Hal's Hat

Hal's Hat

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Herbal medicine cabinet?

This week's blog is going to be a bit of a ramble.... Ready?
I'm planning out my herbal market garden. I've found a lovely north Lawrence plot on which to grow a larger selection and quantity of herbs. And they will be for sale! I'm going to make my tinctures, herbal vinegars, cut herbs (both culinary and medicinal), teas/ infusions and infusion blends, salves/ infused oils available for sale.
  • I'll be growing more burdock, echinacea and yarrow for tincture. For the herbal vinegars, I'll grow nasturtium, dill, motherwort, lemon balm. 
  • I'm growing basil, dill, rosemary, lavender, lovage, cilantro/ parsley for culinary use (maybe thyme, sage too).
  • I'm growing st. john's wort- but it won't be available for use until next year. 
  • I'm growing calendula, rosemary and comfrey for infused oils as well. 
  • For herbal infusions, I'll cultivate some nettles, red clover and mint assortments... the rest TBD. 
  • Sage and garlic will be grown for honey syrup.
  • I'm also trying to locate some reliable elderberry- so that I can syrup it!! Leads? Who has leads on this?
So my question to those of you who read this blog: How important are these herbs to you? Are they part of the weekly/ monthly budget?
I'm really excited to bring this out finally. As most of you know, I grow lots of vegetables (usually), and lots of herbs for my own consumption. But to actually commit to growing herbs for other people... it's new for me! I have been giving away my bottle of tinctures and infusions for awhile. This is a new challenge that I feel totally up for.

Here are two herbs I'm studying and feeling called towards: Osha root and Elecampane. 

Parts used- Root
Recommended preparation: tincture or honey tincture (could do glycerin/ glycerite)

Many older herbalists or people who take herbs and make herbals know about this root. It is, right now, over harvested and under grown. It is hard to grow cultivate and only grows wild in the mountains. Osha root is also know as Bear root or by our native First Nations folks, Bear medicine. Bear apparently, in folk tales, love it like a cat loves catnip! They roll in it, rub it on their fur and before hibernation eat loads of it. I've read a story that purported that a male bear would offer this during "courtship"/ mating rituals to females. Whoa nelly- do you get that this is a powerful plant? I surely do. 
Long nosed herbalists, the crones and oldie-goldies among us caution us to NOT buy Osha. Or to buy a tiny bottle and use a tiny amount. It is a superb ally for the chest and coughs, the lungs and lung issues. It is also amazing, I've read, at acting as an anti-venom for stings and bites (the tincture). I have a bottle of Osha root in honey for my smalls. It is for rooting out the cough and includes mullein in there too. It is great to loosen the mucus and allow the cough to be more  fruitful.

Water hemlock/ poison hemlock
A wordy aside (and a word to the wise): Osha is grown only at high elevations (where bears would live, folks). But it is a relative of the carrot (Queen Anne's Lace is a wild carrot) and also the cooking herb lovage. It is also very close to poison hemlock or water hemlock. It's leaves, to my eye, are very very similar! Now, you may or may not be aware of this poisonous herbaceous weed. But it is everywhere, in parks, in alleys, by your car. It looks like parsley (feathery leaves) or wild carrot or common carrot. But it is taller and has a thick stalk that is tinged with purple. I absolutely loathe and stay away from this as if it was poison ivy. It can give a rash and transfer its poison when a curious person crushes the leaves to do a smell test. It smells rank, musky, weird. Osha smells fresh, herbaceous, spicy, deep. Here is a picture of water hemlock:

Parts used- Root
Preparation: make a honey of this root. Root can also be candied and eaten. Great substitute for Osha root. 
Now, I'm loving the elfish herb. She has a mini sunflower look (is a Helenium, related to sunflowers and ragweed), loves WET soil and has powerful herbal medicines for relieving congestion and bronchitis. Perfect for this season, no?
Elecampane can be cultivated on your well drained but moist garden soils, with partial shade accepted. How great is that?? Add her to your cottage garden in the shady areas. 

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