Burdock & Rose

wildly-crafted plant tales from herbalist, forager & author lisa rose

Wild Flavors of Thanksgiving: Chestnuts

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In Michigan and across much of the Midwest it’s a SNOW DAY! The snow out my window already blankets the ground with drifts in some areas over 2 feet deep!

This makes me glad for the season’s harvests that already are packed away in my pantry for hearty winter meals — the acorn flour, the fruit jams, the herbal simple syrups and the dried herbs for cooking and for tea. As I plan my holiday meals, I turn to the rich flavors of my autumn harvest to add wild flavors to my table.

One of my favorite flavors from the fall harvest for a forager’s Thanksgiving’s feast is the chestnut. The chestnut (Castanea spp.) is a delicious and nutritious edible, whose spiny shell can be found on the ground when the nuts ripen in late September.  Chestnut trees can be found growing along the edges of the mixed hardwood forests, in areas with well-drained soil and sunshine. Chestnuts are also a specialty crop for tree farmers. Check your local food guide for a chestnut grower who may have u-pick or who sells chestnuts at the farmers markets if you’d like to try this delicious fall wild edible.

With a neutral, buttery flavor, the chestnut is very versatile in cooking.  It can be dried and made into chestnut flour, cooked and pureed into a creamy soup. For me, I can’t do Thanksgiving, Chanukkah or Christmas without preparing simple, but classic roasted chestnuts. These delicious morsels can be savored steaming, right out of the pan or integrated into Thanksgiving’s stuffing. 

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Roasted chestnuts are a quintessential holiday dish (cue Nat King Cole) and is an easy appetizer that even the kids will enjoy. I like to roast the chestnuts in a heavy iron skillet on the stovetop (first score a slit with a sharp knife in the bottom of the shell to allow the moisture to escape). Once roasted, they can be easily peeled and enjoyed warm from the shell. 

With an abundance of gratitude, other wild foods that will find their place on my holiday table — nettles, serviceberries, acorns, autumn olive, wild apples, linden cocktail syrups and the needles of conifers to flavor my roasted meats. What foraged flavors will be on your table this season?

Crafting Your Cold & Flu GamePlan

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It’s unavoidable — being human means we will get the icky sniffles at some point this winter season, but the good news is that our bodies are of amazing design. We have built-in immune responses to help defend our system when we catch a virus or bacterial infection.

The trick is ~working~ with these immune system responses to ensure we can defend our body from further debility and return to everyday life just as strong as before.  Here’s a general game-plan for you to consider BEFORE you start to get sick so you can choose helpful therapeutics, recover and get back to the game of life.

Recognize the early warning signs. Stressed? Feeling worn out?Aches? Pains? These may be early signs that your body is giving you to SLOW DOWN. You may be under excess stress, making you more susceptible to viruses and illness. Dial back and rest, and most likely you will be able to negotiate the coming weeks sans illness. Make sure you nourish your body with good food, sleep, and Vitamin D.

Early-on Herbal Therapeutics. When you first start feeling crappy, try to kick the ick early and employ herbal therapeutics to support your body’s immune processes. Bust out the elderberry syrup – it can help inhibit the virus’ ability to reproduce. Echinacea also can help boost the peripheral immune system. Combo teas like mint, yarrow and elderflower are a must-have to help early on in a cold or flu, helping stimulate the immune system and relax the body.

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Elderberry syrup is a must-have staple in every home apothecary.

Rest up to kick it quick. My theory? Cut your losses early, rest and get better more quickly. Renegotiate any short term commitments to allow for some significant rest. I know this is hard for us parents, or folks with work that isn’t very flexible. Do what you can to re-arrange the workload so your immune system gets a bit more bandwidth to fight an infection. Remember, energy put into work while you are sick is energy that could be used for your healing. And the potential cost of pushing through a cold or flu virus? A secondary bacterial infection. No one wants that.

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Mandatory bed rest for your herbalist: At the corner of sick and miserable.

Got sniffles? A fever? At this point, you are sick and the hypothalamus is calling in the troops.  Don’t try suppressing those immune responses like the sniffles and a fever. Remember — these are not illnesses. They are ways the body helps fight illness. They are on your team!!! Fevers are not inherently bad (read more on fevers HERE thanks to Jim McDonald)– Support the fever’s therapeutic actions with herbs like elderflower, mints, yarrow, ginger, boneset, or chamomile. These are wonderful as hot teas (the hot water is a therapy in and of itself). These will help the body produce an effective fever and also be relaxant to the body (good for the aches and pains). As for those sniffles? Work with the body’s attempts at trying to loosen and move the phlegm and mucous so that healthy tone can be restored to the respiratory tissues. Using an OTC mucous eliminator is counter intuitive to maintaining healthy tissues — mucous is good!

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Aromatic garden herbs (fresh or dry) can be used as an herbal inhalation steam to clear clogged and congested sinuses.

Soothe the congestion. Try an aromatic herbal steam inhalation with peppermint essential or eucalyptus oil to open the sinuses. Or brew a pot of aromatic garden herbs like thyme, sage, or lavender to open the sinuses. Don’t forget to eat onion and garlic in copious amounts for its aromatic and antimicrobial benefits. Raw honey is also helpful too, especially in soothing a dry cough. A relaxant lung herb like mullein or cherry bark can help relax and open the lungs, while elecampane can work well on damp, wet coughs (great in bacterial infections also).

Chicken soup (or in my house -Jewish penicillin). Ok, it doesn’t have to be chicken. But any hot soups — nourishing clear broths full with onions, garlic, cayenne will help warm the body and the aromatic kitchen herbs can help clear clogged sinuses and offer additional anti-microbial benefits. I make broths well in advance of getting sick and store the quarts in the freezer so they are at the ready when my family gets sick. Click HERE for my recipes.

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Consider making chicken or beef broth by the stock-pot full and then freezing it to have on hand all winter long.

Clean out the gunk. Rest. Repeat. As the body starts to feel better, your lymphatic system will be working to clean up the debris left over from your immune system’s battle. Support this lymphatic work with continued liquids and broths, and herbs (teas or tinctures) that include red root, mullein, or very simply lemon in your water. This will help move the gunk from your body as it returns to normal. Also don’t jump back into the grind the first moment you feel better. Continue to take it easy for 10 days or so after a serious illness.mSlowly re-introduce work, stress and strenuous physical activity over time. This will all help to prevent a secondary bacterial infection that can easily settle in if your defenses are down and you carelessly jump back into the fray.

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When you start to feel better, continue to support your body by drinking lots of clear fluids – simple lemon water can help your lymphatic system “clean up” after illness.

Once you are better, keep feeding your body good foods, get enough sleep and exercise — that is foundational for winter wellness. For a bit more on my cold and flu theories read more HERE. And remember, at any given time you feel your illness is beyond your control and you find yourself turning to Facebook for answers — see a doctor.

Wild Apples, Forgotten Harvests & ReWilded Pies

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A recent walk around my favorite farmer’s market led me to discover an abundance of wild and feral apples. I am one that is know to snack off trees and pluck greens from the ground as I go about my day, so stopping down to taste one of the abandoned beauties didn’t surprise my companion, who I also offered a taste of the wild, crisp deliciousness. “Why, it tastes just like a real apple!!” my friend exclaimed.

I had to laugh. Without blowing my friend’s cover, I’ll disclose that she is an apple person and her family owns an orchard in Upstate New York. “Well, yes,” I chuckled. “They are in fact real apples. Crabapples, maybe, and wild in flavor, crispness and sweetness, but apples just the same.”  I proceeded to fill her purse with the beauties, because I couldn’t stand to walk away from such an abundant harvest.*

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This year was another bumper crop for apples – both cultivated in the orchards and the feral ones in the field. This is good for foragers this year, as wild apples and crabapples are one of the easiest edible trees to find in parks, landscaping, edges of forests and along trails. Just keep an eye peeled and a harvest bag on hand to collect your windfall. There will be wild apples to gather well into November, both on the trees and on the ground. Just look for firm, healthy looking fruit and taste them along the way to select those with the flavors you prefer best.

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Your wild apple harvests can be stored in a cool, dark place and used into the first part of the winter. Of course, they can be prepared into apple sauces, fruit leathers, dehydrated apple snacks, and pies. The smaller, more tart crabapples are delicious made into a spicy chutney or even pickled. Both can be mashed and made into cider (fermented for hard cider) or made into a delicious apple cider vinegar.

This harvest was made into delicious french dessert called a tarte tatin. A tarte tatin, despite the fancy name, is really an upside-down apple pie. The tarte tatin is probably one of my most favorite french desserts (tied with a clafoutis). I learned how to make it while I was studying in France in college and love the tarte tatin for its rustic simplicity. Perfect for my little foraged apples. Click HERE for a recent recipe featured on Food52.

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It had been AGES since I had made, enjoyed and savored a tarte tatin … and sooo delicious it was.  I scooped spoonfuls of plain yoghurt on top and ate nearly the entire tarte tatin myself. Total perfection in both the feral harvest and rewilded French dessert. C’etait manifique.

A note on urban foraging: I foraging in and about Grand Rapids and am very mindful of the plants I gather, where I gather and when I gather. I feel it’s a forager’s responsibility to own the risks associated with foraging from areas that might be subject to soil and air contaminants and how the plant you are gathering could be affected by such contaminants. That said, I frequently muse to myself that these are plants — specifically like this apple tree — that live alongside me in the city, subject to the same pollutants and noise of the city. To that end, and knowing that there would be little issue of spray, brake dust, or heavy metal contaminants in the apples I was gathering (AND that the harvest was for my own personal consumption), I didn’t feel too concerned gathering these fallen fruits from the ground. 

Autumn Olive: An Underworld Fruit

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Spent time in the woods gathering autumn olive berries yesterday from trees still heavy with ripe fruit. I hope we can reimagine these delightful fruits as life-giving and nourishing because of their abundance (or invasiveness, depending on perspective). The rain, falling leaves and dark day’s weather were symbolic of the slow transition to winter; these berries reminding me so very much of the underworld story of Persephone and her treasured pomegranate …

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I was inspired to concoct a warming spiced autumn olive chutney for fall cooking to enjoy as the weather turns colder.

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Warming, spiced autumn olive chutney 

Simmer in a small saucepan until thickened. Take care to not scorch the fruit. Add to small glass jars and store in the fridge or even freeze. Perfect on vegetables, white fish, turkey, goose, phesant or chicken.

  • 3-4 cups autumn olive berries (the central seed and thin stems will more or less soften up a bit while cooking but if you wish you can mash it all through a food mill before, but I am not that fussy)
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 cup white or brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP vanilla
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • season with clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and chili pepper to taste

 Enjoy this recipe and relish with gladness the earth’s bountiful and beautiful harvests, for soon it will be winter. 

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Unfurling

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Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

Early spring is bursting with all its wild edible glory right now. The woods are filled with fiddleheads, trout lily, morel mushrooms, wild ginger, field garlic, dock and white lettuce leaves. The fields have violets in bloom for salads and sunshine yellow dandelions ready for dandelion wine. Invasive edible plants like Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard still have some small patches that can be gathered for wild food meals like stir-fry and pesto.

One of my favorite early season wild edibles is the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) fiddle head. The fiddleheads can be found in damp, wetland areas of the woods. To identify, first look for last year’s fertile fronds. This will help you locate the central crowns where you will find the fiddleheads. About 5-9 fiddleheads emerge from central crowns, covered in a brown and thin papery sheathing. The u-shaped indent in the stem differentiates them from the bracken fern. To harvest sustainably, trim only a couple from each crown using a sharp hand knife or kitchen shears.

How to eat: First clean the fiddleheads, removing the brown sheathing and any dirt that may cling to the plant. The fiddleheads should first be cooked in boiling water for about 10 minutes to neutralize the compounds that make them inedible raw (skip this step and risk stomach upset). The ostrich fern fiddleheads retain their firmness even when cooked — similar in texture and taste to asparagus.  Add them to pasta with a garlic mustard pesto or cream sauce, or topped onto a wild foods pizza. Or simply eat them as a side dish; drizzled with olive oil, salt and a bit of lemon and served with a local salmon lox. Add a nice crisp Michigan white wine for ambiance.

What is spring unfurling for you?

 

Nutritious Nettles: A Foraged Risotto Recipe

Tender, delicious nettles poking through the brush along the  creek beds.

Tender, delicious nettles poking through the brush along the creek beds.

While on my run last Saturday, I was delighted to discover these tiny shoots of nettle (Urtica dioica)!!  I found myself stooping down to snack on them fresh with complete disregard to the tiny sting, enjoying the nettle’s flavor that I haven’t enjoyed fresh since last fall! I think my running buddies thought I was crazy… Hands down, the nettle is one of my most favorite nutritious, springtime foraged foods.

Many of us have met the stinging nettle along riverbanks and in the damp hedgerows at the edges of fields.  As kids, we most likely encountered them horsing around in the fields of grasses and brush with friends, only to be surprised by those stinging plants leaving prickly rashes on our skin. Little did we know that we just didn’t brush up against a bothersome weed, rather we were brushing up against one of the springtime’s most nutrient dense wild greens!

Look out, spinach. Pop-eye’s got a new superfood. 

Nettles have great virtues as a wild edible food that nourish the body with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Nettles are very nutrient dense; rich Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, cobalt, copper, potassium, B-complex vitamins – even protein.  And they are extremely high in chlorophyll.

In seeking out the nettle, go on spring-time (April-June) hunts (and again in the fall) in areas of nutrient-rich, damp soil. One can often find them in areas that are adjacent to rivers, streams and lakes, or along drainage areas. Take care to know the area from which you are harvesting and it’s history of use — try to avoid areas adjacent or downstream from large factories and farms.

Early spring nettles can be found along creek banks and riverbeds. Make sure to gather nettles upstream from farms or any factory to avoid pollution.

Early spring nettles can be found along creek banks and riverbeds. Make sure to gather nettles upstream from farms or any factory to avoid pollution.

Wear your harvesting gloves and long pants! They don’t call them *stinging* nettles for nothing! The stinging sensation and hive-like bumps that can occur from handling the nettle are caused from the hair-like needles found along the stem and leaves, and the sensation is similar to rolling in fiberglass. 

Fortunately, the nettles will lose (most all) their stinging properties as they dry or are cooked (steamed or sauteed). Choose smaller leaves before the plant gets tall and goes to flower mid-summer.  Once harvested, nettles can be used either fresh or dry.

If you plan on drying the nettles for use later in the season, prep them by chopping them into large pieces, taking care not to smash the fragile, fresh plant material. And do this immediately upon harvesting – you want to dry the plant in a vibrant state. You don’t want to let them wilt or deteriorate in your hot car on on the back counter. 

To dry, spread them out onto racks (screens are easy for this) and let them dry completely before storing them in glass jars. If they are not completely dry before storage, they will most likely mold.  The dried leaves can be enjoyed year round added to soups and brewed as infusions for drinking.  The infusion should be left to steep overnight as to best extract the minerals of this plant.  The flavor can be a bit swampy to some, and blending the nettle infusion with a choice of green tea, jasmine tea, oatstraw and/or red clover makes it less “swampy.” Add a bit of honey to sweeten to taste and it is a refreshing, nourishing beverage that should be consumed daily.

Fresh nettles can easily replace spinach in recipes that call for the greens.  They can be lightly cooked and added to soups, egg scrambles, quiches, or other similar recipes. Bon Appetit!

 Wildcrafted Nettle & Michigan Morel Risotto

1/4 pound young nettles (about 3 big handfuls – it will wilt like spinach)12 oz risotto/arborio rice 1 onion, chopped 4 Tablespoons butter1/2 cup dry Michigan white wine (an extra glass for the chef)6 cups chicken or vegetable stock1 oz grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup chopped fresh Michigan morels (if lucky) or fresh shitakes

¼ cup chopped, fresh parsleySalt, pepper to taste

  • Heat the stock in a large saucepan. 
  • Wash the nettle leaves. Blanch for 2 minutes in boiling salted water, drain and chop very finely. Set aside to add at the end. 
  • Cook onion and morels gently in half the butter in a large saucepan for a few minutes until tender. 
  • Add rice and cook over a slightly higher heat for 2 minutes while stirring. Pour in the wine, deglazing the pan. Cook, uncovered, until all the wine has evaporated, then add about 1 cup boiling hot stock; leave the risotto to cook, stirring occasionally and adding about 1/2 cup boiling stock at intervals as the rice absorbs the liquid. 
  • After about 14 – 15 minutes’ cooking time the rice will be tender but still have a little ‘bite’ left in it when tested.  Add the prepared nettles and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. 
  • Take off the heat and stir in the remaining butter which will melt and make the rice look glossy; 
  • Sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently and serve immediately.   

Kick the Ick: Cold & Flu Herbal Tips & Tricks

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The sun has dropped to a low spot on the horizon. The days are darker and colder and the night is longer. Winter signifies a need for deep rest and nourishment. It’s a time of quiet. Soup’s on the stove, hot teas are being sipped. The proverbial fire is being stoked in the kitchen’s hearth.

The cold and flu season extends across this dark time of year. One of the best wellness remedies we have during winter is that innate desire to retreat, withdraw, rest and become the quiet the winter season embodies.

It’s no surprise, then, that a combo of quiet, nourishment and rest is my number one answer to the frequently-asked question, “What’s the best way to boost my immune system during the holiday and winter so I can remain healthy during the cold and flu season?”

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(hehe facebook joke)

Ok, I am not recommending becoming a complete hermit in the winter, but it is really good to dial back obligations and focus on rest.

As a fast-paced society that does not value rest, I get a bristling response all the time at this recommendation. “Rest? That would mean I’d have to sleep more. Nourishment? I can barely get my work done in a day, let alone sit down and eat quietly and mindfully. OMG, I don’t have time to get sick. What can I take so I can still get all the things done I need to do?? Can’t you give me something for that?”

C’mon guys! I totally get that it’s hard! This is ~me~ who’s talking here. The above statements are things I say in my own house— I am not exempt from wanting an easier solution to wellness … something other than the tough obligation of making choices to cultivate my long-term health and wellness. I know intimately how demanding the pressures of society, work, and family are — trust me – I really, really do. Making choices, saying “no” to people and projects to rest when I really am bone tired for me –that is… hard.

On the other hand, I know intimately how great a toll these pressures and stresses can take on one’s health — the entire body is affected from prolonged exposure to chronic stress and it can take years to recover from depletion and exhaustion.  Dialing back obligations and managing stress — as well as resting is a big deal for the body. And even though it’s freezing cold outside, foraging plant-sister Butter Wilde is reminding me to GET OUTSIDE. Get thee some good base layers, warm boots and a hat and get some fresh air. These are all key to staying well in the winter.

In regards to cold and flu season and without getting into the complete physiology of stress, it’s important to remember that when we are stressed, the immune system all but gets put on hold. The body’s energy is diverted away from the immune system, making it hard to both defend against viruses and infections. During cold & flu season, it is easy to not rest as much as we need and become easily stressed, particularly with the holidays just around the corner.

Alas — Getting sick is part of the human condition. Those viruses, bacterias — all part of the world and our biomes — will inevitably come into contact with our person. During cold and flu season, this can mean a whole host of viruses from the more serious influenza to strains of rhinovirus and norovirus.

A simple cold in a healthy person can be cleared as little as 4 days, or even rolled completely if the immune system is given a chance to ward off the invading illness. But a simple cold (there are many, many viruses under the heading common cold) or bout of influenza (which can last up to 10 days) for someone with a compromised immune system could deteriorate into in a much more complicated situation and illness. Having a strong immune system can help prevent that — and rest, good food and moderate exercise is foundational for a strong immune system.

What does that immune system offer during cold & flu season? The body has a ton of great immune responses to help fend off the invaders — runny noses, fever, vomiting, diarrhea. Immune responses are part of the body’s design and are meant to be supported as part of the body’s healing process. But if our immune system is compromised because of too much stress, lack of rest and lack of regular and adequate nourishment — or if we artificially and repeatedly suppress immune responses like FEVER our bodies will not have the tools they need to fight off and restore the body from an infection.

Herbs can be “helpers” in the body’s healing process when we do get sick. I rely on them to help support the body’s vital energy, not focusing on suppress symptoms.  I’ve taken time to get to intimately know the herbs I work with, their energetic properties and how they effect movement and change within the body.  Herbs can help ease pain and discomfort during illness and can help support the body’s process during a bout of illness through recovery, but the key is learning how to work with the plants as the body processes its illness.

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plant allies boneset and monarda fistulosa

When illness hits…

Creating the space to rest. Before I even reach for herbs, when a cold or a flu starts coming on my biggest strategy is to first dial back the activity and cancel all non-essential projects. The key word here is non-essential — Not everything is top priority. Some things really are (like having to show up for your work shift because you really will lose your job and don’t have enough paid sick time) and I recognize that. But a good deal of our commitments really are not and can be left to the wayside for a bit. More-over, when you are sick — YOU and your health are a priority!  Resting when sick is not a luxury or indulgence, rather rest is part of a natural healing protocol!

Arm the castle with good defenses. Get out the soup. Broths. Hot chicken soup is this Jewish mother’s penicillin. It’s ancient Grandma wisdom, and not only does the healing from the nutrients nourish from the deep inside out, but it’s a great childhood favorite and everyone loves it. Vegan? Vegetable broths can be equally healing and nourishing. I have excellent vegan and marrow BROTH RECIPES that include great herbs and foraged wild plants to add to the broths, making them extra-fortified with immune building herbs like Reishi, Maitake, Astragalus, Nettle, Red Clover, Oatstraw. Deep healing on a cellular level, broths are.

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spicy pho. cures what ails.

In addition to broths, I then reach for the herbs to help stimulate the peripheral immunity. I like to use Elderberry (inhibits the viruses ability to reproduce), Echinacea, Boneset, Yarrow, Osha all at once in my own Elderberry Elixir to help supply my immune system with that extra boost — kind of like adding men to the towers to defend my proverbial castle. Want to make your own? Herbbie friend Rebecca McTrouble has a great ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE HERE, or call me to stock your shelves with my own Elderberry Elixir blend.

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making a small batch of elderberry elixir

Supporting the Process with Plants. Using plant energetics, work to match up the body’s needs with the right plants. This will change as your body moves through the illness. Got hot fever with chills? I like to reach for a strong diaphorhetic mint like Oregano or Bee Balm and maybe add in a relaxant herb like Elderflower to help my body relax from the chills and ache.  Sometimes the tension is really strong (think flu’ish hit-by-a truck symptoms) and then l can add calming, tension-relieving sedatives like Chamomile (also aromatic), Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Catnip, Passionflower, or Valerian to my blend. A favorite combo for cold and flu is the basic Gypsy Tea made of Mint, Elderflower and Yarrow. When I get sick, I sometimes make a large thermos of Gypsy Tea and put it bedside so I don’t have to keep getting up.

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my wildcrafted gypsy tea

Sinus? I turn to the herbs that are aromatic. Pine, Mints, Lavender, Bee Balm, Oregano, Sage –  all these herbs have aromatic oils that can be uplifting and can open sinus and relieve tension in the body. Steam inhalations are AWESOME. See how I do STEAM INHALATIONS (thanks, Jim McDonald for the kid towel tip – I am forever grateful for that teaching). Neti pots with saline rinses are also AWESOME tools to have on hand, and astringent, anti-bacterial herbs like Goldenseal or Mahonia can be added to the rinse in small drops as means to ward off a potential bacterial sinus infection.

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demo’ing steam inhalations. thanks jim mcdonald for the towel tip.

Coughs? Dry or wet cough? This is a great example of needing to learn the energetics of the herbs. A dry, barking dog cough can indicate a signifiant drying of the tissues in the lung and stagnant expectoration, and would benefit from moisturizing herbal combos like Mullein, Marshmallow or Licorice, Raw Honey and Wild Cherry Bark.  Damp, wet coughs can benefit from drying herbs like Garlic (though everyone can always benefit from garlic), Elecampagne, Osha, Pine. In both instances, long standing lung conditions indicate a significant illness and should not be ignored. Rest and herbs and even medical care to rule out serious conditions like pneumonia.

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raw, herbal infused honey.

Sore throat? Hot teas with lemon. Ginger. Bee propolis is awesome, especially when working in tandem with an antibiotic for strep throat — add some Elecampagne to that. And oooo raw honey. I can’t say enough about the importance of RAW HONEY  in the herbal apothecary.

Vomiting? Chamomile and catnip are two favorites to sip SLOWLY as tea, and Valerian can be a wonderful relaxant for excess painful cramping from dry heaves. I’ve also taken to using small tastes of the sour Umaboshi vinegar plum paste for cooling and soothing vomiting states. Diarrhea? Loose bowels due to a stomach flu can benefit from a strong astringent tea made with Blackberry roots. To make it kid-friendly, I’ve learned to use this tea to make a not too sweet hot cocoa, sweetened with maple syrup instead of white refined sugar. NOTE: LEARN THE SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION. Dehydration can become very serious fast, and if you don’t feel you have the ability to work with dehydration for your or your loved one, visit the ER immediately for appropriate treatment.

Recovering from sickness? Take it slow. Continue to rest and nourish with simple foods. Also, support your body’s recovery process in cleaning up the illness detritus by adding in bitters for the digestion, absorption and elimination of wastes in the digestive and lymphatic system. in general, bitters ~should~ be had as food and a main staple in our diets (think dandelion leaf, Romaine lettuce, fennel, Chamomile — check out Jim McDonald’s Bitters rap HERE) but in a recovery state (as well as everyday use) simple tinctured bitters (I hand make my own bitters with a variety of herbs such as Orange Peel, Cinnamon, Aspen Bark, Fennel, Red Root) can be very supportive of the metabolic process and foundational to a healthy  digestive system. Consider also adding in a good probiotic or digestive enzyme also, especially if recovering from a bout of stomach flu. The recovery process is very, very important so your body can properly return to a balanced state.

I really love sharing this vitalist framework to getting a cold or flu. It provides the basis and tools to truly support and work with the body in a deep way and more often than not, it has me back on my own feet sooner than I sometimes think when I get sick!!!

Got your own tips? Maybe recipes you use when sick? Share them with me!

A Few Other Good Links & Resources:

- Darcey Blue on Flu

- Todd Caldecott’s Ayurvedic approach to Colds & Flu 

-  7 Song’s Materia Medica for Colds & Flu

— Paul Bergner on Vitamin D

Nocturne

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On the flip side of a dark November New Moon the moon again begins to wax. But only still a small sliver, she sheds little light down onto the Earth tonite. My heart feels the ache of the many struggles of those I know and those I do not know. This Modernist poem by Nicaragua’s Rúben Dario resonates and I thought I’d share its own unique medicine. Sitting with the dark before the light can move through… 

Nocturne 

~ Rúben Dario 

You that have heard the heartbeat of the night,

you that have heard, in the long, sleepless hours,

a closing door, the rumble of distant wheels,

a vague echo, a wandering sound from somewhere:

you, in the moments of mysterious silence,

when the forgotten ones issue from their prison -

in the hour of the dead, in the hour of repose -

will know how to read the bitterness in my verses.

I fill them, as one would fill a glass, with all

my grief for remote memories and black misfortunes,

the nostalgia of my flower-intoxicated soul

and the pain of a heart grown sorrowful with fetes;

with the burden of not being what I might have been,

the loss of the kingdom that was awaiting me,

the thought of the instant when I might not have been born

and the dream my life has been ever since I was!

All this has come in the midst of that boundless silence

in which the night develops earthly illusions,

and I feel as if an echo of the world’s heart

had penetrated and disturbed my own.

Translated, Lysander Kemp 

The Path of Practice

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Next weekend, I will run my first full marathon. But 8 weeks ago, I wasn’t so sure that’d I’d be able to finish my training program, let alone run the Grand Rapids Marathon on October 20.

This summer, after I had returned from my writing sabbatical out west, my dad had a catastrophic accident that had him in the Neuro ICU with a traumatic brain injury.  To support his healing journey, I dropped everything — cancelled a dozen events on my book tour, stopped accepting new herbal clients, bagged my foraging schedule and of course, put my marathon training on the back burner.

The past eight weeks in hospital have been all consuming. When I wasn’t obsessed with changes in my dad’s vitals or detailing extensive family updates, I was trawling through NIH data on traumatic brain injuries and calling around getting personal recommendations from colleagues in the healthcare industry to help me understand my dad’s options for care.  Not to mention, understanding the insurance landscape. When I wasn’t at the hospital becoming a short study in traumatic brain injury, I was at home, trying to be a mom and MAYBE get in a shower and comb my hair.

Running was the last thing on my mind. I could barely manage to make sure I ate and slept properly. I lightened up completely on my training schedule. The runs I did log were grueling — sloppy and difficult. At every mile my mind said stop. I was mentally and physically exhausted — particularly the first two of the four weeks my dad was in the ICU. I won’t recount to you the crazy things I did because I was sleep deprived, but WOW. It was like a throwback of the early days being with a newborn.

But I did get out there, and I did run. In those first few weeks of my family’s crisis, I felt they were all maintenance miles. Nothing fancy, fast or special. I was grateful to have logged two 20 milers before my Dad’s accident, and I did get one slow 20 miler into the books mid-September — so I didn’t have to stress about “knowing” I could conquer the distance.

In the past two weeks, as my Dad’s recovery started to uptick, the clouds parted. My own brain fog lifted and I have been able to run again. I am also slowly getting back to work that’s on my desk.

While the road of rehabilitation remains a long one for my dad and his recovery will remain at the center of my world, I am taking steps forward to reintegrate “work” back into my daily life.

My publisher will be happy to know that the copy for my upcoming foraging book with The Timber Press (2014) will be nearing completion by the start of the new year. I am also rescheduling a few book signings. And although classes will remain on hold and I will not be accepting new clients until at least 2014, I will be studying with Canadian herbalist Caroline Gagnon as a student in her mentorship program in Burlington, VT. In this time, Caroline will help guide me as a practitioner and assist me in planning next steps in my own professional career — which I believe may be leading me in the direction of medical school.

I will say — putting my work on hold in the past few months was as hard as putting my marathon training on hold. I was afraid that by putting things to the side, I wouldn’t be learning or “getting ahead,” even though being completely available for my father was — and continues to be — of utmost important to me. This inspirational blogpost by Worts and Cunning: Taking Root: 10 Steps to Deepen Your Practice, however, caught me to reframe all of this in my mind.

Looking back over the past 8 weeks, I took inventory of my experiences and my feelings. I haven’t been passively standing on the sidelines. I have been immersed fully in a difficult situation — the new order and tasks at hand have offered me a deeper perspective on healing and a new understanding as to the depth of my own mental endurance. And I am sure the lessons I have learned will continue to unfold as I walk the path of my practice.

So what are those next steps? 26.2 on October 20. A celebration of miles logged and miles yet to traverse.

How do you celebrate and stay rooted to the path of your practice?

On a plant writing sabbatical…

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Headed across the Midwest, with my camera and laptop in tow.

Destination is Big Sky & Jackson Hole for a writing sabbatical, working on my next book — “The ReWilded Kitchen: A Forager’s Guide to Edible & Medicinal Plants of the Midwest” (Timber Press, 2014).

Here, I stopped just outside of Gary, Indiana off of Interstate 94 to get up close with Chicory. Since Ancient Greek times, it’s been referred to as a Guardian of the Roadways (Wood). The wild Chicory, a delicious bitter green similar in flavor to cultivated Endive, is in full bloom and lines the roadways of the Midwest. Slow down and say hello to her!!

The choice of spot to take her photo — just a few miles from the US Steel complex in the heartland of the Rustbelt — was pretty intentional. Being a city-dweller myself, I am always drawn to the layering of industry, people, plants, “contamination” and the remediation of land. As a forager, the idea of contamination is real and is important — prudent knowledge of plants and potential contamination from the surrounding land is always top of mind for harvesting and health’s sake.

That said, I frequently wax poetic over this dichotomy in my mind… “I live in the city, my environment is contaminated, thus everything is toxic and I cannot eat it.” … Certainly lead, heavy metal contaminants are toxic to human health and foraging must be done prudently, but is bug juice and spicy Cheetos from the corner store more nourishing and less toxic than chicory on the same corner growing in an empty lot??

Without jumping to conclusions that the Chicory salad greens would be the better choice (factoring in all processes and toxicity of processed food), it’s a good conversation starter…

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