It is definitely Spring! The Vervain (see pic to the right), Corydalis & Mountain Candytuft are all flowering their hearts out now. The Monardas, Pennyroyal, Asters, Lupine and a host of other beauties are growing at an incredible pace. Every time I poke my head out the door there’s a new leafy face to greet.
Though southern California & southwestern Arizona are already in a severe drought (with parts of Cali already burning), New Mexico still has enough Winter moisture to hopefully give us a glorious Spring flower season with only a moderate fire season. Here’s hoping…
Yesterday I gathered the last of the Cottonwood buds for a strong tincture (also lovely as an oil and a vinegar), and the first of the Western Mugwort (assorted Artemisia species), also for a tincture.
Both Cottonwood and Mugwort make excellent liniments for sore or tight muscles, tendinitis and damaged ligaments, I do think they work best when combined with a specific for the exactly condition (Goldenrod for muscle complaints, Comfrey for ligaments or tendons and so on.) They’re also lovely for wounds, as they take down swelling and disinfect in an efficient and yummy smelling manner. Another use they share is as a stomach tonic, both very protective and healing for the digestive tract. The Artemisias are very powerful when used in liver bile insufficiency not just as a bitter digestive stimulant but perhaps as an overall liver tonic. It seems to work best if taken before a meal rather than after. A useful quote on Western Mugwort from Arizona herbalist Charlie Kane:
Western Mugwort has a number of effects on the liver. Overtly it is choleretic, increasing bile synthesis and release. If prone to gall stone formation Western mugwort will thin bile enough to diminish precipitants. Deeper, these plants have a cooling, antioxidant effect on hepatocyte function. These liver centered effects tend to reduce elevated liver enzyme levels — all stress markers evident in viral and general hepatitis. In addition, the plant inhibits glutathione depletion within hepatocytes…
Mugwort is also a fine relaxant nervine (though it can evoke vivid and sometimes unpleasant dreams), and I find it can work wonders in providing a sense of security & well-being for fearful individuals, especially when taken in small doses over a period of time. I have personally found that it is specific for women who have lost their sense of physical and emotional security through being abused by a loved one or physically harmed/betrayed in some way. This coincides quite nicely with Artemis’ special protection of women. Mugwort is quite powerful and can even be burned or carried for these specific effects if you find the tincture too strong. This plant has just recently become one of my closest allies, and seems to be one of the single most versatile plants commonly available.
This time of year also reminds me of my great love for intermountain West herb books, especially Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, Charlie Kane’s Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest & Darcey Williamson’s Healing Plants of the Rocky Mountains. They’ll be nested in my backpack all growing season.