Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus)

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Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) is called by many names, including water horehound, Paul’s betony, green archangel, bitter bugleweed, Egyptian’s herb, March boneset, gypsyweed, and my personal favorite: green wolf’s foot.

I first learned about bugleweed from Darrell Martin of Blue Boy Herbs in Carierre, MS. He uses bugleweed in four of his tincture blends: lung tonic, diabetes (with Fringe Tree), nervine, and heart tonic blends. You can see Darrell’s offerings here: Blue Boy Herbs.

Darryl Patton states in his book, Mountain Medicine: The Herbal Remedies of Tommie Bass, that Bugleweed is traditionally used to treat lung issues (coughs, colds, bronchitis) and nerve issues (sedative). He also says that Tommie would sometimes substitute bugleweed for boneset, and he often added it to his nerve tonics. Darryl’s book can be purchased by contacting him directly. His website is The Southern Herbalist.

In The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants, Matthew Wood suggests specific indications for the use of bugleweed. One indication that I found particularly interesting is when a person feels like “a hunted animal”, with the pulse “rapid and tumultuous”. He also suggests bugleweed for people who are unable to sleep at night, with “wide, open, staring eyes”. <– I’ve been there. You can read much more about bugleweed and specific indications by purchasing Matthew’s book; he also has a companion book, The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.  Check out his new online classes at Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism.

Other information I have found online (check out resources below) validate its use for cardiovascular issues, hyperthyroidism (such as Grave’s disease), high blood sugar, anxiety and other nervous system issues, lung conditions, and breast pain (mastodynia, or cyclic mastalgia).

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Cardiovascular issues: Bugleweed is said to “increase contractions of the heart and arteries”, and strengthen the heart. I am interested in blending a heart tonic with bugleweed, motherwort, rose, hawthorn (berries, leaves and flowers) and possibly tulsi.

Hyperthyroidism: It seems bugleweed can calm an overactive thyroid; it is especially useful for symptoms such as heart palpitations and tightness of breath. Thomas Easley combines it with lemon balm and motherwort for treating Grave’s disease. I am not telling you to self-treat for hyperthyroidism. Please do your own research and talk to your doctor… be extra careful if you are already taking thyroid medication.

Diabetes: I am interested in bugleweed’s use in controlling diabetes. I have a family history of insulin resistance and high blood sugar, so I am exploring combinations of plant medicine to help support my system along with diet and exercise. Some herbs (and spices) that have my attention along with bugleweed are blueberry leaf, berberis, wild cherry, fringe tree, cinnamon, and burdock root (for inulin… elecampane also contains inulin). I have heard interesting things about holy basil (Tulsi) for high blood sugar; I have also read that self-heal (Prunella) increases insulin sensitivity, so it’s high on my list to explore further.

Nervine: Nervines are my all time favorite plant allies, and bugleweed is said to be a great one. It is considered a gentle nervine, and according to Darryl Patton, Tommie Bass said it was for nerves that had been “stretched too far”. I have seen in some texts and online that bugleweed is also classified as “narcotic”, but I have not read why or how it is used as a narcotic.

Lung issues: Because of its astringency, bugleweed is great for reducing mucous production, and I also read that it helps reduce fever, so it is often used in cough and cold blends in the place of boneset (or late blooming thoroughwort). I am curious about blending bugleweed with mullein and mountain mint for coughs and colds, maybe with some wild cherry bark for spasmy coughs. I would think that rabbit tobacco’s drying action would also be beneficial if one had too much mucous in the system.

Mastodynia: Mastodynia is breast pain; many women experience mastodynia because of high prolactin levels, especially during breastfeeding. Bugleweed may reduce prolactin levels. I encourage caution if breastfeeding; lowering prolactin levels affects milk production. Cyclic mastalgia is breast pain due to hormonal cycles (increased estrogen, I believe), and while bugleweed is often used to treat this painful condition, chastetree (Vitex) is said to be a better choice.

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This particular plant was purchased from Joe Hollis at Mountain Gardens, and I am thrilled to introduce it to my property. I do not have a nice, moist spot for it, so I am going to create one. I hear that bugleweed and skullcap like to live together, so I am going to devote a large pot on my front porch to them. We’ll see how they like it.

Other resources on Lycopus virginicus

Henriette’s Herbal

A Modern Herbal

Michigan Natural Features Inventory (pdf on website)

The Frist Clinic

Southern Cross University (Australia)

Lahey Hospital and Medical Center

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Working with Sacred Smoke

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Smudge sticks or smudge wands are bundles of herbs that are traditionally burned during ceremony or for purification purposes. I also use smudge sticks and other types of incense/smudge to

  • Cleanse and bless homes,
  • Clear imprint energy in a space,
  • Lift prayers to Spirit,
  • Dedicate a space for a particular spiritual purpose,
  • Prepare space for ritual, journey work and meditation,
  • “Clear the air” after an argument or an intense conversation,

and I have lots of other reasons to work with sacred smoke and the spirits of plants.

If you want to work with local plants, I encourage you to do a bit of research to see which plants and trees work best as smudge; personally I love to work with Juniper (cedar), pine,  mugwort, yarrow, rosemary and rose (in loose incense or wrapped on the outside of my smudge bundle) and local resins to burn on coals (or a charcoal disc).  I purchase from ethical sources and keep on hand: palo santo, white sage, tobacco and a variety of resins. You can visit Druid’s Garden to learn to make your own smudge sticks: Making Smudge Sticks From Homegrown Plants And Wildharvested Materials.

When selecting plants to work with, I always ask permission before harvesting any plants. If I feel a “no” or a “not this one” or “not right now” anywhere in my awareness, I don’t harvest. I will leave a small gratitude offering whether I receive a yes or a no.

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Alabama herbalist Phyllis Light wrote in a Spring issue of Plant Healer Magazine about Pine (and Cedar):

“Cedar is burned at the deathbed to release the spirit of the dying. Pine is burned after death to help those still living to release the dead.

Pine smoke from smoldering branches penetrate the house to cleanse and clear away ghost spirits. It initially burns the eyes but then the vision clears.

My grandmother performed this burning at deaths in the community. I must admit that I’ve been lapse in my adult years with this ritual. But it’s never too late to burn first the cedar and then the pine to release the spirits and ghosts that may be hovering in the corners or at the top of the stairs.”

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When working with sacred smoke, each tool that’s used while smudging represents and honors an element. For example, the abalone shell (or fire proof container) represents Water, the flame used to light the smudge represents the Fire element, the feathers represent and honor Air, and the herbs, trees, resins, etc. represent the element of Earth. When these elements are combined via the ritual of smudging, the element of Ether or Spirit is invoked and honored.

I personally begin with a prayer of gratitude and intention, asking the spirits of the plants and the elements and directions to be with me and lend protection while I work. And when I say protection, I’m not just asking for physical or energetic protection. I am asking that my attention stay protected… from me. I want my focus to be clear and steady. I want my prayers to be authentic. I want my intention to be heart-centered. I am asking for protection around all of that.

Next, I smudge myself, clearing and cleansing my energy field and bringing my mind into “right relationship” with my intention. What are my motives? Are my internal processes in alignment with my heart and my purpose? If there’s anything (emotionally, mentally, spiritually) that’s in the way of internal alignment, I ask that the smudge clear it away so that I can proceed in a good way.

Then I offer the sacred smoke to the directions and my ancestral helping spirits. Holy Gratitude.

Next I will open windows (if I am indoors and want to clear space) and possibly doors, and use smoke to cleanse the space, working in a clockwise direction in each area, paying close attention to corners, closets and underneath furniture. If I am not cleansing an entire space, but one particular area, I still work in a clockwise manner, and encourage airflow by opening windows.

If you need to clear a space and you are sensitive to smoke, you can

  • Make or purchase a smudge spray

  • Use sound (rattles, bells, etc. to clear dense energy

  • Utilize Reiki or other forms of energy work to transmute energy in a space

Finally, after any ceremonial work or clearing of an area, I thank my spiritual support, I give thanks to the directions and to the spirit of the plants who gave of themselves for my purpose.

Mugwort

“Bad” energy and “Ghosts”

I’ll be the first one to say that there’s some bad shit in the world. Some of it is generated by humans and some of it is not. If you want more insight around the way I work with energy and ghosts, you may want to consider taking an Earth Medicine intensive. For the purpose of this blog post, though, here’s my basic thoughts on bad energy and ghosts.

Energy is neutral. It doesn’t have a good or bad charge on its own. The good or bad comes from people. If someone feels uncomfortable around an energy, she may think of it as “bad” energy. If someone’s personality doesn’t mesh with mine, she may think I have “bad” energy, when really, I’m mirroring something for her that may make her feel uncomfortable. Energy is neutral. What we do with it puts a positive or negative charge on it. Our intention is what flavors the energy. I’m sure someone can (and will) make an argument for that, but that’s how I process energy in general.

Some indigenous cultures see energy has having a variety of vibrational frequencies. There is light vibrational frequency, and there is the dense, heavy vibrational frequency. Smudging and an energy clearing process is often used to disperse and / or transmute that heavy, dense energy.

I see ghosts as the spirits of the deceased who have not, for some reason, transitioned properly, and they’re earth bound either out of confusion or an inability/unwillingness to resolve issues or beliefs that are keeping them here. Most ghosts are not “bad”, but they don’t have the right to be here; any energy that they use in order to be in this realm is usually generated by the strong emotions of the living. In my opinion, smudge is not what gets the unresolved dead to leave your presence. Your intention, your telling them to leave, and your resolution not to feed them with your emotions is what makes them leave.

Most often, sacred smoke gets rid of what we call “imprints”. Imprints can often be mistaken for ghosts because they can be very strong energy impressions and can sometimes be seen by the living. Imprints are not spirits; they’re more like energetic fingerprints, or they can sometimes be strong emotions left behind by the living. These energy imprints can feel spooky or heavy, or they can leave behind a trail of strong (and sometimes influential) emotions. Smudge is an excellent way to disperse that energy and clear it out of your space.

To clear imprints / heavy energy, I suggest using Juniper (cedar),  mugwort or white sage. I tend to lean more toward bioregional plants since white sage is over harvested and working with the plants in my space to balance and clear energy of my space simply makes sense to me.

After I cleanse and clear a space, I like to burn sweet herbs or resins to invite healing and protection and wellness into a space. For this I may choose sweet clover, lavender blooms, roses or sweetgum resin if I want to honor the bioregional model of earth medicine, or I may choose sweetgrass if I feel led to work with it.

One South American tree that I really love is Palo Santo. I work with it sparingly because it is not one of my local allies. I work with this wood primarily in body/mind therapy sessions and to “seal” the auric field of a person after a healing session.

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For more awesome information and resources:

The Amazing Cat Torelli has a kickass incense shop on Etsy. Check it out: Forest Druid Creations. Her incense, Florida water and Queen of Hungary water are above and beyond fabulous.

Rebecca “McTrouble” Altman at Cauldrons and Crockpots wrote a very interesting blog post on smudging (from an herbalist’s perspective) called Holy Smoke.

https://altnature.com/thegarden/smudge.htm

“Killer Germs” Obliterated by Medicinal Smoke (Smudge), Study Reveals

Study ^^ Referenced in the link above ^^: Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria.

Native Tech: Uses of Sweetgrass

 

Lemon Balm

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Melissa officinalis, Family: Lamiaceae

Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, is a member of the mint family. This lemon scented, square-stemmed plant is one of my very favorite herbal allies

  • for nervous stomach and gut lining repair,
  • as a gentle nervine (relaxes the nerves and helps with anxiety),
  • for lowering blood pressure,
  • to relieve digestive complaints (gas, bloating, etc),
  • to help heal herpes simplex outbreaks (fever blisters),
  • for hyperthyroidism, esp. Graves’ Disease (contra-indicated for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s),
  • for focus and mental clarity,
  • as well as blended with motherwort for heart palpitations.

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When I approach working with Lemon balm, I think “nervous system” and “digestion”.

Lemon balm’s actions on the nervous system are very interesting, in that it offers clarity of mind, calming of frayed nerves, and it can even assist with insomnia. I originally thought that clarity and insomnia were poles apart on some kind of nervine spectrum, but the more I work with this plant, the more I begin understand its function (even though I may have a difficult time describing it).

In cases of insomnia when the mind is “ON” with no off switch in sight, I have experienced the function of lemon balm as calming and soothing to the sympathetic nervous system so that I can see that “lights out” switch more clearly. It’s not a heavily sedating nervine that will knock you out; it’s more like being rocked and soothed so that sleep can come more gently. I like to blend it with skullcap and catnip for this, and I am considering pairing it with mimosa bark tincture to assist in restoring sleep rhythms.

I have had amazing results with lemon balm speeding the healing of fever blister outbreaks. When I first feel that itchy-tingly-burning sensation of a fever blister on my lip, I immediately put ice on it. I mean STAT. I will keep ice on it until I’m sick of the cold (I usually run through 1 or 2 ice cubes) and then I dose liberally with lemon balm tincture (and by liberally I mean a teaspoon at least several times a day during the outbreak). I was told that only lemon balm essential oil can heal a fever blister, but that’s not true. The tincture is much more sustainable, not nearly as expensive, and it works great. When I take the tincture internally, I like to hold it between my lower lip and gums for a while. I will also dab some tincture onto the lesion site to help dry it. The healing time using this method of treatment is very fast and the lesion stays tiny until it’s healed.

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Several years ago I played around with bitters blends. One of the blends I made was Lemon Balm Bitters, and I had great feedback; one person reported that he felt like it pulled him out of a depressed state and he absolutely loved it. That blend consisted of lemon balm, cardamom, a tiny bit of gentian root (trust me on this), honey and vodka.

Clarity Elixir

My clarity elixir consists of lemon balm, cardamom, calamus root and mountain mint. I absolutely love it, and I find it helpful at clearing out mental cobwebs. I’m having to read a lot more now for graduate school (with much more reading to look forward to) and I’m adjusting to reading glasses (dammit), so this blend is very helpful to me right now.

I have only scratched the surface of the many benefits of lemon balm, but an herb that relieves anxiety, calms nervous tension and digestion issues, offers clarity AND gets rid of my stress-induced fever blisters?

I’ll take it. ♡

Awesome Resources if you want to learn more:

Lemon balm: A promising herbal therapy for patients with borderline hyperlipidemia-A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.

Herb Rally Lemon Balm Monograph

Back Water Botanics Lemon Balm Monograph

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Practical Herbalist: Lemon Balm: Herb of Good Cheer

Herbal Academy: A Family Herb: Lemon Balm Benefits

P.S. Please be careful using lemon balm if you are pregnant, if your blood pressure already runs really low, or if you have hypothyroidism / Hashimoto’s. In these cases, avoiding lemon balm entirely or using it under the supervision of a medical or herbal professional is a good plan.

Goldenrod Medicine (Solidago)

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I spent 12 months focused on goldenrod (Solidago) in 2010/2011. I had worked with goldenrod for several years prior to this intense study, so I thought we had developed a really good relationship; after our year together though, I was amazed at the versatility of this native plant and how it nourished me on several levels.

The Latin name Solidago means “to make whole”.

I used to be one of those people who insisted I was allergic to goldenrod pollen. *raises hand* Then I began reading from other herbalists that Solidago is insect pollinated; it’s pollen is too heavy and sticky to be carried by the wind. They suggested that ragweed pollen is the reason for people’s allergic reactions, and I have found this to be true. Keep in mind, though, that Solidago is part of the Asteraceae family, so contact sensitivity is possible with certain people.

If you visit goldenrod while in bloom, you will see an amazing abundance of insect diversity, all cross pollinating like bandits and feeding on the nectar and leaves. Crab spiders live in my patch of goldenrod, and I always see a variety of bees, wasps, moths, and other creeping and flying insects gathering and pollinating while I am gathering my medicine.

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Rarely do I harvest the roots; I’ve only been guided to do that one time with a small patch in my yard. Mostly I harvest the leaves and flowering tops. I have used flowering tops when they’ve just opened (and some hadn’t yet bloomed), and I have used them in full bloom, and I don’t taste a big difference in the medicine. The full blooms taste slightly stronger, so I tend to harvest then.

In my bioregion, goldenrod tends to bloom in mid summer, and can bloom into mid to late fall, depending on where they’re located. I see goldenrod blooming all over this area before the plants in my yard bloom. I mostly just work with the patch in my yard (unless a friend gifts me with an abundance of her goldenrod).

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Energetics and Actions (from personal experience)

Solidago is energetically warm and dry; it’s bitter, aromatic and diffusive.

Primary Action #1: Causes tissues to contract and tonify (Astringent). Secondary actions with this would be anti inflammatory and drying.  Goldenrod helps me with my allergy prone sinuses and runny nose.  It tonifies the mucus membranes and helps support my upper respiratory tract and sinuses, helping me recover from hair trigger allergic responses to pollen, cat dander, etc. I like to blend goldenrod with ragweed tincture for this.

Action #2: Stimulates digestion (Aromatic/Carminative/Bitter).  I have had issues with digestion for several years.  I don’t digest foods as easily or quickly as I should; I am a Pitta/Vata body type (Ayurveda) and I have acid reflux (unknown cause). Goldenrod is one of the herbs I depend on to help me digest food properly. A secondary action for this would be the grounding and mood lifting effects of improved digestion.

Action #3: Balances bacteria – I blend goldenrod with monarda for issues with urinary tract infections and to help with low grade yeast infections. It’s also used to tonify the kidneys and bladder.

(I may end up repeating myself a bit here…)

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Infusions 

Sweet goldenrod was once an ingredient in the famous Liberty Tea (Read about Liberty Tea here), and is again becoming a popular ingredient in herbal tea blends. I use the dried leaves in all kinds of blends… for allergies, kidney/bladder issues, for sluggish digestion and even in some nervine blends.

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Tinctures/Elixirs

Goldenrod “clears the head” beautifully, especially when I have a sinus headache.  Also, when I feel stressed and mentally unfocused, I have found that taking goldenrod elixir really helps bring clarity and lift my spirits.  She’s great for the wintertime blahs.

The tincture has been very beneficial for me; allergies, digestion, UTIs, sadness… I love the versatility of this herb, and it pairs very well with many other herbs, depending on your need. My goldenrod is tinctured in hundred proof vodka (50% alcohol).

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Honey

Goldenrod infused honey never lasts long here. There’s been only one time I made an extra batch of infused honey, put it away to steep and forgot all about it. I found it the following summer, almost a year later, and the blooms looked just as fresh as the day I drenched them in honey. That was the best goldenrod honey I’d ever had.

Infused honey is great for sore, scratchy, irritated throats due to allergies, and it’s also great, I’m told, for soothing throat irritation/pain due to flu.

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Oil/Salves

I have always infused goldenrod in extra virgin olive oil; I will either let it sit in a corner (for 5 to 6 weeks) with a coffee filter or paper towel over the top so that moisture can evaporate, or if I need the oil quickly, I will do a low heat extraction method over a few days. Either extraction method works well for me.

I love to use this infused oil on muscle aches and strains, and I often blend it with other infused oils and make a “stretch ease” salve. I’ve blended it with cottonwood buds, solomon’s seal, tulip poplar, pine and cedar. Arnica and St. John’s Wort would also make nice additions, depending on the particular pain issue.

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Oxymel/Shrubs/Vinegars

From Susun Weed:  “To make a goldenrod vinegar: Chop the goldenrod coarsely, filling a jar with chopped flowers, leaves, stalks (and roots if you have them); then fill the jar to the top with room-temperature, pasteurized, apple cider vinegar. Cap it tightly with a plastic lid. (Metal lids will be eroded by the action of the vinegar. If you must use one, protect it with several layers of plastic between it and the vinegar.) Be sure to label your vinegar with the date and contents. Your goldenrod vinegar will be ready to use in six weeks to improve mineral balance, help prevent kidney stones, eliminate flatulence, and improve immune functioning.” ~From her Herbal Medicine Article: Glorious Goldenrod.

According to Susun Weed’s article, use of the vinegar will “improve mineral balance, help prevent kidney stones, eliminate flatulance, and improve immune functioning.”

I personally noticed while working with goldenrod vinegar preparations that it facilitates expansion in the lungs.  I feel this more intensely when I work with the oxymel and the infused vinegar, so maybe the apple cider vinegar has something to do with that feeling.  I also feel it with the tinctures and elixirs, just not as deeply.

If you want to make a really strong oxymel/shrub, use fresh, flowering tops in your vinegar and add local honey to taste. I prefer mine slightly sweet, but that’s just personal preference; some herbalists use more than 50% honey to vinegar ratio. Dried leaves make a very mellow vinegar infusion while fresh leaves and flowering tops make a very strong infusion.

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Goldenrod has really helped me with communication; not necessarily with the ability to speak, but with clarity of mind and focus.   (Calamus root has been very helpful in this area as well)

Emotionally, I feel happy and peaceful when I work with goldenrod.  I turn to the spirit of this plant when I feel unsettled or lethargic, when I feel like I have been in the house too long (cabin fever), or when winter has been hanging around a little too long and I’m not getting enough sunshine on my face. Goldenrod is a gentle and affectionate spirit, always ready to nourish and tonify our systems and soothe us when we experience nervous energy, nervous exhaustion or chronic fatigue.  I have had moments of wanting to “crawl out of my skin” emotionally, and goldenrod, used alone or combined with a few other plants, has eased me tremendously.

I wonder if goldenrod is beneficial for lymphatic issues… maybe by helping to facilitate movement in other systems of the body, it indirectly affects the lymphatic system.  If anyone has worked with goldenrod on that level, I would love to have feedback.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus, is well known for its use in healing the lungs and for treatment of ear infections.  Personally, I have found mullein to have a much wider range in it’s healing actions.

I was introduced to this plant by my Grandaddy Edwards when I was 13 years old. He used to smoke it for bronchial congestion, and he kept a little patch of it in his garden.

Mullein is a great tonic for the respiratory system. The (well strained) tea soothes bronchial spasms and can clear lung congestion, according to Gail Edwards. It’s also a great support, I’ve found, in nervine tea blends, especially for people who have a tendency to experience extreme nervous tension or who feel irritated when overheated. Like moi.

It’s also indicated for irritated, overactive bladders. Mullein tea and/or Marshmallow root cool and soothe the bladder.

Mullein Leaves

It’s a very important ingredient in my lymphatic blends, and I also am experimenting with it in my muscular and joint pain blends, and I really like how it helps calm irritated and inflamed nerves. You can also make a poultice with the leaves to place on muscle spasms, inflamed joints, and painful and swollen breasts. A friend of mine reports that she steeps the larger leaves and has them placed along her spine when she has painful flare ups from a nerve condition and it soothes her tremendously.

Mullein flowering tops oil

Several years ago, I made an infusion of flowers in extra virgin olive oil to treat my cat’s ear infections; this year I am experimenting with infusing both flowers and the flower heads; I simply pulled the flower heads from the stalk (they peel easily) and added them to extra virgin olive oil. I will use a low heat method to infuse the oil because the flower heads were not completely dry.

Mullein Roots

These large second year roots will be dried and used for ceremonial purposes. From a plant spirit / energetic perspective, I’ve experienced Mullein as a “gentle guardian” plant. I work with Mullein when I need clarity, when I feel overwhelmed, or when I feel scattered and unable to rest peacefully. I am working with this medicine to help watch over me during dreamtime as well.

How do you work with Mullein? I’d love to hear your experiences with this plant.

Mugwort Medicine

Mugwort

Mugwort Medicine

Artemisia vulgaris is one of my favorite plant spirit medicines. She really helps us during dream time. This elder plant or “crone plant” holds deep wisdom and is a great plant ally to connect with when you want to connect with your intuition and your inner wisdom.

Mugwort is a very strong digestive bitter. It’s also a very good “moving” herb, so it helps with menstrual cramping and stagnation. I like to make an infused oil of mugwort along with pennyroyal and rose for a tummy oil for menstrual cramps. I will also use it internally with motherwort and black cohosh, maybe some rose and kava for PMS with cramping.

Mugwort is a great anti-fungal and anti-viral, and it’s also indicated for infections in the mouth. I have also used her in elixir blends for the heart, for the nervous system, for liver and skin issues and in pain relief blends.

Place some mugwort in your medicine bag or make a dream pillow if you like and keep it with you when you dream or when you journey. Make sure if you work with mugwort for dream time, use it with intention and be clear about what you want to know from your dreams. If you don’t give mugwort a clear direction, your dreams will likely be very chaotic, confusing and/or disturbing.

You can make tea with it but it’s very bitter, so you may have to acquire a taste for it… you may also make a tincture with it. If you are going to use this plant ally internally, don’t use if you are a nursing mother or if you are pregnant.

Mugwort Back

Mugwort makes a great smudge stick; it’s very protective and clearing/cleansing. Many times I have used it in the place of White Sage for certain purposes, and I love the way she blends so well in a smudge bundle with Rosemary, Yarrow and Cedar. Gorgeous and powerful.

Dichondra repens and carolinensis

Dichondra repens

Dichondra carolinensis (Saltillo, MS)

Don’t you just love this little creeping ground cover? It’s all over my yard, and visually it reminds me of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) , but it’s not related. Dichondra is in the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae (kon-volv-yoo-LAY-see-ee), and Dichondra repens is a popular ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine blends. The medicinal properties of this particular species is what we will be discussing in this blog post.

 

 

creeping dichondra

Dichondra carolinensis (Saltillo, MS)

According to A Barefoot Doctor’s Manual, D. repens has neutral properties and an acrid taste. In all of my research, I haven’t seen any suggestion of using D. repens in tinctured form; it is always suggested as a whole plant decoction (30 to 60 g, drink daily).

This tiny, unassuming plant does the following:

1. Removes heat / Clears fevers / reduces swelling / removes “dampness” in the body

2. Detoxifies *yes, I know that’s vague*, and it is also indicated for treating jaundice, so I am assuming it acts on the liver in some way.

3. Induces diuresis / Removes calculi (mineral deposits that can form a blockage in the urinary system)

4. Enhances blood circulation

5. Lowers blood pressure / Reduces myocardial oxygen consumption

6. Has a bacterial effect on the body

7. Stops bleeding, esp. during Hemoptysis (coughing up blood or blood-tinged sputum from the respiratory tract)

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Dichondra carolinensis (Saltillo, MS)

Suggested indications for Dichondra repens:

1. Jaundice

2. Dysentery

3. Mastitis *perk* will be doing more research on this

4. Hemoptysis

5. Stranguria from urolithiasis *translation*: Straining to urinate due to stones located anywhere in the urinary tract.

6. Cloudy urine

7. Edema

8. Boils / Furuncles *ain’t that a cool word?* Or as my great grandma used to call them: “Risens”.

9. Decreased bile secretion: D repens can relax the bile duct and increase bile secretion.

This amazing plant is also called Huang Dan Cao, and, according to The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, it is interchangeable with the following due to similar properties (and is referred to as Jin Qian Cao): Lysimachia christianae Hance, Desmodium styracifolium Merr., Hydrocotyle sibthorpiodes Lam., and Glechoma longituba (Nadoi)

Dana’s Notes:

I have found that D. repens and carolinensis are interchangeable on gardening forums, and in some places, carolinensis is considered a “variety” of repens. I have tried to find an image of D. repens for comparison purposes, and I haven’t been successful in properly identifying repens.

I have a theory (kind of like a “bellybutton opinion”) that Dichondra repens and D. carolinensis MAY be interchangeable, not because of the way they are presented online, but because I am an adventurous soul, it’s a safe plant for experimentation purposes and no one has told me otherwise. Here are my D. carolinensis notes based on that theory:

When I drank a strong infusion of Dichondra carolinensis and tasted the freshly infused plant, I did not find that this species tasted acrid at all; it was actually more “sweet” (not sugar sweet) and very mild. I will decoct it longer *overnight* next time and see if there is a difference in taste. I really liked it.

I am curious about tincturing a bit of it for out of season use, and will be comparing the two.

I wonder how it would compliment my liver/kidney and my heart tonic blends.

I am also curious to know how it would act on UTIs and bladder issues.

Do you have any experience working with Dichondra repens or carolinensis? Please let me know about your experiences. I would love to include them on this post or on a future post dedicated to Dichondra.

Sources on the medicinal properties of Dichondra repens:

A Barefoot Doctor’s Manual p.400
Encyclopedia Reference of TCM p.123
innerpath.com.au
The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd Ed p.305

P.S. I would like to give a huge “thank you” hug to Susan Marynowski for being so supportive with the evolution of this post, and to my (many) other herbalist colleagues who work so diligently to research plant medicine, generously share their findings, and encourage others to carry the medicine forward. You have touched my heart in a profound way.

Bitters!!!!

Nothing says “OHMYGAWD” in your mouth like bitters.

The first bitters blend I ever tried was a gift from an herbalist friend. I immediately puckered up, made an “ohmygawdthat’snasty” face, and then decided I was in love with it.

Bitters has an amazing history; seems one of its first uses was to prevent poisoning. I guess it’s like building up an immunity to Iocane powder. For an in depth analysis on iocane powder, visit this Youtube link: Iocane Powder

Now. Where were we? Oh yeah. Bitters.

bitters

Bitters has changed mah life. For real. I have been dealing with serious digestive issues for going on 10 years now. Acid reflux almost daily, medications that only made my issues worse (and messed with my ability to assimilate nutrients)… I have made lifestyle changes, stopped smoking, changed the foods and liquids I consume, etc., and Nothing. Helped. Me.

Not long term.

Except bitters.

I take bitters 10 – 20 minutes before meals. Sometimes if I feel that I need a bit of a digestive boost, I’ll take another dose about an hour or so after I have finished a meal; especially if that meal was heavy on the protein or if I feel I ate a bit too much.

I am also seeing others report that, when we have a craving for sweets, it’s really our bodies signalling the need for more bitters in our diets; therefore it is said to reduce sugar cravings.

I have also seen that people are claiming it is affecting issues with borderline diabetes and insulin resistance. Note: I am not telling you to get off your meds and take bitters for diabetes, you hear me?? Good. Do your own research.

As far as I have experienced, bitters are the shizzle. Translation: this is some awesome chit.

I have some extra in my shop.

*Pucker up, Buttercup*
Dana