2005 Herbal Study Group at Luna Farm
“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners”.
May 11, 2005 Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 1
This lesson involved tasting quite a few nasty herbs! It’s amazing that those same herbs have such power to heal when they are so bitter to chew.
We sampled quite a bit of herbs. The first lesson was a starting point for us to get to know herbs. We learned that all plants have some type of poison whether it be an alkaloid, glycoside, resin or essential oil and by tasting the herbs, we started sensing the difference. Some herbs never tasted bad. Some were merely sour. Then, there were the herbs that started out tasting good and the longer you held them in your mouth, the worse they got. And finally, there was goldenseal! It was bad from the get-go and never got any better. Susun’s point is that it’s alright to be wary of herbs, especially when you are finding them in the wild for the first time; however, by tasting them and being familiar which each’s poison, you’ll soon learn that you can test herbs without harming yourself.
June 8, 2005 Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 2
Tonight we went over the further study. Wow! Lot’s of great research on behalf of the students. I find it encouraging how willing people are to learn when it’s of their own choosing! I only ‘dabble’ in essential oils so I learned something new about them tonight…younger herbs produce more oil but older herbs produce richer, darker oil. Thanks Jeff for the great research!
After covering the homework sheet, we jumped in to tonight’s lesson. We learned that infusions are steeped for 4-10 hours for maximum potency and that it is best to used dried herbs for infusions as they make the minerals and other phytochemicals more accessible.
Tonight’s samplings were very interesting. We made some herbal teas (dried and fresh herbs steeped for only 1-2 minutes and up to 1 hour) and compared them to herbal infusions I started this morning. We were surprised with a lot of the results. Longer steeping did not necessarily mean stronger flavors.
This lesson was a lot easier to swallow! So much so, by the last experiment, everyone was filled up and had to make room for the delicious food that was served up at the end!
July 13, 2005 Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 3
We got off to a late start to allow a few participants time to arrive. It worked out well as we had a new attendee so those of us present reviewed the first two parts with her to bring her up to speed. As we headed into last month’s further study, three more arrived and we finished up discussing our herbal allies.
Tonight’s lesson was a bit different. First, we discussed the difference between nourishing, tonifying, stimulating/sedating and potentially poisonous herbs and when to use them. Then instead of the usual dabbling with herbs during experiment time, we did a meditation and focused on our bodies. After the meditation, everyone drew themselves using crayons and pastels so they could mark any weak areas in their body, mind and soul.
Over the course of the month, each person will decide if they’d rather tonify or nourish their body and work with some herbs accordingly. Next month, we will re-do the meditation and drawings to see any changes. It will be interesting to see any differences!
We finished up the lesson filling out a health assessment for ourselves.
August 10, 2005 Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 4
This month, we got back to working with herbs. After reviewing last month’s lesson, we went out to the garden to harvest some fresh herbs to use in tincture making.
Earlier in the afternoon, I had harvested flowering yarrow and motherwort. We went out to harvest some lemon balm and show the group what motherwort looks like in the field. We also viewed pennyroyal, marshmallow, echinacea, bee balm (bergamot), feverfew, stinging nettle and st. john’s wort.
Once back inside, we jumped right into making our tinctures. Some chose to use dried echinacea root while others took advantage of the fresh herbs we had available. Everyone got to make one half pint tincture and several chose to make a second tincture as well. We used 80 proof vodka for tincturing our herbs and chopped them up before filling the jar with herbs and topping with vodka.
Next month, we will find out how to help ourselves and our families with herbal vinegars, one of the green blessings of the Wise Woman Way.
September 14, 2005 Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 5
This month, we learned about the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar and the value of adding herbs to vinegars to make them even more nutritious. One of the experiments consisted of placing bones in a jar of vinegar to see vinegar’s effects. I have left it on my countertop for us to check next month. Another experiment required adding eggshells to vinegar and watching the results. It started to foam a bit and the acv got cloudy. I also made a larger jar of the eggshell/calcium vinegar for us to sample next month. Vinegar assists the body in the absorption of calcium and it is suggested to take a tablespoon daily (especially for women) to keep bones strong. Making an eggshell/calcium vinegar is an excellent way to get your daily dose of calcium! And, it doesn’t need to be taken straight. You can sprinkle it on salads, sauteed greens, beans or even add it to your water to drink. We finished the class by making our own herbal vinegars. Everyone got to select what herb they would prefer to add to their vinegars.
Next month, we will be learning more about herbal medicine making with a focus on oils,by exploring fresh infused oils, ointments, salves, lip balms, essential oils and even herbal pestos.
October 12, 2005 Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 6
pokeroot (phytolacca americana)
yellow dock root (rumex crispus)
Study Group was a bit smaller than usual but we had an enjoyable evening. We reviewed last month’s further study on Herbal Vinegars. We played with the rubberized bones that had been soaking in vinegar since last month and discussed our various experiences with eggshells in vinegar. Quite a volatile mix!
This month, we continued our study in the Herbal Pharmacy and learned how to make oils and salves. We started off by comparing fresh peppermint with peppermint essential oil. We smelled them, tasted them and rubbed them on our skin. The essential oil was strong as was expected but what was not expected was rubbing the fresh herb on our skin actually had quite a dramatic effect. We were quite energized from it!
Our second experiment was to make an infused oil from fresh herbs. The selection included poke root, yellow dock root, burdock seeds, comfrey leaves and plantain leaves. The photograph shows the chunk of poke root. It was about 4” thick and was quite a small portion of the root that I dug up yesterday. We had quite a time chopping the roots up, as they were quite strong. A good chef knife always does the trick! Jane created a mixture to try out on psoriasis: burdock seeds, yellow dock root and peppermint.
Our third experiment was to make an herbal salve. I had started a mixture of comfrey leaves, roots and calendula in the double boiler earlier in the evening so it was ready to go by the time we came to this experiment. We strained off the herbs from the oil and added beeswax to the mix. Everyone got to take home 2 oz. of salve when we were finished.
Next month, we will think about how we think about healing. This will be our final lesson in the Herbal Healing Series.
November 9, 2005 Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 7
This month, study group was a relaxed affair. We learned about the three traditions of healing: scientific, heroic and wise woman. Susun showed us how to apply this type of thinking with our everyday life. We learned that these three traditions are ways of thinking, rather than three ways of acting. Her experiments challenge us to become aware of these three traditions and apply them the next time we are not feeling well. She also encourages us to take stock in what nourishes us in our lives and what could nourish us in our lives if we allowed them to be a part of our lives.
Next month, we will find out how to make herbal honeys and syrups and how to take charge of our own health care with the six steps of healing. Since Part 8 has not been published yet, I will be writing my own adaption on this subject. This session will wrap up our eight part series “Herbal Healing – Be Your Own Expert.” Starting in January, we will be starting a new series that I will be putting together myself.
December 14, 2005 Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 8
elderberry tincture and cayenne
This month we concluded our final lesson in the Susun Weed Series Herbal Healing: Be Your Own Expert. We studied about the six steps of healing which ranged from letting go and doing nothing to invasive surgery and procedures. More information on the six steps can be found in Susun Weed’s book New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way which is available through the local library system.
We also learned the healing powers of honey. We learned honey helps with the absorption of zinc, calcium and magnesium. We now know that herbal honeys are referred to as linctures or electuaries.
wild cherry bark syrup made with honey (left) and raw sugar (right)
We made two syrups, one from an herbal infusion and honey, the other from an herbal infusion and raw sugar. We used an infusion of wild cherry bark. The infusion was a beautiful shade of red. As you can see from the picture, the color changed depending on the type of sweetener we used. The raw sugar turned out much darker.
Next month, we will begin a new series. I have enjoyed getting to know an individual herbalist over the past eight months and I am considering focusing on another herbalist and their teachings for the upcoming year. I have received indications that me having books available for purchase would be something of interest to a lot of the regular attendees so I plan to offer up writings of whichever herbalist I am spotlighting for the year. I will announce the new herbalist two weeks before the next meeting.
There is no further study for this lesson.