Burdock & Rose

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

Category: running

Botanical Balms For Dry Winter Skin

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Old Man Winter is upon us and rough lips, chapped cheeks and split cuticles are all signs that the dryness of winter months has gotten under our skin – literally.

I love winter.  As a runner and skier, the cold doesn’t keep me inside. BUT, the time outside in the dry cold can wreck havoc on my skin. Having a great skin-healing balm at the ready helps me enjoy the winter’s cold, as it protects my lips, cheeks, hands and feet from becoming overly dry!

Many products line the pharmacy shelves claiming to heal our dry skin and protect from chaffing and chapping. Conventional products often contain synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum, and while they may act like sealants on the skin, they do little to truly heal the dermis.

Fortunately the marketplace offers other options for skin care that are plant-based and more environmentally sound.

Chickweed

Chickweed

Botanicals for Skin Healing

As protective bases; plant-based oils like coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, and rose hip oils are all excellent choices and are versatile for all skin types. The healthy alternative to parrifin wax in skin care is beeswax. This helps create a protective barrier from the elements while letting the skin sweat and helps support bee-keepers. 

While perusing the skin care aisle, look for creams that contain plants like plantain, calendula, comfrey, chickweed. These plants are deep-tissue healers that can repair the cracks and splits in the skin.

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Want to make your own skin-healing salve?

Visit Rodale’s Organic Life for my recipe for a Calendula Chapped Cheeks Balm!

Create a batch of chapped cheek balm in your kitchen with just four ingredients: herbs, olive oil, and beeswax. Beeswax helps solidify the balm and works as a protective layer on the skin without leaving a greasy feeling.

Apply the balm before heading outside to protect the skin from harsh elements. If your skin feels sensitive in the shower, apply the balm before you rinse off. It may sound counter-intuitive to getting clean, but it will protect your skin from drying hot water and allow the botanicals to soak deep into the dermis for healing.

If you don’t have time to make your own, support local. While there are large-scale manufacturers making these botanical ointments, there’s a chance you live nearby a local herbalist that makes these skin creams from plants in your area.

I get great reviews on my Burdock & Rose Botanical Lip and Body Balm – which is made from all local plants that I wildcraft. I also really love Autumn Moon’s Plant Glamour in Detroit, but you can also check out localharvest.org to help locate an herbalist in your neck of the woods.

And remember – keep those balms handy to help you enjoy the cold. As my dad used to say, “There’s never the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing!” Protect your skin!

Simply Sassy: A Mitten Gal’s Sassafras Rootbeer 

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The dunes of my childhood where sassafras grows in abundance.

While on a trail run through the dunes of Hoffmaster State Park this summer I realized that there is no other smell reminiscent of my West Michigan lakeshore upbringing than sassafras. That aromatic, spicy rootbeer fragrance of the sassafras floats on the breeze in the dew of the morning or after a wet, damp rain. It is one of those smells that truly defines my life.

You can imagine my delight when forager friend Sam Thayer recommended me to host a Minneapolis-based film crew to learn all about sassafras for their “How To Make Everything: Rootbeer” segment! I enjoyed taking the crew through the dunes woods of my childhood stomping grounds to gather the sassafras roots for their project. Check out our final segment on sassafras HERE.

Though it is fall and the leaves are rapidly falling from the trees, it isn’t to late to gather a few saplings to make a late fall batch of rootbeer! Want to make your own local rootbeer? Read more…

A Mitten Gal’s Sassafras Rootbeer 

Sassafras albidumSassafras is common along trails and beach areas and makes a delightful tea and culinary spice. Sassafras is a small deciduous tree that grows to heights of up to 60 feet or more in optimum conditions. It commonly has mitten-shaped, three-lobed and un-lobed leaves. Its bark is a rough and reddish brown, the aromatic roots range in color from white to reddish brown. The roots of a small sapling can be gathered in the spring or fall. Wash, chop, and completely dry them.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a simple syrup with sassafras and other woodland herbs for a refreshing batch of rootbeer soda pop.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped roots of sassafras**
  • 1/4 cup burdock root*
  • 1/4 cup sarsaparilla*
  • 1 tbsp dry hops*
  • 1tsp juniper berries*
  • 10 wintergreen leaves*
  • 1 tsp dry ginger root*
  • 1 tsp spicebush berries (optional)*
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups MICHIGAN maple syrup

Directions:

  • Simmer herbs in a pot with 4 cups boiling water for 5 minutes, covered to retain volatile oils.
  • Strain
  • Stir in maple syrup, let cool
  • Add 1 part sassafras simple syrup mixture to 2 parts club soda and serve over ice or with vanilla ice cream
  • Sassafras simple syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks

*Some herbs can be gathered by hand from the wild, procured from your local health food store or ordered online. I like Mountain Rose Herbs as an online supplier for organic herbs. To learn more about sassafras or other herbs mentioned in this recipe? Check out my book, “Midwest Foraging.”

Summer Staycations: Foraging with Kids

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Collecting sumac drupes for sumac lemonade

There’s no better place on earth in summer than #PureMichigan. Summer vacation is a time to load the car and head to the lakeshore – bikes tied to the back and sandals in tow. The great thing about our Great Lakes state is that we are never more than 20 minutes from an outdoor adventure that can rival any escape to greater terrain up north or out west.

As part of your outdoor escape, get the kids, neighbor’s kids, and even dog outdoors to plan an foraging expedition to learn wild edibles. From bogs to dune habitats at the lakeshore, this is a great chance to expose children to parts of Michigan they’ve never experienced before AND teach them new outdoor skills.

Short on time and want an even lower cost excursion? Plan this endeavor to take place in your own backyard! There are many wild edibles to discover right outside your doorstep.

To begin to learn and identify wild edibles with the children:

Pick a place to explore: Let the kids select the plants around them to learn, sometimes the most adventures can actually happen right outside the back door in the yard!

Safety: Remind the explorers to never pick nor eat a plant until they can properly ID the plant.

Remind the children of the rules of foraging: Ask permission if it is private property you are exploring and respect the rules of any parks area.

Respect plant sustainability: Teach the children that we are stewards of the land and can help plants grow and propagate, especially native plants and never harvest plants that are on the threatened or endangered list.

Pack a foraging kit: Include a notebook, colored pencils, a camera and perhaps a snack, sunscreen and bug repellant (need an herbal recipe? check out my blog here).

Find the right expertise: Head to the library and select a few good field guides and consider picking up a copy of Midwest Foraging at your local bookstore.

Let this journey be kid-led. Let them explore the outdoors, make a plant journal and even let them get really dirty. Create a cool certificate or bad for those kids completing the adventure and celebrate them for trying something new. It’s low-cost, high-yield activity that offers lessons that last a lifetime.

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To find a trail: 

Thanks to the glaciers long ago, the ecosystems of Michigan area are very diverse. And what better way to learn about them than to explore them on foot with the family in tow?

In Kent County, the Kent County Parks Foundation and The Friends of Grand Rapids Parks offers miles and miles of maintained trails in its expansive parks network that local residents can explore free of charge. The State of Michigan also offers great resources for hiking. Headed north? Try the Leelanau Land Conservancy for ideas of local nature walks. Some programs offer walks free for area residents.

Be sure to add to your summer bucket list nature centers and eco-preserves to walk the trails and experience the land that might be different. Remember, many of these habitats may have stringent rules prohibiting foraging – be sure to use these areas as learning laboratories only, taking nothing and leaving only footprints.

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Gathering black raspberries in the hedgerow behind our house.

Click HERE for my kid-friendly Staghorn Sumac Lemonade recipe and for more easy tips for foraging with kids, visit WZZM13 Online: Staghorn Sumac.

Don’t Bug Me: Herbal Spray & Bite Remedies

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A PureMichigan summertime is made up of camping trips, picnics, and summers by the lakeshore surrounded by family and friends. But usually unwelcome visitors to the festivities include the pesky mosquitos, ticks and spiders – unavoidable in our forests and backyards.

To fully ensure you will stay bite free, cover the skin up in lightweight fabrics – tech ware for the lake and woods are now increasingly more affordable and available to extend the enjoyment of being in the outdoors. To prevent the pesky (and potentially infectious) tick bites, be sure to wear shoes, socks and tuck long pants into the socks while hiking in the woods or through tall grasses.

While there are many commercial chemical bug sprays on the market to help deter and even soothe bothersome bug bites, it’s best to go chemical-free when at all possible. There are plant-based and natural alternatives to helping keep the bugs away and the itching at bay. Consider making your own blends of herbal bug repellant!!

Plants helpful for deterring mosquitoes include yarrow, catnip, lavender, and lemon grass. Click HERE to view my recent segment on WZZM Take Fivetalking about these plants, or click HERE to order my book, “Midwest Foraging”to ID these plants in the wild!

Burdock & Rose’s “Don’t Bug Me” Herbal Bug Deterrent & Skin Soother

For herbal tincture formula, mix equal parts tincture:**
Plantain
Chickweed
Yarrow
Catnip

Combine herbal tincture formula. Add 1 part formula to 1 part distilled water (50/50) blend to a spray bottle. Add essential oils of lavender or lemongrass as preferred, 15 drops/4oz bottle. Can be spritzed on clothing and skin to deter bugs, and also can be used topically to soothe bites.

**Plants can be foraged in the wild and prepared as tinctures or purchase tinctures pre-made from reputable sources like Mountain Rose Herbs.

Got bites? Plants helpful for soothing bites, scratches and itches topically include plantain, chamomile (as a tea to apply topically, or tea bags added to a soothing bath), chickweed, and calendula. Other natural remedies to relieve scratching include baking soda baths and applying zinc oxide on the scratches (especially to dry wet, weepy rashes). Avoid using oil-based creams and lotions on bites as that can increase irritation.

In the event of suspected West Nile virus (influenza like symptoms), visit your doctor but also consider an herbal protocol like echinacea, elderberry, boneset, yarrow, elderflower and medicinal mushrooms like reishi and maitake to support the peripheral immune system while fighting the virus. In the event of a suspected tick bite that may carry Lyme’s Disease (symptoms include a bull’s eye marking, rash, fever, dizziness, blurred vision), visit your MD immediately to seek antibiotic treatments.

 

 

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.   

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?