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.


Lessons from the Garden: Learning to Appreciate the In-between Places

This time of year is a classic time of contradictions. It’s still summer and yet we’re bombarded with a deluge of

Comfrey Harvest from the Garden

Halloween décor. I think I’ve already even seen some Christmas items being snuck in while I’m still trying to enjoy the last chords of summer!

Ancient and indigenous cultures understood
the transitional times from one season to the next and although we no longer seem to honor those times, they still exist in nature. One doesn’t simply wake one morning to suddenly find, it’s autumn. There is a rhythm and a cadence to changes in nature. First, we notice the Goldenrods are beginning to bud and finally bloom. Then we may notice a leaf here or there that turns yellow. Then a few nights of chillier temperatures and days that end a little earlier, the light just beginning to show the most-subtle of shifts. Nature has a grace about her in this time of late summer when the humidity has lost its bite and yet sunshine still abounds. Coming soon we’ll find glorious purple asters and other floral and seasonal treasures to savor.

Learning to revel in these moments keeps us in touch with the real pace of life. Not the rushed imposing interpretations of marketing professionals. Get outside, explore your world and notice the changes. How do you feel about the late summer? Do you enjoy basking in the softer rays of sunshine? What’s going on in your garden? Are you having a second or even third crop of Comfrey? Or perhaps you’re harvesting the last of your tomatoes and have planted fall veggies.


Late Summer Sun

What about in your internal garden? Are you taking the time to pause and notice the subtle changes in the season and how that affects you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? If we’re paying attention, we’ll notice that nature prompts us when it’s time to begin making changes. As the temperatures cool, it’s a good time to begin adding back in more warming and cooked foods, preparing our bodies for autumn and finally winter. Stocking up on fall and winter remedies before we need them is also a wise activity for this time of year. I have my Elderberry Syrup supplies ready to go and the Elderberry Tincture and Fire Cider is macerating in jars just waiting for the exact right time to strain off the herbs and bottle for fall and winter consumption.

Herbalism is about so much more than taking this herb for that ailment. It’s about reconnecting to the healing plants, the Earth, and the seasons in ever deepening ways and living according to those natural rhythms so long forgotten. So be sure to take some time in this in-between season to savor the last of the warm sunny days and summer pleasures while beginning to turn an eye toward prepping for the seasons to come and if I can help you in any way to ease that transition, be sure to drop me a line.


Lessons from the Garden: Allowing

I love gardening. It’s a passion, a meditation, a place that reconnects me to the Earth over and over again. I find that as I enter the garden, I step into a magical world out of reach of time and space. A dramatic shift takes place in my consciousness as the garden itself speaks to me. Some of my most profound insights are realized while gardening or wild-crafting.

I have a Medicine Wheel Garden that is about 35 feet in diameter. It’s quite a lot of space that I haven’t quite filled yet and perhaps I never will. It’s a work in progress that I believe most gardeners can relate to. “What’s a Medicine Wheel Garden?”, you ask? A Medicine Wheel Garden is a garden arranged within a circle with, at a minimum, stones marking off the four directions, north, east, south, west, plus the direction of center, or “within”, marked off at the center of the circle. Stones are also designated for Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun, Mother Earth, and Father Sky. Depending upon how detailed, the Medicine Wheel may include stones around its circumference, each one representing a different quality.

The Medicine Wheel is a sacred space, a tool for spiritual growth, it’s a teaching tool, a healing vortex. Given their sacredness and connection to the Creator, planting medicinal plants within this framework is a natural interpretation of this space. Plants can be arranged by their elemental association, north=earth, east=air, south=fire, west=water, center=spirit or ether, or in a random pattern. Most often I’ve found the plants tell me where they’d like to reside, not the other way around. I may have an idea of where a plant would do best but very often the plants will know better. I’m not entirely certain what is their criteria for placement as it often defies gardening logic as I know it. I’ve seen plants defy their usual requirement for sun, and water and show up in the unlikeliest of places. I’ve placed plants that require 8 hours of sun in the sunniest spot in the garden only to watch them die off and relocate themselves a few seasons later in a completely inappropriate spot. Thriving. Go figure.

I teach Medicine Wheel Gardening. Again, one of my favorite topics to teach. It’s a challenging topic to share in a way because there are so many layers to the Medicine Wheel. It requires a lifetime of learning and openness. Whenever we enter into sacred space in a conscious way, be that for ritual or gardening, everything that happens becomes synchronistic, and if we’re paying attention we can find the lessons. Such as it is for me in the garden. When I teach Medicine Wheel we talk about design and I hand out templates for students to work on their garden design but I always mention to leave room for the unexpected. We may plan the garden in a particular way, full of specific plants that we’d like to thrive in our garden, we give them exactly what they need to grow, the right sun, soil, fertilizer, water, and yet they may still fail to thrive. Why? They just do not want to be in that spot. Oftentimes there is no logical reason.

Likewise, I like to see what “shows up”. I keep room for the unexpected. I never plan so much into the garden that there’s no room for my wild visitors. If I did that I would miss out on a lot. The first year I planted this garden I noticed there were an abundance of Violets (Viola cucullata). Many home owners and gardeners consider these plants a nuisance and will rip them out but their flowers are truly lovely, and tasty and their medicinal benefits are quite impressive (read blog post on Violet here) and I try to eat some of them every day. By the second year the Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) had shown up (read blog post on Goldenrod here) in all her early autumn glory. Another useful medicinal in addition to being a stunner. Followed shortly by Fleabane (Erigeron pullchellus), Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), and one of my very favorites St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). Had I stuck to the “plan” stubbornly refusing to deviate, I would have missed out on so much beauty, and healing and the native bees would have missed out on important food sources. This attitude of co-creating with nature has allowed me to notice how plants show up year after year and excitedly wait to see who will be a new visitor each season. It’s allowed me to be present to the complex relationship between plants and insects. As the garden and land has been allowed to grow in a more natural way, other beings have been drawn to the area. Wild turkeys, hummingbirds, chipmunks, a couple of skunks, a raccoon, and various other critters have become regulars in our little homestead. It’s been one of my greatest joys to watch this interaction. “Allowing” has given me this opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to have a plan, in gardening as well as in life. I admire people that have a vision that they tenaciously stick to through whatever weather and charge fearlessly ahead. But I’ve also seen people trample over the beauty, and sometimes other people, on the way to the “prize”. I’ve seen many people miss out on the journey in pursuit of the end goal. And we’re never really guaranteed that end goal. Many things can happen along the way. We’re also never guaranteed that if we do indeed reach it, that it’s going to fill us up inside. Oftentimes when we trample through goals and ideas we lose sight of ourselves, our needs, and self-care can suffer so much along the way that by the time we do get there we barely recognize ourselves anymore. In life as well as in gardening, it’s often the unexpected twists and turns along the way that make life colorful. “Allowing” is full of flow, gentleness, and grace. “Allowing” acknowledges that there is a Higher Force at work in this Universe and our best selves are realized when we learn to dance with it rather than forcing our will along the way.

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