February 2014 - Florida Herbal Conference, DeLeon Springs, Florida
Let me begin these notes by saying I nearly didn't make it to the Florida Herbal Conference held less than 5 miles from my house. My father had a heart attack on Valentine's Day and I flew to Maine to be with him and my mom after his triple bypass surgery and to help transition him to their home. I left Maine confident he was well on his way to recovery. During the weekend at the conference his health went on a roller coaster ride and even though I was thankful for the distraction of these wonderful, entertaining, information filled classes, I had my cell phone with me on silent to keep abreast of the situation, helping in every way I could. I realized my father's biggest problem was he simply was not breathing deeply enough. Thanks to modern technology I sent my mother detailed breathing exercises and Youtube videos from my web site at the same time I was in classes, absorbing information on so many of our wonderfully edible and medicinal herbs. I apologize if I distracted anyone with my electronic connection but I considered it a lifeline to my father, who, up till this, had never been sick a day in his 82 years. I am happy to say while I compile these notes he has been doing the deep breathing exercises since my mother printed them out and seems to be getting better by the moment. Having said this, I am ready to share some of what I learned last weekend!
Our opening ceremony started at 2pm with a greeting from Emily Wenzel, a Native American chant from David Winston and a lovely song from some lovely ladies called Beautiful Chorus. “We welcome you, We honor you, We thank you, We love you,” was the chant they started with close to 500 participants joining in with them. Ok, goosebumps already!
My first class Friday at 3pm was with Andy Firk, a delightful man who lives in Arcadia, Florida in Desoto County about 150 miles south of the conference in De Leon Springs. Like many others he began his study of herbs because of an illness. Diagnosed with cancerous tumors in his lymph glands, cancer cells in his blood and many other areas of his body, he turned to Mother Nature instead of going the “orthodox” route. He cleaned up his diet, removed a lot of stress from his life and went “native.” Of course his doctors said it was impossible to heal, but, 90 days after diagnosis he was cancer free and is quite obviously full of vim and vigor now. Andy's website is undergoing reconstruction but he gave us his email address if we wanted his 200 page PDF file of herbal edibles; AndyFirk@yahoo.com. He does regular plant walks throughout Florida and hosts gatherings on his 1.5 acres he loving calls Bamboo Grove teeming with hundreds of edible plants. He, like me, likes to grow perennial edibles requiring little or no maintenance, I think he called it plant and go. I believe he said he had over 400 species on his property. Most of the time I simply listened to what he was saying, knowing I would be able to download his PDF. The few things I did write down were; Eat the invasives first, don't buy pepper, use the poor man's pepper plant, Spanish Needles (Bidens Alba) is anti-microbial and used for upper respiratory issues like asthma, Epazote aka Mexican Tea is a digestive aid used to reduce flatulence; Tindora is like a cucumber and his gave him 7 months worth of delicious vegetables; Camphor Tea can be made from the seedlings of the Camphor tree and it tastes like root beer; and that you can eat the tubers found under the fern plants that cover my back yard and most of this portion of Florida. Can't wait to try them!
Along with the tremendous amount of information I hope to receive on the PDF file he gave us the following names of influential foragers and herbalists in his life; He studied with Professor Julia Morton of Biology at The University of Miami before her passing in 1996, and I believe this must have been the woman with whom he walked through the everglades in chest deep water. Julia was an author, botanist and a lecturer on toxic, edible and otherwise useful plants and one of Andy's mentors. During her life she wrote 10 books and 94 scientific papers and contributed to another 12 books and 27 scientific papers. (I paraphrased the detailed information on Julia from Wiki.) Other influential people in Andy's life include; Gene Joyner, who has a 44 acre food forest in West Palm Beach County; Green Deane, whose website www.EatTheWeeds.com has over 1000 edibles and nearly 150 YouTube videos on Florida wild plants. Green Deane was the leader of our Saturday morning 7am plant walk around Camp Winona and I have included links to his pages on specific plants throughout the following pages.
Eric Toensmeier whose website www.perennialsolutions.org's first line says- To save the planet we may need to turn it into an edible paradise, this sounds good to me:) ; and Jungle Jay who does plant walks on Weedon Island near Clearwater. Some other websites Andy recommended; www.tropicalbamboo.com in Palm Beach County where you can find over 400 species of inexpensive decorative and edible bamboo; www.LazyHollow.com home of Lazy Hollow Farm in Lakeland, and www.regionalconservation.org. Another name Andy mentioned was Frank Cook, who, unfortunately, passed in 2009, but if you Google his name there are many YouTube videos and Wiki information to be found there. Andy also recommended we google The Phosphate Dilemma which explains we don't have to mine phosphate, we can harvest it in plants. Another name Andy mentioned was The Big Small Farm in Brooksville, which, after research, I found no information online.
Peggy S. Lantz was also instrumental in Andy's quest for knowledge. I have waited till the end of his section to mention her because she sat in on Andy's class and was the delightful woman who spoke following him. Peggy, a lovely, white-haired woman, began her talk with her 3 very important rules of “weed” foraging; 1-Know what you are gathering, make a positive identification before consuming 2-Don't gather from busy road sides or areas where poison is used 3-Don't take it all !!!
She had a bucket full of edibles she picked on her way to the car and apologized she wasn't able to gather as many as she used to when she was younger from her acreage. She barely had time to go through what she did have so I think she had enough! She began her bucket list of edibles by reaffirming the exotic sword ferns (Nephrolepis cordifolia) that have found their way to Florida's “Invasive List” have edible, watery tubers in their roots. If your fern has tubers, the marble sized balls are not only edible, according to EatTheWeeds.com they were reported to be the favorite wild snack of children of Nepal. They are approximately 14% crude fiber along with about the same carbohydrate content and trace amounts of protein, calcium, phosphorus, & ash.
Peggy moved on to her Oxalis noting we have at least 3 different kinds in Florida, all of them bitter edible. Their leaves are much like the clover and many call them shamrocks. The 2 varieties with the largest leaves throw off a pink flower and can be distinguished from each other by the shape of the leaf; one with flat outside edges and the other with a more rounded outer edge resembling a heart shape. The native oxalis is the wood sorrel with it's yellow flowers and I have been enjoying its bitter taste since I was a child in Maine where we called it “Cow's Clover.” Here's a link to one Green Deane's pages on this tasty treat http://www.eattheweeds.com/oxalis-how-to-drown-your-sorrels/ .
Peggy went on to tell us how Florida Betony, also known as wild radish, is extremely edible. I was glad to hear this as it fills my yard with lovely lilac flowers and the first time I pulled some up to keep them from choking out a wild petunia I promptly tasted this delightful line of “radish roots”. She told us the leaves made a musty tasting tea and here's a link to one of Deane's pages on betony http://www.eattheweeds.com/florida-betony-150-a-pound/ Much to lawn lovers chagrin, Chickweed appears everywhere and is an extremely edible and nutritious plant. Peggy showed us how we can break the stem and pull it apart slightly revealing an elastic central thread. I found my notes say the flower has 5 petals but when I go to Green Deane's page his photos show 10 petals. Hmmm. This link to Green Deane's page on chickweed gives a very detailed description of the benefits of this plant http://www.eattheweeds.com/chickweed-connoisseurs-2/ .
Spiderwort was next out of Peggy's bucket and, once again, I was delighted to find it was an another edible that not only volunteered in my yard but I have spent many hours transplanting them around my property. The plant's gelatinous leaf is good on salads, the stems can be cooked like asparagus and the mucous of the plant is a convenient remedy to place on unwanted bites. Here's a link to one of the pages containing Deane's delightful insights on spiderworts http://www.eattheweeds.com/spiderwort-pocahontas-and-gamma-rays/ . A prickly pear leaf was pulled out of the bucket next with great care and, unfortunately, Peggy did not escape the small, tenacious prickles between the large obvious thorns. She normally carries tongs to display these delectable morsels explaining if you soak them in hot water their thorns will come off easily. They must be peeled with great care before cooking the flesh, the large leaves or pads get very woody. The fruit tastes similar to raspberries and can be made into a delicious tea. And now, a few words from Deane http://www.eattheweeds.com/cactus-dont-be-spineless/ . Cattails, known to some as Cossack Asparagus, can be used from top to bottom with proper preparation. Its pollen can be shaken off and added to biscuits, the tender part of the stalk where it is pulled from its base is delicious raw and the roots once peeled can be processed as well. There is nothing else that looks like the mature cattail so it is easy to identify. Deane's web site link for cattails http://www.eattheweeds.com/cattails-a-survival-dinner/ .
Beauty Berries, despite their lack of flavor and unpleasant aroma, are an edible plant. Their berries make a delicious jelly, with plenty of sugar added, and herbalists use the bark and roots for decoctions to help heal many ailments from stomach aches to malaria. Some scientists are exploring the chemicals in the stems for insect control. Deane has this to say about the Beauty Berry http://www.eattheweeds.com/beautyberry-jelly-on-a-roll/ . Cleavers, more commonly known as Goosegrass, is an herb I was told would help balance my immune system. It can easily be mistaken for the another common plant called Bed Straw, which Peggy said was not an edible. To identify cleavers make sure there are 8 leaves in a whorl around the stalk. Deane has some very interesting, and as usual, entertaining and informative information on Galium aparine on his web site page http://www.eattheweeds.com/galium-aparine-goosegrass-on-the-loose-2/ .
Peggy considers Coontie a lovely Florida native plant but not edible as it takes too much work to remove the toxic ingredients. My folklore knowledge tells a story of a group of Timucuan Indians (a central Florida tribe) who were taken hostage by pioneers and forced to cook a meal of the roots they had gathered. The Indians happily prepared the meal boiling the roots only once, not twice or three times as they would have for themselves to remove the toxins. It was the pioneers last supper and the Timucuan were happy to be free once again. And now Deane's take on Coontie http://www.eattheweeds.com/zamia-floridana-making-toxins-edible-2/ .
Peggy told us the stems of the False Dandelion were toxic while a few herbalists at the conference told us otherwise. I am beginning to realize even though something is toxic there may be medicinal properties to it. For myself, since I have such a sensitive system, I try a little bit the first time and a little more the second time etc. All conference attendees agreed the young leaves are delicious raw where the older ones need to be cooked as they tend to be bitter. Deane's info http://www.eattheweeds.com/pyrrhopappus-hypochoeris-dandelion-impostors-2/ .
A good suggestion she made was to learn the plant when they are older and easier to recognize but to eat them when they are young and tender. Elderberry flowers and leaves can be made into teas as well as muscadine flowers and leaves. Of course, if you eat the flowers you won't get any fruit. Deane's info can be found here http://www.eattheweeds.com/elderberries-red-white-and-blue/ Yaupin Holly leaves are good for the tea drinker who wants caffeine and is also known as the North American version of the Yerba Matte. Be careful to use only 4 or 5 leaves for a whole pot of teas because too much is not a good thing. It's Latin name of vomitoria gives you an idea why. Deane's web page http://www.eattheweeds.com/yaupon-holly-ilex-vomitoria/ Lambs Quarters, also known as Pigweed, can be identified by the talcom powder appearance on the top, the fact the plants shed water and the granular substance on the bottom of the leaves. She told us they were good raw and cooked in stews. Deane has a good story on his page http://www.eattheweeds.com/chenopodium-album-getting-goosed-2/
Salvia has a close relative that looks very similar and is very toxic. If you are familiar with the Salvia plant and are hungry, crush the leaves and smell it; if it smells like tangerine or pineapple, it is the edible variety but if it smells green or sagey, do not ingest it. A tiny taste can make you very ill. Pennywort or Dollarweed and Gotu Kola are both weeds found in lawns, both have important nutritional value and both spread readily. The Chinese believe you should eat a leaf from the Gotu Kola plant every day for optimum health. Deane had some interesting things to say http://www.eattheweeds.com/a-pennywort-for-your-thoughts-2/
Poke plants are only edible when less than 8 inches tall and some boil them twice to make sure the poisons are removed. If you want to take the time to try them cut them off above the ground to avoid getting any of the root. Many families in the south eat the whole plant even when large, perhaps they are able to stomach them because they have developed an immunity, or maybe because they peel the outer skin off if they are going to fry the stems. Either way, I think I will stay away from this one. Yes, that is the plant in the song, Poke Sallat Annie; salet is the french word for cooked greens. For Deane's input visit http://www.eattheweeds.com/can-be-deadly-but-oh-so-delicious-pokeweed-2/
I enjoyed Peggy's talk immensely. Like many other people residing in Florida this year, she had some difficulty with a terrible cough from a cold that has hung on for a couple of weeks, but artfully kept on going and showing her plants. She also made me realize this is a hobby where you are never too old to learn something new.
David Winston was our Keynote speaker on Friday night. He did an amazing job on the “history” of medicine, complete with incomplete photos of men in medicine throughout the ages. I say incomplete because several of his photos did not appear on the screen and he simply continued talking about the people who were not there, making jokes, making light of the technical difficulties. After listening to Susun Weed's presentation the following night I believe his technical problems may have occurred because he was attempting to show only the men of the era when there were influential women who earned recognition in the history of medicine.
David explained that animals were the original herbalists as they know instinctively what to eat for their ailments. This led him to speak of the many indigenous tribes around the world and their medicine men and the use of herbals. He spoke of Samuel Thomson, a man who, as a child learned many cures from a local widow woman who had a reputation as a healer. There was no official licensing of the medical profession at this time and he wanted to study medicine at the age of 16 with a local “root doctor.” His parents needed his help on the farm and wouldn't allow him to pursue his dreams until he needed a remedy to heal a wound his family's local doctor could not heal. When Samuel's life was in jeopardy he turned to comfrey and turpentine patches and within a few weeks recovered and began studying herbs while helping on the farm. Wooster Beech, an herbalist of the early 1800s worked with Thomson but felt there needed to be more professionalism in medicine. He began what was called Eclectic Medicine which used a variety of botanical remedies along with physical therapy and other practices, taking the best of all that was available. David called the practices of the time, puke, purge and bleed. Homeopathy, Osteopathy, and Allopathy are the other “systems” of medicine used throughout the years here in North America.
Herbal Medicine is the People's Medicine, it is passed down through the generations from person to person and in conferences such as this one. There is not much money to be made from farming herbs nor from studying them, but, people with medical backgrounds cannot deny that herbs heal. In fact many pharmaceutical drugs we have today are simply copycat drugs chemists created from what leaves, roots and herbs do naturally. The more we talk about how natural plants work with our bodies the more the word gets out that Mother Earth provides us with everything we need to heal. For instance; Native Americans, Russians and Scandinavians have all used Chaga for centuries to heal the immune system, including cancer. He said, “That's 3 cultures on 3 continents using the same natural healing method without knowing each other. That's as good as any double blind study to me.” I would have to agree. I have been using chaga for nearly a year now and it helps keep my shingles outbreaks to a minimum.
David studied with Rosemary Gladstar, I bought a couple of her books. He recommended Michael Moore's books if we wanted to read some funny herbalist material. David offers a program at his school, The Center for Herbal Studies to help herbalists learn how to treat people, not diseases, focusing on different diagnostic skills, materia medica and therapeutics essential to individualize treatment. His website He ended his talk by saying the different branches of medicine should do the following for the good of mankind, for the people who need them; 1-Learn lessons from each other, 2-Cooperate with each other, 3-Recognize the differences and diversity between each other, 4-Respect each other, 5-Understand traditions and pursue science and, 6-Self regulate the practices. In my opinion it will be difficult to get the branches of medicine to work together because there simply is too much competition and too much money in keeping people sick. My motto has always been we need to take responsibility for our own health, this is the only body we have this lifetime and it is up to us to find the right treatment for our healing.
The 7am Plant Walk with Green Deane was well attended and filled with humor. He started with a little information about Latin names for those of us just beginning to learn about the “plant world”; and laughingly explained botanists are a fickle bunch changing dead language names frequently (Latin.) Genus and species are often given in addition to common names; genus being the more general with species being more specific. When a name includes oites this means it looks like something and oifera means producing, dioaceous means the species has male and female plants and stricta means I stand up tall. All of the following plants he spoke of are on his web site www.EatTheWeeds.com and I referred to his pages frequently while compiling these notes. He has a search engine which allows you to type in a plant name to find what he has to say about it, usually complete with pictures and stories.
To begin our plant walk he showed us different examples of edible plants he had collected on his way to the flag pole; Wild Radishes-yellow flowers and with kinky (easy to see) seed pods and a crooked plant stock he referred to as scoliosis, a jacket (or skin) on the root, containing sulphur compounds; Mustard looks very similar to the large wild radishes (not to be confused with Betony) and has bunched yellow flowers at the end with 4 petals each, 6 stamens (4 long and 2 short); Dollarweed and Pennywort (both like water and grow in lawns) and have somewhat circular leaves, the dollarweed stem comes from the center of the leaf and the pennywort stem comes from the top-center of the heart-shaped leaf and they both have nitrous oxide present which relaxes blood vessels; Spiny Sow Thistle sonkas asberg has yellow flowers resembling dandelions, its stem turns purple and is one of the few plants containing white sap that is edible. As a rule, if it a plant has white sap it should not be eaten. If sow thistle is picked when young it is tender and can be eaten raw or cooked, with age the thistles should be trimmed off and the plant turns bitter. The sonkas oliraceous has leaves that go past the stem making it appear ear-like. The other edible with white sap is some of the wild lettuces. False Hawksbeard (crepes japonica) with seed spikes and blossoms and hairy leaves, it's name denoting its crepe paper, frilly appearance.
Then we walked around Camp Winona exploring the area, and, despite the extensive mowing, found it to be filled with food and medicines; Spanish Needles- Bidens alba means 2 teeth white and has a white flower with the appearance of a “bottom lip” and is the 3rd most common nectar plant in Florida. It makes an anti-inflammatory tea, you can chew the leaves for a sore throat, also, its resin is good for insect bites; Sorrell (member of the buckwheat herb family) is good in soups, Oxalis-all 3 types in Florida edible, Poor Man's Pepper Plants, Spanish Moss (anti-bacterial), Spider Wort, False Dandelions, Lichen called Usnea, a common ground plant with round stems that also attaches to trees, Tropical Red Sage, Passion Flower is used as a sedative, etc. etc. etc.
The first forager Deane studied with was Dick Deuerling, whose theory was, if someone said it was edible he wanted to see them prepare it, eat it and then come back a few days later to see if they were still there. Deane has a very sensitive stomach and doesn't eat some so-called edibles that tend to be toxic. Rosary Peas are so toxic that one fifteen thousandth of your body weight ingested can cause death. If a freshly cut seed comes across a fresh cut on your body you will die, yet, some specialists say if you boil them a couple of times they are ok to consume. No, thanks. Florida Tassell flower with its pink-red flowers is also poisonous. Pokeweed is a plant that needs to be boiled more than once to be safe, it feels plastic to the touch and, if you are brave enough to try it, cut it off above the root as below ground root is VERY toxic. Deane recommended picking plants shorter than 8”; boil one minute, then freeze it, then boil it for 15 more minutes. Sounds like a lot of work to me, but, could be used a famine food. The constitution is written with pokeweed ink on hemp paper;)
Deane doesn't eat lire leaf either despite the fact some foragers consider it edible. I wonder if the fact he was bitten by a brown recluse spider when he was young has caused his system to be more sensitive, I know it has mine, so I tend to be very cautious with all foods. The acronym he suggested using was ITEM, I-identify, T-time of year to eat, E-environment the plant lives in and M-method of preparation. Another point of interest on the toxicity of plants to animals is the length of time it stays in the digestive system, cows then to have more difficulty with some weeds because their food stays in the digestive system a long time, humans are able to consume some things cows cannot due to their shorter digestive system and dogs have the attitude, “I can always puke it up later.” Deane and Andy spoke about Juniper Berries with Mark Fairchild chiming in (www.HealthyLivingTropics.org) adding to this conversation and many other subjects with his vast knowledge of medicinal uses of the plants. Juniper berries contain DPT, an antiviral compound and we have between 16 and 19 species in Florida, depending on who you talk to. The Eastern Cedar and the Southern Cedar are actually junipers. As Deane says in his website, when working with medicinals think flavoring and use sparingly. Gin's flavor comes from these berries. Some of the juniper leaves, aka needles, are edible and some are not and many look very different from when they are young to when they are old.
Pignut Hickory is prevalent in our area and edible. Bunya tree, which looks like a Norfolk Pine but can be distinguished by its spiny needles (Norfolks' are soft) and grows a bit further south of us. I think it was Andy Firk who said he found a cone weighing 40 pounds. If gathered while green the pine nuts can be baked (after poking each with a knife) for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees and are quite delicious. Andy has devised a a nut crusher (ouch) with 2 sheets of metal when banged together breaks all the shells of the nuts. Wild geranium, storks bill and cranes bill are considered edible but are very bitter. We found some western tansy mustard along the wall. It is a shy plant whose blossoms have 4 petals. Another plant along the wall pellitory or pretaria florida also known as cucumber weed smells like the vegetable or like wheat grass and looks like chickweed but doesn't taste like it. When the stem of the chickweed is broken it has a stretchy cord in the center.
Dwarf plantain plantago virginica (greens not the bananas;) are the variety of edible here in Florida, I began eating the large plantain leaves in Maine last year in my smoothies. It is synergistic with herbs and helps speed up healing, also, it is an astringent-shrinks mucous membranes and used as a drying agent. Its seeds have insoluble fiber (the outer husk) and soluble fiber (seed itself) and the stem has a string in its center. The leaves are hairy and have small teeth on them. The red spiderling tarvine Boerhavia is sometimes used as an aid in fatty liver disease and in Ayurvedic medicine it is known as puna nava. Deane makes a pesto with his as a 2008 study of underused nutritional weeds claimed it had high antioxidant value and contained alkaloids, saponins, flavonoids, Vitamins C, B3 and B2 and along with some trace minerals.
We have many kinds of wild lettuce here in Florida and this (along with the sow thistle) has a white sap and is edible, most white sap weeds are toxic. Yes, I said this earlier, but, I wanted to make sure you remembered it. Wild lettuce has a hairy, triangular stem and triangular tips to the leaves with uneven lobes. They can have pink, white or blue blossoms. Deane spoke briefly about mushrooms, showing us a puffball and explaining he doesn't know much about fungi. The one thing he did share was that you can tell a puffball from its poisonous lookalike aminita by the solid white center of the puffball. The aminita has the shape of a mushroom “drawn” in side its creamy white texture and a tiny, tiny bit of this poisonous one can kill a 220 pound man. You MUST be very, very careful when it comes to mushrooms. He pointed to the edge of the pond and showed us the pickerel plant (hmm, that's a fish in Maine) which is a member of the hyacinth family and has peppery seeds. The Caesar weed is in the mallow family and a cousin to cotton. The bottom of its leaf has a sand paper texture and the blossoms look like small pink hibiscus and is the most edible part of the plant. Blossoms are also used for dermatological purposes and the plant was imported in the past as a cash crop as it is good for rope. I strongly suggest anyone interested in knowing anything about Florida plants; foraging, famine food or survivalist eating, go to Deane's website www.EatTheWeeds.com where you will find over 1000 edibles along with photos and entertaining stories and links to YouTube videos. A delicious display of a garden of weeds! He also has DVDs available for purchase. Buy them!
While standing in all lines for meals I made a point, once my texting to my sister to get an update on my father's health was complete, to talk to anyone and everyone around me, and, do a lot of listening. Saturday morning's Intensive was with Susun Weed and someone told me she suggested we all make infusions to drink daily. My feeling, Why not steep an herbal for at least 4 hours before consuming? Since they are either expensive or take a lot of time to gather you want all the goodness you can get out of them! She suggested rotating your diet between Linden Flowers, Red Clover, Nettles, Comfrey, and 2 other things I don't remember. Wait a minute, I just read Comfrey was one of those poisonous plants with pyrollizidine in it which clogs up the small vessels of the liver. I might just find someone who wants the bag of Comfrey I just bought. (After I wrote this I visited my Meridian Stress Assessor, Lynn Deen, and she tested me for all the herbs I purchased at the conference and gathered in my yard. My body tested POSITIVE for all of them, meaning my body wants Mother Nature's healing tools!)
After breakfast I decided not to go to Deane's Eat the Weed class as I had just been there and done that, so I opted for Desiree Valloreo's Herbal Formulating. My acupuncture physician is always telling me how important a combination of herbs is when using them for medicinal purposes so this could be helpful. I also ran into 2 dear friends from the Florida keys in this class, so I was happy to have gone there before it even started!
Desiree is a lovely soft-spoken woman who wasn't talking 90 miles an hour, a good break for my brain which was already experiencing information overload. She spoke slowly and drew diagrams and used people props to help us remember her important points. I believe she said she studied with Rosemary Gladstar.
When formulating herbals one must first have a knowledge of what the basics of the herbs are and at what stage they should be used in what disease. Another important thing herbal formulaters rely on is intuition. Well, I have the latter and am referring to books and learning the basics so am comfortable formulating for myself for now. She drew a triangle on her board and explained the cornerstone method, 1-one of the points of the triangle represented the primary action herb, the one that will do the most to get rid of the symptom and the disease, and represented about 75% of the formula to be made. 2-The next point of the triangle represented the supporting or nourishing herb, this would represent approximately 15% of the formula. 3-The final point of the triangle represented the moving or activating herb that would give the system a boost and represented about 10% of the formula. The example she used was a client with a urinary infection; (1)-Uva ursi would be a good choice for the primary point with (2)-marshmallow root in the secondary position with its soothing properties and finally (3) dandelion or cornsilk as the mover as diuretics (3).
She elaborated on the Trying Method developed by William Hasseyer, which uses the Triangle Method above but adds triangles to the structure so an herbal formula could have 3 triangles and be made up of 6 herbs or more triangles with more herbs, all helping a variety of systems. As we know in holistic medicine, if a client's urinary track is infected they may also have a diminished immune system which may also mean the digestive system is compromised. It is good to consider the WHOLE human being when treating, unlike allopathic medicine which simply treats the symptom with something “opposite the disease.”
Time is of consideration when helping someone heal and tea can be consumed immediately, infusions take a little longer to prepare and tinctures take 8 weeks but have the strongest curative powers. If you are using fresh herbs and are using about 1 cup, then you would use about ½ cup of dry herbs and about ¼ cup of powdered herb.
TCM or Traditional Chinese Method, recognizes that stagnation of Qi means there is a deficiency, a disease. It is important to recognize the pattern and to put together herbs that will help heal. Working with the complex interactions is what makes TCM so effective.
Desiree used people props for her power point, picking the tallest man in the group to be the CHIEF ingredient. Then she brought up 2 DEPUTY ingredients, one to aid the CHIEF and the other to work against the coexisting pattern. Her 3 ASSISTANT ingredients consisted of one helpful, reinforcing the CHIEF, one corrective, moderating the toxicity of the CHIEF, and one opposing, having the opposite effect of the CHIEF. If the CHIEF was not a toxic ingredient is didn't need as many ASSISTANTS. The final level of helpers was the ENVOY ingredients and one would be to help focus the action on certain channels and the other would be to harmonize all ingredients together. She explained that the CHIEF ingredient would be a higher dose than normally used because you would be adding other ingredients to it to counteract its properties.
One participant in the class explained when she went to her TCM practitioners they would get their abacus out and concoct her herbal formula thusly, depending on her symptoms and where they found her Qi to be stagnant.
Desiree recommended books by James Green-Herbal Medicine Makers, Recocheck-Making Plant Medicine, and Penelope Ody-Complete Medicinal Herbal.
When her class was over Leslie Williams class on depression was still going on, and since I have people in my life who experience this on a regular basis, some days debilitating them, I decided to see what I could glean from her last half hour. From what I heard she seemed to say that much of her practice evolves around helping people get off prescription meds they have been taking for years to battle depression. She recommends her clients get up and exercise first thing in the morning, taking their daily walk is just as important, if not more so, than taking their pills. She suggested their diet be under close scrutiny avoiding gluten, lactose and sugar. Hmm, sounds like my suggestions, as we all must know by now, we are what we eat. She used the following to help clients with depression trying to get off pharmaceuticals; skullcap, lobelia, bitters, B complex (coenzymated B doesn't go through liver and is better to use long term). Now I come to a dilemma, Leslie recommended the Magnolia for depression and called it liriodendron. When I investigated the spelling of this Latin name I find it to be the Tulip Tree so I will write to her and ask her which she suggests.
Willow Lamonte does not allow her picture to be taken so I assume she doesn't want the content of her classes to be shared either. Quite honestly, the only useful information I was reminded of, something I had been told years ago by an organic gardener-friend, Chris Baker, is that herbs like minerals more than they like manure, in fact, Chris checks the pH of his garden soil every year. When I Googled the information about minerals I also found that some plants like animal flesh. I think I'll pass on that recommendation! YUCK!
My next class was an essential oils class with Katie Haley whose company www.cosmicflower.com started with several employees and is now down to one, Katie. She is a beautiful woman with a lovely way of speaking, sharing stories of her trips all over the world where she discovered and learned from master herbalists. She explained when we use the oil from a plant we are essentially (yes, pun intended) borrowing the immune system of the plant to assist ours.
She referred to Dr. Penwoel often specifically that he was one of the first to say the different plant parts correspond to our organs, the leaves to our lungs, the stem to our structure, etc. Katie makes all her own products and explained that smelling salts are simply about 15 drops of a specific herb, like eucalyptus, along with salt for preservation. She explained the amount of herb in 20 cups of tea would make 1 drop of an essential oil. No wonder they are so expensive!
She said putting eucalyptus on our feet when we are feeling a cold coming on would help make it go away and that one drop of peppermint oil on a slice of apple would clear the lungs. She also said that the essential oils aren't really meant to be consumed internally. She suggested tea tree, lavender and chamomile for Poison Ivy. I purchased a sample package of Cosmic Flower Aromatherapy Essential Oils containing; Basil, Lemongrass, Tea Tree, Lavender and Ravensara (imported and expensive and used on shingles blisters), along with what I believe she called fractionated coconut oil. I just put some on my skin and it doesn't smell like coconuts and is not oily at all. Her skin was absolutely flawless so I think I might use her products for awhile;)
The last class on Saturday was called Syrups and Elixirs with Chonteau McElvin. She made a Rosehip Syrup out of a decoction she made while talking about many things. I have combined what I knew already with what I learned from her below: Teas are made with roots, leaves, and flowers by pouring hot water (almost boiling) over the top of them and allowing them to steep more then 4 minutes. The only “herb” you would boil would be stems or bark. Infusions are made by pouring boiling water over your herbs and allowing the mixture to steep more than 4 hours. I have been making mine the night before and then warming them the following day being careful not to boil and adding a bit of honey and lemon for taste. Decoctions are made by slowly heating (not boiling) about an ounce of herb in about a quart of water and measuring the level on a wooden spoon. When you have reduced it to half the amount you have a decoction. Syrups are made by taking a decoction and adding an equal amount of honey. Elixirs are made by taking a syrup and adding a little alcohol, 150% proof vodka. Tinctures are made from allowing herbs to soak 8 weeks and adding alcohol. Chonteau recommended a tea with dandelion, yellow dock, burdock, marshmallow root, fennel, and cinnamon before eating foods that may not digest well. Her “Fly Away Flu” remedy contained tea made with elderberry flowers, marshmallow root, mint, licorice, and ginger.
Susun Weed was our keynote speaker on Saturday night and as she said some people speak from their heart, she speaks from her uterus. I enjoyed listening to her life story of how she came to teach classes in herbal medicine back in the 1960s when there were only 4 books at the Manhattan Library in the herb section and 3 of them were about cooking herbs. I was tired and it was dark and I didn't take many notes but the most important thing I remember from her talk was she explained she believes that 90% of all remedies given in any one day come from the woman of the house. Sounds realistic to me. SO, in my own words, it is up to the women to learn and provide good remedies to their families.
Sunday morning's plant walk was led by Andy Firk and we all enjoyed walking, listening and talking to him and Green Deane and others who contributed to the discussion. I think I have finally learned how to recognize many of the edibles in my yard as well as others' yards. Repetition, repetition, repetition. My final class of the weekend was with Susan Marynowski called Naming and Knowing the Medicinal Plants of Florida. This woman, as did all the presenters, knew her plants and what uses they have. I didn't take notes, I simply sat back and listened in awe of the knowledge I had been given the opportunity to gain over the past 48 hours. Besides, we were in the sunshine and it was a deliciously relaxing way to end my classes.
Closing ceremony was at 2pm Sunday and our closing circle was filled with that energy common to all good conferences. Thankfulness for all we learned and for coming together with like-minded people and the regret of separating from people who talk the same way we do. I truly look forward to next year.