangled their feet in the cool waters while soaking in hot sun with upturned faces (I became an honorary lake lounger myself). To see photos from my Oregon trip click here.

Now I’ve returned home to Atlanta and am excited for the month to come. September is graced with cooler weather and a spattering of brilliant events. The fun begins on Thursday, September 13th with another tasty class at The Herb Kitchen’s Farewell to Summer Garden Party. On September 15th-16th, the Georgia Herbalists Guild hosts a weekend workshop on Community and Herbal Approaches to Disaster Situations with herbalist and activist Leah Wolfe. And to round out the month, we will be having the final hike in our Appalachian Field Studies Program up in the North Georgia Mountains. Hope to see some of you there!

For the full newsletter, click here.

August Herbal Happenings
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The summer is speeding by, packed full with herbal happenings! I spent much of July on the road. Early in the month I had the pleasure of working the First Aid Station at the Rainbow Gathering in Tennessee. Imagine a free-off-the-grid-herbal-teaching-clinic and you’d pretty much have it. Situated on top of a mountain, a hike away from other medical options, the First Aid Station needed to respond to most any situation. We used herbs to manage a variety of issues such as pain, panic attacks, asthma, infections, seizures, gastro-intestinal distress, allergies, bites, wounds, and the mending and soothing the MANY wounded feet. The clinic ran 24 hours a day for over a week and we cared for hundreds of individuals. The work resonated with me on a very deep level– offering earth based medicines at no charge to the community I was living, eating, and sharing the magical forest with. I hope to have the chance to serve again.
We had a marvelous weekend with Bob Linde as he taught Barefoot Doctoring Techniques to the Georgia Herbalists Guild. These techniques included ear seeding, moxabustion & fire cupping– great tools for our medicine bags. I was particularly interested to learn the art of ear seeding as an adjunct therapy to offer at the Open Door Clinics. It is a simple technique that relieves stress and pain and is being used with great results to aid people with PTSD. The rest of the month I spent bouncing between harvesting in the mountains and clinic in Atlanta.
And before I can catch a breath, I’m off to nestle myself at Floras Lake, on the wild southern Oregon coast where my mother was raised into the wonderfully wild woman she is. I have spent many berry-stained summers learning the rugged lessons of the rocky, wind swept coast, and this time I am ready with a gaggle of field guides to explore the old-growth temperate rainforest of Humbug Mountain (what a name) and peek at western bog lilies growing in the pygmy pine forests of Floras Lake.

July Herbal Happenings
Sunday, July 1, 2012

Well, they don’t call it Hotlanta for nothing! This herbalista is not ashamed to say she is getting the heck out of Dodge, happily retreating to the woods to work at the Rainbow Gathering’s First Aid Station in the beautiful Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. Preparing my gear for this new adventure has been a facinating exercise as I balance pragmatism and desire– the desire to offer all that I can to this community and the practical realities of what my back can carry as I hike the supplies into the forest. I also enjoyed crafting a new kit (padded and strong) to hold my tinctures safely for their journey.
This will be a first, providing medic care to a large community (over 10 thousand folks attend Rainbow) without running water or electricity. But I’ll be learning from the best, happy to get the chance to learn from 7Song and CoreyPine, herbalists who have been providing sound, holistic care at Rainbow for many years.
And special thanks the many who donated medical supplies for the Gathering, in particular The Open Door Community for their constant promotion of healthcare for all.

For the full newsletter, click here.

Sacred Water Medicine
Sunday, July 1, 2012
If there is one time when Atlantan’s feel the importance of water, it’s high summer. Sizzling pavement and parched lips make us grateful for a glass or a dip. But water is more than coolant; water has the power to heal. The water that sustains us, the water which grows our food also washes our wounds, suspends medicine in a cup of tea, soaks away our aches and pains, releases our grief in the form of tears and toxins as sweat.

Hydrotherapy is the use of water for medical treatment. Each week at the Open Door Foot Clinic, we soak feet in herbal solutions to heal the skin, relieve pain, and balance the nervous system. Hot foot soaks can also relieve menstrual pain, or boost the immune system to fight off a cold. Herbal waters can be used internally and externally for a variety of complaints. We use water to create douches, enemas, nasal flushes, eye washes, teas, and compresses, all powerful means to heal. But water, as the source of life, also has the power to heal the emotional and energetic body and so has been used in sacred healing rituals around the world.

Jews have ritual bathing for women known as the mikvah; ancient Greek and Roman life revolved around the public bathhouse; Muslims perform ablutions with pure rainwater before entering the Mosque; Hindus believe water is energy in liquid form and pilgrims flock to the shores of India’s great rivers for sacred cleansing; Christians Wade in the Water and affirm their devotion through baptism; Voodoo ritual floor washings rid the house of evil and can bestow love and luck.

I worship water while sitting on the banks of Ripplewater Creek in the backyard, watching her textured current winding past me, washing away worldly woes. A little further from home, I’ve given thanks to the mineral rich thermal baths in Hot Springs, NC and the seaweed soaks in Sligo, Ireland. Once my luck found me on the other side of the equator, on a pilgrimage to receive blessings at Las Huaringas, a collection of lakes at 13,000 feet in the Andes. We traveled from bus to van to donkey to foot, and finally to the healing shores of Laguna Shimbe for la limpia, a ritual cleansing by the family shaman who blows perfumed flower water over us before we dip under Shimbe’s chilly waters.

The ancient Incan understanding of water humbles me. They built temples along the water passages from the source to the villages. All the water was blessed and charged with healing energy as it flowed past priests, priestesses, and through nature herself. Imagine a community where not only the temple water was sacred and blessed, but the tap water itself– the water for your fields and with which you brush your teeth.

Imagine if the Atlanta Water Works piped water charged with intention and respect instead of just chlorine and fluoride. Imagine if the foot tubs we fill to heal the wounded feet of our friends on the street had the blessing of our civic leaders. Imagine if we rejected a combined sewer system and kept our municipal and industrial wastewater separate from the storm water to protect our creeks from contaminating overflow. Let us always remember that water is a precious gift, which we can repay by standing as her guardian.

Lorna Mauney-Brodek
Herbalista
First appeared in Sevananda Co-Options Newspaper July/August 2012

 

Collective Happiness Flower
Saturday, June 2, 2012

We could all use a little collective happiness. And here in Atlanta is a tree that delivers that and more! The mimosa tree, or Albizia julibrissin, is known as “Collective Happiness Tree” in the Chinese materia medica. We use both the bark and flower. A very heart based medicine, it is nourishing on many levels, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Its recorded history of use dates back hundreds of years in China and was first introduced to America in the 1700’s. Some say it is one of the secret ingredients in Coca-Cola. One of my favorite local herbs, mimosa is an abundant and and effective medicine that is pleasing to all the senses. And now is the perfect time to harvest!

How to identify: The tree has very distinctive leaves and flowers. The leaves are bi-pinnate, which means each leaf has been divided several times, so it more resembles a feather or a fern. The flowers are pink and resemble little fairy dusters (pictured above) and grow in clusters. When the flowers go to seed, they form bean pods, as they are a member of the legume family.

Parts Used: Flowers & Bark
Flowers start blooming in early May and can bloom through July. You can go back and repeatedly harvest the same tree every few days as new flowers are constantly emerging from the flower clusters. I harvest the flower with the stem, and include it in my medicine. To harvest the bark, prune the tree, taking small branches and stripping them. NEVER gird a tree (meaning stripping bark around the trunk, like a belt. That will kill a tree. Give thanks for the medicine.

Mimosa flowers and bark are available in bulk from Chinese herbal shops, but beware of adulteration. The flowers are commonly adulterated with magnolia flowers, even though they look nothing alike!

Uses:
Nourishes the blood and heart
Unites the heart and the mind
Resolves depression
Indicated for heart induced insomnia (blends well with chamomile)
Quiets the spirit
Calms the mind
Flowers uplift the spirit and Bark anchors the spirit
Resolves long standing grief

Form: Tea, Tincture, or Syrup.

MIMOSA BLOSSOM TINCTURE
Fresh Blossom Tincture done at a [1:2] ratio. This means for every ounce of herb by weight you have, you will use 2 oz of alcohol in your extraction. I prefer to do this fresh blossom tincture in pure ethanol (EtOH), such as Golden Grain or an organic equivalent. If you do not have access to that, you can use vodka or brandy. For more complete medicine making instructions, see the worksheets at the Medicine Making page.

Example with EtOH: Place 5 oz of fresh blossoms in a pint sized mason jar. Cover with 10 oz of 95% EtOH (pure alcohol.) Poke out any air bubbles with a chopstick. Top off to the brim with a little additional EtOH and cap. Leave to macerate out of direct sunlight for 2 weeks. Strain through muslin cloth and bottle.

Example with Brandy/Vodka: Place 3 oz of fresh blossoms in a pint sized mason jar. Cover with 6 oz of Brandy or Vodka. This is considered a [1:2] If blossoms not totally submerged by alcohol, add one more part – another 3 oz of alcohol. Now you have a [1:3] It is important the herb remain under the level of the alcohol to prevent any issues with spoilage. Cap and place on counter out of direct sunlight. Shake thoroughly everyday for 2 weeks. Strain through muslin cloth and bottle.

Dosage: Variable from a few drops to shift the mood. Or one can dose at higher therapeutic levels up to 1 tsp a couple times a day when working on moderate emotional imbalances. Choose the dose to match the need and energetic circumstance.

MIMOSA SYRUP
Weigh out 2 ounces of fresh, fluffy, pink fairy duster blossoms and pour one pint (16oz) of hot water over them. Cap and steep overnight. Strain out flowers and compost. Mix with 1/2 part honey or sugar. Stir until completely dissolved. Pour into a beautiful bottle and keep refrigerated. Add a splash to sparkling water, champagne, or a mixed drink for a lovely lift. You can also take a tablespoon of syrup, 2 times per day as part of your health program.

Lorna Mauney-Brodek
Herbalista

1 8 9 10