Beltane: This Week In Plants 5/1/2016

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind (honestly, how many blog posts start with that freakin' statement), but really, they have. My stress levels have been 6,000 and for some reason I figured that would be a good time to switch up what herbs I start my day with (i.e, Passionflower, I am sorry I doubted your ability to quell obsessive, circular thinking. I will start taking you again STAT!). On top of that, I am planning on moving out (!!), buying a car (!!!) and the weather has been back and forth (such is Spring, the energy of Wind, don't you know).

Through all of that, all the stress and feelings of "what am I doing I can't do this why am I doing this and not that," it is the Plant kingdom that grounds me. When I am walking in the woods, I am home.

Home among the ramp leaves that I have infused into ACV, home among the Blue Cohosh's that look like little demonic claws coming out of the ground and home among the Cardinals who repeatedly fly into my window to tell me to cut that SHIT out, Blaire, you know better (this time, I listened), and home among the River that reminds me to let it go let it go leeeeeet it goooo.

Anyway - Beltane marks the midpoint of Spring, the halfway point between Spring and Summer, to me, marks the beginning of what Summer represents: complete and total immersion in the plants and all the joy, ecstasy and purpose that they can bring into our lives and have brought into mine. And while I spent this Beltane doing my Triune homework, being sick as a dog and eating turmeric/cumin guacamole and a bar of 90% chocolate, I did get to get outside yesterday. So, alas, please enjoy what I have found, this week, in plants:

Trillium / Blue Cohosh / Wild Geranium / Soloman's Seal / Cosmic Fern Babies


I don't know much about Trilliums, just that they are on the UPS list, and that they are a rare sight in New Jersey, so it was a joy (understatement) to come across a blooming Trillium this weekend.

Accordingly to Woodland Essences, Trillium essence helps one feel as if they are "coming home to oneself," which is exactly the feeling I got when I saw this beauty blooming on my way out of the forest. A gentle reminder of the healing that takes place in nature, the simple joy of seeing a wild flower bloom and the cyclic nature of time and that things are going to bloom, and die, and they will continue to do that even when we are gone, but that if we stop to watch and appreciate that cycle, the endless anxiety of the modern world does seem to stop, if only for a moment.

WILD GERANIUM (Geranium maculatum)

A somewhat shy plant, at least to me, Wild Geranium is primarily used in Western Herbalism as an astringent/stypic. Rich in tannins (10-28%), this plant can be used for weeping wounds, diarrhea and ulcers, both gastric and in the mouth (as a gargle). As with any tannin-rich plant, avoid taking it with iron supplements and alkaloid containing medications, and limit your consumption to acute issues, as they can cause constipation. 

.....are you KIDDING me... with this plant... the beauty...

.....are you KIDDING me... with this plant... the beauty...

SOLOMAN'S SEAL (Polygonatum biflorum)

I can't even believe this plant is real. Between how majestically it unfolds as it flowers, and how clear its Doctrine of Signature's is, this plant is something else. This moist woodland dweller is what in TCM would be called a "yin tonic," and it is specific for joints and cartilage that need nourishment (hence the flowers at various knobs, ya dig). The root can also be used in other situations of dryness: dry cough, dry constipation and dry mucous that is difficult to cough out (as I type this I realize how badly I currently need it). According to David Winston, the leaves were often eaten by the Cherokee and referred to as sweet salad, or "Uganosti".

As with any root, harvest wisely and consciously. Herbalist jim mcdonald has a great post on harvesting this native plant in a respect way that doesn't damage the ecosystem. It's also much more in depth should you feel called to learn more about this plant!

BLUE COHOSH (Caulophyllum thalictroides)

Otherwise known as death claw lookin' plant, at least to me, this plant is primarily used as an antispasmodic to the reproductive system (ovaries, uterus, testicles) and an anti-inflammatory to arthritic joints, especially fingers and toes. The root has traditionally been used as an oxytocic to stimulate labor, but as I have 0 midwife training, this isn't something I can or would recommend.

This plant is on the "at risk" list of United Plant Saver's, so if you feel the need to use it medicinally, do so by purchasing it from a reputable source - not wildcrafting.

Anyone got an iD on this cosmic fella?

Anyone got an iD on this cosmic fella?

As I wrap up this blog post, I am overcome with feelings of inadequacy. That I haven't written enough about these plants, or provided a materia medica for each one- but, that's not the point of this series (and that also means I need to continue taking my Larch flower essence and get back on my Passiflora/Rosa tincture regiment).

The point of this series is for me to learn the Latin names of the plants around me, to take notice of what is blooming and when, and to become more acquainted with the land that I walk on and that nourishes me in more way than one. I hope it inspires you at look down when you are walking, whether that be in Brooklyn or in Vernon, NJ, and to take note of what plants are unfurling their inflorescence and petals. Notice the bugs pollinating the flowers as you go to pick them, and let them inspire you to always take less than what you think you need - because we aren't the only ones who depend on these plants - entire ecosystems depend on these plants.

“To love a place is not enough.
We must find ways to heal it.”
- Robin Wall Kimmer

(what that quote means is always bring a trash bag into the woods so you can pick up after our fellow humans that for some godforsaken reason leave cigarette butts and health food wrappers ?!?!! in the woods) (it also means systemic change so the earth can live)

Until next time (which will be after I get back from HAWAII and oh boy oh boy the plants I will have to share!!),


The Return of Spring : This Week in Plants 4/17/16

"If you are a plant person, Spring means all of your friends coming back,"
- David Winston

I think it was either Witch's Butter or Partridge Berry that gave me the idea for this blog series - I can't remember. Either way, it's been almost two years since my last series (#FlowerEssenceFriday), so it's about time I re-dedicate myself to writing blog posts. In short, this series is for me to sit down and share the photos I've taken of plants throughout the week and write a little bit about them. My hopes are that it will inspire you to get out there and notice the subtle but very real changes that happen throughout the season and that it will get your booty out in nature!

A simple exercise in ritual, continuity and getting to know the land, if you will. Also, a digital compost pile for the hundreds of photos that are on my phone.

This week: Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) (not in flower - don't care - it still has a message).

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) - a spring ephemeral from the fairy world

  • leaves are an emetic (induces vomiting) and expectorant (helps dispel mucous), and water extracts have been shown to be effective against gram positive and gram negative bacteria (can't find the research to support that claim, but super cool if true)
  • trout lilys can take up to 5 years to bloom and their colonies may be hundreds of years old - even before knowing this, I never harvested more than a leaf or two for a salad. They're sweet, but one bite too many and it gets weird/gross tasting. lessons in respect.
  • it's flower essence may be used for problem solving, as it helps one see the finer details of of the issue and better plan to resolve them

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

  • One of those flowers that leaves you a little breathless and saying "I can't believe you are real." I literally jumped for joy when I found a patch of these with fresh petals on them!  Photos are from the Appalachian trial in Northern Jersey.
  • From a medicinal point of view, this is a very low dose herb (it's a cardiac sedative in high doses..) and from a sustainability point of view, it's endangered and should be left to be admired, not harvested.
  • Those who make a flower essence of it say that it is used to heal old/ancestral/genetic wounds and to heal from feelings of unworthiness

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)- a forest floor of these may not have RCT on being uplifting, but my N1 study says that there is a 8/10 chance it will put a smile on your face

  • contains CNS depressing alkaloids, traditionally used as an alterative (i.e., enhance the normal eliminatory functions of the body), though, due to possible toxicity and habitat lose and over harvesting, most herbalists do not use Dicentra species period
  • specifically pollinated by Queen Bumblebees!


Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) - not in flower, but a plant that had a few words to share with me nonetheless

  • this plant had a direct message for me: "until you accept, honor and recognize your lower body, you are going to be unable to let energy flow outside of you in a smooth and productive way." I'm working on it, Mitchella...
  • medicinally used as a uterine tonic to strengthen/tone the uterus in cases of dysmenorrhea with heavy bleeding
  • Physiomedicalist T.J. Lyle MD recognized this plant as a general tonic to the uterus, as well as the nervous system, digestive system and kidneys. In fact he states, "It would be rather difficult to misapply Mitchella," 
  • We should be cautious when gathering this herb and specific when using it medicinally, as it grows rather closely with the quickly dying off Eastern Hemlock and may disappear as the trees begin to..

Lastly.. Garlic Mustard. I don't have a photo of this flower right now - but a quick google search (here - did it for you) will show you what this delicious, weedy invasive species looks like. Don't be that asshole who takes 2 garbage bags of ramps from the woods - be the hero who takes 2 garbage bags of garlic mustard. Read below for why:

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) - an aggressively invasive, species that can and should be used as both food and medicine

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  • flowering tops + the leaves are delicious in pesto + sauteed or cooked how you would cook spinach; the flavor is mostly garlic with a hint of horseradish and it is delicious mixed into butter and I imagine it would be tasty wilted and then infused into olive oil for a salad dressing
  • pre-flower roots have a mild horseradish odor and can be pickled as such
  • medicinally, this plant contains the medicinal properties of both a mustard AND garlic; it contains reportedly anti-cancer mustard family compounds called isothiocyanates and cancer preventative compounds from the garlic family called allyl sulfides
  • one called "Sauce alone" in England, as county folk would make a simple sauce out of it to eat alongside bread and meats
  • produces allelochemicals that impedes the function of the beneficial fungi needed for other plants and trees to grow + contains glucosinolate sinigrin, a chemical that Toothwort's contain that triggers the West Virginia white butterfly to lay eggs, but eggs laid on Garlic Mustard rarely hatch, meaning this plant may be detrimental to butterfly population

It's warm outside. The plants are back. The sun is shining. I have a sunburn as I type this and couldn't be happier about it. Please go outside. I promise, there is a 0% chance you will feel worse after a walk in the woods. And the woods needs you, too. It needs people to be in it who ask people "You're not takin' 2 bags full of ramps bulbs are you?" and who challenge them when they (literally) respond "they sell for $15/lb in Union Square!". It needs you to pick up trash, to pick the Garlic Mustard. And it needs you to learn how to be quiet enough to listen to mushrooms who tell you to write blog posts and flowers who tell you we are out of touch with our lower body. Because the more we get to know the land, the more we get to know ourselves. And, really, you never feel worse after a hike. Or hugging a tree. Or picking up trash. I could go on and on..

 'The land knows you, even when you are lost.' - Robin Wall Kimmerer