by Sue Sierralupe and Candace Hunter
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, aka Fairy Clock
Few plants can fill the herbalist's heart with such joy as the common dandelion. Dandelion's sunny yellow flowers open every morning with a familiarly radiant head on their own hollow stems. The stems ooze a caustic white latex milk when snapped that has been used to treat warts. The toothed green leaves grow in a rosette form on most lawns and byways. These leaves have a smooth texture that is pleasing in spring salads or with other cooked greens. The long fleshy taproot defies most gardener's shovels, but the herbalist waits patiently for the first fall rains to loosen the soil of second-year roots for harvest.
Radish - Raphanus sativus - Brassicaceae Family
by Sue Sierralupe
Radish root may be a gift in the garden but radish seeds are what Chinese physicians list among their favorite herbs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is important to balance the qi to maintain good health. Radish seed invigorates patients with deficient qi otherwise known as low energy or vitality.
The seed is collected in summer when the pods are ripe. Lai Fu Zi is the Pin Yin (Chinese) name for this medicine. It is offered to patients reporting sluggish digestion, excessive coughing or wheezing and abdominal pain. Lai Fu Zi is often prescribed with Hawthorn berry to balance the yin and yang energy in the energy medians.
Anyone savoring a taste of fresh radish root will recognize the pungent flavor of this popular salad vegetable. One bite reveals its energetic movement even as it tickles the tongue. Radish seed's short germination time also translates into green heart-shaped leaves appearing above the soil line a week or so after planting.
Every part of the radish is edible. Each part is packed with nutrition from the root to the flower. This hardy vegetable is a storehouse of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Couple this with radish's power to stimulate digestion and you have a dieter's best friend. In TCM, radish seed is a common treatment for obesity.
Many varieties of radish, including the famous daikon radish, are proudly displayed on produce shelves of Asian markets. Shoppers who know this plant as a vegetable are quick to add it to their carts. Shoppers who know this plant as an herb enjoy an extra gift that lasts beyond that first tangy nibble.
Making an Herbal Infusion: A General Procedure
by Candace Hunter
An herbal infusion or herbal tea infusion is really just an herbal tea. By soaking dried herbs in hot water, you extract the herb's properties, scent, flavor, and color into the water. Thus, the water is infused with the herb's properties.
When I was first exploring the world of herbs, I found a wide range of advice on how best to make a good herbal infusion. After trying many techniques, I settled on this one as my stand-by. I use the infusions I make with this technique for brewing simple herbal teas designed for pleasure as well as those designed to heal or ease a variety of conditions. The resulting infusions may also be used as a wash or an eye soak.
Elderberry: The Flu Fighter
by Sue Sierralupe
Elder was called "country people's medicine chest." Elder keeps viruses at bay by blocking the virus from entering the cell itself. All flu viruses have trouble with elderberry's blockades. The symptoms of flus like coughs, sore throats and sinus congestion melt under this herb's attention.
Elder is a graceful shrub with elegant arching branches, vibrant green leaves and white sprays of flowers that turn into irresistible berries at the end of summer. Black elderberry is native to Europe and North America. Its availability increases its appeal. The elder species have several variations. Elder that produce blue-black berries are considered to be in part of the Sambucus nigra species. Black and blue elderberries, in my opinion, taste the sweetest.
Garden Cloches: How to Give Your Garden a Head Start
by Sue Sierralupe
Spring weather in the Willamette Valley is unpredictable. It can be warm enough to fool you into planting tomato starts in the morning and cold enough for snow by the afternoon. A well placed garden cloche can be the difference between life and death for tender transplants. Even people with the good fortune to have their own greenhouse can benefit from cloches.
Garden cloches are a sensible way to protect little seedlings until warmer weather settles in. Cloches can be moved from seed bed to seed bed as the plants develop. Tiny cloches are great for nurturing fresh sprouts and keeping them safe from pests until they are big enough to defend themselves.
Cloches are easy to make from recycled materials with very little extra effort. A stout box knife to cut the bottom off of a plastic container or to punch ventilation holes in the tops of salad servers is the cloche maker's best friend.
Strawberry Wine Coolers
by Candace Hunter
Strawberry wine coolers were born one year after I'd bottled my Strawberry Melomel and discovered I had about half a bottle left. I'd bottled a lot of mead and wine that day, and I was in no shape to be imbibing any more. Patrick suggested we turn it into wine coolers. They were delightful, and I've used a slightly modified version of this recipe to turn a variety of fruits into light, refreshing, lower-alcohol fermentation akin to hard cider.
For this recipe, I recommend you use the freshest, ripest strawberries you can find. U-pick farms and the farmer's market are great sources for fresh, sweet, perfectly ripe strawberries.
The optional ingredients I've listed are all available through a variety of home brewing supply shops and sites.
I like swing-top pint bottles for all my carbonated fermentation because they're easy to cap and they're quite sturdy. If you choose to use 12-ounce beer bottles, be sure that you're getting the strong, returnable type. The thinner glass most six-pack beers are sold in may not stand up to the pressure of natural carbonation and have been known to explode, causing a dangerous situation as well as a huge mess.
Herbal First Aid: Menstrual Cramps
by Sue Sierralupe
The joys of being a woman are tough to remember when you're doubled over with menstrual cramps. Our fertility comes with a price that can be difficult to pay with a brave face every month. Herbs are a woman's best friend when it's impossible to stay curled up in bed with a hot water bottle. All of the herbs mentioned below may be taken as tinctures or teas.
Herbal Allies for Treatment of Menstrual Cramps
Red Raspberry leaf is the best herb for cramps I've ever used. This plant is easy to grow, easy to harvest, easy to dry and easy to use. Best of all, its bland taste blends well with the other herbs, like peppermint or nettle, that I like to add to the tea mix I use to re-balance my body. Only use dried raspberry leaf or tincture made with dried raspberry leaf.
Crampbark is so named because of its treatment of cramps. Most formulas designed to ease women's menstration has some crampbark in it. The flavor is unpleasant to some but can be disguised with other aromatic herbs.
Practical Herbalist Tip #14
Sprinkle grated nutmeg into yogurt for a delicious medicinal treat to sooth a grumbling stomach.