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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Watch Webinar on Native Wildflowers

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Jen Munson, HSA Education Chair

ginseng American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) a globally rare plant species

The diversity of the world’s plants has dwindled and/or is threatened. In fact the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that 54 percent of the 19,000 plant species they have identified are at risk. In New England it is estimated that almost 20 percent of New England’s native plants are on the verge of being lost and  another 5 percent has already disappeared. Native plants are under threat from invasive species, habitat loss, climate changes among other impacts.

The New England Wildflower Society seeks to preserve New England native plants. Based at the Garden in The Woods botanic garden in Framingham, Massachusetts, their mission is, “to conserve and promote the region’s native plants to ensure healthy, biologically diverse landscapes.” They secure and preserve seeds from rare plants to protect genetic diversity…

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Building Soil Fertility with Fall Gardening at the Equinox

The Druid's Garden

Leaves - nutrients AND enjoyment! Leaves – nutrients AND enjoyment!

In the druid wheel of the year, we have three “harvest” festivals.  Lughnasadh, the first harvest.  So much of the garden produce starts to be ready at this time–and also at this time, the garden is still at its peak, but quickly waning. In the weeks after , our pumpkin patch died back with beautiful orange pumpkins and said “ok, I’m done for the year!” Then we have the Fall Equinox, where things are continuing to be harvesting, but many of the plants are in serious decline. By Samhain, everything is dead, the hard frosts have come and the land goes to sleep. It seems then, on the surface, that what we should be doing in the fall is primarily harvesting and sitting on our laurels and watching fall and winter come.

However, as a gardener and homesteader, my busiest time, by far, is the…

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The Plant Spirit Oracle Project

The Druid's Garden

Spirit of the Oak! Spirit of the Oak from the Plant Spirit oracle!

As we’ve been exploring over the last few weeks, plant spirit communication can take many forms.  The rustle of leaves outside of your window, the inner knowing, or the song a plant sings to you as you honor it for the harvest. These simple messages weave a complex landscape beyond what we can sense with our fives senses, and invite us deeper into the mysteries of the earth and all living beings. And as we’ve explored, the voices of the plants, the spirits of the plants, take a number of forms and can appear to each of us uniquely. What is clear is that the more that we open ourselves up to understanding them, honoring them, and working with them, the more connection we have with the living earth in her many forms.

Part of the reason I’ve been sharing so…

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Plant Spirit Communication Part IV: Medicine for the Body and the Soul

The Druid's Garden

In the last few weeks, we’ve considered various ways in which we might communicate with plant spirits, work with them, and engage in spirit journeys with them. In this post, I am beginning to make the transition to talk about plant medicine and herbalism for a few weeks–both medicine of the body and medicine of the soul. I think that herbal medicine is something incredibly powerful to add to any earth-based spiritual based practice, both to keep you in good health and to create inter-dependency between you and the living earth. In order to do that, I wanted to talk today about plant spirits and the connection between medicine for the body and medicine for the soul. To do this, we’ll delve into animism and an animistic worldview as well as consider deepening plant relationships.

Amazing reishi! Amazing reishi!

Medicine of the Body

Plants have physical bodies and various…

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Plant Spirit Communication, Part II: Communication in Many Forms

The Druid's Garden

I remember taking a drive with some friends and friends-of-friends some years ago. As we were driving through a really nice forest preserve with some old trees, one of my friends in the car said, “There’s so much money there in the trees, some of them would be worth more than $1500.” He went on to talk about how his family had recently logged their property and earned over $25,000. Other people in the car jumped in and talked about the forest’s beauty and argued against him; and I just listened. Finally, I responded and said, “Every living being has a spirit. I hope that forest stands forever. They deserve to live as much as you or I.” Before this conversation had started, I was listening to the singing of that forest, so happy, so safe to be preserved. This experience stayed with me, and was a good reminder about…

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Our Pantry Profile: Rosemary

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Rosemary {Rosmarinus officinalis}

The name Rosmarinus loosely translates to “dew of the sea,” given to rosemary because of its affinity for the wind-swept cliffs of the Mediterranean coast, where it originates. Beloved for centuries for its aroma and health benefits, this strongly aromatic member of the mint family is now cultivated worldwide.

Greek scholars wore garlands of rosemary to improve their memory and concentration, and many ancient herbalists recommended rosemary for failing mental acuity. During the Middle Ages, some would wear it around the neck to protect from the plague. Thirteenth-century Queen Elisabeth of Hungary claimed at 72 years of age, crippled with gout and rheumatism, that she had regained her beauty and strength by using “Hungary Water” {largely rosemary-infused}, compelling the King of Poland to propose marriage to her. Along with juniper, rosemary was frequently burned by the tub-full to disinfect the air from disease, from ancient times through…

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Our Pantry Profile: Thyme

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Thyme {Thymus vulgaris}

Common garden thyme has been used for protection, courage, food, and medicine since the beginning of recorded history. A low-growing, aromatic shrub native to the rocky hills of the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, it’s now a staple of herb gardens around the world.

Roman soldiers bathed in thyme to maintain their courage and strength before a battle, and in medieval times, departing knights received thyme-embroidered scarves from their lady loves to keep up spirits and inspire courage. A popular belief was that thyme tea prevented nightmares and even encouraged dreams of fairies. Carrying thyme warded off evil spells and witchcraft, while sewing thyme and fern into the hem of a dress kept the Devil from taking a woman as his bride. Placing a sprig of thyme in one shoe and a sprig of rosemary in the other on the Eve of St. Agnes {January 20} was said…

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