A friend and I created an independent learning contract for Evergreen. It was both of our last quarters and we had just taken a course on ethnobotany in the winter and has fallen in love with story telling and we wanted to expand and explore what we had just learned. The contract we created was us each learning about one plant each week. We studied the plant, got to know it growing in the wild, we harvested it, wrote a creative story about the plant and served tea and read our stories to people every week at Evergreen. Here are the stories so you can read and enjoy for yourselves. Let me know if you want a full copy and I can email you one.
Just so you know what you are getting into, the plants (and 2 fungi) we did were…..Burdock, Catnip, Cleavers, Dandelion, Douglas Fir, Red Elderberry, Lemon Balm, Artist Conk, Red Belted Conk, Apple Mint, Mugwort, Nettle, Western Coltsfoot, and Willow. So read on if you are interested in any of these. Fun stories!
Made with Love by
Trina Trees and Dana Dahlia
The Art of Making Tea
What’s the big deal about making tea? Just throw a tea bag into some hot water…right? Only if you want to make a tea that is not maximizing the magical benefits of the special herb. If you want to make a tea that is beneficial to you, it is important to know how to make tea and to find out what the different ways to make tea are.
Infusions are when you boil about 20 parts of water to one part herb(s). Pour the boiling water over the herb(s) and let steep, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Infusions are used for the more delicate parts of the plant, such as the leaves, flowers and aromatic parts. Infusions are the most common way to make tea.
Decoctions are when you place the herb(s) in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat the water slowly and simmer, covered for 20 minutes to many hours. The longer you simmer the herb(s) the stronger the tea will be. Decoctions are made from the more tenacious parts of the plant, such as the roots, bark and seeds.
Cold infusions are when you put 1 part herb into 20 parts of water and let it sit ove1rnight at room temperature.
To make solar tea, place the herb(s) and the water in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Set it directly in the hot sunlight for several hours.
To make a lunar tea, place the herbs and the water in an open container and position it directly in the path of the moonlight. Lunar tea is subtle and magical; it is whispered that fairies love to drink it.
You can choose to strain the herbs after the process or let them float around in your cup. Some herbs, such as lemon balm, start to turn brown and do not taste good if left in the water too long. You can always adjust the amount of herb/time of steeping to change the potency and flavor to your taste. It is also good to find out which method of making tea is best for the herb(s) you are using. Enjoy!
When harvesting from the wild, it is important to consider many factors so that you do not cause harm to a plant, a colony of plants, or a habitat.
Ask the plants if they want to be harvested. Look and listen deeply. If you get an inviting feeling from them, then harvest consciously, but if you get a feeling that the plants do not want to be harvested, then just appreciate them for growing there and move on to another site.
Am I harvesting only what I need?
It is important not to over harvest from one plant/area. Look around to make sure you are harvesting from a large, healthy stand of plants, not the new stand that is struggling to get established.
You do not want to take too much that you inhibit growth, inhibit reproduction, or cause a plant to die. It is better to harvest a little from numerous stands of plants versus a lot from one stand.
Keep in mind that animals may eat the same plant that you are after—flowers are important for pollinators and berries are important for birds—harvest only what can be easily reached and leave the rest for animals with wings.
Am I disturbing the least amount of habitat?
When reaching a desired plant species it is often necessary to cross through other species and it is important not to disturb these plants. Walk lightly—chose a path that is mostly clear of vegetation, be careful of animal homes/nests—and when you return, follow the same path, so you don’t disturb more habitats.
If the plants you are after are in too hard to reach places, then look for plants that are easier to access, that don’t require you to harm other species on your way.
Am I harvesting during the correct season?
Some plants need a lot of energy in order to reproduce. If you harvest them during a critical time period when they are striving to put energy toward reproduction, by harvesting you may distress them so much that they are not able to recuperate that season, to finish reproducing.
It is also good to know, what season medicinal compounds are active in specific plants. Plants produce different chemical compounds dependant on certain environmental factors that you should be aware of for your own safety.
So, how do you know if you are over-harvesting, if you have never seen the after effects?
Do your research—each plant is different and every situation depends on the situation. Some plants are endangered or threatened and are much more valuable alive than in your basket. Do not harvest endangered or threatened species.
Be extra careful—it is much better to take your time and think through what you are doing, rather than rushing and causing a mess in the forest. Be gentle, conscious and loving; the habitat, the plants, and the medicine you are making will all appreciate it.
Extra Ethical Tips
¨ Keep a journal, record each time you go to a stand of plants, a record the effects of your harvesting over time
¨ Get permission to harvest on private and public lands
¨ Look out for opportunities to salvage plants from areas that will e cleared soon for development
¨ Don’t gather from unhealthy or sick stands; this could be harmful for you and the plants
¨ Harvest out of sight of other people so you don’t attract unwanted attention to the plants
¨ Store and process the plants properly so you don’t waste them
¨ Learn from you mistakes
LATIN NAME: Arctium lappa
FAMILY NAME: Asteraceae/Sunflower family
Hide n Seek
Burdock was a playful fellow, but no one liked to play with him. “You are just a weed,” the other neighborhood herbs would say. Burdock knew that he was not anything special; he was just a big weed that sometimes grew up to 3 feet tall, with his large, alternating, cordiform leaves shading the ground below. Burdock would just sit around and wait for someone to notice him, usually around July his purple grouped, globular capitula flowers would start to show and someone would at least stop to stare at the unusual looking sight. Burdock thought it was funny when an animal would walk by and get his flowers stuck to them, because the capitula is surrounded by an involucre made out of many bracts that are hook shaped that easily attach to fur. But watching the animal run off with his capitula was only funny to him for a short time, he soon became bored again wishing someone would play with him.
One day someone new came to town. “Hey! Who are you? I have never seen you before,” Burdock shouted.
“Hi cousin, my name is Dandelion.” Said Dandelion.
“Cuz?” Burdock asked.
“Yup, I was just blowing through town and I spotted you. Thought I would say hi,” Dandelion smiled.
“Well, what do ya know. I never knew I had any relatives,” Burdock exclaimed.
“Do you want to know about your family?” Dandelion asked.
“Ummm. Ok, but can we play a game first? No one will play with me and I have been so bored,” Burdock replied. Dandelion was already annoyed with Burdock obnoxious presence. “Why doesn’t he want to know who he is?” She wondered. “Ok. Do you want to play hide’n’go seek?” She asked.
“You betcha!” He shouted. I know exactly where I am going to hide, he thought, she will never find me, hehe.
“I am going to close my eyes and count to 20, you go ahead and hide. Do not come out unless I find you, or unless I call out for you,” Dandelion said.
Burdock started to bury himself as deep as he could go, causing his root to get really long and thick. He waited and waited for Dandelion to find him. Dandelion knew winter was soon approaching and she burst into white paupeses and floated away knowing the trick was on Burdock. Burdock waited all through the winter and mostly through the spring before he finally came back up to see what was taking her so long to find him. When he came back up he was mad. How could she do that to ME? Her own cousin, he angrily thought. His spirits were crushed and he decided this was the last year he was going to live. He had given up on life.
Right after he decided this, he spotted little Dandelions all around. “Hey,” He said in a monotone voice. “Hello! We are dandelions, who are you?” they squeaked back.
“I’m Burdock. I guess we are cousins. I don’t really know much about myself except that I am a weed,” He said gloomily. “Really! Wow, that is awesome that we are related.” They smiled back. “We can tell you what you need to know,” They said excitedly. “Your root actually can help people a lot. The three main medicinal properties you have are diuretic, diaphoretic, and a blood-purifying agent. That means you can help people urinate frequently, sweat and clean blood. Isn’t that awesome?”
“It sure is. Too bad I decided not to live after this year, hopefully the seeds I spread will take this knowledge and help people,” Burdock said happily, “I am glad to learn that I am not just a useless weed, but a helpful weed.”
Habitat and Range: Burdock likes to live in moist, fertile soils in temperate zones, especially abandoned sites, and roadsides. (3) The natural range is from Europe, Asia, and most of North America. (3) The current range is in temperate zones of Asia, China, Europe, North America, Australia, Tasmania, Japan and Hawaii. (3)
Botanical Description: Burdock is a very large plant, up to three-feet long and nearly as wide. (17) They have leaves with reddish stalks and woolly undersides; bitter taste left on fingers after rubbing leaves. (17)
Harvesting and Preparation: Harvest root when the top leaves of plant dies down in the fall. (17)Use a yard fork to loosen the soil all the way around the plant. Gently pull up the root so that it doesn’t break off. Scrub the plant under water then chop up into bits. Put a handful of pieces into a medium sized pot of water and bring to a boil. Cover and let sit for a day or overnight. Strain the root and drink the tea.
Medicinal Information: Antiscorbutic, counteracts deficiencies of the vitamin C complex; hypoglycemic, decreases the amount of sugar in the blood; alterative, promotes a gradual and beneficial change in a being; exthanematous, heals eruptions and diseases of the skin such as roseola, rubella, chicken pox; depurative, removes impurities; anti-onchotic, reduces swelling; anti-tumor, reduces and checks continuing, uncontrolled growth of new cells; anti-pyretic, reduces inner fires and cools fevers; anti-rheumatic, relieves and prevents rheumatic conditions and gout; antibiotic, kills and prevents the growth of all bacteria; anodyne, allays or soothes pain; rejuvenative, restores youthful qualities; aphrodisiac, increases sexual desire and ability; estrogenic, supplies hormonal precursors, usually in the form of complex sugars, which allow the person to produce needed estrogens; cholagogue, stimulates flow of bile from gallbladder and through the bile ducts; pulmonary, aids lung functioning, assists breathing; stomachic, a tonic to the action of stomach by nourishing and strengthing; carminative, expels gas; astringent, contracts organic tissue; urinary tonic, nourishes and strengthens the activity of the urinary organs; diuretic, promotes the formation and release of urine; demulcent, sooths and reduces irritation internally and externally and protects against further irritation. (17)
LATIN NAME: Nepeta cataria
FAMILY NAME: Lamiaceae/Labiatae/ Mint family
The Cat Will Show You The Way
Everyday Sally would get up, get dressed, feed her cat, eat breakfast and run out the door to catch the bus to work. Sally worked in an office where she had never ending phone calls, emails, conferences and projects to work on. She often ate at her desk and rarely took breaks. She also had to do traveling and flying to promote her job, so a lot of her time at home was spent planning and coordinating her office work with the work on the road. In the little spare time Sally had she liked to hit up the gym for a vigorous work-out. She knew exercise was important because her doctor said she has a lot of stress in her life and she needs a way to release some of it. Sally felt like a hamster on a wheel that was never getting anywhere. She was always working or working-out and never did any of the activities she liked to do, such as paint in the park or go for long walks. And she never had time for romance.
One day Sally got sick, she had a fever and diarrhea. She knew it was because of all the stress. She had to stay home. Even when she was sick at home she tried to do some of her work from bed. Finally, she fell into a deep sleep and did not hear her phone ringing off the hook. Pussy willow, her sleek grey cat had enough of her stress and the phone ringing. She knocked the main phone off the hook so it would stop ringing and picked up her cell phone and dropped it in the toilet. She knew Sally would be mad, but she did it for her own good. She curled up next to Sally and purred for a little while to try and make her feel better.
Eventually Pussy willow got bored and decided to go play with her catnip toy that Sally got her so she could entertain herself on those long lonely days. Sally woke up to Pussy willow making strange noises and rolling around. She just laid in bed and watched her for a while. She noticed that Pussy willow was playing with the toy that she fills up with catnip. Pussy willow looked so happy bursting with spasms of pleasure. Sally wished that she could be Pussy willow; she looked so happy and has no stress in her life. Sally wondered what would happen if she had some catnip. She did have some catnip that she dried herself and stored in some jars in the kitchen cabinet. She thought for a minute how she was going to take it, she didn’t want to eat it, and she knew she wouldn’t benefit from rolling around in it. She decided on making it into a tea. Pussy willow heard her open the catnip jar and came running to see what was happening. She watched Sally boil some water and pour it into her cup and place the catnip in her cup. She covered it with a plate and took the cup back to bed with her. Pussy willow was confused and did not know what to expect, she hoped it would bring Sally as much pleasure as it did to her.
Sally drank the tea throughout the rest of the day and into the evening. It did not make her silly and wound up like Pussy willow but she started to feel calm and relaxed. Her stress seemed to melt away, just like her fever. She was still not well enough to go to work the next day so she continued to drink her catnip tea. Even after she got better she continued to have a cup of catnip tea after work to take the stress off of her day. It was a good time for her and Pussy willow to bond over the plant they loved.
Habitat and Range: Natural habitat central and southern countries of Europe. (5) It is commonly used as hedgerows, borders of fields and on dry banks, especially in chalky and gravelly soil. (5)
Botanical Description: This is a perennial root that shoots up a square stem that grows 2-3 feet high. (5) It has heart shaped, toothed leaves covered with a soft, close down, especially on the under sides, causing it to have a whitish undertone causing a grayish appearance. (5) The flowers are whitish to pale pink, in bloom from July to September and are densely whorled around the short footstalks. (5)
Harvesting and Preparation: Take the top leaves just after it flowers. (11) Dry the leaves and when ready to make tea pour a pot of boiling water over a small handful of leaves. Let steep for 15-20 minutes.
Medicinal Information: Catnip is an excellent calming herb and can be used for all degrees of stress. (5) It is good for lowering fevers and for toothaches. (5) It is a relaxant for babies and young children. (5) It is a restorative digestive aid used for indigestion, diarrhea and colic. (5)
LATIN NAME: Galium species
FAMILY NAME: Ribiaceae
Cleave Me Clean
It was fall and school had just started. Wendy the nurse was hard at work dealing with sick kids all day long. Some would come in with sprained ankles, others with scraped knees, some with snotty noses, and more with scratchy throats. Wendy was around sick kids all day long. Working at a public school she had to treat kids the western way, giving them band-aids and hydrogen peroxide, making them gargle with salt water and of course she would never have been able to prescribe them any sort of natural plant medicine—that would have been too strange.
One day in mid October Wendy got sick, it must have been from all the sick bugs flying around in her office. She had some sort of infection because when she felt her lymph nodes, they were very swollen and tenderly soar too. She moaned as she pressed down on them, shaking her head. She tried to stay healthy being a nurse but she caught something at least once a year.
Wendy takes care of her body and is healthy so her body knows what to do. Lets zoom in.
Germs are zipping around in her upper respiratory tract. They are bouncing off each other and hopping up and down. They are pesky and they play hide and seek all throughout her nose, throat and sinuses. Wendy’s immune cells don’t like all this ruckus, so they start fighting back.
Wendy’s immune cells start working in different ways. Some of them gather the germs and toss them into the flow of lymph. The lymph starts channeling the germs towards the lymph nodes. Outside of the lymph nodes are the B-cells and T-cells and they start multiplying getting ready to help fight the germs. The B and T cells also send a call out to the lymphocytes also known as the white blood cells and soon lymphocytes are cruising in fast canoes on their way to the lymph node to join the fight.
The lymph node begins to fill up with lymph fluid carrying germs. The lymphocytes hop out of their canoes and rush in to the lymph node to start punishing the germs. More and more canoes arrive and more and more lymphocytes pile into the lymph node. The B-cells are multiplying and the T-cells too! The lymph node starts to swell. It gets bigger and bigger as more lymphocytes come to help and more germ-filled lymph flows in.
Inside the lymph node is a massacre. The lymphocytes destroy the germs one after the other.
Zooming out, back to Wendy, she is sneezing and coughing, her head is tight and she goes home early from school. She doesn’t want to spread these germs to anyone else. To get to her house she walks down a skinny path through the forest. She lives somewhere in North America and the forest near her house is moist and shady with lots of rich soil on the ground.
When she gets up to her porch, she reaches down to take off her shoes and she notices something attached to her pant’s leg. A piece of cleaver has come off and stuck to her pants. A light bulb goes off in her head and she puts her shoe right back on. Wendy knows that cleavers, being so sticky and clingy as they are—they love to just grab hold of things and go for a ride—are really good at helping clear out lymph nodes.
So she walks back down the path and starts chopping off the tops of the cleavers. They are small plants that live close to the ground; they have a lot of stem and leaf structure but barely any roots so she is careful not to disturb their root system. She picks until she has 4 handfuls and then she heads back to the house to make some juice. She presses the cleavers and squeezes out a juice and drinks it. She rubs her lymph nodes and hopes that the cleavers will do the trick to make the swelling go down. She plans on doing this again in the morning too.
Zooming back into Wendy’s lymph nodes, they are still swollen. The lymphocytes are doing a good job at killing the germs but they are not doing the best job at cleaning germs out of the lymph nodes. As the cleaver juice comes in, somehow it finds its way to the lymph nodes. Sometimes plant medicine seems to be really intelligent and the cleavers know just where to go. As the cleavers come in with their sticky clingy energy they help grab onto the dead germs and carry them out of the lymph nodes thus decreasing the swelling and soreness.
Overnight the immune cells and cleavers work away as Wendy rests. In the morning she feels her lymph nodes again and they still feel pretty swollen. So she heads out to get some more cleavers to help clear them out. The cycle continues until the germs are all destroyed and moved out of the lymph nodes. After a few juices of cleavers Wendy’s lymph nodes are back to normal and she is very thankful for having a strong determined immune system and cleavers growing in her forest.
Habitat and Range: Cleavers grow on the forest floor with other low growing green plants. I have seen it often growing along side minor’s lettuce and bleeding heart but also in neighborhood gardens as well. It grows in loose soils that are easily compactable so be careful when tromping that you don’t step everywhere and disturb the plant’s root systems that lie in the top layer of the soil (16). It is wide spread throughout North America and is often found on the sides of streams (16).
Botanical Description: Galium is a big genus, with many species that look similar (16). They have small thin leaves, usually 1/2inch-2inches long (16). The leaves radiate out around the stem like bicycle wheel spokes, in sets of 4-8 (16). The stem has 4 sides and the flowers are star shaped (16). The plant, when bruised, smells like sweet roses (16). All Galium species are medicinal but herbalists use Galium aparine most often, because it is very juicy and watersoluble (16). Cleavers got its name because most species are very sticky; since the leaves and stems are covered in very small hooks, it easily clings to clothing and can climb other plants (16).
Medicinal Information: Cleavers is most commonly used to aid in the drainage of inflamed lymph tissues possibly because of its vasodilating qualities (16). It is also a mild diuretic which might also help the body remove excess fluids (16). Cleavers are used for chronic or acute problems with the lymph system such as tonsillitis, ovarian cysts, and stomach ulcers (16). Cleavers are okay to use over a long time period as a lymphatic tonic (16). Cleavers can help reduce inflamed skin from insect bites and stings or as an anti-inflammatory eyewash (16).
Harvesting and Preparation: Cleavers can be harvested whenever they are growing but they die back after they go to seed so harvest before then (16). Cut the plant off, instead of pulling it up from the ground since the root system is very delicate (16). Cleavers is an annual so it depends on seeds for next year’s growth (16). Do not over harvest a stand and expect it to come back the following year (16).
To prepare, cleavers can be made into a tea, but it is commonly juiced and drank fresh (16). It is not usually dried because it quickly loses its constituents, but it can be made into a tincture (16).
Cautions: No known cautions.
LATIN NAME: Taraxacum officinale
FAMILY NAME: Asteraceae/ Sunflower family
Pappus In The Wind
Their once was a bright yellow flower that lived in Greece. She loved to bathe in the sun all day letting her bright, smooth, green, basil shaped leaves stretch out over the grass. She looked forward to the afternoons, because a little girl named Susan would come sit with her and tell her stories. Susan decided to name her new friend Dandelion because she thought her yellow flowers looked like a bright lion’s mane.
One day Susan did not show up. Dandelion was not worried at first, but she missed her. When Susan did not show up for a couple of days Dandelion began to fret. She knew something had to be wrong, because Susan would not leave her. Dandelion was so frustrated with herself, because she could not move around to search for her. She had no way to leave her spot in the grass.
Finally, after several days passed Dandelion heard Susan yell out of her bedroom window, “Dandelion! I am so sorry I have not been out to sit and tell you stories. I have been really sick and I need some help with my liver, it has been hurting and I am now jaundiced. When I get better I will come see you. Please don’t forget about me.” This made Dandelion’s heart sink, because she knew she could help the little girl. She wished she could find a way to get to her.
Brown squirrel could not help but over hear Susan’s problem and wanted to help. Squirrel lived nearby and also enjoyed listening to her stories. Squirrel went to Dandelion and said, “I am so sorry to hear about Susan being sick. I miss listening to her stories. Is their anything I can do?”
Dandelion thought a moment. What could squirrel do, squirrel is so lucky to have feet. Then she had a great idea, “Squirrel, would you please carefully dig up some of my roots and take them to her? I just know they will make her better, especially if you give her some every day. I remember that she eats soup every day at noon. Put my roots in her soup to eat. They will help heal her liver.”
“Nothing would make me happier,” Squirrel said as she carefully dug up some of Dandelion’s roots and ran as fast as she could towards the little girl’s window.
Susan woke up from a nap. She wished she felt better, and she really missed her friend Dandelion. She yawned and stretched and rolled over to find her soup waiting for her next to the bed. She started to eat the soup and noticed that it tasted different. It was bitter compared to the soup she was used to eating. For some reason the soup reminded her of Dandelion. Each day the squirrel put roots in Susan’s soup until one day she got better. Somehow Susan knew it was because of her friend Dandelion’s love.
When the Susan was able to finally get out of bed, she went right outside to her dear Dandelion. “Dandelion! I am back, and I am better,” The little girl said. “I have some sad news though. My family has decided to move, we are going to go very far away, over mountains and oceans. I really wish you could come with me. I will miss you so much.” She cried and ran away. Dandelion saw her jump into her family’s car and they drove off.
This made Dandelion very sad and anxious all at once. She desperately wanted to find Susan and she was so sad to see her go. So many emotions and desire built up in her that she finally exploded into white pappuses. Then the wind picked up and blew them apart, up in the air. They spread and grew into more dandelions. Those dandelions continuously exploded and flew up into the air. Searching for the little girl as far as Europe, China, Australia, New Zealand and North America.
That is how Dandelion became so strong and abundant. You will find her almost everywhere growing strong and exploding into pappuses. Susan’s love made dandelion strong and gave her strong powers to heal her. Dandelion still looks for Susan, but in the meantime enjoys watching little girls blow her pappuses into the air.
Habitat and Range: Native to Greece, Arabia, Asia Minor, but they currently live worldwide; especially throughout the north temperate zone of China, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and North America. (15)
Botanical Description: Dandelions are known as the bright yellow Flowers in your lawns and field. (17)They have dark green leaves that are hairless. (17) They grow stalk-less from a center point. (17) The seed heads turn into little white parachutes that fly when the wind blows. (17)
Harvesting and Preparation: It is best to harvest in the Fall because the plant’s energy has not started to go towards making leaves and flowers. (4) Loosen the soil around the plant and gently pull the plant straight up out of the ground, carefully so that the root doesn’t break. After the roots are dug up, wash them and chop them into small pieces. Put a handful of chopped root into a medium size pot of water and bring to a boil. Let sit for a day or overnight. Strain the root out and drink.
Medicinal Information: It is a hepatic, treats diseases of the liver; cholagogue, promotes the flow of bile; tonic, increasing or restoring the health of the body organ; The following chemicals are found in dandelions: galactagogue, promotes the secretion and flow of milk; stomachic, stimulating gastric digestion; aperient, mild laxative; diuretic, increasing the volume of urine excreted; deobstruent, removes obstructions; bactericide, substance capable of killing bacteria; astringent, contracting-constrictive; hypnotic, promotes sleep. (17)
LATIN NAME: Pseudotsuga menziesii
FAMILY NAME: Pinaceae
What do you want to be when you grow up?: A Conversation with Fir and Cedar
“Hey there!” the small western red Cedar yelped, “can you hear me?”
“Sure I can!” the skinny Doug fir responded.
“Oh cool! I’ve never heard you talk before so I wasn’t sure if you could hear me. You’re awfully quiet. We should talk more since we grow right next to each other.”
“I try not to talk so much. I like to put all my energy into growing. I want to be big and tall like my mama some day,” said Fir.
“Where is your mom? I don’t see her nearby,” said young Cedar.
“That’s because she died soon after I sprouted. She had a bad trunk, she never had good posture when she was growing up, so she was kind of tilted. One day a big storm hit and the wind was blowing really hard. She toppled over into the river and since then has floated down stream. I don’t even know where she ended up.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I bet she went for a fun ride! This river looks like it moves really fast in the spring time when all the snow is just melting. Sometimes I get worried that its gonna rise so high that the bank we are growing on will collapse and we’ll all slip into the chilly water.”
“That doesn’t sound like fun to me,” Fir said matter-of-factly.
“I like to think of the possibilities. There are so many things I could grow up to be!” said little Cedar.
“What do you mean?” asked Fir.
“Well, see that mound over there?” asked Cedar. “It’s covered in moss, salal plants, and ferns. Look! It even has some mushrooms fruiting from it!”
“Yea, so… What does that mound have to do with you?” asked Fir.
“That mound used to be a cedar tree too! Maybe even my grandmother, but I don’t really know for sure. That tree must have died years ago and now she is covered in new life. It would be so cool to have moss and bushes growing all over me!” exclaimed the little cedar.
“That does sound cool. I heard about fir trees that are really tall, and while they are growing they have moss and lichen growing on them too! It does sound like fun to be a house for other living creatures! The other day a chickadee landed on one of my branches and it tickled! Maybe one day my branches will be strong enough for a bird to build its nest in.” said the fir as she started to get excited about future possibilities too. “What else do you want to be when you grow up?”
“The other day a squirrel told me about an old cedar tree that was hollowed out on the inside. The squirrel ducked inside to see what was there and the tree was hollow in the center, pretty far up into the tree. He wasn’t sure how the tree got like that but he felt really safe inside. I think it would be neat to be hollow inside some day. I know it sounds strange but maybe someone would come and sleep inside me if I was hollow down at the base. I could shelter them from the rain. Any ideas what you want to be when you grow up?”
“I hope to grow tall! Big and strong. My mama was pretty old when she had me, I hope I can grow to be as old as she was, so I can give life to lots of little Fir trees too,” said Fir. “I heard from a crow that there were big yellow things chopping down trees like me on the other side of the mountain. I hope that doesn’t happen to me. The crow said that they cut off all of their branches and chop the trees from the bottom with things that make really loud noises. Supposedly the trees are loaded on a really fast thing that takes them far away from here. I bet those trees don’t get to float down rivers, host bird nests, become nurse logs or ever get old enough to be hollow in the center. I sure hope that doesn’t happen to me!”
“Boy! I hope that doesn’t happen to me either!” said Cedar. “I feel sorry for the trees on that side of the mountain. I don’t want to be chopped up into different pieces and shipped all over the place. I want to stay in this forest here! I want to be able to pass on my life to new life! What do you think we can do to keep those things from coming over here and chopping us down too?”
“I’m not sure. I see a lot of humans come walking by us during the day time. They seem to like to walk along the side of the river. Sometimes I hear them singing up ahead in the evenings, they must be camping up there,” said Fir.
“What do those humans have to do with us not being cut down?” asked Cedar.
“Well, if humans like being around us, hopefully they will help protect us from the humans that use the loud machines,” responded Fir. “When I see humans pass by I try to send them happy thoughts, sometimes I ooze sap so that they can smell the sap as they walk by. A little girl came over and sniffed me the other day. We had a special moment.”
“Ah! I see. So if we are friendly to the humans on this side of the mountain, hopefully they will keep the other humans with big machines from coming over here. Great idea!” shouted Cedar.
“Yup! I’m pretty sure that’s about all we can do. If we keep putting out good vibes and being the best we can be, life will go on, we can’t worry about being chopped down each and every day,” said Fir.
“Your wise young Fir. We’ll never be able to really plan our futures since there are so many different aspects affecting us. All we can do is keep on being who we are no matter what. We don’t really have a choice of whether we end up floating down a river, becoming a nurse log, hollowing out, being pecked to pieces by woodpeckers, eaten out by shelf fungus or chopped down by humans. We just have to wait and see. You’re right, all we can do is to continue to be friendly and nice to those humans that come hiking by and hope they will be friendly and nice to us too.”
Young Fir Gets A Lesson From Mama
“Young Fir it is about time that I told you about your uses. I think you are now mature enough to learn,” Mama Fir said to her young tree.
“Ok, mama, I am ready to listen,” Young Fir responded openly.
“You will grow into a big tree with many different parts and they are all used for a variety of things. My mama tree told me all this when I was about your age too. You have roots, big ones and small ones. You also have branches that are low now but soon they will only grow up high in the sky. Your trunk is covered in gray-brown bark and over the years it will get thicker and thick. On the inside of your bark is your inner bark that is light green. On the tips of your branches you have needles, they are friendly needles compared to your distant relative the spruce, who has spiny needles. You have pine cones too, both pollen cones and ovule cones so that one day you can make new trees too.”
“Thanks mom, but I knew most of that stuff, except about the pollen and ovule, hehehehe. Weren’t you going to tell me about what I can be used for? I don’t just want to be standing alone, wasting away all my life,” Young Fir said.
“Be patient young fir, your uses are many and I do not want to overload you with too much information in one day. Rest now and we will resume our teachings tomorrow when the light comes again,” mama Fir said.
The next day as soon as the light peaked its rays over the mountainside, Young Fir was awake. “Good morning mama! I’m ready for another day of learning!”
“Ok Young Fir, I’m glad to see you so eager to learn.” Mama Fir said. “Lets start with your tips. Each spring you will grow new tips, the needles on your new tips will be slightly brighter green than the rest of your needles. Your spring tips are good for treating colds and coughs and they have a lot of vitamin C in them too. Be prepared for people to come and pull of your new tips, it’s ok if they do, as long as they ask nicely and don’t take too many, it would be hard for them to take too many though, because much of your new spring tips will be too high for them to reach.”
It was mid afternoon by this time. Trees talk very slowly, you know. It requires a lot of energy for them to talk and they don’t do it very often so your very lucky if you come across a talking tree.
Young Fir was being very attentive, so Mama Fir went on, “Lets move on to your sap. Your sap is slightly sweet and very sticky, sometimes it is called a resin. It is used by humans for many different things. Some times your trunk will just ooze sap on its own, if you have an open area in your bark, sap will help you heal your trunk. It helps humans in a similar way. Some people will use your sap to seal closed their canoes or water buckets so that they don’t leak. Other people, just like what your trunk uses it for, will have open wounds or sores or burns or even broken bones, and they will use your sap to help them heal their skin.”
“Wow, that is some crazy sap, how does it do that?” asked Young Fir.
“It is a very powerful sap indeed. On top of it being so sticky, it also has antiseptic properties too.” Mama Fir answered.
“What does antiseptic mean?” asked Young Fir.
“Antiseptic means that it keeps your open wound form getting infected. For example if you had a scratch on your bark, your antiseptic sap would help keep you healthy by discouraging pesky bacteria and other microorganisms from coming in and attacking you while you were weak.”
“Oh, I see,” said Young Fir as she yawned.
“Well that was a long day of learning, huh little one? How about we rest and talk more about what you are used for when the next new moon comes. Good night.”
Botanical Description: Douglas Fir is a tall (70m) conifer that has thick gray-brown bark when older, 2-3cm long needles, pointed tip, 2 white stomata lines underneath, one groove on the upper side, and are spirally arranged (13). The female cones are 5-10cm long and hang downwards, reddish brown, papery scales, and the bracts emerge like 3 pointed forks or hiding mousetails (13).
Habitat and Range: Doug Fir grows in the Pacific Northwest in dry to very moist conditions (13).
Harvesting and Preparation: The young spring needles can be picked in late spring, when they are bright green and clearly the new growth (13). The young needles can be made into an infusion tea (13).
Medicinal Information: The young needles are high in Vitamin C, they are a good spring tonic and can be used for colds or congestion (13). The roots, inner and outer barks, and resin also have medicinal properties (13).
LATIN NAME: Sambucas racemosa
FAMILY NAME: Caprifoliaceae /Honeysuckle family
Many years ago there was a fairy filled forest on the Pacific coast of Turtle Island. The forest was overgrown with moss, ferns and dense shrubs much like we have here today. Instead of wild animals such as insects, fish, birds, and humans, in this forest lived fairies and gnomes.
The gnomes mostly lived underground and they scurried around on the earthen floor causing mischief and playing jokes on each other. The fairies lived high in the trees and plants, and they fluttered and zoomed through the air from plant to plant.
There were so many different fairies that lived in the woods, they each enjoyed living in their own trees, and they mainly stuck to one tree. Some fairies were more protective of their trees than others and they each had their own magic for dealing with the other fairies they didn’t want visiting them.
There was a babbling brook running through the forest and on the side of it stood an elderberry tree. The elderberry was old and in it lived 4 fairies. The four fairies had been living in the tree for so long that they all got along together really well. They mostly lived in the flowers during the springtime and in the berry clusters during the summer.
Sometimes the fairies in the forest would bicker and play jokes on each other, just like the gnomes. The elderberry fairies did not like it when other fairies came to play on their plant and they were very good at chasing them away.
Each of the fairies had their own special magic, and when they combined their magic, they were able to chase away young pesky fairies. As soon as the intruding fairies started playing on their elderberry shrub, one of the fairies would emit a sweet musky scent and it would make the intruder start sweating fairy flakes (Diaphoretic). Another fairy would blow on the intruder and they would start peeing rainbow colors (Diuretic). A third fairy would spit all over the intruder and they would begin coughing up fairy goo (Expectorant). The fourth fairy shined a bright light that came from her forehead and it made the intruder’s chests change to a translucent frosty blue color (Pectoral). As soon as all this had happened to the intruders they no longer felt the need to play on the elderberry tree so they would quickly leave.
The elderberry shrub had a group of gnomes that lived in the roots and sometimes patrolled the bark and trunk of the tree. They were angry and mean gnomes! When other fairies would fly near them they would attack them with a spray that made them feel dizzy and nauseous. This is why, we don’t eat the roots, bark, or leaves of the red elderberry plant; since those parts are still full of tiny gnomes that will make our bodies unhappy because they contain cyanide producing glycosides.
We do, however, eat the flowers and berries because they help us fight away pesky infections that could eventually give us a cold or a flu.
Habitat and Range: Red Elderberry is found in most places in the United States minus a few southern states and it likes fairly moist soils (16).
Botanical Description: The Red Elderberry grows as a tree-shrub. The leaflets are smoothly jagged on the edges and are in sets of 3-9 (16). The plant has a sweet musky smell and the inflorescences are in creamy-white bunches of tiny flowers. It seems to me, that the plants flower when they are about 4 feet or taller, the shorter ones don’t seem to be flowering yet. The ones that are deeper in the shady forests do not flower as early as ones that receive more sun.
Harvesting and Preparation: The flowers bloom for about 3 weeks in late spring (16). Harvest sparingly, so that you leave plenty of flowers on the tree to turn to berries. The flowers can be made into a fresh tea (16). The red elderberries can be made into a jam or wine, but they should not be eaten raw (16, 14). The seeds should be strained from red elderberries and not eaten (16). The fresh flowers can be made into delicious fritters. The flowers and berries can be dried for future use, but they have a shelf life of only 6 months (16).
Medicinal Information: It seems that there are so many different uses for different parts of elderberry. The flowers are a wonderful spring tonic and blood purifier (16). They are known to be diaphoretic (causing sweating), diuretic (excreting fluids), expectorant (promotes the excretion of mucus and/or lubricated the respiratory tract), galactagogue (encouraging lactation production) and pectoral (relaxing the lung and chest muscles) (16). These actions could be why elderberry is a good match against the flu as well as colds when they are at the beginning stages.
Taken along with Yarrow can increase the antimicrobial and diafuretic qualities (16). Taken along with Coltsfoot will increase the expectorant qualities (16).
Cautions: The bark, leaves and roots are all toxic, do not ingest these parts (13). The seeds are also toxic so make sure they are strained out when making jam or wine (16). The seeds contain hydrocyanic acid that can be toxic when ingested in large amounts (16).
LATIN NAME: Melissa officinalis
FAMILY NAME: Lamiaceae/Labiatae/ Mint family
Good To Be Free
Melissa is the strong silent type. She grows tall and slender with small green leaves. When she grows her inconspicuous flowers that are yellow and white at the top. Melissa always wants to help and she doesn’t expect anything in return, just friendship. She decided one day that she was going to go out and make some friends, but she is so shy she is not quite sure how to do this. So, she stood there under the shade of a big tree and smiles as people go by, sometimes she will stand up as tall as she can be trying to be noticed. No one did, they kept walking past her.
The next day came and she was hopeful that someone would notice her because she had grown a nice yellow flower. Someone came and sat next to her, but they did not notice her at first. The person started to cry. Melissa did not know what to do. She let off some nice lemon scent in hopes that it would cheer the person up.
The person noticed! They looked right at her. “Hello.” Sniffled the person. “You look really nice, I bet you do not know what it is like to be depressed or anxious. You seem to be happy with your yellow flower, resting in the shade. I think I will just sit with you for a while and hope that you lift my mood a bit.”
Melissa was happy that someone noticed her, but she wished the person was not so sad. She knows that plants are not supposed to talk to strangers, but she felt strongly that this person would be her friend if she talked to them. “I want to help you. Will you trust me? Please pick some of my leaves and put them in a tea,” Melissa whispered to the person.
The person looked over at Melissa in dis-belief, “Did you just speak to me? I must be going crazy. I do have a strong urge to take some of the leaves, they smell good.” They took some of her leaves and ran off.
Melissa thought she blew it, Why did I have to go talking to a stranger? How could I be so stupid? I bet I will never see them again. Although, they did take some of my leaves, maybe they will come back after they find out I am just trying to be their friend. So Melissa waited patiently and sure enough they came back the next day.
“Thanks friend, your leaves really helped me out last night. I was able to get a good night sleep and you lifted my spirits. I think I am going to take you home and call you Lemon Balm,” the person said to Melissa as they started to dig her up from the ground. Melissa became worried. She did not like the idea of belonging to someone; she just wanted to be friendly and helpful.
The person put her in their garden bed and kept a close eye over her for the next few days. Although, they took good care of her and kept her company she still felt really uncomfortable. She decided to plan her escape. She knew the person was going to be gone for a little while. She slowly began creeping out of the garden bed leaving a trail of little Melissa’s behind. She thought it was a good compromise. She didn’t have to be there and she could spread herself out and go as far as she wanted. She jumped and made it across the yard under a tree. She felt happy there and hoped that the person would not be angry.
When the person came back they saw how big and wild Melissa had become. They started to pick all the Lemon Balm that was not contained in the garden bed. Melissa was scared, she thought for sure this was the end of her. By the time the person came over to where she was she whispered, “Please don’t take me. I helped you and left you some of me. Let me be free and wild.” The person stopped and looked at Melissa for a while then turned around and went inside. Melissa never saw them again.
Habitat and Range: Lemon balm is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. (6)
Botanical Description: It can get about 4 feet tall and have a square stem. (6) The flowers are white or light yellow and loosely bunch at the axils of the leaves. (6) The leaves are heart shaped, serrated and opposite in arrangement. (6)
Harvesting and Preparation: It is best to harvest June-August by hand on a warm, dry day, because the leaves will turn black if they are harvested wet. (6) It is ok to make a tea out of fresh leaves or dried leaves. Boil a pot of water and add a small handful of leaves. Let steep for about 10 minutes, and strain the leaves. If the leaves are left longer they will start to turn brown.
Medicinal Information: Calming, antiviral, and antiseptic, this member of the mint family is a good nervine herb. (6)The leaves and flowers contain volatile oils, tannins, and bitters that have a definite relaxing, antispasmodic effect on the stomach and nervous system. (6) It is excellent for stomach distress and general exhaustion and can be used as a mild sedative for insomnia. (6) It can be made into a cream to help with herpes. (6)
Medicinal Mushrooms: Artist Conk and Red Belted Polypore
LATIN NAMES: Ganoderma applanatum and Fomitopsis pinicola
FAMILY NAMES: Ganodermataceae and Fomitopsidaceae
Way back when, there lived two super heroes. One was called Super Red Belt and the other was called Super Artist. Super Red Belt was colorful on top—dark red, orange, yellow, white, brown and black—with a white underneath. Super Artist also had a white underside, but it stained brown easily and Super Artist had a brown top that it liked to coat with its own spores. Their day jobs were breaking down fallen or dead trees. They worked close to each other, but they did not compete because they had different tastes. Super Red Belt liked to eat cellulose and Super Artist, like most fungus, liked to eat lignin. All day and all night, they ate and ate, decomposing wood.
One summer afternoon a timber company chopped down a stand of tall trees leaving many bent over, wounded, and downed. Guess who came to the rescue! Yup! Super Red Belt and Super Artist! They moved right in to the fallen forest and started eating away, decomposing the way back to the soil.
One day, a young woman was walking in the woods and she started crying. She sat atop a fallen log with her head in her hands. “Oh my tumor! It makes me look so strange. I wish there was something to help me get rid of it,” she said.
As she said this Super Artist heard her from deep inside the log and wanted to help. Super Artist knew it was his time to fruit, so he gathered all his tumor fighting energy and pushed his way through the thick bark, slowly but surely. When the young woman opened her eyes she noticed Super Artist sticking out of the log. She could have sworn it was not there before so she saw it as a sign and took it home and researched it. She learned that it was good for fighting tumors so she drank tea of it everyday. Soon enough, her tumor started to go away.
One rainy day in October, a young man was out in the forest. He had come to get solitude from the busy city. He sat down on a log and began contemplating. He thought of his mother’s lung cancer, his friend’s stomach cancer, and his boss’s liver cancer. So many people were getting cancer these days, he thought. He was worried and didn’t want to end up with cancer himself. He wondered whether there was something he could do to stay healthy, to prevent himself from getting cancer. He lay down and took a nap, all the while dreaming of a cancer prevention miracle. Super Red Belt read his mind and started to fruit. When the young man woke up he noticed the shelf fungus and thought his prayers had been answered. This was 60years ago and now he is 83years old and has yet to have a single cancer cell in his body.
Once again, Super Red Belt and Super Artist had saved the day! Or at least the lives of two humans. So they return to their day jobs of decomposing woods until next time.
Habitat and Range: Artist conk is common in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the US and it is also found in Asia and into the subtropics as well (7). It grows on conifers, bamboos, and broad-leafed trees (7). It is a perennial and can grow to be 40-50 years old, often spreading 5 trillion spores in a year (1-5).
Botanical Description: Artist Conk is a fungus not a plant. Funguses are more closely related to animals than they are to plants, but we like them so we will include these in here anyways. Artist conk emerges from dead wood like a half of a plate if the plate was really thick, without a stalk. It is brown on top and white on the bottom. The white pores on the bottom can be scratched on with a stick or fingernail to make drawings (hence the name). They vary in size, 10-40cm in length (7).
Harvest and Preparation: Depending on the strength of the mushroom you can either break it off with your hands or you may need a serrated knife. These species are vital to the health of forests so only harvest in places where they are numerous. To prepare, clean dirt and leaves off. Cut into small pieces, with a sharp or serrated knife. I make decoctions when I prepare Artist Conk, by boiling a big pot of water along with the chopped mushrooms, overnight on my stove. I let it boil for at least 4hours so that the properties in the mushroom are extracted into the water.
Medicinal Information: In traditional Chinese Medicine it is used to reduce phlegm, eliminate indigestion, stop pain and reduce heat (7). It has anti-tumor, anti-biotic, and anti-cancer properties (1-5). It is able to fight against E. coli and Staph bacteria (1-5). The tea can have diuretic effects and act as an immune enhancer(7).
Cautions: No known cautions.
Red Belted Polypore
Habitat and Range: Red Belted Conk is usually found decomposing dead conifers standing or fallen (7). It ranges from the Pacific Northwest to Canada, Arizona, California, North Carolina, Ohio and Eurasia (7).
Botanical Description: Also not a plant, the Red Belted Conk emerges like a shelf from dead trees, no stalk is present, the pores underneath and spores are white (7). The top is multicolored and variable; often the outer layer is white, then a reddish brown belt, then greenish brownish black on the inside layer.
Harvest and Preparation: Similarly to the Artist Conk, this species can be pulled from the tree or sliced off with a knife depending on how hard it holds to the tree. Harvest only when there are numerous fruiting bodies in the area, since they are important species for healthy forest ecosystems.
To prepare, make a decoction. Slice the mushroom into 1/2inch pieces and boil for at least 1 hour to extract the active constituents (7). I usually leave it on overnight, to extract as much as I can from it.
Medicinal Information: Red Belted Conk can be used as a daily tonic (7). It is used for cancer prevention, to reduce an inflamed digestive tract and assist in tumor inhibition (7). It is recommended in King’s American Dispensary for jaundice, chronic diarrhea, fevers, headaches, excess urine and chills (7).
Cautions: No known cautions.
LATIN NAME: Mentha suaveolens
FAMILY NAME: Lamiaceae/Labiatae/ Mint family
Cool, Shady Places
Minthe was a very sweet and gentle person. She liked to spend her time in cool, shady places because it made her feel refreshed. She liked to hike around in the forest and hang out by herself. She felt lucky living so far away from town because she had plenty of forests to roam around in. She lived with her mother Steph who was always feeling nauseous.
Because Steph always felt sick to her stomach she rarely left the house and this caused Minthe to spend a lot of time alone. Minthe did not mind the alone time she got, but she really wished her mother would feel better so she could show her all the wonderful life she has discovered out side.
One day she wondered into a field that had apple trees in them. She was so delighted because in town apples were very expensive. She laid down on the ground to look up at one of the trees. She rolled over and saw a nice, juicy apple on the ground. She was getting a little hungry so she decided to eat it. It tasted so good she decided to take a few apples and put them in her basket to bring back home. She thought that maybe, just maybe the apples would help her mother’s stomach feel better.
Steph tried an apple, and it sort of helped but did not cure the sickness she felt. The next day when Minthe was out exploring a mean man came knocking on Steph’s door. He demanded payment for the expensive apples Minthe stole from his apple orchard. Steph explained to the man that Minthe did not know they belonged to him and that it was impossible to pay for them because they had no money. He said that if she did not pay up within the next three days he was going to turn Menthe in. He said he would be watching the place to make sure she did not try to leave town.
After he left, Steph just cried. She did not know what to do; the cost of the apples was just too much money for her to even think about and the consequences for stealing in their town was death. She knew of a way that could possibly save Minthe, but the end result could be the same. Minthe could be gone from her life forever.
When Menthe came home she knew something was wrong, the air was thick, and quiet. She found a tear stricken Steph in her bed. After Steph told her what happened Menthe fell to pieces. She was panicked, what was she going to do? Steph told her the only solution she had was to use a magic potion her mother had given her before she died. Steph wasn’t sure exactly what would happen, but it couldn’t be worse than what was in store for Menthe. All Steph knew was that it would change or disguise her permanently.
They spent the last two nights together comforting each other and saying how much they loved each other. They worried about what the magic might do. Menthe decided that what ever happened was not going to be in the house in front of her mother. She told her where she was going to go and where to look for her if she did not come back.
The time had come and Menthe decided to go out the cool, shady place next to the forest to drink the potion. She did not cry, she wanted to be brave and face what ever was going to come her way. She said a prayer to the forest and drank the potion. It turned her into a small green plant that had serrated leaves, opposite in arrangement pointing up to the sky.
After several hours Steph could not stand it anymore and decided to go out to find out what happened to Minthe. Steph went to the spot Menthe told her where to go and all she found was a small green herb she had never seen before. She heard a small voice saying, “Its ok mom, I am here in my favorite place and I will live on forever.” She also told Steph that she could take some of her leaves and make a tea that will help her stomach. Steph laid on the ground next to Minthe for a while smelling her new sweet smell. She decided that she was not going to call her Minthe anymore she was going to call her Apple Mint. Steph told the angry man the next day the Minthe snuck out during the night never to be found again.
Habitat and Range: Natural habitat is throughout southern and western Europe and the western Mediterranean region. (1) It is a hybrid, herbaceous and perennial plant that is most commonly grown as a culinary herb. (1)
Botanical Description: It grows about 3 feet tall and diffuses itself by rhizomes to form colonies. (1) The leaves are light green, hairy on top and downy underneath; opposite and serrated that are oblong shaped. (1) The flowers are light pink/purple in mid to late summer. (1)
Harvesting and Preparation: Take leaves from the top of the plant first, before it flowers. (1) Never harvest more than 2/3 of the plant at a time. (1) Can be harvested until six weeks before first frost. (1) Either make a tea with fresh leaves or completely dry them first. Boil a pot of water first and pour over a handful of leaves. Let steep for 10-20 minutes. Straining them out before drinking is optional.
Medicinal Information: It can be used to improve digestion, heal many illnesses like intestine problems and stomachache. (1) It helps break down fat and increase metabolism level.
LATIN NAME: Artemisia douglasiana
FAMILY NAME: Asteraceae/Compositae/Aster Family
Dreams Can Come True
Tessie was walking around at the circus with her mom, dad and twin sister Bessie. There was so much excitement and fun. Balloons, games, rides and of course the big tent with the main show inside. The 18 years old twins were especially excited to see the magic show. When the magician asked for two volunteers from the audience of course he picked the twins. They got called up for a disappearing act. It turned out to be a very good act because when the two girls went into the magic box at the beginning of the act, only one came out, Tessie, and she was unconscious.
Tessie woke up in a panicky sweat. Ten years had passed since that day and almost every night she had this dream, but could not remember it fully. She wanted to get to the end of the dream, because after that day she never saw Bessie again. There was a big investigation and no suspects found; eventually the case was just put on the shelf. Tessie had gone through years of therapy and counseling trying to get over the disappearance of her beloved sister. If only she could remember what happened she might be able to find her. She tried everything, even hypnotherapy.
One day Tessie was walking down the street and accidently bumped into a woman that looked about her age. When they collided their things got all mixed up. They picked up their stuff, said sorry and went on their way. When Tessie got home she noticed that she had one of the woman’s important papers. It had her address on it so Tessie decided to walk over to her house to return it. When Tessie got there the woman opened the door as she walked up and said I have been expecting you. Please come in. She explained to Tessie that she had also gotten one of her papers in the mix up, a flyer looking for her long lost sister. The woman said her name was Joyce and that she was what common people called a psychic or witch.
After they got settled, she asked Tessie if she would tell her what happened. After Tessie told her about the dream, Joyce gave her an herb called Mugwort and said to make a tea every night before bed and then check back with her a week later to see how things were going. She said this tea would help her remember her dream more vividly. Tessie thanked her, took the tea and went home. She was desperate to try anything.
A week had almost passed she noticed that her dreams were more vivid and she was able to remember them, but she was not able to have the same nightmare until the end of the week. The last night of the week Tessie’s dream came back and she remembered what happened. It was so clear. She ran over to see Joyce as soon she woke up and pounded on her door. She realized that Joyce was actually Bessie!
When she opened the door they started hugging and crying. Tessie could not believe she had found her. She learned in her dream that Bessie wanted to run away. She wanted to become a witch and did not want to stay in her boring life. She knew her family would not understand and when the twins went into the magic box she had put Chloroform on her handkerchief and put it over face to make her pass out so she could disappear out the trick door.
She was so sorry for what she did and she saw how much Tessie suffered. She know ten years could change someone and she wanted to see what kind of person Tessie was before she let her know who she was. When she realized she missed Tessie desperately she did not know how to tell her. That is why she “bumped” into her and then gave her the Mugwort tea to help her sleep well and have vivid dreams. They had some issues to work out but they were happy to be back in each other’s lives.
Habitat and Range: Mugwort is a perennial plant that can be found throughout the Northwestern parts of the U.S. (2) It prefers dry sunny areas close to streams and is normally found in large clumps along trails and streambeds. (2)
Botanical Description: It can grow up to 7 feet tall with leaves about 1-2 inches long. (2) The overall shape of the leaves almost look like hands because they have five points off of the tip of the leaves and two on the lower sides that look like a thumb and pinky. (2) The top side of the leaf is a dark green and the underside is light green/silver looking because of little hairs.(2)
Harvesting and Preparation: The leaves should be harvested before they start to flower. (13) Dry the leaves and when ready to make tea pour a pot of boiling water over a small handful of leaves. Let steep for 15-20 minutes.
Medicinal Information: Mugwort can be used to boost energy, the nervous system, expelling intestinal worms and for the induction of dreams. (12)
Cautions: Contains Thujone, which is toxic and causes miscarriage or other complications if ingested while pregnant. (12)
LATIN NAME: Urtica species, U. dioica, U. urens
FAMILY NAME: Urticaceae
Love For Nettles
There once was a family that lived in the forest. They lived far away from where most people ventured, far away from any town or city. There lived a mother, father and two sisters. They lived simply, harvesting most of their food from the forest and growing the rest in a garden under the sun. Even before the daughters could walk, their parents taught them about the plants of the forest.
If their mom asked the girls to go get roots, they knew which hill to climb to find the big patch of wild parsnips. They knew where to find the juiciest berries and the tastiest flowers. They lived near a babbling brook and one of their favorite activities during the summer was to catch crawfish with their bare hands. Down the creek was a two-foot waterfall that they loved to play under when the weather was hot. On the banks of the creek just past the waterfall there was a huge patch of nettles.
The elder sister, Pyrola, was always wary of the nettles. When she was 3years old she had run into the nettle patch, bare skin and all. She was stung all over her body by the tiny hairs on the stems and leaves that released formic acid when they touched her skin. Pyrola’s skin turned bright red and broke out into tiny blisters. Ever since that day she has steered clear of nettles.
Stelaria, the younger sister, learned early from her sister’s mistake. Her parents made sure to teach her about nettles, since they relied on nettles for so much of their nutrition throughout the year. They taught Stelaria to speak with the plants; to ask them before harvesting and thank them afterwards. Her parents also taught her to be very calm and intentional when she was near nettles. Because of this deep respect and tranquility, the nettles rarely stung her and even if they did, she didn’t mind the slight stinging tingling feeling, she learned to enjoy it; it awakened her skin and made her more aware.
Stelaria’s favorite time of year was early spring when everything was just starting to grow again after the cold winter. This was when the nettles started to grow too. Before the plants were even 6inches tall, she loved to carefully eat the leaves fresh off the plant. When the plants were young, they would eat nettles all the time, putting them in soup or steaming them, always cooking them to neutralize the stinging hairs.
When the plants grew taller and Stelaria was a bit bigger too, she would harvest the leaves for drying so that they could be stored for the rest of the year. They used the dry nettles in soups, teas, and salad dressings; they mixed them in almost anything they cooked. This kept the family nice and healthy since nettles are a great source of iron, calcium, potassium, manganese and Vitamins A, C and D.
In springtime, Stelaria would usually gather nettles from multiple patches she knew of, only taking a little from each patch. One year, she got lazy about harvesting and she harvested all her nettles from the patch at the base of the waterfall. The next year came and when the nettles began to grow, there were barely any there. She thought back and remembered clearing the patch and felt bad. This year she decided that she would not only harvest and eat the leaves but she would plant the roots too. So Stelaria, carefully dug up small sections of the nettle roots, not disturbing the parent plants and she walked down the creek planting new patches of nettle. She knew that nettles liked moist soils, so she made sure to plant them in places she thought they would grow well in.
The next year came and she went to check on her planting but nothing was growing. So, she decided to plant again. The following year she was surprised to see nettles growing from the places she planted two years before. She was amazed and realized that it must take them two years to become established in the soil before they could grow above ground.
Throughout Stelaria’s life even when she moved away from her family home in the forest, she kept with her the teachings of the nettles, calm intention and awareness, patience and respect.
Habitat and Range: Nettle grows all over North America, in moist soil, on the sides of water ways, in meadows and roadside ditches (16). Nettle can also grow well, down stream from agricultural runoff, so beware when harvesting nettles here or along roads as they can accumulate heavy metals (10).
Botanical Description: Young plants are often tinged purple/maroon, turning a bright dark green with age. The leaves are serrated, pointy at the tip and opposite. The single stem, rarely branching, is square. The leaves (mostly on the undersides) and stems are covered in tiny hairs that release formic acid and can cause stinging and blisters (10). They often grow in colonies connected by roots underground (16). They can be anywhere from 2-10feet tall (10).
Harvesting and Preparation: Since nettles grow in rich moist loose soil, walk lightly so as not to disturb the shallow root systems (16). Harvest nettles in early spring, when they are young and tender, to use as fresh greens; cooking them neutralizes the toxins (10). Harvest when they are taller, before they reach full seed for drying; drying them neutralizes the stinging toxins (10). Dried, they will last for 18months (10). They can be used as tea (steeped fresh each time since the potency decreases after an hour or so), cold infusion, juice and food supplement (10).
Medicinal Information: Try nettle as a nutritive tonic, it contains potassium, iron, manganese, calcium, vitamins A, C and D, and is high in chlorophyll and protein, as far as leaves go (10). It is often used as a diuretic; increasing the volume of urine excreted (10). Some people use it to prevent seasonal allergies (10).
Caution: Nettles can cause immediate stinging and skin reaction upon contact! Wear gloves. Cook or dry leaves thoroughly before ingesting.
LATIN NAME: Petasites palmatus
My Grandma Taught Me
A young girl was out on a walk with her grandma one spring day. They had wandered deep into an old Douglas Fir forest and soon came across a group of white flowers growing near a stream.
“What are those grandma?” the girl asked.
“Mmmmm. Those are some of the first flowers to poke their heads out of the ground each spring” she replied. “Even before the leaves emerge, the flowers are out. The plants store up energy in their roots so that they have enough umph to shoot up flowers even before their leaves have come out to photosynthesize.”
A week later, the girl and her grandma were out on another walk and they came across the same stand of flowers.
“Look grandma! They have leaves now!”
“Yup, that’s coltsfoot there,” said grandma. “Last summer I had a horrible cough, my throat was scratchy and my chest hurt every time I coughed. So I came out here and gathered me some coltsfoot leaves. I took them home, made some fresh tea that day, and hung the rest to dry. After 2 days my cough had improved. I wasn’t waking up the whole house all night with my loud hacking.”
“How much tea did you drink?”
“I drank one cup in the morning, one with lunch, one with dinner, and one before bed. So, 4 cups of tea each day. That’s what you gotta do sometimes if you really want a plant to help you heal.”
“Did it heal you grandma?”
“Well, no. It didn’t get rid of my chest infection but it did calm my nerves, which were making me tense up and cough all the time. And it did sooth my throat too.”
A week later, they were out on a walk again and the young girl noticed that leaves of the coltsfoot plant were much bigger this time.
“Look grandma, it almost looks like it’s one big plant.”
“Your right. The stems are connected by underground rhizomes and roots that continue to grow and spread as time goes on.
“Do the roots help with coughs too?”
“No. The roots are used for stomach pains and cramps.”
“Did you ever try using them?”
“One day after a night of bad sleep, my stomach started hurting. At work, I was stressed out and behind schedule so my stomach started getting worse. On top of that, I ate something weird for lunch and then I had it. I left work early, came up here, and harvested me some coltsfoot roots. I went home and made a decoction with ‘em. You know what a decoction is?”
“No, tell me.”
“Decoctions are when you boil roots—dried or fresh—for usually an hour or more in water. Since roots are thicker and harder than leaves, you have to boil them longer to extract the medicine from them.”
“Oh I see. Like how you have to cook a potato longer than you cook spinach. So did the root decoction make your stomach feel better?”
“Oh yea, I sipped slowly on that tea and by early evening my stomach felt fine. I made sure to eat a good wholesome dinner and felt much better the next day.”
“Wow! So the plant leaves are good for coughs, the roots are good for stomach pain. Is there anything else?” the little girl asked.
“I could tell you one more story,” grandma said. “When I was a little girl about your age, I was running in the woods with my brothers. I tripped over a fallen log and banged my elbow on a sharp rock. My elbow started bleeding and because there are a lot of nerves around the elbow, the pain was intense, shooting up and down my whole arm.
“My brothers were older and they knew what to do. Your Uncle Johnny ran to grab some of the coltsfoot root. He mashed it up with a stone and put it on the cut. Johnny and Paul wrapped it using the leaves too and told me that I had to keep it on for at least half an hour, which at that time seemed like an eternity.”
“Did it work? Did it stop the pain?” the little girl asked.
“Yes it did. I’ve since learned that coltsfoot is a nerve sedative, slowing down the nerves so that the pain didn’t feel so bad. This is similarly why coltsfoot stopped my coughing and made my stomach feel better. Because it calmed and relaxed my nerves.”
Habitat and Range: Coltsfoot grows in moist shady areas and it ranges from Northern California up through Alberta, Canada (10). It grows mostly on the west side of the Cascades, but it has also found as far as Idaho (10).
Botanical Description: Separate flower stalks with white flowers come up first, before the leaves, in early spring. Large palmate green leaves on top with white underneath grow around the flowers and continue to grow, covering the ground after the flowers are gone. When the leaves first emerge from the ground they look like a colts foot, hence the name. The leaves arise off a single stalk that comes out of the rhizome roots below. The plant spreads through rhizomes easily since they grow in moist loose earth.
Harvest and Preparation: The leaves should be collected from mid June to late August (the mature leaves have less pyrrolizidine alkaloids than the young ones) (10). Pluck the stems at ground level. Form them into bundles with rubber bands and hang them to dry (10). They are easily crushed for dry storage and to make a tincture, the entire plant does not need to be cut up—just stuff it in a jar and cover it with alcohol (10). For smoking, it is recommended to remove the stems and only use the leaves (10). Harvest the roots in the spring, clean them, chop them and dry them for storage (10). The dried plant parts will last about 2 years (10). The leaves can be steeped as tea and drunk 4 times a day and the root can be drunk as a decoction 3 times a day (10).
The fresh root can be gathered anytime and used as a poultice—just clean it and mash it up on a big rock with a smaller rock (10). Place some of the crushed root on the wound, cover and hold it on for at least half an hour (10).
Medicinal Information: Coltsfoot is an antispasmodic and nerve sedative (10). The leaf tea is good for coughs and chest pain (10). The roots are good for soothing stomach pain and cramps (10). The root is used as a poultice to sooth pain, especially pain in places with lots of nerves, such as the head, hands, feet, and arms (10).
Cautions: DO NOT TAKE IF PREGNANT (10). The leaves contain pyrrolizidine alkoloids which are produced to deter herbivores from eating the leaves (10). Pyrrolizidine alkoloids can cause liver damage (10). They are found in borage and comfrey leaves too (10). In small amounts they are not harmful but these plants should not be taken over long periods of time (10).
LATIN NAME: Salix sp.
FAMILY NAME: Salicaceae
Along a sunny stream grew a tall willow tree. She was wise as a willow could be. She had learned much throughout the years she had grown on the stream bank. So many different animals visited her and they all liked to tell her stories while they ate her leaves or bark or stems.
Wise willow did not live alone either. Throughout the year she sheltered various insects and different birds would come and build their nests in her branches.
One day a human being came up to her and told her a story about his sister who always got headaches and had pain all over her body. The human asked wise willow if it was okay if he took some of her twigs and smaller branches so that he could scrape off the bark and make medicine for his sister’s pain. Wise willow agreed and the human took just a few of the branches, only enough for his sister’s medicine, thanked wise willow and left.
One week later a doe and her fawns came and visited wise willow. They asked wise willow if it was okay if they scraped off some of her bark. The doe told wise willow about how one of the fawns tripped when she was running out of the way of a fast moving, bright shining, object the night before and was having trouble foraging because of the pain in her legs. Wise willow said it was okay for the deer to naw on some of the bark as long as they didn’t eat all the way around her trunk, because that would kill her.
Two weeks later an old woman came to the tree and lay down, resting her back against the trunk. She sang a song to wise willow and rubbed her hands against the bark. It was a cold day and she was sweating bullets. She sang to the willow as she cut a few branches from the tree. She used a blade to scrape the bark off the small branches she had cut and put them right in her mouth even though they were strong and bitter. She sucked and chewed on the scraped pieces of bark and moved them around in her mouth all the while resting and singing to the tree. Her fever began to subside and she slowly drifted off to sleep.
Three weeks later a family of rabbits came to visit wise willow. They chit chattered over each other and hopped up and down trying to reach her leaves. The father rabbit finally shushed the bunnies and was able to yell to wise willow if she would please swing her branches in the wind so that they could catch them and just have a few nibbles.
As the rabbits were nibbling on the leaves a porcupine approached. He was moving slowly towards the tree since he saw the other visitors. The porcupine said hello to the rabbits and said hello to wise willow and he proceeded to climb into the branches. He asked wise willow why she didn’t have any buds on her. Wise willow replied that he was a bit too late in the season. Disappointed, the porcupine leaped to the ground and rolled away from the tree. See you early next year he yelled back at wise willow.
Wise willow knew that she had a gift. She was glad to share it with all the animals in the forest. She enjoyed helping them relieve their pain and make their fevers go down. Some of the animals that visited didn’t even know what exactly was wrong with them, but they knew to come to wise willow for help anyways.
Another day, a few years later, a young man approached wise willow. This man knew about wise willow’s gift for stopping pain and reducing fevers and he wanted to see if he could figure out why. So he asked her if he could have a big branch so he could take it to his laboratory and experiment with it. She agreed and the young man cut off a big branch and took it back to his lab to see what chemicals it had in it to see if he could help make it available to more people, even people that did not live close to any wise willows of their own. The man found that willow contained Salicylic acid. Over some years, he and some of his friends were able to manufacture a medicine called Aspirin, which was one of the first medicines sold in a tablet.
One day, many years later, the man returned to wise willow. He noticed a bird’s nest high in the branches and a porcupine munching on the new willow buds. There was also a family of deer nibbling on some bark down below. He looked at all the animals and smiled. They were not afraid of him; they knew he was safe because he had come to wise willow just like they had, all looking for a little something to help them ease the natural pains that arose in their lives.
Habitat and Range: Willow grows in moist habitats, on streams sides, river sides, lake sides, marshy areas all over North America.
Botanical Description: Willow is a highly variable genus (of over 100 species) of plants that grow in shrub to tree form (16). Willows have unique catkins (flowers), male and female on separate plants, appear on young twigs and are silvery white furry buds (known as pussy willows) until they quickly begin to mature (16).
Harvesting and Preparation: Willow bark (cambium) is the most common part used and it is gathered in the springtime since juices flow upwards towards the leaves most intensely when the catkins have just gone and the buds are going to leaves, so this is the time when the medicine is strongest (16). It is easy to break off a few small twigs and strip the bark off with a pocketknife. If removing bark directly from the tree, do not cut the bark all the way around the branch because this will kill the plant above where you have stripped the bark since the cambium layer is vital for the transmission of nutrients up and down the plant.
The bark can be used fresh or dried in teas or decoctions (16). It can last dried for 1 year and tinctures can also be made with the bark (16).
Medicinal Information: The salicylic acid in willow species serves as an analgesic (pain relieving) (16). Willow bark is used as an alternative to aspirin, for headache pain and can also be used externally to relieve pain from burns, cold sores or other skin irritations (16).
Compared to aspirin, willow is astringent (tissue shrinking), making it anti-inflammatory (16). Willow does not thin the blood like aspirin (16).
Willow can also be used as a rooting hormone for growing plants from cuttings.
Cautions: Both willow and aspirin can irritate stomach ulcers (16).
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