Bittersweet … A Tale of Two Sisters

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Kathleen M Hale, Western Reserve Herb Society

The Sisters’ Shame
We were two daughters of one race;
She was the fairest in the face.
    The wind is blowing in turret and tree.
They were together, and she fell;
Therefore revenge became me well.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

bittersweetA lot of legends of magic, revenge and sorcery begin with two sisters. Sometimes they are friends.  Sometimes they are rivals.  But an unspoken message in many stories is, “Don’t pick the wrong one!” Increasingly, North American gardeners are finding themselves faced with this dilemma.  The choice may be between a native plant and its sometimes seductive, sometimes invasive sister, introduced from elsewhere.

Bittersweet gives us such a story. American bittersweet, Celustrus scandens, is seen everywhere this time of year in wreaths and dried arrangements. It has tiny vivid orange fruits…

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Home-Grown and Wildcrafted Smudge Sticks: Plant List and Recipes

The Druid's Garden

Basket of newly made smudge sticks Basket of newly made smudge sticks

Creating homemade smudge sticks with local ingredients is a wonderful activity to do this time of year.  As the plants die back, you can harvest whatever you aren’t using for other purposes and create a number of beautiful smudges that can be used for many different purposes: clearing, honoring spirits, protection, setting intentions, letting go, bringing in, preparing for ritual or mediation, and much more.

A few years ago, I wrote an initial post on homemade smudge sticks using local ingredients–this has become my most popular post on my blog.  Given that, I wanted to offer a follow-up post with some additional information and share a few smudge stick recipes for specific purposes. For initial instructions on how to make your sticks, please see my first post.  This post expands the plant list that you can use to make smudges and also offers…

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Making Smudge Sticks from Homegrown Plants and Wildharvested Materials: Step by Step Instructions with Cedar, Rosemary, Sage, Mugwort, and More!

The Druid's Garden

I recently posted about my research on Eastern White Cedar, and I wanted to follow-up that post with information on making smudge sticks, inspired by Eastern White Cedar. Smudge sticks are bundles of herbs that are dried and burned for purification and ceremonial uses. They come out of Native American traditions, but today they are broadly used by many for their purification purposes.  I use them as a druid in my ceremonies, to bless and cleanse my house, to cleanse outdoor spaces that are in some kind of energetic funk.  But I also use them practically–as a blessing for my garden at the start of the growing season, as a way to remove hostile energies from my chickens who aren’t getting along, or to pass among friends before sharing a meal.  They are a great way to bring a bit of ceremony and the sacred into the everyday.

Freshly Wrapped Smudges Freshly Wrapped…

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6 LUNG HERBS for the BODY & MIND

Good Witches Homestead

Healing the Lungs, Grief, and Trauma

Especially with all the deep sadness with the ongoing fires in California, the necessity to write on the herbs that heal our lungs is vital. My heart is humbled and heavy with what is happening with the world at large. Seeing these fires and shootings affect so many friends and community members, it really shook my core on how precious and vulnerable life can really be. Today we’re reviewing lung herbs as these are herbs that not only help repair lung tissue, they assist in the recovery of emotional trauma, PTSD and grief. Below are herbs that are easy to find in most herb stores and markets, that can help you or a dear one cope with environmental toxicity, and support you emotionally. 

Our lungs are always at work. At every moment of the day, they’re cleansing the air, delivering oxygen to the cells, and energizing the body with life. They are constantly filtering…

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Let’s Create Some Herbal Remedies – When Cold and Flu Season Arrives.

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

These two recipes are prepared as teas but are not taken in your tea cup – they help with the discomfort of flu season in other ways.

Winter Inhalation

living-herbs-for-cold-flu-thymeThis traditional herbal steam helps open your sinuses, discourages bacterial and viral growth, and reduces pain and inflammation. Remember to stay a comfortable distance from the steaming pot to avoid burning your face.

8 – 12 teaspoons fresh or 4 teaspoons dried eucalyptus leaf {Eucalyptus globulus}

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaf

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme herb

3 cups purified water

Essential oils of the herbs above {optional}

Place the eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, and water in a saucepan and stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and uncover. Drape a large towel…

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Food as Medicine Update: Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae) is a trailing, herbaceous perennial in the morning glory family.1,2 It is indigenous to Central and South America and grows best in subtropical climates, spreading along the ground and producing oblong, tuberous roots. There are more than 400 sweet potato varieties, and most have yellow-brown or copper-colored skins with bright orange or yellow-red flesh.3 Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSPs) are the most common varieties consumed, but white, cream, yellow, pink, and deep purple varieties also exist. The sweet potato plant has alternate, heart-shaped leaves and produces funnel-shaped white, pink, or rose-violet flowers that appear in clusters in the leaf axils as the plant matures.4

Taxonomic confusion can arise over the common name “yam” that often is given to sweet potatoes in the market. Botanically speaking, true yams belong to the genus Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae) and are much less common in the United…

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The Samhain of our Lives

The Druid's Garden

Just last week, we had our first hard frost. After homesteading for a number of years, you grow to be vigilant for the signs of the first frost. The air smells different somehow in the two or so weeks leading up to it. The bird and wildlife patterns change.  The nights have a crisp bite to them that they didn’t even a few days before. And then, just like magic one day, the frost is there, glistening in the morning light. The garden radically changes overnight–even for those things you covered–the entire landscape lies in disarray.

Sunrise at First Frost Sunrise at First Frost

I could feel it on the air, and for the last few mornings, have been going to to see if it had arrived. That morning, I turned the corner and first saw it first on the strawberry patch–white and glistening. The frost is beautiful, magical, and yet, destructive. While the…

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A Druid’s Guide to Herbalism, Part II: Preserving and Preparing Sacred Plant Medicine

The Druid's Garden

The moonlight shines through the window in my kitchen as I carefully use a mortar and pestle to grind dried herbs for making tea.  Candlelight softly illuminates the space, and I have my recipe book with me, ensuring that I record everything that I’m doing for future use. Magic is in the air; working in a sacred space at a sacred time on the Fall Equinox ensures that these medicines will be potent, effective, and magical. On the counter, I’ve already finished my fresh New England Aster flower tincture; this keeps my lungs in good health and helps me manage my chronic asthma without pharmaceuticals. A pot of olive oil is infusing with herbs is on the stove; I am getting ready to add beeswax and pour it off into small jars.  This healing salve will be for friends and family as Yule gifts.  The kitchen is bursting with good…

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A Druid’s Guide to Herbalism, Part I:Harvesting by the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and Sacred Intent

The Druid's Garden

Field of Goldenrod in Fall Field of Goldenrod in Fall

A field of goldenrod, nettle, and aster greet me on this warm post- Fall Equinox day.  As the moon comes up with a sliver in the afternoon sky, I joyfully take my basket and harvest knife into the field for my fall plant preparations. The breeze has change on the air–winter is coming soon, and the sacred medicines I prepare will bring my family nourishment and strength for the coming dark half of the year. As we are well into the harvest season at this lovely Fall Equinox, I thought I’d take the time to talk about harvesting and preparation by the sun and moon and honoring the harvest. Next week, I’ll talk about the most basic plant preparations and we’ll end this series with talking about energetic preparations through the creation of flower and leaf essences.  That is, we’ll talk about the medicine of…

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Food as Medicine: Cherry (Prunus avium and P. cerasus, Rosaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Take advantage of the fleeting cherry season to explore the fruit’s sweet side, sour side, and beneficial side. Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, cherry fruit and cherry bark have been used to treat and support a wide variety of chronic inflammatory conditions. In addition, the fruit’s rich phenolic compound content has been studied for their potential benefits for sleep disorders, exercise recovery, and cognitive function.

Known for both their ornamental beauty and sweet and tart fruits, cherry (Prunus spp.) trees are among the 3,400 species that belong to the economically important rose (Rosaceae) family. This botanical family also includes other fruit-bearing trees such as apples (Malus spp.) and pears (Pyrus spp.), as well as herbaceous perennials like strawberries (Fragaria spp.) and brambles like blackberries (Rubus spp.) and raspberries (Rubus spp.).1

Cherry fruits are produced by various trees…

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