With the days growing longer and the wild greens shooting taller, the excitement of baby plants keeps us active and planning for the growing season. Despite the several inches of snow and even more rain we had this past week, it’s feeling more like spring than ever (maybe it’s the several foot deep mud down by the river). The Wax Currants and Gooseberries have opening buds on them, and a few bushes are already adorned with small leaves. Not to be outdone, the Nettles are growing at a remarkable rate and the Mustards are popping up underfoot and everywhere else. No matter how many times in a variety of seasons and settings I spend time in the Nettle patches, I’m thrilled anew by their vibrant beauty and incredible medicine so you’ll forgive me if I go on about them from time to time.
You’ll all be relieved to know that I did manage to harvest my Cottonwood buds, although I’m thinking of going back for just a few more to make another pint of oil.… you can never have too much of that stuff. It is one of the most consistent and broadly applicable external analgesics/anti-inflammatories I’ve ever worked with. I highly value herbs who’s primary actions cover a wide range of constitutions and symptoms with little variation, and Cottonwood kicks ass that way. I use it on bachaches and sore muscles and arthritic hands and severe bruises and stiff necks and old injuries and so on. I find myself carrying a bottle of my Cottonwood based Pain Liniment around with me nearly everywhere, especially in the Winter, when I’m bound to run into someone who needs it. The canyon salve I always keep on hand that’s made up of Cottonwood, Pine, Moonwort, Alder and Plantain is my most popular of all and sells out in no time. Of course, Cottonwood also makes a fantastic digestive bitter internally and works wonders on cold, sticky lung congestion that won’t let up. It smells great too, resinous and woodsy and rich and though some people consider it too medicinal for their taste, I like it as much as any perfume (or rather, more, as I don’t much like perfume).
The Moonwort (Artemisia, as it were) is in prime form for picking for salves and other preparations that require a high volatile oil concentration. Most books recommend that you harvest the herb when it’s in flower but it has much less scent and kick by then so I usually gather a good portion of my yearly harvest as soon as it’s big enough to pick easily. For my digestive tinctures, I tend to do a half and half mix of spring gathered Moonwort and late summer flowering Moonwort, which turns out lovely indeed.
This is just a start of what will surely be a very fertile and blessed growing season! It’s amazing to me to look back at the past couple of years of my blogging and compare dates and plant pictures from each season as I circle through the wheel of the year once again.
I’ve recently written a couple of new plant related essays for the Animá blog, the first is an ode to Artemisia called Wild Healing: The Medicine of Moonwort and the other is entitled The Riparian Forest: Ecology, Biodiversity & The Trees, they’re both new original writings so many of my regular readers here might want to check them out. Also, I uploaded my new monograph on Yarrow to the Medicine Woman Tradition site this past week. It’s quite extensive and full of interesting tidbits, so be sure to head over there and take a look.
All Photos (c) 2009 Kiva Rose