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

Baneful Herbs in Magical Practice | Coby Michael Ward

Good Witches Homestead

Using Baneful Herbs in Magic

With their infamous reputations and prominent place in myth and folklore, the Baneful herbs begin to seem more like mischievous magical creatures appearing throughout history in folktales and first-hand accounts.  They are powerful in their chemistry and in their occult power, but they are still plants.  The deadly nightshade grows in the same soil as the mint and the lavender.  They get light and water from the same sky.  It is important to remember this when incorporating baneful plant spirits into your magical practice.  People often ask how these herbs can benefit one magically, and how to use them.  The answer is, that they all have their own unique powers and applications, and other than ingesting, they can be used magically like any other herb.

In magic, herbs, woods and/or resins are used in pretty much everything.  They can be incorporated into spells in so…

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Roselle Hibiscus– An Herb with Many Names — Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Originally posted on The Herb Society of America Blog: By Maryann Readal With its bright red calyces, green leaves, and okra-like flowers, Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as red zinger, red sorrel, sour tea, Florida cranberry, and roselle, makes an unusual and striking accent plant in the garden. On a recent trip to Montreal, I was…

via Roselle Hibiscus– An Herb with Many Names — Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

How to Make Herbal Dream Pillows

Good Witches Homestead

In the modern world, it can be challenging to get a good night’s rest. Keeping a healthy daytime lifestyle as well as a calming nighttime ritual are excellent ways to prepare the body for restful sleep filled with exciting and inspiring dreams! There are even traditions in which herbs are used during sleep, not only to bring about peaceful snoozing, but also to create vivid, lucid dreaming landscapes sure to bring happiness, rather than grogginess, to your waking state.

The practice of placing herbs under one’s pillow dates back centuries and was originally thought to protect against evil, bring good dreams, calm bad dreams, foresee the future, or even conjure a lover into one’s life! No matter the reason, herbal pillows are an easy way to help promote peaceful sleep and encourage dreaming. These pillows are simple to prepare and make a wonderful “crafternoon” with your friends or family. The first step is to…

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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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Samhain in the Devil’s Garden | Coby Michael Ward

Good Witches Homestead

All Hallows Eve is quickly approaching.  The darkness is creeping closer every day.  You can feel the cold grip of the coming winter slithering its way back up from its yearly resting place deep in the Underworld.  The excitement and anticipation on both sides of the veil are tangible.  It is during this time of year that most witches are at their witchiest, reveling in the sensory delights of the coming holiday.  For me, Samhain/Halloween (because I celebrate both) is an entire season, not just one day.  It begins at the autumnal equinox when the scales begin to tip in darkness’ favor.  Then there is the October full moon known as the Hunter’s Moon or Blood Moon.  I look at Samhain October 31st as the culmination of this strange energy that has been building which bleeds into November.  The Sun hangs low in the sky, crows can be heard cawing…

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A Culinary Herbal…

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Culinary herbs are the herbs I use the most for cooking, growing and remedies. I would be lost without Rosemary, Thyme and Sage, and they are so familiar to most people, that often they can be overlooked as great medicinal plants.

Culinary herbs, as well as adding depth in flavour to our foods, have many rich and diverse medicinal properties, below are some of the properties of my favorite herbs and how I like to use them, which is always really simply.

Sage; the king of the antibacterial backyard herbs, sage is perfect if you have a virus, and will help clear chesty coughs. The easiest thing to do with sage, is to drink a warm tea of fresh or dried sage leaves at the first sign of a cold, or a bladder infection. You may want to sweeten with honey – it doesn’t taste great.

Rosemary; possibly…

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Homegrown and Wild Harvested Aromatic Smoke Sticks

Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor

This article was originally written for Mother Earth Living magazine and is published here with permission from the publisher. Mother Earth Living is an American bimonthly magazine about sustainable homes and lifestyle.

Homegrown and Wild Harvested Smoke Sticks

Aromatic plant smoke holds an ancient and familiar allure. The alchemy of transforming dried plants into fragrant smoke has a profound effect on the feeling—or energy—of a space or person. There’s a reason that cultures all around the globe burn aromatic plants in ceremony and religious practices. The emotional sway of scent, coupled with smoke, is universal and dare I say, unparalleled.

Throughout history, people have burned a large number of plants in the form of incense, resins, and leafy bundles, for various spiritual and practical purposes. Certain botanicals contain essential oils that act as a deterrent to insects. When these plants are burned, the essential oils carried in the aromatic smoke helps drive away pests like mosquitos, fleas, and biting flies. Additionally, the smoke from such plants is often antimicrobial. In one study, various plants were burned to release smoke into the air, effectively reducing airborne populations of pathogenic bacteria by 94% in one hour. Another study examined the antimicrobial effects of smoke obtained from various South African plants that are traditionally burned, and found the smoke to be more antimicrobial than other extracts from the same plants.

Having lived in the humid southeast in various primitive structures, I can personally attest to smoke’s ability to deter mold. You can imagine the importance of aromatic plant smoke before the invention of doors, screens, and contemporary hygiene practices. Burning fragrant leaves and resins helped keep people and their spaces healthy!

People also burn aromatic plants for the enjoyment of the scent or to promote positive feelings. If you diffuse essential oils in your home or light natural aromatherapy candles, you’re using a concentrated form of botanical aroma. Burning smoke sticks, resins, or aromatic leaves is simply a less concentrated way of releasing essential oils—and related aromatic plant compounds—coupled with the visual and olfactory mystique of smoke.

The spiritual and religious traditions of burning aromatic botanicals are rich and varied, traversing almost every religion and continent. The ancient Egyptians burned botanical incense as much as four thousand years ago. Aromatic plant smoke figures into the ceremonies of Buddhists, Christians, Taoists, Pagans, and Hindus.

Throughout North America, various Native peoples have bundled and burned aromatic herbs for centuries. Plants such as white sage (Salvia apiana), sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), and sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) are used in ceremony and for other healing purposes. The practices and rituals vary among groups, with very specific and deliberate traditions.

I am of European descent and am not trained in any one culture’s traditional practices or ceremonies, therefore I am careful to not portray my bundling or burning as traditional Native American in style or practice. Additionally, I gather or grow plants that were traditionally used for aromatic smoke in Europe, and incorporate these into my bundles. As such, I will refer to these aromatic bundles as “smoke sticks,” as this is more universally applied. I’m specifically avoiding the terms “smudge sticks” or “smudging,” as these refer to specific practices, which belong to certain indigenous cultures in the Americas.

Many indigenous groups believe that aromatic plant bundles should not be sold but instead should be traded, gifted, or homemade. All the more reason to learn how to make your own!

Harvesting and bundling aromatic smoke sticks is actually quite easy and fun.  Consider hosting a gathering with a group of friends—each bringing material from her own garden or neighborhood—and combining the botanical bounty into collective aromatic smoke bundles. Every time you burn a stick, the warmth of your friendships will be rekindled!

Read complete article at:  Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine ~ Homegrown and Wild Harvested Aromatic Smoke Sticks

 

A Simple Ritual for the Autumn Equinox

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The Autumn Equinox is the gateway to the Autumn and Winter. It is the time in the year when we give thanks to the beautiful sun, and the rich earth that have provided endless harvests over the summer months. I feel blessed to live in a Country that has such vivid seasons, they keep us moving forward and remind us gently that nothing lasts forever.

I like to keep my seasonal rituals simple, so here are a few ideas of how to say your own thank you to the wonderful sun and our beautiful earth…

Gather any of the below items to make a small ‘altar’, you can also make an incense to burn from the ideas listed, or pick some herbs to dry to make a smudge stick. I like to try to be outside for the sunset on the equinox. Have a small fire, somewhere safe, the back…

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Greetings!

If you’ve taken an interest in foraging wild mushrooms, you’ve undoubtedly encountered rules of thumb that are meant to simplify the learning process.

“If it bruises blue, it’s toxic.”

“Mushrooms shouldn’t be consumed with alcohol.”

“Pulling up a mushroom by its ‘roots’ is a poor harvesting technique.”

In many cases, however, well-intentioned advice and general rules of thumb turn out to be nothing more than myths.

To clear up some confusion, I thought I’d address many popular myths surrounding the foraging and consumption of wild mushrooms.

The following video is one of over 70 exclusive videos featured in Foraging Wild Mushrooms.  While all content within the online course is only available to students who register within the next 4 days, I thought I’d share this video with everyone because of the timely information contained within it.

If you’re interested in foraging mushrooms for food, for medicine, for study, or just for fun, check out what Foraging Wild Mushrooms has to offer.  This 4-season course covers the most important lessons to get you started and to keep you going.

To learn more, you can follow this link:  Foraging Wild Mushrooms

(Don’t forget that Monday is the last day to register.)

In the meantime, here are 16 mushroom myths!

Thanks for reading and watching, and as always, thank you for your support!

-Adam Haritan