Cultivating Woodland Herbs: Planning a Medicinal Forest Garden

Written by Meghan Gemma with Juliet Blankespoor
Photography by Juliet Blankespoor (except where credited) with Contributions from Steven Foster

If asked to imagine a garden, I’d bet that most of us would call to mind a sunny patch interplanted with some array of food, flowers, and herbs—the traditional household and homestead arrangement. Yet Indigenous peoples around the world have long understood that any ecosystem can be gently tended as a garden. For those of us fortunate enough to live near forests, the woodland—with its watery seeps, shady hollows, and part-sun edges—presents us with a fertile opportunity to grow a bounty of food and medicine.

Forests, by their own right and design, tend to be inherently rich in medicine—from groundcover plants and understory herbs to overstory canopy trees. Ginseng (Panax ginseng, P. quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and elderberry (Sambucus nigraS. canadensis) are just a few of the herbs that can be cultivated within the forest and on its edge.

Woodland cultivation is a way for us to nurture new plant communities as many of our wild forests are being logged, poached, paved, grazed, and otherwise fragmented. By growing woodland herbs, we might add precious medicines to our home apothecaries, but we’re also in service to wild plants—especially those that have been overharvested to supply domestic and foreign markets. Cultivated forest herbs are a sustainable and ethical way for us to both increase woodland diversity and partake of medicines that are otherwise increasingly rare.

Read complete article at: Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine ~ Cultivating Woodland Herbs, Planning a Medicinal Forest Garden

Ancestral Herbalism and Samhain: Working Deeply with Rosemary

The Druid's Garden

Rosemary from the Plant Spirit Oracle Rosemary Card from the Plant Spirit Oracle

As we quickly approach Samhain, it is a useful practice to spend some time with rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and build here into your Samhain practices. In this post, we look into some of the magic and medicine of Rosemary, and I share a number of ancestor and Samhain-focused practices that you can use with Rosemary.

An Ancestral Ally of Humans: History, Medicine, Magic

Before we get into what you can make or do with rosemary, let’s spend some time exploring and understanding this ancient herb. Rosemary has been with humanity almost as long as we have written records. Native to the mediterranean region, rosemary was first found referenced on cuineform tablets from Ancient Egypt that are from 5000 BCE–thus, humanity has at least an 8000 year old relationship with this herb (but I suspect it is much longer than our written history!)…

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Food as Medicine: Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa, Rosaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), also known as aronia berry, is a member of the economically important rose (Rosaceae) family, which includes other pome-producing plants like apple (Malus spp.), pear (Pyrus spp.), and quince (Cydonia oblonga). A pome is a fruit produced by the Malinae subtribe within Rosaceae. The genus Aronia includes two species of shrubs that are both native to North America: A. melanocarpa (black chokeberry) and A. arbutifolia (red chokeberry).1 Aronia melanocarpa grows to a height of 4-8 feet (1.2-2.4 meters) and is a cold-hardy, deciduous, thicket-forming shrub that prefers full sun and woodland edges.2,3 Black chokeberry’s natural range extends from the northeastern part of North America and the Great Lakes region to the Appalachian Mountains.1

In spring, black chokeberry shrubs produce clusters of white-to-pink flowers that are 2-2.5 inches long and each form 10-15 pea-sized, purple-black pomes after…

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Create Your Own Magical Tea Blends – Witch Way Magazine

Good Witches Homestead

by Emma Kathryn

Published in Witch Way Magazine’s May issue

Herbal teas are a fantastic way to bring your magical practice into your everyday life. For me, every aspect of making tea, from the sourcing of ingredients (foraging is my thing!) to the blending of them, is part of that witching process, and I use my magical knowledge as well as my mundane skills to infuse them with, well, magic!

Teas can be drunk for a variety of reasons, least of all because you like them. There are blends that help with the mundane as well as the magical, teas that revive the soul and others the body. And who doesn’t love tea anyway!

A note on teas and blends. When making a single cup of tea, a teaspoon of herb matter is all that is required, which is fine when using a single ingredient but does make it a…

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A Culinary Herbal…

Damson Jam

Valerian Root Benefits: How to Use Nature’s Wonder Root

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

When Hippocrates had a headache, it’s possible he enjoyed a nice steaming cup of valerian root tea. The ancient Greek physician was one of the first to describe the therapeutic benefits of valerian root.

Since the early days in Greece and Rome, people sought the benefits of valerian for everything from head discomfort to heart health, nervousness, feminine issues, and the blues. Valerian brings some unique mythological history as well. People once used it to keep away troublesome elves — stay away Dobby! — and folklore experts believe it helped the Pied Piper lure rats away from town.

What Is Valerian?

Garden valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is also known as garden heliotrope, Tagar (in Ayurvedic medicine), cut-finger, and all-heal — funny names for a potent plant! The species originally grew in Asia and Europe, but it now grows throughout North America, as well. Its scientific name derives from the Latin…

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Thornapple, Gender and Ritual Application | Coby Michael Ward

Good Witches Homestead

Cultivating the Devil’s Apple aka Thornapple

I spent part of this afternoon harvesting my Thornapple plants.  One of them grew to be close to five feet high!  The Thornapple I grew this year is a Datura stramonium var. tatula; similar to the common Datura stramonium only it is less shrubby and has lavender-purple flowers.  I harvested leaves, seedpods, and stems.  I have a few workshops coming up over Samhain season on different aspects of the Poison Path and like to have the actual plants on hand for anyone interested in working with them.  Part of my bargain with said plants is to make them available to others and teach people how to use them.  All parts of the plant are going to be put to various uses.  The leaves are dried and used for spirit offerings, intense personal cleansing and as spell ingredients.  The stems, when dried become hard…

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Praise of the Pumpkin

Good Witches Homestead

The pumpkin is a fall fruit with a rich heritage and flexible flavor that has been used for centuries.

If the tomato is the queen of garden vegetables, the pumpkin may well be the king. In fact, in some parts of China, it is called “Emperor of the garden.” And why not? No plant produces a larger edible fruit, and what other plants can yield tens (or even hundreds) of pounds of healthful, delicious eating from a single seed in only a few months’ time? Pumpkins are known and loved around the world, for their beauty as well as for the gifts they bestow so generously, asking so little in return.

What’s In A Name?

A pumpkin is a winter squash, but not all winter squash are pumpkins. Confused? So is everyone else. The Oxford English Dictionary defines pumpkin as the large fruit of Cucurbita pepo, “egg-shaped or nearly…

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Garden Glut Tomato and Courgette Bruschetta