Medicinal Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus) – harvesting and preparation

 

Remedios de Ledoux

Mullein is a medicinal herb native to Europe, Asia and N. Africa. The highest diversity of plants is found in the Mediterranean region. During the 1700s early settlers brought mullein seeds to the new colonies in N. America and the plant is now wide spread across the continent.

Common mullein has been called Aaron’s Rod, Jacob’s Staff, Velvet Plant, Flannel Leaf, Beggars Blanket, Fleur de Grand Chandelier, Candle Flower, Torch Weed and Hag’s Taper.

Mullein grows well in disturbed landscapes, such as along roadsides, railroad tracks, once cultivated fields and especially in alkaline soils.

Presently for medicinal purposes, mullein can be found in health food stores, often prepared for a soothing tea or an ear oil made of an infusion of the flowers.

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Mullein tea is a traditional treatment for respiratory problems, such as chest colds, bronchitis and asthma. Mullein tea is slightly bitter, a tea of the flowers is said to be sweeter. Both the leaves and flowers contain mucilage, which is soothing to irritated membranes, and saponins, which make coughs more productive. Research has shown that the herb has strong anti-inflammatory activity, and lab studies suggest that mullein flower infusions have antiviral properties, as well.

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Besides the healthful benefits of mullein herb the plant has served many other purposes over the centuries. In Roman times the yellow flowers were used in a hair rinse to lighten the hair as well as to dye cloth. Ashes of the burnt leaves was also used to darken the hair. Mullein leaves were once placed inside of shoes which provided both warmth and comfort. Long ago the dried leaves were tightly rolled and used as candle wicks. Since ancient times the sturdy stalk with the flower cob soaked in paraffin has been used for torches. Legend states that these torches were often used by witches thus giving the plant the name Hag’s Taper.

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Common mullein is a biennial plant. The first year of growth the plant produces a dense rosette of leaves (some as long as one foot) close to the ground. The second year of growth, mullein will produce a large erect flower stalk that can grow from 2′ to 8′. At the top of the stalk a club like cob of small bright yellow flowers bloom haphazardly throughout the summer. The plant is known for the softness of it’s light green leaves. The “velvet” softness of the leaves is created by a dense pattern of short hairs that cover both the upper and lower surfaces.

Soaked in water, several layers of the leaves can be used topically as a poultice or a useful compress.

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When harvesting mullein, the basal leaves of the second years growth is recommended. The leaves can be picked anytime throughout the growing season. A pair of sturdy kitchen scissors, pruning shears or small knife will easily cut the leaf stem. The large flat leaves stack neatly in a collecting bag, making little mess. At home spread the leaves out on a screen or table for a few hours in the sun to help with evaporation of moisture. Afterwards the leaves can be restacked loosely in a paper sack. The leaves might be set in the sack on edge also, the idea is to have some air circulation so that no mold occurs and the leaves can dry thoroughly. Leave the sack in a dry dark space for about 14 days and the herb should be ready for use.

By harvesting your own herbal leaves and flowers you get to choose the freshest, most wholesome looking of the plants offerings.

The most common use of mullein is as a tea to treat nearly any type of respiratory ailment. Crush the dried leaf or grind with mortar and pestle to produce a spoonful of small flakes. Prepare tea with leaf or flower in traditional manner and let steep for four or five minutes. Add honey to sweeten. Drink two to three cups during the day to relieve the lungs of ailment. A note of precaution: In some people the small hairs on the mullein leaf may be an irritant to the mouth and throat. To rectify this situation simply pour the prepared tea through a coffee filter before pouring into a cup.

Mullein leaf can be smoked to provide quick relief for lung congestion that is restricting breathing or in cases of a racking cough. It seems contradictory but the active ingredients in the plant are absorbed directly to the affected area. To prepare crush leaves for a consistent burn and roll into a cigarette paper or place in a pipe. Two or three draws should do the trick and then repeat about 15 minutes later. I tried this method myself several years ago with surprisingly good results.

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Collecting the small yellow flowers of the mullein seed stalk can be tedious. The flowers do not bloom all at once but rather haphazardly throughout the summer and only last a day. A set of wide tweezers, small needle nose pliers or a pen knife will make the job of collecting the tiny flowers easier. It would be an interesting meditation to try using a set of chopsticks for gathering. A clean mason jar makes a good vessel for collecting. Although you may not gather a large amount of flowers from one particular plant there is usually another within twenty feet and remember new flowers appear with each new day. When thinking of how many flowers need to be collected to last until the next season consider if you will use the flowers in an infusion or used as a tea.

The infused oil of mullein flowers is perhaps one of the first remedies to think of in treating an ear infection and easing pain. A few drops throughout the day will do the trick. The oil also helps to clear accumulation of earwax, in which the oil helps to clear the obstruction.

The oil is simple to prepare. Pick the flowers (best in the morning after the dew has evaporated) and let them wilt for a few hours to reduce moisture content. Pack the flowers in a small glass jar with good lid and fill to the brim with quality olive oil. Set the jar, tightly capped, in the sun for a month or two and then strain into clean bottles. Your mullein flower infusion is ready for use.

Common mullein is considered a safe herbal remedy. No adverse side effects have been reported and research reveals there are no reports of serious toxicity with mullein.

Next time you go out walking in forest or field take a small sketchbook with you. As you walk along concentrate on the plants around you. Most of them you will recognize. But do you know their names? Are they edible? Do they have medicinal properties? If you find an unfamiliar plant that you are particularly attracted to try making a simple sketch. Write down some info like, height, color, type of leaf and arrangement, size of flower and whatever else you think is interesting. Later on you can use a field guide to plants of your region to identify your interesting find. A field guide can teach you what criteria and characteristics must be defined to identify a plant. That sketch book that you carried can also be used to press flowers and leaves between the pages so that they may be examined more closely back at home. Have fun.

Be well my friends and stay close to the Earth, Dohn

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Medicinal Milk Thistle – harvesting and preparation

Remedios de Ledoux

Milk Thistle is a herbaceous annual or biennial plant with a dense prickly flower head and reddish-purple tubular flowers. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has been naturalized in Central Europe, North and South America and South Australia.

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Related to the Daisy and Ragweed family, one of the active ingredients in milk thistle is silymarin, which is a flavonoid believed to have antioxidant properties.

Milk thistle has an extensive history of use as an edible plant. In the 1st century AD, Pliny the Elder reported it’s use for supporting liver health. Theophrastus (IV century BC) and Dioscorides (1st century AD) also wrote of it’s value. The English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper (1650) claimed it was effective for supporting normal function of the liver.

Much of  modern day research has been conducted in Germany.

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Milk thistle grows in open areas. If you are thinking of harvesting this herb, look to the fields, meadows, marginal lands, fence lines and along roadsides. As always, avoid areas where pesticide sprays may have been used. Flower heads (the part used) ripen August to September and most plants may be harvested multiple times.

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While most people mainly use the herb for liver conditions it has many other healthful properties.

Liver Support. Milk thistle helps to rebuild the liver cells while effectively reversing the harmful effects of things like pesticide in our food, heavy metals in water, pollution in the air, and alcohol or drug consumption.

Kidney Health. The benefit of milk thistle on the kidneys have often been reported to closely mirror the herb’s effect on the liver.

Lowering High Cholesterol. This beneficial herb supports heart health by lowering high cholesterol levels and raises “good” or HDL cholesterol as well as reducing inflammation and preventing oxidative stress damage to arteries.

Preventing or Controlling Diabetes. A 2006 study found those who took silymarin (the active ingredient of Milk T.) for four months were found to have experienced profile improvements and a reduction in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Prevent Gallstones. Milk thistle can aid in purifying the body of metabolic waste, which in turn regulates the functioning of the gall bladder as well as the spleen and kidneys.

Revive skin condition. The  anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and demulcent properties can improve visible signs of aging and improve skin condition.

Anti-Aging. The powerful antioxidants  in milk thistle prevent free radical damage.

The Mayo Clinic presents this evidence of milk thistle research in use for specific conditions :

  • Diabetes. Milk thistle might lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Indigestion (Dyspepsia). Milk thistle, in combination with other supplements, might improve the symptoms of indigestion.
  • Liver Disease. Research on the effects of milk thistle on liver disease, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis C,, has shown mixed results.

The words of the Mayo Clinic are carefully chosen but it is clear, the research done on just a few specific conditions shows that something worthwhile is there.

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Milk thistle is sold as an oral capsule, tablet, powder and liquid extract. You can purchase milk thistle at health food stores, pharmacies and other retailers…or… you can harvest your own.

The sharp spiky leaves can easily penetrate the skin so a sturdy pair of gardening or leather gloves are essential. A sharp pair of pruning shears and a paper sack or collecting bag is all else needed.

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The flowerhead is ready to harvest when it has a full fluffy white appearance.

With the shears, cut the stem at the base of the flowerhead and let it fall into your collecting bag. Once home put the harvest in a paper sack and place it in a warm place where the flowers can dry completely, usually in five to seven days. When thoroughly dry dump the flowers into a small burlap or course canvas sack. To separate the seed shake the sack vigorously. Then with your palms apply pressure to the bundle to further separate the seeds. Next you will need a dry clean bucket. Place the bucket outside and slowly pour the seeds from your sack into the bucket. The chaff should blow away. Any debris left in the seeds can be picked out. Store the seeds in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.

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The most common ways to take advantage of milk thistle are as a tea. Crush about a teaspoon of seeds and place in a muslin bag or tea ball and steep in hot water for  five minutes. If making a pot, figure a spoon full of seeds equals one cup, which is about the number of seeds collected from one flower.

Powered is another way to use milk thistle seeds. Simply crush the seeds into a powder that can be sprinkled on salads, soups, cereal and burgers. To use the seeds in a smoothie, soak the seeds in water overnight add a little lemon juice and mix with whatever recipe you have in mind. The seeds can also be eaten as a snack, dry as is.

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The Mother Earth provides for all of our needs. Be gentle.

For your health eat local flowers. How nice is that?

Peace, Dohn

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An Aquarian Exposition

 

 

3 Days of Peace & Music

Just imagine

 

After fifty years I still believe.

 

 

After Joan Baez closed her set I wandered the path back through the woods,  along the Groovy Way,  to my campsite at the Hog Farm. It had been a long day.

Peace,  Dohn

 

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Don’t Fence Me In … re-posted

Listen to the whisper of the cottonwood trees

The other day, early morning I was in my rocking chair on the porch. Slowly pitching back and forth, soaking in the warmth of the sun. Fields and pastures spread below, green and lush in summers glory. Somewhere in the distance a lone cow was bawling, otherwise all was still and quiet as could be. The words of an old song drifted through my mind, “I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences, and gaze at the moon till I lose my senses …” Yes that’s true. I’m grateful to be here in the mountains of northern New Mexico in the midst of so much natural beauty.

The song, Don’t Fence Me In by Gene Autry comes to my mind often. It’s an old favorite. Apparently there are a number of other folks interested in the tune also. An article I wrote in 2012 is searched out and read by several people every few days since then. Many are looking for the meaning of that song. That article is re-posted below. Enjoy.

Music Archives

Music that reflects a universal truth can resonate across generations and become timeless. As in any good art the meaning is interpreted by the individual or current situations of society at the time. Don’t Fence Me In has remained popular for almost 60 years and been recorded by numerous musicians. First sung as a traditional western about wide open spaces, then an appeal to avoid jail time, the song was also  popular with GIs during WWII,  as a political statement at the building of the Berlin Wall, taken on meaning of ethnic diversity, and continues to be find new nuances today. Timeless. Continue reading

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satirical ART of surrealist Pawel Kuczynski

A commentary on technology and the influence it has on our everyday lives.

Polish born artist Pawel Kuczynski creates surreal fantastical compositions, where anything and everything is possible. He looks at contemporary issues through the lens of satire to portray today’s social, political and cultural reality.

When you take a closer look, what at first seemed a funny cartoon actually shows some serious problems in today’s world. That is the art of satire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine family dinner not with healthful food and conversation about the day’s events, but sitting around a wireless router saying grace before partaking in the glow radiating from the blue screens of their tablets and mobile devices. It has become common for the internet and  social media to become a substitute for experiencing the natural world and personal conversation.

New technologies are coming in the near future. Brick and mortar retail stores, manufacturing, transportation, increased automation, media and communication will continue to be affected by change. How will these unknown technologies change the social fabric of society?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each of us will have viewed the art of Pawel Kaczynski differently. Each of us will take away something different from these drawings. On a second viewing our interpretation may change. What at first seems humorous takes on a deeper meaning. These improbable drawings, fantastical as they may seem, are based in a deeper truth that speaks of our cultural reality.

Did you enjoy the thought provoking art of Pawel Kuczynski? In January 2012 I posted a gallery of Kuczynski’s earlier artwork. You can find that post here.

Keep exploring.

Aloha, Dohn

 

 

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Medicinal Herb Survey at the Lower Farm

Remedios de Ledoux

Wild plants have been used by humans for medicinal purposes since prehistoric times. In the past two thousand years volumes of books have been written, by herbalists from around the world, to document the preparation and use of medicinal herbs and how to identify them. Scientists today are able to analyze the compounds found in wild plants and herbs, discovering the many healthful benefits they hold. They find that not all traditional remedies have value, on the other hand many, many, other remedies are tried and true.

Over the years it has been a favorite past time for myself and others to harvest medicinal herbs at the Lower Farm. To wander the fields with sack or satchel plucking the freshest of leaves and most luxurious of blooms in the early morning throughout the seasons was a wonderful and memorable experience. At times it became a daily meditation to walk in nature and collect only the finest it had to offer that day.

For over a decade the southwest has suffered under severe drought conditions. At the Lower Farm  there were consequences. After several years of diminished plant growth, seed stock plummeted. The most common of herbs and flowers have managed to persist but in lesser quantities, some varieties once prevalent are not found. Finally this past winter there was a bountiful snowpack in the higher mountains and the watershed has fed plentiful water to the canyons and valleys, resulting in a most favorable condition for wild plants.

On the first day of the second week of July, I set out with the morning dew still glistening on spiky grass to explore my bottom field. I was open to a meditative morning in nature and could focus on and survey where herbs were growing and in what quantities. I could feel my well being improve as I scuffed through young sage and assimilated the aroma.

I didn’t do an exhaustive investigation along the rio where I knew that horsetail and mint once grew but I did find that most of the more common of medicinal herbs found at the Lower Farm are doing well. Quantities are low as expected but seed propagation and the quality should be good this year.

A brief description and photographs of a Medicinal Herb Survey at the Lower Farm follows:

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Red Clover

Has long been used as a blood purifier. It has a pleasant flavor and offers many benefits to health as a gentle cleansing tea drunk on occasion for overall salutary purposes. It is high in natural protective antioxidants and anti inflammatory compounds. As a topical aid, red clover is often an ingredient in ointments and balms.

 

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Alfalfa

Has a high level of nutrients and is easily absorbed and assimilated by the body. Contains wide variety of minerals including; iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, potassium and silicon. Alfalfa is also a good source of Vitamins E, C and K.

 

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Sage

Known for its fragrant aroma. Sage is pollinator friendly, has had extensive culinary use, used in ceremonial practice for indigenous people in America and used as a cosmetic. Loaded with calcium and vitamin A, helpful with anti ageing and digestive health.

 

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Mullein

It’s traditional uses generally have focused on the management of respiratory disorders. Used to treat asthma, coughs, tuberculosis, and related respiratory problems. Preparations of the plant have been ingested, applied topically, and smoked.

 

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Yarrow

Used for fever, common cold, hay fever, absence of menstruation, dysentery, diarrhea, loss of appetite and gastrointestinal tract discomfort.

 

 

 

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Milk Thistle

Boosts immune system, treats degenerative conditions that affect the mind, supports bone health, limits spread and inhibits growth of cancerous cells, improves asthma symptoms, supports weight loss, reduces cholesterol and good for skin health. Most common use is to treat liver problems.

 

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Milkweed

Nectar in flowers provides valuable food for butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Leaves are the ONLY food Monarch caterpillars can eat. There was a 90% decline in Eastern Monarch Butterflies in just a decade. The latex is used as a treatment for warts, ringworm and other skin ailments. Root extracts have been used to treat respiratory disorders and for intestinal parasites.

 

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Rosehip

Rosehips are the fruit of the rose plant. Consider drinking rosehip tea if you suffer from a weak immune system, skin conditions, chronic pain, indigestion, high toxicity levels, arthritis, gout, inflammatory conditions, high cholesterol, and hypertension, or if you are at increased risk of heart disease or cancer.

I have not been drinking as much herbal tea as I once did. Part of that is due to being away from the Lower Farm for over a decade while living in Hawai’i. After taking a survey of some of the herbs growing here I am reminded how beneficial these wild plants are to promote good health and how joyful it is to traipse my own fields gathering flowers and leaves for my well being.

My attempts at preserving the legends of this old homestead include wild crafting for  medicinal herbs through the seasons. It’s a way to be directly connected with Mother Earth, have enjoyable exercise in the environment and promote general wellness.

Be well,   Dohn

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ART and Wellness….diary sketches

 

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“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”     Pablo Picasso

Rummaging around in my attic I came across an old black portfolio case. Safeguarded inside were art notes and sketches, ideas to be pursued at a later time. I hadn’t looked at the neglected collection in ages. After dusting off the case I carried it downstairs to see what it was I put away 20 or 30 years ago. Inside; long forgotten images, drafts of imagination, a wordless journal capturing a few years in time…to be continued later…sometime…maybe.

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There is an undeniable sense of pleasure that comes from creating something with one’s own hands. Whether or not the piece turns out like we hoped it would, there is still enjoyment in the process. The great thing about art is that you don’t have to be talented to enjoy the benefits it provides.

 

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Art can improve your quality of life and have a positive impact on your mental health and well being, no matter if you have talent or not. Exposing ourselves to paintings, sculptures and photographs can lead to healthier mental states. People often choose to display art in their homes for aesthetic reasons, but recent studies have shown that engaging in the visual arts can actually improve memory, lower stress and increase empathy whether by viewing art or creating it.

 

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When people engage in complex activities the brain creates new connections between brain cells, it also stimulates communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Your brain’s ability to grow connections and change over time is called brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. Creating art has proven to increase this plasticity and aid in psychological and emotional resistance to stress.

In the journal Art Therapy, researchers found that after just 45 minutes of art making, levels of cortisol – which is associated with stress – where reduced in participants, regardless of prior skill levels.

Studies have shown that creating art increases the level of dopamine in your brain, which helps to ward off sadness and depression. It can also provide you with a boost to your self esteem.

 

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One 2014 study published in Plos One found that making visual art can improve connections throughout the brain known as the Default Mode Network. This system is associated with the brains state during wakeful rest, like daydreaming, but it’s also active when we’re focusing on internal thoughts or future plans.

Similar to meditation, art draws people’s attention to details and the environment, which creates a distraction from day to day thoughts.

 

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Art is good for wellness:

  • It stimulates imagination. By engaging in artistic endeavors you are learning to see the world around you in a new light, and you are more present in the moment. Your only limit is your imagination.
  • You become more observant. You learn to see what’s around you by concentrating on details, lighting, colors, shapes and  much more.
  • Stress reduction. Whenever you immerse yourself in an artistic endeavor, your mind temporarily forgets all of your worries since your hands and brain are busy crafting.
  • You enhance your problem solving skills. Being creative and making art shows us there is more than one solution to the same problem. It encourages open ended thinking.
  • Self esteem builder. Especially for youth but all ages can use an occasional boost.

 

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Crafting hobbies of all kinds – knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking and DIY repair – increase dopamine, ward off depression and protect the brain from aging.

If you don’t have time for it, you can visit a local art exhibit and view someone else’s art as it will also have a positive impact on your creativity.

 

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Self expression doesn’t require talent – the purpose of art is to express our ideas and emotions freely.

I’m motivated and inspired to take out some pencils and watercolors to rework and expand on the ideas held in this old diary of sketches.

Aloha, Dohn

 

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