Bring Your Kids to the Good Medicine Confluence Youth Village – June 14-18
Tickets for Kids Aged 10 to 17 – Only $69 for all 5 Days! – Kids Under 10 Attend Free!
Go to the Registration Page at: http://www.PlantHealer.org/intro.html
Building The Plant Healer Kids’ Tribe
by Asa Henderson
I don’t want my son to reach intellectual maturity without input from our non-human brothers and sisters on this planet, and the upcoming Good Medicine Confluence will help me ensure that he won’t. He was only 1 year old when we took him to Plant Healer’s very first event (The Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference), and we’ve returned nearly every year since. I want other children to have this experience of nature, culture, and the blurring of the line between the two, leading us to volunteer to coordinate the Plant Healer Youth Village in 2014 and ‘15.
June 14th through 18th there will once again be an amazing group of volunteers and parents who have come up with some wonderful classes and activities. Kids can expect nature-based arts and crafts such as printing with plants, experiential explorations of herbs, medicine making, and lots of play.
There will be a meeting of teachers and parents to discuss the schedule at 1pm Wed. the 14th, at the Youth Village site on the Ft. Lewis campus. Parents of little ones may want to meet them to arrange for trading childcare time.
I will be teaching a couple of kid classes again this year. If you’re as excited as I am about this and would like to help make it happen or have an idea for an activity you’d like to guide, contact the 2017 Youth Village Director to volunteer:
Ashley Kulik firstname.lastname@example.org
But the most important ingredient in this awesome kids’ camp is the kids themselves, so the most important thing you can do is to bring them!
The Good Medicine Confluence will benefit from the vitality of your kids, and the movement toward a humanity more attuned to nature will get a new generation of ambassadors!
Tickets for Kids Aged 10 to 17 – Only $69 for all 5 Days! – Kids Under 10 Attend Free!
Go to the Registration Page at:
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Class Schedule For
The 2017 International Good Medicine Confluence
We are getting more excited as we get closer and closer to this year’s Plant Healer gathering in Durango! There will be more attendees than ever before, twice as many teachers, a much wider breadth of unique classes, and 3 times as many classes as usual. With six being taught at once in every time period, you may want to choose ahead of time the favorites you want to be sure and attend.
It is hard to imagine the amount of consideration goes into scheduling, seeking a balance of topics and personalities in each period, and a mix of the clinical/practical and conceptual/historical/visionary, the radical and the downhome. Sometimes there is an element of humor, as in teachers known to let their classes run late, getting scheduled for right before meals so that they don’t delay the teachers who follow. And those who tend wake up muddle-headed or with a post-party hangover, have afternoon slots saved for them!
Here for your convenient perusal, is a link to the hopefully final version. Hope you find the offerings as compelling as we do, we will be looking forward to seeing you all soon!
Click here to download:
The new May issue of Herbaria Monthly has just been released, the free Ezine supplement to the quarterly Plant Healer Magazine. If you aren’t already subscribed, you can still read and share it by clicking and downloading:
HERBARIA MONTHLY – FREE MAY ISSUE
This heavily illustrated, full color, 60 pages-long issue, features practical information along with inspiring perspectives:
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Kiva Rose: A Cartography of The Heart
How the land shapes us and our practice – Kiva evokes sense of place for the herbalist
2. Making Publications, Events …& a Baby!
Wolf reflects on his and Kiva’s current doings…
3. Elias Davis: Making Herbal Beers
Some history, recipes, and information for herbally active brews
4. Herbalist Interview: Missy Rohs
Missy was a social and eco activist first, before opening a school offering the most practicable herbal info
5. Peter McCoy: Mushrooms
The author of “Radical Mycology” provides some excellent fungal information
6. Herbalist Interview: Shawn Donnille
The CoDirector of supplier Mountain Rose Herbs went from Punk protestor to a sponsor of herbalism and conservation
Herbarias are produced as a service to the Plant Healer Community, especially those who are just starting to get into natural healing and plants, and those who might not be able to afford the quarterly Plant Healer Magazine. You are encouraged to post this link online, send it to any friends who might be interested, and give it away wherever. To avoid missing a single issue, please subscribe by entering your name and email address at the left of the Plant Healer website:
Click Here to Download:
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Announcing My Pregnancy!
by Kiva Rose
Spring in the Canyon means that the Banana Yuccas have been opening their waxy white blooms to be pollinated by increasingly rare Yucca Moths while the Mountain Nettles, Urtica gracilenta, grow in a lush profusion beneath the Cottonwoods down by the river. It also means that our favorite Phoebe has retuned to nest just outside the kitchen window, and that her chicks hatched just a few mornings ago. The Wild Hops, Humulus lupulus var. neomexicanus, are growing what seems like inches every day, coiling themselves in a mad spiral up the trunks of Willows and Alders to reach toward sunlight and New Mexico’s surreally blue sky.
With all this quickening has come another change that I never thought I would be announcing.
Seventeen years ago, I was entirely occupied by a difficult and life changing pregnancy. In August of 2000, I gave birth to Rhiannon, who altered my life forever and grew into the otherworldly creature I now consider one of the best friends I could ever have. Given the pain and complications of my first pregnancy, and that I am so completely delighted by my Goblin Girl, it’s been many years since I’d given thought to having any further children. Thus, it was probably more of a surprise to me than anyone else when I realized I really would like another wee beastie, regardless of how completely irrational this decision might be in the face of our tremendous work load, the insanity of an overpopulated world, and the ever more frightening political climate. Wolf and I must be equally insane because we were equally excited about this life changing prospect.
And so it is, that in my 36th year, I’m pregnant with another tiny one, who is likely to be born sometime in the cold mountain moons of November or December. Despite a hefty dose of morning (noon and night) sickness, we’ve been working on plans to welcome this seedling into our lives. Cabin renovations abound, and there are tiny leather booties hanging from the rafters in wait for the even tinier feet that will fill them. I’m impatient to name the very small person we currently refer to as the Field Pea, and spend too much time daydreaming about botanically-inspired names while trying to sort out just how many more fairy tale tomes I can fit in our tiny cabins!
Rhiannon and I are restocking the jars of dried Nettles, Oatstraw, and Raspberry leaf for nourishing infusions and tisanes. Peach blossom elixir abounds in every corner to take the edge off the morning (noon and night) sickness, and as my gardens turn green with the season, I begin to plan a new bed of herbs just right for little ones. Chamomile, Catnip, Fennel, and Lemon Balm are unfurling just as I turn my mind to gentle tea blends and baby medicines. Wolf spends much of his non-existent spare time coming up with ways to make my pregnancy more comfortable for me and thinking of how to create the perfect fairy tale haven for his growing family. A very large box arrived just the other day full of herbs, mineral tonics, seaweed, and other nourishing treats I’ve been much too tired and sick feeling to track down myself, with Wolf’s fingerprints alllll over it, complete with beautiful blooming teas and a glass teapot to cheer me up when the nausea and exhaustion seem overwhelming.
As each week passes, I’m more and more caught up in the delight that little ones often bring with them. I never imagined catching the baby fever again, but here I am, pondering bib styles and how to raise a multi-lingual Field Pea. Let the adventures begin!
Call this minuscule divergent soul a “Field Pea”, like we did in the beginning stages, or a “critter” or “wee beastie” as we do – since assuming semblance to the form of the oddball Plant Healer parents –but tis already getting some attention. Since word of a possible pregnancy leaked out – even before we were certain – a number of you sweet folks have written asking if you could buy or make something for the baby. It’s touching, to sense how much you care about our lives and not just what we offer, which is another reason why we usually call it “tribe” instead of just “community.”
Making use here of something special from you, feels really good to us, being able to look at it and know who it is from, and before long being able to tell our lil’ critter who it is from. It’s also true that the expense of setting up for child is a bit overwhelming, and gifts for the baby are also hugely helpful in this practical way. To participate, check out our Baby Registry Page.
We obviously aren’t into polyester blues for boys and pinks for girls thing, so the practical and aesthetic things we wish for our offspring work for either sex. Clothes are a bit of an issue, but then again, we’ve been shipped a traditional Russian peasant gown, and (recalling how both sexes of wee ones wore long tunics during more interesting historical times than now), we figure to see it on a precocious 1 year-old even if it’s a boy.
Once past the scary part of rolling with another baby – 16 years after having our daughter Rhiannon – we moved on to: Enjoying talking about picking names. Planning with our caretaker James how to turn the storage room attached to our cabin into a bedroom and kid’s room. Figuring out what kind of slings would work best for caring the child around. Imagining what kinds of botanical designs could be featured on them.
We’ve gotten a kick out of researching and finding a rugged offroad stroller to handle our wilderness lifestyle. Picturing a bambina hopping in a bouncer or giggling in a swing. Wondering if there are handmade embroidered bibs with mythic or herbal themes. Deciding how much room we have in our tiny cabin for a compact crib, and googling for an earthy foldup bed and changing station. Discovering a retro wood bassinet that will blend in with out old rustic abode and antiquey furnishings. Funny how even choosing a diaper pail has fed the hormone infused parenting instincts.
Handmade gifts are precious, from toys to garments, with the possibility of natural materials, themes like Southwestern, Herbal, Botanical, Outlaw, Middle Ages, Mountains and Rivers, Elven…
And the practical stuff is great, from a car seat to a handcrafted old-timey rocking horse, basically anything that makes this a little easier for us and sweeter for the critter!
To make this easier and avoid duplications, we set up a Baby Gifts Registry with direct links to many of the items we picked out and hope to acquire. If you have something else in mind you would like to offer, give us a write about it: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org
To Participate, just click here on:
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2017 Good Medicine Confluence Youth Village Director & Teachers Needed
June 14-18, 2017 – Durango, CO
Volunteer to Lead an Activity, Teach in Exchange for a Free Ticket, or Apply to be Village Director
Since the very first Plant Healer event and magazine eight years ago, serving the kids has been an important focus for us. We encourage people to write articles for Plant Healer Magazine that are either for kids to read or for parents to use when teaching their children about plant medicines, and we try to enable a children’s program at our annual conference/celebrations.
We are now scrambling to find someone to take over the Youth Village management, as well as additional teachers and helpers – now that its director, Liz Foster, has suffered serious injuries in a recent accident. Please join us in sending her healing wishes and encouragement… and let us know ASAP if you would like to give in these ways. Due to insurance issues, we cannot officially run the Village ourselves, so a volunteer program is essential.
Also, Liz no longer has records showing which of you had already signed up to teach or help at this event, so please email us right away if you had been planning on contributing.
Youth Village Director: Taking responsibility for the village activities, coordinating teachers and parents’ cooperative childcare, scheduling classes, and so forth, Thurs. June 15 through Sat. June 17. As thanks we will give you at the least a ticket to attend, plus extra tickets you can sell to cover all your expenses.
Teachers & Activity Leaders: Offering herbal or nature related classes and activities so that there is at least one offered in each of the time periods. Share what you know, but more than anything else, share your excitement for the plants and life so they might do the same. It can involve making art and crafts, games, music, and so on. You can 1. Volunteer to teach just a single class, during the time period that words best for you. 2. Teach 3 to 5 kid classes, with free registration for you if you ask.
Email Us Soon
Write with your ideas and what you would like to offer – we thank you on behalf of the couple dozen or more Good Medicine Confluence kids!
2017 GOOD MEDICINE CONFLUENCE TEACHERS
A Tribute to These Who Give So Much
The following are the bio descriptions of our many fascinating 2017 Good Medicine Confluence teachers, so that you can get a feel for their teachings, schools, books and services, their offerings to the world. Herbalists, Cultivators. Mycologists. Free Clinic organizers. Brewers. Crafters. Culture-shifters. You will find here many of the most gifted, unusual, insightful, experienced, and visionary of natural healing educators, from well known names to exciting new voices you may be hearing for the first time.
Our criteria for event teachers is never fame or accreditation, but things like: Their degree of knowledge, and how much of that information comes from their own reflection and experience. Having a personal style and approach that is different from the usual. Acting out of a loving relationship with the plants themselves, honoring their gifts and alliance without acting as if they exist and die just for us. Recognizing the strong connection between healing our bodies, and working to heal the culture and the land. Speaking out for the alienated and disenfranchised, people of color, the neurodivergent and gender variant. Helping the disadvantaged access herbs and health care advice. Working to protect threatened species and disappearing habitat. Teaching in ways that leads to active healing, the manifesting of dreams and callings, growth and change, instead of an accumulation of credits. Acting out of a sense of purpose or mission, for the good of more than just us. Sharing the enchantment and joy of our magical and self empowered work.
We also look to work with folks who are as excited as we are to benefit the herbal resurgence, and all of you in the larger Plant Healer tribe. If they are encouraged to return to teach in future years, it is partly because they are committed, and because they somehow manage to make time in their very busy schedules to follow through on those commitments. And a sense of humor can be a big plus given how much we ask of our teachers, from unique classes they’ve never taught before, to lengthy essays for sharing with you the readers! We are again and again impressed. And ever so grateful.
Read about them here. Google their sites. Come to their Confluence classes, June 14 through 18. And please – if you would – give them our thanks…
For more information on the 2017 Good Medicine Confluence, or to register, click on the:
For more information on the 2017 Good Medicine Confluence, or to register, click on the:
Please Share and RePost
––New & Revised––
2017 GOOD MEDICINE CONFLUENCE
Posters & Online Graphics
to pretty please download and share!
Good Medicine Enchantment Poster Full-Color 8.5×11 Flyer to Print
Click on: Enchantment Confluence Poster (300dpi)
Kindly Help Spread The Word …thereby spreading this vital herbal resurgence!
• Print and post the 300dpi poster/flyers
• Post a 72dpi web graphic on your website or blog
• Use these graphics to announce these events to your mailing lists, on Facebook and Twitter
Good Medicine Poster 1 Full-Color 8.5×11 Flyer to Print
Click on: High-Res Confluence Poster 1 (300dpi)
Low-Res Color Flyer for Online
Click on: Low-Res Confluence Poster 1 (72dpi)
Good Medicine Poster 3 Full-Color 8.5×11 Flyer to Print
Click on: High-Res Confluence Poster 3 (300dpi)
Good Medicine Poster 4 Full-Color 8.5×11 Flyer to Print
Click on: High-Res Confluence Poster 4 (300dpi)
Good Medicine Announcement Small Low-Res Graphic for Online Use
Please place this Announcement jpg on the front page of you website and blog
Good Medicine Announcement Low-Res Announcement, Larger & Horizontal, for Online Use:
Please share this Announcement jpg on your site, blog, FaceBook,Twitter and so forth…
If you have a lot of places you would like to post flyers, email us your address with how many copies you can make use of and we will send them right out: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org
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Note: For more on Vervain, please see my previous article http://bearmedicineherbals.com/a-touchstone-the-blessed-verbena.html
“With this the table of Jupiter is swept, and homes are cleansed and purified. There are two kinds of it; one has many leaves and is thought to be female, the other the male, has fewer leaves. Some authorities do not distinguish these two kinds . . . since both have the same properties. Both kinds are used by the people of Gaul in fortune-telling and in uttering prophecies, but the Magi especially make the maddest statements about the plant: that people who have been rubbed with it obtain their wishes, banish fevers, win friends, and cure all diseases without exception. . . . They say too that if a dining-couch is sprinkled with water in which this plant has been soaked the entertainment becomes merrier.
-Pliny, Historia Naturalis, Book XXV, 105???107 (With thanks to Stephany Hoffelt for her insights and help)
Many of the herbs we commonly associate with the heart, and with love in particular, are aromatic, and sometimes downright tasty. Rose, Hawthorn, Damiana, and Cacao are almost a liturgical chant from the herbalists this time of year. As well they should be, they’re beautiful plants that have profound effects on the way we experience love, lust, and our own embodiment.
But here I offer something different. A remedy for the arrow through your heart that doesn’t bring you love, but rather keeps you from it.
In Chinese medicine, the bitter taste is associated with the heart, and indeed, many of our most profound medicines for the heart leave a distinctly bitter taste in the mouth. There are many exampled in Chinese herbalism, but for those untrained in those traditions, think especially of Motherwort, long considered an important heart tonic in Western Herbalism. As Guido Masé puts it:
“Based on new evidence, it seems clear that bitters are more generally cardio-protective, regulating the strength and intensity of the heartbeat and helping to strengthen a failing heart. This is of course something most good herbalists already understand, since it is a well-known tenet of traditional Chinese medicine: the bitter flavor is considered an important part of regulating and strengthening the heart, or fire, phase. But it is always interesting to note when modern research uncovers some of the mechanisms behind this age-old wisdom.”
While we have often been taught to avoid this challenging sensation, bitterness can be a gift, a moment of transformation that releases tension and allows energy to flow. Vervain is both bitter and acrid, and excels at triggering movement in the body, particularly in cases of stuck qi or blood resulting in tension and pain.
Tension –bone deep tension– is often a physical and emotional barrier to emotional love as well as to overall well-being. The kind of tension where you can’t draw a deep breath, where you find your shoulders pulled forward over your heart in a protective hunching, where you can’t stand the thought of a hug because one further ounce of overstimulation will snap your spine. Tension like a spike through your neck that emerges out your solar plexus, that results in chronic headaches, an inability to speak in anything besides a machine gun pentameter, and a suffocating paralysis where lack of breath makes it impossible to follow through on anything.
This is also the kind of tension that tends to manifest as emotional razor wire, leaving us isolated even as we wonder why we hurt everyone who attempts to touch us. What use is love when we ward against it with every motion and word? Both conscious and unconscious trauma is held tight in the body, coiling down into longstanding patterns that result in chronic tension.
There are two signature herbs I think of for relaxing tension that particularly impacts the heart. Lobelia, the cardinal relaxant herb for tension anywhere in the body is a phenomenal accompaniment to the second herb, which is the blessed Verbena of druidic fame. This plant has been considered a primary protective talisman throughout Western Europe, used in combination with other plants such as Yarrow and Eyebright by the Fairy Doctors and Wise Women to treat symptoms of poc sídhe, the fairy stroke, which results in a sudden and mysterious decline in one’s mental or physical health. More broadly, the herb has been worn or ingested as protection any kind of evil, ill will, or mischief.
Vervain, thanks in part to the teachings of Matthew Wood, is now considered specific to neck tension in Traditional Western Herbalism, which it does indeed have a powerful effect on. However, Vervain’s relaxant action also has an affinity for the liver and the heart. Where there is inexplicable irritation with fits of irrational anger and other signs of stuck liver qi, even small doses of the tincture can remedy the blockage. And when this irritation progresses to disturbed sleep, nightmares, and an inability to communicate any feeling besides frustration, Vervain can also soothe the upset heart spirit, releasing tension and allowing the heart to serve as an open channel and sensory organ once again.
Adding an aromatic herb such as Tulsi or Rose can further assist in the movement of stagnant emotional tension, where the events that triggered the tension are long since over, but the body is still holding on to the visceral memory of it. This is not a way of forcibly exorcising demons, but rather an invitation to the pericardium, the protective membrane of the heart, to loosen its protective grip and allow sensation to flow in and out on the tides of emotion once again.
If what is needed is not further movement, but a deep grounding into the body and into place, then I would recommend something like Burdock root, oily and sweet and nourishing, so that Vervain opens the channels and allows the tension to run back into the earth. For those that feel absent or unable to be fully present in their bodies, this can also contribute to the enjoyment of pleasure and the acceptance of affection and love.
In addition to treating outright tension, I find Verbena to be very useful in addressing the exhaustion and depression that can come after a long period of tension drains a person of their energy and vitality. While I would not use large amount of Vervain in cases where there is clear deficiency, I do feel that it can be restoratively relaxing when used in small amounts with more nourishing and warming herbs and foods.
The world is more than mad just now, and rife with the tension that can drain us of life and love. So drink the bitter draught, carry a bottle of bittersweet honey-infused elixir, and make yourself an amulet of the delicate purple flowers. All are talismans against isolation, all are medicines to open the heart and guard our precious vitality in times of trouble.
It’s fairly common to only see Verbena officinalis and Verbena hastata listed under medicinal species of the genus. However, there are a great many species, including V. bractaea, V. neomexicana, and V. macdougalii that also work at least as well. Additionally, the genus Glandularia is closely related, and works very similarly, generally more acrid and less bitter.
Differences among species to note are the relative proportions of bitterness and acridity. Verbenas tend to be more bitter, and Glandularias tend to be more acrid, all are more or less interchangeable, but with nuanced
Resources & References
Garran, Thomas Avery – Western Herbs in Chinese Medicine: Methodology & Materia Medica
Mac Coitir, Niall – Irish Wild Plants: Myths, Legends & Folklore
Masé, Guido – Bitters & Heart Health: Emerging Research https://www.urbanmoonshine.com/blog/bitters-heart-health-emerging-research/
Ross, Jeremy – A Clinical Materia Medica, 120 Herbs in Western Use
Wood, Matthew – The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism
Wood, Matthew – The Book of Herbal Wisdom
& Longer-Term Homestead Helpers Needed
At Kiva’s Remote N.M. Wilderness Sanctuary
Both short-time House-Sitters and longer staying Homestead Helpers are being sought for periods of time here at Plant Healer’s Anima Botanical & Wildlife Sanctuary: an incredible, isolated wilderness inholding 7 river crossings from the nearest pavement in the mountainous Gila Forest of S.W. New Mexico.
Anima is a United Plant Savers botanical refuge and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife preserve, with a focus not on growing domestic crops but on conserving, reintroducing and propagating native medicinal plants, and on encouraging growth for wildlife habitat. The landscape is alive with ponderosa pines, piñon and oak, cottonwoods and willows, diverse flora and cactus, elk, deer, waterfowl, coatamundi, javalina, black bears, bald eagles, kingfishers and so much more. For thousands of years this exact bend in river and the volcanic cliffs above it were the select location for the sacred ceremonies and rites of the ancient Mogollon peoples, and the intense energy of this place continues to awaken and stir guests who open to it. There is no cell phone reception on the property, and only solar power for lights, making your time here an immersion into a timeless and natural world. Think of it as a retreat, in which you also contribute to the place and Plant Healer’s healing mission.
House-Sitting for 1 to 3 Week Periods
It has been impossible for us to accept invitations to other states to teach, or to personally help spread the folk herbal mission, without trusting that there is somebody dependable here petting the cats, tending and enjoying our remote cabin home when we are gone.
If we are ever to experience new bioregions and help spread empowered folk herbalism in that way, we’ll need someone or a couple committed to staying in a cabin here at our enchanting but isolated wildlands paradise for at least as long as we are gone.
We welcome applicants for any of several possible travel periods in the course of the next two years. The length of time needed will be from 5 days to 3 weeks, depending on how far we will be traveling and how many venues we will be teaching at. Possible upcoming house-sitting periods are in Feb, Mar, April, Aug, Sept, and Oct of 2017 and 2018. We also greatly need someone for this June 12th through 19th, while taking our young daughter Rhiannon to attend her ever first Plant Healer event!
If interested, please email us for an application, with “House-Sitting” in the subject line: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org
Longer Stays Here as a Resident Homestead Helper
We have gotten so busy working on Plant Healer Magazine, Herbaria Monthly, annual events, and writing our own books and future courses, that we are also opening up the sanctuary to a limited number of people living here and helping for either short stretches or an extended period of time. In exchange for your glad assistance, resident helpers will be given a lovely little cabin in the pines to lodge in, as well as some instruction in the most fundamental aspects of living in an off-grid homestead.
Helpers are invited for 2 to 12 week stays, and we will offer extensions when desired and appropriate. If someone ends up feeling called to commit to this place and mission, we can consider a longterm or potentially lifetime arrangement.
We ask for 3 to 6 or hours of assistance per day, 5 to 6 days a week depending on needs. Tasks include the day to day necessities of firewood gathering and chopping, structure and rainwater system maintenance, solar system maintenance, food processing and preparation, and seasonal wild foods gathering. The rest of the time is for you to enjoy this amazing wild river canyon, swim, read, rest, or create. While we seldom need more than one helper, for the sake of social interaction we can try to schedule 2 or more helpers here at a time.
Resident caretaker James will give directions regarding maintenance and outdoor chores, and Kiva and Rhiannon will provide some instruction when asking for help with tasks, likely to include: cooking with woodstoves/campfires/hornos, creative cuisine, food preservation, ecosystem restoration, rainwater caching, firewood procurement, wildfire preparations, learning or deepening skills while experiencing what it’s like to reconnect with one’s self and the land in a deep and meaningful way.
Due to our many existing tasks and deadlines, we cannot promise instruction in herbalism to short term helpers, though we can provide herbal and Anima/Otherworld books and home-study course materials (laptop required) free while you are here. We are able to offer personal herbal instruction, personal mentoring or life counsel only in the case of someone committing longterm to this sanctuary and work.
If interested, please email us for an application, with “Homestead Helper” in the subject line: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org
To learn more about Anima Sanctuary land and its history, please read the archived articles at: www.AnimaCenter.org/blog
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Herbalism’s Sacred Dimension
Interview with Plant Healer Teacher:
in conversation with
Jesse Wolf Hardin
Dr. Tiffany Freeman blends her teachings and traditional values as a person of Cree First Nations descent with her studies and practice of Traditional Chinese and Western herbal medicine, to help us connect to our source of wellbeing. She is a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor, registered Acupuncturist and Clinical Herbalist, educator, clinical practitioner, mother of two, and an avid admirer of nature.. She is the Co-founder of the Lodgepole School of Wholistic Studies in Calgary Alberta Canada, teaching a variety of courses in TCM, Western & Eastern Herbology, assessment techniques and Traditional Native teachings. A graduate from the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in 2004 with a diploma in Clinical Herbology, there she was grateful to have studied under Dr. Terry Willard Ph.D and Todd Caldecott Dip. Cl.H. After Graduation she became an instructor at the Wild Rose College from 2004 to 2011. In 2009 she obtained her Doctors of TCM diploma from the Calgary College of TCM & Acupuncture and her Alberta Acupuncture Licensure. Tiffany has spent over 15 years mentoring in the ways of Traditional Native Healing and ceremony with her Cree Elder and other traditional medicine teachers in Canada, is passionate about traditional medicines and knowledge sharing. She will be teaching two classes at this year’s Plant Healer annual event, the Good Medicine Confluence, and hopefully will soon be writing for Plant Healer Magazine. You can read more about her clinical practice at: tiffanyfreeman.ca and her school at: lodgepoleschool.com
The following is a short excerpt from a much longer and very inspiring interview to be published in the February issue of Herbaria Monthly, Plant Healer Magazine’s FREE supplement for all. To be sure of receiving a copy, go to the left side of the Plant Healer website splash page and fill in your name and email address where shown: www.PlantHealer.org
Jesse Wolf Hardin: Greetings, Tiffany! Thank you for talking to us and sharing a bit of your story. It’s great to have you as a new member of and contributor to the inspirited Plant Healer community.
Tiffany Freeman: Thank you very much! I am so very honored to be a part of this gathering of herbalists and medicine people. I admire the good works & the passion that you and Kiva spread to the world, and I am so very excited to be a part of it!
Tiffany: The work that I do is as a conduit between the medicines that I provide and the healing capacity of the individual. That I help the person connect and tap into their innate healing abilities through the use of traditional medicines, whether my own indigenous medicines, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western herbology or the other tools I use. The distinguishing feature of my work is the use of Indigenous Medicine teachings as a part of my healing, the use of power animals, non-ego/ spirit medicine, spiritualism and journeying. I feel that my calling is a dual role of both healing facilitator and teacher. Aside from my clinical work I teach classes, workshops and hold circles.
Wolf: Do you consider that you have benefitted from particular inspiriteurs and teachers?
Tiffany: Oh yes, so many! I am still very inspired by and grateful to my original teachers of Herbalism, Terry Willard & Todd Caldecott, I have much deep respect for what they do and share with the world. My Cree Elder of course whom has been a huge part of my life and many of my big life events including the birth of my two children; My Chinese Medicine teacher of Master Tung’s lineage, Susan Johnson, and my dear friend & teacher of Orth-Bionomy, Baeleay Callister.
I am really inspired by the US Herbalists! What they share with people, their activism and depth of knowledge of the plant world. I am super excited about my generation of herbalists and how they are keeping that knowledge alive, my friend Yarrow Willard, Sean Donahue & Jim McDonald whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at another herb gathering that we were presenting at, Thomas Easley for keeping the Eclectic school alive & Kiva Rose for her folk roots, and that’s just to name a few. I also have a big fan crush on Rosemary Gladstar and would just love to meet her one-day and sing to the plants with her!
Wolf: What do you consider most important for a medicine person or herbalist to learn?
Tiffany: Letting go our your own human voice that dominates thought and listening to nature, spend time connecting to the plants and nature with honor and respect, learn to make your own medicines and importantly learn plant energetics and assessment techniques, and to realize that there are no one plant fits all situations, think holistically.
Wolf: What part do lifestyle, social and environmental imbalances play in overall health?
Tiffany: I believe that these things are very important to consider together, we are holistic beings, our environment whether internally or externally, socially, environmentally (the climates, seasons, pollution etc.) all play a part of our well being. We are the microcosm of the macrocosm on so many levels. Our emotions can be the cause or root of our disharmony. We embrace good health when we are in love with life and living in health. We reflect that back to our environment, our health is engendered by the health of our surroundings and we in turn engender the health of our surroundings with ours. Traditional peoples have always understood that life is a circle and movement through that circle includes not only ourselves but all our relatives in the natural world. The teachings of the medicine wheel impress the importance of living in harmony with the seasons and with the natural cycles of the life, when we live in harmony with and give honor to that circle all life flourishes. It is important to me that we address the physical concerns of our bodies as well as our environment without losing sight of the intrinsically spiritual nature of our existence.
Wolf: What ticks you off the most about what goes on with people and herbalism, and what’s to be done with it?
Tiffany: Ownership, that ticks me off. In my tradition plants were created before the people started their earth walks, they were created for the people, animals and all our relations to live. I am a strong believer in good quality education for folks that want to treat others, sell or distribute plants medicines but I also believe strongly in the ability of the folk, traditional or community herbalist. Most people only think of the “native” folks of the world when we think of traditional herbalists, but herbal medicine was an integral part of all our worlds’ cultures no matter their race or religion. The rights to use herbs as medicine is our right as human beings on this planet and our duty extends to care for those plants medicines, not over harvesting, wiping out plant species and providing a clean environment for them to grow; to use that right wisely with respect & gratitude.
Wolf: How do you deal with competing desires to make living from your craft and knowledge, and to share and spread it, or make it available to those who can least afford herbal counsel?
Tiffany: It is something I think of quite often. Teaching classes gives me that outlet to share knowledge as well as my clinical practice to put that knowledge in use, but those things are not always in people’s realm of affordability. To off set that cost I have clinical fees that are not set in stone, I will trade or use a sliding scale for patients that are unable to afford that fee. It’s a challenge balancing the needs of paying my own bills, rent at the end of the month and raising two kids with that of helping those who need help the most and cannot afford that care. A bonus in Canada is that many peoples extended health insurance through their work covers Acupuncture and therefore being a TCM doctor I can bill my sessions as such.
In the past I have worked in the not for profit area with the Canadian Indigenous Women’s Resource Institute assisting with workshops on Indigenous teachings & medicine. Through Lodgepole School of Wholistic Study (the school that co-direct) I have created a way to empower folks to take care of their own health with a series of talks called “Folk Herbal Revival: Bringing Plant Power to the People”. It’s a way to get people out, excited, learning about plant medicines and teaching them safety and ethics around using plants and for a very small fee to cover the cost of the room rental.
Wolf: What are some of your favorite powerful herbs to work with, and why?
Tiffany: Wow hard question! I have so many favorites. I guess right now I can say I am blown away by Corriolus (Turkey Tails).
I have had many opportunities to use this mushroom with cancer patients with great results. Its ability to protect the body and immune system during chemotherapy is incredible. My mom suffered terrible side effects from chemotherapy. Each time she finished a round of chemo she would end up in the hospital for 2 weeks with Neutropenia and major infections and now she struggles chronic infections acquired during those hospital stays. I had done my best to suggest that she remained on the Corriolus throughout the treatments but the dieticians at the cancer clinic told her she must not take it. Instead she was given a drug that cost $3000 for one injection that was supposed to protect her from neutropenia. All it did was cause extreme bone pain while trying to force the bone marrow to produce neutrophils and within 3 days was in the hospital again for 2 weeks. She has since returned to taking the Corriolus and her doctors are amazed with how her blood work bounced back so quickly. After a quick research during this ordeal I found a medical study done on Corriolus and its effect on preventing neutropenia, actually showing how Corriolus beat out the drug that I mention in helping the body produce neutrophils! But even then the doctors were not convinced… but I am! Since then it one of my powerful allies and I am not afraid to recommend it and love the results I see.
Comfrey is also on my favorite list these days. So many have spread the fear of its usage, but I have much respect for this powerfulness. When the doctor says that, a broken foot, is going to need surgery and when you return 4 weeks later after using Comfrey (in a “Bone, Flesh & Cartilage” formulas by Dr. Christopher) fomentations and a completely healed foot I am convinced how well it works. And I’ve seen this same scenario time and time again. Right now in our family we are experimenting with Comfrey and its effectiveness on the teeth & alveolar bone.
Wolf: Are there any well known plants that you use in unexpected ways?
Tiffany: I use a well known, to the Cree at least, fungus called Wasaskwetiw, Diamond Willow fungus, as a medicine that is inhaled while sitting with a blanket over ones head, like a dry steam, to treat migraine headaches with great results.
I am also getting turned on to using hydrosols from a local herbalist/ alchemist friend in Calgary. Currently I am using Comfrey hydrosol as a mouth rinse to tighten up gums and loose teeth, and hopefully regrow jaw bone! And also experimenting with it on diastasis recti and loose abdominal tissue post surgery.
Wolf: When helping a client or friend, what constitutional systems, diagnostic models or means do you use to evaluate their condition and needs?
Tiffany: Mostly I use Traditional Chinese Medicine and Classical Chinese Medicine as my diagnostic model through the inquiry, inspection, pulse & tongue assessment. I also use Iridology, Auricular assessment, Ortho-Bionomy and journeying.
Wolf: Why is herbalism important?
Tiffany: In my culture plants (herbs) where created for people and all our relatives on this earth. They were here before all our relatives came: the birds, four legged, two legged and the winged ones. Creator put them upon the earth to hold life together, help sustain life, to be of service, provide food, shelter, medicine, and to be our teachers. Herbalism keeps the tradition of plant medicines alive.
Wolf: What do you hope most for herbalism and the herbal community?
Tiffany: That we keep passing the herbal knowledge down, we keep sharing it and in that keeping it alive; that we continue caring for our planet and the medicine that lives within it, as well as for our brothers & sisters. As herbalists I feel that we are space holders on this earth, holding a space for healing and connection.
Wolf: Ecologies are systems of reciprocity and mutual benefits. The plants provide so much, what can we give them or do for them in exchange?
Tiffany: In my culture and many others too, reciprocity is given by honoring and respecting them by the way we harvest, prepare and work with them, we give them offerings when picking them and it is all done in a sacred way. It shows that we are grateful for all that they provide for us. In exchange they are in service to us and provide us with the healing that we need.
Wolf: That is the kind of approach, and excitement, that helps distinguish the empowered folk herbal community… a coming together of rebels, contraries and oddkins.
Tiffany: Herbalists, medicine healers and earth loving, health living activists can be a strange breed! Many of us have strong opinions combined with lots of passion; we share a wild love for plants and co-creating. We cuss, we sing, get dirty, say the wrong thing at the right time lol, eat weird things, are not afraid to put plants in our mouths, and will jump at any opportunity to make, whether a remedy or to participate in healing. We generally don’t fit within the conservative North America or flow with the status quo. Plant healer publications appeal to that crowd. It empowers folk wisdom and at the same time appeals to our nerdy nature that needs accuracy and solid foundations of botanical sciences, with a healthy balance of earth based teachings. It provides a venue for the herbalist to get out of their comfort zone, to explore new possibilities and ideas.
Wolf: It is great to host new and compelling voices at our annual gatherings, which is partly why there are twice as many teachers and classes this year. And it is’s great we were able to make space to host your teaching for the first time. What do you find most exciting about the classes you will be teaching at the Good Medicine Confluence in June?
Tiffany: It is very exciting for me to share traditional medicines with others, in a good way and through right of honor, for that I am grateful. Each circle teaching is so different; no two are ever alike no matter the topic. As that circle is opened a unique energy is created and is developed from of all who are a part of it. We share with one another on many levels even without speaking, we learn not only from the one delivering the teaching but also from one another. It’s a bond. The universe responds to that sacredness, connect and tap into it.
Wolf: Have you ever been to the Four Corners region of the Southwest where New Mexico, Arizona Utah and Colorado – mountains and deserts – meet, or do you have a feel for this area where you’ll be teaching?
Tiffany: I have never and I am very excited to. For years I have been having a vision while journeying about the four corners area and I am quite happy to meet it!
Wolf: What message would you most like to leave our Herbaria readers with?
Tiffany: The plant people are our teachers, our relatives; there is a need for great respect and love for them. When they are used in a sacred way, with Honor, Respect & Gratitude they are unconditionally in service to us as medicine & healers. The next time you go out to harvest, gather or pick ask permission, have a listen to what the plants may be saying, what kind of feelings do they invoke inside you? Spend some time in meditation with that, sing with them, and always bring an offering. In this way the forest and all its relatives will open up to you.
Wolf: Beautiful, thank you. And for sharing yourself here, as well as with our attendees this June.
Tiffany: Thank you very much for the opportunity to share with the Plant Healer community. I am really looking forward to the Good Medicine Confluence!
Miigwetch hiy hiy – all our relations.
We are grateful to have Tiffany teaching two ceremonious classes at the Good Medicine Confluence, June 14-18, in Durango, Colorado:
Traditional Teachings on Sacred Tobacco
Traditional teaching on sacred tobacco is an adaptation of a workshop that was passed down to me from my Cree Elder, it is based on the Grandmother’s Sacred Teachings on Tobacco. In this experiential learning circle we discuss the importance and the history of Tobacco use in Indigenous cultures. How we as herbalists, healers and students of earth can learn to work with Tobacco for communication, respect and honoring. This will not be a course on all the bad stuff that can be attributed to smoking cigarettes nor is it a talk that promotes smoking. Here we are discussing natural tobacco and its roots. Participants will also learn how to make bundles or traditional prayer ties to offer to the plant, fungi kingdoms etc during harvesting etc. The four directions is also an important part of the talk and the colors and associated meanings will be addressed.
Working With Spirit: An Indigenous Medicine Sharing
Whether it is working with people, plants, the fungal kingdoms, or other realms, it is the utmost important to check your self at the door! To let go of our human voice that dominates, to step outside of that which binds us to our physical bodies, to our brains and to “let go and let creator.” Whether an herbalist or healer, a plant medicine grower, farmer, clinician or novice these Indigenous medicine teachings are integral to our own health & healing, to all our relations on the planet and to those whom we serve plant, animal or fungi. When we work with spirit we are in the heart space and are serving as a co-creator; In this place we create space for those to heal, to help them navigate into their innate ability to heal oneself. Through this we are giving respect and are witnessing rather than judging and therefore we fully open ourselves to the medicine kingdom and its communication. It is through this communication and through a respect for nature that we act as a conduit, connecting the medicine with those whom need it. Join a medicine circle where we will explore these topics and participate in a sharing of traditional indigenous teachings with Earth Medicine Woman, Tiffany Freeman.
For more information or to register to attend, please click on:
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On this longest night of the year here in the wild of New Mexico, I wanted to share my writings on La Guadalupe’s Torch, my much beloved Ocotillo, whose medicine has provided me so much light over the years. I hope that each of you are warm and loved, and that the darkness brings you both rest and regeneration. – Kiva
La Guadalupe’s Torch:
Mythos, Medicine, and Ecology of Ocotillo
(First published in Plant Healer Magazine)
by Kiva Rose
Botanical Name: Fouquieria splendens
Botanical Family: Fouquieriaceae
Common Names: Ocotillo, Coachwhip, Candlewood, Apache Whipping Stick, Vine Cactus, Wolf’s Candles,
Actions: Expectorant, lymphatic, pelvic decongestant, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory
Taste: Sour, sweet, bitter
Energetics: Mildly warm and moistening
A Candle In The Desert: The Healing Heart of Ocotillo
The desert has a raw poetry that peels back the visitor’s skin, exposing shimmering bone and raw sinew until, finally, there is nothing else. Veins of turquoise and chrysocolla thread through stone and stun me into silence. My hands still smell like Larrea resin and red clay while the mesas, buttes, and crumbling redrock spires surround me and remind me what home is.
This place where the mountains and deserts of Arizona and New Mexico meet, where the Ocotillo flowers stand scarlet against the rising moon and Oshá coils its roots down into the stony soil of the Mogollon Rim, is a landscape fallen from a storybook or carved from an ancient myth. While many use the word “barren” when describing or imagining the American Southwest, nothing could be further from the truth. The deserts and forests of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico are actually one of the most biodiverse landscapes in North America.
Even in the Sonoran Desert, set ablaze with wildflowers after a rain, there are few sights as striking as the Ocotillo in flower. Its scarlet blossoms bursting from twelve foot wands adorned with multi-colored thorns and small waxy leaves. Growing on rocky bajadas at the base of mountains jutting out of the wild deserts of the American Southwest and Mexico, La Guadalupe’s Torch is a sign of healing and heart in even the most extreme of landscapes.
The common name of Ocotillo stems from the Náhuatl word ocotl, meaning “torch”, an apt name considering its brilliant flowers and towering stature. Whenever I see this plant in flower, I think of Guadalupe striding through the desert, her torch held high to show the way to the profound medicine found at the heart of this land. Prickly as it may be, the healing power of the Southwest is intense and undeniable.
Appearing to be a haphazard array of thorny, crooked sticks for much of the year, Ocotillo only unfurls its leaves once the rains come. These flame flowered plants are amazingly well adapted to their arid surroundings, and leaf growth can be initiated a scant 24 hours after a rainfall. Their leaves are semi-succulent and waxy. Their sour-sweet flavor and slightly bitter aftertaste is so intriguing, that when I’m processing the plant’s branches for medicine, I often get distracted eating them. The plants often grow in colonies, creating compact and thorny forests illuminated by Spring blossoms, and adorned year round with claw-like thorns. Baby Ocotillos are especially beautiful, often possessing nearly iridescent bark and still soft thorns demonstrating a rainbow of violet, purple, blue, green, brown, and black. A number of birds and insects, including several species of hummingbird, are attracted to the sweet nectar of Fouquieria’s blossoms.
Ocotillo is found in the desert, canyon, and foothill regions, generally below 5,000 feet in the deserts of the U.S, but occasionally up to 9,500 feet. In my area, it tends to prefer rocky slopes, and especially favors bajadas. Its range extends from southeastern California to southern Arizona, souther Nevada, New Mexico, western Texas in the US and from Baja California to Chihuahua, Sonora to Coahuila and Nuevo León, south to Durango, Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. I have personally experienced the plant primarily in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, and speak from my experience rooted in those ecosystems.
Blossom, Root, and Thorn: Plant Parts Used
While the bark seems to be the only part of the plant in common use in mainstream American herbalism by Anglos, all parts of the plant have been utilized traditionally and have value as medicine, fiber, and food. In fact, when I have been taught about this plant by local New Mexico and Arizona Hispanics, they have almost invariably referenced the flower rather than the bark. I have also known several Apache grandmothers to prefer the root over any other part, which speaks both to the versatility of the plants and the diversity of cultural traditions and habits. I work with all parts of the plant, including the curved thorn, preferring to integrate all possible facets of the plant and its medicine into my healing work.
Coughs & Colds
The flowers as well as the bark have long been used for treat spasmodic coughs, and while their action is fairly mild, it is consistent and widely applicable. I frequently use an elixir made of flowers, leaf, and bark extracted into honey and alcohol to treat the dry, hacking coughs common in my mountain village each Winter. Since the plant is also a lymphatic decongestant, it’s especially helpful in seasonal colds accompanied by persistent, spasmodic cough and hypoimmunity indicated by swollen glands, chronic sore throat, and the tendency to catch every bug that comes around.
The bark is best known as a pelvic decongestant, and this indeed where it tends to shine in clinical practice. Southwest herbalist Michael Moore said of Ocotillo:
“It is useful for those symptoms that arise from pelvic fluid congestion, both lymphatic and veinous…. Most hemorrhoids are helped by Ocotillo, as are cervical varicosities and benign prostate enlargements.”
I have also found it useful in some cases of what is commonly diagnosed as interstitial cystitis, a frequent urge to urinate and accompanying discomfort, but with little actual fluid in the bladder. In the cases where Ocotillo will be most effective, it will be accompanied by at least some of the typical signs of of pelvic congestion, including varicosities, constipation with hemorrhoids, a feeling of fullness in the abdomen and/or groin, and an inability to efficiently digest fats. Along these same lines, local Hispanics sometimes recommend the use of Ocotillo bark in the treatment of bladder infections. It can certainly help alleviate the symptom of feeling unable to urinate even when the bladder is full.
Ocotillo frequently finds its way into my fomulae for prostatitis and similar, and I find that it tends to increase the effectiveness of other commonly recommended herbs for this ailment, especially Nettle root and Saw Palmetto. Again, look for the signs of pelvic congestion common to benign prostate inflammation and enlargement, including a feeling of fullness in the groin and difficulty urinating. Alder bark, another lymphatic native to the Southwest (and beyond), can also combine well with Ocotillo for this purpose.
I have also heard the flower being suggested for delayed menstruation by a Sonoran yerbera, and while I have never used it this way in my own practice, it does make sense that its blood moving actions could stimulate late menses.
Las Manos de la Guadalupe: Woundcare & External Use
The leaves make an excellent poultice for wounds, abrasions, bruises, and contusions by reducing inflammation and pain, while speeding healing and lessening the chance of infection where there is broken skin. The bark and flowers can also be used in the same way, and I make a salve that includes all three parts of the plant for general first aid uses, often in combination with Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), another common plant of the desert southwest. A liniment made from any part of the plant can also be useful in treating chronic injuries that present with a dull, aching pain and refuse to fully heal. In this use, I often like to formulate it with Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and find they often work better together than on their own.
Case Study – Interstitial Cystitis with Pelvic Stagnation
28 year old woman presenting with a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis, including symptoms of burning and stabbing pain as well as intermittent spasms in the urethra and bladder area, as well as frequent feeling of urgency, even when no urine could actually be excreted. No issues of incontinence, and no sign of microbial infection was present upon testing. She said that the pain and discomfort was severe enough that she had trouble remaining focused on her job as a psychologist, and made sexual intercourse uncomfortable to painful.
The client had a history of chronic urinary tract infections during her early 20s, that had been primarily treated with antibiotics. She also suffered from intermittent digestive troubles, chronic body pain, tension headaches, and premenstrual bloating, cramps, and headaches, but the interstitial cystitis was her primary complaint that she wanted addressed during the consultation. Since interstitial cystitis is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, and certainly reflects an issue of systemic inflammation, I find it important to address the metabolic and immune systems in addition to more symptomatic approaches.
Interstitial cystitis often (but not always) accompanies pelvic stagnation, and I’ve found that using general blood moving herbs as well as more specific lymphatics is often an effective initial approach to treating the symptoms of interstitial cystitis.
I first spoke to the client about nutrition, and stressed the important of eliminating any food triggers, and suggested trying an elimination diet to see if gluten may be triggering or exacerbating the condition. She wasn’t interested in pursuing that route at the time, so we proceeded with an herbal approach. I will stress here that it is often impossible to entirely clear the symptoms of IC without incorporating such dietary measures.
I also suggested sitz baths, but the client knew she wouldn’t follow through on them. I also recommended she looked into Cannabis tincture specifically for flareups with severe spasms, but there was no medical marijuana available in her state and she was hesitant to obtain the medicine through non legal means. Therefore, this regimen is strictly internal utilizing widely available herbs.
Blood and Lymph Moving Tincture
This formula is anti-inflammatory, astringent, blood moving, and lymphatic in nature. The Fouquieria, Ceanothus, and Paeonia very specifically act on the pelvic area, increasing blood flow and decreasing overall inflammation and congestion.
1 part Ceanothus greggii
2 parts Fouquieria splendens
1 part Galium aparine
2 parts Stellaria media
2 parts Paeonia brownii
Dosage: 30 ml 4x/day
This is a moistening, anti-inflammatory, and immune supporting formula to assist in addressing the foundational causes of the disorder. I often count on mushroom decoctions as the first tier in treatment for most autoimmune disorders.
3 parts Ganoderma spp. (Reishi)
2 parts Inonotus obliquus (Chaga)
1 part Fomitopsis pinicola (Red Belted Polypore)
3 parts Astragalus membranaceus (Astragalus root)
1 part Sambucus nigra (Elderberry)
2 parts Althaea officinalis (Marshmallow root)
Dosage: Standard decoction, simmered for appr. 20 minutes. 1 Cup 3x/day.
At the six week followup, client reported the symptoms being approximately seventy percent better, and was very pleased with the results and increase in quality of living. She opted to continue strictly herbal treatment rather than trying any nutritional approaches. Eight weeks later, she felt she was about eighty five per cent improved and wanted to stay on the same regimen, so I replaced the Galium with the same proportion of Withania somnifera in the tincture formula and had her halve the dose for maintenance.
At last checkin, about a year after the initial consultation, she said she only had occasional flareups, usually associated with increased stress or intake of wine, and otherwise had no symptoms. The client also reported great reduction in all premenstrual symptoms as well as the tension headaches.
Ecological Status, Cultivation, & Harvesting Ethics
Ocotillo is usually abundant in the areas it is native to, and is easily propagated by cutting, but is protected in some states, so take care to know local regulations when harvesting. It’s often best to harvest from private land, or where it’s being dug up anyway for development purposes. If you plan to have a long term alliance with this herb, you may wish to cultivate it from a harvested branch. This is also a great way to be sure the plant continues to thrive and proliferate.
This is a long lived perennial, and adult plants can easily be over a hundred years old, so treat Ocotillo with respect and care when gathering from it. Please note that harvesting branches, flowers, or leaves from the plant in a sensible manner doesn’t harm the plant at all, but be sure to make a clean cut and do the least damage to the surrounding tissue possible. Also remember that this plant, while common in its range, is only native to a small portion of the United States.
The medicine of Ocotillo bark tends to be considered best extracted via alcohol, although decoctions are a traditional preparation throughout the American Southwest. The flowers may be prepared as an alcohol tincture, an infused honey, an elixir (alcohol and honey), or as a tart and tasty beverage tea.
Consideration and Contraindications
There is no known toxicity in reasonable amounts as a food or medicine, but due to its blood moving nature, this is not an appropriate herb during pregnancy.
Resources and References
Austin, Daniel – Baboquivari Mountain Plants: Identification, Ecology, and Ethnobotany
Garcia, Cecilia – Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West
Hodgson, Wendy C. – Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert
Moerman, Daniel – Native American Ethnobotany
Moore, Michael – Los Remedios
Moore, Michael – Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West