Imagine if you will that you owned a bakery where you made chocolate chip cookies. They’re a classic cookie that’s been made for generation after generation. Each generation changes their version of the recipe to suit their own tastes, but the basic recipe is pretty much universal. The recipe is published in every cookie book in some way shape or form, and in nearly every PTA, 4-H, Family Reunion, and Church cookbook. No one really knows where the original recipe came from, but everyone calls it the same thing, chocolate chip cookies.
Now, imagine that you open your mail one day and find out that the term “chocolate chip cookie,” has been purchased by a new cookie store on the other side of the country with the claim that they originated the term that thousands of bakeries and millions of bakers have been using for all of these generations. This letter states that you may no longer use this term to sell you version of this awesome cookie.
This is sort of what is going on with Fire Cider. The folks at Shire City, have trademarked the term “Fire Cider,” which has been the name of an herbal recipe that’s been handed down for generations, much like that chocolate chip cookie recipe analogy. The term and a version of this recipe is a known piece of copywritten work belonging to, Rosemary Gladstar. Rosemary published this recipe many years ago in her, and she’s been creating this remedy for more than 25 years. In reality, remedy is often directly associated to her work. She could have trademarked this, and would have been a bit more entitled to do so based on the fact that she had already published the term and a version of the recipe in at least one of her books. She chose not to. Her reasons were that the recipe while founded in the same basic ingredients was one that had been passed down to each herbalist from someone else. Each of them changing it to certain degrees to make it their own. It’s a matter of tradition, which for many of the herbalist community, is important. Rosemary valued those handed down wisdoms as important to us all enough that she felt that no one should hold the exclusive rights over the name. It was all fire cider, a traditional name for a traditional remedy that has been passed down from generation to generation. No one really remembering anymore who originated the recipe.
Shire City could have personalized the trademark to their brand specifically. They didn’t. Instead they chose to capitalize on the opportunity and trademarked the name of a recipe that has been passed down through the generations. If they had been bakers, they would have essentially stolen the term “chocolate chip cookie” out from under every baker in the United States. Not only did they trademark the name, but to add insult to injury, they have demanded the removal of any other herbalist’s version of Fire Cider from places such as Etsy, because now that they hold the trademark on the name, they can legally do just that. They have been repeatedly asked and petitioned to drop the trademark or to obtain one that identifies their brand specifically. They have refused, claiming that their lawyers have informed them that some big corporation might swoop in like Batman on a bender and steal the trademark to use for themselves. It’s possible, but not likely that this would happen. Shire City has systematically targeted herbalists running small businesses with cease and desist orders, law suits, the like, claiming that they can not allow these folks to sell a product that carries their trademarked name, because “what if they have a low quality product? Their product could ruin our reputation.” Even as they are running a full on assault of these folks, they then cry victim, claiming to be unjustly harassed and subject to indignities by the larger herbalist community as a whole…with Rosemary Gladstar leading the charge. Are you kidding me? Have you ever seen Rosemary Gladstar? She is absolutely lovely, and of the kindest heart.
Here’s the reality check, Shire City makes a Fire Cider. Great. Kudos to them. However, if you think they trademarked it accidentally without realizing the grievous damage they would do to these small herbalist operations around the country, you would be mistaken. They knew exactly what they were doing, and they did it because they were taking their own product into the national distribution markets. I know this because Shire City Fire Cider is sitting on the end cap of my local food co-op’s Wellness department shelves. It’s on special this month, through a large distribution company. This had nothing to do with trying to protect the traditional name from some large scary corporation. This is a small business playing dirty in order to become the new big kid on campus. The funny thing is, that they never had to take it to this level. They have a good product and an excellent marketing team that created an awesome label. No one would have ever confused their brand for another.
The question is, how do we as herbalists and herbal product makers move forward from this and take back our power in regards to this Fire Cider controversy. The answer…We keep fighting the good fight, because it is tradition and some traditions are worth saving. The one thing we must not do, is ever allow them to play the martyr and victim in all of this, because they aren’t. Their moves were strategic, and deliberate. We save this tradition by continuing to pass it down through the generations, from mother to daugher/son, herbalist to herbalist, and father to daughter/son. We continue to make Fire Cider, as we always have and then we get even more creative. We change the name…just a little bit. We make even the name our own. Maybe it will become Fyre Syder, or Phyre Cider, or some other clever manner of taking away Shire City’s power to shut us down. We take it, we make it ours, and then we get it out there and we share fire cider with the masses.
We can heal this, and leave behind all the hurt and turmoil this has caused. It is what we do, and now we must remember to do it for ourselves as a community.
If you’d like to read more about the Fire Cider issue, check out the links below.
Back in February, I introduced to you all my Ella Pitzgerald. She’s a 3 year old American Pitbull/English Staffordshire mix. She’s my sweetheart. Her nickname is “The Overlicker.” She’s been my clinical project for several months now.
Along the way, I’ve gone through a few remedies.At first we suspected that fleas were to blame, and in fact I am still fairly certain that flea bites are in fact what caused the problems she’s been having. I found a recipe at Primally Inspired,( http://www.primallyinspired.com/homemade-flea-powder-repellent/ ). While it may have helped get rid of the fleas, the damage was already done and our journey wasn’t over. Apple cider vinegar, green tea, and aloe vera was the second remedy I tried, but she hated it. She ran and hid. It not only stressed her out, but at no point did it really cause enough healing for her to stop chewing and aggravating her already irritated skin. Finally, I began to really think hard about this subject, and recently had spent a good number of hours researching garlic as a medicine for people. I also had researched it as a medicine for dogs. Prior to the recent classification of garlic as toxic to dogs, it had long been used in a variety of high quality dog foods and as a supplement in blends with brewer’s yeast. I was very interested in what changed. The answer was that it hadn’t really.
I discovered a condition known as Heinz Body Anemia, in which red blood cells are damaged causing the body to reject them. Propylene glycol causes this condition in pets. It is currently the nightmare that’s being held at the end of the stigma regarding the use of garlic in pets. Why? Well, garlic is a member of the allium family, it’s related to onions and shallots. All of these lovely herbal plants are a part of the lily family. There is a compound called n-propyldisulfide that is found in onions and in smaller amounts in garlic. In large doses given regularly of this compound can cause Heinz Body Anemia, which can be deadly. So, how on earth can I have establish that nothing had really changed with regards to the safety of using garlic for your dog? Well, it’s simple, the sheer amount of garlic that you would have to give to your otherwise healthy dog repeatedly to cause damage is far more than any person in their right mind would want to give to their dog. That’s not even addressing the fact that said dog would not likely be willing to participate in consuming that much garlic. An overdose of garlic would be several cloves at a time over the course of days. The key here is safe dosages. According to my resources, you’re never giving even the largest dogs more than 3 cloves in a day. Any more than that, and I promise you that the doggy garlic farts will run you out of the house entirely. It’s suggested that garlic be used rhythmically, so rather than giving it every day, you leave it out a few days during the week.
In my previous post regarding Ella and her trip down herbal remedy lane, I shared with you some pictures of what she looked like. For a while I was concerned that she was going to be a naked butted bully again this year as she was last year. I also shared with you the garlic and brewer’s yeast supplemental powder that I had made for her. She continued to chew, so I created a calendula infusion to soothe her skin. At first, I applied with a spray bottle, which she has a justifiable aversion to since a spray bottle is generally used as a doggy discipline tool in my house. Upon recognizing that she assumed she was being unjustly scolded every time I applied the spray, I poured the infusion into a jar and began swabbing it on her. She is much more receptive to this method of application.
Ella still has a couple of small problem areas around the base of her tail that seem to cause her chewing and itching. She however is largely improved and is currently growing back the last of her chewed off hair. Here is my beautiful girl as of a couple of weeks ago.
I do need to state very clearly, that I am not a veterinarian, and this article is not intended to be the basis for addressing any health issues that you may have with your own pet. This is an blog post from an herbalist who is simply sharing her own journey and experiences with you. Thanks for following Ella’s progress!
If you’d like to learn more about the healthy use of garlic for dogs, I recommend the following sources of information:
Now that I’ve shared with you, my sister’s story; let me tell you about lupus. I promise to give you the shortest version that I can. I will include some resources at the end for you to explore on your own.
There are more than 16,000 cases of lupus diagnosed annually across the United States. According to research done by lupus.org, there are at least 1.5 million Americans living with lupus.
Lupus effects predominantly women. It typically effects women of childbearing age and also tends to be more prominent with women of color as they are 2 to 3 times more likely to contract lupus than women who fall under the category of caucasian. Having said that, I must reiterate one point…anyone can contract lupus. Men are much less likely to develop the disease than women, but it does happen. The ratio of women with lupus to men according to the, S.L.E. Lupus Foundation, is 9 to 1.
Lupus is not contagious, nor sexually transmittable. It’s not related to cancer. It works exactly the opposite of AIDS and HIV. Where HIV and AIDS are caused by a suppressed immune system, lupus is caused by an overly active one. Forty years ago, if a person was diagnosed with lupus, a good prognosis was 10 years. Today, with proper care and usually some lifestyle choice people can live a full life.
When a person has lupus their immune system loses the ability to tell between foreign invaders, and the body’s healthy tissue. The antibodies that normally fight off viruses and harmful bacteria in the lupus free body, go berserk and become what’s known as autoantibodies which attack and destroy healthy tissue throughout the body causing inflammation, pain and damage. These episodes are known as flare-ups. The duration of flare-ups seems to be unpredictable. It is vital to the person with lupus that they pay close attention to their body’s messages, so that they can learn what things they can do to lessen the frequency and severity of flare-ups. Lupus can cause a variety of damage to any part of the body. It’s particularly fond of attacking the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, and the kidneys and liver. In my sister’s case, it attacked her eyes.
The most common heart condition in people with lupus is inflammation in the membrane that surrounds lining. This can cause shortness of breath and sharp chest pains. Increased risk for coronary artery disease is another cardiovascular complication that more than 1/3 of people with lupus can develop. This risk happens because inflammation and various immune system abnormalities associated with lupus cause the coronary arteries to rapidly harden, narrow, and clog. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. Less common in people with lupus include inflammation of the artery walls, actual spasms of the arteries, and blood clots. Women with lupus are 50 times more likely to have chest pains or a heart attack than women who do not have lupus. This also means that cardiovascular disorders, and coronary artery diseases can develop in people with lupus at much younger age than one might typically expect such diseases to develop. These chances are even greater in the cases of African American women, where heart disease is the greatest cause of death already.
Diagnosis is difficult and can be very elusive. It can take more than a year sometimes, all the while the patient feels like they’re trapped in a pinball machine and like they are going insane. What I can tell you from my research and from witnessing what my sister went through, I can say there is a point in which most people will want to give up, physicians will throw their hands in the air and declare you an enigma. They won’t always know what to look for. They will test you for all manner of things because lupus is the great imposter of diseases. Please do not give up, and families, please stand strong with your loved ones and stay determined. There are answers, and there is hope.
Lifestyle changes can be really important to keeping flare-ups at a minimum.
Keeping a journal to track potential triggers and symptoms will help a person to begin to understand what works, what doesn’t, what to embrace, and what to avoid within their own spectrum of this highly individualized disease. This can help a person to also learn to listen and pay attention to the subtle messages their body may be sending letting the person know that a flare-up up may be in the near future.
Avoid stress. It is important that lupus patients avoiding stressful situations whenever possible. This includes physical stress such as undergoing procedures that require a period of recuperation. Surgical procedures are best planned during remissions. Pregnancy is a physical stress that should be planned during remission when possible.
Dietary changes can be important. Knowing what foods to avoid, as well as eating a diet of whole nutritious foods. Minimizing or eliminating processed, chemical laden foods and GMOs can be important to reducing flare-ups and narrowing down the list of what works and what doesn’t.
There are some concentrated whole foods supplements out on the market today that I have been specifically told work very well. The brand that keeps popping up is Juice Plus. I’ve interviewed two women who expressed finding benefit in this product line, one of which claims to have been nearly flare-up free for 10 years.
Incorporating an essential fatty acid supplement such as flaxseed oil can be beneficial to balancing the immune system.
Eliminating foods which exacerbate or trigger flare-ups for some people this means avoiding foods from the nightshade family such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant.
Meditation is an excellent stress reliever.
Seek out a support group. Living with lupus means that there are times when things will be tough, people may not understand what’s happening to a lupus patient, and periods of despair and depression are often an emotional side effect of this challenging disease.
Exercise. Do what you can, as much as you can. Exercise has been shown to be beneficial to nearly all disorders and diseases. Lupus is no exception. Moderate exercise not only keeps the body in good condition but it greatly reduce stress which is a definite trigger for flare-ups.
As herbalists, we can offer support through a variety of botanical plants, and applications can be tailored to support and nourish the needs of the individual. Here are some actions to consider when researching support for a person with lupus.
There are other actions that would most certainly benefit a person who is learning to live with lupus as a part of their lives. The key will be sorting out which combination of herbs will serve an individual best, and keeping good records so that when something changes in the symptoms you can look at what channels need to be explored, adjusted and documented. Learning which herbs work best rhythmically, and which herbs work best together will be important as well. Which herbs enhance each other’s desired functions? Which ones don’t? These will all be important to helping a patient achieve their greatest path for optimal health. There is one which should be avoided when making suggestions for people with lupus. Immunostimulants are herbs that boost and stimulate the immune system. Herbs that stimulate the immune system can trigger the autoantibodies which cause flare-ups. Herbs that modulate or balance the immune system will help to maintain an immune system that isn’t suppressed nor stimulated.
In conclusion, this disease which hits so close to home for me, and there is a lot to learn. The important things are:
 About Lupus; SLE Lupus Foundation; http://www.lupusny.org/about-lupus/common-questions-about-lupus
 Buyon, Jill P; Neonatal lupus; Up to Date; http://www.uptodate.com/contents/neonatal-lupus
Mayo Clinic Staff; Diseases and Conditions: Avascular necrosis; Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/avascular-necrosis/basics/definition/con-20025517
Molly’s Fund; What is Lupus Nephritis; Alternative Lupus Treatments and Therapies; Molly’s Fund: Fighting Lupus; http://www.mollysfund.org/
Mayo Clinic Staff; Diseases and Conditions: Interstitial lung disease; Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/interstitial-lung-disease/basics/definition/con-20024481
Mayo Clinic Staff; Diseases and Conditions: Pericarditis; Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pericarditis/basics/definition/con-20035562
Mayo Clinic Staff; Diseases and Conditions: Myocarditis; Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myocarditis/basics/definition/con-20027303
Swierzewski, Stanley J., III, M.D.; Cytopenia Causes and Risk Factors; Remedy’s Health Communities; http://www.healthcommunities.com/cytopenia/causes.shtml
MDHealth; Leukopenia; MDHealth; http://www.md-health.com/Leukopenia.html
Mayo Clinic Staff; Diseases and Conditions Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count); Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thrombocytopenia/basics/definition/con-20027170
Petri, Michelle, M.D., M.P.H., Lupus and Pregnancy; Lupus and Cancer; Things to Avoid; The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center; http://www.hopkinslupus.org/
Lupus Foundation of America; Understanding Lupus: What is Lupus?; The Lupus Foundation of America; http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/what-is-lupus
Meryl Baskervill, Herbal Medicine: Lupus – The Use of Herbs in the Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Healthy.net; http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/Lupus/1349
Wong, Cathy, ND; 4 Natural Remedies for Lupus; About Health; http://altmedicine.about.com/od/healthconditionsdisease/a/lupus.htm
Ehrlich, Stephen D, NMD; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; University of Maryland Medical Center; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/systemic-lupus-erythematosus
Lupus Foundation of Minnesota; Types of Lupus; http://www.lupusmn.org/about-lupus/types-of-lupus/
Bartels, Christie M., MD, MS; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Medscape; http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/332244-overview
Lupus Research Institute; Living With Lupus; Lupus Research Institute; http://www.lupusresearchinstitute.org/lupus-facts/fight-lupus/living-with-lupus
I want to tell you about my sister. She’s pretty amazing. She was also the motivation for my research paper this month. It was a paper on lupus. There’s a lot to know, and while my paper was 15 pages including a page and a half of resources, it felt and was a scratch on the surface of what there is to know. Let me share with you some of my sister’s story.
My sister’s life has been pretty rough. I could paint a picture of things that she’s been through and had to shoulder that would bring a lot of people to their knees. She’s survived tenaciously. She’s been working towards healing for many years. She is always the warrior.
Ten years ago, my sister had her first experience with Bell’s Palsy a disorder that causes the face to droop in a similar manner to that of a person who’s had a stroke. The condition is usually temporary, though no less traumatic. It returned a handful of times, sometimes switching to the opposite side of the face.
Three years ago, my sister was diagnosed with hepatitis C. If you’re unfamiliar, Hep C is the most severe form of hepatitis. It can kill you, and if left untreated, it will. Options aren’t many at that point. I’m sure there’s an herbal protocol to support the body through this illness, but at the time I wouldn’t have known what it was. I still would have to do some deep research to build a protocol plan that would work with and/or without the really harsh treatment that a patient goes through. Back to her story. Shortly before she was to begin the treatment regimen, she had to under go emergency gallbladder surgery.
The treatment for hepatitis C is a regimen of prescription medications that is very similar to chemotherapy in that it breaks your body down to the point that the disease can no longer inhabit your body and goes into remission. Sometimes the remission is permanent, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the treatment fails completely, or kills you with the side effects it can cause. A person going through this treatment becomes weak physically, and so very, very ill for nearly the entire duration of the treatment which is 6 months. My sister almost died, literally. She had to be admitted into the hospital for an emergency blood transfusion because her hemaglobin and blood oxygen had dropped so low that she was going into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, she made it through the treatment.
Not long after she was declared free of the hep C virus, my sister started getting sick again. At first, it was odd things, painful rashes and inflammation, random fevers and bouts of extreme exhaustion and weakness. It was really scary for her because it felt a lot like what she’d just gone through with hepatitis and the treatments. Many doctors were seen, very little was done. She was told that she was an enigma, no one could figure out what was happening to my sister and it was getting worse. They ran multiple tests, tests for MS were among them, ANA testing was done as well. They began to suggest testing for neurosarcoidosis, one of those tests involve extracting brain tissue samples. Thankfully, my sister did not have to end up going through that test. There was a point in which she was sent to Mayo Clinic in Rochester to a specialist because her eye sight began to rapidly degrade. The specialist walked in after the tests were done, told her that she was far sighted and that her prescription was wrong as a way of explaining the degradation of 20/20 vision to a need for a really strong pair of prescription glasses over the course of 12 weeks. Prior to that she hNo one had answers, no one wanted to admit they didn’t have answers, so no one she sought help from gave her anything more than a cortisone shot and a shake of their head. They may have even assumed that based on her history with addiction that she was just an addict looking for a fix. Prescriptions were never her drugs of choice…and what was happening to her was very real. After a while, she quit seeking answers, and stayed away from the medical world’s lack of answers…choosing instead a life of chronic crippling pain. Watching her was heartbreaking.
It was frustrating. It was stressful. It caused her to slip into depression, and it made her feel like she was going insane. What was happening to her physically was effecting her in all aspects of her life. Not long ago, my sister caved in to the overwhelming pain, and let go of her pride. She went back to the hospital. One last desperate reach for a lifeline, and this time someone was there waiting to pull her out of the darkness. I don’t know anything about the doctor who saw my sister that day other than that this doctor was a woman who wasn’t afraid to listen, really listen. She was also not afraid to dig into my sister’s medical history and look at more than the life of addiction that she hasn’t been a part of for 9 years. This doctor looked at test results, looked at symptoms, looked at all of the things my sister had been experiencing since the hepatitis treatments. She asked my sister, “Have you been tested for lupus?” In fact, lupus isn’t diagnosed through a single test. It’s a series of symptoms that they look at, as well as an Antinuclear Antibody (ANA) test. The ANA test is used for diagnosing a variety diseases, MS is one of them. She had already taken the ANA test.
They scheduled her to see a rheumatologist who looked at the combination of the ANA, the chronic symptoms, the sight loss, and the recent history of her medical challenges. It didn’t take long for this physician to come to a diagnosis, and they began treating her for lupus.
The road hasn’t gotten easier for her. The symptoms haven’t subsided. There are days when she physically can not get out of bed because her body is in so much pain. Having researched lupus over the past month, I really have an understanding of what is happening to her. Have I told you, she’s amazing? Have I told you how strong she is? That woman has more fight in her than anyone I know.
I knew that about her a long time ago. Lupus just reminded me of that.
She has a long road, and a lot of hard lifestyle choices she will have to make in order to reduce the number and duration of flare-ups that happen. She will need to journal what happens with her body and in her life on a day to day basis to trigger or relieve her flare-ups. Doing so will help her to see the patterns she needs to change, such as what the weather was like when she felt the most ill and what the the weather was like on the days she felt the best. What foods caused her symptoms to flare-up? What foods helped? What events or activities cause her flare-ups to trigger and how to recognize what a big factor chronic stress will be to her own wellness.
I want to tell you about my sister, because she’s amazing. She’s amazing, she helps people all the time. She has the biggest heart. She’s forgiving, and has this infinite capacity for love without boundaries despite all of the horrible things that have been done to her and that she’s been through. She’s loyal as a pit bull. She’s a mother, an animal lover and one of the funniest people I know. Everyone who meets her loves her. She’s a fighter and a survivor. My sister’s amazing and she has lupus.
As cultures go, Americans are perhaps among the least patient in the world. We want it now…wait, we want it ten minutes ago. We have crap to do and we don’t have time to wait for anything, and we most certainly don’t make time for taking care of ourselves. Symptoms are subdued and we trudge onward.
I think that impatience is the biggest stumbling block for people transitioning from allopathic modalities to the botanical and more natural healing modalities. We have grown very accustomed to having our quick fixes. Take this pill and within an hour your symptoms are gone. It doesn’t usually work that fast when your addressing things through the natural processes of herbal medicines. They tend to take time as all things in nature generally do. They address processes within us that generate our own abilities to resolve the issues we’re seeking assistance with.
When I am working with herbs, I am gently drawn into slowing my pace through the processes of creating remedies. I’m drawn to slow down into a pace that moves more with the rhythms of natural processes. Remedies are ready when they are ready, there’s no sense in trying to rush something that can’t be. Instead, I can slow down and open myself to being one with the ritual of making a remedy. I am more likely to hear the subtleties that one can only pick up through their intuition, the messages of a plant spirit, the deeper medicine.
The simple matter of boiling water to make a tea, blending a mixture of herbs, and then pausing to take the time to drink it. Okay, so maybe I could work harder to take that pause when it’s time to consume that tea. It’s usually sipped, at times while still too hot between chasing a two year old and plugging away at a work project or a course assignment. In my head, I’m serenely watching out the window at the winter birds while sipping that nourishing potion of blossoms and leaves. Did I mention that in my head, I live in a stunning winter paradise of snow that sort of looks like a wilderness greeting card? I digress.
In going about some simple tasks with mindfulness, and having the patience to savor the moments, we open ourselves to greater understanding of our own restorative, and nourishing processes. We open ourselves to the intuitive insights we can receive while in a place of patience, in a place of stillness are truly powerful points of connection.
In moving through life at the speed in which everything was suppose to happen ten minutes ago, we miss out on the messages our bodies send to us. The subtle and even the not so subtle ques that we are going too hard, too fast, and wearing out the systems that support us each and every day with too little sleep, and an imbalance of stress to nourishment ratio.
The transition isn’t easy. It asks us to completely shift the gears of our lives and slow down. We want to see results, and we want to see them quickly. We tend to forget that nature, (our bodies included), works at a much gentler pace than technology no matter how rudimentary that technology is. Conventional medicine is easier, requires a bit less forethought and it’s faster. However in the long run, in many cases the slower, gentler processes tend to bring about a better long term results, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Most of my medicines are made spur of the moment, and with a good chunk of intuition guiding me along. I hadn’t really made very many remedies in quite a long time. I always talked myself out of it, thinking I couldn’t do it. In the couple of years that’s changed. It started with learning to make probiotic beverages from one of my mentors, Carol Jacobs. She called them “Happy Fizzies,” and when I get the right balance, they are fantastic. It took practice, and the knowing smile of a mentor who encouraged me when I was sure I’d failed. Since then herbalists have nudged me along the way.
Within the past year, I’ve made a decent handful remedies. My most recent inspiration was to make a therapeutic oil for joint support. Fresh turmeric and ginger root were quickly acquired, never for a moment did I consider their freshness to pose a potential issue in creating an infused oil. I’ve since been advised that when infusing an oil, dry herb is better for ensuring an infusion process that doesn’t include mold. Having taken that into consideration, I’m experimenting with the fresh root just the same.
Using Rosemary Gladstar’s instructions for creating an infused oil via double boiler. I took photos of the process, because it’s just more interesting than my rambling on.
To strain out the shredded root, I improvised and drafted a single cup coffee dripper and a coffee filter. It actually worked really well.
My next step is to mix it with some bees wax and make a joint support salve. Even if it doesn’t work out and the darn thing goes bad, it was fun to make and I’m learning with each new attempt.
Recently, I had the opportunity to dive deep into the heart of a weed, teasel (Dipsacus fullonum, Dipsacus sylvestrus, Japanese Species: Dipsacus japonicus), I studied her medicinal properties, and filled in all the blanks of my materia medica worksheets. I looked up her esoteric information in my well versed resource materials. Correspondences carefully noted, but there was more so much more. As a matter of fact, I believe if you look and if I were to look as well, teasel is considered to be affiliated with the masculine gender. You’ll notice, I am referring to her in the feminine. As far as the connection that I made with teasel, the books are wrong.
While working with this amazing medicinal, I thought about what had drawn my interest. This was a plant that grows in ditches along the river roadside and the only thing I knew about it initially was that it was the up and coming herb for supporting folks who have contracted Lyme Disease. Outside of that, I vaguely knew what it looked like, which caused me to become a very distracted driver while driving along the Mississippi River. I’m fairly certain that in my excitement at seeing teasel popping up among the reeds and grasses along side the road, I scared my husband at least twice while I was driving and pointing wildly as we passed each little patch. Now, I do get excited about learning to identify a new plant, but sometimes there’s a plant that really just gets me “kid in a candy store” excited. Teasel is one of those plants.
During Ancient Medieval times, teasel was mostly used for carding wool in European countries. Asian cultures on the other hand, have used the species of teasel native to that region for centuries as a supportive remedy for the healing processes of broken bones and connective tissues. Despite this use, teasel really hasn’t been an herb that a lot of people would put on their “go-to” lists based on the limited amount of references offered by the resources that I’ve been mostly relying upon for my materia medica. This changed with the wisdom and herbal intuition of herbalist, Matthew Wood. He’s credited with really being the pioneer for teasel’s use with Lyme Disease. I would hazard to guess that it is the success he’s had in addressing Lyme Disease that spawned her to become recommended for other chronic diseases such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and Lupus. Don’t get me wrong, teasel has a long list of uses beyond supporting the needs of folks with chronic diseases. I won’t get into them all just now, but it is definitely one plant that can truly be an ally for many reasons.
Something happened as I researched teasel. I started to visualize teasel, standing tall against the wind, the snow and holding fast as though she stood vigil against all that tried to knock her down. I began to feel things, and see her beyond that which is visually apparent. Teasel, with her stalk covered in spike and sharp spines; teasel with her bristly blossoms and her daunting appearance, spoke with all that she was, or all that she is. She commands respect, because she is the warrior, all enduring and armored for battle. She stand strong, and she can and will defend herself should you fail to honor her place in the world and respect her might. What I saw and heard as the warrior spoke to my soul, was that even though this warrior is meets you ready for a fight, if you are respectful, she is nurturing. If you are respectful she will sooth you. If you love her, she will gently bend and offer you her very essence pooled in the cups formed by her leaves. As it goes with chronic illnesses, they can be devastating and those who have to live with them must become warriors steadfast and enduring. What better support could we humans ask for than the strong, and ready for combat, endurance of teasel?
This was deep connection. This was something I hadn’t expected to happen while delving into this research in the middle of what I call the frozen tundra of Wisconsin winters. Plant spirit connection. It was moving, it was powerful, and it has fueled me to become even more passionate about this journey, and about my relationship to the plants local to me. I can’t wait to greet them in person.
Dogs. They are always hogging the couch, snoring, and trying to take up way more of the bed than they have been designated. They’re also thieves. They steal blankets, pillows, chairs, couches, dinner…and of course hearts. Oh, who am I kidding, I freely tossed my heart to the dogs many years ago. Without a dog, my home feels lacking and a bit too quiet.
We have two pitbulls. Let me tell you, they are the best dogs for a family. I could go on for hours about how great they are, but that would be for a different blog on a different day. What I will say about them, is that they are prone to some health issues that can be pretty heart breaking. Cancer seems to be among one of their biggest health issues, if social media offers any sort of insight. Scary stuff.
This journey for me, isn’t exclusive to learning about herbs and how to apply what they can do to humans. For me, herbalism includes how to resolve issues and maintain the health of my pets as well. Enter my ever patient Ella, my long term clinical canine who’s plagued with skin issues that started with a flea. The task, finding a means to boost her immune system, relieve the skin irritation, naturally repel fleas, and promote the healing. This is a challenge that requires internal and external support.
The first challenge, boosting her immune system. Killing two issues with one method is definitely a bonus when you’re working with animals. They are not always eager to be on the receiving end of therapeutic attention. Ella will wedge herself in places she really shouldn’t fit in effort not to be fussed over. Once wrestled out of hiding, she is patient, and I can tell she knows I’m trying to help her, but she’s pretty eager to scurry away from me when I’m done. The best way to address her issues on an internal level is through her food, and through her water.
Dandelion and echinacea are both very safe herbs for pets. Making an infusion of these two herbs was the first step in my plan to make my dogs healthy. I made one mistake. What should have been a given as a few tablespoons in their water bowl, was given by the cup full with every bowl filling. The result…dogs with diarrhea, for three days. What I learned from this….research further and remember, small doses are the way to go.
I changed the game. I began taking into consideration that if I was going to address the source of this problem, I had to look at ways to boost the immune system and repel fleas at the same time. It was about this time that I began researching garlic for my materia medica.
Garlic has recently come under fire as an herb used for dogs. There is currently a lot of propaganda about how “dangerous” garlic is for dogs. I’ve used garlic with my dogs in the past with no ill effects, and let me tell you, it was in pretty hefty doses to address a life threatening condition. So you can imagine that I was pretty skeptical of this sudden villainization of one of nature’s most powerful medicinals. Let me tell you what I discovered. The amount of garlic you would have to give your dog on a daily basis to create a danger to your pet is a lot, several cloves every day in fact. Several cloves a day is far more than anyone with common sense and a sense of smell would allow their dogs to have. It’s also more than you could actually get them to eat. Remember, they can smell too and garlic is a pretty strong aromatic. Dogs aren’t really a fan of too much garlic, and guess what, neither are fleas.
It turns out that despite this new found fear of garlic, holistic vets who know their way around herbs still find garlic to be perfectly acceptable in fairly moderate doses based on weight. Combined with brewers yeast this pungent herb will boost your dog’s immune system and help address a variety of health concerns including external parasites. It will be a tasty nutritional supplement that can help supply their systems with what they might be missing in the way of vitamins and minerals. For me, there’s been one snafu, supply and cost. To address both of these, I’ve decided to make my own supplement of brewers’ yeast and garlic powder.
I purchased 1lb of brewers’ yeast, and about 2 cups of garlic powder. I only used a cup of garlic. I’ve learned my lesson, less is more when it comes to dosing herbs and without having a recipe to go by, I’m following my intuition. I combined the two ingredients into a 2 quart mason jar and shook the tar out of it to combine them.
The dosage I am using is based on the suggested dosage offered on a similar supplement that’s commercially available. Dosing will be 1 tablespoon mixed into the dry kibble per day for the first week, increasing it to 2 tablespoons per day starting on the second week.
Next time, I’ll share with you the external applications that I’m working with to relieve the itching and chewing. In the mean time, if you’d like to read more about garlic for dogs, check out these resources.
This journey began with a lot of wishing…and several emails. It’s a one year program, how hard could it be? That’s what I thought to myself. I never bothered to consider how tough having a toddler at home full time would make accomplishing, well really anything at all some days. It’s a challenge, but aren’t all the very best experiences and opportunities. What am I talking about? Studying in a Master of Herbalism program.
It’s intense, volumes of depth I hadn’t imagined…and despite my whining, I’m not giving up because even when I start to doubt that I can make this happen, I am doing it. I just forget to notice that part sometimes.
This is my journey, and this is where I will share it with you. It’s bittersweet at some points, and pure joy at others. What ever the outcome; where ever this journey leads me, I will share the experience with you dear reader. I can promise you this, it will be an adventure. It will be magickal. It will likely sprinkled with moments of humor. It will definitely be informative. Most of all, it will be mine. In that alone it will different than anyone else’s experience and perspective. We all connect with different aspects of our experiences, even when we are traversing the same roads. No two people will come away with the same experience, and therefore no two people will come away with the same perspectives to share. Grab some muggort and make yourself a cup of tea, and enjoy.