Search Results : mimulus

Jul 032014
 

St. John’s Wort has long been one of those herbs that I have great respect for and love as medicine, but have used it minimally simply because it’s not plentiful in my bioregion. Native species of Hypericum don’t always seem to contain much in the way of the red purple juice that herbalists so value, and just as importantly, they tend to be too sparse to ethically gather. So instead, I usually buy or trade for a small amount of the tincture and infused oil each year from friends for personal use and otherwise do without. Until now…

Hypericum scouleri

Hypericum scouleri

I was recently on a hike high in the White Mountains of Arizona on the Little Colorado River in a sheltered subalpine canyon where the plants are lush and green, even this time of year when most things are dormant or dying back while waiting for our summer rains. There were so many gorgeous herbs in flower it was actually difficult to focus, I just kept turning in circles to gaze at the Elderflowers and Wild Roses and Aconite and Violets and Horsetail and Owl’s Claws (Hymenoxys hoopesii) and Checker Mallow (Sidalcea neomexicana) and False Solomon’s Seal and Fernleaf Betony (Pedicularis procera) until I was downright dizzy! But then, under a clump of Red Osier Dogwood, there was a huge patch of one of our native medicinal Saint John Worts, Hypericum scouleri, in wild golden bloom spreading back through the woods to the river.

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Like the completely plant obsessed madwoman that I am, I nearly hyperventilated from joy over the unexpected gift of just seeing so much of this somewhat rare herb. Not only that, I could see from the size of the patch and the patches beyond that there was clearly enough to harvest a small amount for medicine. Elka and I immediately knelt down and began carefully picking the flowering tops, accompanied by quite a lot of excited chatter from me. But seriously, people, look at this plant! Is it possible to not be incredibly happy in its presence?

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St John’s Wort is one of those exceedingly well known plants that is so popular that it becomes difficult to describe its properties without being redundant. It’s probably most famous for its use in treating mild to moderate “depression” and for its sometimes problematic interactions with pharmaceuticals because of its effect on liver metabolism. I personally find a depression a problematic terms that tends to be a catchall for anyone who is not currently happy and may or may not also be manic. In other words, another generic psych term that can result from a plethora of roots and requires some critical thinking to best understand what may help and by what mechanism. Anything the normal processes of grief to side effects of hormonal birth control to chronic pain to symptoms of a food intolerance can be diagnosed as depression, and yet, they all need to be addressed differently… so let’s just forget that whole “St John’s Wort is for depression” thing for a minute.

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Hypericum scouleri elixir

 

P1030732St John’s Wort is a fantastic relaxant nervine, and I think it best enhance mood when there’s a component of tension and/or anxiety. Henriette Kress says in her book, Practical Herbs, that it’s most indicated for depression stemming from frustration, and I find that to be very true. This is basically the only kind of depression I’m personally susceptible thus far in my life, so beyond treating clients, I have some experience of my own with St. John’s Wort. I find that the herb taken internally in such a situation is very helpful at not only getting a sense of humor about the situation, but also in helping to find the proper perspective for sorting out whatever is causing the frustration and changing it.

As is common with herbs that are relaxant nervines, Hypericum is also helpful in cases of insomnia, especially if anxiety, gloomy thoughts, or a busy head is preventing sleep in the first place. I also find it useful in preventing and treating night terrors and nightmares, especially in children. Once again, elements of anxiety and tension are the key here.

Externally, SJW liniment can be a lifesaver for crunched back muscles resulting in sciatica, especially when combine with Cottonwood (resinous Populus spp.) buds and Alder (Alnus spp.) bark or leaf. The oil, salve, poultice, or compress is wonderful for healing almost any skin inflammation, and for reducing the swelling, pain, and overall inflammation of many injuries, including pulled muscles, sprained ankles, and can be useful post ACL surgery when combined with Comfrey, Solomon’s Seal, and Mullein.

P1030730Hypericum is also very helpful in all sorts of back pain characterized by a burning pain, including nerve pain, especially pain that is worse with pressure. It is commonly present in a great many general wound salves, pain liniments, and oils for sore muscles. It can be helpful in all of these situations, being rather multipurpose when it comes to hot, burning inflammation. This also applies to topical use in the treatment of herpetic lesions and shingles, especially if used as a preventative (concurrent with internal use) at the first sign of an occurrence, but most effective in this situation if combined with other helpful antivirals and supportive herbs.

When St. John’s Wort is truly indicated, it tends to work notably in a rapid manner, whether internally or externally. It’s not one of those herbs you have to wait to six weeks to see results from. If it doesn’t show any results from the first few times of taking it, try something else.

Preparations:

I prefer infused oil made with the fresh flowers, and tincture or elixir from the fresh or freshly dried flowering tops. Tisanes and infusions can be made with the dried plant. It is sometimes said that the dried plant is ineffective but I have not found this to be the case as long as I am using high quality, recently dried herb.

Formulae:

Internal: Endless combinations come to mind, but for alleviating anxiety, tension, and general gloominess, particularly if accompanied by exhaustion, weakness, and gut inflammation, I’m especially fond of a formula made up of 5 parts Hypericum, 3 parts Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp.) flowering tops, 2 parts Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) flowering tops, and 1 part Rose (especially Wild Roses, but any aromatic species will do) in honey and alcohol to make an elixir. Take as needed, .5 ml 3x/day.

For general sadness and apathy, it combines well with a more moving herb, such as Lavender or Tulsi to lift the spirits and help clear stuck depression or grief. I especially like a formula of 3 parts Albizzia flower or bark, 2 parts Hypericum, and 1 part Tulsi as a tincture or elixir, .5 ml up to 3x/day or smaller doses as needed.

It also makes a wonderful infusion, in equal parts with the flowering tops of Evening Primrose, for chronic coughs, especially that lingering cough after a long struggle with bronchitis in those who are already worn down by the virus and then the secondary infection and having difficulty recovering on the respiratory front.

External: For healing damaged ligaments I like an oil or liniment of 4 parts Solomon’s Seal root, 3 parts Saint John’s Wort, 2 parts Comfrey leaf/root, 2 parts Cottonwood bud, and 1 part Mullein leaf and root. This can also work well for almost any damaged joint that is suffering slow healing, aching pain, and inflammation.

Considerations:

Please note that this article speaks only to preparations made from the whole plant, NOT hypericin or any other isolated component.

Hypericum effects liver metabolism and caution should be utilized when using large amounts of St. John’s Wort concurrently with other medications, including birth control pills, and especially anti-depressants and blood thinners. High doses of Hypericum can also cause photosensitivity in some sensitive individuals.

Also, some people seem to feel absolutely nothing from St. John’s Wort, and some people are practically knocked out by it, so proceed slowly when dosing. I once saw a very perky young woman take a couple dropperfuls of the tincture at the HerbFolk Gathering, and ten minutes later proceed to stagger out of the Healer’s Market to take an impromptu nap on the nearest patch of shady grass. Such a strong reaction seems uncommon, but seems more likely to happen to vata types, especially if they’re anxious or wound up.

Ethical Concerns:

While H. perforatum is an invasive weed in parts of the United States, here in NM and AZ our native species such as H. scouleri are far from weedy and tend to prefer relatively untouched forests high in the mountains, almost always by a water source. They are not necessarily abundant or flourishing, given the habitat degradation, drought, and severe fires of late. If you harvest here, PLEASE (as in do so or I will hunt you down and personally harm you) do so with due consideration for the plant and a great deal of common sense.

Commercial Sources:

Dried Hypericum perforatum can be purchased from most herb suppliers, including Mountain Rose Herbs, fresh flowers can be purchased from select suppliers, including Pacific Botanicals and Zack Woods Herb Farm. Many suppliers also carry the infused oil or tincture, including Fawn Lily Botanicals.

Resources & References:

Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine: A Clinical Materia Medica, 120 Herbs in Western Use by Jeremy Ross
Hedgerow Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal
The Gift of Healing Herbs by Robin Rose Bennett
Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific & Traditional Approach by Merrily A. Kuhn and David Winston
Warding Off Evil in the 21st Century: St John’s Wort As Xenosensory Activator? by Jonathan Treasure
Herbal Pharmacokinetics: A Pratitioner’s Update With Reference to St John’s Wort Herb Drug Interactions by Jonathan Treasure

All images ©2014 Kiva Rose

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Apr 042012
 

The bone forest of Arizona Sycamore overhead

That girl, she was a Red Rock woman.
Soft as pine needles and strong as the stone
-Terri Windling, Red Rock

Cane Cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior)

Many mornings, when I wake up gazing at the brilliant lapis of the New Mexico sky, and the dusky rose of the canyon’s cliffs, I entirely forget how I managed live anywhere else. The volcanic rock hums underneath my bare feet and the wild winds tangle my hair with errant bits of Juniper bark and Evergreen Oak leaves. There’s no doubt that not everyone feels at home in this arid, stark environment where the grasses dance golden for a good part of the year, and most anything you touch is likely to have thorns or claws attached to it. It’s hard to explain to people unaccustomed to or uncalled by the Southwest, how the spines sing to me, how the beauty is made more intense by the pain it sometimes causes me. For some, comfort or familiarity may seem to be the hallmark of home, but the untamed, and sometimes prickly, spirit of the Gila is one of the ways I knew it as a necessary part of me from the first moment I set foot here.

Now, whenever I travel away from my mountains and deserts, it’s as if the song of the world grows muted, perhaps overridden by the dirge my heart plays in grief as I move further from what feels very much like the center of the world for me. I wont pretend to be objective about this, I know how my heart feels about the land here, attached and interwoven in the most visceral manner until I my body hurts with the lack of it when I leave. In the same way my tongue and fingers know the feel of the words I’m looking for when I tell a story, or write about my beloved plants, so do my feet and heart know my home. By feel, sinew and soul deep.

Golden Smoke (Corydalis aurea)

I count the seasons here by which flowers are blooming, by the species of birds singing, by the animal tracks next to the river. Calendars mean so little when you reckon time by the cycles of a particular place. And so I realize it’s Spring when the Mountain Candytuft (Noccaea fendleri) begins to bloom under the Ponderosas, when the Golden Smoke (Corydalis aurea) unfurls in the dry hills and desert washes, when the Poor-Wills echo off the canyon walls with their nightly calls, and by the way the light slants across the cliffs each morning.

Mexican Gold Poppy (Eschscholzia california ssp. mexicana)

On the northern borders of the Chihuahuan Desert, the Mexican Gold Poppies (Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana) explode into a brilliant dawn blanket across the rocky slopes. It’s a yearly ritual for my family to travel down from our Saliz Mountains on the Continental Divide to harvest woven baskets full of this wild medicine. There’s a tendency to simplify this herb down to its ability to encourage sleep. And it can do that very well, being one of the most adaptable and diverse relaxant nervines I know of. Its effects are broader than this one use though, and I deeply value its mild but thorough ability to blunt all sorts of pain while easing the irritability and restlessness that so often accompanies pain. It’s also an effective anti-microbial when used externally. It makes a colorful and useful poultice when fresh, and also works well as a wash or compress when dried, or can be applied as a diluted alcohol tincture.

Mexican Gold Poppy (Eschscholzia california ssp. mexicana)

Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii)

When I was recently wandering through the white bone forest of Sycamores (Platanus wrightii) along the Gila River, I happened upon a single Desert Buckthorn (a local Redroot species, Ceanothus greggii), in exuberant bloom, the lilac and cream blossoms fragrant with a scent I associate so specifically with here. With these wild lands I love. The Buckthorn is an important medicine in my practice, it’s blood red roots serving as a strong alterative and lymphatic, that I especially value when treating many chronic hepatic disorders. The wintergreen flavor of the roots and bark also make it one of Rhiannon and I’s favorite plants for chewing on simply for enjoyment. Nearby, the Cleavers (Galium aparine) grows lush in the shady spots beneath the trees. While people don’t often think of Cleavers actually growing in the desert, it surely does, along with an impressive array of other medicinal plants.

Desert Buckthorn, (Ceanothus greggii)

White Stem Evening Primrose (Oenothera albicaulis)

Just beyond the Desert Buckbrush, I climbed the box canyon’s wall to gather the twigs of Rabbit Thorn (Lycium pallidum), where purplish buds were just beginning to form in preparation for their delicately veined flowers so soon to come. Beneath the brush, rocks veined with copper and quartz glitter in the noonday light. Rambling through the Gila, it’s so easy for what we consider to be mundane reality to quickly shift into myth-time, the space in which we can better experience the more-than-human world, and our own magical place in the larger ecology. The medicine and stories of place rising up, undeniable, from the plants, animals, the very stones themselves. There’s a damn good reason New Mexico is called the land of enchantment, and it’s not just to bring in more tourist dollars. There is a palpable intensity to the mountains, grasslands, deserts, wetlands, and woodlands here that sets the human spirit afire.

Seep Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus)

Back down on the banks of the Gila river, the first golden blossoms of Monkeyflowers (Mimulus spp.) glow, and the Evening Primroses (Oenothera spp.) turn from white to pink under the desert sun. Both are gentle, nourishing medicines, and favored allies of mine. Their ability to calm anxiety and uplift the heart, speaks of their sweet but tenacious natures. Cottonwoods, Los Alamos, line the water, their aromatic buds just beginning to unfurl, and their spicy sweet scent travels on the breeze. At home in the wood stove warmer, several quarts of the sticky buds are infusing into grapeseed and olive oil in preparation for the annual medicine making of salves and liniments created to relieve aches and pains, chest/sinus congestion, and to heal wounds.

Standing with both feet in the shallows of the river, I look around at the healing found here in this patch of land many would call barren, and am awed by the power of the desert. Not just by its wealth of medicinal plants, but also by the myriad kinds of medicine that shimmer in the vital force, the anima, that ripples through river and its sands, through the wildflowers and trees, up out of the glittering bedrock and into the red rockface that rises up around me. To be a medicine woman here, is to recognize and learn the mystery and beauty of it all, to delve into the medicine that thrums through my body every time I open my eyes in the morning  to the sky and stones, ravens and ringtails, spines and flowers. Spring comes, and it sings in me.

Jan 252011
 

Yes, it is January here in the mountains of New Mexico.

Yes, it does get to less than -10F out there some nights.

And why yes, that is a lovely new vivid green leaf from a picture I took just yesterday.

Specifically, it is the leaf of a Wax Currant (Ribes cereum) growing down by the river among the Canyon Walnuts and Grape vines. While it will still be quite some time before they flower and fruit, they are well known for their persistence in leafing out even during some of our coldest weather. I greatly appreciate this tenacity, especially as we get to the part of Winter where I feel an increasing longing for green growing plants.

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Another persistent plant that manages to grow throughout the Winter, and sometimes even flower, is one of our native vervains. Dakota Vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida) is a sprawling, colorful plant that grows in gravel, creeps from rock crevices and sometimes flowers in great cheerful clumps by the river. There’s no telling where it will pop up from year to year, but it is consistently abundant and beautiful. This particular plant is growing from a pile of rocks where the arroyo runs into the San Francisco River. I find its vibrantly pink and purple tinted leaves especially uplifting and frequently go sit near it during my recent afternoon walks. This Vervain is also one of my favorite medicinal plant and has relaxant nervine properties similar to other Verbena species. However, Glandularia bipinnatifida lacks the bitterness typical of most Vervain and seems to specifically excel as a nervous system tonic or trophorestorative.

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Pointleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens) is a common evergreen shrub at middle elevations in the Gila bioregion. It reddish stems and brilliant green leaves are always a welcome haven even in our snowiest, coldest months. And of course, it’s another favorite medicine. For those of you less familiar with Southwestern herbs, Manzanita has very similar properties to a more widely known medicinal plant usually known as Uva Ursi or Bearberry (Arctstaphylos uva ursi) and is particularly useful where there is atony of the uterus and urinary tract. It’s often just known as a plant for UTIs but this is a vast oversimplification of the far wider usefulness of this herb. I am especially inclined to work with Manzanita (or Uva Ursi) when there are chronic reproductive or urinary tract infection, often accompanied by discharge, a dragging sensation in the pelvic region and overall tissue atonicity.

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The Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) leaves tend to be mostly died back this time of year, but some of the yellow and green leaves still persist, usually in great floppy masses that make for rather cuddly looking Mullein piles. Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while and have read my previous ode (otherwise known as a monograph) to Mullein, know how fond I am of this common and valuable medicine, whether roots, leaves or flowers.

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American Speedwell (Veronica americana) thrives in our river, usually on sandbars, where the bank meets the water or in this case, in rock crevices where small boulders jut from the river surface. The petiolate leaves are especially sweet and juicy tasting this time of year, perfect for adding the zest of wild greens to any meal. They combine well with Watercress and Dandelion greens, both of which are sometimes found this time of year but seem to be in short supply this particular time around. Speedwell is also a traditional medicine, although not much used in US herbalism as far as I can tell except by those either well versed in traditional European herbalism or indigenous medicine. It’s a favorite alterative of mine for where there is lymphatic stagnation, “bad skin” (including eczema in many cases) and frontal, nauseating headaches. It combines well (once again) with Watercress for all sorts of hepatitis (meaning any kind of liver inflammation), especially where the urine is dark and scant.

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And of course, we mustn’t forget the Nettles! Our local species, the annual Mountain Nettle (Urtica gracilenta) is a common and vibrant presence throughout our Canyon winters. No matter how many times it freezes back, it reemerges in brilliant shades of green as soon as we have a few warm days in a row. I have worked with (and written about) Nettles at length, but continue to be yet more amazed by them as each year goes by. My favorite medicine are almost always also foods, and this goes triple for Nettles, which end up in so many teas, infusions, soups, dips, tincture formulas and other recipes that it’s hard to keep track of. Whether root, fruit or leaf, this plant is a medicine powerhouse and one recognize the world over for its healing and nutritive powers. And in the middle of Winter, with snow and dead leaves all around, its glittering greeness is a medicine all its own. One that never fails to put a smile on my face, even on the chilliest, darkest days.

As the light grows longer and stronger, and humans grow restless in their cozy dens, the plants begin to reemerge, to spring in small but decisive bursts from sun-warmed and snow-wet ground. I know that for most of us, there are still several long months to wait before the season begins to truly shift. In the meantime, there is still time to rest and to watch the quiet persistence of green medicine through evergreens, seedlings and the tenacious leaves that grow back, time after time, from the roots.

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Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) leaves in the riverbank sand.

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All photos ©2011 Kiva Rose

Mar 072009
 

Definition

In the most general sense, a nervine can be considered any herb which has a pronounced (and generally positive) effect upon the nervous system. They are often currently thought of simply as calmatives or even sedatives, but this is inaccurate and belies the complexity and diversity of the uses nervines are capable of. The truth is that Skullcap, Damiana, Wild Lettuce and Coffee are all nervines, although they may effect the nervous system in vastly different ways. As such, there are a great many secondary actions under the primary heading of nervine, including everything from hypnotic to stimulant to the potentially narcotic. We will only be discussing the more important of these sub-headings in this post in order to focus on the most essential and core elements of the nervine action.

Below are the three most easily understood categories of nervines with appropriate herbs under each heading. The herbs listed are not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a small sampling of those plants with which I have the most clinical and personal experience. The botanical name given is usually the species with which I am most familiar (often native to New Mexico or common to Southwestern gardens) but I try to indicate allied species where I am aware of them. When this piece is ready for my upcoming book (and student curriculum) it will be expanded upon and profiles of each herb in regards to their nervine action will be added.

Relaxant Nervine

A relaxant nervine are those herbs that relax constricted or contracted tissues in relation to the nervous system. It does not imply sedation in any way. These herbs may well allow a sense of calmness or even sleepiness through the way they allow vital energy to freely flow through the body in its natural manner, but they are not suppressive in nature. In essence, they enhance the vitality of life rather than diminishing it (as many overt sedatives do).

When vital energy is blocked or constricted in the body, it can created irritation and resistance that may manifest as insomnia, muscle spasms or tics, agitation or manic behavior (although these symptoms can easily be due to other underlying issues as well), or may eventually result in depression or a sense of constant fatigue. By relaxing barriers to the flow of vital energy, the body is more able to maintain emotional and physical equilibrium. This may manifest as increased energy or an easier time relaxing or getting to sleep, or all of the above.

They are appropriate where there is blocked, constricted or contracted tissues.

Milky Oats – Avena fatua and sativa
Vervain – Verbena and Glandularia spp.
Beebalm/Wild Bergemot – Monarda spp.
Skullcap/Blisswort – Scutellaria spp.
Lavender – Lavendula spp.
Rose – Rosa spp
Peach – Prunus persica
Chokecherry – Prunus virginiana and allied spp.
California Poppy – Eschscholzia californica and allied spp.
Desert Anemona/Pulsatilla – Anemone tuberosa and allied Pulsatilla spp.
Western Mugwort/Moonwort – Artemisia spp.
Damiana – Turnera difusa and allied spp.
Elderflower – Sambucus nigra and allied spp.
Peppermint – Mentha x piperita
Monkeyflower – Mimulus spp.
Violet – Viola canadensis and allied spp.
Sage – Salvia spp.
Bleeding Heart/Golden Smoke – Dicentra formosa, Corydalis aurea and allied spp).

Stimulant Nervine

A stimulant nervine is that which stimulates lax or stagnant tissues in relation to the nervous system. It does not necessarily imply overt nervous system stimulation as in the case of methamphetamines or even coffee, but may simply refer to a gentle herb such as Peppermint and their ability to stimulate the vital energy into depressed tissues.

They are appropriate where there is atonic, overly relaxed tissues.

It should be noted that some nervines are both stimulant and relaxant at once. Stimulant and relaxant should not be thought of opposite ends in a bisected polarity, but rather complementary and often overlapping actions within the whole. Michigan herbalist Jim McDonald says to think of it as “stimulating activity while relaxing resistance to that activity” and I find that a very useful (and accurate) way of looking at it.

Milky Oats – Avena fatua and sativa
Western Mugwort/Moonwort – Artemisia spp.
Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis
Peppermint – Mentha x piperita
Sage – Salvia spp.
Damiana – Turnera difusa and allied spp.
Coffee – Coffea arabica and allied spp.
Yerba Maté – Ilex paraguariensis and allied spp.

Tonic/Trophorestorative Nervines
We’ve previously discussed the general meaning of Trophorestorative in this series, but here it specifically refers to those herbs which act as nutritive restoratives for the nervous system. They feed the nerves and help to restore functionality and resiliency often in addition to their stimulating and/or relaxing properties. This is an extremely important class of herbs, given how burnt out, brittle and emotionally fragile the citizens of the modern industrial world tend to be. When there is great tension and stress, there can be a tendency to simply want to relax and calm (which in itself can be very healing) or to stimulate the body back up to functioning speed, but signs of nervous system fatigue and malnourishment should be carefully watched for and treated with specifically nutritive herbs. Applicable minerals and vitamins should not be overlooked either, as nutrition plays a primary part in emotional health and the ability to appropriately deal with with stress.

Again, it is possible (and common) to have overlap between this category and the others. This is not a contradiction, but rather a wonderful illustration of how dynamic herbal medicines can be.

Skullcap/Blisswort – Scutellaria spp.
Milky Oats – Avena fatua and sativa
Vervain – Verbena and Glandularia spp
Sage – Salvia spp.
Damiana – Turnera difusa and allied spp
Rose – Rosa spp.

More about the general nature of the terms Relaxant and Stimulant as applied to herbal medicine and energetics is forthcoming (hopefully soon). I will also be talking about tissue states in the near future, since they are very much connected to understanding herbal actions and energetics in the Traditional Western Herbalism.

References:
Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann
Personal Correspondence with Jim McDonald
Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine by Jeremy Ross

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Photos (c) 2009 Kiva Rose

Sep 222008
 

 The colors of  the harvest range from rust to brown to magenta, but the most prevalent shade of all is of brilliant, unabashed gold. From the grasslands to the mountains, the Gila wears a glowing mantle for Autumn. The leaves dance back down to the earth and the river sings the slow, hypnotic songs of coming cold. To paraphrase one of my favorite string bands (Elephant Revival): this is not just an ending, it is sweet mystery. The flowers of Fall gather the last bright rays of light into us all as the shadows lengthen.We enter into the seasons of dreaming, Happy Equinox to you all!

And when you’re done reading this little ramble, head over to the Anima blog for one of my wild foods meanderings.

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A dear friend in the village gifted me with a basket full of fresh, sticky Calendula flowers from her garden. Half were tinctured and the other half were wilted over a period of 12 hours before being infused into a rich, golden oil for wounds. While I can’t seem to convince the gophers to leave the ones my garden alone, hers did very well indeed.

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People ’round here call this little plant Dogweed, Stinking Marigold or Pagué (Dyssodia spp.), I prefer the latter name. After all, it smells wonderfully lemony and doesn’t stink at all in my not so humble opinion. It’s closely related to the little yellow Lemonscent/Limoncillo (Pectis angustafolia) that also grows nearby. Both are what Michael Moore aptly describes as “industrial strength chamomile”, and indeed, it is an excellent calming tea (or tincture) for both the belly and the nerves. It’s especially lovely for colic in babies, stomach ache after semi-bad food or gas pains in general.

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This honey scented herb covers thousands upon hundreds of thousands of acres of the Southwest, and is commonly known as Snakeweed or Escoba de la Vibora, botanically it’s a Gutierrezia spp. It’s best known for it’s use externally (as a bath usually) and internally (as a tea, yech) in the treatment of arthritis and related conditions. It’s works very nicely for after you’ve just had the hike of your life and are sore, scratched up and sore some more. It’s intense density of bioflavanoids are partially responsible for this effect, and do a great job of healing all kinds of abrasions, bruises and aches.

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Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) is one of my dearest allies. It grows on riverbanks, and near springs and seeps. A wonderful, and totally gentle, friend for those with anxiety, a tendency to bouts of hysterical fear and any acute trauma. It also makes a very nice poultice for wounds and contusions. Use the search bar to look up my previous, and considerably more detailed, descriptions of this valuable herb.

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 Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) is a generally fragrant and very common wildflower in North America. It’s most popular for its use in sinus allergies and drippy colds. It has also been used traditionally for all sorts of kidney ailments, and its warming, stimulating energetics are especially useful for those cold natured folks who have a tendency to achy, overtired kidneys. The use I’ve focused on most in my many writings on this plant is the fower infused oil. I specifically use this for all sorts of injuries and problems of the muscles. It works GREAT. I’ve tried to popularize this humble little weed as much as possible, as it’s widely available and wonderfully multifaceted. The oil or salve can also be used as a general salve for wounds, abrasions and so on.

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Evening Primrose (Oenthera spp) yet another blissfully common wildflower with a great many uses and also another herb I’ve written about many times before. It’s a gentle nerve tonic and effective antispasmodic, and has a special affinity for the reproductive and digestive systems. I use the whole flowering plant as an infusion for those recovering from eating disorders as well as in the treatment of endometriosis and menstrual cramps, especially for those who experience anxiety and irritability at the end of their cycle. This plant is ~deeply~ nourishing and works very well as a general nourishing infusion. It’s also a GREAT poultice for swellings, bug bites and so on. I sometimes use it together with Peach and Alder.

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And this is a lovely Wild Sunflower. So much of her medicine is just in her smile, though she’s got some secrets in her roots too.

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Gather the last glowing flowers, turn inward. Celebrate the growing dark and the harvest we’ve been blessed with.

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Photos (c) 2008 by Kiva Rose & Jesse Wolf Hardin

Aug 252008
 

I notice my RSS subscription number has about quadrupled in the last few months (I think there’s nearly 400 of you last time I looked), so I wanted to do a quick overview for new readers. This isn’t comprehensive, just a few tidbits for your reading pleasure. Soon, there will be a companion website where all this stuff is organized, but this’ll work for now.

In case you’ve missed my previous posts discussing Beebalm (Monarda spp.) for vaginal and urinary tract infections in the past, take note now. I’ve just finished working with four different cases of said infections, in varying degrees of severity (including one long term UTI) that cleared up completely within a couple of days. This is in addition to lifestyle changes (including copious amounts of water, improved hygiene and fewer carbs/refined sugars in most cases) but was clearly the turning point in each case. Considering how many women suffer from these painful, sometimes debilitating, infections, it’s worth taking note. If the infection is chronic, then mucus membrane tonics need to also be considered. And if the infection backs way off but still won’t quit, I usually add some Alder to the mix.

Another resoundingly effective treatment has been with Goldenrod liniment/oil for muscular cramps. This has a wide range of external uses, from eyelid twitches to severe uterine cramps to separated muscles. I make a pain liniment with Goldenrod and Cottonwood/Poplar as primary ingredients that’s so effective and popular with clients that I can hardly keep it stocked . Again, take note, these are incredibly common plants that are easily used by anyone.

Evening Primrose (Oenthera spp.) tea/infusion/tincture is an effective, very nourishing and fairly tasty tonic for the female (and probably male too) reproductive system, very nice for making cramps more manageable. It’s a gentle, sweet little plant that also has a variety of applications for the GI system and lungs, among other things.

Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) is a wonderful spirit lifting nervine that can be just great for doom and gloom depression, and a decided lack of joy in life. Just amazing with Milky Oats for depression from burnout.

There’s lots more, but these are very useful therapeutic tips you may not see elsewhere. If you want to know more about these plants and what I’ve written about them, be sure to utilize that handy search box over there to the left.

P.S. The fiddling’s coming steadily along, I’m still working on House of the Rising Sun and have added In the Pines, and Cold Rain & Snow. I do love my Old-Timey tunes. I’m currently learning from sheet music but I hope to get over that soon and learn by ear instead.

Jul 202008
 

 

Here you’ll find indications and specifics for a small number of relaxing nervine herbs. I have not chosen the most popular remedies of commerce but rather the plants I have worked with most intimately and who I have used time and time again. I’m not attempting to give you a huge overview of all the ways they can be used either, instead I’m laying out the ways I have seen each herb excel and pointing out some of the connections and insights I have gained through my relationships with them. Previous posts on specific herbs are linked to in the title heading of that herb. You can find a past incarnation of my Nervine Differentials right here. Some bits of it can be found integrated into this current post, but most of this is new, refined or otherwise changed.

 

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Vervain (Verbena spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowering tops – Bitter

A lifesaver when you’re so irate and uptight you could dismember the nearest living creature, with tense, tweaked, tied up in knots neck and shoulders. Great for PMS in women who have a harder time with the second half of their cycle and get ~intense~ food cravings. I call the particular feeling and intensity of feeling that are part and parcel of the indications for this herb “the need to bathe in blood” not so much in the sense of being angry or murderous but of having that much intensity, a kind of emotional/bodily tension that’s built up and has nowhere to go, and leaves your hair on end, your hands shaking and the people around you looking at you like you’re a crazed animal. It has the capacity to literally empty the head of all thought and stress where it is specifically indicated. I have personally felt and seen the neck muscles unkink and relax after a two drop dose.

Vervain is one of those funny herbs that effects different people in very different ways, some perceive it as a gentle nervine and others as a mind altering substance. Please be sitting down the first time you try it. Small doses are most appropriate here, if it’s going to work it’ll work in ten or less drops usually. Beside, very large doses can make you nauseous (really really nauseous, very unpleasant). Great for the irritable, restless phase of feverish viruses too, probably best taken hot as a diaphoretic tea for this purpose.

Many of the base indications here come from Flower Essence literature, Michael Moore and Matt Wood, and I have proved and expanded them many times over in the last several years.

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ChokeCherry (Prunus virginiana) – Cool, dry – Bark, flowers – Sweet, aromatic, bitter

Where the stress is centered in the heart/chest region, and threatening to keep you from breathing. A feeling of pressure or constriction around the lungs and heart is common. Heart palpitations or pounding may occur, as well as nervous stomach and shakiness. There’s also often signs of heat such as a red tongue, flushing, sensations of excessive heat and inflammation throughout the body. The symptoms will often have a normally sane, articulate and well managed person ready to climb the nearest wall or down the closest bottle of Valium. Five drop doses are usually quite sufficient to calm, and ten drops will usually stop a full blown set of heart palpitation gently but firmly.

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Rose (Rosa spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowers, leaves, hips – Sweet, sour, bitter

Indicated by feeling deep stress and fear, with an underlying sense of vulnerability, distrust, defensiveness and even paranoia. The person will often act aggressively or defensively (thorns) in order to hide or submerge fear, pain and the resulting stress. Especially appropriate for wounding focused around or deeply affecting sexuality and romantic relationships.

Can be very helpful to those feeling a deep, numbing depression that is once again, underlaid by fear. Rose people are often terrified of abandonment and betrayal, showing that at their deepest level, they are struggling with the balance between vulnerability and boundaries. For the best effect, it often needs to be taken in small doses over a long period of time. Varieties with a strong fragrance and large thorns are often the most helpful in my experience.

All that said, it teams up with Monkeyflower for an excellent kind of rescue remedy for trauma, hysteria and acute stress. It’s action here is more general, being both relaxing and supportive.

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Skullcap/Blisswort (Scutellaria spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowering tops – bitter

For nerves so frayed they’re about to snap, resulting in a very emotionally labile and reactive person. “At the end of their rope” is a very good way of describing it. These people have a tendency to flip out over (seemingly) nothing. They feel as if every sound, touch and bit of light is personally attacking them. Sensory hypersensitivity, as it were. They are exhausted on a deep level and need nourishment in the form of rest, nutrient dense food and nervous system restoratives. Blisswort is a phenomenal restorative especially for those with nervous exhaustion as a result of burned out adrenals.

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Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) – Neutral, moist – Flowering tops – Sweet

For sadness and stress accompanied by a sense of joylessness and lack of wonder. A true sunshine remedy that brightens the spirits and can alleviate mild to moderate depression. It has also proven helpful for when someone is wound up on stimulants of any kind, to bring them back to earth from a hyped up, strung out place. Likewise, it can very useful when someone is hysterical to the point of being paranoid, unreasonable and frantic. It won’t sedate them into a stoned out kind of place, merely bring them back to the present moment and solid ground. I’ve also seen it help alleviate chronic insomnia with restlessness and frequent waking.

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Sage (Salvia spp) – Warm, dry (fluids), moist (oils) – Leaves and flowering tops – Aromatic

Nervous exhaustion with shaking, tremors and a sense of chronic inner trembling. Panic attacks with heart palpitations, nervous headaches and a feeling of shaking loose from the body. An excellent nervous system restorative on par with Skullcap and Milky Oats, but quite underused. Also wonderful for waking up the mind, increasing memory and awareness while staying grounded and calm. Even the smell of Sage infused oil is deeply calming and healing for me.

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Peach (Prunus persica) – Cool, moist – Bark, leaf, flower – Sweet, sour, bitter

Milder than Chokecherry, and better suited for overall stress that is felt throughout the body. For those prone to frequent adrenalin rushes, dry tissues and signs of heat. In dry, hot summer a cup of Peach leaf tea is like laying back in the river and just letting the water flow over you. Traditionally used to soften the delivery of bad news, punishment or grief. It takes the stress response down a few notches, allowing for better integration and presence. Well suited for the dryness, hot flashes and tension that often accompanies menopause.

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Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp.) – Neutral – Whole plants – Sweet, peppery

Evening Primrose – Great for food based anxiety in those recovering from eating disorders as well as depression arising from digestive problems (David Winston). I also use Evening Primrose hormonally related anxiety and depression, it’s a very uplifting and calming plant without turning your mind to mush. I also use it in general anxiety and depression accompanied by nervousness and stress. Best of all, it’s intensely nourishing to the whole body, what Matthew Wood refers to as a balsam.

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Elderflower (Sambucus nigra and spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowers – Acrid

For intense grief with accompanying depression and inability to see the magic and beauty of life. Lifts the spirits and opens the eyes to the enchanted in the everyday. I find it both relaxing and strengthening, grounding and magical. Elder’s a complicated plant with many nuanced effects, don’t shortchange it if you don’t “get it” right away.

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Milky Oats (Avena fatua) – Neutral – Milky tops – Sweet

Another great remedy for grief and heart centered pain. An excellent nervous system trophorestorative. Calming, uplifting, gentle and moistening. Damn near perfect for everything. Makes a great base for many many adaptogenic and nervine formulas.

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Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – cool, dry – leaves before flowering – sour

Cheery but relaxing. Great for children and adults who just can’t (or don’t want to) stop going going going and are wearing themselves (and everyone nearby) out. Works well for SAD for many people, and is nice for many forms of mild depression. I personally use it for panic attacks with heart palpitations where the panic is very buzzy feeling (unlike Cherry where there’s more deep tension). Lemon Balm, Rose and Milky Oats are a great combo for any number of stressful, downer kind of situations.

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Lavender (Lavendula spp.)

My favorite overall, for absolutely everyone kind of nervine. It’s warm, fuzzy and sweet and works for nearly anyone. A hug in a bottle, if you will. A flower that is able to move energy as well as calm, many people have found Lavender to be distinctly mood enhancing. For pain, stress, trauma, hyperactivity and other unpleasantness. It seems especially helpful at teaching us how to enjoy close up comforts – a hug, a big quilt, warm tea, a cozy sweater. It just enhances our ability to be sensorily aware and present. Even if that means getting really sleepy.

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Golden Smoke (Corydalis aurea)

Like a cool, still point within. It makes everything just, stop. The frenetic insanity within and without recedes, at least temporarily. It won’t fix whatever your problem is, but it’ll let you take a few steps back. Very similar to Bleeding Heart and very useful for chronic pain, especially chronic pain accompanied by tremors. Like many members of the poppy family, it can take you further out of your normal consciousness that you’re aware of, so be careful driving or anything similar when you first use this plant. I like this plant best formulated with other nervines to help balance it.

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Mexican/California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica spp.) – cool, dry – acrid

A great general nervine for nearly anything, and it blends well with most other nervine type herbs too. I specifically like it for depression and anxiety from pain. Great combined with Blisswort and Sage for deep nerve trauma. The Poppy is about taking a break from whatever is torturing you. Herbalist Mimi Kamp has a story about being really really stressed out, taking Cali. Poppy and totally forgetting what she was stressed out about. And when she did remember, she didn’t care anymore. That is the nature of the Poppies. This particular subspecies isn’t addictive and while it is comforting doesn’t give the big oblivion some of its cousins do.

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Western Mugwort/Moonwort (Artemisia ludoviciana and spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowering tops – Aromatic, bitter

For those who have lost their trust in the natural order of things, who lack a sense of deep security. It can give a calm, “mothered” feeling to those who need it most. It’s an intense plant and can give some people nightmares. A sacred plant of many cultures, it’s best to ease into a relationship with Mugwort, and to be very conscious when working with it. Not everyone experiences the nervine/spiritual effects, some people just get the digestive and liver protective elements.

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Primary Resources and References:

The Earthwise Herbal vol 1, The Book of Herbal Wisdom, The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, personal correspondence and unpublished writings of Matthew Wood.

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, Medicinal Plants of the Canyon and Desert West, selected video and audio presentations by Michael Moore

Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest by Charles Kane

Personal correspondence and unpublished writings of jim mcdonald

Western Herbs According to Traditional Western Herbalism by Thomas Avery Garran

Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine by Jeremy Ross

Personal correspondence and course work with Charles Garcia

May 272008
 

I’ve been insanely busy the last few weeks, but today Rhiannon and I took a long walk downriver today in search of blooming Wild Roses. Although the floods smashed and buried a good number of the largest hedges I was still able to get a decent first harvest, though I’ll certainly be out looking for more in the near future. Regardless of anything else going on, I make time each May to spend time with the Roses.

The Wild Rose is my most important plant ally, and one that I am continually amazed by. If there is a single plant who has provided me with the most healing, it is this one. My relationship with this thorny beauty deepens each year, and every season the briar teaches me more about boundaries, vulnerability and self-expression. This plant teaches raw, wide open love complete with scars, thorns and an abiding sense of self-knowledge. She teaches that beauty is a bone deep quality, one that we hold in every cell regardless of the pain we’ve lived through or the battles we’ve weathered. In hard years, her petals unfurl skewed and wrinkled but his doesn’t mar her attractiveness. Rather, they add to an already complex character and give her more of the strongly scented medicine she’s known for.

Tough, resilient and wild hearted, she springs back even after being beaten down by rocks, floods, droughts and deep cold. She is adaptable and stubborn, brazen and sensual. The Wild Rose is not a shy plant, she’ll grab you by your skirt with curved thorns and seduce you with her sweet, earthy scent. She asks us to pay attention, to feel deeply and to both wear our heart on our sleeves and to defend our most vulnerable selves with our life. Full of nourishment, this mother has teeth to protect herself with. Focus and respect are required of those who come to partake in her healing.

In the Southwest, Roses are close companions of rivers. They ramble and spread across damp grassy banks in the dappled shadow of the Alders. My memories of every May harvesting the sweet petals of the Wild Rose are entwined with the sensations of standing calf deep in mossy pools and scrambling up the cool cliff wall to reach an almost out of reach blossom. In the background of every photograph of the Rose is the flowing thread of the Sweet Medicine River. When I dream of their flowers, I hear the current singing somewhere nearby.
Unlike any domestic Rose I’ve ever met, the canyon’s Wild Roses have incredibly aromatic foliage as well as flowers. Musky and sweet, they smell like what all those overpriced synthetic department store perfumes want smell like, but can’t quite achieve. The foliage also is rather intensely nervine, and the tincture is so lovely that I’ve started tincturing and oiling the flowers and leaves together for added power and flavor.

Fat black bumblebees love the delicate pink blossoms, and hover above the hedges, waiting for the perfect opportunity to rush in grab the tender gold centers of each Rose in a very interesting display. Today, one of the bees mistook my pink blouse for a flower and latched on to my shoulder, we had an interesting moment of me peering down at the impassioned bee with some alarm mingled with curiosity while he tried to find the non-existent gold center. He soon realized his mistake and headed off for the next real Rose.

I’ve written so many Rose posts I can’t even remember them all at this point but a few things stand out as worth repeating (and for my most extensive writing on the Wild Rose, check out this post). The whole plant, including foliage and flowers, is jam-packed with anti-oxidants. If you currently drink a foreign tea like Green tea or Honeybush or Roobois for the anti-oxidants, well Rose pretty much meets or beats them in that department. Plus, they’re a local, sustainable source for most people in the US that can usually be gathered and processed absolutely free.

Rose flowers and hips are strongly anti-inflammatory, both internally and externally. Great for arthritis, IBS or other chronic inflammation when taken as a tincture or tea and lovely as a liniment for slipped discs and other sharp, stabbing injuries. The flower has also been long recognized as a primary medicine in Ayurveda and Unani Tibb, and has been found to significantly contribute the “good” bacteria in our bellies.

A wonderful relaxant to the liver, Rose excels at moving stuck energy and relieving tension in the liver/gallbladder area. I use it frequently when treating cases of acute hepatitis or chronic/viral hepatitis where there’s signs of inflammation. And of course, it makes a wonderful heart-settling nervine suitable for nearly anyone, and gentle enough for a baby. In fact, the smell of Roses significantly decreases overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system while also reducing adrenalin output in the body. Likewise, several different major systems of traditional medicine also consider the hips and flowers both a tonic for weak kidneys and adrenals. I frequently include some part of the plant in formulas for clients with adrenal fatigue with symptoms of heat, nervous exhaustiohn and internal dryness.

It’s also a circulatory, blood and heart tonic. The petals can be eaten straight off the plant, but are wonderful when infused in a light raw wildflower honey then eaten by the spoonful, petals and all. The honey paste can be stirred into warm milk, tea or dessert. Rose vinegar is one of the single best treatments for sunburn I know of and both the honey and the oil is a very effective wound and injury healing. My favorite salve, appropriately named Bear Medicine Salve is mostly Rose, Alder and Elder with some Rose honey added for extra kick.

The underlying property of Rose is one of fluids/energy/blood movement and regulation, which explains many of seemingly disparate effects on the different organs and tissues of the body. It has an innate intelligence that gives it the ability to adjust the flow of the body’s varying energies and substances. It can calm heart palpitations, eliminate liver pains, reduce nervous tension or lessen menstrual cramps all depending on what the body needs. Traditional Western Herbalism and Ayurveda generally see the Rose as cooling while TCM usually describes it as warming, and I think this has much to do with what properties the varying traditions ascribe to hot or cold. The reduction in inflammation is certainly part of the reason is is thought of as cooling, and the moving properties have to do with the warming aspect.

A very gentle (except for the thorns) plant, Wild Rose can be used by just about everyone though some traditional peoples warn against use in pregnancy due to the blood moving effects. I have not yet seen any constitutional aggravation from the temperature or humidity of this herb. In fact, I use the tincture much like Rescue Remedy for trauma, stress etc. And personally, I have found it to be more effective than Rescue Remedy for most things. For the ultimate herbal Rescue Remedy formula I do one part Wild Rose, one part Monkeyflower (Mimulus) and 1 part Milky Oats or Blisswort (Scutellaria), that’s some good stuff there! As a side note, some people find Wild Rose tincture fairly mind altering (generally in a very nice way) while others can’t feel the nervine effects when they first start working with it. I have seen some cases of people being shocked at how much it affected their thought process and emotional state.

The pictures below were taken in less than ideal high noon light, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few snapshots of today with ya’ll.

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Mar 102008
 

Common Name: Monkeyflower

Botanical Name: Mimulus spp.

Energetics: Neutral to Cool, Sl. Moist

Actions: Relaxant nervine, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, anodyne

I’ve talked about Monkeyflowers before, and am loving them just as much now. I really wish I’d made more tincture or least dried more of the plant for infusions, seeing how abundant they are especially at higher elevations in this area. Anyhow, I’m still amazed by this plant’s special ability to relieve certain kinds of depression, especially cases typified by paranoia, phobias, oversensitivity and simple fear. There’s a particular feeling of joylessness combined with fear and vulnerability. It’s also a good general mood lifter for mild depression and seasonal affective disorder. I haven’t worked with it extensively enough to discuss its use in more serious cases of depression, but hope to come back to that at some point.

I also really like it for pain, especially nerve pain, with anxiety, irritation and depression. It often takes the pain down a notch or two while relaxing the entire system and making everything just ~feel~ better. It’s certainly a sunshine plant, and can impart feelings of joy, openness, compassion and friendliness. It helps bring the sunshine inside, you might say.

It makes a great poultice and salve too, by the way. I like it with Evening Primrose leaf/flower, Elder flower, Alder leaf and Plantain for a lovely green salve…. it also makes a nice nerve healing balm when combined with St John’s Wort and Sweet Clover.

Monkeyflowers are most common to the American West (particularly in California), but there’s at least one species that can be found throughout the East as well. I have only used our particular species (M. guttatus, also called Seep Monkeyflower or Spotted Monkeyflower, that grows throughout the West and parts of the NE), and can’t really speak to the effectiveness of other varieties, but I do know that M. pilosus has been used effectively by earlier herbalists such as Harvey Felter. If you try it out, do let me know….
Effective Pairs & Triplets for Formulation:

With Lemon Balm for mild or seasonal depression.

With Golden Smoke (Corydalis aurea) and California Poppy for any kind of nerve pain, especially when accompanied by tremors and a anxious, restless gloom.

With Wild Rose for trauma, fear or paranoia, especially in women, children or individuals who feel extremely vulnerable. I keep this particular combo on hand at all times.
With Evening Primrose for stress/emotion triggered asthma, and depression from gastric causes.

With Sweet Clover for sciatica and other neuralgias.

With St John’s Wort as a nervine, mood lifter and gentle liver support. Also a nice combo for nerve damage, sciatica and so on.

With Milky Oats for feelings of anxiousness, crispy critterness, and burnout with symptoms of heat and nervous irritation.

With Vervain for headache, neck tension/pain and moodiness.

With Damiana and Rose (say 3 parts Monkeyflower and 2 parts Rose to one part Damiana) for a non-edgy energy lift and gently warming nerve tonic. You may not get the energy lift if you habitually use caffeine or other stimulants, so you may want to increase the proportion of Damiana in such a case.

May 232007
 


Mimulus, of Bach flower remedy fame, is also a lovely wildflower and indigenous remedy… I’ve mostly used it for pain, externally on wounds, burns, nerve injuries and have been recently using it internally for pain as well, especially joint pain and neuralgia (a use gleefully taken from Kings American Dispensatory ).

This is an incredibly joyful little plant, and is proving to be an effective anti-depressant for those who feel the joy of life has completely left them, who feel terribly vulnerable and constantly anxious. These are flower essence indications but they’re very accurate to the action of the plant. Monkeyflowers have a big spirit and just sitting with them can be uplifting and well, just plain fun.

I have a hard time picking the plant because they seem so animated and child-like that I can barely stand to harvest them. Thankfully, small doses seem to be very effective and so I don’t feel I need to take very much.

Monkeyflowers like to grow near clean, running water. They seem to be fairly common throughout the West, especially in Alaska and New Mexico. Here, they thrive on the riverbanks, especially in wet Springs like this one. During dry years I’ll only see a few here and there, but this year they’re nearly everywhere even remotely damp, springing up like eager children to play in the sun and wind.

I’m off to the river to see the Monkeyflowers again!