I have been thinking quite a bit about my intentions as an herbalist. How am I going to use it in my everyday life? To me the answer is as simple, as it is complex.
‘I want to live a more natural lifestyle, which allows me to be authentic, and in-turn, express my spiritual nature in a manner molded by my life experience and perspectives.’-Andrea McHugh
Over the years I have learnt a very important thing about myself; I know my body better than anyone, and can tell when something is not right.
I have experienced the brush off from too many physicians in the past; most recently by a cardiologist who hadn’t even performed an examination before ‘diagnosing’ my condition as likely anxiety related and suggested a psychiatric route.
(I simply wanted to wear a heart monitor for more than two days to find out why I was having irregular heartbeats. I explained I had a history of mental illness, yes, but I was not experiencing symptoms of stress or anxiety when I experienced irregular heartbeats. To which he begrudgingly offered a 2 day monitor. But as a previous experience had taught me, I needed to wear one for at least a week. In the end, I wore one for 2 weeks.)
I have since started reading up on possible reasons for my condition and eventually figured it boiled down to my diet, and the effect it was having on my body. I discovered I could probably alter my diet and fix the irregularity on my own.
Tip: If you are new to gardening I would suggest reading up on the types of plants known to grow well in your neck of the woods, and the soil/light conditions needed. It is also important to factor the size of a plant when it is mature.
As I said in Spring is Coming, I will be working on my first medicinal garden this year. I want to start slowly, and map it all out with plants that flourish in the zone I live in. (It gets really hot in the dead of summer, in the inland valleys of Northern California.) I have been an avid gardener for several years. I do a vegetable garden annually, and worked in a garden center for 6 years. I am starting out with a fair amount of knowledge about the region I live in, and a basic understanding of agriculture. Which is helpful.
I can’t stress enough to research every plant BEFORE you put in your yard. Many are poisonous to children, and pets.
My Medicinal Plant list:
I am focusing on plants which are native, or thrive, in my region of Northern California. I am also taking into consideration a puppy who is a bit dopey, and likes to eat unhealthy things. I want to heal, not make anyone sick.
- Lavandula: Commonly known as lavender. It’s a genus of 47 known species of flowering plants in the mint family. Native to the ‘Old World’ and is found from Cape Verde and the Canary Islands; Europe across to northern and eastern Africa; the Mediterranean; southwest Asia to southeast India. Many members of the genus are cultivated extensively in temperate climates as ornamental plants for garden and landscape use, for use as culinary herbs, and also commercially for the extraction of essential oils. (My favorite! It has so many uses, and smells divine! I had a gorgeous English lavender in the backyard at my previous address, that I had to leave behind. I bought five more to replace it last year, and planted them along the edge of my yard.)
- Salvia apiana: Commonly known as Sacred sage, or white sage. An evergreen perennial shrub native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Found mainly in the coastal sage scrub habitat of Southern California and Baja California, on the western edges of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Widely used by Native American peoples on the Pacific coast of the United States. The seed is a primary, traditional ingredient in pinole, a staple food. The Cahuilla people have traditionally harvested large quantities of the seed, then mixed it with wheat flour and sugar to make gruel and biscuits. The leaves and stems are a traditional food among the Chumash people and neighboring communities. For healing use, several tribes have traditionally used the seed for removing foreign objects from the eye, similar to the way that Clary sage seeds have been used in Europe. Tea from the roots is traditionally used by the Cahuilla women for healing and strength after childbirth. Different parts of the plant are also used in ceremonies by several Native American cultures. (I want this both for medicinal purposes, and spiritual. My primary intended use would be for medicinal, for now. It is traditionally made into tea. Steeping the leaves, or roots, in water. Letting the tea cool, before drinking. Since this is a sacred plant, I will be going through tribal channels to procure it.)
- Artemisia douglasiana: Commonly known as California mugwort or Douglas sagewort. It’s a western North American species of aromatic herb in the sunflower family. Its seeds are foraged by a variety of native birds and its leaves are used as nesting material by some native bees. Used by Native American tribes as a medicinal plant to relieve joint pain and headaches, and to treat abrasions and rashes (including poison ivy). It is also used to treat women’s reproductive issues, such as irregular menstruation. This plant also had ceremonial and spiritual purposes for many tribes. It was commonly carried to ward off spirits of the dead and was smoked or drunk as a tea to induce vivid dreams. (You will see a recurring theme as we continue. Again, I would be using mugwort for both medicine and spiritual application.)
- Ceanothus americanus: Commonly known as New Jersey tea, red root, mountain sweet, and wild snowball. The red roots and root bark of New Jersey tea were commonly used by North American Indians for infections of the upper respiratory tract. These Indigenous medicinal practices continue today. The leaves have a fresh scent of wintergreen and were later utilized by the white colonizers as a tea substitute and stimulating caffeine-free beverage. The root bark of the plant is used in remedies for problems of the lymph system. The root contains astringent tannins and a number of peptide alkaloids.
- Mentha arvensis: Commonly known as corn mint, field mint, or wild mint. Native to the temperate regions of Europe and western and central Asia, east to the Himalaya and eastern Siberia, and North America. Used in food, drinks, cough medicines, and creams. Also the menthol found in it, is widely used in dental care; as a mouthwash potentially inhibiting streptococci and lactobacilli bacteria. (I am interested in making teas. My boys love tea and it’s a way for me to experiment with recipes. It’s also worth noting that not all plants used in herbal medicine are safe for dogs. I have a dog who will eat anything, so it is something I have to be cautious of while choosing plants. For example: I would love to grow yarrow, but can’t because it may be harmful to dogs. Keep that in mind as you plan your own gardens, make sure you do plenty of research before putting plants in your garden.)
- Crataegus: Commonly known as hawthorn, quickthron, or thornapple, it is a genus of several hundred species of shrubs and trees in the rose family. Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America. (This one is a big one for me. It’s primary use is for heart health. As I said earlier, my heart trouble was the final push which started this journey. Extensive research is needed before working with this.)
- Eschscholzia californica: Commonly known as California poppy. It is an ornamental plant flowering in summer, with showy cup-shaped flowers in brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow (occasionally pink). It is also used as food or a garnish. It became the official state flower of California in 1903. (I don’t know that I will use the poppies in any of my remedies, but they do have medicinal uses and can be used in culinary dishes. I just love the flower, and it attracts pollinators.)
- Lepechinia calycina: A species of flowering plant in the mint family known by the common name pitchersage or woodbalm. It is endemic to California, where it is a common plant in several different habitat types. (I would have to research more on uses for this plant, before using it. Since it is endemic to my region, I know it will thrive, and be there when I am comfortable enough to use it.)
- Cyanococcus: Commonly known as blueberries, they are perennial flowering plants with blue or purple–colored berries. They are classified in the section Cyanococcus within the genus Vaccinium; species mainly present in North America, Europe, and Asia. (The hubby uses blueberries a lot in his cooking, and it is something we have been wanting to put in our garden for quite some time. It’s great for urinary health.)
- Scrophularia: The family Scrophulariaceae comprises about 200 species of herbaceous flowering plants. Commonly known as figworts. Species of Scrophularia all share square stems, opposite leaves and open two-lipped flowers forming clusters at the end of their stems. The genus is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. (Scrophularia californica: california figwort is what I intend to plant; as it is ideal for my region.)
- Umbellularia: Commonly known as California bay. It is a large hardwood tree native to coastal forests of California, as well as to coastal forests extending into Oregon. (California bay leaf is stronger and spicier than the commonly used mediterranean bay leaf, used in cooking. We use a lot of bay leaves in our recipes, so a bay tree would be nice to have. Again, we have to consider what grows best here. It is also heavily used in traditional Native American medicine.)
The space I have to work with is 450 sq ft. Which means, I need to draft a grid plan and see where to put everything, most importantly if I have enough room for it all.
Now the first step is complete! I have compiled a list and set a goal. Exciting things are happening!
Thanks for reading friends. Until next time!