Wild About Wormwood

I’m a plant nerd for sure. I get wild about plants. Last week I was out plant shopping. For medicinal herbs, this is a rarity. Other than the occasional flirtation with a hybridized Chocolate or Pineapple Mint, all of my medicinal herb plants and seeds are purchased online. Sometimes I get lucky and find a rare gem in some forgotten corner of the Hudson valley and I get giddy. No, I mean I literally get giddy. So yeah, last week I was giddy. What was the object of my enchantment you ask? “None other than the winsome wormwood!” she says as Harry Potter fans everywhere perk up their ears. If Wormwood has not been mentioned in the popular tomes, she certainly should be. As full of magic, mystery, and medicine as any controversial herb and with a dazzling past to match! I have your attention now, yes?


Artemisia absinthium. Yes, that Artemisia. The “green fairy”, the once outlawed absinthe said to have driven scores of Parisians insane, rumored to cause tuberculosis, epilepsy, and even blamed for Van Gogh’s insanity. Not to ruin a good scandal but Wormwood’s bad boy reputation is completely overblown. The thujone in Wormwood that gives it its hallucinogenic properties, is also a neurotoxin in high doses, causing seizures and eventually death. The thujone is most high in the concentrated Wormwood oil. Thujone levels in Wormwood oil are around 40% and even small amounts of the oil can cause irreversible damage. Thujone levels in Absinthe were a mere .003% not likely to cause a problem. What is more than likely to blame for their debaucherously driven behavior would be Absinthe’s 70-80% alcohol content as Wormwood is only one of a number of herbs concocted in the famous potion. Although Absinthe originated in Switzerland in the late 18th century, it grew in popularity initially with French soldiers in the 1840’s who had been given the drink to cure malaria for which Wormwood is a traditional remedy. Making its way to America, Absinthe found a permanent home in New Orleans where it is still a featured spirit today at such notable establishments as The Old Absinthe House. Prior to that time, Wormwood had been used medicinally as far back as Egyptian times and is named in the Ebers Papyrus, an ancient medical text that is over 3,500 years old. At around the same time, China was also using Wormwood infused medicinal wines. Wormwood is said to have been a favored herb of Artemis who gifted it to Chiron, “Healer of the Gods”, whereby Wormwood became one of his most important healing herbs.


Back to my obsession. I fall in love with plants for a variety of reasons. Sometimes simply because they exist. I could  lose hours in Wormwood’s foliage so irresistible is her silver, feathery leaf. The form so similar to other Artemisia’s, certainly one of my favorite plant genus. For all her power as a medicinal, and an enchantment, Wormwood’s leaf formation divulges a certain softness. Perhaps this she bestows along with her protection on those who appreciate and love her. Her history as a protective herb is a long and varied one but her capacity as a healer is most impressive. One of the most bitter of plants, Wormwood has been utilized as a digestive bitter and a tonic for all ailments of the stomach and digestion. Her effect on the liver is notable as she is said to cure jaundice, hepatitis, and mythologically as an antidote for Hemlock poisoning. Like her sister, Mugwort, she is a diaphoretic and will help to bring down a nasty fever. As another of Artemis’s herbs, she has a history as a women’s herb and considered an emmenagogue. She is a competent pain reliever and will bring much needed rest. Most impressive are her abilities as an anti-parasitic. So much so that she is often found to be more effective than modern antimalarial drugs. Such as it is with plants. They can go where pharmaceuticals can’t. Such is their magic. I don’t find magic and medicine to be in opposition to one another. In fact, I don’t believe you can have true healing without magic and wonder and Wormwood brings that in abundance.


As with all powerful healers, caution must be taken. It is recommended to take Wormwood only under the care of a competent Herbalist. This herb should not be taken by pregnant women or in large doses but certainly invite her into your garden to bless you with her beautiful healing graces.


A Father’s Day Tribute

I owe a lot to my parents. They both were a very integral part of the person I grew and continue to grow into, each in their own ways. Even though neither one of them are alive today, their presence is with me always. I often think of the gifts they gave me, the lessons they taught.


As usual this Father’s Day has me thinking about my dad, who he was as a person, and who he was as a father. It’s easy for people to think they know someone and that that person has been important in their life but when that person is your parent it’s a very different relationship. A parent is often with us since birth until they walk on. Up to that point, that’s your entire life. It’s a unique relationship in that as we change and grow, so do our perceptions and how we see everything including our parents. Of course a child’s perspective can be skewed and yet in many ways children know those individuals called “parents” better than anyone. Sometimes a child’s unflinching honesty can be painful to hear but like I said, children in many ways know the real deal with no sugar coating. They see the good. They see the bad and every thing in-between. And likewise, few beings can push a parent’s buttons more than a child except perhaps a spouse and I certainly was no exception in the “button pushing” arena.


When my father passed, and even since his passing, many people contacted me in one way or another. Each of them had a different story of my dad and who he was for them. Yet none of them really saw the whole person. Honestly at times it annoyed me and sometimes still does. People see a tiny sliver of a person or they spend a few months or years with someone and think they know everything about that person. Most often they’re just seeing who that person was at that moment. That particular moment or time in their life. And more than likely, they see who that person wanted them to see. I believe when you can look at the totality of who a person is without embellishing or romanticizing, then you can say you truly know and love them.


I’d like to think I had a pretty good view of my dad and who he was at different points in his life. Although I wasn’t incarnate prior to the 26 years of his life before I was born, in a very real way I knew him then too. In a person’s DNA is truly everything about them well beyond eye and hair color. Their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, and every experience they’ve ever had, all coded into serpent-like genetic blueprints. So for the record, I think I know him better than anyone.


No one needs to say how important the father-daughter relationship is. Fathers play a crucial part of a women’s self esteem, how she sees herself, if she knows that her presence, that she matters in this universe, and how she puts herself out in the world. My dad certainly wasn’t an easy man by any stretch of the imagination. Much of the way he lived flew in the face of convention. A trait that his many admirers so loved about him but as a daughter it frequently had its challenges. I’ve often said that I earned the right to be my father’s daughter. Such was the incongruity of my dad’s parenting that I knew how to read a race sheet at 5, I’d not only been exposed to the Tao but it was a part of my regular reading, and I could play a pretty decent game of chess much to my father’s chagrin. Such were the contradictions that was Haviland, my dad. Still, some of the conventional attributes of family life that gives a child a certain stability and a sense of security were oftentimes absent.


Nonetheless, my father always had an acute sense of what was crucial and on that he never missed the mark. Even so far as being able to instill in me things he never got growing up. An unshaking self-reliance, a great fondness of books and learning, an insatiable creativity, an ability to see through the bullshit of life and sometimes people, and an undying love, appreciation, and awe for the Earth and all her beings, are just a few of those gifts that I treasure. Suffice it to say there were times his attention wasn’t as centered on home as I certainly would have liked, and yet I still managed to squirrel away a lifetime full of memories. My dad and I often hiked together. Those are truly some of my fondest memories. I’ve yet to meet anyone as skilled as he was in that area. My dad knew of the plants, the medicinal ones and the edible ones, the trees, and of how the animals moved. He knew how to move silently in the woods without being detected or leaving any trace of his presence. In the woods a stillness would often come over him and a sense that he was finally at peace with himself. Something that I would find early on within myself as well. Many times he would convey a teaching with few or no words. Not many people, if any, have the skill to do that. He had an uncanny ability with plants and we often had incredible gardens. He transferred his love of them easily to me and that passion guides my life today. He was a very hard worker although I believe his creative mind was not designed for the grind of modern life. Later in his earth walk he took up the brush again and his paintings were incredible. Mainly scenes of nature, expressive passionate works, and a few of me that I treasure.


My father was many things in his life. A father, a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, a painter, a landscaper, a leader, a trickster. He had an incredible faith in my abilities and instilled in me the belief that I could do anything. Bringing home an A on a report card I often heard “Why wasn’t it an A plus?”. I understood my father’s meaning in that he thought I was just the brightest being ever although it at times aggravated me. Now it makes me smile and although I often push myself too much, through his urging I’ve had the courage to pursue what’s in my heart and to not settle for what doesn’t make me happy and isn’t who I am.


Stepping on my spiritual path so early in my young adulthood afforded me the opportunity of much reflection on my life and everything within it. Without such introspection I don’t know if I would see with the clarity that I do today. I understand my father now more than I ever did and yet, as long as I live I’ll continue to learn about him and through that, about myself. One of my most poignant memories of my dad is him teaching me to swim on a lake we went to, often. After showing me how, he would put keep his arms under me to hold me up in the water, and then he would say “Now swim.” After a while, I would always “But daddy your arms aren’t there anymore” and he’d say “I’ve got you, I’ve got you. See you’re doing it, you’re swimming.” Even though he’s no longer on the physical plane, I still often hear him saying “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, don’t worry you’re doing it on your own…”


An Herb to Know: Meadowsweet

I love to introduce people to plants they may have never seen before and to share some things about the “common” plants they may not know.  To do that opens up an entirely new world and way of seeing the Green Nations. Opening our eyes, expanding our perspective is invigorating to the Spirit.  Our world is one of such beauty but we can be so caught up in our daily grooves that we miss so much.

With that in mind allow me to introduce you to Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) some of you may have Filipendula_ulmaria_-_angervaksalready made her acquaintance but for those of you who haven’t this is one of the many plants we learn about in the Sacred Heart of Herbalism 8 month herbal intensive and one of my favorites.  There are two species of Filipendula that we find in our area Filipendula ulmaria and Filipendula rubra also known as “Queen of the Prairie” such a lovely name! The F.rubra is a native species that today is used primarily as a garden ornamental but was used extensively by Native tribes for all issues of the heart and as a “love medicine”.  Native Americans also worked with this plant to utilize its astringent properties, quelling generalized diarrhea as a well as dysentery and as a vulnerary.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) has been naturalized in the East and is known to herbalists for its salicin constituent although its levels are much lower (.5%) than the willow species (11%).  Meadowsweet is used as a pain reliever just as you would aspirin for headaches for example but with few side effects than the synthesized compound.  It’s also useful for colds and flus.  Meadowsweet’s anti-inflammatory properties are excellent and a salve, this delightfully fragrant plant can help with achy and arthritic joints….what a wonderful plant to know!  These are just a few of the wonders that are Meadowsweet…

Caution should still be taken not to overuse just as you would with aspirin. Those individuals that should not take aspirin should not take Meadowsweet.


Yarrow: A Warrior’s Herb

WheYarrow 08_15_15 kg IMG_8170 edit3never I teach about the healing power of medicinal plants I like to share a bit of their history. Learning about the history of an herb, how it traveled to different parts  of the world, how it was used by different groups of people, and the various ways its usage may have changed over the centuries can teach us a lot about a particular plant. When herbalism fell out of common use in this country in favor of the “better living through chemistry” philosophy, much valuable information was lost. As we learn the old ways of herbalism once again, we regain tremendous insight into the herb’s character and important uses.

 One such herb is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) which I refer to as the “warrior’s herb”. The genus name gives us a little insight into this characteristic, as is often the case with many plants. “Achillea” refers to the Greek Warrior Achilles, the greatest warrior and central character in Homer’s Illiad. Yarrow has a long history of use on the battlefield and Achilles is said to have taken this potent herb into battle with him where it was used to pack wounds and staunch bleeding, both internally and externally. Today Yarrow’s reputation continues as an “herbal bandaid” and his styptic properties are well founded. Although we no longer take the plant into combat, Yarrow excels in the modern “battlefield” of our workplaces. Energetically Yarrow can help to provide energetic protection in contentious situations and working with the flower essence can assist in helping us or other parties move into a better place , either physically or emotionally.


Yarrow, however, is full of mystery and seeming contradictions as he is not merely an herb of battlefields. Ruled by the planet Venus, Yarrow is strengthening to the organs of Venus, the venous system for one, and can be used to treat varicose veins and enlarged veins such as hemorrhoids. By helping to return venous blood to the heart, he takes the strain off the heart and circulatory system. Those herbs ruled by Venus are often used for women’s ailments and Yarrow shines in this application as well, healing menstrual cramps and balancing both scant and excessive menses. Compresses of Yarrow flowers and leaves can be applied to the abdomen of menopausal women to reduce the discomfort and cramping often associated with this crone time. Such is the power that is Yarrow that he is often employed during cold and flu season. His diaphoretic and astringent properties are helpful with sore throats and fevers.

Yarrow is a hardy perennial that is easy to grow and overwinters successfully even in the coldest of winters. A wonderful and crucial addition to any medicinal herb garden.


The Healing Virtues of Rose

Ruled by the planet Venus, it’s no surprise that Roses have been connected with love, both romantic and spiritual. The energetic quality of Rose is one of love and self acceptance, passion for life and finding one’s passion. Simply meditating on Rose can bring about a dramatic shift in your spiritual and physical vibration. In my work as a Plant Spirit Healer, I work with the Spirit of Rose on a regular basis as most of us can use a little more self love and acceptance.


Connecting with Rose daily can help us to be more patient, accepting and loving with ourselves and those around us. Simply spending time in her energy field in the garden brings about a calmer and more centered demeanor. I add Rose Water or Rose Flower Essence to an atomizer to infuse any room with her pure and loving vibration. Doing this especially at night along with Lavender essential oil, brings about a truly peaceful night’s sleep.


There is no doubt that all Roses are incredibly beautiful but their beauty is so much more than skin deep. The non-hybridized varieties, such as Rosa rugosa, Rosa gallica and Rosa centifolia to name a few, are loaded with healing virtues that have a long and rich history of medicinal use. It is estimated that Roses most likely originated in Northern Persia then spread across Mesopotamia to Palestine and onto Greece. The genus name, Rosa, comes from the Greek word “rodon” meaning “red” and many old time herbalists like Nicholas Culpepper believe the red variety of roses are more astringent in nature.


Roses are known to be cooling in their energy and are used for a variety of conditions and ailments. They are strengthening to the heart and considered a heart tonic. They have been used to strengthen the stomach both internally and topically as a poultice. Their antiseptic quality is healing to the urinary system and can be a helpful part of healing urinary tract infections and scalding urination. Rose infusion has been used to clear heat from the liver and heal conditions such as jaundice.


Rose can be taken as a tea for sore throats and an 8 ounce cup of Rosehip tea contains a generous 541 mg of Vitamin C. Paired together, the petals and hips make a tasty way to stop a cold in its tracks. Rose’s astringent nature gives needed relief to inflamed and bleeding gums and mouth sores. Roses can be used as a wash for tired and sore eyes.



 Roses are considered beautifying and astringent to the skin. To tighten the skin, spray Rose Water on the face after washing or on a hot summer day for cooling relief of overheated and sunburned skin.Topically Rose petals are poulticed on any type of “hot” skin conditions. Roses are also edible and can be used as a lovely decoration on baked goods, created into a gorgeous syrup, included in salads or infused in vinegar to make an elegant base for a salad dressing.


When using Roses medicinally or as a culinary addition, be sure to use only the natural varieties grown organically or without pesticides and commercial fertilizers.


Chickweed; A Little Star

The botanical name for Chickweed is the Latin binomial Stellaria media. Literally, “little star in the midst of….”.  As we examine her tiny white flowers they certainly look like tiny little stars in the midst of our spring lawns. Often reaching a height of no more than 8-10″ we might miss her entirely if we’re not paying attention and she certainly deserves our attention! 


Chickweed favors the cool early spring temperatures and “cooling” is her nature. She loves the cold so much she can sometimes be found even in the middle of winter.


Chickweed is edible and highly nutritive making her an excellent addition for those weakened individuals to regain their strength and health. She contains generous amounts of calcium, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, chlorophyll and even protein! She also contains a moderate amount of vitamin C. 


Her healing properties are most available when eaten fresh or made into a healing tea, tincture, salve or poultice. Her demulcent properties make her lovely to sooth a sore or hoarse throat or even as a mild laxative. Her soothing and nourishing ways bring relief to lung infections, bronchitis, smoker’s cough, allergies and other lung irritations.


Here healing power can be felt throughout the urinary system as she share her cooling touch with inflamed urinary tissues, healing scalding urination, bladder infection and cystitis. Chickweed has an impressive history as an aid to weight loss and an anticancer when eaten regularly. Topically, our “little star” eases the skin issues such as boils, burns, wounds and can draw out infection when used as healing poultice.


So much healing is available right in our own backyards and yet often ignored in our insatiable search for the next miracle “cure”.  True healing doesn’t come in a pill or a package or in the next fad diet, but it does come with common sense; good food, clean water, fresh air, exercise and a little help from our lovely plant allies.


This is No “Shrinking” Violet!

Did you know there is an abundance of medicinal plants growing right in your own backyard? A multitude of these plants have been used for centuries as powerful plant medicines many of which are still in use today. One such plant is the oftentimes overlooked but lovely Violet (Viola spp.). Violet comes to us very early in the spring bearing gifts of heart-shaped leaves surely the evidence of her connection to Venus, followed shortly by dainty purple, white or yellow flowers. The leaves and flowers of the Violet plant are edible, quite tasty, and a pretty edition to early spring salads. The tiny flowers hold a delightful sweetness that sneaks up on you and says “Hello, it’s nice to meet you!”.


I love to make a tea out of both the fresh leaves and flowers. Violets are mild enough to have a history of use as a medicine for children and are often made into a syrup for that purpose. The leaves are considered demulcent and are soothing to sore throats, dry throats and can help the lungs to release phlegm and congestion. Herbalists of the last few hundred years, often employed Violet leaves as a cure for consumption. Violets have been used for all cancers of the throat and mouth and at least one case of colon cancer is said to have been cured over many months of Violet leaf infusions.


Topically, the leaves have been used on skin cancer and are often poulticed for a variety of skin issues. Both the flowers and leaves are employed as a cancer preventative. Violet is a mild and gentle laxative, safe enough for children. The roots are considered emetic and purgative and have been used to replace Ipecac.


The spiritual energy of this plant is quite healing as well. Violet is a Keeper of the Violet Ray and as such can bring about profound transformation in our spiritual lives.  Violet encourages us to let go of old, outdated energies and thought forms aiding us to replace negative affirmations with spiritually uplifting and profound ways of thinking and being. Working with the enlightening energy of Violet, I often tune in to new and exciting ideas and methods of healing. This is just some of the magic that is Violet!


If you would like to learn more about the sacred medicine plants, be sure to check this page often and sign up for the Green Girl email list to be alerted of future class offerings.



Burdock “the Great”

The Great Burdock (Arctium lappa), or as I like to call her “Burdock the Great” is a transplant originating from Eurasia no doubt secretly hitching a ride from some explorer to the “New World” or perhaps her introduction was more intentional. Were I traveling to distant unknown lands, I know I would want to have this incredible plant by my side.  A biennial, whose large palm-like leaves grow close to the ground and spread in the first year. The delicious taproot reaching down, down into the Earth only to be harvested by painstaking digging preferably with a long, narrow trowel. The most medicinal of these roots can be harvested in the fall of the first year. By the second year, a tall 6 to 7 foot stem emerges as if to reach out and touch the very sky. Pinkish purple thistle-like flowers in summer will give way to the burrs whose ability to latch onto animal fur, hair, clothing, (pretty much any place you don’t want them) have been noted as the inspiration for Velcro. I believe it.


Often deemed an “invader” as if it had been dropped from the silver streak of  passing UFO, Burdock is often terribly maligned, her incredible life-giving health benefits ignored or forgotten altogether. Fortunately, some of us know her secrets and make use of her healing ways as often as possible. Burdock has a powerful effect on the liver acting as what would be considered a “blood purifier” working deep into the body to clear away toxins and waste products and skin eruptions like acne and eczema in the process. Burdock is an herb that works deeply, persistently, and often behind the scenes bringing healing to the digestive system and acting as a mild and most tolerable laxative. She is also a lymphatic and is often included in detoxification blends.  Referred to as “Gobo” in Asian cooking which is the root of this plant. The root is considered a blood purifier, liver cleanser, lymph cleanser, blood sugar balancer and helpful for kidney ailments. The massive leaves can be poulticed on bruises or made into a salve for skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema.


In the late fall, the seeds can be harvested although care needs to be taken as the tiny hairs contained within the seedy burrs can be quite irritating to the skin. This I also know from first hand experience. The seeds of the second year plant are diaphoretic when made into a tea and are excellent as a steam for the complexion. Quite a few insects and birds also rely on the seeds so be sure to leave some behind.



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