Monthly Archives: August 2009

Fall’s A’Comin’!

Y’know, I swear Fall comes earlier every year. Admittedly, we’ve had a really cool summer (at least for Georgia) but as I look out the window (and listen to the thunder of the storm rolling by), I see that the dogwoods are already starting to change and some of the Joe Pye Weed is as tall as a small tree! I do hope the roots are as big as the aerial. That will ensure a nice supply later this Fall when I harvest (the root is the most medicinally-active part of the plant).

In case you’ve traversed these hills called the Appalachians and aren’t sure what you’re looking at, Joe Pye Weed grows in disturbed soil, generally by the side of the road. It has a straight, single stem from 3 to 12 feet tall with a cluster of pink to purple flowers at the very top. Some of the clusters are large enough to be a floral bouquet all by themselves. It smells something like vanilla.

Joe Pye Weed (aka Gravel Root or, in some places, Queen of the Meadow) Eupatorium purpureum is one of the best herbs for kidney issues. It’s been used by the mountain folk around here for ages to break up kidney stones and to clear up urinary tract infections. It’s also astringent and diuretic so has been used for menstrual pain (although I can think of other herbs better suited for that issue).

Magically, it’s used to attract love – but love comes in many forms. Although it’s said to assist you when “making love advances”, the best use I’ve found is when you want to be respected by those you meet. You can carry a few of the leaves in your pocket but since I tend to change clothes and forget pocket contents (or wear something without pockets), I keep a few leaves in the box holding my business cards. That way some of its essence is on every card I hand out.

Just another example of a perfectly useful “weed”!

Interesting Things Found in Research

I’m in the beginning stages of research for my second book and, although I know I’ll never know everything about herbs, I came across an interesting snippet of contradictory information. It’s not that I’ve never seen contradictory information before but this one sort of struck me.

There’s a passage in a book on Stregheria (an old Italian religion incorporating witchcraft/magic into its practices) that says to consecrate a hag stone (a stone with the hole in the middle of it) to Diana, you should use rue and vervain. From an article on Wikipedia, vervain flowers are carved on cimaruta, which are anti-Stregheria charms.

The same thing can be said for rue. It, too, is an herb sacred to Diana (a goddess of the Stregheria religion), yet appears prominently on present-day cimaruta charms.

Both rue and vervain, aside from their association with Diana, are known as herbs of protection and can be used to “ward off evil”, to break hexes and curses, and for exorcism.

So did/do the people carving cimaruta charms understand they’re using a form of magic? Just another example of pagan practices being incorporated into Christianity, I guess!

Cranberry & Urinary Tract Infections

I subscribe to the American Herbalists’ Guild daily email of herbal abstracts from PubMed and one this morning caught my eye.

The abstract is from the journal “Drugs” and states at the end “However, in light of the heterogeneity of clinical study designs and the lack of consensus regarding the dosage regimen and formulation to use, cranberry products cannot be recommended for the prophylaxis of recurrent UTIs at this time.”

OK, they use scientific terminology rather than plain English. But what they’re trying to say is that, due to arguments between scientists, they can’t recommend cranberry products to prevent Urinary Tract Infections.

Perhaps …

However, anecdotal evidence (people telling me it works for them) suggests that cranberry can prevent UTIs in some people. The “dosage regimen and formulation to use” depends on the individual. Personally, I can’t tolerate straight cranberry juice – it’s just too tart. But taking two 1600mg capsules of concentrated cranberry fruit once a day has done the trick for me.

There are a lot of reasons for recurring UTI’s. Poor hygiene used to be the assumption but that’s not necessarily the case. There are many other physical conditions that allow the bacteria to proliferate regardless of your hygiene practices or how much water you drink to flush your system.

If you get a UTI, be sure to see your doctor to determine exactly what it is. Some serious bladder conditions can mimic an infection. If it’s simply a bacterial infection, you might try cranberry before resorting to antibiotics.

Herbal Tip of the Month – August 2009

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the ‘Net recently and I came across a story on Herb Companion’s blog about many states and municipalities rushing to outlaw “Salvia”. What they’re concerned about is Salvia divinorum, a Species of Sage which is somewhat hallucenogenic. Unfortunately, many of the bills simply state “Salvia” – the entire Genus, which means they’re going to throw the baby out with the bathwater – that would make it illegal to use sage in your turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving!

So, that got me thinking about the different types of Sage and what they’re good for. The two most widely know are:

Salvia officinalis (Common Sage) is great medicinally, as well in your stuffing recipe. It’s very drying so is useful to help stop bleeding, or to dry up a mother’s milk when she’s weaning a child. It helps bring fevers down and is used in a gargle to help sore throats, laryngitis and tonsillitis. It’s known as a tonic herb and is still used in bread spreads in parts of Italy as a way to preserve health (tasty, too). Sage has antibacterial properties and is used even today in some “natural” mouthwashes and toothpastes to combat gingivitis. (While I won’t advocate it over your dentist’s recommendations, rubbing fresh leaves on your teeth will not only clean but whiten them.) I use a couple of drops of Sage essential oil in my tooth powder. Use the leaves or simply the entire above-ground part of the plant to make an infusion. You can use the essential oil sparingly externally (and as with all essential oils, dilute first).

Salvia sclarea (Clary Sage) has a wonderful odor – very similar to Lavender.
Once upon a time, an infusion of the seeds of Clary Sage was used to “clear the sight” (presumably an eye infection of some sort). An infusion is drunk to help digestive problems. I’ve found the essential oil useful in aromatherapy mixtures designed to calm someone who is experiencing nervous tension.

All Sages contain thujone, which has been known to cause convulsions and death in large doses. Because of this, I would not combine Sage with Thyme (which has a higher concentration of thujone) in any mixture.

So, if you hear of a legislative move to outlaw “Salvia” where you live, ensure they’ve got the Species name in the bill. Otherwise your Thanksgiving dinner could land you in jail!

SlĂ inte maith, h-uile latha, na chi ‘snach fhaic!
(Good health, every day, whether I see you or not!)

You Can’t Fix Stupid

I just got back from my weekly trip to Atlanta (always a “fun” time). I have mused over the past 5+ years of making this trip just how nice it would be to have one of those gadgets in the back window of my car like Matt Helm (Dean Martin) did in “The Wrecking Crew”. (If you’ve never seen this movie, it is a James Bond spoof and there was a gadget in his car that translated what he said into a microphone into a scrolling LED sign in his back window.)

As I was driving down the expressway, I had to nearly slam on my brakes to avoid an idiot in a green Miata. Naturally, he was talking on his cell phone. When I finally got a chance to go around him, I noticed that not only was he holding his cell phone in his right hand, he had a cigarette in his left (draped over the steering wheel)and TOOK HIS HAND OFF THE WHEEL TO TAKE A DRAG.

Then, later in the day in the Walmart parking lot, another idiot made a U-Turn in the parking lot in front of me and damned near hit me … talking on his cell phone without paying attention to anything else.

The first message my sign would have said was “Get off the phone and DRIVE”. Immediately followed by “Get a Bluetooth!”. (But would they have noticed the sign?)

I know it’s illegal in many states to drive while talking on your cell phone. It’s not yet in Georgia (except for school bus drivers). But that seem to be the only way to deter people. As Ron White says, “you can’t fix stupid”. Seems you have to legislate the fix.

End of rant.