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Wonder Weeds - Chickweed

Posted by Sage Traditions on July 10, 2014 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (1)


For my second feature plant in the series Wonder Weeds, I have chosen a Star ...


Chickweed (Stellaria media)

by Bev Wein


 


Another favorite ‘weed’ of which we have an abundance here in our garden is Chickweed. I chuckle these days when I think back to how bothered I used to be about the problem of getting rid of the Chickweed in my vegetable garden. Turns out, as I began to love the Chickweed, I began to discover its many benefits to the point where now I actually nurture her in my garden.


Maybe I began to love her because her name means ‘Little Stars’. How can you not appreciate something like that which is so delicate beautiful and cheerful? Stars light the way in the darkness! Can it be that this little creeping plant also lights a way for us? I believe she will reveal herself to those who will take the time to love, respect and meditate or communicate with her. I’ve found that she is a powerful psychic healer, and helps us connect more deeply with cosmic energies while providing the inner strength needed to handle those energies.


Coincidentally, or not, in the years since I have begun to fall in love with Chickweed, I have also been blessed with a little Star who lights up my life daily. My darling granddaughter is appropriately named Star as well. Here is a suitable namesake!


Beautiful little star flowers.

 

Even though this delicate little plant is an annual, she is fairly cold tolerant and I find that in very early spring, the she is one of the first who begins to grow and bloom in the greenhouse. It’s one of those wonderful fresh green treats to delight in when there is still snow on the ground outside those thin translucent walls. Her tiny early blossoms also are a double blessing since they draw beneficial insects into the garden as they search for food before much else is in bloom. Now, at this time of year, she is also in abundance in the outdoor beds smiling her starry face up to the sun, just waiting for another round of harvesting and quite ready to come again.


Chickweed is a bountiful plant and it is pretty easy to find in most garden beds ... if left to grow. Often people will hoe out the tiny seedlings before they are recognized and may not realize they have yummy, nutritional and medicinal Chickweed right before them.

 

Identifying Chickweed


Chickweed seedlings


Chickweed leaves are oval with a bit of a pointed tip. They can be smooth or slightly hairy. She has a fun particular pattern on her stem which has little hairs that go up one side and then at the next leaf node the little hairs switch and go up the other side, and so on. Her stems grow together in a unique intertwined manner. Her flowers are star shaped, white, tiny and delicate, turning their faces to the sun during the day, nodding downward in the rain and tucking inside the upper protective leaves at night. She can grow 5 -50 cm tall.

 

While its best to weed back a bit when planting your seeds to give them a head start, this creeping ground cover plant turns out to be a wonderful living mulch around my established plants. I especially encourage her around the tomatoes. Chickweed loves the moisture and also keeps the moisture form evaporating away for the thirsty tomatoes. This helps keep the tomato roots at a nice and even moisture, which is perfect for juicy, sweet red fruit that doesn’t split open from uneven water content.


Chickweed under tomato. A living mulch.

 

To ensure she doesn’t completely take over, I diligently harvest what I can by trimming them back to the ground knowing that she will eagerly come again. Invariably, some of it goes to seed and I always have an abundant supply next spring again!

 


Purposes of Chickweed

 

Once harvested, Chickweed has numerous purposes. First off, this is a delicious green to be eaten raw - leaf, flower and stem. I often munch away at it while out working in the garden. Her cooling properties make her so refreshing on a hot day! They are great in salads and on sandwiches. When the plants are harvested very young, the stems are also tender and can be eaten. A bit older, when the stems become tougher you can still chop them and add to soups and stews. The leaves can be cooked as a spinach substitute or added to a variety of cooked greens.


Chickweed ready to be chopped for salad. Yum!

 

If the plants become too mature, and begin to go to seed, they may not be quite so tasty and a little tough. These can be left to go to seed for next time. Or if you are fortunate enough to have a little flock of hens and/or chicks, harvest and toss it to them. They get pretty excited about it too, probably because its very nutritious for the birds! (Thus the name, 'Chick'weed.)



Chickweed gone to seed. Yummy chicken feed!

 

Nutritional Value


Not only nutritious for the birds, this is another of those nutritious gems to have in your own diet! She is packed full of Vitamin C; Beta-carotene (precursor to Vitamin A); and B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin; as well as minerals calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, selenium, silicon, and zinc. She is rich in bioflavonoids, and GLA, essential fatty acid. She also contains saponins (a soapy substance) which increase the permeability of cellular membranes therefore increasing the ability to absorb nutrients, especially minerals.

 

Traditional Medicinal Uses

 

If you have more than you can eat fresh, Chickweed can be used for a number of medicinally beneficial products as well. Medicinally, she has traditionally been used as an astringent (draws together tissues), carminative (relieves digestive gas), demulcent (soothing), diuretic (improves efficiency of urinary system), expectorant (loosens congestion and mucus), laxative (relieves constipation), refrigerant (cooling), and vulnerary (wound healing). Those saponins mentioned above, also help to break down unwanted stuff like disease causing bacteria, cysts, benign tumours (best to use in tincture form), thickened mucus in the respiratory and digestive systems, and excess fat cells. Chickweed water traditionally has been an old wives’ remedy for obesity.

 

She has been extensively used externally for skin conditions, diaper rash, roseola, to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers and eye infections such as pink eye. Internally, she has been used as a postpartum depurative (helps cleanse waste and toxins from the body), emmenagogue (stimulates blood flow to the pelvic region), galactogogue (promotes milk production in lactating women), and circulatory tonic (tones and strengthens the circulatory system) . She has also been used to relieve constipation, and in treatment of kidney complaint and as an infusion for coughs and hoarseness during cold and flu.

 

Save Some for Later


Chickweed drying on screens.

 

If you’re short on time, she is easily dried bundled and hung or spread out on a screen, both ways out of direct sunlight with some air circulating around it. Once dried, they make a great tea or infusion, or you can use them later, alone or to blend for some herbal preparations. Daily drinking an infusion of dried Chickweed, up to 1 litre a day, can be a beneficially contributing part to a weight loss program. For tinctures though, its best to use fresh Chickweed. Fresh Chickweed, once wilted, can also easily be infused into Olive Oil as a base for many skin preparations.

 

A Chickweed tincture is easily made by filling a jar with fresh chopped chickweed and cover with 100 proof vodka (or Everclear (190 proof) diluted 60/40 with distilled water). Cover tightly with a waxed paper barrier for an extra seal. Label and date clearly. Wait 6 weeks (if you want you can shake it once in a while and poke all herb back under the menstrum again) and its ready to strain and use. Store in a dark dropper bottle in a cool place. The usual dose for dissolving a cyst, for example, is a dropper full of tincture 2-3 times a day. It’s said that consistency and patience is the key. A common course of treatment may last for 2-16 months.


Chickweed tincturing

 

While it is traditionally common to make infused oils by allowing the herbs to sit in the oil, out of direct sunlight for up to 4 weeks, or using the Sun-Infused method, infusing the herbs in oil, in direct sunlight for 2 weeks, I find the double boiling method safer and more efficient when it comes to oils. Traditional methods increase the chances of molds growing into your preparation and there have been some serious safety concerns of botulism developing in the oil while sitting unpreserved at room or sun temperatures for long periods of time. As a result, traditional infused oils should be consumed internally with extreme caution at least. A cloudy product or one with mold like floaties on top would be an indication of spoilage. Botulism, however, is one that is not easily detected before consuming and the symptoms set in. :/

 

It’s pretty easy to infuse on the stove top though. Chickweed is best infused from the fresh plant rather than dried. However, its important to first allow the plants to wilt at least for a few hours or overnight, until it is decreased in weight by about 1/3 - 1/2. This eliminates a lot of the water from the plant that may contaminate your oil. Water in the preparation will increase the chances of mold growth. You can use a double boiler or infuse right in mason jars in a water bath canner. The jars should sit on a rack or towels inside the canner to keep them from direct heat and from rattling together. Either way, begin with cold oil and cold herbs.


Chickwed wilting before an oil infusion.


Stuff the coarsely chopped herb in the jar or pot, pour oil over until its covered. Ensure the water level in the pot is at the same level as your oil and not too close to the top of the jars to splash into them. I sometimes lay a jar lid on top just to keep the splashes out (and the bugs since I often do this outside) Slowly begin to bring the water under the oil to a low simmer. Heat slowly for 30-60 minutes, stirring the oils frequently to make sure the oil is not overheating. The lower the heat, the longer you can infuse, and the better quality the oil will be.


Coarsly chopped herb.

 

Once oil is infused, let it cool thoroughly and then strain through a cheesecloth. Choose a preservative according to the use you intend for the oil and add it now. Vitamin E or essential oils will increase the shelf life and protect it from molds and rancidity. Bottle and cap preserved oil, preferably in a dark bottle, and store it in a cool and dark place. This oil can now be used as a base for skin products, blended with other herbal oils or used directly for rashes, itching etc.

 

Rather than infusing the oil alone and blending with other herbal oil afterwards, you could also infuse it together with other herbs for a specific recipe such as the Boreal Skin Oil recipe listed below.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite books The Boreal Herbal, by Beverley Gray. www.facebook.com/pages/Boreal-Herbal/111000865658409

 

Boreal Skin Oil

Helps alleviate itching, chapping, and drying. Also makes s good infusion base for diaper-rash ointment.


1 part plantain leaf

1 part yarrow flowers

1 part fireweed flowers

2 parts chickweed herb

3 parts rose petals

15 parts grapeseed oil

1 part rosehip seed oil

Vitamin-E oil

Choose method of preparation for infusing oils and follow instructions. This oil can be used on its own, or as a base for a herbal salve or cream.

 

I hate to say I wish for you a garden full of weeds... but I do wish for you many opportunities to experience the beauty of Chickweed. Take time to get to know her. You may never look at weeding your garden the same again!

 

I wish many blessings on you and your garden including your weeds! When nature gives you weeds...Eat them with gratitude!

 

~ Bev

 

Please note that this blog is for informational purposes only and no diagnosis, treatment nor prescription is implied or offered, nor do I make any claim for a substitute for medical care for any specific medical issue. If you are experiencing any specific medical concern, it is recommended that you consult with your medical doctor as soon as possible.

Wonder Weeds - Lamb's Quarters

Posted by Sage Traditions on May 28, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Wonder Weeds!

Nature’s Gift to Our Gardens

by Bev Wein

 

Spring is always fun time of year in the garden. Those of us who garden have spent the entire long winter dreaming of what we are going to plant, patiently waiting for the snow to melt and the earth to awaken. Usually, in our climate, by the time I can get out there to actually plant anything, the ‘weeds’ have had a great head start and are flourishing! I used to hate the spring weeding that I always seemed to have to do before I could get to the exciting project of planting anything. But then I began to learn about all of the wonder weeds!

Many of the plants most commonly thought of as pesky weeds, are actually a wonderful gift from Mother Nature! Nowadays, its so exciting to head into the garden in early spring, especially the greenhouse in very early spring, and gather this gift from Mother of blessed food and medicine! My garden is so much happier these days now that I bless the weeds rather than curse them! I’m happier too! I love spring weeding now! It's like getting to harvest before I even plant! What a treat!


 

Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)

aka Goose Foot, Fat Hen, Pig Weed

Young and tender Lamb's Quarters

 

This is one of my favourites! A relative of the spinach, Quinoa, and Swiss Chard family, Lamb’s Quarters, (or as my sweet little granddaughter says, ‘Doose Foot’), is way better than spinach in my opinion! Seriously! Her flavour is much more rich and she is bursting with more nutrients! Plus, BONUS, she grows pretty much anywhere and everywhere the soil has been disturbed (thus the name ‘Lambs Quarters’)! I was so delighted to enter my greenhouse this early spring and find the gift of harvestable greens even before the massive amounts of snow we got had melted! Lamb’s Quarters, among others, was in abundance there. We feasted on yummy greens for a side dish that night. What a treat!

A sink full of yummy Lamb's Quarters

I often struggle with growing spinach around here. Somehow, this sister of Lamb’s Quarters, seems to bolt on me before we get to eat much of her nutritious leaves. Either the weather is inconsistent or I fail to provide consistent care to keep these fussy greens happy. So, I’ve been thinking I might give up on spinach and eat Lamb’s Quarters instead. Why work at growing something when something better will grow all by itself in abundance?


Identifying Lamb's Quarters

This is a hardy annual plant that happily and generously reseeds itself. Often going to seed early summer for a second round of young greens to harvest before frost. She can grow up to 6 feet tall, but usually only about 3 feet in my climate. From a distance, the plant sometimes appears dusty, due to a powdery white coating on the leaves. I rinse this off before eating...usually, unless I’m nibbling in the garden or something. The leaves are diamond shaped kind of like a goose foot, thus the name ‘Goose Foot’, and can have toothed edges or sometimes smooth. They are a dusty green and whiter underneath. They will often have red or purplish streaks in the stem and leaves, or purple centers.

Lamb's Quarters beginning to bloom.

She matures to grow spikes of tiny green flowers on top which produce up to 75,000 tiny seeds per plant! When the seeds are ripe the plant and flowers lose their green and become more reddish purple.


Bursting with Nutrients

Just like spinach, the leaves of Goose Foot contain some oxalic acid, so eating smaller quantities when raw are recommended. Cooking, however will remove most of this. The entire plant, when combined with the seeds is actually a perfect protein with all of the essential amino aids available. She’s more than 4% protein! She is also a good source of Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A (11,600IU!), Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium (300mg in 1/2 cup serving!), Potassium, Copper and Manganese... boasting a higher all around nutrition content than spinach! (Popeye had no idea what he was missing. Lucky for Brutus!) This is a great survival food!


Traditional Medicinal Uses

The medicinal properties of this beautiful herb are gentle and nutritive. Traditionally this wonder weed has been used to treat stomach aches, coughs, asthma, bronchitis and to help prevent scurvy (due to its high vitamin C content). It has also been used for menstrual problems, gout and hemorrhoids. A cold tea from the leaves has been used to treat diarrhea. A poultice of the leaves has been used to treat burns, swelling, vitiligo and itching including bug bites. Good to know for those mosquitoes when gardening! Here’s another handy herb you can just squeeze a bit of the juice from the stem onto a bug bite to ease the itch!  


How can it be prepared?

Goose Foot can be used in any recipes substituted for spinach, or you can eat it alone. Serve it as a side dish; put it in a salad; toss it in a smoothie. When the plants are young, maybe 8-12 inches tall, they are most tender. However the leaves can be harvested until the plant goes to seed. You may wish to serve the more mature leaves cooked rather than raw. If you have lots of young flowering tops, you can snip them off and cook up as a broccoli substitute.

Mmmm! Sauteed with garlic and butter!

To serve alone as side dish I pick off the leaves (if young, the leaf stems too) from the main stem and very young flower tops. We need about one huge double handful compressed per person. Chop if desired, and blanch them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes for young plants, longer for older tougher ones, or until they are a nice bright green. Drain and press out most of the water, then saute in coconut oil, olive oil or butter and minced garlic and or onion for a few minutes until tender. Sprinkle with a little Herbamare seasoning or other spices such as paprika or cayenne or whatever else you want to get creative with.

She’s great just simply steamed or boiled as well. Or you can chop and add to soups, casseroles or quiche. Blanch some extra and keep in the fridge to easily scramble into eggs for breakfast. Add raw or blanched into smoothies as well, to boost your nutrition.


Don't forget the seeds!

When the plant goes to seed, you can even harvest the seeds. They are much like quinoa and can be cooked whole or dried and ground into a flour if you have enough of them. I usually harvest them more easily by pulling a large paper bag or pillow case over the top of the plant close it around the stem and then pull up or snip off the stem and flip plant over so the seeds fall into the bag. Then give it a good shake. What’s left you can brush off with you hand. They fall off pretty easily! And don’t worry if you lose or spill some. All the more plants next year!! The seeds can be dried within the chaf, on trays in the dehydrator or very low (110 degrees) oven with the door ajar for air circulation. Cool thoroughly and store in a tightly closed jar. If you wish, you can remove what’s left of the chaff before eating. You can just roll them between your palms.

The seeds can be tossed in with any grain you are cooking such as brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal. You can add them to soups and sauces too! They have a high protein content so are a great vegetarian substitute for meat in curries or pasta sauces.


Save some for later!

If you have more greens than you can eat at once, its easy to preserve for later. Lamb’s Quarters dries very nicely (just hang in small bunches upside down out of direct sunlight), or blanch first before drying if you want to get rid of some of the oxalic acid. Or you can easily blanch and freeze it just like spinach.

Lamb's Quarters hung out to dry.

I have some drying already from our abundant early spring harvest. I’ll use it in soups and smoothies as with other dried greens. And maybe I’ll try something new. Susun Weed has this great recipe for a herb salt that I might like to try next. It seems the uses for beautiful Lamb’s Quarters is endless!

 

Herb Salt

 

Lamb's quarter leaves are so mineral-rich that they can be used alone as a salt substitute. But adding aromatic herbs enlivens the taste. Adding seaweed not only makes this herb salt salty, it increases the nutritive benefits.

 

1 part dried lamb's quarter leaves

1 part dried thyme or rosemary

1 part dried dill or celery leaves

1 part dried marjoram or oregano

2 parts dried seaweed (Nereocystis kelp is the best)

 

Gently toast seaweed in a cast iron skillet until very crisp. Grind each herb in a coffee mill while seaweed cools. Then grind seaweed and combine with ground herbs. Store in a shaker.

(www.susunweed.com)

 

Like many of Mother Nature’s gifts, one of the reasons Goose Foot grows on disturbed soil is to purify the soil. So do make sure that you are harvesting from an area that is not seriously contaminated or heavily chemically sprayed or fertilized. The plant will take up the toxins from the soil and you don’t want to eat that! Just a precaution if you are harvesting from unknown sources.


I wish many blessings on you and your garden...including your weeds! When nature gives you weeds, eat them with gratitude!

~ Bev



Please note that this blog is for informational purposes only and no diagnosis, treatment nor prescription is implied or offered, nor do I make any claim for a substitute for medical care for any specific medical issue. If you are experiencing any specific medical concern, it is recommended that you consult with your medical doctor as soon as possible.

 

 

Boost your Health with Nourishing Herbal Infusions

Posted by Sage Traditions on May 9, 2014 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By Bev Wein


Are you looking for a simple and inexpensive way to boost your nutrition, energy and general health? Taking vitamin supplements can be expensive and are most often not whole foods, but synthetic derivatives of isolated vitamins and minerals. These forms of nutrition are often not utilized easily by the body and much of it may go to waste! The body is well equipped to extract nutrients from natural forms of nutritive food, however. Herbal infusions have long been a traditional and effective way to receive these nutrients in whole and natural forms.


Infusions are the most potent water based herbal preparation. Some herbalists use the term interchangeably with ‘tea’. Nourishing and medicinal infusions however, can be much more effective than simple tea if prepared properly. They typically use larger amounts of herb which are steeped, or infused, longer than a simple tea. This creates a product that is much richer and more potent with extracted properties, vitamins and minerals.

 

Most leaf or flower herbs should be infused at proportions of about 30g of dried herb to 1 litre of boiled pure water. This is best done in a tightly closed container, such as a mason jar, so none of the volatile essences and vitamins escape. If steeped in a tea pot, there are various openings that do not support as effective of an extraction and many of the aluable properties float away on the escaping steam. For a complete infusion, most herbs should be allowed to steep, tightly covered for a minimum of fours hours and can steep as long as overnight. This length in steeping time allows the full value of the minerals and vitamins in the herb to be extracted into the water.

 

‘Nourishing’ herbal infusions are safe to drink on a daily basis for extended periods of time, and rarely have any side effects. They are considered to be more of a vitamin and mineral rich food rather than a medicine and improve existing conditions by strengthening the body’s defenses and resources. Results from ‘nourishing’ herbs are best seen with long term use. They act slowly and cumulatively to boost your overall health and well being. (Some ‘medicinal’ herbs can also be effectively infused for immediate and specific benefits, however a consult with a qualified herbalist is recommended as to the safe length or frequency of dose.)

 

These regular infusions are indicated for anyone who may feel they need an energy or nutrition boost.  This need may arise from numerous lifestyle situations that may challenge or deplete nutrients including times such as high stress, high energy workouts and sweating, occasional compromised meals, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or rebuilding after a detox cleanse or fast. They are very effective in supporting a busy and active lifestyle. For pregnancy and lactation a qualified herbalist should be consulted to ensure herbs that are safely used for these specifications.

 

The following nourishing herbs are commonly and safely used on a regular daily basis to boost vitamins. minerals and to support general health and wellbeing.

Nettle Leaf

The common Stinging Nettle is a general nourisher as well as a uterine tonic. It has the special ability to strengthen the kidneys and adrenals. It is reputed to have the highest chlorophyl content of any other herb. An infusion of nettle will be dark (nearly black) and strong tasting. The list of vitamins and minerals it contains includes nearly every one known to man! It is especially abundant in vitamins A, C, D and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and sulphur. It is an excellent food and tonic for the hormonal system. It has been used to support prostate health, treat anemia, weakness, nutrient deficiency, eczema, psoriasis, respiratory issues, inflammatory muscle and joint issues, kidney and bladder issues, and to treat wounds and burns topically.


Oatstraw

This sweet and mild tasting nutritive herb is noted for its mineral content which includes significant amounts of silica, calcium, iron phosphorus, copper, magnesium, chromium and zinc. It also contains protein, fatty acids and vitamins B1, B2, D and E. Oatstraw has been used to strengthen the capillaries and mucous membranes, support the cardiovascular system, combat exhaustion, support the nervous system, (including indications of insomnia, nervous palpitations, occipital headaches, concentration, memory, mental irritability), soothe skin irritations, support fertility and as an aphrodisiac.



Red Clover Tops 

These sweet nutritive flowers contain a high amount of absorbable calcium and magnesium and trace minerals. They also are high in vitamins and protein. This herb is known to relax the nervous system, help restore and balance the hormonal system, alkalinize the body. It has been effective in alleviating PMS and pre and peri-menopausal symptoms. Red Clover has been used as a blood cleanser and to specifically support the glands, respiratory system and skin. It will support prostate health and has been used to support the body in detoxifying and dissolving cysts including those of cancer.


Red Raspberry Leaf

Leaves from the common Red Raspberry plant provide a large amount of easily assimilated calcium, iron and other valuable minerals including phosphorus and potassium. This herbs is known to be rich in vitamin A, B complex and C as well as Vitamin E. In addition, it has high antioxidant effects. Due to the high tannin and chlorophyll content, an infusion of these leaves will have a strong and slightly bitter taste. (For those unaccustomed to it, this can be made more pleasant by adding a tsp of dried mint or blending it with a sweeter tasting herb when infusing.) Red Raspberry Leaves also have an alkaloid called fragarine which supports the elasticity and tone of muscle tissue specifically of the pelvic region. This herb has an affinity for the uterus and therefore is an effective uterine tonic which is used to ease many menstrual problems.


At Innate Wisdom Healing Arts, I am pleased to offer a wide variety of herbs and herbal blends or preparations for your nutritive and medicinal use. I can be reached by email for general questions and consult. If you have any specific concerns, I am also happy to set up a personal consult with you to discuss your unique situation. Nourishing herbs are just one aspect of the wellness support I offer along with reflexology, chakra and energy balancing, cold laser therapy and birth doula support.

Here’s to your wellness! 



bev@innatewisdomhealingarts.com


 

 

Please note that modalities and services offered by Beverly Wein and Innate Wisdom Healing Arts are intended to be in complementary support to your current health care regime and no diagnosis nor prescription is implied or offered, nor are any of these treatments claimed as a substitute for medical care for any specific medical problem. If you are experiencing any specific medical concern, it is recommended that you consult with your medical doctor as soon as possible.

 

 


 



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