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.

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