We live in a current era of uncertainty and deep concerns in many areas. Be it drought, Bushfire, Flood, Coronavirus, Economic uncertainty or Government actions there is a lot going on.
Looking for knowledge that is tried true and trusted is important if you want to learn more about Herbal Medicine. It doesn’t matter whether you are starting as a complete newbie or are a qualified professional; having trusted sources of information and advice is vital.
We all go looking on Google to surf the internet and see what comes up. Mostly its rubbish as searches are ranked on factors other than quality or truthfulness of information. You really need to remember that, just because someone says it on the internet- it ain’t necessarily so as George & Ira Gershwin sang.
I was visiting a friend’s garden in Ainslie ACT where cleavers were growing abundantly. My friend commented on the beauty of the plant, its abundance and vitality. He said to me what about we tincture that?
It was a shining example of how simple herbal medicine at home can be.
The simplicity of the plant growing healthily in the garden.
Cleavers was there – it did not need to be manufactured or transported around the world or need a research grant. It’s just there, waiting to be harvested. You can look upon it as a common weed completely overlooking its unique properties. A lot of what we look on or call ‘weeds’ or common plants have a long history of usage in Herbal medicine.
And apart from visiting friends much of my time at the moment is spent working on collaborative project with my friend Wendy Dumaresq. We are working on a herbal medicine course that is a deep dive into a number of herbs showing people how they can do herbal medicine for themselves in a safe and effective way.
You can hear a FB interview with Wendy with Animal Dreaming publishing. The interview covers a number of topics and also covers this new Herbal medicine course.
A few years ago I had a crack at growing Osha (Ligusticum porteri). Its a well known and also revered medicinal herb in North America among the Indian Nation people and the Native people of Mexico. It is used in their ceremonies and is well known as a Bear Medicine.
I was successful and managed to grow the plant for a couple of years before it went to sleep one Autumn and never woke up again in Spring.
Talked about in the book featured above ‘ Growing At risk medicinal Herbs’. Cultivation of the herb is tricky. It likes the Mountains where it grows, rich soil and plenty of water.
So time to try again, and I recently ordered a couple of packets of seed. They arrived yesterday (all 30 seeds) and I busily made them at home.
First is a two month stay in the fridge to simulate a cold winter, then treatment with Mycogold fungal preparation then into the soil for planting.
Stay tuned as I report my progress. Lots of prayers to the Bear Medicine spirit for a wonderful germination of these seeds.
P.S. When I opened the packet a wonderful aroma hit my nostrils. The smell of Osha! which is like a feral rank celery smell. If you have ever grown lovage, that is very close. I took this as a good sign that the seed is fresh and vital.
Touted and promoted as the doomsday vaults that will save us if there is a catastrophic accident, wide spread climate alteration or meteorite strike etc. Created to preserve the worlds plant diversity against extinction.
They house seeds collected wither locally or from around the world as a genetic resource for future times and to prevent plant extinction.
One such storage site is the doomsday vault in Svalbard Norway that recently had to be upgraded due to warmer summers in the artic circle where it is located. Here is its website
The seed is gathered from around the world then deposited in this high technology vault in a remote safe location. Carefully stored recorded and checked for a future time of need. For once we seem to be having proper foresight in our society.
once you ponder a little bit longer, there are serious flaws
At first glance this seems wonderful that this precious material is being preserved however once you ponder a little bit longer there are serious flaws – It has taken me awhile to see beneath the surface attraction to understand it is only part of the solution.
Let’s look a bit deeper
The seed bank for the future sounds great – but if you look harder it another grandiose complicated technological solution to an ecological problem. As if we didn’t have enough ‘technology’ saving us already.
Where are the ecosystems that this plant lives in?
We have saved the seed but what about the actual living mature plant?
What about the ecological and cultural context of the plant?
As if we didn’t have enough ‘technology’ saving us already.
The seed lives on in its high-tech vault – largely devoid of its social & ecological & environmental history and context.
Separated from the soil where it germinates, the animals it feeds or who fertilise it, the fungi that colonise its roots and allow it to connect into the ecosystem, the people who cultivate it if it’s a food crop. The cultural stories it features in.
Yes, every seed has a file with photos, text describing where it came from but you can’t pretend that this is anywhere near the reality of its existence.
‘you can’t pretend that this is anywhere near the reality of its existence’
It shows an application of technology that separates us from reality, when what is needed is re connection with the plant world, the ecosystems that support us now and have done so for millennia. There is no relatedness.
‘An abstraction from the ecological world we live in – a high technology fantasy’
It’s a Devils bargain – we believe we are getting something marvellous when out of sight a sacred feminine part of our self and our culture has been betrayed and sacrificed. The plant lives on as a dormant embryo dependent on high technology life support.
A Devils bargain or Faustian bargain is where a person or society trades something of supreme moral or spiritual importance, such as personal values or the soul, for a worldly or material benefit, such as knowledge, power, or riches.
For the seed its life as a living entity is now an abstract reality. It’s been reduced to a data entry in a computer and lives in a container at sub zero temperatures.
Thankfully there are organisation that have taken a different route – at lower cost, more relatedness and of benefit to all.
Here is contrasting example with vegetable seeds.
The Diggers Club Australia have taken on the mantle in Australia of gathering, preserving and distributing a wide range of heritage vegetable seeds.
Diggers source seeds, growing them at their support facility then send out to members. The seeds are connected with people and put into the ground to live and provide food.
Having a heritage lettuce variety that sits in a container at minus whatever degrees Celsius in a cavern in northern Norway is not much use to anyone.
Zoos are in a similar position if they are not captive breeding and providing a buffer to the wild populations. Plants and animals need to function in their original environments and for this to have value and be respected.
It’s a Devils bargain – we believe we are getting something marvellous when out of sight a sacred feminine part of ourselves and our culture has been betrayed and sacrificed.
Don’t buy it!
To read deeper into the psychology of a Devils bargain try reading Robert Johnson – The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology. It’s a short but profound book and helps explain our times.
Tinderry Mountain Herbs places a tithe on all income earned of 10%. This money is spent on various enterprises that help plants and the earths ecosystem.
TMH supports Bush Heritage Australia an organisation that manages large areas of key Australian habitat. They remove all feral species and reintroduce the original animal species. They consistently find that once foxes and cats are removed the native animals establish themselves, breed and get right on with their business. The Native plants get right on with their business as well. Everything in context and environment.
Lomatium or desert parsley or Indian balsam is an official ‘at risk’ medicinal herb.
Used in the herbal trade for respiratory infections to control them before they turn in to complications. However few people know of this plant – probably just as well for reasons you will see later in this blog.
If you do use it – you do not need much – its a potent herb and taking excess will give you a rash just to teach you a lesson. Have it dispensed by your herbalist who knows how to offset this.
Its a plant that can live for more than a century in the wild. Rich Cech says of lomatium
“there is no such thing as sustainable harvest of wild Lomatium. The plant is not renewable within our lifetime”
That means it is scare to rare or endangered in its wild habitat and needs to be cultivated for future harvests. From earlier posts you would have read about my persistent and patient growing of this plant. Its certainly slow however I have found that more regular potting up and a larger pot have helped speed things up a lot.
Alas this season I was unable to gather any seeds. Hoping for flowers this coming late winter and I will be on the ball for those seeds to harvest.
Hopefully my humble efforts will show the way or provide encouragement so that we can cultivate this herb rather than harvest from the the wild.
Our plant photo this month is Trillium in flower – The botanists will note that all the plant parts are in threes – leaves sepals petals. This follows up my talk about it in an earlier post.
Dividing up the two pots of Trillium kurabashii in stock has now created over a dozen plants in one bathtub. This proves the ease of growing propagating this species. This is important knowledge to support the availability of this precious medicinal herb and move away from wild harvest.
In the Eastern United States of America harvesting is done by Rural folk who see this as a traditional activity and income sideline. Its hard work gathering enough material then to be paid very low rates by dealers.
Each harvest depletes the remaining endangered plant stocks – Its a vicious no win cycle. Rural poverty – Ignorance- exploitation of a natural resource.
A lady by the name of Jeanine Davis Associate Professor with North Carolina University has worked long on the education and research to make forest plant cultivation a profitable agricultural enterprise in Eastern USA.
Earlier in 2013 I purchased some Trillium erectum ( birth root – beth root) seeds from Lynne’s Rare Plants in the Blue mountains. Lynn had collected the seed rubbed off the fleshy material and stored them cool and moist. Normally trillium takes two years to show any seed leaf with the first year being focussed on root development.
Well here in spring was eight little plants with their initial leaves . No pricking out at this stage probably next year. Trillium erectum is one of the main medicinal species but careful reading shows that all trilliums have medicinal properties and were used when needed. This is plant is on the UpS plant list of endangered medicinal plants in North America.
A plant with very special usages and deserving of cultivation. Through building up expertise in growing these plants we move towards having cultivated sources of these plants for medicine