Daily Archives: August 15, 2010

Herb Walk Part 3


Our last day in the woods…


Sunday came bright and early for us. I was up early because I couldn’t sleep, but also because Kathryn and I wanted to catch the early morning Arati ceremony at the Hanuman Temple at the center.

Photo courtesy of the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple at Mount Madonna

The ceremony was at 6:30 am so we were up and ready to go by 6:15. One of our classmates was already there, completely bundled in blankets.  That morning, it was so very foggy and it was so wet, that water drops were falling off the trees as if it were really raining. The temple, while covered, was open to the elements, and so even with being wrapped in blankets ourselves, our socks were wet and we were chilled to the bone. In spite of that, I thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony. The priest (I think it’s okay to call him a priest) sang songs in another language and rang bells and blessed us with the red dot on our foreheads (wish I knew what to call it properly). I managed to wipe the blessing off my forehead within 10 minutes. Again, I am that kind of girl.

But, again, it was a beautiful way to start the morning.

After the ceremony, we went down to the center’s garden and harvested some plants. I picked rosemary, lavender and rose geranium. While picking lavender, I came across this little guy:

I didn’t know that bees slept outside and wasn’t sure if I should continue to harvest. (My teacher mentioned he basically got “locked out” for the night.) I felt really bad waking the little guy up, and I didn’t want to get stung. In the end, he did wake up a little bit, and hung out with Kathryn before I brushed him off and we left the garden to have breakfast.

After breakfast, we met with the rest of our class and went walking in the woods. Our teacher pointed out different things to look at and told stories about the redwood forest. The area where Mount Madonna is located had been heavily logged just 100 years ago and many of the trees we were looking at were on average about 60 – 70 years old. You could see evidence of where man had decimated the forest, with chopped down stumps, burned bark and patches of empty land. It made me sad to think that people took from the forest without any thought of replanting what they took.

Even with sad feelings, it was still a mystical place. The fog and mist crept through the trees and I was filled with a sense of wonder. It was so peaceful, yet so alive, and I felt almost an electrical current running through my body the longer we walked in the woods. I almost expected to see faeries and spirits and any other mythical forest creatures.

Making our way on the trail.

Fog drifting through the trees

No sign of a blue sky

Destruction and rebirth

Further into the woods

Eventually we made our way out of the forest and back to civilization. Kathryn and I made our way back to our cars, said our goodbyes and headed home. It was a wonderful weekend and I really cannot wait to do it again. I miss the woods already.



Herb Walk Part 2


Okay, now where was I? Oh yes, we’re on Mullein now.

6.  Mullein

Mullein was the herb/plant of the weekend. It covered the entire property and you could easily find it and identify it no matter where you went. Mullein feels as fuzzy at it looks and has thick leaves. It is a 2 year plant and the first year it looks like a rosette:

The second year, the plant grows into a stalk.

Those are rose petals on the plant.

Mullein is a European plant but somehow made it here to America. It’s considered a weed, as it’s highly invasive, but has a lot to offer. In the past, people would use the stalk and dip it into wax to use as a torch. (Even my teacher had done it.)

With Mullein, you can harvest the whole plant (flowers, leaves and root) It can be used fresh in tinctures and oils and dried in tea or oils. When harvesting the root, you’d chop it and then dry it for teas. Mullein is anti-spasmodic and a lung relaxant. It’s a mild expectorant and helps prevent tightness in the chest. It can be used as a preventative lung tonic going into the cold & flu season and can be used long term. The root tea is good for the urinary tract system and helps tone the bladder and reduce inflammation. The oil is good for skeletal muscle pain.

7. Comfrey

This plant originally grew in Europe and Asia. It’s very easy to grow and attracts bees. This is a blood alkalizing plant and is iron and calcium rich. The plant can be used fresh or dry in a tea, but must be used dry in oils. This plant is also known as “knit bone” because it will literally “knit” your skin back together. In oil, it’s a very powerful skin healer. You can use it on superficial wounds, but not deep wounds. Why? Comfrey will heal the top layer of the wound but not the deeper layers. It can also be used on poison oak or any other skin irritations. It’s considered a miracle oil/salve. You can also use it in a poultice or compress on sprains. It can also be taken internally as a tea, to help fix broken bones. Some people have had problems with it internally (especially those with liver problems) so it’s important to know your body’s limitations before trying it internally.

8. Chamomile

Who hasn’t heard of chamomile? Most of us have used this herb before in the form of a tea. Fresh chamomile is very fragrant and smells a little like apples. You can use chamomile fresh or dry in oils and fresh only in tinctures. Chamomile is very calming and can be used on babies, children and pretty much anyone. One thing to note is that chamomile is a diuretic, so you don’t want to drink it at bedtime or you will be up all night going to the bathroom. After dinner is okay.

9. Mallow

Mallow grows everywhere. I know I’ve pulled it from our garden before. Mallow has a very green taste and can be eaten raw. Just chop up the leaves and put it in your salads. Mallow can be used fresh in teas and dry in oil. It’s a cooling skin healer whether you take it internally or apply it externally. It has astringent, antiseptic and disinfectant properties. It’s also anti-microbial. You can also use this in compresses and is great for dry skin, eczema and psoriasis.

10. Calendula

I love calendula. It’s such a sunny and happy looking flower and can bloom all year. It loves sun and only needs a small amount of water. When harvesting this plant, you leave the stem and harvest the whole flower only. Calendula petals can be eaten fresh and can also be used in a fresh flower tincture. Dried flowers can be used in tea or oil. Calendula is a warming plant and gets the lymphatic system moving. It’s great for colds and the flu. It’s also a “delivery” herb that helps other herbs in delivering their medicine. Calendula is also awesome in oils/salves on dry skin and lips.

So these were all the plants we identified and harvested on Saturday. Sunday was much more laid back, with hiking in the redwoods. That’s part 3 and will be posted soon…