Getting to Know Our Poisonous Plant Friends

White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)

It may seem like a contradiction in terms, “poisonous plant friends”. For how can we be “friends” with a poisonous plant? As I tell my herbal students, it’s even more important to familiarize ourselves with and be able to accurately identify the poisonous plants, than even the medicinal and edible ones. Think about it, if we know the poisonous plants very well, and study them, we can learn to identify them in any season. Not just when they are flowering or fruiting. Making it less likely that we will make a mistake in our plant identifications or when gathering plants from our yards or gardens, as volunteers often show up even in our well-tended plots.

As humans we tend to think only in terms of what the Earth or plants can do specifically for us, but plants provide food, and often shelter for other species on the planet as well. Some plants offer healing to the environment in the form of bioremediation, taking toxins out of the soil, aerating the soil, or even re-mineralizing the soil, drawing up minerals from deep within the Earth, bringing it up to the upper layers, or pulling it from the air and fixing it in the ground.

One of my favorite poisonous plants is the White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda). White Baneberry is a perennial member of the Ranunculaceae or Buttercup Family that grows to heights of 1 to 3 feet with alternate, compound leaves and sharply toothed leaflets. The white, cylindrical, dense flowers bloom in May and June. White Baneberry favors deciduous and mixed forests along the Northeastern range, inland through the Appalachians, and as far west as Minnesota. This captivating beauty has a few other common names one of which is Doll’s Eyes. It’s obvious how she gets this very descriptive name when we see the stark white berries with single black, central dot, a leftover from the flower stigmas. These white spooky and fleshy berries burst full in Autumn and create quite a show on the landscape with their contrasting red fruit stems or pedicels. Although all parts of this plant are poisonous, White-Tailed Deer have been known to graze the leaves and small Mice and Squirrels will eat the berries as will many Bird species.  

Although this fascinating plant has been used historically for medicinal purposes by several native tribes, it is in fact very poisonous with as few as 6 berries causing major gastric inflammation, nausea, vomiting, respiratory paralysis, cardiac arrest, and even death! Those souls that did work with this plant medicinally were aware of its lethal potentialities and worked with it very carefully. For clarity purposes, I DO NOT recommend ingesting any part of White Baneberry.  

The poisonous plants are great in their Power but need to be approached with appreciation and most of all respect even and especially when we work with them energetically. I spend a considerable amount of time connecting with plants energetically and through the shamanic journey and I have worked with this plant for many years. I have tremendous respect and admiration for Her Beauty and Power and immense gratitude for the connection. Of the many lessons of White Baneberry, She aids us in looking within unflinching in what we find there. She provides a mirror for those who would approach Her reflecting back to us what we present. Because this plant walks hand in hand with Death, She helps us to glimpse beyond the illusions of our physical reality and beyond our own illusions so often overlooked. She is a true partner in shamanic journeying even guiding and assisting us in walking between the worlds. None of this happens in a casual way but only through patience and commitment to developing a relationship with the Spirit of this Plant.

If you would like to learn the Language of the Plants and how to connect with them deeply, be sure to check out upcoming classes in Plant Communication and Shamanic Plant Medicine Journey beginning November 19th.


Calming Chamomile

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

As I think back to some of my earliest days learning about and working with the healing plants, one plant immediately comes to mind, the charming and calming Chamomile. With its cheery disposition, pleasant apple-like scent, and fruity taste, Chamomile is perfect for those new to drinking herbal teas or working with the healing plants. I have always loved her healing teas and as a budding herbalist, I would often drink them in the evening or when I needed a little calming down time. Her medicine is well-tolerated by most people, even the little ones, and her uses are varied as we will learn!

Although Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is often referred to as the “true Chamomile”, it is the German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) that is most often used in modern medicinal preparations and the species I most often work with. Growing to heights of up to 24 inches, stems branching into graceful feathery leaves with flowers that only reach 1” to 2” in width, it’s a wonder that Chamomile is as powerful as she is. But oh those flowers! Could anyone gaze upon those tiny daisy-like perfections and not be filled with a profound joy and love for the plant world? I think not.

German Chamomile is an annual, although one might think this easy to grow plant is a perennial given the way it reseeds itself rapidly and with no intervention on our part. Grown in zones 4 to 9, German Chamomile is hardier than she looks and prefers sunny locations with well-drained soil. She will tolerate being grown in a pot as well and her enchanting scent makes for a nice addition to patios or small balconies.

Chamomile Tea is a source of peace and calming.

A cup of Chamomile tea is a classic remedy for insomnia and anxiety. When sleep isn’t coming easily, Chamomile lulls one into a peaceful slumber allaying fears and comforting cranky children and adults like a loving and patient Grandmother. Chamomile is equally adept at taming a nasty tension headache or stomachache caused by worry or spasms of the digestive system. In fact, Chamomile is an aid to good digestion and can be taken in tea form or a few drops of tincture before mealtime to improve the digestion naturally and safely.

But Chamomile’s healing powers do not stop there, as the tea, tincture, or compress can also relax uterine spasms and ease painful menstrual cramps and tension. A compress can also be made for the often- accompanying menstrual back pain. In fact, Chamomile is known for her anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects being used for arthritic pains, sciatica, and the pain associated with gout.

Chamomile especially loves children and has a long history of use for infant colicky, teething babies, irritability, and hyperactivity and the wee ones often love the taste which is helpful. A classic remedy for children’s colds and flu, Chamomile combined with Elder Flower, Yarrow, and Peppermint, an often well received tea!

This is just some of the Magick that is Chamomile!

If you’d to learn more about the healing plants growing all around us, be sure to sign up for the Green Girl newsletter or register for an upcoming class!

*Although Chamomile is generally regarded as safe, pregnant and lactating women should always check in with their health care professional before consuming herbal preparations. Although rare, occasionally some people will have a mild allergic reaction to Chamomile. When trying new herbs for the first time, it’s always a good idea to try a small amount first to see how your body responds to the remedy.


Hibiscus for late summer cooling relief!

Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

As we linger in the last few weeks of Summer, I fully intend to enjoy every minute of these fleeting warm and sunny days. And by the way Summer officially ends on September 23rd so don’t talk to me about pumpkin anything until that date. In the meantime, I will be gleefully sipping my herbal iced tea while strolling and frolicking barefoot through the Medicine Wheel Garden.

One of my favorite summer-time herbs for these endearing and enduring dog days of late summer is Hibiscus! What a beautiful plant with its audaciously gorgeous and showy flowers. Hibiscus is a member of the Malvaceae or Mallow Family and like many members of this family, Hibiscus is demulcent or soothing in nature making the tea a perfect drink for arid climates such as the ones it originates from. Although Hibiscus is native to tropical and subtropical regions, it was introduced to the southern United States in the late 19th century and has gained in popularity in recent years for its medicinal health benefits to the cardiovascular system and many other health benefits. This perennial  grows happily in zone 8 although it will adapt to life in cooler climates where it is grown as an annual. The Hardy Hibiscus is bred for colder climates where it can be grown as a perennial although it may not possess the same medicinal qualities.

Hibiscus Calyxes

Hibiscus calyxes are harvested when they turn bright red. It is from these that medicinal or beverage teas are made that also turn the water a beautiful bright red. The resulting beverage is tart but slightly sweet, very cooling, refreshing, and one of my favorite and easy to make sun teas!

Hibiscus is a staple in the hot climates where it grows naturally employed as a food, a beverage, a medicine, and in some regions even a fiber plant. Loaded with antioxidants, Hibiscus is known for its mildly tart refreshing taste and as a natural diuretic, it offers cooling, soothing plant medicine, uplifts the spirit, and elevates the mood. As with many plants with dark pigmentation Hibiscus has much to offer the cardiovascular system. Recent studies have shown Hibiscus to significantly decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure in those who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and had mildly elevated blood pressure, but its cardiovascular benefits don’t stop there. Hibiscus has been found to lower total cholesterol and blood sugar levels, both risk factors for heart disease, and has been found to improve circulation. Hibiscus’s astringent properties can help to minimize the fragility of blood vessels thereby increasing their elasticity.

Hibiscus promotes liver health, weight loss, and makes a tasty beverage hot or iced to replace unhealthy and sugary drinks often an unacknowledged detriment to health and wellness. Historically, Hibiscus has been considered helpful as an antidepressant, mild laxative, natural diuretic, digestive aid, high in vitamin C, calcium, and iron providing nutritional support for those with anemia. It has been shown to aid in immune function and recent lab tests reveal an increase in cancer cell apoptosis, but more tests will be needed to draw any further conclusions.

Hibiscus is used as a traditional medicine in South America, Mexico, parts of Africa, and India where it is used for healing sore throats and colds, its high vitamin C level no doubt aiding in this effect, as a diuretic, and for healing heart conditions. In East Africa, the leaves are poulticed and used topically on skin irritations. Other uses include use as a food coloring.

Although Hibiscus is generally regarded as safe within normal doses, it is not recommended during pregnancy and it is recommended by the Botanical Safety Handbook that those taking acetaminophen should not take Hibiscus within 3 hours due to the increased elimination rate.

Green Girl’s C Tea contains general amounts of Hibiscus!

If you would like to experience more of what Hibiscus has to offer be sure to check out Green Girl’s C Tea made with Roses, Rosehips, Hibiscus, and Elderberry, and excellent boost of immune system support, loads of vitamin C and antiviral properties and it tastes great hot or iced! Available online here at Green Girl Store.


THIS is my medicine

As you’ve probably already guessed from this website, I love plants.  Medicinal plants have been a long time focus and calling although all plants are healing in their own wonderful and varied ways.  This blog post has been a very long time coming.  Its first stirrings began many years ago and came again while harvesting St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) flowers in the bright, warm, embracing sun in the summer of 2015.  It had been a trying year full of unexpected changes as my mother had died suddenly in the very early and sleepy spring.  Anyone that has experienced grief especially the raw grief that comes on abruptly unexpectedly leaving you breathless in an instant as all the oxygen in your universe is viciously sucked away in one soundless swoosh.  My experience certainly didn’t pale in that regard.  It left me feeling as tiny as a fish flopping around outside of its safe, natural borders into unchartered, foreign, and wholly un-supporting terrain.
Spending time with the plants was the only thing I wanted to do.  The only thing that still made sense to me and brought connection.  In that unfamiliar rawness being around most human beings was too painful.  One of most influential people that would ever be in my life was gone.  Blink. Gone.  The burden of needing to act “normal” was too great.  Conversely, the plants had no such expectations of me.  They welcomed me, open arms, grief and all and never wanted me to be anything other than what I was. In case this is new to you, plants have consciousness, they have spirits.  They have presence and in that presence is a profound healing beyond words and at times beyond comprehension or intellectual explanation. This level of healing needs no explanation. It only needs to be experienced, trusted, and honored for what it is.  What is needed is awareness and the willingness to learn a new language.  What is needed is to be open to the plant’s energy and consciousness and to how it is speaking to you and then to embrace and hold that experience close to your heart.
I found myself spending much time walking the Medicine Wheel, meditating with the plants, singing to the plants, playing my flute, and harvesting the plant’s gifts.  I especially found myself spending much time with St. John’s Wort, or St. Joan’s Wort as she prefers.  On this particular day I was harvesting St. Joan’s Wort in the baking Sun to be made into a healing oil.  It’s one of my favorite things to do.  She has been one of my plant allies for several decades.  Early on She drove away “seasonal blues” and calmed sciatica pain and sore muscles.  Over the years I’ve had the privilege of sharing her medicine with so many people through classes and remedies from her bright yellow flowers that turn red when bruised or steeped in oil.  Making St. Joan’s Wort oil and salve has become a catharsis for me, a rite of passage, and just one of the ways that I keep reconnecting with Her power year after year.  The year my mother passed I found myself drawn to her over and over again.  A strong drawing not out of balance but a gentle knowing that She was there waiting for me daily. I would seek Her out making flower essences, oils, solar infusions, and many times solely for the purpose of being in Her energy. This particular afternoon had been one of those moments that should be frozen for eternity the connection is so complete and profound that a timelessness drifts over like a summer breeze a completely welcoming surprise.  As I bent to examine the bursting yellow blossoms it suddenly occurred to me that I was healing.  I was working through the feelings surrounding my mother’s death one day at a time with the help of this absolutely amazing and powerful plant. I’d noticed over the months, that my energy and vitality were returning.  At times I was even laughing and the deep and heavy sadness was lifting.  In this beautiful, profound “ah ha” moment that burned deep in my soul I realized on an even deeper level that THIS is my medicine.  This.  All of it.  Being in relationship with the plants, connecting, being on the Earth, harvesting in the way my ancestors have done for thousands of years.  Simple, beautiful, and profound.  This.  This was my “medicine”, my power.  I’ve been teaching about medicinal herbs and doing healing work for well over 30 years and yet there is always room to stretch farther, to go deeper. 
Even now I can feel Her roots working their way into my soul, into my Being.  And I smile.  This is the nature of the sacred medicine plants when we approach them with love, with gratitude, devoid of ego, and with an open heart. Bringing our whole selves with us; broken, bruised, and wounded.  Or happy and joyous.  It doesn’t matter.  They react and relate to the authentic.  To the real.  To the childlike.  To humility.  To me it requires a complete giving over of the self and allowing oneself to be led.  To be guided.  Allowing yourself to “not know”.  Letting it be okay to not have all the answers.  That is where we become teachable.  It is the place where the everyday and the sacred collide stretching on into eternity.  This is where we embrace the Divine and in doing so we touch the sacred within ourselves.  This is the place where we truly connect with the sacred medicine plants.
On this Summer Solstice Day, the Day of St. Joan’s Wort, I head out again to find Her. Seeking out her wisdom, her strength, and her medicine. Honoring her in whatever small ways I can to give back for all the incredible gifts she has given me, gifts I know I will never be able to repay.

A Wise Elder

Every August I watch in anticipation for the deep purple berries of the Elder Tree. It’s technically not a tree at all but a tall growing shrub reaching heights of up to 12 feet. My obsession begins early in the summer at the end of June when the effusive flush of the fragrant inflorescence form into panicles of creamy white. Remarkably beautiful are the flowers that I can’t bear to harvest them plus I love the berries too much! These white blossoms have a special magic and medicine all their own, often being made into flavorful concoctions such as Elder Wine or Elder Flower Cordials, or into foods such as Elder Flower Fritters. Their medicinal uses are impressive as well for they are considered diaphoretic and carminative in nature and useful as teas to help resolve colds and flus quickly often reducing their duration by several days. Recent studies also suggest that Elder flowers have anticancer benefits and may help to support eye health.

The berries are a gift from the Earth when I can get to them before the deer and the birds but of course I always make sure to leave enough for my wild friends. Infinitely delicious are the berries, that they have been used in cooking pies and jams for centuries not to mention Elderberry Wine and jelly! Elderberries have impressive antiviral properties that are equal to or greater than modern vaccines without the side effects. Elderberry Syrup can be taken throughout flu and cold season as a highly effective preventative remedy and it’s delicious too! I take the Elderberry Syrup all season as it keeps me from getting ill and I feel great from all the antioxidants contained within. High in anthocyanins, Elderberries are a wonderful tonic for the heart and for supporting healthy eyes as do many of the darker berries such as Bilberry which were used in WWII by British fighter pilots to improve their night vision. Likewise, Elderberries may provide support for those with type 2 diabetes.

The native variety of the Elder is Sambucus canadensis, the bark of which was used by the Mahican tribe as an emetic and laxative. The flowers were used to sweat out a fever, as a blood purifier, and for skin related issues, the berries as a tonic. The Iroquois used the bark to relieve headaches. The naturalized European variety of Elder is Sambucus nigra which is very similar in appearance to the S.canadensis and is used interchangeably.

Much folklore exists around the Wise Elder Tree and in ancient times it was considered bad luck to cut one down but I can’t imagine why anyone would want to. Elder is ruled by the planet Venus and the Element water and in fact, you can often find them growing near a stream. Given Elder’s close association with water, it would seem it’s no accident that dowsing rods were often made of her branches. She has been used for divination, protection, prosperity, and contacting elementals. It is said that by sitting in meditation under this revered herb, you can connect with her Spirit who will answer a question for you.

Although all parts of the plant have been used medicinally, the leaves and stems are generally considered toxic and it is not advised to take these parts internally although historically they were used as a strong laxative and to soothe mucous membranes. The uncooked berries can cause stomach distress and nausea for some people so be sure to either take in a tea or other cooked or processed formulation.

Click here to purchase a bottle of Green Girl’s Awesome Elderberry Syrup!


Goldenrod, fall allergies, and other fairytales

Nothing heralds the coming Autumn for me like the very beautiful and showy yellow flowers of Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis, Solidago spp.). Although, Goldenrod, in all her golden glory, is the scapegoat for fall allergies, it is actually the common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia) with its inconspicuous green inflorescence also blooming at this time that is usually to blame. Goldenrod has very little pollen and what pollen it does have is very dense and sticky in order to be carried off by insects that visit. Ragweed on the other hand, makes a profusion of pollen that is distributed on the wind. Solidago canadensis is a Native perennial that spreads rapidly through its rhizomes. Often found in dense stands, there are approximately 60 species of Goldenrod in the Northern Hemisphere found in all states except Hawaii, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Goldenrod is also found in nearly all of the Canadian provinces. Goldenrod is found in moist meadows, near waterways, and prairies in locations with full or part sun. It ranges in height from 1 to 7 feet with bright flowers arranged in drooping panicles.


ragweed-09_05_14-kg-img_5630-edit2Many Native American tribes utilized the Goldenrod plant for a variety of ills including the Iroquois who employed infusions of the roots and flowers for pain. The Potawatomi made a tea from the blossoms to bring down fevers. Other tribes used the plant topically to treat snakebite, and the root for burns. Indeed, Goldenrod is rich with medicinal healing powers and with its astringent qualities can be used to quell fall allergic reactions as well as cold and flu upper respiratory mucus and fevers. Goldenrod can be taken to help tune our immune systems for winter and as nature is so wise, she has arranged that Goldenrod is available for us just in time. Goldenrod is a friend to the urinary system and healing to the kidneys, coming to the aid of those suffering with urinary gravel or stones, and frequent urination. A tea can also be taken to prevent gravel, kidney stones, nephritis, and issues of the prostate. Goldenrod is an effective digestive and possesses anti-inflammatory qualities. As a cleansing herb, it is helpful in the treatment of arthritis. Goldenrod can be used as a tea or tincture and the seeds are an edible trailfood. All Goldenrods are safe to use and many can be used interchangeably.


Goldenrod is an important food source for native pollinators in the fall allowing them to store up food for the winter. As with all plants, Goldenrod also performs important functions for the land. As a phytoremediator, Goldenrod helps to stabilize the soil and revegetate disturbed areas. Goldenrod is a friend to both human, insects, animals, and Earth. Leaving areas to remain wild allows this important medicinal and other useful plants to show up. If you have a yard or field, consider leaving at least a part of it free from mowing and pruning, nature will thank you for it!


Plantain: A Backyard Treasure

plantain-kg-06_09_14-img_4490-edit1-814x1024If people knew that the cures for many of their ills were growing right in their own backyards, I’d like to think they would put down the glyphosate, the lawn mower, the “weed wacker”, and let it grow!


Plantain is one of those backyard jewels that everyone should befriend so vast are its healing medicines and uses as a food source. The Plantain I’m speaking of here is not the fruit that resembles a banana but rather the green plant found growing profusely in waste places, most suburban yards, and even in abandoned city lots.  Plantain, maligned as a “common weed”, is often the target of broad spectrum and selective herbicides designed to eradicate it from the “perfect lawn”. The non-native Plantain was originally brought to this continent by early colonists as it followed them wherever they went. So intertwined were their paths that a common name for Plantain was Englishman’s Foot.


Many varieties of Plantains exist throughout the world. In the Northeast alone we can easily find several varieties most of which are used interchangeably. The two most common Plantains in our area are Plantago major or Broad Leaf Plantain, and Plantago lanceolata or Narrow Leaf Plantain. Broad Leaf Plantain can reach heights of 6 to 18 inches while Narrow Leaf Plantain’s height can range between 10 and 23 inches. Both plants have low growing basal leaves with parallel veins that form grooves along the leaf surface. From the center stalk an inconspicuous flower is produced followed by edible seeds. All Plantains are edible and can be eaten either raw or cooked. The younger leaves and seeds are preferred for eating as the leaves can toughen with age. As with most wild plants, Plantain’s nutritional profile is impressive with notable amounts of Iron, Calcium, Vitamins A, C, and K making it a nice addition to summer salads.


Planplantain-salve-img_2180-edit3-website-1024x973tain shines as a highly valued medicinal. Historically it has been used as a folk cancer remedy and is still used today in Latin America for this purpose. Its demulcent properties are soothing to the entire intestinal tract and are used to heal ulcers, indigestion, and IBS. The common constipation remedy psyllium comes from another species of Plantain, Plantago psyllium. Plantain is soothing, in fact, to all mucous membranes including throats, and lungs making it effective during colds and sore throats.


Plantain is probably most well-known for its anodyne properties that will quickly take the pain completely out of any manner of bee or wasp sting, even the sharp discomfort from a Stinging Nettle encounter! Children especially delight at making a field or “spit poultice”, made from chewing up a leaf and then placing the gooey mass on an insect bite or burn. Plantain is excellent at drawing out poisons from bee stings and will even help to avoid a reaction. So effective at extracting substances that it can be employed to draw out splinters.  Its antimicrobial and skin rejuvenating properties make it an effective first aid salve for burns, bee stings, nettle stings, spider bites, and minor cuts and scrapes. I make sure I always have a Plantain Salve on hand for first aid situations. You can purchase Plantain Salve here and be sure to check out the Baked Plantain Recipe below. This is one of my favorite Plantain Recipes that I share in my wildfoods cooking class – enjoy!

Happy Herbing!
Karine aka “the Green Girl”


Baked Plantain
Fresh large plantain leaves (washed and dried)
1 cup whole wheat flour (or other flour)
1 1/2 cup water
1 egg
2 tbsp. wheat germ
2 tbsp. spiked salt (or a variety of spices of your choosing)

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Combine the flour, water, egg, wheat germ and spices into a bowl and mix well.
  3. Dip leaves into the batter and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Be sure to not to overlap for best results.
  4. Bake 5 -10 minutes if the leaves used are very large. If the plantain leaves are smaller then start watching them at about the 3-4 minute mark to ensure they do not burn. Serve warm or once cooled!

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.

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