Burdock & Rose

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

Tag: environment

Holiday Merriment Means Movement

IMG_2009It’s that time of year again when holiday stress is high.  Holiday parties, plates of butter cookies, and glasses of cabernet are the temptresses: singing to us like sirens on the rocks with their promises to way-lay the best set plans for getting in some exercise. We all kvetch that there is little time to “get it all done,” much less build in time for movement and exercise.

But movement and physical activity (especially movement in the brisk, winter’s air) is as important as making healthy choices during the holidays and getting adequate rest. Movement is something all bodies regularly need to both fight stress and build immunity: With proper hydration, movement keeps muscles and ligaments juicy and lymphatic glands moving. It helps blow off elevated cortisol from a stressful day and over time and in tandem with a healthy diet, can have a significant impact on blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Too many group commitments? Instead of another cookie party meet up, suggest a walk around the neighborhood as a way to get in some movement and fresh air. Or consider other group activities — from ice skating to sledding to roller skating, a group could even hit up the open swim at a local pool for a game of Marco Polo. It doesn’t really matter your current physical fitness level — it just matters that you make the decision and move!

And don’t let the snow and cold be a deterrent to getting outside.  The cold winter air is great to help build immunity and stay strong during cold and flu season — it just requires a mental re-frame about the winter weather and a bit of clothing planning. Remember, there is never the wrong weather — only the wrong clothing.

Here are some ideas to try that will keep your heart rocking, your glutes burning and will mix it up for the holidays. The tips are Grand Rapids specific, but wherever you are located, you can check into community resources in your area for similar activities — and all these suggestions are group and family friendly! Mix it up and get moving!

Ice-skating. There’s nothing more picturesque during the holiday season than an outdoor ice-skating rink.  Grand Rapids locals know one of the most fun and magical locations for ice skating is outdoors at Rosa Parks Circle located in downtown Grand Rapids in the city’s center adjacent to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It’s our own little Rockefeller, and has affordable ice skate rentals. Afterward, you can stroll the local streets for some last minute holiday shopping or stop into the Art Museum to check out their most recent exhibit. There are also many private rinks in the area featuring rentals and open skate throughout the holiday season.

Skiing. Whether it’s classic cross country or downhill adventure seeking you crave, the snow machine has been ON in Michigan since Thanksgiving, allowing nearly all the local hills and resorts to have established base conditions for this early in the season. For cross country lovers, Kent Trails provides miles of fantastic cross trails, and many ski resorts offer both rentals and groomed trails where you can spend the day testing your cardio, quads and glutes on the skis. For a resource on all things ski related, including resort and conditions reports, check out MISkiReport.

Sledding Hills. Yes, wax the toboggan, it’s time for some sledding. West Michigan boasts some great sledding hills especially at the lakeshore state parks (Hoffmaster is especially nice) as well as in the city here in Grand Rapids (GR Kids GR Sledding Hill Guide), Pando is also a local favorite for tubing down the hills, and also has trails and gear for the ski enthusiast.

Roller skating. Roller skates! Yes, the 80s are alive and well (infused with a bit of Taylor Swift top 40 hits) at local rinks in the West Michigan area including Tarry Hall in Grandville. So, get your best Limbo and Hokey Pokey ready — it’s time to lace up and go for a roll!!!

Trampolines. Want to blow through a ton of calories playing on trampolines? Check out SkyZone Indoor Trampoline Play . This is exactly what is sounds like! Indoor trampoline play great for kids and adults alike—  you can even book “court time” to accommodate a group for an organized session of Dodgeball.

Hiking.   Grand Rapids is surrounded by extensive trail networks that are ready for a nice Christmas or New Year’s hike with family, a trail run or even a session on snow shoes. Enjoy the benefits of the great Michigan outdoors in winter. It’s magical and good for your spirit as well as body, and a great time to practice winter botany for upcoming spring foraging haunts!

Foot Races. There are some of us running junkies (ahem, you know who you are) who will want to get a race or two in over the holiday. Well, I am not going to say no to that one. The classic year-end Wolverine World Wide Resolution 4 mile Run/Walk is a great way to wrap up 2014 on New Year’s Eve, and then you can wake up and race all over again with a New Year’s Day race at the lakeshore for the Sgt Preston Yukon King Run.

All in all, don’t sweat the small stuff — just make sure you do sweat some over the holidays. It’s that first step that’s always the most difficult, but in the end so very worth it for your health. Your body and loved ones will thank you!

Happy Holiday Trails!

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…

Honey Bee Medicine & The Apothecary

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Honey Bees are the Earth’s first and best herbalists. They flit from flower to flower; pollinating and as they do so they collect the plant’s magic pollen dust which then gets imbibed into deliciously healing honey. Bees also collect resin from trees to create propolis, which repairs cracks in their hives and is also a useful human medicine.

Honey bees are the magic link to our food system and are the proverbial canary in the cave when we think about health and balance in our ecosystems — coming soon is a post on how to help the honey bee as both gardener, land steward, eater & herbalist.

The honey bee is a special creature to be protected and revered, especially as we look to strengthen and repair not only our local ecosystems, but as we look to strengthen our own health and wellness.

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The Local Honey Pot 

Every kitchen and home apothecary should never be without a jar of locally sourced, raw honey. Not only is it a useful culinary staple that can be used frequently in the place of refined, processed sugars (honey’s glycemic index is approximately half that of refined white sugar) but local, raw honey is a truly pure, local medicine made by the honey bees from the plants and flowers that live immediately around us.

Just as it is important to source your food as locally as possible, sourcing local honey is equally important. It is easier than ever before to seek out local, raw honey from a local bee keeper  — just visit your local farmers markets or get online and use LocalHarvest.org to find a supplier nearest your locale.

Why local and why raw? Sourcing local honey does a few things: 1) It supports local bee keepers and their work to support local food systems. 2) Honey that comes from local bees is created with the help of plants immediate to your growing area (and often can help support the immune system that may have issues with plant/hay fever allergies).

Raw honey that hasn’t been heat or pasteurized (much of the commercial honey is processed), also contains all the beneficial enzymes and is not usually filtered. It also can have a bigger (and better, in my opinion) aroma and flavor profile representative of the local flora of the immediate area. It’s honey with terroir and higher medicinal power.

Speaking of terroir — Because of the global food trade and economy, much of the commercial honey available at the supermarket today is coming from Brazil, China and other places in the world. Frequently, large producers blend the batches together and because of limited labelling laws, a consumer will often find a label on a jar of honey to identify its place of origin as Brasil, China AND the US — ALL AT ONCE. Multiple countries all in one jar. Additionally, the commercial honey market is becoming increasingly unstable, with more frequent occurrences of adulteration being uncovered every day.

So, be sure to take time to read labels and source your honey from a local apiary or farmer near your home. That said, the purist in me be damned– if the only access you have to honey is the honey bear honey at your local convenience store and you ~need~ it, go for it. Better some honey than no honey at all.

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Infused Honeys

One of my most favorite uses of honey in both my kitchen and apothecary is infused honey. While using straight honey when a cough or cold comes about is easy and fine, there is nothing more divine that spooning out raw honey that has had beautiful herbs and flowers infused into it for several weeks, imparting not only the aromas of the flowers and plants, but their medicinal properties as well. It’s also good on toast. Haha.

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Making infused honey. Infusing honey is a very simple process. Gather herbs, flowers then add them to a jar. Then cover with honey and let infuse for at least a few weeks, taking the time to occasionally turn the jar upside down to stir up the plant material.

Some herbs that work well in infused honey include: Chamomile, Lavender, Rose, Jasmine, Orange flower, the invasive (and loved by me Honeysuckle), Lovage, Osha, Bee Balm (any Monarda), Vervain, Mint, Sage, Thyme, or Elderflower — these are just a few. Onion and garlic are also great choices and make for an excellent base for a cough and cold syrup. I prefer to use fresh plant material in season, but supermarket herbs also work, as do dry.

During the infusing process, because of its anti-microbial and preservative qualities, the honey with the herbs will not rot in those several weeks of infusing — especially if stored in a cool, dark place. However, there is the chance that the herbs and honey will begin to ferment — something that will be apparent if the jar produces CO2 and pushes up the lid. In this instance, you are well on your way to making mead. Contact your local brew shop for support on how to create this fine fermented concoction.

When you are ready to eat the honey, the herbs can be strained out or left in the honey — it’s totally up to personal preference.

Uses of infused honey: Infused honeys can be added to herbal teas to help support the body’s immune responses to illness and can also be eaten regularly as added immune support benefit. Note, however, that eating honey is not a replacement for foundational immune strengthening — diet, exercise, stress reduction and sleep are core elements to staying healthy.

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Other uses for infused honey includes Herbal truffles and slippery elm pastilles. These are are wonderful honey-based herbal preparations that can be made in large batches and then refrigerated to have on hand when a sore throat or stomach ache come around the home. While it’s possible to make these with plain honey, using infused honey can make these herbal creations especially delicious.

Infused honeys can also be bases for making herbal elixirs — I use mine to make my delicious Elderberry Elixir. It adds not only the medicinal power of the plants & honey, but a nice flavor profile to this important apothecary staple.

Additionally, both plain and infused raw honey can be used topically in wound and burn healing, It’s antimicrobial and antibacterial properties can support the skin & membrane’s healing processes — it can also be used topically in instances of MRSA.

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Propolis

Bee propolis is another bee medicine that should become a staple in every home apothecary. Made from the resins of trees by the bees, it is used within the hives to protect, reinforce and repair the cracks and seams within the bee hives.

This magical substance is frequently leftover on the bee keeper’s hive and can be gathered for preparation into a liquid extract or to be eaten raw. Just be sure to use propolis that is free and clean of paint or linseed oil (common applications to the bee hive itself and can sometimes get into the propolis). To find a local bee keeper near you that may offer propolis, check LocalHarvest.org or visit your nearby farmers market.

Propolis possess the same medicinal properties as honey — the propolis is antimicrobial, antibacterial and is resinous in nature. Because of its resinous nature, it can be used as a liquid bandage in the instances of minor skin irritations, scrapes and fungal irritations (propolis is also antifungal in nature). Take care to not use propolis as a liquid application on a wound that may have debris or infection — it can seal in infection and can potentially cause more irritation than heal. And that’s no good.

Propolis is also frequently used by herbalists to heal sore throats (it is wonderful as a throat spray mixed with echinacea, osha and elecampane).  A liquid extract is helpful for easy preparation — I put mine in a spray bottle (also many commercial herbal products producers make a spray, which is good if you can’t be bothered with making your own spray).

NOTE: In the instance of strep throat it can also be used, but because strep so frequently can only be cleared up with strict adherence to an herbal protocol (not to mention ridiculously contagious), this is one instance where I turn to an antibiotic. Propolis can be used in tandem with an antibiotic to soothe the hot, scratchy symptoms of the strep.

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To prepare propolis. Freeze the resinous propolis to allow for easy smashing — freezing it allows it to not become a sticky mass otherwise. With a 1:4 ratio, prepare a liquid tincture of propolis using a high proof alcohol (In Michigan, the easiest to source is Everclear or Bacardi 151). Allow the propolis to extract for about 6 weeks. Strain and bottle, noting that everything the liquid propolis touches will gum up and become sticky. Clean materials and bottle lids with Everclear to get it clean.

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Beeswax

Beeswax is the third bee medicine that every home herbalist should have on hand — especially the local kind as it smells particularly divine. It’s a key ingredient in making salves and balms and creams!

In a time where more and more information is coming forward as to the toxicity of topical creams, cosmetics, and cleansers, making healthful skin preparations is an easy solution to avoid the petro chemicals & endocrine disruptors AND save a bit of money on beauty care! Using infused oils blended with the beeswax can result in salves that can be very useful to have also in the medicine kit. Here’s an easy herbal salve how-to by Mountain Rose Herbs.

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~ to learn more about these and other folk medicine making preparations, check out my class list!~