Tuesday, 27 September 2011
Heap big good medicine
One of the things that we think makes our home so sweet is all the foraging we get to do. A lot just comes up in our own backyard, and the rest is from along the trail behind our house, the edges of the hay field nearby that I trespass in (hey, there's no fence...) or on our many drives up back roads.
It starts with dandelion and violets, then on to nettles, (mmm, nettles) then there's motherwort and St. John'swort for tinctures, as well as hawthorne flowers in spring, then berries in fall. Tincture time is lots of fun, but gets expensive, as we tend to tipple on the vodka. This year I'm into vinegars in a big way, you can put almost anything into apple cider vinegar for 6 weeks and it'll end up making a delicious salad or cooking addition. If it tastes awful, it can always be used in the bath! You'd think, apple cider vinegar having such a lot of flavour by itself, that it would overpower anything delicate, yet dandelion blossom vinegar is divine, delicate, sunny. I should have made more of that one, as it is also very nice indeed added to a basin of water to splash on a freshly washed face, or rinse my hair. The vinegar smell fades, but the flower scent lingers - amazing. You want balsamic vinegar? Pine needles. Really. Blow you away flavour in them thar needles.
Burdock root vinegar is earthy and sweet. It has taken me a long time to get around to working with burdock, but I'm ready. It's a slow moving, deep working ally for the liver (and therefore the skin) and the kidneys. Not a detox per se, but a good friend to a body that's been overtaxed by pollution. And lordy, lordy, I qualify there. I made a taster in spring when Paul pulled some out of the edges of the yard by the neighbour's hedge. Yum. It's really a bitch to dig up in fall, so I cheated and popped a couple of babies in a huge pot. I made sure to mistreat them, as burdock is one of many plants that gives you more of its goodness if it has to struggle to survive, and periodically I stop by it on a walk through the garden to say "I'm going to eat you!" Yet I am almost sorry to do so, it's just a big beautiful brute of a thing, leaves like an elephant's ears, lots of personality. If you had a big house it would make a very cool house plant over winter. But I do not, and it wouldn't survive winter outside in the pot...so vinegar it shall be. It would take about a gallon of vodka to tincture that sucker, not within my budget! However, vinegars can be used pretty much the same way as tinctures, or maybe I'll try it in an oxymel, that's vinegar and honey in equal parts. It's a tonic plant, meaning to be taken on a long term basis to build health.
That's the crux of plant medicine, right there. It builds health, rather than fighting whatever disease has taken hold. The word medicine implies, to our whiteman ears, "I have a problem better go see the doc for a pill". But in many traditions around the world and here in North America, medicine is anything that is good for us, body or soul. So, then, music is good medicine. Laughing is good medicine. Good lovin' is really good medicine. None really "fight disease", the body needs them to allow it to thrive.
Each plant has its own, er, personality. The "habit" of a plant will help you to understand what qualities it can help you to enhance in yourself if you choose to use it. So, then, a fast growing leafy thing will offer you a different sort of medicine from a deep, slow growing root. Even if they may both affect, say, the kidneys, they will do so in different ways. So for first aid, you'd choose the leaf to act quickly, but to further strengthen, you'd use the root, over time. Similarly, if whatever discomfort you are looking for relief from is the result of a long term build up of "toxins", a long term relationship with your plant ally will gently and effectively support your body through the process.
This is why a "cleanse" is such a dumb idea. Yes, I just said dumb. If you've been eating badly for decades then decide to turn over a new leaf and "get healthy", wow, please do not get violent about it and buy something with cascara sagrada and the like. Now your body not only has to deal with all the build up you gave it, but it is now being purged, too. So, sure, you may poop a whole lot and think you're better, but honey, you are not. Let's see, how to put this in a nut shell - bad food, as we know, gets stuck in pockets, rots, wreaks havoc etc. etc. Well the reason it gets stuck is you've lost tone in the muscles, and lost the ability to produce all those good juices you need to digest your food right, too. "Cleanses" as they are sold now, yes even the "natural, herbal" ones, force the colon to squeeze (that's the cramping you feel and it's not a good thing) in unnatural ways. So out comes some of the shit (I was speaking figuratively but I guess it's literal too!), but not all of it. Then there's colonics oh mother of god lets outlaw those things PLease. More violence. Only now, we're washing out any good mucous there may have been left. sigh. Yes, mucous is good. It's lube, ok? Keeps things smooth.
So instead of violently attacking the body, what can be done? Eat good food. Drink clean water. Move gently and with grace. Most of all, be patient. Please don't let anyone tell you that the lousy feeling you get when you fast or cleanse is a good sign. It is so fucking not a good sign. It's a distress signal, folks. We gotta show some respect for the miracle of the human body that clearly has evolved in certain ways for certain reasons. Give it what it needs and let it do what it has to do is a pretty safe, solid approach. Trying to rapidly cleanse, or lose weight too fast actually can poison you. Yep. Really. Here's how - your body, in its infinite wisdom, has been dutifully storing all the toxins from your food/air etc. in various places throughout the body, not the least of which is in your fat cells. So, give it the right (or should I say wrong) kind of nudge, it will release them, but big time, and rapidly, so instead of the small amounts over the long term, wham, a whole lot ends up in your bloodstream. Do you want that? Me neither.
That's why I've chosen burdock, and why I have waited this long. I know that all those years of cleaning houses and trudging through city streets have probably netted me some pretty interesting garbage. I eat darn well and I've always kept moving, but still, I know it's there. I can feel it. Now that I've been home I've given myself a period of grace to let my poor old body know that it is safe, finally, it doesn't have to face that every day. We've redeveloped a nice rapport, I'd say. I'm now craving the plant I knew intellectually that I needed - taste buds reflect brain buds . I'm literally itching for it, too, my skin is telling me it's ready. I'm not really focussing so much on getting rid of junk, I'm doing this to strengthen my insides. Any "cleansing" will be a side effect.
That's another point I like to make about plant medicine, side effects are actually positive if you are using plants correctly. For example, a client of mine who was going through chemo and radiation, poor thing, had of course lost her hair. Well now, stinging nettle will help your hair grow, so I brought her some every week when I came to clean and made her a pot of tea. She was too ill to handle the strong taste of a kick-ass infusion, so we kept it light. While we had our morning chat we'd sip on some nettle. She couldn't handle more than a few sips at first, poor thing. I'd freeze the rest in cubes for her, which she used for the rest of the week in her other drinks. Over time, her hair grew in beautifully. Meanwhile, the nettle was helping her rebuild strength, load calcium back in her bones and deal with her fear by keeping her adrenals strong, even in such small amounts. Other examples include ginger for indigestion helping circulation, oatstraw for bones enhancing libido..
To my knowledge, there isn't a plant medicine that I can think of that would harm when used correctly. We can't say that about drugs now, can we? "Unintended medical outcomes" account for more deaths and injury than traffic accidents in the U.S. It's true, look it up.
Posted by Christine at 11:47