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Be Your Own Herbal Expert - Pt 2 - by Susun Weed

Tea for You?

Teas are a favorite way to consume herbs. Made by brewing a small amount of herbs (typically a teaspoonful to a cup of water) for a short time (generally 1-2 minutes), teas are flavorful, colorful drinks.

Herbs rich in coloring compounds - such as hibiscus, rose hips, calendula, and black tea - make enticing and tasty teas. They may also contain polyphenols, phytochemicals known to help prevent cancer. Since coloring compounds and polyphenols are fairly stable, dried herbs are considered best for teas rich in these.

Herbs rich in volatile oils - such as ginger, chamomile, cinnamon, catnip, mint, lemon balm, lemon grass, lavender, bergamot, and fennel, anise, and cumin seeds - make lovely teas, which are effective in easing spasms, stimulating digestion, eliminating pain, and inducing sleep. Since much of the volatile oils are lost when herbs are dried, fresh herbs are considered best for teas rich in these, but dried herbs can be used with good results.

I enjoy a cup of hot tea with honey. But teas fail to deliver the mineral richness locked into many common herbs. A cup of nettle tea, for instance, contains only 5-10 mg of calcium, while a cup of nettle infusion contains up to 500 mg of calcium. For optimum nutrition, I drink nourishing herbal infusions every day.

Infusion for Me!

An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar, which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours. After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is usual. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions. (See experiment 2.)

I make my infusions at night before I go to bed and they are ready in the morning. I put my herb in my jar and my water in the pot, and the pot on the fire, then brush my teeth (or sweep the floor) until the kettle whistles. I pour the boiling water up to the rim of the jar, screw on a tight lid, turn off the stove and the light, and go to bed. In the morning, I strain the plant material out, squeezing it well, and drink the liquid. I prefer it iced, unless the morning is frosty. I drink the quart of infusion within 36 hours or until it spoils. Then I use it to water my houseplants, or pour it over my hair after washing as a final rinse, which can be left on.

My favorite herbs for infusion are nettle, oatstraw, red clover, and comfrey leaf, but only one at a time. The tannins in red clover and comfrey make me pucker my lips, so I add a little mint, or bergamot, when I infuse them, just enough to flavor the brew slightly. A little salt in your infusion may make it taste better than honey will.

Having trouble finding herbs in bulk at your local health food store? Try ordering online:

Simple Messages

When we use simples (one plant at a time), we allow ourselves an intimacy that deepens and strengthens our connections to plants and their green magic. There are lots of interesting plants, and lots of herbalists who maintain that herbal medicine means formulae and combinations of herbs. But I consider herbs as lovers, preferring to have only one in bed with me at a time.

When I use one plant at a time it is much easier for me to discern the effect of that plant. When I use one plant at a time and someone has a bad reaction to the remedy, it is obvious what the source of the distress is, and usually easy to remedy. When I use one plant at a time, I make it easy for my body to communicate with me and tell me what plants it needs for optimum health.

I even go so far as to ally with one plant at a time, usually for at least a year. By narrowing my focus, I actually find that I learn more.

Coming Up

In our next lesson we will learn more about the difference between nourishing, tonifying, stimulating/sedating, and potentially-poisonous plants; how to prepare them; and how to use them. In the following installments we will explore the difference between fixing disease and promoting health, how to apply the three traditions of healing, and how to take charge of your own health care with the six steps of healing.

 

Experiment Number One


Make and drink a quart of nourishing herbal infusion made with stinging nettle, oatstraw, red clover, raspberry leaf, or comfrey leaf. If you wish, flavor it with mint. On the same day, make a tea from the same herb, using dried herb. Compare and contrast the colors, flavors, and sensations.

Experiment Number Two

Make an infusion of stinging nettle, oatstraw, red clover, raspberry leaf, or comfrey leaf, using one ounce of dried herb as usual. At the same time, make a quart of "brew" using the same herb, but fresh, not dried. To make it fair, use 4 ounces of fresh herb. After one hour of steeping, look at both jars, taste and compare/contrast. Repeat three more times at hourly intervals.

Minerals are released slowly into water. They darken the color of the water and give it a dense, rich taste. Oil-soluble vitamins float to the top and make a thin glaze of swirls.

Experiment Number Three

Buy, or grow, a tasty, aromatic herb, like ginger, peppermint, or rosemary. For this experiment you will need one tablespoon of fresh herb, and one teaspoon of the same herb dried. Place the fresh herb in a cup or mug and the dried herb in another. Fill both to the top with boiling water. After one minute, taste, smell, compare the teas. Wait another minute and compare again. Then wait five minutes and try each one again.

Experiment Number Four

Make a tea with aromatic seeds - anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, fennel, or fenugreek. Use a teaspoon of seeds in a cup of water. At the same time, brew some using a tablespoon of seeds per cup. After a minute, taste, smell, contrast. Repeat in five minutes, then in thirty minutes, then after an hour, then after four hours. Teas and infusions of dried seeds are almost the same.

Further Study

1.        Drink 2-4 cups of nourishing herbal infusion for a month and see if your health changes in any way. Best if you don't drink coffee or tea during this month.

2.        Choose a green ally to focus on this year.

3.        Read Healing Power of Minerals by Paul Bergner.

4.        Read about stinging nettle and oatstraw in my book Healing Wise.

5.        Write out the botanical names of the herbs you used in making your teas and your infusions.

 

Advanced Work

  • Learn more about essential oils in plants. Grow several plants rich in essential oils.
  • Learn more about tannins. Make an oakbark infusion.

 

 



Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health.

 

Visit her site  for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more or contact her at:


Susun Weed

PO Box 64

Woodstock, NY 12498

Fax:  1-845-246-8081


For permission to reprint this article, contact us at:
susunweed@herbshealing.com

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Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.

 

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Browse the publishing site - Ash Tree Publishing - to learn more about her alternative health books.

 

Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

Or Join the Forum! Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Forum - an open space for discussion. Make yourself at home, post a message or start a discussion. This place is for you to share your questions, concerns, and comments with other wise women like you. Take a moment to register and become part of the community. Enjoy!
 

 

Susun Weed’s books include:

 

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $11.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 
Healing Wise 

Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $17.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 

New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $16.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on menopause, visit the site.

 
Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $14.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on Breast Health, visit Susun's Breast Health site.



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