Sunday, January 22, 2012

Using Elder bark

How do I see the elder tree?
As a child I spent much time with my grandparents. In the chiken yard (wich was huge) was a large elder tree. I remember that I always played unther this tree.
Previously you could find elder at any yard and allong any field tracks, but not anymore.

I have been in the wood to locate elder in my village, I found several trees and took photos.
Some are small trees and others are large shrubs.

The thick branches are grey, but the thinner twigs are more green.

Here in Belgium, partly due to the mild winter there are already buts on the branches.

I took a few twigs home, stripped of the bark and cut into small pieces. Thrown everything into a bowl and topped with olive oil. Then I put the half into a double boiler for about 2 hours and then strained. Then poured the oil over the new bark and again infused for 2 hours.

Poured it through a filter and then into a clean bottle.
Double infused elder bark oil

Making a bruise salve out of the oil.
Using the double boiler method again.
I heated the double infused elder bark oil in a pan and melted the beeswax in the oil.
My friend Leslie told me to to use 1 part beeswax to 8 parts oil.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Theoretical Task - Januari

Research the structure and function of skin. How does a bruise form? What other herbs can be used to help bruises?
The skin is one of the largest organs in the body.
The skin consists of three layers: the epidermis and the dermis. Beneath the dermis lies the hypodermis or subcutaneous fatty tissue.
The skin has three main functions: protection, regulation and sensation. Wounding affects all the functions of the skin.

The skin is an organ of protection. The primary function of the skin is to act as a barrier. The skin provides protection from: mechanical impacts and pressure, variations in temperature, micro-organisms, radiation and chemicals.

The skin is an organ of regulation. The skin regulates several aspects of physiology, including: body temperature via sweat and hair, and changes in peripheral circulation and fluid balance via sweat. It also acts as a reservoir for the synthesis of Vitamin D.

The skin is an organ of sensation. The skin contains an extensive network of nerve cells that detect and relay changes in the environment. There are separate receptors for heat, cold, touch, and pain. Damage to these nerve cells is known as neuropathy, which results in a loss of sensation in the affected areas.

How does a bruise form?
what causes your skin to turn back and blue?
Basically, a bruise, or contusion, as it's referred to in the medical world, appears when blood vessels break due to a blow to the skin. Blood leaks out of these vessels resulting in a red, purple or black mark on your skin. Sometimes your skin can become raised when the blood from these vessels leaks into the surrounding tissues. In most healthy individuals, your body eventually will reabsorb the blood, and the bruise will disappear. In general, the harder your bump or blow, the larger your bruise will be, and arms and legs are the most typical areas for bruises.

What other herbs can be used to help bruises
Comfrey, Witch hazel, Calendula, Parsley, light massage, and herbs like Arnica can increasethe blood flow and help to heal the area.

To be continued

Friday, January 6, 2012

Finding a herbal ally

Finding a herbal ally
(taken from Kristine Brown’s blog Dancing in a Field of Tansy )

The idea of a herbal ally comes from Gail Faith Edwards in her book, “Opening our wild hearts to the healing herbs” She says
"Pick a new plant each year to focus on. Be sure to grow the plant, or meet it in the wild, observe it, make different medicines and foods with it, use it in many ways, consume it regularly, or use as applicable as often as possible, and constantly observe. Noting all you observe. Keeping your own notes is critically important. Learn to meditate with plants. Learn to take care of them, learn to process and use them, one by one. Fall in love with each and every plant you work with, one by one. Recognize the living being there, the spirit of the plant. Respect its power. Open your wild heart to it."
Susan Weed suggests “Choose a plant that grows very near to you ... no more than a one-minute walk from your door. You don't need to know the name of the plant, or anything about it. You will be sitting with your plant every day, so, if possible, choose one that grows in a quiet and lovely place ... in a pot on your balcony is just fine ... in a park is great ... so is an alley ... or a backyard. "

My herbal ally - The Rose

Herbal Ally Tasks January-March 2012
1. Consider your ally ion its dormant state. If you can see/visit it – sketch what you observe or take pictures. Does it need pruning/sheltering from possible frosts? Does it still have leaves or fruit attached? Are you going to grow it yourself? Where are you going to source it from? Are you going to buy/beg plants/grow from seed?
2. Obtain some dried form of your ally and take yourself a tea once a day for one week and notice taste/flavour/effects on you.
3. What did ancient herbalists use your ally for? How did they prepare it? Check Culpepper, Galen, Avicenna, Hildegarde of Bingen, 16th, 17th, 18 and 19th century writers. (Hint: Maud Grieve and Matthew Wood give good summaries of older herbalists). Don’t forget Scudder, Ellingwood and King on Henriette Kress’ and Paul Bergner’s websites.
4. If you are going to plant your ally, prepare the ground and decide on and plan your planting scheme and plant your seeds. Take careful note of how long seeds take to germinate in what growing conditions and how long they take to acquire two “real” leaves. Pot on.
5. Research modern/current usage of your ally. Check if there is any difference between UK/Us/European usage (or TCM/Ayuvedic/Western)
6. If your ally has bark, consider removing bark from prunings and either drying/tincturing, make tea or syrup or doubly infuse in oil. (Make sure the bark is suitable for internal ingestion first!).
7. Spend time with your ally during its dormant state – ask what it would like to teach you over the coming year.

January Task List

Practical Task: Recognising winter trees and harvesting bark.
Year 1: Find and map all the hawthorn, elder trees and wild rose bushes in a one mile radius from where you live. Notice the shape of the tree/bush and any different colorations/lichen growth on different sides of the tree/bush.
Identify whether the rose bush is a dog rose, briar rose or rosa rugosa. Cut some elder twigs and peel off the bark. Use this bark to make a double infused bruise salve.
If you have time and inclination, sandpaper the white elder twigs until smooth, then cut into 1cm/1/2” sections, remove the pith and thread on ribbon, string or elastic to make a necklace or bracelet. You could also make a hawthorn wand/meditation stick if you have time. (See for instructions)

Theoretical Task
Year 1: Research the structure and function of skin. How does a bruise form? What other herbs can be used to help bruises?

Year 2: a) Research the structure of human blood cells. How does horsechestnut help to strengthen them?

Herbal terminology
Research and note the meaning of the following terms: expectorant, astringent and bitter.
Seasonal task: If you haven’t already done so, collect rosehips and sloes to make a single syrup or combination syrup flavoured either with lemon or spices and/or make a rosehip honey. (recipes are on my blog). At the end of the month, source and make a Seville orange bitter

Monday, January 2, 2012

My first task is to select 20 herbs to study throughout this year

We were asked to give their common name and the latin name.

Marigold Calendula officinalis
Chamomile chamomilla officinalis
Comfrey Symphytum officinale
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale
Elder Sambucus Nigra
Horehound Marrubiumvugare
Lavender Lavandula officinalis
Lemon balm Melissa officinalis
Mint Mentha longifolia
Catnip Nepeta cataria
Nettle Urtica dioica
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
Sage Salvia officinalis
St Johns Worth Hypericum perforatum
Thyme Thymus Vulgaris
Lime Tilia
Vervain Verbena officinalis
Pancy Viola tricolor

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello Everyone!

Hello all,
my name is Rita, I'm living in Belgium with my daughter and son, 4 dogs, 2 cats and some chickens. I love to work in the garden, I have two raised herb beds and a lot of flowers. I am so glad I'm in the apprenticeship. I love to do things with herbals, to make thea, sirups and suchlike...

I look forward to getting to know you all, best wishes for the New Year!