Balm

 

Herb of the Day

 

BALM

 

(Melissa officinalis)

To grow: Perennial herb. Grows to 2 ft. It’s leaves are heavily veined, light green leaves with a lemony scent. It’s white flowers are unimportant and need to be cut occasionally to keep compact. Spreads rapidly. Grow in rich, moist soil in sun or part shade. Balm is very hardy and you can propagate from seed or root divisions. Self sows.

Uses: Balm is an excellent carminative herb that relieves spasms in the digestive tract and is used in flatulent dyspepsia. The gently sedative oils relieve tension and stress reactions, therefore, acting to lighten depression. It has a tonic effect on the circulatory system and heart, thus lowering blood pressure. It can be used in feverish conditions such as flu.

Parts used: Dried aerial parts or fresh in season. Pick the leaves two or three times a year between early summer and early fall. Cut off the young shoots when they are approximately 12 in long. They should be dried in the shade at a temperature not more than 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Infusion: Pour a cup of boiling water onto 2-3 teaspoons of the dried herb or 4-6 fresh leaves and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes, well covered. Drink a cup in the morning and the evening or when needed.

Tincture: Take 2-6 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Herbal Witches Cleansing Bottle Spell

Herbal Witches Cleansing Bottle Spell

To make an herbal cleansing bottle, pour a layer of sand in a large clear bottle.  Add layers of dried herbs, one at a time: first rosemary; then lemon peel, sage, cedar,  black peppercorns, lavender, dill, bay leaf, and rowan.

When the bottle is full, focus cleansing protective energy into the herbs and sand, and see a golden light radiating from the bottle.

Visualize the herbs driving away negative influences.

Cork and seal the bottle with white wax.

Using a permanent marker, draw the Algiz rune on one side of the bottle, and on the  other side draw a pentagram.

Set the bottle near your front or back door, and every six months, uncap, pour herbs out into the woods or your compost heap, and thoroughly wash and dry the bottle before filling it with a new round of herbs.

Tools Necessary for Herbalism

Tools Necessary for Herbalism

 
The first step in herbalism is to gather the tools you will need, and that is the main point of this first message. I have found the following useful and in many cases vital to learn and practice the use of herbs.

1) A Good mortar and Pestile, one of stone or metal is
prefered. If wood is used you will need two, one for
inedibles and one for edibles – make sure they do not
look identical, as you do not want to accidentally
poison anyone!!!
2) Containers. Although you can buy dried herbs over the
counter in many places these days, do not store them
in the plastic bags they come in, as these are usually
neither reuseable nor perfectly airtight. Rubbermaid
style plastic containers are good, but expensive. I
have used glass coffee and spice jars/bottles to good
effect, as well as some medicine bottles. The more you
recycle the better ecologically, just make sure they
have been thoroughly washed and dried before placing
anything inside them.
3) Labels. This is vital! None of us in this day and age
can possibly recognize each herb in its various forms
simply by sight. Always label your containers as you
fill them, and if possible date them when they were
filled so you don’t keep spoiled stock on the shelf.
4) Tea Ball. A good metal teaball of the single cup
size can be very useful in the longrun when your are
experimenting, and when you are making single person
doses of teas and tonics.
5) CheeseCloth : Useful for straining a partially liquid
mixture and occasionnally for the making of sachets.
6) A Good sized teakettle. Preferably one that will hold
at least a quart of water.
7) A Good teapot for simmering mixtures. I use one from
a chinese import store that has done me well.
8) A good cutting board and a SHARP cutting knife for just
herbal work.
9) A notebook of some sort to record the information in
as you go, both successes and failures. Always record
anything new you try that may or may not work, and
also and research information you get from various
sources (like this echo!)
10) An eyedropper.
11) White linen-style bandages. Some ace bandages are also
useful in the long run.
12) A metal brazier of some sort, or a metal container
that can withstand heavy useage and heat from within
or without, useful for several things including the
making of your own incenses.
13) Reference sources. Shortly you should see a list of
books that I have read from in the past that I
consider useful, build from this as a starting point
to others and to your teachers help.

Thats it to start, you’ll pick the rest up as you go. Take your time studying, take lots of notes, compare your sources and your own personal results on each herb and on herbal mixtures of any kind.

CAUTIONS ABOUT HERBAL MEDICINE

CAUTIONS ABOUT HERBAL MEDICINE

by Camilla Cracchiolo

There is nothing about herbs that automatically makes them non-toxic just
because they are natural. Ever hear of deadly nightshade or poisonous mushrooms?
They are drugs, like other drugs and should be approached with the same caution.

This means, for example, that pregnant women should be as careful about
medicinal herbs as they are about conventional medicines. Some medicinal herbs
are clearly linked to birth defects. People on certain medications, like anti-
coagulants or psychiatric drugs, can have serious problems from interactions
between the herb and the medicine they’re taking. In the US, herb labels do not
list information about side effects, dangers and contraindications on the label
(which I think they should). Many physicians are not well informed about herbs,
and so you cannot always rely on your doctor to know about potential problems.
And if you have or suspect you have a serious illness, it is very important to
be under a doctor’s care. Self diagnosis is not always accurate and self
treatment doesn’t always work.

I believe it is vital for any person who wishes to try herbs to be very well
read before attempting them. I strongly recommend The Honest Herbal by Varro
Tyler to anyone who is considering or using herbal medicines. It is the one
herb book that I have ever found that relies solely on scientific studies
instead of anecdotes and which provides references. Tyler himself has
impressive credentials, being a tenured professor of pharmacognosy (the branch
of pharmacy that deals with herbal medicine) in the school of pharmacy at Purdue
University. The ISBN # is 1-56024-287-6 and it is published by the Haworth
Press, 10 Alice Street, Binghamton NY 13904-1580. It is in print, costs about
$20 and I got mine through a regular bookstore which special ordered it for me.

I personally regard herbal medicine as useful primarily in two situations:
* when a basically healthy person uses an herbal compound for a short, self
limiting condition such as a cold or the flu, where over-the-counter remedies
would normally be appropriate.

AND
* in the case of serious illness, where no effective standard treatment exists
and where there is some evidence from the scientific literature that a
particular herbal compound may help.

An example of this would be the use of silymarin (an extract from milk thistle)
in the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis. In this kind of situation, I
regard it as extremely important that the person be under the close supervision
of a physician well versed in the disease in question and who has reviewed the
available studies on the herb to be used.

Herbal medicine has some very big problems. The most important is probably that
herbs often have not been subjected to thorough testing. Even when an herb has
many studies published about it, almost always the studies are on animals; human
studies are quite unusual. Studies to determine whether the compound can cause
birth defects are vanishingly rare, as are studies to determine whether the
compound can cause cancer. Relying on traditional folklore is not much help;
very obvious or dramatic adverse effects may be caught this way, but it doesn’t
tell us much about either long term effects or problems caused in only a small
percentage of people.

Another major problem is that the amount of pharmacologically active ingredient
available varies widely from plant to plant, so accurately regulating dosage is
difficult. The pharmacologically active ingredient may also occur in conjunction
with other toxic compounds. Examples of toxic agents often found in herbs
include pyrrolizadine alkaloids (very toxic to the liver and cause both benign
and malignant liver tumors); coumarins (which decrease the ability of the blood
to clot); and allergens. The latter can be quite important to people who are
allergic to ragweed; some herbs in the ragweed family (chamomile and yarrow are
examples) can cause severe allergic reactions in these folks.) Most companies
do not list the source of their herbs or how they were grown. Pesticide
contamination is a possibility and heavy metal contamination of some herbs has
been reported in the scientific literature.

Because of the problems mentioned above, I believe it is often better to rely on
an extracted and standardized compound (conventional drugs) when possible.
However, some of the active ingredients of herbs cannot be found in this form.

Yet another problem is with herb labeling. Very few herbal medicines marketed
in the US have both the Latin name of the herb and an expiration date marked on
the bottle. Often, this is deliberate: fraud is rampant among companies
marketing herbs. One brand that does have good labeling is Nature’s Way.
Alternatively, if you live in a city with a large Chinese, Japanese or Korean
population, you can try the herb sellers in that district. I’ve personally
found the herb sellers in Chinatown here in L.A. to be very honest and
knowledgeable (although language is often a problem, alas. Gotta learn to speak
Chinese one of these days.) 🙂

If you decide, after your research, to try herbal medicines, you may wish to
consult a trained herbalist. Unfortunately, in the US anyone can hang out a
shingle and call themselves an herbalist. Lots of these people have no idea what
they’re doing. I have found practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine to be
the best trained. I don’t accept the model that traditional Chinese
practitioners use to explain the effects of herbs (yin/yang, hot/cold, damp/dry,
etc.). I also have problems with the amount of unsupported anecdotal info mixed
in with scientific studies. But traditional Chinese doctors treat herbs with a
lot of respect and caution. They are well up on the side effects and
counterindications.

And finally, very few herb books contain dosage information. I have a lot of
problems with Michael Tierra’s herb books. I don’t accept the medical models he
endorses (traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda). I also don’t like the
fact that Tierra doesn’t distinguish between scientifically validated
information and folklore. But Tierra’s books are among the very few herbal
medicine books that discuss dosage. Just making up a weak tea is usually not
enough to get a pharmacologically effective dose. Tierra is the author of The
Way Of Herbs and Planetary Herbology.

Warning: Tierra’s books should be used as supplemental sources only and never as
your primary source of information on herbs. I have spotted several places
where he has left out important information on toxicity.

Herb of the Day for April 11th is Black Cohosh

Herb of the Day

 
Black Cohosh
Botanical: Cimicifuga racemosa (NUTT.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculaceae

Synonyms—Black Snake Root. Rattle Root. Squaw Root.
Bugbane.
Part Used—Root.


Habitat—A native of North America, where it grows freely in shady woods in Canada and the United States. It is called Black Snake Root to distinguish it from the Common Snake Root (Aristolochia serpentaria).

Description—The seeds are sent annually to Europe, and should be sown as soon as the season will permit. It flowers in June or early in July, but does not perfect seed in England, though it thrives well in moist shady borders and is perfectly hardy. It is a tall, herbaceous plant, with feathery racemes of white blossoms, 1 to 3 feet long, which being slender, droop gracefully. The fruits are dry.

The plant produces a stout, blackish rhizome (creeping underground stem), cylindrical, hard and knotty, bearing the remains of numerous stout ascending branches. It is collected in the autumn after the fruit is formed and the leaves have died down, then cut into pieces and dried. It has only a faint, disagreeable odor, but a bitter and acrid taste.

The straight, stout, dark brown roots which are given off from the under surface of the rhizome are bluntly quadrangular and furrowed. In the dried drug, they are brittle, broken off usually quite close to the rhizome. In transverse section, they show several wedge-shaped bundles of porous, whitish wood. A similar section of the rhizome shows a large dark-colored, horny pith, surrounded by a ring of numerous pale wedges of wood, alternately with dark rays, outside which is a thin, dark, horny bark.

Constituents—The chief constituent of Cimicifuga root is the amorphous resinous substance known as Cimicifugin, or Macrotin, of which it contains about 18 per cent but the bitter taste is due to a crystalline principle named Racemosin. The drug also contains two resins, together with fat, wax starch, gum, sugar and an astringent substance.

Medicinal Action and Uses—Astringent, emmenagogue, diuretic, alternative, expectorant. The root of this plant is much used in America in many disorders, and is supposed to be an antidote against poison and the bite of the rattlesnake. The fresh root, dug in October, is used to make a tincture.

In small doses, it is useful in children’s diarrhea.

In the paroxysms of consumption, it gives relief by allaying the cough, reducing the rapidity of the pulse and inducing perspiration. In whooping-cough, it proves very effective.

The infusion and decoction have been given with success in rheumatism.

In infantile disorders, it is given in the form of syrup. It is said to be a specific in St. Vitus’ Dance of children. Overdoses produce nausea and vomiting Preparations—Fluid extract, U.S.P., 15 to 30 drops. Fluid extract, B.P., 5 to 30 drops. Tincture, U.S.P., 1 drachm. Tincture, B.P., 15 to 60 drops. Cimicifugin, 1 to 6 grains. Powdered extract, U.S.P., 4 grains.

Attunement

Before choosing a tonic for yourself or a loved one, allow yourself to attune to the needs of the recipient. First, choose a tonic that most suits the  symptom.

Is the symptom acute or chronic and recurring? Acute symptoms need quick-acting, bitter, sedating, or cooling tonics. Chronic, recurring symptoms require warming and nurturing herbs. Roots and barks often have nurturing qualities. Leaves and flowers are cooling and can reduce the vitality of one with chronic, symptoms if used without building roots and soothing barks. Plan a tonic with long-term results for long-term or recurring problems. Stimulating herbs and spices may be used sparingly to allow the system to accept their warmth. Long-term and heavy detoxification is not recommended for chronic disease.

Choose herbs that support the personality and awareness of the recipient. It is normal to have emotional manifestations when the body’s chemistry is not in balance. If the individual is displaying anger, choose herbs that will not overstimulate or heat up their system, such as spearmint or chamomile. Do not choose a heating root like ginseng in the combination. If the individual is weepy, choose herbs that promote diuresis. When the kidneys flush they will move out excess fluids and metabolic wastes. Use the tonic long enough to achieve the desired effect. Longer duration is only acceptable for longevity tonics recommended by an experienced practitioner. If someone tells you “it’s natural, it can’t hurt you,” run home and make a tension-reliever tea. You probably know more about herbs and have been blessed with greater common sense.

Become acquainted with as many herbs as you can grow organically or obtain locally. It is better to be well-acquainted with a few herbs than to know little about many. When in doubt, use local compresses, external applications, and aromasignatures before ingesting a questionable tonic.

Hearsay and what works for your neighbor is not the safest way to choose a tonic. We wouldn’t think of sharing a prescription drug. Make sure you use tonics as a good and not a drug. Each individual has a body that knows how to heal itself. Give yourself that chance as you enjoy the rapport you will experience from growing organic herbs and cooking a tonic as an elixir for radiate health.