One Quick Talk Was All I Needed To Get Serious About Growing This Rare Herb Again

While sitting in my favourite apothecary shop Mary Rose walked over and said

‘You grow herbs don’t you, why aren’t you growing this herb, we are finding it hard to source currently and the price is going through the roof.’ Why not indeed?

You grow herbs don’t you?

It was a herb I have grown and still had plants of at the farm. Taking stock of what she had just said I thought it over again.

I thought it over again.

Why wasn’t I growing more of this herb. Then it came back to me. The previous drought had ravaged the diversity and number of my herbs.

Maybe the drought had done me a service. Shocked me out of having 120 species which is impossible to manage.

Forced me to focus on a precious few.

So why not try again, who else do you know is doing this? Not many people. You could count them on the fingers of one hand.

Time for me to step up.

A quick audit of the plants to hand found more of this herb than I recollected. Good.

Do I have enough growing space? Yes. Inside three hours an additional four bath tubs had been weeded prepared and planted. It was that easy.

Like it had been waiting for me all this time.

The goal – 20 bathtubs planted like the solomons seal patch. That would allow me to continually harvest and propagate new plants.

Oh and the plant is …

Golden Seal – Hydrastis canadense

Herbs – How much bounce per ounce do you need?

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Endangered Herbs Part 4

Herbs, Fresh versus dried – Why?

Getting the most therapeutic doses out of the least amount of plant make sense, right?

For endangered herbs using the harvested material wisely to make the most amount of medicine is a worthy aim. Here is a major way to achieve that with two of these herbs.

Make medicine from the fresh plant

Tincturing some fresh endangered herbs can give you similar strengths and more doses than the dried herb according to Michael Moore author of Medicinal plants of the Pacific West (1993).

Using Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga spp.). as an example, Michael explains this well in the following quote from his book.

‘The herb deteriorates fast (Black Cohosh) and needs to be tinctured fresh…’

… the same single root will create more therapeutic bounce for the ounce if tinctured fresh. As with so many herbs, the bioactivity of a square inch of the fresh root is rather greater than the same inch if it were dehydrated.

‘…Ten ounces of fresh Black Cohosh root may supply 60 full doses as fresh root tincture. Ten ounces will dry down by mass to slightly over one ounce which produces only 20 full doses. …in bioactivity the fresh and dried tinctures are nearly the same strength.’

Michael also mentions Golden seal – once again fresh gives more doses and the same bioactivity as dried.

A caution however. This does not hold for all plants – do your research and reading. American ginseng for example gives little advantage dried vs fresh.

We can see that for two specific endangered herbs Black Cohosh and Golden Seal fresh tincturing has advantages for the plant communities and for the medicine.

So why dry the plants in the first place?

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Grow your own green fingers – How to get started with Seed Sowing Successfully.

Cultivate your own green fingers – Endangered Herbs Part 2

Echinacea paradoxa – a yellow Echinacea!

Grow your own endangered herbs by your very own hand. Start with seed sowing.

Even if you start with simple ones it is empowering and a fundamental reconnection with our green friends.

First a story about seed sowing with Echinacea…

I had ordered about six different species of Echinacea from Strictly Medicinal Seeds in Oregon USA to see what I could grow. The seed was stratified in the fridge for about 3 months (Stratify means expose the seed to cold temperatures) to break the seed dormancy.

Sowed the seed as instructed in a seed tray with commercial seed mix. Then the morning came when the magic happened…

All the seed had started germinating, the amazing vitality of the young plants as they thrust their leaves up into the light – it was like a mass eruption of echinaceaness. It is still such a vivid memory. The previous post has a photograph showing the germination.

So back to your seed sowing…

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Lomatium in flower!

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Well at long last I coax 2 flower heads out of my solitary Lomatium!

Lomatium or desert parsley or Indian balsam is an official ‘at risk’ medicinal herb.

Lomatium dissectum

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.