Passionflower 

Passiflora incarnata “Maypop”. One of the most useful herbs in the apothecary. Calming and sedative. A long used staple of herbalists, doctors and pharmacists until Big Business started seriously promoting their addictive synthetic compounds around 1910. Included in the US and British Pharmacopeia until that time and then POOF! like Keyser Söze – it disappeared.

Passionflower - Passiflora incarnata flower
our first Passionflower for 2017

Here you will find no side effects. A homemade necessity safe for the entire family. We have found Passionflower useful for tension headaches and those produced by eye-strain and loud or incessant noise.

Easy to grow and a delight to behold. Perennial here in zone 7, New York City, USA.

Look for directions on how to prepare a tincture from the leaf and vine at the Herbarium. There’s a link at the top of this page.

Datura Germination Tip

Following suggestions from a Dutchman, I soaked seed collected from an open thornapple I found in November in a dilute solution of rainwater and FPJ or fermented plant juice for several days. My FPJ is made of Comfrey.

The Dutchman recommended “G3” – which is a similar commercial compound. I set the seeds potted in fine sphagnum on a germination mat with a 12h on/ 12h off timer. That was on New Years Day 2017.

I waited over one and half months to see the first arise. Some of the others popped up two months later after I had given them up for dead. Everything about this plant is highly peculiar.

Night Blooming Datura

Now I must wait patiently for the Luna Moth to appear.

Connecting the dots

Essential oils and Lyme

I love the plants and herbs my husband has been sharing. It’s been an essential part of of our healing process from Lyme disease.

What he hasn’t spoken too much about is how this journey began. We’ve both always loved plants and flowers… he has always been an avid gardener and purveyor of plants and seeds…and I owned florists for many years.

And so the journey began long before we knew that it would be these very things that would accelerate the healing process of Lyme to full recovery. And YES…I mean a FULL RECOVERY……From an ICU bed to a life surrounded by plants and essential oils. He seems to forget that part …and maybe it’s because he was laying in a bed in ICU sedated that he doesn’t remember me applying Frankincense and then Helichrysum to his body and massaging it into a severely injured and damaged liver area.

What happened that day and the days that followed opened my eyes to a world I didn’t even know existed… the therapeutic value of essential oils.

What was the most relevant part to me was that they contained no insecticides, heavy metals or chemical fertilizers, all of which are neurotoxins, and we were already dealing with advanced stage 3 Lyme disease that had caused not only lesions in the brain and left sided paralysis, but also a body that was atrophying before my eyes.

We couldn’t afford any further injury or stress to his neurological system. We couldn’t afford ANY further insults. I had NO experience  with essential oils… I had no experience with using them therapeutically. The only thing I had was a blind trust and no other options.

Sometimes things are given to us when we are ready to receive them, and sometimes things just happen and we watch our experiences come full circle.

So yeah… herbs are great. They’re amazing. I place a high value on herbs and their abilities.

BUT for me…the most eye opening revelation was essential oils…. herbs and plants that were CONCENTRATED…. free of toxins… free of heavy metals…. and it brought my two worlds together… nursing and my background of owning florists and loving my plants and flowers. Now I had flowers – herbs in little bottles that were CLEAN and PURE and they assisted the body in healing itself.

mysterious Lyme disease
connecting the dots

And the dots connected…. little by little.

Bitters are Better

A bitter truth. I know quite a few people who have had their gall bladder surgically removed. Why is that? Some of them talk about their excised organ as if it was just worn out and they are better off without it since afterall “you can live without it”. Of course the real reasons are different. Excruciating pain being the prime factor for the patient but then there’s the curiously high, even staggering rates of gall bladder surgeries promoted by the medical profession.

Evaluate your options.

“I have seen many hundreds of patients who have had their gallbladders removed and I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that their surgeon advised them to do something to compensate for removing this important organ. Just about every one of them was told they didn’t need their gallbladder and that it was perfectly fine to have it removed. This is reprehensible ignorance as it condemns the patient to a lifelong deficiency of essential fatty acids.” Dr. Joseph Mercola

Not everyone finds this acceptable or necessary. For those not ready to accept the notion of disposable body parts, herbal solutions are often possible.

I believe it is nearly criminal what traditional medicine is doing to the public when it comes to managing this problem. It is RARELY ever necessary to remove someone’s gallbladder. If one ignores warning symptoms and does not address the reasons why their gallbladder is not functioning properly, than the disease can progress to the point where the pancreas is inflamed or the gallbladder is seriously infected and may have to be removed to save a person’s life.

However, it is important to have a proper perspective here. Nearly ONE MILLION gallbladders are removed every year in this country and it is my estimate that only several thousand need to come out.

So, not only are surgeons removing these organs unnecessarily, but also in their nutritional ignorance they are telling patients that their gallbladders do not serve any purpose and they can live perfectly well without them. Dr. Joseph Mercola

Thing is – it’s bitter! Can you handle that?

my bitter wild friend
Wild Lettuce – Lactuca virosa

I’m told bitterness is the least favorite taste. I suspect, bitterness has become the least favored to the modern western palette and not too long ago either. Most industrially farmed crops have been bred relatively recently to taste less bitter. Iceberg lettuce the most commonly used salad green in the USA is nutritionally worthless and bears little resemblance, in any way, to wild lettuce. People eat gadzillions of megatons of it. Many actually consider it a vegetable!

Ask yourself how big of a role do advertisers and marketers have in making you want what they have to sell. Then peek into the world of agricultural research and read with your own eyes how through “recombinant inbreeding” bitterness has been deliberately removed from lettuce due to “consumer choice”.

Salads should contain bitter greens and be served before the main course of a meal for optimal digestion. Alanna Kellogg of A Veggie Venture has a good list of bitter greens. Modern dietary “innovations” all have the same thing in common: they’re blander, sweeter, softer and whiter than what was eaten years ago and never ever bitter. We have evolved baby mouths.

slightly bitter companion
Russian Red Kale

There are so many naysayers who deride vitamin supplements with the now standard claim that “if you eat a wholesome diet, supplements are unnecessary and wasteful”. This might be true if what was sold in supermarkets was only truly wholesome foods and we actually bought and consumed them within the correct ratios. Naw, that’s not happening anytime soon. Free choice is a bitch. Example: with the rise of consumer capitalism in China came rising obesity rates and worsening nutrition. So much for the free market diet. I am guessing there will be fewer bitter greens for the Chinese too.

Bitters do remain in the apéritifs, like Vermouth, Absinthe or Chartreuse all made with Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium), and the bitter greens like Kale, Chicory, Endive or Dandelion. Without going into the chemistry involved suffice it to say our ancestors were much smarter then we realize today. The bitter taste is the critical thing. The thing we avoid. The thing we need. We need bitters because of the fascinating connection between our taste buds and our liver, gall bladder, pancreas, stomach, etc… to, forgive me, the bitter end of the alimentary canal. No, de-bittering a bitter doesn’t do the same thing. If you love your friends and family, make it a bitter love.

The short story is, if you don’t “like” bitterness, you probably really need to eat more of them. The even shorter story is, if you eat more bitter foods, your digestion will improve and so will your immune system and oddly enough, the more bitters you eat – the less bitter they taste. Bitter taste triggers hormones and nerves which direct the the release of bile by the gall bladder, acid by the stomach and several enzymes by the pancreas. All this from a bite of the bitter thing many people avoid with unreasonable dread.

I emphatically recommend Carmen Lynde Medical Herbalist’s presentation. It is perhaps the most important thing you can do to understand the role of bitter herbs in your diet.

Insufficient release of any of these juices causes all kinds of problems. Instead of suppressing stomach acid with chemicals or surgery many more people should be eating their bitters. Alternatively you could chew a pinch of bitter herbs. How about a sprig of Mugwort? or Sage? not so bitter. Or a squirt of Barberry or a drop of Wormwood tincture in a shot of water before a meal?

Liver and Lyme Herbs

Herbs: Chronic Liver Disease and Neurological Lyme Disease

If you have read some of my praise of Burdock, you might have a good idea of how effective this herb can be. What may be more significant is my own personal history with what my doctors called “chronic liver disease“. As a result of industrial metals poisoning (copper, chromium, nickel), alcohol and aspirin abuse and Lyme disease (neurological phase 3) I found myself laying before a surgeon hearing the “liver transplant” speech after draining six liters of fluid from my abdomen.

Although the gory details which preceded the speech might be useful to some, I still don’t like to talk about those dark days. What I believe is more important, is to carry the message that it may be possible for others to recover from such a condition just like I did.

First, I am very fortunate and grateful to have had wonderful doctors. With advisement and precautions they followed my herbal journey and encouraged me to continue my regimen as long as I was examined and tested regularly. So it went and within two years I received the liver panel blood test results which made my gastroenterologist laugh out loud, pat me on my back and with a warning like Cinderella’s fairy godmother tell me “make sure you CONTINUE to do what you’re doing”.

So what did I do? I began by dietary changes. The doctors suggested “simple” proteins as they are more easily digested, so I eat very little red meat, only a little white meat and a lot more fish, nuts, seeds, particularly hemp and yogurt. Whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables make up the majority of my diet. Afterall, Hippocrates himself said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food”.

I became a serious organic gardener of herbs, a careful student and avid researcher of nutrition. I read “Alpha Lipoic Acid” by Dr. Burton Berkson, July 2000, Better Nutrition. I immediately began taking Alpha Lipoic Acid, Milk Thistle, CoQ10 and vitamin C. All of which are included in doTERRA’S Life Long Vitality supplements. Then instead of planting more tomatoes and lettuce I began planting the herbs suggested as beneficial for my condition. At that point I just wanted to see what these live herbs looked like. They fascinated me at the time but now I can understand how generations of people came to revere them as sacred. The language herbalists used to describe their actions and their “signatures” pulled me deeper.

Once I realized how rare the turnaround of my liver condition was I thankfully credited these brilliant doctors and generations of herbalists who accumulated this knowledge. If they could work so dramatically on my liver, what could they do for my Lyme disease? One good thing led to another. My gardening passion turned into hardcore herbalism which brought me to Permies and Paul Wheaton who asked us to help herbalist Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals to get a new dishwasher for her business through a kickstarter campaign. My small donation was acknowledged with an unexpected gift, a book called Healing Lyme Naturally by Wolf D. Storl. The foreword was written by herbalist Matthew Wood who has since become my favorite herbalist and who’s wisdom I abide.

Teasel is an herb which is the foundation of my Lyme disease success. Had not I had been open to new ideas and become willing to try alternative treatments I might have become yet another medical ping pong ball or worse, have my original body parts hacked off. The horror stories about Lyme are as bad as liver disease. The hair on the back of my neck crawled when I heard The People’s Pharmacy podcast What You Need to Know About Lyme Disease.

The takeaway from this post I hope will be, not to despair, not to give up, stay positive and find your path. In my present liver regimen I now include the herbs Burdock, Dandelion, Yellow Dock and Agrimony, each of which is worthy of separate discussions.

Burdock’s Anti-aging Effect – Vanity Alert

An interesting research study on 21 different plant extracts, including Burdock, and their effects on elastin and collagen, the two key proteins in connective tissue. Both proteins are critical throughout the body but highly noticeable in skin quality, muscle tone, bone strength and the all important arterial wall. Most people who have gotten this far know that skin condition often indicates liver issues. So it’s wonderful to have beautiful skin but perhaps better to have a healthy liver. Bear in mind that these researchers tested “extracts” of the herbs noted here. That means they were concentrates. So for instance, where “white tea” is noted, this does not refer to a simple cup of “white tea” tea, as an infusion, but rather the solvent extract of the white tea plant. The following excerpt is from a study referenced at the bottom of this post and available on the National Institute of Health’s website at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
Background
Owing to their roles in tissue remodelling in health and disease, several studies have reported investigations on plant extracts as inhibitors of proteinases and as anti-oxidants.
Methods
The anti-aging and anti-oxidant properties of 23 plant extracts (from 21 plant species) were assessed as anti-elastase and anti-collagenase activities and in selected anti-oxidant assays along with phenolic content.
Results
Anti-elastase activities were observed for nine of the extracts with inhibitory activity in the following order:
white tea (~89%)
cleavers (~58%)
burdock root (~51%)
bladderwrack (~50%)
anise (~32%)
angelica (~32%)
Anti-collagenase activities were exhibited by sixteen plants of which the highest activity
was seen in:
white tea (~87%)
green tea (~47%)
rose tincture (~41%)
lavender (~31%).
Conclusion
From a panel of twenty three plant extracts, some one dozen exhibit high or satisfactory anti-collagenase or anti-elastase activities, with nine having inhibitory activity against both enzymes.
Reference
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009; 9: 27.    Published online 2009 Aug 4. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-27    PMCID: PMC2728709
Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants
Tamsyn SA Thring,Pauline Hili, andDeclan P Naughton
School of Life Sciences, Kingston University, London, KT1 2EE, UK
Neal’s Yard Remedies, 15 Neal’s Yard, London, WC2H 9DP, UK
Received 2009 Apr 6; Accepted 2009 Aug 4.    Copyright© 2009 Thring et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Burdock seeds

Burdock seeds possess a slight “diffusive” quality, producing a “tingly” sensation on the tongue when chewed or taken as an extract; this indicates that some of its virtues are quickly taken up via the nervous system and put to immediate action.

I have not seen burdock’s true virtue more clearly or beautifully captured than by herbalist Matthew Wood, who wrote:

“On a psychological level, Burdock helps us deal with our worries about the unknown… which lurk in the dark woods beyond our control. It seizes upon deep complex issues, penetrates to the core and brings up old memories and new answers. It gives us faith to move ahead on our path, despite the unknown problems that might snare us on our way. It helps the person who is afraid become more hardy, while it brings the hardy wanderer back to his original path. It restores vigor and momentum.”

Burdock why?

If, after you read Dr Axe’s run down of the many substantial benefits of Burdock you’re not impressed, there’s more personal reasons to consider experimenting with this powerful herb. These are my personal observations and experiences:

  • tastes kinda like roasted potatoes to me
  • it’s a tonic and a medicine, meaning:
    • tonic you can and should take every day for continuous nutritive value and preventative care, especially for digestive health
    • medicine, usually in higher doses in tincture form for brief periods of time when ill
  • prevents many toxic chemicals, particularly metals from causing tissue damage, this is especially important for the liver and/or if you have been over exposed to metals, compounds in Burdock chelate metals
  • I noticed the first, most obvious effect on my skin within the first week and in my scalp and hair during the following week from eczema and it’s good for acne and psoriasis too
  • modulates blood sugar levels and once my digestive system healed, eliminated cravings and thus poor eating habits
  • many Burdock products including fresh root are available in good Asian markets
  • so easy to grow your own and just as good for your garden’s soil as it is for your gut and works in much the same way, deep in the soil as it does – deep in your gut, providing a suitable environment for good bacteria to thrive

Dr. Axe on Burdock

Source: Burdock Root Detoxes Blood, Lymph System + Skin – Dr. Axe

Speaking of Burdock

a handful of fresh Burdock roots

I am surely a Burdock evangelist. Those plants which are now in their second spring go through a selection process right now, still early spring here in New York City, USA. Burdock is a biennial, so it reaches full maturity at the end of it’s second year of growth. Each healthy plant then begins to send up a mighty flower stalk from the center of the plant. All docks grow from a basal whorl – basically a circular arrangement of leaves  growing close to the soil.

So the selection decision is between whether to harvest the root in the spring or wait until autumn and harvest the seed. Both parts are powerful medicines. If the plant is allowed to continue to grow throughout the summer it’s root will be consumed in order to produce flowers and seed. I generally only need one large Burdock plant to go to seed. From that one plant I will harvest all the seed for next year’s planting as well as enough for two pints of Burdock seed tincture.

Most of the Burdock I grow will be harvested for the roots. These are chopped first with pruning shears and then shredded in a blender with a little water and tinctured 1:2 (wt. of root: vol. of menstruum) at 45% ethanol.

vicious 3 bladed Ninja

I’ll get into the details of why Burdock is one of the most important medicinal herbs in another post. Gut and liver health is what I cherish Burdock for so it’s value will depend upon the user. Many herbalists say it’s a “blood purifier” which upsets many medical pros since technically – no it doesn’t. What does purify blood is the liver and Burdock acts upon the liver to support and enhance it’s proper function. It also supports all the beneficial gut bacteria which are the prime agents of good health.