Monday, June 30, 2008

Issue of the Week

I have received the inspiration to address an Issue of the Week, then select the flower essence(s) that can help us work with it.

The word for this week, June 30, 2008 – July 6, 2008 is STILLNESS

As I thought about it, I realized that one of the “imbalances” of the modern world is our inability to be still. People spend hours in front of T.V. "Couch potato-hood" is common. But that is not Stillness. In fact, it is avoiding Stillness. It is another way to fill the space that we so fear. We fear it because we have been trained by our culture to see it as “nothingness” therefore, “non-existence” which we equate with death and therefore "bad".

All the religions say that only in Stillness can we approach, hear, feel or sense God. If we are full of chatter, we cannot know God, because it is like static. There is no room for anything else. Our culture teaches us that chatter is good. The more the better. All the electronic devices we have so that we can stay connected 24/7. People walk down the street with cell phones glued to their ears talking to disembodied voices, but never looking at the people right in front of them. We are actually becoming more isolated, because we are staying within our circle of security – the people on our phone list, rather than interacting with ‘strangers’ who could become our next best friend.

This is an addiction. We all have it in some form. I have been getting into this blog thing very heavily lately. My observation is that it is highly addictive. I know I am losing my balance, because even though I am tired, I can’t sleep at night and when I do fall asleep, my dreams are chaotic. I feel agitated all the time and I am extremely impatient. I can’t wait to get back online and ‘networking’. I cannot read, let alone meditate. I have lost the stillness. Thankfully, I have a garden. When I go out there, I am put right back in my body and can feel my healing connection to the earth.

I believe that my years of spiritual practice and meditation are helping me to see what is happening and I am grateful for that. It is not about stopping blogging or anything like that. It is about balance. “All things in moderation.” Knowing when to take a break and go outside.


Desert Alchemy had several essences for working with this issue. I found it interesting that two of them are my favorites and the ones that convinced me that this was an important part of my path.

Each addresses different aspects of Stillness. Here is what resonated with me. For a fuller description of each essence and its properties, see The Alchemy of the Desert, by Cynthia Athina Kemp Scherer.

Queen of the Night Cactus

Candy Barrel Cactus

For more information about these and the other essences in the Desert Alchemy Repertoire check out the website: or the book: The Alchemy of the Desert.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Off to See the Butterfly Garden!

Working on my blogs and garden is turning out to be a 6 1/2 day a week job. Whoever said working for yourself meant you had more free time? Not complaining, just commenting. Since the Hallberg Butterfly Garden is open today, I'm going.

Even the website is beautiful. The picture above is from their website, I hope they don't mind, but I don't have any pictures of butterflies.

When I called this morning I spoke to Louise. Bless her heart, she answered the phone herself. It's turning out to be a beautiful day and I need to be out there amid the flowers and the butterflies.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lemon Balm

When I first moved into my current home and started working on putting in a garden, I found it overgrown with a plant unknown to me, which I started pulling out. I later learned it was Lemon Balm or Melissa officinalis and, thankfully, it all came back. Now I value it. Since then I have learned to find out what the “weeds” are before I pull them out. Consequently, there is very little I take out now. Lately, I found out that native grasses are hiding places for bees, so now hardly any grass gets taken out either. For the untrained eye, my garden might look like a weed patch with a few obviously cultivated places. To me, it is a habitat for bees, butterflies, birds and yes, even bugs, as well as where I grow my medicinal plants, flowers and vegetables. This year, I am experimenting with leaving the spearmint growing in the middle of tomato plants. It seems that I have no bugs on the tomatoes which may be because of the volatile oils in the spearmint. This is entirely unscientific, but as an aromatherapist, I know that the volatile oils in plants serve many functions, including protection and healing. So…. It follows that this may be what is occurring. I keep asking the tomatoes and they say they are happy. Huh? You talk to your plants? Of course. And they talk back? Yes, I can hear them in my head.

Now, back to Lemon Balm. First off, any plant that has officinalis in its Latin name means it was part of the official pharmacopeia - that is, it was used in the practice of medicine.

This is interesting because it originally came from the Middle East and has been cultivated there for over 2000 years. Ibn Sina, the 11th century medical genius, known in Europe as Avicenna, prescribed lemon balm for melancholy and heart problems. It is a gentle and effective nerve tonic and it tastes delicious.*

It was brought by Arab traders to Europe through Spain during the period we learned to call, the “Moorish occupation”, but in fact, saw the most peaceful and fruitful flowering of culture, science, literature and spirituality. It was when Judaism, Christianity and Islam were working together in Spain and North Africa and when so many advances were made in all fields of human endeavor. The 'Golden Age' as far as I’m concerned. But one of which we, in the west, know so little.

Some interesting points:

- In Germany, the famed alchemist, Paracelsus called this herb the 'elixir of life' and used it in a compound called Primum Ens Melissae, reputed to restore vigour and prolong life.

- Lemon balm is reported to increase energy in the system by helping to release energy blocks and stress. It is relaxing, yet stimulating. It acts as an anti-depressant.

- In Europe, lemon balm is used in salves for herpes simplex symptoms. There is a lot of research being done that shows that lemon balm prevents certain viruses from attaching to cells.

- It can be used as a homemade insect repellant because its oil contains citronellal. Crush a handful of leaves in your hand and rub them on exposed skin.

A delicious tea can be made from the leaves, fresh or dry.*

*Taken from Natural Remedies of Arabia, by Robert W. Lebling and Donna Pepperdine

The word 'melissa' is a Greek word. In Greek mythology, Melissa was - a nymph and daughter of King Melisseus; she nursed the infant Zeus with goat milk on Mt. Ida; she taught humans how to use honey and her name comes from the Greek word for bee, melitta. Bees love the flowers that come late in the summer.

A great link to learn more is from A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, at - Melissa officinalis

When growing lemon balm, you must use caution or it will take over. If you don't want it everywhere, growing in a pot might help.

I got this recipe from a fellow blogger:

Melissa Cordial

2 ½ tsp dried lemon balm
sliced and scraped peel of ¼ lemon
a pinch of coriander
a pinch of cinnamon
2 peppermint leaves
1 cup vodka
½ cup sugar syrup

Place all the ingredients in a bottle and steep 3 weeks. Shake the jar daily during the steeping period. Strain and filter into a dark bottle, adding more sugar to taste. Mature for 2 months.

Sugar Syrup also known as Simple Syrup

1 cup white granulated sugar and ½ cup water

Bring to a boil, and stir until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear. Always cool before adding to alcohol mixture.

Monday, June 23, 2008

St. John's Wort - Flower of Light

According the The Complete Floral Healer, by Anne McIntyre, St. John's Wort is "the flower of light." It symbolizes the sun which casts out evil and dispels the forces of darkness. In olden times, when it was believed that people who suffered from mental illness, melancholy and epilepsy, were possessed, they had to sniff the juice from the plant to drive out the evil spirits. (Sounds like an early form of aromatherapy) Sprigs of St. John's Wort were hung at the house and the church doors on Midsummer's Eve, the pagan summer solstice and the longest day, to protect them from negative influences, thunder, lightning, fire and witches.

With the coming of Christianity, the herb was dedicated to St. John the Baptist and Midsummer's Day became St. John's Day. The red pigment that comes out of the flowers is thought to represent the blood of St. John the Baptist. It was also called the Heart of Jesus oil.

On St. John's night, young girls would hang the herb over their doors or sleep with it under their pillows, to foresee their husbands.
In some countries, the dew that had fallen on the flowers before daybreak on St. John's Day was gathered and used to protect the eyes from all harm throughout the coming year. (An early form of flower essence therapy)
In the language of flowers, St. John's Wort means superstition.

As a flower essence (available through the Flower Essence Society), St. John's Wort is the remedy of light. It is suited to sensitive people who are subject to fears of the dark or of psychic attack, who have restless sleep and nightmares. It is also for those who are overly sensitive to heat and sunlight and may be prone to allergies and environmental sensitivities.

This flower essence is also for protection against negative influences, giving a sense of strength and of being full of light. For those who suffer from a deprivation of light, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, it can bring much needed light in.

According the the Flower Essence Repertory, by Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz, St. John's Wort helps the soul to circulate light through the body and into the Earth. Light is not just and external, physical reality, but is rather a spiritual force which can both illumine and anchor consciousness.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

One Man's Noxious Weed

So I did get out there yesterday, despite the heat. It was in the high 90s in Santa Rosa. It was blazing up on that hill. And, the St. John's Wort was in abundance.

It was also almost finished. Good for tincture, but too far gone for infused oil. It must have been at its prime this year around my birthday, May 30. I realized that another name for it, St. Joan's Wort, might be because May 30 is Saint Joan of Arc day. Perhaps this plant is best between St. Joan's Day and St. John's Day.

As I was harvesting, I realized I forgot to say why it's considered a noxious weed in California and in some other states as well. It tends to spread like the dickens and often grows on what is considered range land. If cattle, horses or some other grazing animal eats it, they become photosensitized. This can lead to eye problems and to blistering of their skin. Not good. So, states that have dairy herds etc. tend to outlaw the planting of this "weed" or medicinal plant, depending on your point of view. As a responsible herbalist, it is important to know about this type of thing in your area. Nurseries have been shut down or fined for accidentally harboring "noxious weeds".

Which brings me to something I feel is important to say which I learned from one of my teachers at California School of Herbal Studies in Forestville, California. David Hoffmann says that it is very important for us to know what grows wild right in our own area. What it's good for and how to make medicine out of it. He says this is a radical act. "If" things were to deteriorate (ha!) and we did not have access to allopathic medicine, there is a lot we could do with what is available around us. What are the wild medicines right in our own back yard, so to speak? He said we need to first identify what our needs are - for example, something for colds, headache, cramps, whatever. Then, look around within walking distance of our home and learn what is already growing there and what we can do with it.

I learned this lesson soon after moving into my current home. I wanted an herb garden, so I started clearing out all the "weeds" and trying to plant stuff that I thought was great, but would not grow. When I started to actually study herbs, I learned what was growing wild in my yard.

Now, I have learned how to use them rather than trying to force exotic things to grow. I have growing wild within walking distance of my house: Melissa, St. John's Wort, Spearmint, Pennyroyal, Angelica, Self-heal, Comfrey, Mullein, Bay, Chickweed, Cleavers, Dandelion, Elder, Plantain, and many others which I have not learned about yet.

So, I have medicine to help me sleep and relax, heal wounds, clear my sinuses and lungs, relieve arthritis pain, purify my blood, detox my liver and make delicious and nutritious teas. What else do I need?

If your goal is to take care of yourself and your family and friends, start simple. You can make tinctures, infused oils and teas with things that are close at hand. Then, one by one, add other plants that will grow in your area. Sure Chinese herbs are incredible, but what if we could not get them anymore for some reason? Don't we have plants here that can do the same things? Find out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

June is St. John's Wort Time

St. John's Wort, Hypericum perforatum is in bloom now. The ideal time to harvest it is Summer Solstice or St. John's Day (June 24) The birth date of Saint John the Baptist. Although it is considered a "noxious weed" and therefore cannot be legally grown in California, it grows wild all over the place and so you can find it along the road.

You can make either an infused oil or a tincture with St. John's Wort.

Infused oil: Fresh flowering and budding tops only. Combine 1 part by weight of the fresh herb: 3 parts by volume of olive oil. The dried herb does not extract in oil. The fresh herb should be thoroughly bruised or mashed prior to combining with the oil.

Solar maceration of oil extract improves extraction of certain constituents, although maceration in the dark is also effective. The maceration must continue for 2 full weeks.

The oil is a useful external application for bruises, sprains, swellings, varicose ulcers, hemorrhoids, and old burns. The oil may be further processed into salves or creams which retain the same effect. The oil can also be used internally as a treatment for indigestion and /or gastric ulcer. The dosage is 1 tsp. taken 2 to 3 times daily.

Not to be taken concurrently with pharmaceutical drugs. Do not exceed recommended dosage. Overdose of the herb can cause photosensitivity, generally characterized by an increased optical sensitivity to sunlight and an increased tendency for the sunburn. People with light skin should keep treated areas covered due to increased risk of burning or blistering.

Use care when harvesting or processing. Best to wear gloves since hypericins are readily absorbed to the skin. Avoid rubbing the eyes or wiping the brow.

Tincture: You can make a tinture of fresh or dried flowering tops. With fresh the ratio of plant to alcohol is 1:2 (100% Alcohol), with dried 1:5 (75% Alcohol to 25% Water). You can leave it in the sun, but be careful since alcohol is flammable.

St. John's Wort has a nervine effect and can help in restoring damaged nerve tissues, deadening nerve pain and strengthening the urinary organs. It can be useful in treating athletic injuries with nerve damage and/or pulled muscles or ligaments.

"Hypericum" translates as "over an apparition" and has been used as an anti-depressant.

Taken from: Making Plant Medicine, by Richo Cech

David Hoffmann in Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, writes that an oil made from St.John's Wort can be used for rheumatic pain, neuralgic or sciatic pains, or applied to minor burns. It is a valuable healing and anti-inflammatory remedy. In a lotion or salve it assists in the healing of wound and bruises, and varicose veins.

Taken internally, it has sedative and pain-relieving effects and has been used to treat neuralgia, anxiety, and tension. It can be useful during menopause when one is especially irritable or suffers from anxiety. (Note from Hamida - If you are suffering from on-going depression or emotional disturbance, seek help from someone you trust - don't keep self-medicating, even if it is with herbs).

Hamida says: I have used St. John's Wort tincture personally to relieve lower back pain caused by over-exertion. I also use it when I need to relax a little and calm down. The effects are subtle, but I feel more grounded. I use it in my Solar Salve. See my website

A friend has had success in treating sciatica by taking St. John's Wort tincture.

And now it's time for me to go gather some and make some infused oil and tincture.
Happy Medicine Making!

The following is from Michael Moore's website:
Southwest School of Botanical Medicine

More pictures:

St. John's Wort

SJW up close

SJW thick growth

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Plants Asked For Their Own Blog

It felt time to separate into several blogs. I started at with a "mixed bag" blog, and that one will continue with a focus on books, travels, movies, thoughts etc. This blog will specialize on herbalism. Next week I will start one on astrology.