Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hormone Changes

Oh how I long for the days when I first started nursing and had no menstruation. Sometime around the 6th month mark after the birth of my daughter, my periods began again. At first they were not so "bad" now that Ella is around 10 months they began to get back to "normal" emotional mood swings, flu like symptoms, cramping, tiredness. It is time to make a plan, although my nutritional and herbal part is in balance, I was leaving out lifestyle protocols and outside environmental influences. Because after all, we are all aware that our moons occur monthly, but for some reason it is only after the fact that we find ourselves having apologizing to family members, store clerks, and anyone else we decided to do a Jeckle and Hide on during that pre-menstrual week. Doing some research I have found a rather remarkable article that suggests that your partner may be contributing to your symptoms of PMS, on. The article 'men to blame for PMS' quotes:

Caring partners can help ease the symptoms, but unsympathetic men make matters worse.

"What actually causes the symptoms is a combination of factors - what's happening in your body and what's happening in the environment.

"Men certainly play a significant role in PMS and can play a very significant role in women's depression and anger at that time of the cycle."

So Here is my plan of action for the following month.

* Disclaimer: I am in the midst of hormonal changes, if the following seems insensitive, bitchy, unprofessional, or whatever- I would suggest not emailing me about it (especially if you are male and don't get it) Yes my husband has read this and no he does not give a sh@#. On the other hand, if you are a male that does "get it" email away and I will be sure and forward the tips to my husband and anyone else who is interested.

Lifestyle Protocol

1. Get the irritating stimulus (It or Them) out of your life for a few days. I gave this a lot of thought, as convenient as it is to be reminded by my husband or relatives that your period must be arriving (or here), I decided a calender will do just fine thank you.
2. Have partner read "Men to Blame For PMS" I found this article quite convenient, I know I shouldn't blame others for my own reactions and problems, but if after 8 years my husband "gets it" it's worth a try.
3. Review my pocket handbook "what to do when you feel like strangling someone"
4. Give my partner a handy "what to do and how to do it" list, it seems unfortunately my husband has had a case of amnesia when it comes to housework, cooking, cleaning, or helping with the baby. He does miraculously remember how to watch football and change the channel- interesting.
5. Give my partner coping skills in the week prior to PMS, Here are some helpful hints (author unknown)

DANGEROUS: What's for dinner?
SAFER: Can I help you with dinner?
SAFEST: Where would you like to go for dinner?
ULTRASAFE: Here, have some chocolate.

DANGEROUS: Are you wearing that?
SAFER: Gee, you look good in brown.
SAFEST: WOW! Look at you!
ULTRASAFE: Here, have some chocolate.

DANGEROUS: What are you so worked up about?
SAFER: What did I do wrong?
SAFEST: Here's fifty dollars.
ULTRASAFE: Here, have some chocolate.

DANGEROUS: Should you be eating that?
SAFER: You know, there are a lot of apples left.
SAFEST: Can I get you a glass of wine with that?
ULTRASAFE: Here, have some chocolate.

DANGEROUS: What did you do all day?
SAFER: I hope you didn't overdo it today.
SAFEST: I've always loved you in that robe!
ULTRASAFE: Here, have some more chocolate.

13 Things PMS Stands For:
1. Pass My Shotgun
2. Psychotic Mood Shift
3. Perpetual Munching Spree
4. Puffy Mid-Section
5. People Make me Sick
6. Provide Me with Sweets
7. Pardon My Sobbing
8. Pimples May Surface
9. Pass My Sweatpants
10. Pissy Mood Syndrome
11. Plainly; Men Suck
12. Pack My Stuff...... ..And my favorite one...
13. Potential Murder Suspect

Another thing to giggle about... My husband, not happy
with my mood swings, bought me a mood ring the other
day so he would be able to monitor my moods. When I'm
in a good mood, it turns green. When I'm in a bad
mood, it leaves a big red mark on his forehead. Maybe
next time he'll buy me diamonds.

Here have some chocolate.

Author Unkown

6. Schedule a spa weekend during PMS

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Elderberry Sambucus a local forgotten medicinal?

As I am on my way up the mountain to collect elderberry, I notice several trees loaded with berries bordering yards, on the roadway, and in even in a nursing home parking lot. Elderberry used to be called "the medicine chest of the country people" but from the looks of my country town here in Sandy, many have forgotten. I picked some Elderberries a few weeks back for my friend Kiva. When I went to the small deserted country post office to deliver them, the clerk was eager to make conversation. I explained to her that I was shipping my friend some elderberries. "ewwwww where did you get them, I loved those as a child, my thumbs would be blue and numb, my Dad would use them for wine, jelly, cough medicine- I wouldn't know where to find any now" When I explained that they are actually quite common, she was sure they must not be the same berry, and in fact that to be careful that they may be poisonous. Have people gotten away from collecting their own medicinals? If there is one "goal" I have with this blog it is to empower people to get back to the old ways- lost traditions. Of course, be sure of what you are collecting, jim has a great guide for gathering your own herbs.
To (hopefully) get you interested in this wonderful plant, I will attempt to dredge up some interesting facts and legends.
Around here in the Pacific Northwest we have both red and blue elderberry. Blue is the one you want for wine (Rebecca's recipe), jelly, syrup (jim discusses it here), elixir ( Darcy's recipe) and other medicinals (kiva's tea), much more medicinal info can also be found on Henriette's site. There are 3 types of blue species that inhabit the West all similar in appearance; sambucus cerulea, S. racemosa & S. mexicana and one red fruit species S callicarpa (pacific red elder) the red has red berries and pyramid shaped flower clusters, the blue has blue berries and flat top flower clusters. Depending on what source you hear it from, the red can be toxic so I would stick to the blue. You can find the berries around here in the Pacific Northwest at the end of summer into early autumn.
The name Elder comes from the anglo-saxon word "aeld" meaning fire, the association being made because of the hollow stems were used to blow on fire (to increase flame) The name "sambucus" is from the Greek word meaning wind instrument. Both Shepard's & Native Americans used to make flutes from the elder branch, the tree was sometimes called "the tree of music". The hollow reads were also used to make smoke pipes, elk whistles, pop guns, and sprouts on maple syrup trees. Some Native American tribes used the sticks of elder for twirling sticks (the sticks used to start a fire by friction), the straight branches were also used for arrows. It should be noted that the leaves, bark, shoots, twigs, and roots of the fresh plant (of either color) are toxic, and children have been poisoned by chewing or sucking on the bark.
The Elderberry plant has held an important place in European myth. There have been opposite stories relating to it magical & supernatural qualities. There has been an association with both the devil and witches (the bad ugly ones lol) The wicked witches were believed to live in elder trees, so people were afraid to cut them down. It was considered dangerous to sleep in the shade of an elder or to plant one near a house. It was also believed if you fell asleep for too long under an elder that you would become intoxicated. Six knots of elder wood were used in a Yorkshire incantation to ascertain if the cattle were dying from witchcraft.
In contrast, the elder was believed to be a tree of protection against evil spirits and for this reason people would plant them near their homes. The leaves are an insect repellent and people used to hang the branches from doors & horses bridals to keep the bugs away. Elder was also planted near dairies to keep the milk from turning.
The fairy Folk love music and they used the wood of the elder to make all of their musical instruments. Hilda the mother of the elves is said to live in the root of the elder, and anyone under the elder tree at midnight on Midsummers day would see the king of the fairies and all his retinue pass by.
In England the dwarf elder was said to spring up whenever Danish blood was shed in battle, for this reason it was called "Dane's blood"
In Tyrol elder was planted on graves, if the plant flourished with berries it is believed that the dead person is happy in the other world after passing.
The appearance of berries on the elder would indicate it was the right time to sew the wheat in the field.
Food Uses
As described above in some of the links I provided, elderberry is both delicious and medicinal. In small quantities you can add it to food ( Elderberries do have hydrocyanic acid , in large quantities it can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea, how much I guess would depend on the person, this can be avoided by straining out the seeds or thoroughly cooking the berries, red elder berries have larger amounts of these compounds, which is why they are considered "toxic" Henriette has a nice write up here). Elderberries are good with other berries such as blueberry or raspberry, and a little honey can be added for sweetness.
Salad Dressing
Add equal parts of mashed fresh elderberries and blueberries to your favorite balsamic vinegar, shake well.
Elderberry Iced Tea
Equal parts frozen Blueberry and Elderberry (seeds strained)
Juice of 1/2 fresh Lemon
Approx 6 heaping tablespoons Green Tea (or other favorite tea)
Boil 3 cups water in a small pan. When it reaches boil, turn off the heat and add green tea. let steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and add to pitcher. Puree frozen berries in lemon juice, add to pitcher. Fill with water and ice, chill. Add honey or stevia to taste. (you can also used the dried berries and steep them like a tea, use the fresh blueberries for the puree)
Cream Cheese puree
Add elderberries ( seeds strained,to taste) to cream cheese and puree for quick sandwich spread, to put on fruit, add nuts, other berries, the possibilities are endless! To make it creamer add a dash of olive or flax oil, yum! You can also add
Add Elderberries to..
apple sauce
apple & rhubarb pies
cottage cheese
and yogurt.

More Delicious recipes

Use your imagination!

Winter Teas
Elderberries are really fun to experiment with in different teas
Dried elderberries, & blueberries equal parts, with a little feverfew & rose hips, honey and a squeeze of lemon for a great winter tea if you feel a cold coming on.

Also try variations with (not all actions are listed) Astragalus (adaptogen, healthy immune function), peppermint and spearmint(digestive aid, antiseptic,analgesic, astringent, calming) , chamomile (anti-inflammatory, digestive aid, relaxing) , licorice (sweet, antiviral), cinnamon (carminative, anticeptic), ginger (carminative, expectorant, antimicrobial -to name a few but can be drying), echinacea (antiviral, antibacterial) and other dried berries such as raspberry.

Resource:Profiles of Pacific Northwest Plants by Peggy Robinson 1977
Edible and medicinal plants of the west Tilford 1997

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nasturtium As Promised

As promised here is my take on Nasturtium tincture.

I am quite fond of nasturtium as a food, as you already know if you read my nasturtium salad post. And a aside, the fresh plant does give off a cabbage sent when picked, this dissipates quickly.
I made a tincture of both the leaves and flowers, fresh plant 1:2. The taste is spicy, hot and peppery, with a slight cabbage like after taste, much like when you pick the plant, the cabbage aroma/slight taste is there and gone, you are left with a pepper taste. Not bad, then again I love spicy.

I experimented with small doses a few times throughout the day. It seems to have a adaptogen type effect, just an overall feel good type of feeling. I went to the store, and the owner gave me a free bottle of my favorite wine because "he like my smile". I had been pretty burned out doing a lot of writing on the computer, it seemed to lift my spirits. Later that evening I felt "lovey dovy" instead of tired and ready for bed(no I had not opened the wine). I think this is why I was attracted to the plant to tincture it, I have had a lot going on and my adrenals have been shot off and on. Funny how that works.

Olivia Boyce Abel makes an antibiotic tincture for her medicine chest using four parts fresh garlic . . . four parts fresh nasturtium leaves and flowers . . . and one part echinacea root. (You can also use echinacea's leaves or flowers.) she uses four ounces of this mixture per pint of vodka. According to Olivia, Nasturtium is an antiseptic and helps one expel mucus from the lungs and throat. This may come in handy this winter. I am looking forward to trying it. I have also heard from another herbalist that you can use the nasturtium tincture on it's own (not a blend), right when you feel a congestion coming on and it kicks it right away.

More uses to come........

Friday, September 21, 2007

Getting out heading back up the mountain

It has been a pretty busy week, a lot of writing. I am creating a new class online. So finally when I had enough of sitting in front of the computer, I decided to head back up the mountain. Today I collected some false Solomon seal root. I decided to give this medicinal a try, some say you can use it for some of the same uses as the "True" Solomon's seal". We will see. I read in Edible and Medicinal Plants of the west by Tilford that some Northwest Native tribes used a poultice of the root to treat inflammations of the skin, treat sunburn pain, and stop bleeding. Also, and I think the most interesting~ some tribes used to promote smoking the root to "cure insanity" and quite emotional children (did the two go hand in hand?) LOL.
I was also able to score some more elderberries! Yay Elixir her I come!
As soon as the I am done creating my new course (I gave myself a deadline of this weekend) I will be posting more frequently.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Holistic Wellness and our Kids

Many times I hear statements like "my kid wont take herbal teas" Certainly some herbs can taste bad or too strong to a kid, but there may be something deeper going on. Are herbal teas only introduced when there is a "problem"? Have you asked yourself as a parent how you view healing and medicine?
Traditional Western medicine is necessary and often life saving, however the mind body connection and the miraculous ability of the body to heal itself with the assistance from nourishing foods and natures medicine is often ignored. The Traditional Western medicine approach is to attack disease, you feel as if something is being done to you and that can often feel very invasive. A child is going to naturally want to rebel from this approach, it is scary and intimidating. "Take your medicine" can sound like something of a punishment.
Holistic medicine is about nourishing the body and living a healthy lifestyle. When I say "nourishment" I don't mean to simply take vitamins and minerals and eat good foods. Nourishment is a healthy loving emotional environment, exercise, rest, herbal remedies, connection with earth, connection with community and loving one another. It's reading fairy tales to your child, planting a garden, taking time to listen, & having a loving home. Involve your children when collecting healing medicines from the wild, show them how to make healing teas and infusions, help them to cultivate a healing kids garden. My mother and I often wildcrafted together and Ella being only 9 months old has gone with me on all of my outdoor adventures. Kiva gives a wonderful example on her blog of spending the day with wonderful wise women and her daughter Rhiannon.

We can be good role models for our children by showing them the beauty of their bodies and nature. Approaching sickness as if it were an enemy or something bad reflects badly on the child. If we teach our kids that sickness should be avoided at all costs, or attacked, we are denying that illness is a natural part of life. Even if you are extremely healthy, if you participate in life illness or "problems" will eventually occur. Explain issues when they arise in an age appropriate way that the child will understand, let the child be involved rather than approaching illness as a problem that needs to be attacked. Explain that the natural remedies support the bodies own ability to heal rather than a remedy being a magic bullet cure.

The "detox" rage is in my opinion is not approaching herbal medicine with a holistic view in mind. The extreme idea that we are somehow dirty and full of toxins is damaging. This illusion that we must live perfectly and become more pure will only lead to disappointment and disconnection from our bodies. Health is not about attaining perfection. There will be birthday cake, pop cycles, and chocolate. Balance is the real key, everything in moderation, even moderation! Extreme ideas are just as damaging as not taking responsibility for your health at all.The inner stress and guilt this causes is the opposite of being holistic. This view does not teach our kids to feel relaxed about themselves, enjoy life, be confident about their bodies, and celebrate good health. If and when illness does arise the child will feel defeated, like they somehow brought the illness on themselves because they are not "pure" or "perfect".
The goal is not to somehow fight the enemy of illness and toxins. The focus should be on avoiding unnecessary illness by nourishing ourselves with local grown foods, herbal medicine, exercise, fresh air and getting out in nature. When illness does arise we can attend to it with compassion instead of guilt, fear, and blame like the child is somehow doing something wrong and needs to be punished by "taking medicine"
If natural holistic living is part of your life as a parent, the child will be much more likely to accept it. Children are inundated with media messages that health is a perfect size 2, and skinny, COOL, active young people eat at McDonald's (or other fast food). Our goal should be to empower our children and try to send a different message.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ella's New Doc

Went to Ella's 9 month checkup today. I got into this clinic with this Awesome Doctor. Her name is Dr Monique Pritchard MD, FAAP she is at the Sellwood Medical Clinic. I drove about 40 minutes to get there and let me tell you it was worth it! Her bedside manner with Ella was amazing! The first thing Ella did was wave and say "HI" O MY! That was a first! I knew I was in the right place. No wonder she has patients who drive 3 hours 1 way from Seattle. The room was cozy with an old rock fireplace with a very cool Native American picture, I felt very much at home. We were talking about organic food & nutrition, garlic ear oil, herbal remedies and teas, Infant massage, co sleeping (here baby is only a few weeks older than Ella and she co sleeps), importance & benefits of long term nursing, I couldn't believe it. A doctor, who actually gives a crap, spends longer than 5 minutes, in fact, we were talking for at least 30 minutes! She also said she is OK with no vaccinations (will write up a religious exemption) , and if they do vaccinate it is only tested and proven vaccines (plus she is willing to spend the time to educate on each one and what it is for), no more than needed, on your schedule! She checked Ella for lead because of the new toy scare, checked for anemia (she was A OK) Ella seems to be right on track, the nurse said "whatever your doing, keep doing it!" She asked where I lived and told me that since I am far away they will make an extra effort to schedule me in so I do not hit traffic. This is so refreshing. When I told her I was an herbalist and LMT, her eyes lit up and she requested my cards. WOW, not only was she listening to what I had to say, she was actually interested and agreeing with me! Am I dreaming? Oh and our insurance covers it!!???

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Thoughts on collecting plants

Whether your goal is collecting medicinal plants or foraging for wild foods, a few approaches seem to work well (or sometimes not so well) for me.

1. Start with no expectations. I like to check out an area with no intentions of looking for a specific plant or food. Just enjoy yourself, bring a camera and take notes. Collecting the plants is not your objective. When you are not looking for anything in particular, you will be amazed what you will find, you are also a lot more likely to cover a larger area of land. If you start off on a quest for one particular plant, and you have never been there before you may be disappointed and you may also pass up some really good finds. Also, if you happen to run across that particular plant, and you begin to gather, you may find later that there was a much bigger patch or better quality patch else ware. Because you were not familiar with the area and you did not scout it out, you missed it. Use that day for taking in the plants that are there, cover a large area, take mental & hand written notes of the area and where the plants are located. Return at a later date (maybe even the next day if you found the perfect plant) when the plants are at optimum harvesting stage. This is also a good time to get permission to collect if it's private property.

2. Going out with the intention that you will just collect anything you find. This includes any edible or medicinal plant you know. Then when you get back home you improvise and cook up or dry, tincture, any thing you bring back. This can bring many pleasant surprises and off the wall recipes that you would not normally plan. Sometimes you may even hit the jackpot! Study up before you leave and bring a good plant key ( this is why I like the picture before you gather method, you can take plenty of time identifying, and the plant remains there for when you return) Remember the more you know the more you can gather!

3. Spontaneous eating of wild foods or sampling of medicinals. This occurs when you are in the middle of some other activity like a company picnic for example. You cannot control yourself when you see some sort of wild delicacy and you indulge! This is great, especially when bosses, or unknown employees see you and your spouse has to explain that you have obsessive compulsive wild food consumption and collection disorder. Your excitement is enough to justify any weird looks of disapproval from others.

4. Going on a medicinal or wild foods quest for a single plant. This is sort of like gambling and may or may not be rewarding if you are hyper focused on the one plant. You go on a quest for the one plant that you know (or suspect you know) is in season for that region and habitat where you are looking. Say you are looking for huckleberries. If you do find them, they may not be at the harvest stage, or someone or something may have gotten there before you. A lot of disappointment can occur if you search for one plant to the exclusion of all others. You could come home short or with nothing at all. Not to mention the disappointment you have caused the other plants that you ignored that were calling out to you to be gathered.

Zig Zag mountain hike 4

Collected some Cow Parsnip Heracleum lanatum Seeds

Time for Goldenrod Solidago canadensis!

Beautiful Pearly Everlasting Anaphalis margaritacea in bloom everywhere!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Zig Zag mountain hike 3

False Solomon seal smilacina racemosa w berries.

A varity of stonecrop (not sure latin name) leaves are thick and meaty, juice is nice to rub on cuts.

Above: A variety of "birds nest" mushroom. Looks like a bird feeder. A great Key site for mushrooms

Zig Zag mountain hike 2

Klamath Weed or more commonly know as St Johns Wort Hypericum perforatum

According to Jonathan's Blog
if you decide to do any "recreational snorting" the resulting nose bleed could lead to hospitalization LOL!

Aster (purple flower top) subspicatus A beautiful wild flower, as a flower essence DOUGLAS ASTER aster subspicatus - endless expansion while maintaining centre; savouring life experience; living fully and consciously; promotes courage and adaptability. according to Healing Waters.

Horsetail Equisetum spp (middle pic)

Zag zag Hike Plants

Potentially toxic Baneberry Actaea rubra

Candy Flower Montia sibirica

Wood sorrel oxalis oregana yummy edible

Walk up the mountain zig zag

I saw many plants today, blogger only lets me post 3 pictures per post so this will be continuing.
Blue Elderberries sambucus cerulea, yummy!
Thimbleberry Rubus Parviflorus
Red Huckleberry Vaccinium parvifolium

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Walk up on Wildcat

It was a beautiful day today, I love this time of year, when fall is approaching. Soft breeze on my face, warm and sunny, yet cool enough. I pictured some really great plants today, just when I was getting started my battery went dead! Here is a few I captured.
Centaury centaurium umbellatum a lovely little bitter!
Goldenrod Solidago canadensis. As I learned from Kiva, lovely topical for sore muscles, and has many other fabulous uses.
Yummy Salal berries, nice little treat in the middle of the day!
Some snowberries symphoricarpos albus not really an edible, but you can chew it up and apply them externally on bites and cuts.
I could go on about my plant stories (much like fish stories) of all the other great plants I saw, but alas I do not have proof, I plan on going back up the mountain tomorrow, hopefully this time I will make sure the battery is charged!