Search Results : alder

Jun 052012
 

This monograph was previously published by Plant Healer Magazine

River Medicine: Alder’s Transformation of Lymph, Blood, and The Human Ecology

by Kiva Rose

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”

– Norman MacLean

Common Names: Alder, Mountain Alder, Canyon Alder, Red Alder, River Alder, Thinleaf Alder etc.,

Botanical Name: Alnus spp. specifically the A. oblongifolia and A. incana that grow in my local area, other species commonly used in medicine include A. rubra and A. serrulata

Botanical Family: Betulaceae

My affection for this elegant and common tree is second to none. One of the key species in wetland areas on the canyon and mountain Southwest recovering from overgrazing, its curved branches shade the waterways all through the Gila bioregion I call home. I cannot imagine my home or practice without the silver- barked grace of the Alders that intermingle with the Wild Roses and Coyote Willow all along the canyon walls and rocky sandbars of the San Francisco River. Of our local Canyon Alder, A. oblongifolia, naturalist and tree lover Donald Peattie writes:

“Like almost all of the other Alders it loves a rushing stream to cool its roots, and the head of the cool canyons whre the shadows lie long. But this species, which thrusts farther south in the desert states tha any other Alder (going right over the Border into Mexico), is especially delightful when you come upon it after a long trip across the burning desert and a long climb through the arid lower slopes of mountains like those around Tucson. As slim as young Birches, as cool as broad Beeshes, as tall, sometimes 60 or even 80 feet high, the Alders form delicious groves, wit hthe tingling of the streams forever making music.”

Indeed, the complex knotwork of the Alders’ silver roots thrust into the sweet rushing water of the mountains rivers makes a song of which there is no match in any forest I have yet wander. I can think of almost nothing as sweet as walking by the swollen river during the monsoon season when the canyon is lush and green and the Alder trees curve out from the banks and over the water, creating a verdant and shaded tunnel. The sweet and delicate spice scent of the trees mingles with the richer fragrance of Narrowleaf Cottonwoods and provides an intoxicating experience.

Habitat & Ecology:

Widespread and abundant throughout much of the temperate world, Alder is even considered weedy in many moister climates. In truth, it is a pioneer species with nitrogen fixing roots that nourishes and improves previously disturbed or depleted soils. Here in the Southwest, its appearance almost always signifies recovering wetland habitat and is a sight I always welcome. The nitrogen it provides helps to feed the other species that follow it in the riparian forest succession. Overall, Alder seems to prefer riverside or swampy habitat where it usually grows in great intertwined thickets. Our local Alder, Alnus oblongifolia, is something of an exception to this, growing into colonies of medium to large sized individual trees alongside rivers and streams. They are a fairly short- lived genus, with the average lifespan being approximately 100 years, but grow rapidly and provide shade, soil nutrients and forage for wildlife, including a number of butterfly species.

Identification & Botanical Description:

Alder trees vary in stature from small shrubs to large trees, growing as tall as 120 feet tall. Their bark is usually smooth with darker lenticels as well as some furrows in older trees, usually from scarring. The outer bark tends toward brownish-red in color but may also be gray or silver in color with red to rust colored inner bark. Donald Peattie remarks of Alnus rubra:

“The bark is the loveliest feature of the tree. It is, in youth, a soft and grayish white, quite as pleasing as any Aspen’s or Beech’s bark… And the very rainy or foggy climate of this Alder’s range induces long lines of dark green moss to grow, especially on the north and west. The resultant mottling of colors is exquisitely subtle and harmonious. One could not ask for a lovelier sylvan presence than this…. Lumbermen prefer to call this the Red Alder – a most misleading name to the student of the field, for not Alder has so white a bark. But scratch the bark with your penknife and you will find that inside it is a rich red.”

Alders are almost always deciduous and their serrated, straight-veined leaves are simple and alternate. Those unfamiliar with the genus may easily mistake an Alnus for its close cousin Betula (Birch). While there are other, more dependable ways ways of definitively identifying the tree (see the information below on differentiating flowers), one of the easiest features is the scent. Some Betula spp. are virtually scentless, but many have a distinct Wintergreen like scent while Alnus spp. tend to have a sweet, spicy scent. They flower in the form of unisexual (separate male and female) catkins, the male flowers are elongated while the female are cone-like and woody. They greatly resemble Betula species except for the fact that the female flowers of Alder are woody and persist after maturity, bearing much resemblance to the cones of many coniferous trees. After fertilization, these conelets ripen and release tiny winged seed-like nuts.

Parts, Use, & Harvesting

Twigs, leaf buds, leaves and catkins (both male and female) are all medicinal. Some people harvest the bark of the body of the tree, but it seems more astringent and less useful for the primary purposes I discuss in this article. The young twigs are sweeter and more aromatic and less astringent as well as easier to harvest. Different subgenera of Alnus flower at different times, and I tend to harvest twigs and catkins just when they begin to flower. Research your local species for when that time will be in your area. I harvest leaves as needed for poultice use, and when most sticky (usually the first half of July) for infusing into oil or tincturing.

Taste & Impression

Taste of bark tends to vary across Alnus species and habitat to some degree but some level of sweet, astringent, aromatic and slightly bitter seems to be fairly standard. Some species of Alder possess very resinous, sticky leaves with asweet taste where others are more straightforwardly astringent.

Energetics:

Generally mildly cooling and moderately drying.

Vital Actions:

Alterative, lymphatic, blood moving, astringent, anodyne, vulnerary

Used As:

Anti-inflammatory, anti- infective,immunostimulant,

Specific Indications:

Systemic or local microbial infections, chronic or acute. Hypoimmunity with swollen lymph glands, poor digestion of fats and proteins and slow healing wounds/injuries.

Lore & Story

Our Canyon Alder (Alnus oblongifolia) has beautiful silver bark with an underlying skin of blood red revealed by the scratching of bear claws (who are inordinately fond of this tree). It lives right on the river bank with its roots dangling in a silver web in and just above the water,. And indeed the Alder is a bear medicine. In a literal sense, the bears love this tree — they climb it, mark it and nibble on it. On another level, Alder (and bears) belongs to the water element, to the deep within where primal transformation takes place. This tree has always spoken to me of the balance of fire and water, of rebirth and change. My partner Jesse Wolf Hardin wrote eloquently of Alder’s mythological and spiritual aspects in his novel, The Medicine Bear:

The alder would have felt special to Omen even if she had never learned any of its story, or learned to read by studying its myths. She loved that it had been long known as the King Of The Fairies, that the faces of the Sacred Kings during the Midsummer rituals were painted with the red dye of its inner bark. That the fairies were said to use the Alder catkins to dye their clothes, thereby making themselves invisible to human eyes. That while its wood burned slow, it nevertheless made the best and hottest charcoal, and had once been the choice of medieval warriors for forging their magically imbued swords. That woodsmen would sometimes strike the silvery barked trees with an axe, and then upon seeing the bright red flesh beneath, be reminded of blood and made too sympathetic to continue an assault. For these reasons and more, the alder was considered to embody the power of fire. And because of the way it turned water into steam, it was called the Tree Of Resurrection by Homer. The alder was the botanical Phoenix, Omen had decided… the leaf-feathered firebird of rebirth.

River Medicine: A Therapeutic Overview

Alder is river medicine, a remedy deeply aligned with the flow and transformation of fluids in the waterways of the wetland ecologies it grows within as well as the blood and lymph of the human body. Even in its role as an “anti-microbial” in herbal medicine, its primary action seems to be in supporting the inherent immune ecology rather than as a ruthless bacteria assassin.

Its place in the recovery of damaged wetland habitat also speaks to its relationship with the metabolic processes of our bodies. Just as it heals stripped soil by assisting in the microbial balance, it also supports our innate ecology and microbial balance. Through its work as pioneering colonies on overgrazed or logged waterways, thereby transforming the quality of the water, so too it acts on the body’s ability to transform food into nourishment and supports the eliminatory organs’ role in moving and removing waste.

Alder is a staple of my clinical work and one of my most beloved herbal allies. Its consistent and powerful ability to act as a profound alterative and lymphatic while addressing even the most severe microbial infections makes it truly invaluable to almost any practitioner, and especially those focused on working with locally available and common weedy plants.

The actions discussed here are based on my direct clinical experience. While I certainly learned a great deal about this herb from others (especially Darcy Williamson), any assertion made about Alder’s properties stem directly from my clinical experience with the plant and not from hearsay, literature or extrapolation.

Alterative & Lymphatic: Directing the Flow & Strengthening the Inner Ecology

“This agent combines both alterative and tonic astringent properties. It removes waste products, improves the tone of mucous structures and increases the secretory action of the glands of these structures. At the same time it prevents the flow of an excessive quantity of mucus into the stomach, and stimulates the flow of gastric juice and aids the digestion. It cures various forms of ulcerations in the mouth, or in the gastro-intestinal canal. It is advised in rhus poisoning. It has accomplished satisfactory cures in pustular and eczematous disease of the skin.” – Finley Ellingwood

Having a range of actions extending from alterative to lymphatic to pain reliever/blood mover to astringent to powerful anti-bacterial agent, there’s a reason this tree has been considered an overall tonic by many indigenous tribes. When it comes down it though, the medicine is all about the transformation and nourishment of the body’s vital fluids, whether through lymph, blood, bile, digestive fluids, urine etc It’s not a yin tonic, it doesn’t add to the fluids, nor does it simply move or contain them; rather, it improves/transforms the quality of the fluids. I believe it has something in common with Redroot (Ceanothus spp.) in this regard but with broader application. It teams up very well with Oregon Grape Root for constipation (or constipation rotating with diarrhea) with poor protein/fat digestion and accompanying skin disorders. This is usually a pattern of sluggish liver and deficient kidneys that cause the body to fall into in overall sluggish state where the fluids are NOT being transformed and waste is not being removed properly from the body. Alder and Oregon Grape Root will help. If there’s significant adrenal involvement, add some Nettles to the picture. Tommie Bass said:

“If you got any kind of skin condition like eczema or scale, the [alder] tea will help your body heal itself. It cleanses the liver and you know, the liver controls everything else.”

This same pattern of sluggishness leading to inflammation and buildup of waste products also has a tendency to result in chronic infections in the body. The tissues get boggy and soft and can’t move wastes out of themselves any more. Time for some Alder! Often Spanish Needles (Bidens spp) is a nice combo here, especially for chronic infections of the mucus membranes. I want to talk a bit more about Alder’s very efficient ability to effect the lymphatic system as well as other systems that enhance elimination. I expect it is this strong alterative capacity that makes it so effective against infections as well. I’ve found that a small amount of Alder tincture to be a powerful yet gentle way to move sluggish lymph indicated by swollen glands, slow healing wounds, chronic sore throat and other typical symptoms. It also has a remarkably quick action on all kinds of skin conditions, from PMS related outbreaks to scaly patches and red rashes. It works especially well with Dandelion for any hot, inflamed skin condition. Despite the fact that I work closely with several other well known Alterative/Lymphatic herbs such as Violet, Mullein, Burdock and Cleavers I find myself consistently choosing Alder for most situations, especially when I need something to get things moving very quickly. I am of the opinion that it often works even quicker than Redroot (Ceonothus spp) and that they make a superb pair for severe lymphatic congestion.

“This much neglected, but very important, remedy is a valuable agent in scrofulosis, especially in those cases marked by glandular enlargements and suppuration. Prof. Scudder speaks of it as one of the most valuable of our indigenous remedies, and points to its use in “superficial diseases of the skin and mucous membranes, taking the form of eczema or pustular eruption.” Administered internally and applied locally in these conditions, we may expect from alnus the best of results. Impetigo, prurigo, herpes, and scorbutus, are diseases in which alnus will be of great utility…. The happiest results are obtained from its use in successive crops of boils.” – King’s American Dispensatory

I have also seen protracted durations of flu/cold with immune sluggishness and swollen glands clear up in a matter of a few days with persistent doses of Alder, usually accompanied by a warming circulatory stimulant like Ginger or Monarda, with or without the addition of the immune modulating Elderberry. Sources which directly list Alnus species as a glandular or lymphatic remedy include Lyle, Boericke (homeopathic), Ellingwood, King’s American Dispensatory, and is also inferred by Cook and Felter. TJ Lyle said that:

“The bark is a mildly stimulating and gently astringing tonic alterative, influencing mainly the cutaneous and renal secretions, glands and lymphatics; and is therefore valuable in scrofula, glandular swellings, skin diseases and mercurial cachexia. It is also valuable in chronic diarrhoea, sore mouth, sore throat, especially when arising from some impurity in the blood. In the treatment of dyspepsia it influences the flow of gastric juice and invigorates the appetite. Its action is excellent on the mucous membrane in catarrh of the stomach or bowels. Acting as it does on the circulation it is valuable in rheumatism, and in the treatment of syphilis and in chronic and acute inflammation of the stomach and bowels and in cases of hemorrhages. It is a gentle stimulant of the kidneys and absorbents. ”

and John Scudder stated:

“It is an agent that has not been much employed by the majority of the profession, and yet those who have used it consider it one of our most efficient alterative agents.”

And he specifically recommends it for scrofula with glandular enlargement. Alder is historically associated with the treatment of scrofula and syphilis, both diseases that deeply affect and eventually derange the lymphatic system. Alder was considered by many of the older herbalists to be a very effective treatment for the these diseases as well as for glandular swellings and disorder in general. Many more general references to this kind of treatment can also be found in various ethnobotanical texts. Both the ethnobotanical literature and my personal conversations with indigenous people of the American West indicate its popularity when treating almost any acute viral affliction, including not only cold and flu but also childhood eruptive diseases and TB. While the term immunostimulant can be nebulous at best when it comes to experiential work with the human body, Alder has several more obvious actions that allow us to see its effect on the immune system. Most notably is the effect on lymphatic stagnation, which is often obvious and quick where there’s swollen and/or painful glands. It also appears to increase non-specific resistance to infection of many kinds, including bacterial, fungal and viral. It does not, however, seem to elicit any negative reaction in those with autoimmune disorders and I have used it frequently to clear up infections in clients with Lupus, Type II Diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Anti-Infective: Balancing Microbial Proliferation

Occasionally other herbalists will look at me as if I’m quite mad when I mention my frequent use of Alder, especially for microbial infections. However, my experience with this plant is nothing new and many of the uses are well recorded in ethnobotany and older herbal/medical literature from North America and Europe, especially those relating to lymphatic stagnation and pain.

An herb so widely applicable to microbial infections will inevitably provoke comparisons to Echinacea. I certainly don’t find the two plants analogous based on their tastes and overall profile but I do use Alder in many situations where other would choose Echinacea. If Alder can effectively be used in some of these situations it would create less pressure in the market for wildcrafted Echinacea. Certainly there’s an organic market for Echinacea, but Alder is an incredibly widespread plant and could provide cheap (and often free), accessible medicine for many people.

My experience is that Alder tends to work best for microbial (including gram negative and positive bacteria and many fungi and viruses) infections of the gut, gums/mouth, urinary apparatus, vagina, skin and systemic infections and less well for those of the respiratory tract. However, given its lymphatic, immune enhancing and other actions it is well suited to many respiratory formulae when combined with more directly respiratory anti- microbial herbs such as Elecampane, Cottonwood and Osha.

I have repeatedly seen cases of staph (including several confirmed cases of MRSA) infection manifesting as repeated outbreaks of boils clear up with the consistent use of Alder tincture. It works similarly on cellulitis and even on cases of sepsis when treated quickly and aggressively enough. Vaginal and urinary tract infections also respond very favorably to Alder, and I have seen it clear up even several year long and seemingly intractable combined Vaginal/UTI type situations.

Alder appears to act both topically and internally on microbial infections, and local application of leaf poultice, salve or infused honey is often enough to clear up a mild infection. Dealing with more serious or systemic infections however, it is best to use the plant internally as well. Specifically, I use the recently dried twigs, cones and catkins in a 1:5 tincture made with 50% alcohol. Frequency and dosage in systemic infections is critical and for an average sized adult, I usually recommend 1/2-2/4 ml every 3 hours for a progressing, acute infection.

In the treatment of infections, I find that Alder works even more efficiently and rapidly when combined with a diffusive, circulatory stimulating herb such as Monarda. Formulating the herb in this way speeds its impact on the body and seems to add to overall effect on the infection.

Anti-Inflammatory: Cooling, Tonifying and Soothing

Alder can act as an anti-inflammatory both internally and externally and is excellent for relieving acute inflammation from microbial infection, waste product buildup from poor metabolism and even seems to initiate an overall cooling action in many cases of acute hepatitis. Combined with its blood moving action, Alder is ideal in many cases of excess heat with pain. Alnus spp., like their Betula relatives, contain salicin, a constituent that acts as an anti-inflammatory in the human body. I have been unable to track down solid research citing the amount of salicin found in Alnus bark, but its presence seems worth mentioning in this monograph, as it likely has some bearing on the overall anti-inflammatory and anodyne effects of the herb.

Anodyne: Remediating Pain

Alder can provide significant pain relief, both externally and internally. It seems specifically suited for head/tooth/gum pain when used internally and general topical pain relief. It is especially ideal for the headache and radiating facial pain of toothaches. Not only does the Alder help with the pain, but it also directly addresses any occurrence of infection and inflammation. The bark and leaf of this remarkable tree are nearly always present in my pain liniment and salve formulations and I find that the addition of Alder to these blends significantly improves their ability to lessen swelling and pain in both chronic and acute injuries. I find that it blends especially well with resinous Populus spp., as well as Solidago spp., and Artemisia spp., in the treatment of injured or strained muscles.

Drawing Agent: Poultice Plant Extraordinaire

I often use Alder leaves in place of where many would reach for Plantain leaves when treating venomous stings and bites as well as simple wounds, splinters and scrapes. This began simply because Plantain isn’t very common where I live while Alder grows all along the rivers, streams and seeps with leaves aplenty. It works well to alleviate pain, lessen inflammation, draw out venom or splinters, stop or prevent infections and I have even seen it address festering sores that were refusing to heal even with the standard antibiotic and steroid treatment. It combines especially well with Peach leaf/twig when treating inflamed insect bites/stings where it is unclear whether there is a histamine reaction or bacterial infection or a bit of both. Applying a poultice or compress of both herbs covers both bases, with Peach working to allay excessive histamine and Alder addressing infection and overall inflammation.

Vulnerary: Wound Healing, Injury Soothing, Burn Cooling & Pain Relieving

Alder has a place in almost every salve recipe I use. Its overall healing effects make it broadly useful for almost any abrasion, wound, bruise or musco-skeletal injury. This in combination with its complete lack of toxicity makes it a great salve to have on hand for little ones, including babies. Baths, compresses or liniment made of the twigs and leaves are all effective for treating muscular and joint pain. Indigenous tribes such as the Mohegans used it in this and Culpeper recommended similar treatment. In my practice I’ve found Alder to be an invaluable addition to my pain salves and liniments. It’s not an analogue for the similarly useful Birch, but complements it very nicely in formulae and can provide a reasonable substitute in recipes calling for Birch. It’s my impression and experience that Alder tends to treat surface inflammation most effectively when used alone and works well with other herbs that help to drive it deeper, especially with warming counterirritants such as Arnica, Goldenrod and Cottonwood. It’s also excellent when combined with pain relieving herbs with an affinity for nerve pain such as St. John’s Wort and Vervain.

Case Studies

1. Confirmed MRSA with boils – 28 year old woman who works as an RN presenting with reoccurring sores and boils, diagnosed as MRSA. Previously treated by primary care doctor with 3 rounds of undisclosed antibiotics which gave mild temporary relief but each time the boils/sores would reappear within days after antibiotics were completed. Client also has mild Type II Diabetes following standard American diet and a history of poor healing wounds. Glands in neck found to be swollen and mildly tender to the touch. Treatment consisted of a tincture formula made with 3 parts Alnus oblongifolia (freshly dried twigs, catkins and cones, 1:5, 50%) and 1 part Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia (fresh flowering tops, 1:2, 95%), 1/2 ml every 3-4 hours. Boils/sores resolved completely within 1 week, formula was continued for another week after that. 6 week followup indicated no return of symptoms, as did 1 year followup.

2. Lymphatic stagnation with hypoimmunity – 5 year old girl with extremely swollen glands, too sore to touch and so swollen she was unable to turn her head without crying from the pain. Other complaints included fatigue, listlessness, inability to sleep from glandular discomfort and frequent influenza onset as well as slow-healing wounds and injuries. Extensive examination and testing by primary care doctor, ER doctors and oncologists were inconclusive. Multiple rounds of antibiotics and steroids were given over a period of several months with no perceivable results. Treatment was a tincture formula of 1 part Elderberry (Sambucus neomexicana, dried berries, 1:5 40%), 1 part Alnus oblongifolia (freshly dried twigs, catkins and cones, 1:5, 50%) and 1/4 part Ginger root (fresh rhizome, 1:2, 95%), 1/3 ml 4x/day. Glandular swelling and soreness resolved entirely within 1.5 weeks, with no reoccurrence at 10 month followup. Vulnerability to viral onset was at least temporarily abated, and wounds were healing more normally at the 10 month followup.

3. Tooth/Gum Infection with acute pain – 54 year old male with extensive dental issues, including advanced periodontal disease and several severely infected areas in the gums where teeth were rotting and needed to be extracted. Due to financial limitations and unavailability of oral surgeon, client came to me for help with pain relief. Treatment was a tincture formula of 3 parts Alnus oblongifolia (freshly dried twigs, catkins and cones, 1:5, 50%) and 1 part Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia (fresh flowering tops, 1:2, 95%), 1/2 ml every 3-4 hours. Pain abated by 50% within 24 hours, all swelling and 85% of total pain relieved within one week. Dropped dosage to 1 ml 2x/day at one week as maintenance dose until able to see surgeon. Pain, infection and swelling kept at bay until the teeth were extracted a month later. Surgeon noted no active infection or acute inflammation, only prolonged decay and previous tissue damage.

4. Insect bites with infection – 32 year old female was bitten 6 times on right hip while in bed by unidentified insect, likely a spider. Client ignored bites for 4 days until each bite was a purple-red mark the size of a half dollar and rapidly widening. Bites were hard and swollen, itching and painful enough that client was unable to lay on the side or wear jeans or other restrictive/tight clothing on the area. After examination and noting rapid spreading of inflammation, I told the client that if there wasn’t significant improvement within 24 hours of beginning herbal treatment that I would recommend she see her primary care doctor for further treatment. Treatment was a tincture formula of 1 part Alnus oblongifolia (freshly dried twigs, catkins and cones, 1:5, 50%) and 1 part Peach (Prunus persica, fresh leaves, twigs and flowers, 1:2, 40%), 1/2 ml every 3-4 hours internally, and applied externally diluted 1:2 with distilled water as a compress every four hours. Inflammation, pain and itching receded 50% within 24 hours, and cleared entirely within 4 days.

Favored Preparations

Tincture – The preparation I most commonly work with for internal use is the lovely red tincture made from the freshly dried twigs, cones and catkins. It takes a few days to dry and then only requires about 40-50% alcohol for optimal extraction.

Infused Honey – The infused honey made with fresh twigs and/or leaves is also a very effective medicine and quite tasty as well. I use this externally for wounds and burns and internally for immune support, some infections, lymphatic stagnation and even just for the lovely flavor it adds to tea.

Salve – Infused into oil or tallow/lard, Alder makes a wonderful and widely applicable salve. It formulates well but is also quite lovely all on its own.

Liniment – A combination of alcohol tincture, vinegar tincture (optional) and infused oil, Alder liniment is a multi-purpose medicine for muscular pain, inflammation and infections.

Considerations & Contraindications

Alder is one of the safest and most effective herbs I know of, with very few contraindications. While not a food-like medicine, it’s only real side effects seems to have to do with its inherent astringency which, in water-based preparations, can prevent nutrient absorption and will cause nausea, vomiting and other digestive upset when used in large doses or over a long period of time. This consideration does not seem to apply to the tincture which apparently does not sufficiently exact enough tannins into the maceration to be an issue. Fresh Alder is sometimes called an emetic, but this definitely doesn’t seem to apply to fresh plant tincture, and this attribution may be simply due to the astringent nature of fresh bark preparations. Otherwise, simply keep in mind that this is a cooling, drying remedy and use in the appropriate constitutional context and/or formulate it with balancing herbs.

My Ukrainian ancestors also used Alder for slow healing wounds & infections ©2012 Kiva Rose

Resources

William Cook – The Physiomedical Dispensatory

Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd – King’s American Dispensatory

Jesse Wolf Hardin – The Medicine Bear Shawna Hubbarth – Plantain and Alder http:// www.weeddancefarm.com/writings/plantain_alder.htm

Jim McDonald – Correspondence and classes

Daniel Moerman – Native American Ethnobotany

Donald Culross Peattie – A Natural History of Western Trees

Darcy Williamson – Healing Herbs of the Rocky Mountains

Ananda Wilson – Writings and correspondence.

Mar 072012
 

From the new Spring issue of

PLANT HEALER MAGAZINE

The photo is a super closeup of an actual pollen release from river Alders.  Volume II Issue II is 288 full-color pages long, with articles for all ages, levels and types of herbal practitioner and aficionado… by many of herbalism’s leading voices.  To subscribe, resubscribe, submit or advertise, go to:

PlantHealerMagazine.com

Oct 292008
 

In case I needed a little more confirmation of the success of the Alder/Beebalm tincture combo in treating infection, I just got it. I recently gave a bottle to a client with a mild sinus infection and she was quite happy when it cleared up in a few days. She then passed it on to a friend with a tooth infection, which it also cleared up in a few days. She in turn, passed it off to her teenage daughter, who had a persistent sinus infection, and again, all was better in a few days. I’ve also seen it recently clear up some incredibly persistent infections of all sorts, from UTIs to cellulitis to infected wounds to a bad gut infection. I know I’ve gone on (and on) about this before, but it’s rather rare that any works so consistently for infections like this. I don’t know that it will work on everything, I just know that it’s worked on every single infection I’ve tried it on so far. I’ve had far more bacterial infection cases than fungal infections though, and I’m interested to see how it will work there.

I’m mostly using a 50/50 mix of fresh Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa var. menthaefolia) flower with freshly dried Alder (Alnus oblongifolia) twigs, catkins and cones. If there’s a case where constitutional coldness is a big factor, I add in some Yerba Mansa or Garlic. If there’s excessive heat, then maybe Honeysuckle flowers. If the lymph is super congested then I’ll try some Redroot or perhaps a tiny bit of Poke, though Alder is enough of a lymphatic to do an impressive job on its own in many cases. Anyhow, you get the idea – take the basic formula and adjust as needed. And sometimes I just use the Alder or Beebalm by itself depending on the situation (yeast infections and acute UTIs for example, will often respond to Beebalm alone). I am not in any way advocating the approach of “this herb for that disease” in general, but I am suggesting that my experience indicates that these two herbs provide an excellent starting point for both chronic and acute infections.

These two herbs also form 2/3 of the basis of one of my most dependable salve recipes, a simple combo of Beebalm leaves, Alder leaves and Mugwort leaves warm infused into the organic leaf lard. Good stuff, takes and redness and ouch out of most cuts and abrasions. Beebalm tincture or tea is also a GREAT burn treatment (better than Lavender in most cases, really, it is). Alder leaves are a potent treatment for many bites and stings of many venomous insects. Magic plants, these two. I don’t leave home without them.

Ok, I’ve gotten a bit behind on some of my series, but I promise a new Terms of the Trade post very soon!

Jun 042008
 

As you can see from the links at the bottom of this post, I’ve written quite a lot about the wondrous Alder tree and its medicinal multifacetedness. I’ve included the links to my posts below in order to provide a cohesive summary of the Alder’s nature, tendencies and my experiences with it. If you do a search for Alder in the search box on the left, you’ll discover even more posts that include Alder, including my experiences using it with cellulitis, UTIs and other tidbits.

Alder (Alnus spp.) has become one of my top ten herbs, the ones I always have on hand and think of first for any ailment. It’s usefulness is almost overwhelming at times, so as to make one think “when should I NOT use this plant?” 😀

Having a range of actions extending from alterative to lymphatic to pain reliever/blood mover to astringent to powerful anti-bacterial agent, there’s a reason this tree has been considered an overall tonic by many indigenous tribes. When it comes down it though, the medicine is all about the transformation and nourishment of the body’s vital fluids, whether through lymph, blood, bile, digestive fluids, urine etc

It’s not a yin tonic, it doesn’t add to the fluids, nor does it simply move or contain them; rather, it improves/transforms the quality of the fluids. I believe it has something in common with Redroot in this regard but with broader application. At one point I was quite sure that Alder was a cooling herb, but am less sure now. Considering its stimulating effect upon much of the body, I wonder if it’s not closer to neutral.

It teams up very well with Oregon Grape Root for constipation (or constipation rotating with diarrhea) with poor protein/fat digestion and accompanying skin disorders. This is usually a pattern of sluggish liver and deficient kidneys that cause the body to fall into in overall sluggish state where the fluids are NOT being transformed and waste is not being removed properly from the body. Alder and Oregon Grape Root will help. If there’s significant adrenal involvement, add some Nettles to the picture.

This same pattern of sluggishness leading to inflammation and buildup of waste products also has a tendency to result in chronic infections in the body. The tissues get boggy and soft and can’t move wastes out of themselves any more. Time for some Alder! Often Spanish Needles (Bidens spp) is a nice combo here, especially for chronic infections of the mucus membranes.

My current favorite Alder preparation is a lard based salve of fresh Alder leaves and twigs, which Shawna also writes about here. Check out her insights into the profound pain-relieving properties of the tree. I couldn’t agree more! And really, take a look at the first picture up above that shows what happens when the bears and elk get at the tree and then tell me this isn’t a wound and blood remedy!

And of course we mustn’t forget that the Alder is a bear medicine. In a literal sense, the bears love this tree — they climb it, mark it and nibble on it. On another level, Alder (and bears) belongs to the water element, to the deep within where primal transformation takes place.

Related Posts:

Alder: Tree of Transformation & Healing

Alder as Alterative & Lymphatic

Alder Pain Salve

Alder & Headache

Further Notes on Preparation, Efficacy & History of Alder

Feb 242008
 

Headaches are a curious ailment, they can stem from nearly any kind of imbalance or disorder, and their symptoms can vary hugely in consistency, symptoms, length and other factors. I’ve talked about headache differentials previously, and will probably expand even more on them in the future. For now though, I’d like to briefly discuss a rather unusual member of the materia medica for this particular ailment and yes, you guessed it, it’s Alder!

I’ve used it over and over, all different way and it’s been remarkably consistent in its usefulness. It doesn’t work in every case, but what does? I’ve used it in toothache caused headaches, tension headaches, hormonal headaches and blood deficiency headaches. Most recently, I had a five day long headache with stabbing pains in both temples and an ache stretching from behind my eyes all the way to my neck and shoulders. Ugh. It was certainly tension related, and probably somewhat hormonal and it was stubborn as all hell. It would let up during a good neck rub, it would even fade for a few hours thanks to my lovely friends, Lavender and Sage, and I could sleep if I took enough Blisswort(Skullcap). I eventually resorted to NSAIDS (that would be Ibuprofen and related pills), which did very little. I was starting to get grouchy, and a little desperate. It’s hard to write books and emails while your head is splitting open, and even harder to explain the function of the American government to my seven year old (wait, that’s still hard, even without a headache).

Eventually, it occurred to me to try the Alder tincture. 1/3 of a dropper and wow, in ten minutes the headache was gone gone gone. In forty five minutes is was back, I took another 1/3 of a dropper and it left for the night. Not only that but the tension and inflammation in my neck let up, and my neck made the most horrifying sound as I turned my head late yesterday evening, all kinds of crunching and slipping around in there. I felt MUCH better afterwards. And today my head is still happy, though my neck is a bit sore. Alder oil topically seems to be helping.

How does that work, you ask…. I dunno, says the sheepish herbalist. Alder is related to Birch, so there’s probably some salicylates involved, but it works better than Cottonwood or Willow in my experience. Alder is also great at moving energy and cooling inflammation in general (by whatever mechanism). I especially love it because it’s not overly relaxing, and helps my digestion as well (did I already say that it’s very effective for liver headaches, especially combined with Mugwort?). Good stuff, those Alders.

P.S. It’s not a good idea to suppress pain generally. Your pain is usually trying to tell you something, like “take a nap”, or “stop eating that weird rancid canola oil” or “loosen the hell up”. Functioning with suppressed pain can lead to further injury, not a good idea. So be careful, and ask why the pain is happening, before you attempt to get rid of it.

Feb 132008
 

Earlier this last Autumn I made an oil from dried leaves, bark, catkins and twigs of Alder. After reviewing much of the available ethnobotany on this multi-purpose herb I thought it would at least make a nice wound healing salve if not a downright pain relieving one. I also talked to an herbalist from the NW who uses Alder oil extensively in her pain salve, and to another woman in Alaska who uses Alder leaf poultices very successfully in the treatment of her dog’s paw cancer.

So for the last couple months I’ve been using it every chance I got- on Wolf’s fractured toe, on a contusion with popped blood vessels, abundant hard swelling and copious pain, on sore, tight muscles, on general cuts/scratches/wounds and even on a mildly pulled muscle. I have to say it worked great in every situation, speeding healing, reducing swelling and significantly helping with pain. In fact, it worked so well I plan on making it a standard ingredient for all my salves. Studies and traditional use indicate the plant is also powerfully anti-fungal, though I haven’t used it this way yet myself.

As time allows, I will also write some specific case studies for external use of the oil/salve. For now, I will say that specific indications include tension and stuck energy accompanied by acute inflammation and redness. Mixing it with Rose, Cherry or Larrea will further accentuate it’s cooling, tension relieving properties. Combined with Pine, Cottonwood or Goldenrod, it would also be appropriate for slow healing or old injuries.

Yippee, another wonderful use for a truly phenomenal herb!

Dec 282007
 

Several people have written me asking for more information on using Alder as a lymphatic. So I wanted to do two things here, one is to specify the exact preparation I have been using, and secondly to list my original sources that suggested Alder as a lymphatic, as I think the references are rather obscure though I am pleased to note that many of these older sources have become more popular among current herbalists. To read or download most of the valuable old texts referenced in this post or other parts of my blog, check out Henriette’s treasure trove or the amazing collection at Michael Moore’s SWSBM.

First, I use a tincture made of fall or winter gathered dried bark, dried green cones and fresh catkins. I make a 1:5 tincture with fifty percent alcohol. I don’t know if these little details make any difference but I just wanted to offer them as a reference point for others. My tincture is red, brilliant but not as dark as St John’s Wort and more transparent. The tincture smells pleasant, and actually tastes quite good — sweet, moderately astringent and slightly bitter.

Secondly, sources which directly list Alnus species as a glandular or lymphatic remedy include Lyle, Boericke (homeopathic), Ellingwood, King’s American Dispensaotory, and is also inferred by Cook and Felter. There’s probably more, but that’s what I come up with at the moment.

TJ Lyle specifically said that:

“The bark is a mildly stimulating and gently astringing tonic alterative, influencing mainly the cutaneous and renal secretions, glands and lymphatics; and is therefore valuable in scrofula, glandular swellings, skin diseases and mercurial cachexia. It is also valuable in chronic diarrhoea, sore mouth, sore throat, especially when arising from some impurity in the blood. In the treatment of dyspepsia it influences the flow of gastric juice and invigorates the appetite. Its action is excellent on the mucous membrane in catarrh of the stomach or bowels. Acting as it does on the circulation it is valuable in rheumatism, and in the treatment of syphilis and in chronic and acute inflammation of the stomach and bowels and in cases of hemorrhages. It is a gentle stimulant of the kidneys and absorbents. ”

and John Scudder said

“It is an agent that has not been much employed by the majority of the profession, and yet those who have used it consider it one of our most efficient alterative agents.”

And he specifically recommends it for scrofula with glandular enlargement.

Alder is historically associated with the treatment of scrofula and syphilis, both diseases that deeply affect and eventually derange the lymphatic system. Alder was considered by many of the older herbalists to be a very effective treatment for the these diseases as well as for glandular swellings and disorder in general. Many more general references to this kind of treatment can also be found in various ethnobotanical texts.

It’s quite interesting to note that while many plants have multiple disparate uses by various tribes and peoples that the uses of Alder are fairly consistent wherever it was used. And Alder seems to have been used extensively wherever it grew throughout N. America and probably the world.l

The most common ethnobotanical medicine uses of Alder bark, catkins or cones include:

Analgesic: used both internally and externally to ease the pain of childbirth, menstruation, toothache, headache, bodyaches, broken bones, intestinal cramping, pulled muscles, wounds, bruises etc

Astringent: to stop hemorrhaging both internally and externally from wounds, TB, kidney infections etc

Anti-infective agent: internally and externally for nearly any kind of suspected infection, including fungal infections such as thrush and vaginal infections. Modern research has found Alder to be effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus as well as other antibiotic resistant bacteria. The bark and catkins seems to be the most antibacterial parts of the tree.

General Alterative & Tonic: taken to “improve the blood”, reduce swellings, indigestion, clear the skin of eczema, scabby or pustular afflictions, improve food absorption, appetite, and general health, especially in the Spring. Also used to treat jaundice.

Emmenagogue: To bring on menses or labor, to assist in abortion and to help “clean the uterus” out after childbirth.

Diseases such as TB, Scrofula (now thought to be a manifestation of TB) and many venereal disorders and diseases.

Anti-inflammatory: frequently used as eye wash and for rashes, as well as for lowering fevers.

Urinary troubles: this use probably goes under anti-infective but includes using the plant to encourage urination and for “thick” or “milky” urine.

Diaphoretic: Several tribes indicated they used Alder to induce sweating, though there’s little current indication of this action.

Emetic & laxative

Other notable uses of Alder include carving rattles, spoons, plates, bowls, masks and other items, making cradles, cradleboards, snowshoes, various tools as well as being used very widely as a dye ranging from brown to black to red to orange to yellow for baskets, cloth, hair and much more. It’s also a superior wood for making charcoal or smoking meat, and was used as indicator for drinkable water (“if there’s no Alders, don’t drink the water”).

Modern usage by herbalists as well as extensive scientific testing seems to bear out many of these traditional usages, perhaps especially it’s strong antibacterial, anticancer and antifungal properties.

I haven’t yet noted the diaphoretic or emmenagogue effects of the plant, but will be on the lookout for such actions. If anyone else has experience with these aspects of Alder please let me know. I suppose the blood moving (emmenagogue) effects are to be expected from a plant that so excels at relieving pain, and Boericke and Clarke both say that Alder is indicated in amenorrhoea.

What seems most important to note here, is how widely recognized Alder was in the past as a major alterative and an important lymphatic. My recent experience reinforces this and I hope that many of you more adventurous practitioners will give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Dec 092007
 

Alnus spp.
Energetics: cool, dry
Actions: Lymphatic, Alterative, Anti-infective, Astringent, Pain Relieving

I’ve already emphasized Alder’s amazing ability to clear up stubborn infections of many kinds (toothaches, UTIs, vaginal infections etc., especially when used with Bee Balm) in several other posts. Here I want to talk a bit more about Alder’s very efficient ability to effect the lymphatic system as well as other systems that enhance elimination. I expect it is this strong alterative capacity that makes it so effective against infections as well.

I’ve found that small amount of Alder tincture (made from dried bark and cones) to be a powerful yet gentle way to move sluggish lymph indicated by swollen glands, slow healing wounds, chronic sore throat and other typical symptoms. It also has a remarkably quick action on all kinds of skin conditions, from PMS related outbreaks to scaly patches and red rashes. It works especially well with Dandelion for any hot, inflamed skin condition.

I don’t have the slightest conception of the biochemical mechanism here, but I do know from repeated experience that it works very well, even in children. I believe Alder contains some amount of methyl salicylate (as does its very close relative the Birch), which could account to its use for sore joints, headaches and other kinds of pain when used externally or internally.

Despite the fact that I work closely with several other well known Alterative/Lymphatic herbs like Violet, Mullein, Burdock and Cleavers I find myself consistently choosing Alder for most situations, especially when I need something to get things moving very quickly. I am of the opinion that it works even quicker than Redroot (Ceonothus spp) and that they make a superb pair for severe lymphatic congestion.

PS Because of the satellite outage, I’m not able to access all of our Anima and Bear Medicine Herbal accounts, so please be patient with us as we get this figured out. 

Nov 112007
 

I’ve been using Alder (Alnus spp.) tincture quite regularly as a lymphatic, pain reliever, anti-infective and alterative for a while now, and I’ve always been pleased with how gentle it is on the system, surprisingly good for the gut considering the tannin content and even nice tasting. I was unpleasantly surprised then, when I tried using the decoction for an infection. Those tannins really came out in the water-based brew and it was nearly enough to twist my tongue and intestines into one dry, puckered knot. Ugh. It was like black tea on crack, seriously.

So, for long term use, as a lymphatic or anti-infective I’d definitely recommend the tincture, but if you’ve got a bad case of the runs, are hemorrhaging or have a bit of organ prolapse it could be very useful. No wonder the natives used it for internal bleeding, that stuff could stop a cannonball from loosing even the littlest bit of fluid from a body. If you do use it for its astringent properties remember that tannins can inhibit digestive functions and shouldn’t be used in a strong form over an extended period of time. If you want a gentle, long term astringent try Raspberry leaf or Rose petals and save the Alder cones or bark for a more acute need.

On the other hand, Alder decoction mixed with Rose vinegar is just phenomenal on sunburns. And in the Southwest, that’s a very exciting thing to know.

Apr 032007
 


You remember that toothache I talked about a few posts ago? Well, despite repeated attempts with various herbs including Oregon Grape Root, Usnea, Redroot, Balsamroot and Echinacea, I was unable to shake the infection that seemed to just roam throughout my mouth. The herbs managed to keep the pain and swelling in check, but never completely resolved the problem. Strange, as I’ve treated other toothaches and infections with these same formulas many times before. Nevertheless, it provided a valuable opportunity for exploring new herbs for infection and pain.

With no dentist nearby, I sat down to puzzle about what other local herbs might work. I do have a supply of Goldenseal and few other herbs that were applicable to the situation but I was more interested in trying a local herb that I hadn’t yet used in this capacity. Alder, a tree who’s name means “Healing Woman” by some indigenous tribes, came to mind as a strong antibacterial alterative with an affinity for the lymph system. Since swollen lymph nodes had been part of the toothache’s symptoms I figured this made the Alder especially appropriate. I had a tincture I’d made early this Winter of dried bark, catkins and cones (fresh bark can be emetic). While Alder is often called another simple astringent, some herbalists (including Idaho herbalist Darcy Williamson) has found it to be effective against Staph, Pseudomonas and other bacteria. It’s also a great allergy preventative, skin healer, general cooling alterative and lymphatic. And it IS astringent, though not as much as say, Dock or Alum root.

So I gave it a shot, taking two dropperfulls 3-4 times a day. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t decrease the small but steady ache to nothing in three hours, all swelling gone in a day and gum sensitivity disappeared in two days. Seeing how Alder is such a common riparian tree (a far more common plant than Oregon Grape Root) in my canyon home I’m very excited to utilize it more often for various kinds of infection.

It also seems to reduce headache pain, and definitely has a strong effect on the GI system. It tends to be quite cooling and drying and it’s emphasis appears to be on moving and balancing fluids through the blood, lymph and immune system. I’ve found it to work quite well with Sage. Dr. William Cook said:

The bark is the medicinal part, and is readily acted on by water. It is mildly astringent, and slowly stimulating to the cutaneous and renal secretions. It is good as an alterant in the treatment of scrofula, scrofulous and cachectic ulcers. The profession have by no means given to the article the attention it deserves; but have sent abroad for sarsaparilla, when the despised alder at their door is probably quite as valuable, especially when combined with suitable stimulants. A strong decoction of the article is a useful wash in scrofulous and venereal ulcers, and in chronic ophthalmia; and the same has been used as a popular drink in sub-acute diarrhea, and will be found a good injection in leucorrhea..


I’ve also used the leaves and bark infused into oil with very nice results as a general salve, especially when used for skin disorders like contact dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis as well mouth sores and ulcers. Nice combined with Rose, Sage or Elderflower/leaf.

A member of the Birch family, our Canyon Alder (Alnus oblongifolia) has beautiful silver bark with an underlying skin of blood red revealed by the scratching of bear claws and elk antlers (who are both quite fond of this tree). It lives right on the river bank with its roots dangling in a silver web in and just above the water. This tree has always spoken to me of the balance of fire and water, of rebirth and change. My partner Jesse Wolf Hardin wrote eloquently of Alder’s mythological and spiritual aspects in his upcoming novel, The Medicine Bear:

The alder would have felt special to Omen even if she had never learned any of its story, or learned to read by studying its myths. She loved that it had been long known as the King Of The Fairies, that the faces of the Sacred Kings during the Midsummer rituals were painted with the red dye of its inner bark. That the fairies were said to use the Alder catkins to dye their clothes, thereby making themselves invisible to human eyes. That while its wood burned slow, it nevertheless made the best and hottest charcoal, and had once been the choice of medieval warriors for forging their magically imbued swords. That woodsmen would sometimes strike the silvery barked trees with an axe, and then upon seeing the bright red flesh beneath, be reminded of blood and made too sympathetic to continue an assault. For these reasons and more, the alder was considered to embody the power of fire. And because of the way it turned water into steam, it was called the Tree Of Resurrection by Homer. The alder was the botanical Phoenix, Omen had decided… the leaf-feathered firebird of rebirth.

This is a plant with many facets and faces, and one too little explored in modern American herbalism. If anyone else uses Alder medicinally or otherwise I’d love to hear about your experiences. Expect more posts on this remarkable tree in the future.

Resources:
Healing Plants of the Rocky Mountains by Darcy Williamson
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rocky Mountains and Neighboring Territories by Terry Willard
Sacred Plant Medicine by Stephen Buhner

Sep 272017
 

Announcing our Latest Book for Herbalists:

PLANT HEALER COMPENDIUM 2017

Herbal Information & Inspiration Gleaned From The Year’s Plant Healer Magazines

–Authored by 30 Leading Herbalist Practitioners & Vsionaries–

445 pages – Softbound b&w –  $45 – Order now from the Bookstore page at:

www.PlantHealer.org

“Plant Healer is the only publication I’ve seen in my long career that captures the wild diversity of herbalism in North America.”  –Paul Bergner

“Plant Healer is the most attractive journal I have ever had the pleasure to view.”  –David Winston

The Plant Healer Compendium is a sampling of Plant Healer Magazine’s 2017 articles, 445 info-packed b&w pages by 30 authors, selected from the year’s over 1200 color digital pages tailored to the herbalist student and experienced practitioner.  They represent over 20 columns and departments, covering everything from history and plant lore to materia medica, medicine making, and clinical skills.

Previously, each Fall we would print the entire four issues in a giant 2 volume set, and sold them only to existing magazine subscriber members.  But lately, the issues have grown so large and printing costs so high, that it is no longer affordable.  Instead, every year now we will be releasing a special Compendium book featuring an exciting sampling of full-length Plant Healer articles.  And these Compendiums will be sold to the general public as well as to our regular subscribers, providing a taste of what our readers so enjoy, in a softcover volume that you can hold in  your hands.

Our treasured Plant Healer authors are among the deepest thinking teachers, healers, conservationists, growers, and artists, and visionaries of our time.  Sections on herbal traditions contribute to our evolving story, radical herbalism and diversity address issues vital to the survival of folk herbalism, and topics like constitutions, actions, cultivation, and botany, keep the project rooted in practical tools and usable techniques.  Here is an opportunity to be entertained and enriched, while learning more about healing not only our bodies and spirits, but our culture and the land.

The Plant Healer Compendium is a sampling of Plant Healer Magazine’s 2017 articles, 445 info-packed b&w pages by 30 authors, selected from the year’s over 1200 color digital pages tailored to the herbalist student and experienced practitioner.  They represent over 20 columns and departments, covering everything from history and plant lore to materia medica, medicine making, and clinical skills.

Previously, each Fall we would print the entire four issues in a giant 2 volume set, and sold them only to existing magazine subscriber members.  But lately, the issues have grown so large and printing costs so high, that it is no longer affordable.  Instead, every year now we will be releasing a special Compendium book featuring an exciting sampling of full-length Plant Healer articles.  And these Compendiums will be sold to the general public as well as to our regular subscribers, providing a taste of what our readers so enjoy, in a softcover volume that you can hold in  your hands.

A full table of contents follows below this announcement poster that we hope you will share:

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Jesse Wolf Hardin: HerbKin: Roles, Labels,, & What We Really Do

Mathew Wood: The History, Growth, & Resurgence of Herbalism

Paul Bergner: Questioning Our Teachers

Jesse Wolf Hardin: The Portal

Guido Masé: Stories of The Silvani: Plant Spirits of The Dolomites

Dara Saville: Saxifrage & Orchid

Marija Helt: Plant & Fungi Friends in The San Juan Mountains

Peter McCoy; The Hunt For Medicinal Mushrooms

Sarah Baldwin: Legal Plants For Enhancing Consciousness

Sarah Anne Lawless; Solanaceae: A Monograph of Nightshade Medicine

Angela Justis: Made by a Child’s Hands: Herbal Gift Giving

Shana Lipner Grover:            Brassicaceae

Phyllis Light: Herbs For Men’s Health

Julie James: Herbs For Abortion & Miscarriage Care

Wendy Hounsel: Cervical Dysplasia & Abnormal Pap Smears

Jim McDonald: Anti-Microbials

Thomas Easley: The Gut – Part II: Addressing The Stress Response

Susun S Weed: Harvesting Sustainably: Parts I-III

Wendy “Butter” Petty: Adapting Recipes For Wild Foods

Ryn Midura: Caffeine Herbs & Alternatives      

Sean Donahue:             Relaxing Tension: Letting Vitality Flow

Shana Lipner Grover:            The Lamiaceae Family

Virginia Adi: Olfaction For The Herbalist

Angela Justis: Children’s Sleepy-Time Self Care

Katherine MacKinnon: Seed to Seed Cultivation

Matthew Wood:  Treating Kidney Problems:

Shana Lipner Grover: Cactaceae: Gifts of The Desert

Marija Helt: Amanita Muscaria: The Flying Mushroom

Ilana Goldowitz Jimenez: Autumn Crocus, Colchicine & The FDA

Sean Donahue: Hawthorn: The Blessing of a Tree’s Curse

Nick Walker: Liberating Ourselves From The Pathology Paradigm

Phyllis Light: The Pursuit of Happiness & Well-Being

Dave Meesters: Absinthe & Other Botanical Spirits

Natasha Clarke: Locavore Herbalism

Paul Bergner: Going Deeper to Get The Gift

Jim McDonald: Putting Ideas Into Practice

Valerie Camacho  The Radical Possibilities of Kitchen Medicine

w/Carolina Valder:

Jesse Wolf Hardin: An Herbalist’s Code of Honor

Guido Masé: Connecting The Ecologies: The Healing Relationship

Kiva Rose Hardin: Mythopoeia: Flora, Story, & Culture

——————

As this Compendium so well demonstrates, our treasured Plant Healer authors are among the deepest thinking teachers, healers, conservationists, growers, and artists, and visionaries of our time.  Sections on herbal traditions contribute to our evolving story, radical herbalism and diversity address issues vital to the survival of folk herbalism, and topics like constitutions, actions, cultivation, and botany, keep the project rooted in practical tools and usable techniques.  Here is an opportunity to be entertained and enriched, while learning more about healing not only our bodies and spirits, but our culture and the land.

(Please RePost and Share this Link – Thank you!)

Sep 252017
 

Autumn has surely arrived here in our Canyon, the Snakeweed blooming all golden-glinted and honey-scented across the mesa, while the Epazote slowly but surely turns from lime green to shades of crimson and scarlet as the nights grow cooler. While I would like to devote all my attention to the final harvest, from acorns to elderberries, there is much work to be done to ready for the oncoming Winter and the birth of Ælfyn. Wolf, Rhiannon, and I spent 12 hours this past weekend struggling to update our dying solar battery setup for the kitchen cabin. Hours that needed to be devoted to the Good Medicine Confluence, Plant Healer Magazine, medicine making, and baby preparations, but had to be diverted in order to keep our tiny household going.

Likewise, the coming weekend will be given to installing a small wood stove into our bedroom so that Ælfyn will be toasty warm when born into our coldest season come December. Being nearly 30 weeks pregnant doesn’t lend itself well to hauling cast iron stoves around, but it has been beyond difficult to obtain any local help when we live so far from the village in such a remote area. Nevertheless, I’m in full nesting mode, and I WILL have everything suitably arranged by the time of the birth!

In spite of all this busy-ness, I was able to spend part of last evening gathering the aromatic inflorescences of one of my favorite herbs, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), from our weedy little garden. A common ornamental here in New Mexico, this native plant of the steppes of Central Asia is easily grown even with our short growing season, semi-arid woodland ecology, and dramatic temperature shifts. It also happens to be one of Wolf’s favorite flowers, so while we grow very few domestic cultivars, this is one given priority.

Additionally, it’s a very useful medicinal herb, sharing much in common with the true Salvias of the American Southwest, but being much hardier and easier to grow in a variety of environments than most of our low elevation aromatic Sages. The flowers are a sweet, resinous combination of Sage and Lavender, lending themselves to all manner of edible and medicinal combinations. While the leaves are both bitter and aromatic (and make a fantastic base for many warming bitter formulae), the flowers lack almost any bitterness and I love to grind them with salt or sugar as an abundant flavoring source. Russian Sage and various Firs (Abies and Pseudotsuga spp.) combine exceptionally well in many dishes, but Rosemary, Juniper berries, and Epazote are other well-suited elements to keep in mind.

However, this particular batch of flowers is intended for a seasonal muscle warming salve, and so will be infused into oil with Alder leaves, Snakeweed (aromatic Gutierrezia spp.) flowers, Goldenrod flowering tops, and Piñon resin. This sweet smelling salve is a wonderful treatment for the cold, achy joints and muscles that often plague folks through the Winter.

Given our short growing season, especially this year with a very late hard frost, it’s amazing that I’m able to harvest much of anything besides our tenacious wild plants, but it looks like there will be just enough time to gather up the Borage flowers that are beginning to bloom in the garden. The Comfrey hasn’t had enough time to flower this year, but the leaves will work just fine anyhow. The Lovage, though it struggled mightily through our dry Spring, is flourishing once again, and I might even be able to harvest a few seeds from it before the growing season is fully over.

There’s nothing like the bittersweet beauty of Autumn to remind me of my lifelong love of heartbreaking ballads. From my deep Appalachian roots to the once wild moors of Scotland, where so many of my ancestors hailed from, I can feel the dirt, darkness, and dissonance of my origins… and being the tree hollow loving creature that I am, I can only see that as a good thing. In the drone and shimmer of the banjo, I feel at home, and feel the pull of both my African and European forbearers. And so I share with you a favorite traditional ballad, Yarrow, as interpreted by Red Tail Ring, with Laurel Premo’s beautiful clawhammer style banjo playing.

 

 

Aug 282017
 

The 250 pages-long Fall issue of Plant Healer Magazine quarterly will release the first Monday of September. If you are not already subscribed, you can be sure of receiving a copy by subscribing now at:

www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Ingredients of particular importance to herbalists, are not really herbs at all, but fungi. From adaptogenic, hepato-protective, cancer protective Reishi mushrooms, to perception and life changing entheogens like Psilocybin, they are truly an amazing pharmacopia!

Marija Helt is one of our most promising Good Medicine Confluence teachers in recent years, and is the author of our newest Plant Healer Magazine quarterly column, entitled:

“Fungi & Friends”

Now along with periodic mushroom articles by Peter McCoy and others, you will also find in Plant Healer’s pages an extensive essay on the topic each week with Marija. She will be exploring the history, mythology, components, and cultural/spiritual aspects of those mushrooms she has the most years of personal experience with, along with some of the special medicinal plants that share ecological and psychological habitats.

Marija’s first column will be about journeys and experiments with a most fabled red dotted fungal spirit:

“Amanita Muscaria: The Flying Mushroom”

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Other Fall Plant Healer articles to look forward to include:

Jesse Wolf Hardin: Healthy & Unhealthy Recognition in Herbalism

Paul Bergner: Placebo & The Interpretation of Clinical Experience – a very important piece to help herbalists understand this phenomenom

Guido Masé: Bringing Macro-Microcosm Awareness Into The Healing Relationship – healing the ecotones where self and earth overlap

Valerie Camacho with Carolina Valder: The Radical Possibilities of Kitchen Medicine 

Peter Babulka: A Historical Overview of Hungarian Traditional Medicine

Shana Lipner Grover: The Botany of Lamiaceae – Distinguishing characteristics of Rosemary, Sage, and more

Dara Saville: Rivers, Restoration, & Hope for Medicinal Plants – Part II: Emerging Plant Communities

Nick Walker: Autism & Liberating Ourselves From The Pathology Paradigm

Sean Donahue: Herbalism & Deep Ecology

Craig Burrows: The Fluorescent Magic of Common Herbs & Other Plants

Jim McDonald: An Energetic Approach to Urinary Tract Infections

Susun Weed: Drying Herbs: Part I

Angela Justis: Having Fun With Infusion Recipes For Kids

Kenneth Proefrock: the visionary herbalist interviewed

Kiva Rose Hardin: Mythopoeia: Flora, Story & Culture

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Subscribe at:

www.PlantHealerMagazine.com


(Share & RePost this Enchantments Blog Freely)

May 102017
 

—————————————————————————

Announcing My Pregnancy!

by Kiva Rose

Spring in the Canyon means that the Banana Yuccas have been opening their waxy white blooms to be pollinated by increasingly rare Yucca Moths while the Mountain Nettles, Urtica gracilenta, grow in a lush profusion beneath the Cottonwoods down by the river. It also means that our favorite Phoebe has retuned to nest just outside the kitchen window, and that her chicks hatched just a few mornings ago. The Wild Hops, Humulus lupulus var. neomexicanus, are growing what seems like inches every day, coiling themselves in a mad spiral up the trunks of Willows and Alders to reach toward sunlight and New Mexico’s surreally blue sky.

With all this quickening has come another change that I never thought I would be announcing.

Seventeen years ago, I was entirely occupied by a difficult and life changing pregnancy. In August of 2000, I gave birth to Rhiannon, who altered my life forever and grew into the otherworldly creature I now consider one of the best friends I could ever have. Given the pain and complications of my first pregnancy, and that I am so completely delighted by my Goblin Girl, it’s been many years since I’d given thought to having any further children. Thus, it was probably more of a surprise to me than anyone else when I realized I really would like another wee beastie, regardless of how completely irrational this decision might be in the face of our tremendous work load, the insanity of an overpopulated world, and the ever more frightening political climate. Wolf and I must be equally insane because we were equally excited about this life changing prospect.

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And so it is, that in my 36th year, I’m pregnant with another tiny one, who is likely to be born sometime in the cold mountain moons of November or December. Despite a hefty dose of morning (noon and night) sickness, we’ve been working on plans to welcome this seedling into our lives. Cabin renovations abound, and there are tiny leather booties hanging from the rafters in wait for the even tinier feet that will fill them. I’m impatient to name the very small person we currently refer to as the Field Pea, and spend too much time daydreaming about botanically-inspired names while trying to sort out just how many more fairy tale tomes I can fit in our tiny cabins!

Rhiannon and I are restocking the jars of dried Nettles, Oatstraw, and Raspberry leaf for nourishing infusions and tisanes. Peach blossom elixir abounds in every corner to take the edge off the morning (noon and night) sickness, and as my gardens turn green with the season, I begin to plan a new bed of herbs just right for little ones. Chamomile, Catnip, Fennel, and Lemon Balm are unfurling just as I turn my mind to gentle tea blends and baby medicines. Wolf spends much of his non-existent spare time coming up with ways to make my pregnancy more comfortable for me and thinking of how to create the perfect fairy tale haven for his growing family. A very large box arrived just the other day full of herbs, mineral tonics, seaweed, and other nourishing treats I’ve been much too tired and sick feeling to track down myself, with Wolf’s fingerprints alllll over it, complete with beautiful blooming teas and a glass teapot to cheer me up when the nausea and exhaustion seem overwhelming.

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As each week passes, I’m more and more caught up in the delight that little ones often bring with them. I never imagined catching the baby fever again, but here I am, pondering bib styles and how to raise a multi-lingual Field Pea. Let the adventures begin!

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Call this minuscule divergent soul a “Field Pea”, like we did in the beginning stages, or a “critter” or “wee beastie” as we do – since assuming semblance to the form of the oddball Plant Healer parents –but tis already getting some attention. Since word of a possible pregnancy leaked out – even before we were certain – a number of you sweet folks have written asking if you could buy or make something for the baby.  It’s touching, to sense how much you care about our lives and not just what we offer, which is another reason why we usually call it “tribe” instead of just “community.”

Making use here of something special from you, feels really good to us, being able to look at it and know who it is from, and before long being able to tell our lil’ critter who it is from.  It’s also true that the expense of setting up for child is a bit overwhelming, and gifts for the baby are also hugely helpful in this practical way. To participate, check out our Baby Registry Page.

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We obviously aren’t into polyester blues for boys and pinks for girls thing, so the practical and aesthetic things we wish for our offspring work for either sex. Clothes are a bit of an issue, but then again, we’ve been shipped a traditional Russian peasant gown, and (recalling how both sexes of wee ones wore long tunics during more interesting historical times than now), we figure to see it on a precocious 1 year-old even if it’s a boy.

Once past the scary part of rolling with another baby – 16 years after having our daughter Rhiannon – we moved on to: Enjoying talking about picking names. Planning with our caretaker James how to turn the storage room attached to our cabin into a bedroom and kid’s room. Figuring out what kind of slings would work best for caring the child around. Imagining what kinds of botanical designs could be featured on them.

We’ve gotten a kick out of researching and finding a rugged offroad stroller to handle our wilderness lifestyle. Picturing a bambina hopping in a bouncer or giggling in a swing.  Wondering if there are handmade embroidered bibs with mythic or herbal themes. Deciding how much room we have in our tiny cabin for a compact crib, and googling for an earthy foldup bed and changing station.  Discovering a retro wood bassinet that will blend in with out old rustic abode and antiquey furnishings.  Funny how even choosing a diaper pail has fed the hormone infused parenting instincts.

Handmade gifts are precious, from toys to garments, with the possibility of natural materials, themes like Southwestern, Herbal, Botanical, Outlaw, Middle Ages, Mountains and Rivers, Elven…

And the practical stuff is great, from a car seat to a handcrafted old-timey rocking horse, basically anything that makes this a little easier for us and sweeter for the critter!

To make this easier and avoid duplications, we set up a Baby Gifts Registry with direct links to many of the items we picked out and hope to acquire.  If you have something else in mind you would like to offer, give us a write about it: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org

To Participate, just click here on:

Kiva’s Baby Gifts Registry

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(Please Share This)

Dec 212016
 

On this longest night of the year here in the wild of New Mexico, I wanted to share my writings on La Guadalupe’s Torch, my much beloved Ocotillo, whose medicine has provided me so much light over the years. I hope that each of you are warm and loved, and that the darkness brings you both rest and regeneration. – Kiva

La Guadalupe’s Torch:

Mythos, Medicine, and Ecology of Ocotillo

(First published in Plant Healer Magazine)

by Kiva Rose

Botanical Name: Fouquieria splendens

Botanical Family: Fouquieriaceae

Common Names: Ocotillo, Coachwhip, Candlewood, Apache Whipping Stick, Vine Cactus, Wolf’s Candles,

Actions: Expectorant, lymphatic, pelvic decongestant, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory

Taste: Sour, sweet, bitter

Energetics: Mildly warm and moistening

A Candle In The Desert: The Healing Heart of Ocotillo

The desert has a raw poetry that peels back the visitor’s skin, exposing shimmering bone and raw sinew until, finally, there is nothing else. Veins of turquoise and chrysocolla thread through stone and stun me into silence. My hands still smell like Larrea resin and red clay while the mesas, buttes, and crumbling redrock spires surround me and remind me what home is.

This place where the mountains and deserts of Arizona and New Mexico meet, where the Ocotillo flowers stand scarlet against the rising moon and Oshá coils its roots down into the stony soil of the Mogollon Rim, is a landscape fallen from a storybook or carved from an ancient myth. While many use the word “barren” when describing or imagining the American Southwest, nothing could be further from the truth. The deserts and forests of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico are actually one of the most biodiverse landscapes in North America.

Even in the Sonoran Desert, set ablaze with wildflowers after a rain, there are few sights as striking as the Ocotillo in flower. Its scarlet blossoms bursting from twelve foot wands adorned with multi-colored thorns and small waxy leaves. Growing on rocky bajadas at the base of mountains jutting out of the wild deserts of the American Southwest and Mexico, La Guadalupe’s Torch is a sign of healing and heart in even the most extreme of landscapes.

The common name of Ocotillo stems from the Náhuatl word ocotl, meaning “torch”, an apt name considering its brilliant flowers and towering stature. Whenever I see this plant in flower, I think of Guadalupe striding through the desert, her torch held high to show the way to the profound medicine found at the heart of this land. Prickly as it may be, the healing power of the Southwest is intense and undeniable.

Appearing to be a haphazard array of thorny, crooked sticks for much of the year, Ocotillo only unfurls its leaves once the rains come. These flame flowered plants are amazingly well adapted to their arid surroundings, and leaf growth can be initiated a scant 24 hours after a rainfall. Their leaves are semi-succulent and waxy.  Their sour-sweet flavor and slightly bitter aftertaste is so intriguing, that when I’m processing the plant’s branches for medicine, I often get distracted eating them.  The plants often grow in colonies, creating compact and thorny forests illuminated by Spring blossoms, and adorned year round with claw-like thorns. Baby Ocotillos are especially beautiful, often possessing nearly iridescent bark and still soft thorns demonstrating a rainbow of violet, purple, blue, green, brown, and black. A number of birds and insects, including several species of hummingbird, are attracted to the sweet nectar of Fouquieria’s blossoms.

Ocotillo is found in the desert, canyon, and foothill regions, generally below 5,000 feet in the deserts of the U.S, but occasionally up to 9,500 feet. In my area, it tends to prefer rocky slopes, and especially favors bajadas. Its range extends from southeastern California to southern Arizona, souther Nevada, New Mexico, western Texas in the US and from Baja California to Chihuahua, Sonora to Coahuila and Nuevo León, south to Durango, Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. I have personally experienced the plant primarily in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, and speak from my experience rooted in those ecosystems.

Blossom, Root, and Thorn: Plant Parts Used

While the bark seems to be the only part of the plant in common use in mainstream American herbalism by Anglos, all parts of the plant have been utilized traditionally and have value as medicine, fiber, and food. In fact, when I have been taught about this plant by local New Mexico and Arizona Hispanics, they have almost invariably referenced the flower rather than the bark. I have also known several Apache grandmothers to prefer the root over any other part, which speaks both to the versatility of the plants and the diversity of cultural traditions and habits. I work with all parts of the plant, including the curved thorn, preferring to integrate all possible facets of the plant and its medicine into my healing work.

Coughs & Colds

The flowers as well as the bark have long been used for treat spasmodic coughs, and while their action is fairly mild, it is consistent and widely applicable. I frequently use an elixir made of flowers, leaf, and bark extracted into honey and alcohol to treat the dry, hacking coughs common in my mountain village each Winter. Since the plant is also a lymphatic decongestant, it’s especially helpful in seasonal colds accompanied by persistent, spasmodic cough and hypoimmunity indicated by swollen glands, chronic sore throat, and the tendency to catch every bug that comes around.

Pelvic Congestion

The bark is best known as a pelvic decongestant, and this indeed where it tends to shine in clinical practice.  Southwest herbalist Michael Moore said of Ocotillo:

“It is useful for those symptoms that arise from pelvic fluid congestion, both lymphatic and veinous…. Most hemorrhoids are helped by Ocotillo, as are cervical varicosities and benign prostate enlargements.”

I have also found it useful in some cases of what is commonly diagnosed as interstitial cystitis, a frequent urge to urinate and accompanying discomfort, but with little actual fluid in the bladder. In the cases where Ocotillo will be most effective, it will be accompanied by at least some of the typical signs of of pelvic congestion, including varicosities, constipation with hemorrhoids, a feeling of fullness in the abdomen and/or groin, and an inability to efficiently digest fats. Along these same lines, local Hispanics sometimes recommend the use of Ocotillo bark in the treatment of bladder infections. It can certainly help alleviate the symptom of feeling unable to urinate even when the bladder is full.

Ocotillo frequently finds its way into my fomulae for prostatitis and similar, and I find that it tends to increase the effectiveness of other commonly recommended herbs for this ailment, especially Nettle root and Saw Palmetto. Again, look for the signs of pelvic congestion common to benign prostate inflammation and enlargement, including a feeling of fullness in the groin and difficulty urinating. Alder bark, another lymphatic native to the Southwest (and beyond), can also combine well with Ocotillo for this purpose.

I have also heard the flower being suggested for delayed menstruation by a Sonoran yerbera, and while I have never used it this way in my own practice, it does make sense that its blood moving actions could stimulate late menses.

Las Manos de la Guadalupe: Woundcare & External Use

The leaves make an excellent poultice for wounds, abrasions, bruises, and contusions by reducing inflammation and pain, while speeding healing and lessening the chance of infection where there is broken skin. The bark and flowers can also be used in the same way, and I make a salve that includes all three parts of the plant for general first aid uses, often in combination with Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), another common plant of the desert southwest. A liniment made from any part of the plant can also be useful in treating chronic injuries that present with a dull, aching pain and refuse to fully heal. In this use, I often like to formulate it with Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and find they often work better together than on their own.

Case Study – Interstitial Cystitis with Pelvic Stagnation

28 year old woman presenting with a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis, including symptoms of burning and stabbing pain as well as intermittent spasms in the urethra and bladder area, as well as frequent feeling of urgency, even when no urine could actually be excreted. No issues of incontinence, and no sign of microbial infection was present upon testing. She said that the pain and discomfort was severe enough that she had trouble remaining focused on her job as a psychologist, and made sexual intercourse uncomfortable to painful.

The client had a history of chronic urinary tract infections during her early 20s, that had been primarily treated with antibiotics. She also suffered from intermittent digestive troubles, chronic body pain, tension headaches, and premenstrual bloating, cramps, and headaches, but the interstitial cystitis was her primary complaint that she wanted addressed during the consultation. Since interstitial cystitis is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, and certainly reflects an issue of systemic inflammation, I find it important to address the metabolic and immune systems in addition to more symptomatic approaches.

Interstitial cystitis often (but not always) accompanies pelvic stagnation, and I’ve found that using general blood moving herbs as well as more specific lymphatics is often an effective initial approach to treating the symptoms of interstitial cystitis.

I first spoke to the client about nutrition, and stressed the important of eliminating any food triggers, and suggested trying an elimination diet to see if gluten may be triggering or exacerbating the condition. She wasn’t interested in pursuing that route at the time, so we proceeded with an herbal approach. I will stress here that it is often impossible to entirely clear the symptoms of IC without incorporating such dietary measures.

I also suggested sitz baths, but the client knew she wouldn’t follow through on them. I also recommended she looked into Cannabis tincture specifically for flareups with severe spasms, but there was no medical marijuana available in her state and she was hesitant to obtain the medicine through non legal means. Therefore, this regimen is strictly internal utilizing widely available herbs.

Blood and Lymph Moving Tincture

This formula is anti-inflammatory, astringent, blood moving, and lymphatic in nature. The Fouquieria, Ceanothus, and Paeonia very specifically act on the pelvic area, increasing blood flow and decreasing overall inflammation and congestion.

1 part Ceanothus greggii

2 parts Fouquieria splendens

1 part Galium aparine

2 parts Stellaria media

2 parts Paeonia brownii

Dosage: 30 ml 4x/day

Immune Decoction

This is a moistening, anti-inflammatory, and immune supporting formula to assist in addressing the foundational causes of the disorder. I often count on mushroom decoctions as the first tier in treatment for most autoimmune disorders.

3 parts Ganoderma spp. (Reishi)

2 parts Inonotus obliquus (Chaga)

1 part Fomitopsis pinicola (Red Belted Polypore)

3 parts Astragalus membranaceus (Astragalus root)

1 part Sambucus nigra (Elderberry)

2 parts Althaea officinalis (Marshmallow root)

Dosage: Standard decoction, simmered for appr. 20 minutes. 1 Cup 3x/day.

At the six week followup, client reported the symptoms being approximately seventy percent better, and was very pleased with the results and increase in quality of living. She opted to continue strictly herbal treatment rather than trying any nutritional approaches. Eight weeks later, she felt she was about eighty five per cent improved and wanted to stay on the same regimen, so I replaced the Galium with the same proportion of Withania somnifera in the tincture formula and had her halve the dose for maintenance.

At last checkin, about a year after the initial consultation, she said she only had occasional flareups, usually associated with increased stress or intake of wine, and otherwise had no symptoms. The client also reported great reduction in all premenstrual symptoms as well as the tension headaches.

Ecological Status, Cultivation, & Harvesting Ethics

Ocotillo is usually abundant in the areas it is native to, and is easily propagated by cutting, but is protected in some states, so take care to know local regulations when harvesting. It’s often best to harvest from private land, or where it’s being dug up anyway for development purposes. If you plan to have a long term alliance with this herb, you may wish to cultivate it from a harvested branch. This is also a great way to be sure the plant continues to thrive and proliferate.

This is a long lived perennial, and adult plants can easily be over a hundred years old, so treat Ocotillo with respect and care when gathering from it. Please note that harvesting branches, flowers, or leaves from the plant in a sensible manner doesn’t harm the plant at all, but be sure to make a clean cut and do the least damage to the surrounding tissue possible. Also remember that this plant, while common in its range, is only native to a small portion of the United States.

Preparations

The medicine of Ocotillo bark tends to be considered best extracted via alcohol, although decoctions are a traditional preparation throughout the American Southwest. The flowers may be prepared as an alcohol tincture, an infused honey, an elixir (alcohol and honey), or as a tart and tasty beverage tea.

Consideration and Contraindications

There is no known toxicity in reasonable amounts as a food or medicine, but due to its blood moving nature, this is not an appropriate herb during pregnancy.

Resources and References

Austin, Daniel – Baboquivari Mountain Plants: Identification, Ecology, and Ethnobotany

Garcia, Cecilia – Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West

Hodgson, Wendy C. – Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert

Moerman, Daniel – Native American Ethnobotany

Moore, Michael – Los Remedios

Moore, Michael – Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West