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The Lonely Shepherd and His Little Lonely Sheep

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20th, 2014 by kristine — 1 Comment so far

Hey Kids, check out this video on Hawthorn by Yarrow Willard!

 

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 28 – Making Hawthorn Syrup in 5 Easy Steps

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19th, 2014 by kristine — Be the first to comment!

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Children learn best through their everyday experiences  with the people they love and trust, and when the learning is fun. And the best place for these experiences is outdoors, in the natural world.

– Center for Families, Communities, Schools and Children’s Learning

Hawthorn has an affinity for the heart and works on all levels of healing. Spiritually, Hawthorn is used to protect and heal the heart as well as open the heart to assist with expression, healing grief and giving and receiving love. Emotionally, Hawthorn promotes a general sense of well-being. Herbalist jim mcdonald speaks of Hawthorn’s heart protection by describing the tree, the berries which are so good for the heart are protected by thorns on the tree, not grabby thorns like we see on Rose or Blackberry but just gentle reminders, surrounding and protecting the berries. Hawthorn’s medicine works in the same way, gently surrounding and protecting the heart without being forceful.

Photo by Gail Faith Edwards

Photo by Gail Faith Edwards

Physically, Hawthorn’s cardiotonic, circulatory stimulant, trophorestorative and rejuvenative properties help to heal from heart attacks, weakness of the heart muscle, degenerative heart disease, irregular heart beats, congestive heart failure, stabilize angina and recuperation from heart surgery. Those with high blood pressure will also benefit from his hypotensive and vasodilator properties which helps to open up circulation and may reduce effects of hardening of the arteries. When taken as a tonic over several months, the benefits received from Hawthorn will be retained, even after you stop taking it.

Further into Hawthorn’s heart medicine are his anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals which in turn protects the heart from disease and other problems associated with free radicals.

Hawthorn is also used as a nervine and sedative. The flowers especially are used for treating insomnia though the berries can be used as well. Hawthorn tea or tincture can be taken long term during periods of stress to help protect the heart and nervous system. For those who have dealt with chronic disease and infections, Hawthorn can also help to protect the heart from pathogens.

Photo by Rosalee de la Foret

Photo by Rosalee de la Foret

Matthew Wood talks of using Hawthorn for children and adults who have attention deficit disorder, can’t focus or sit still and read, and who are restless, irritable and nervous. He has found it to be effective for bringing speech to children with autism.

Hawthorn is also very strengthening and protective of the joint lining, collagen and discs in the back. I found it to be useful for my daughter to take while getting chiropractic adjustments, as her C1 and C2 vertebrae kept slipping out of alignment. Taking Hawthorn helped her to retain the adjustment longer until it was able to hold in place long term.

As a carminative and digestive, Hawthorn helps the body to digest food, especially greasy foods, meat and fats and can help to relieve abdominal pain and distention from poor digestion. Hawthorn has also been used for treating dysentery and watery diarrhea, calling on his astringent properties to help. If the diarrhea is caused by a bacterial infection, his antibacterial properties can be helpful too.

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Hawthorn contains aluminum, calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin (B3), phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin (B2), selenium, silicon, sodium, thiamine (B1), tin, vitamins A and C and zinc, making him a great nutritive.  His berries can be eaten straight, or cooked into compotes, jellies, fruit leathers and more for gaining this benefit. If you do eat the berries straight, do not chew the seeds, spit them out. Like Apples, they contain a bit of cyanide which can be toxic if too many are consumed. One of favorite ways to consume Hawthorn is in a syrup. We can get our daily dose of medicine while eating pancakes, french toast or even over ice cream! The syrup can also be consumed by the spoonful. Here is our recipe for Hawthorn syrup:

You will need:
2 cups fresh or 1 cup dried Hawthorn berries*
4 cups water
1 cup raw honey

Saucepan
Measuring cup
Strainer
Cheesecloth
Spoon
Quart jar or bottle
Label

Place the herbs in a saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil then slowly simmer until the liquid is reduced to down to 2 cups.

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Strain off the haws and return the liquid to the saucepan.

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Add half the amount of liquid measurement in honey which should be 1 cup. Turn the heat back on and stir while heating until the honey starts to thin.

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Turn off the heat and stir to combine. When cool, pour your syrup into a bottle or jar and label.

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Store your syrup in the refrigerator.

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If using as medicine, use the following dosages:

Adults: 1 tablespoonful daily
Children 2 – 6: 1 teaspoonful daily
Children 7 – 12: 2 teaspoonsful daily

Want to learn more about Hawthorn and how to incorporate this wonderful herb into your everyday routine? Grab the latest issue of Herbal Roots zine!

*When I can’t find herbs in my area, I rely on Mountain Rose Herbs for the best quality herbs.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com

Giveaway Monday – Cayenne Set from Mountain Rose Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17th, 2014 by kristine — 16 Comments

***This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Doris, she is this week’s winner!***mrh-logo

This week, we are giving away a package all about Cayenne, our herb for December! This package will get you started on exploring this wonderful medicinal herb. Just in time for trying out Cayenne’s warming powers!

This packages contains:

cayenne-seeds

1 package Cayenne seeds

 

cayenne_powder

4 oz organic Cayenne powder

 

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1 oz organic Cayenne extract

A little bit goes a long way and this package is sure to last you through a month’s learning of Cayenne and then some!

Mountain Rose Herbs is a certified organic processor through Oregon Tilth which is fully accredited with the USDA National Organic Program. Since 1987 they have continuously worked for the advancement of sustainable organic agriculture and state they will continue this lifelong passion into the future. They wholeheartedly recommend discovering the joys to be found in organic food products and the best place to start is right here at Mountain Rose Herbs. From the herbs they offer, to the teas they process and the oils they have distilled.

M0untain Rose also has a great YouTube Channel which offers an amazing amount of tutorials and educational videos, many created by John Gallagher and Rosalee de la Foret of Learningherbs.com.

You can also follow them on their Blog for more information and great Giveaway offers!

Love Mountain Rose Herbs? You can show your support by ‘liking’ them on Facebook. Tell them Herbal Roots zine sent you!

Want a chance to win this awesome package from Mountain Rose Herbs? Leave a comment! For more chances to win, leave a separate comment every time you do one of the following:

-if you’re a kid, tell me how old you are and what your favorite Herbal Roots zine activities are

-Check out MRH’s website and tell me some of your favorite things

-Blog about it (leave reference link)

-Follow Mountain Rose Herbs on Pinterest and pin this giveaway with hashtags #mountainroseherbs #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your pinterest name in comments so we can find you)

-Become a follower of Mountain Rose Herbs on Twitter and tweet this giveaway with hashtags #mountainroseherbs #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your twitter ID in comments so we can find you)

-Facebook/Myspace/Tweet about it (leave reference link)

-Sign up for the Herbal Roots zine monthly newsletter (and receive an issue for free!)

-Become a follower of Herbal Roots on Twitter and tweet this giveaway with hashtags #mountainroseherbs #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your pinterest name in comments so we can find you)

-Follow Herbal Roots zine on Pinterest and pin this giveaway with hashtags #mountainroseherbs #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your twitter ID in comments so we can find you)

Sign ups end on and I’ll draw the winner on Monday, November 24, 2014. Thanks for entering and good luck!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 27 – 10 Favorite Herb Books for Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13th, 2014 by kristine — 1 Comment so far

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Our children no longer learn how to read the great Book of Nature from their own direct experience or how to interact creatively with the seasonal transformations of the planet. They seldom learn where their water comes from or where it goes. We no longer coordinate our human celebration with the great liturgy of the heavens.

– Wendell Berry

Brrr! Days like this I am envious of those living in warmer climates! Snow is fluttering outside my window and the fire has not yet reached my office to warm it. It’s hard to push the kids outside when it’s cold and gloomy; the sun hasn’t been able to make an appearance from behind the thick layer of clouds in the sky.

This is the time to crack open the herb books for a snuggle by the fire! Here is a list of some of my kids’ favorite herb stories.

My younger kids like to listen to these stories and practice their reading skills with them:

wildflowertea

Wildflower Tea by Ethel Pochocki and Roger Essley
“He brewed his tea in a blue china pot, poured it into a chipped white cup with forget-me-nots on the handle, and dropped in a dollop of honey and cream. He sat by the window, cup in hand, watching the first snow fall. “I am,” he sighed deeply, “contented as a clam. I am a most happy man.”

A sweet tale of a man gathering his herbs by summer and making teas from them by winter.

HerbalistofYarrow

The Herbalist of Yarrow: A Fairy Tale of Plant Wisdom by Shatoiya de la Tour
The story of a little girl who listens to the plants and learns their healing powers. When the king’s evil wizards try to bring in more powerful medicine, the people learn the plants are still the best answer.

SONG OF THE SEVEN HERBS

Song of the Seven Herbs by Walking Night Bear and Stan Padilla
This book has seven stories about seven common herbs using spiritual allegories to teach us to be caretakers of Mother Earth.

imwtcover423

I’m a Medicine Woman Too! by Jesse Wolf Hardin
A great book about empowerment and not letting your age get in the way of your dreams.

littlegreenhikinghood

Little Green Hiking Hood by Nina Judith Katz
This book is currently available as an ebook only but is a sweet little gem. We are waiting on the arrival of her other book, Yana Listens to arrive in the mail.

thedandelionscousin

The Dandelion’s Cousin by Gertrude Teutsch  
This sweet book is all about Sow Thistle. This book is beautifully written and illustrated.

I have always loved plants. Seeing this despised weed develop so many different forms intrigued me as an artist. Nature is a wonderful teacher!” -Gertrude Teutsch

isabellaspeppermintflowers

Isabella’s Peppermint Flowers by Susan Leopold
This is a brand new book that we haven’t gotten to read yet but I just saw it at the AHG Symposium last weekend and it’s going to be a hit when we get a copy of it!

 

My kids who are strong readers enjoy these books for their own reading pleasure but they also make great read alouds to the younger crowd:

juniperwisechild

Juniper and Wise Child by Monica Furlong
While there is a third book in this series (Colman) we found the first two to be the most enjoyable.

fallingin

Falling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Isabelle Bean gets sent to the principal’s office for not paying attention in class due to a buzzing sound that only she can hear. She tumbles into another world that is very different than her own and finds herself drawn to the healing plants while being accused of being a witch due to the way she’s dressed.

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Janna Mysteries Series by Felicity Pulman
There are 6 books in this series: Rosemary for Remembrance, Rue for Repentance, Lilies for Love, Willows for Weeping, Sage for Sanctuary and Thyme for Trust. This series will have any book loving kid on the edge of their seat as they read about young Janna living in a tiny cottage on the edge of the forest with her mother Eadgyth, the village herbwife.

5 year

And of course, I always manage to squeeze in a few of my own stories from past issues of Herbal Roots zine! This is the perfect time to dust off those past issues, read the stories and sing the songs that are in each issue to have a quick refresher of all the herbs they’ve learned about in the past.

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What are your favorite herbal stories for reading by the fire? Do your kids have favorites that they return to over and over again?

Herbal Roots zine Conference Poster

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10th, 2014 by kristine — 2 Comments

HRz-Poster-2014

I am delighted to announce that my poster won two awards at the AHG Symposium this year!

The Best Contribution to the Future of Herbalism

The People’s Choice Award

A huge thanks goes out to Leslie Alexander for urging me to submit an abstract, to my partner for helping me with the layout, the judges for selecting me and most of all, the people who selected me out of all the amazing posters that were presented! Herbal blessings to all.

Giveaway Monday – Hawthorn Elixir Set from Fellow Workers Farm

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10th, 2014 by kristine — 18 Comments

***THIS WEEK’S WINNER IS HEATHER SHELTON! CONGRATULATIONS HEATHER! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.***

 

This week’s winner is in for a treat! We are delighted to be giving away a Hawthorn Elixir Set, 2 – 1 ounce extracts from Fellow Workers Farm.

elixir

The first extract is 1 ounce Hawthorn flower, leaf & berry in grain alcohol. Traci wildcrafts her Hawthorn when they are at their best.

The second extract is 1 ounce Heart of Barkness elixir. This elixir contains Hawthorn flowers, leaves and berries, Cacao, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Maple syrup, Whiskey. This elixir is great for the heart, bringing focus and tastes amazing!

traci-picard

About Traci Picard and Fellow Workers Farm:

Traci runs Fellow Workers farm apothecary, growing and foraging plants and making medicines. She writes, teaches, thinks and breathes about issues affecting herbalists and other healthcare workers including movement, critical thinking, mind-body medicine and foraging. She is interested in access to herbs, health justice and functional fitness. She has taught at herbal and integrative medicine events, schools and conferences.

Check out her blog for informative articles, amazing herbal collections such as  the August collection (Fungi), the July collection (her Angelica Collection, which rocked my socks off!), and the June collection (Calamus) and  and more.

In her spare time she enjoys proofreading and studying grammar.

You can follow Fellow Workers Farm on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fellowworkersfarmapothecary. 

Want a chance to win this awesome poster from Fellow Workers Farm? Leave a comment! For more chances to win, leave a separate  comment every time you do one of the following:

-if you’re a kid, tell me how old you are and what your favorite Herbal Roots zine activities are

-Check out Fellow Worker’s Farm’s website and tell me some of your favorite things

-Blog about it (leave reference link)

-Facebook/Tweet about it (leave reference link)

-Sign up for the Herbal Roots zine monthly newsletter (and receive an issue for free!)

-follow Herbal Roots on Twitter and tweet this giveaway with hashtags #fellowworkersfarm #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your twitter name in comments so we can find you)

-follow Herbal Roots on Pinterest and pin this giveaway with hashtags #fellowworkersfarm #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your pinterest ID in comments so we can find you)

-follow Herbal Roots zine on Instagram and pin this giveaway with hashtags #fellowworkersfarm #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your Instagram ID in comments so we can find you)

Sign ups end and I’ll announce the winner on Monday, November 17, 2014. Good luck!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 26 – Fall time Fun: Dyeing with Black Walnuts

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5th, 2014 by kristine — 2 Comments

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Without continuous hands-on experience, it is impossible for children to acquire a deep intuitive understanding of the natural world that is the foundation of sustainable development. ….A critical aspect of the present-day crisis in education is that children are becoming separated from daily experience of the natural world, especially in larger cities.

-Natural Learning, Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching, Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong

One of the funnest activities for us around here is dyeing with plants. We tried using St. John’s Wort, Pokeberries, Goldenrod, Prunella, Dandelion, Wild Cherry, Turmeric, Black Walnut and many more but hands down, Black Walnut is our favorite plant dye!

The great thing about Black Walnuts is how easy it is to use as a dye. Black Walnut dye is colorfast and needs no mordanting to become colorfast. Simply add water and heat. Over the years we’ve tried different methods with great results each time.

We often gather white clothes from thrift shops throughout the year for dyeing when the Black Walnut hulls start falling from the trees. Any natural fabric works such cotton, wool, silk, hemp or linen. Off white or light colored natural materials will dye well too.

The first method for making a dye is to put Black Walnut hulls (green or black) or leaves into a half gallon or gallon jar and fill with water. Screw the lid on and let it sit in the sun for 5 – 7 days. Green hulls give different colors than black ones, the green giving a more golden appearance while the black is a more taupe-ish brown. Leaves often give a more olive drab color.

The second method is quicker, simply fill a stockpot about half full of the hulls or leaves add water to completely cover and simmer on the stove for an hour. The longer you let it steep, the darker it will get.

To prepare your items for dyeing, wash them through a normal wash cycle if they are brand new. If they are used, pre-washing is not necessary.

Decide how you want your items to look. If you bind them tightly with twine or rubber bands, the results will be lines and streaks or various tie dye effects depending on how you bind them. I love to carefully fold up the fabric then tightly bind it with thin cotton or hemp twine. The result is streaks with lines through them, reminiscent of trees.

If you don’t prefer special effects, you can place your fabric directly in to the pot and get a solid dye. Be sure to remove the hulls first or you may get some mottling (which is also another nice effect).

Once your dye baths are ready, strain off the liquid and set it aside. Compost the hulls. If there’s enough room, you may wish to leave the hulls in for a mottled effect.

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Return the dye bath back to the pot or jar and add your fabrics. For the sun dyeing method, place the sealed jar back into the sun for an additional 5 – 7 days. For the stove top method, return the pot to the stove and bring it back to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let the dye bath sit for 30 minutes – 2 hours. The longer it sits, the darker it gets.

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Once you are done dyeing, use tongs to remove the article from the stock pot if you want to save the dye bath for a second round. If not, dump the entire pot into the sink. Run cool water over the items until they are cool enough to touch then start squeezing out the dye and water until the water runs clear. If you are using the sun method, follow the same procedure but there’s no need to worry about the hot dye bath.

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When your items are clear of any leftover dye, hang them on the line or dry in a dryer. The color is set and can be washed with like colored items.

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Have you ever used Walnut hulls or other plants to dye with? We’d love to see pictures of your dyed items, post them on our Facebook page! And if you try this for the first time, let us know how you like the outcome (and share your pictures with us)!

 

Giveaway Monday – Happy Heart Tea and Guided Meditation by Sacred Ground Herbals

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3rd, 2014 by kristine — 11 Comments

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNER, DENA!***

This week, everybody wins! Judith Millar of Sacred Ground Herbals is giving everyone a copy of her story, Living from the Heart. You can download your copy right here.

happy-heart-tea

In addition, one lucky winner will receive a package of her Happy Heart Tea and a heart meditation and her Quick Coherence Technique.

Happy Heart Tea

A calming blend of herbs that increase the overall tone of the heart muscle while also helping to open the heart emotionally and spiritually. The herbs in this blend have traditionally been used to help regulate blood pressure, calm the shen, delight the spirit, set strong boundaries, and open heart wisdom.

Organic Ingredients: hawthorn berries, leaf and flower, lemon balm, dandelion leaf, rosehips, linden blossoms, motherwort, rose petals, holy basil, cinnamon and a pinch of stevia.

To Brew: 1 teaspoon to 1 cup boiled water. Steep – covered,5 min.  Strain, sweeten if desired.

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Guided Heart Meditation and the Quick Coherence Technique

The Quick Coherence Technique helps you create a coherent state, offering access to your heart’s intelligence. It uses the power of your heart to balance thoughts and emotions, helping you to achieve a neutral, poised state for clear thinking. It is a powerful technique that connects you with your energetic heart zone to help you release stress, balance your emotions and feel better fast Quick Coherencewill help you find a feeling of ease and inner harmony that will be reflected in your heart rhythms. The heart is a primary generator of rhythm in your body, influencing brain processes that control your nervous system, cognitive function and emotion. More coherent heart rhythms facilitate brain function, allowing you more access to your higher intelligence so you can improve your focus, creativity, intuition and higher-level decision-making. When you’re in heart-rhythm coherence, you perform at your best . You feel confident, positive, focused and calm yet energized.

judemillar

About Judith and Sacred Ground Herbals:

Judith Millar, B.S. Ed., Herbalist, received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in 1985, from The College of New Jersey. She has recently retired from a successful and rewarding teaching career of 31 years.  She is an Environmental Educator as well, having been trained by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to facilitate workshops for students and faculty. She was chosen as “NJ Conservation Teacher of the Year” in 1999 for work in developing school-based conservation and habitat preservation programs.  Her love and interest in plants and holistic health practices led to the study of Medicinal Herbalism.

After 10 years of independent study, she became a student with The Australasian College of Health Sciences in the Master Herbalist program. Judith completed her training with ACHS in July of 2006, graduating with high honors. She continues to study with experts in the field of herbalism, both to further her knowledge of assessment and application of therapeutics, and to expand her repertoire of healing modalities. She grows many medicinal herbs in her home garden, and wildcrafts (ethically collects plants from the wild) in Catskill Mountains of NY and in NJ in order to create her own formulations.

To better serve her clients, Judith has incorporated Reiki into her healing practice, and currently holds the status of Reiki Master Teacher. She is cofounder and board member of  The Reiki Way Learning Center, in Brick, NJ; a nonprofit dedicated to healing the community and caring for the caregivers in Ocean County.

Judith is an adjunct professor at Georgian Court University, Lakewood, NJ, where she teaches the Foundations of Healing Plants graduate level course at the Holistic Health Studies Masters Program.  She also holds private Herbal Studies classes from her home, as well as workshops on a variety of holistic health topics through an online Meet Up group called “Herbalists of NJ”.  Judith provides workshops and classes relating to collecting and using medicinal herbs in both New York and New Jersey, as well as writing articles for garden clubs and magazines.

She is a practicing community herbalist, with a focus on Traditional Western Herbalism, although her eclectic approach includes Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Native American Plant Medicine, Reiki, Flower Essence Therapy, and Essential Oil therapies.  Education is a key component of her practice, and a primary goal is to empower people to manage most of their own health care needs through natural, affordable, and locally available means.  She offers health consultations through her home practice, Sacred Ground Herbals in Brick, New Jersey.

You can also follow Sacred Ground Herbals on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sacredgroundherbals.

Want a chance to win this lovely tea blend and meditation collection from Sacred Ground Herbals? Leave a comment! For more chances to win, leave a separate  comment every time you do one of the following:

-if you’re a kid, tell me how old you are and what your favorite Herbal Roots zine activities are

-Blog about it (leave reference link)

-Facebook/Tweet about it (leave reference link)

-Sign up for the Herbal Roots zine monthly newsletter (and receive an issue for free!)

-follow Herbal Roots on Twitter and tweet this giveaway with hashtags #sacredgroundherbals #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your twitter name in comments so we can find you)

-follow Herbal Roots on Pinterest and pin this giveaway with hashtags #sacredgroundherbals #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your pinterest ID in comments so we can find you)

Sign ups end and I’ll announce the winner on Monday, November 10, 2014. Good luck!

November 2014 – Heartfelt Hawthorn

Posted in Uncategorized on November 1st, 2014 by kristine — 1 Comment so far

nov14-hawthorn

Hawthorn is one of my favorite herbs for the heart, both physical and emotional. This month’s issue weaves the uses of Hawthorn through games, stories, songs, recipes, crafts and more.

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Learn about Hawthorn’s heart healing properties and other uses. This is one herb you will want to have in your herb cabinet.

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Heartfelt Hawthorn Table of Contents:

Note to Parents
Supply List
Calendar
Herb Spirit
All About Hawthorn
Herbal Glossary
Scramble, Search and More: Circle the Energetics, List the Vitamins & Minerals,Word Search,  Word Scramble, Finish the Leaves, Multiple Choice
Herbal Botany
Herbal Lore: Heartfelt Hawthorn
Songs and Poems: Harvesting the Hawthorn, Hawthorn for Heart
Herbal Recipes: Hawthorn Extract, Hawthorn Infusion,  Hawthorn Vinegar, Hawthorn Syrup, Hawthorn Jelly
Coloring Page
Herbal Crafts: Leaf pressing/rubbing/drawing of Hawthorn, Hawthorn Medicine Bag, Hawthorn Berry Necklace
Maze: Find Your Way Through the Hawthorn Leaf
Journal: Write your thoughts, medicine making notes and other information about your month with Hawthorn
Crossword Puzzle
Resources

50 pages from Cover to Cover. This month only, $3.99. After November 30, 2014, the price will go up to $7.99.

Add to Cart
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Or, you can subscribe for an entire year of Herbal Roots zine for just $34.99.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 25 – Learning to ID Toxic Plants Part 1: 4 Toxic Plants to Teach Your Child to Identify

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29th, 2014 by kristine — 1 Comment so far

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An indoor (or backseat) childhood does reduce some dangers to children; but other risks are heightened, including risks to physical and psychological health, risk to children’s concept and perception of community, risk to self-confidence and the ability to discern true danger.

-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

It often can be intimidating to get started learning about plants. What’s safe? What’s not? Which are foolproof? Which are most versatile? One of the biggest worries I see is the fear of their kids getting ahold of a toxic plant. The best way to avoid this from happening is to give them knowledge.

You are going to know your child better than anyone else so always use your own judgement when introducing plants to them. If they are the type of child who wants to put everything in their mouth, even when they are old enough to understand the dangers then you will want to be very strict about not letting them handle plants without your presence.

Teach your children all the toxic plants that exist in your backyard. While this may take a bit of research on your part, being able to point out the toxic plants will empower children to know the difference between safe and unsafe plants. Teach them awareness and how to identify toxic plants and they will learn to proceed with caution before exploring plants.

Start by making a list of all known plants in your backyard. By doing so, you will be able to separate safe from toxic plants. If you’re unable to identify a plant, photograph it extensively: pictures of leaves, berries, flowers, leaf patterns, growing habits, etc. This will help you be able to identify it when you get back inside. You can also use a gallon or 2 gallon ziplock bag to contain a plant you are unsure of to bring a live specimen in the house to examine further without actually touching it.

The following are 4 commonly found toxic plants. Please note, this list will vary greatly with your region so check out your state/county/local resources for information on commonly found poisonous plants. These are plants that are common to my area (southern Illinois) and could vary greatly for you.

Poison Ivy - Leaves of Three

Poison Ivy – Leaves of Three

Poison Ivy / Oak / Sumac (Toxicodendron radicans, T. rydbergii, T. diversilobum, T. quercifolium, T. vernix)
Leaves of three, let them be. Berries of white, take flight.” While this is a great rhyme to remember Poison Ivy, there are many plants that have leaves of three that are not harmful: Box Elder trees (the number one lookalike on our farm), Blackberry plants, and more. So what are some tips for identifying it?

Box Elder - Leaves of Three

Box Elder – Leaves of Three also exist and is often confused for Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy leaves can be red, green, yellow or a combination of those colors depending on the time of year. Leaves can sometimes have a blistered effect and have a glossy appearance though not always. The leaves are generally jagged and grow alternately on the stem. Stems can be red, yellow or green as well. Poison Ivy can grow as a vine, bush or in small tree looking form. They can be found growing in shade and in sunlight.

Poison Ivy - Alternate leaf stems

Poison Ivy – Alternate leaf stems

Berries appear in autumn, often after the leaves have died back. They grow in clusters, are small and green at first, turning cream white.

Box Elder - Opposite leaf stems

Box Elder – Opposite leaf stems. This is the easiest way to identify that this plant is NOT Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy vines are usually hairy, making them easy to spot in the winter when no leaf growth is available for identification. If you see a vine on a tree that is hairy, do not touch it as the poison oil is still present.

Poison Oak (T. diversilobum, T. quercifolium) is similar to Poison Ivy in appearance but is generally found on the West and East coasts.

Poison Sumac (T. vernix) is hard to find as it likes its roots in water. For a good description and pictures, go to the Poison Sumac website.

NEVER burn Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac to get rid of them. Bag them up (wearing gloves and long sleeves) in trash bags. If you burn them, the oil is carried in the smoke, allowing it to be spread over your entire body if you come into contact with it. Even worse, if you breathe in the smoke the oils can cause a rash in your throat, bronchial tubes and lungs which can be fatal.

 

 

Poison Hemlock - William & Wilma Follette @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS

Poison Hemlock – William & Wilma Follette @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
This plant is the plant that killed Socrates and is one of the most well known toxic plants. It has been confused with Queen Anne’s Lace but with a bit of awareness, is easy to spot the differences of.

Poison Hemlock stems and leaves are not hairy while Queen Anne’s Lace is (the Queen has hairy legs is an easy way to remember this). Though both stems may have red or purplish red on them, Hemlock’s stems have spots of purplish red and faint vertical lines. The stems are also coated with a white bloom which can be wiped off. Both plants have a white flowers on umbels though Hemlock’s umbels are smaller and sparser than Queen Anne’s Lace. Queen Anne’s Lace also has a dark purple flower in the center while Hemlock does not.

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Samuel Thayer has a nice write-up in his book Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants on Hemlock and Nightshade (see the next plant). I highly recommend both this book and The Forager’s Harvest if you are interested in finding edible wild plants.

 

 

Atropa belladonna flower and unripe berry - Photo by Don Macauley

Atropa belladonna flower and unripe berry – Photo by Don Macauley

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
Also known as Belladonna, this Solanaceae family plant is highly toxic. This plant is native to Europe, North Africa, Western Asia ,and some parts of Canada and the United States. It is not as easily found but is good to be aware of. Belladonna has flowers that are bell-like with 5 points that are purple or purple-brown. The flowers and berries grow singly in leaf axils and the berries are deep black and cherry sized. 

Solanum nigrum, Black Nightshade, which is often confused for Atropa belladonna. Photo by Juni from Kyoto, Japan

Solanum nigrum, Black Nightshade, which is often confused for Atropa belladonna. Photo by Juni from Kyoto, Japan

Belladonna is often confused with Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) which is an edible plant. The flowers of Black Nightshade are white, smaller and grow in axillary clusters. The fruits, while also black, are smaller than Belladonna, usually pea-sized and duller in appearance.

 

 

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Poke (Phytolacca spp.)
Poke berries are often confused for Elderberries even though they are not very similar in reality. For a full description on Pokeberry identification, see my thorough post that I wrote a few years ago.

What toxic plants do you have growing in your backyard? Have you taught your children to be aware of them and how to identify them? Tell us your experiences with bringing awareness to toxic plants in the comments!