brand new magic miracle weight loss herb!

IMG_6444IMG_6443I am staggered by the sheer amount of claims out there for a magic health bullet. But even more so in the area of weight loss. There is a willing team of marketers working day and night to exploit our self-hatred, our body shame, our total confusion about health and our overwhelming desire to be “saved” from ourselves. This is NOT a holistic approach to health or weight loss. There is no magic weight loss herb. There is no combination of exotic supplements that is going to replace exercise. And why would you want to? The health benefits of exercise extend WAY beyond weight loss to cardiovascular health, stress reduction, community building and muscle building. There’s no community in a bottle of raspberry ketones, my friends.
So how DOES one lose weight then? I would argue that emotional work needs to be done. A long, slow process for some of uncovering our excuses, our misconceptions, and our addictions. That’s right, I said addictions–we are hooked on convenience, distraction and crap. No magic pill will get your ass out of a rut, it must be fought for. And fighting is the key-do you see yourself as a warrior, an athlete? I didn’t. How easy it was for me to live all up in the head, to seek comfort and avoid confrontation with reality. But the connection of body and mind is so abundantly clear and amazing that it can no longer be denied.
And there comes a point in life when one must say fuck it. When we have to FEEL the fear, to push through the crap that we cover ourselves up with like a blanket, go and go and go until you feel your burden lifting. Mom didn’t love you? Dad called you fat? You don’t have the “right” outfit?You couldn’t run the mile in high school? You really really like cheese? Let it go. Give it up.
Oh, there is pain involved. There may be tears, and pushback, and exhaustion. Bring a hankie. But one day you may just realize that noone gives a hoot if your arms are jiggling in Zumba!tm class, and others are so high on their own endorphins that they don’t even see you, and suddenly all that crap that held you back seems very insignificant. There is no feeling as empowering as finally asking oneself “What the heck was I so afaid of?!?”
It’s about taking our power back from advertising, from bullies, from judgement, from our own or others’ ideas of “perfection” and feeling, for real, what the body can do. Taking pride in our muscles, in our booty dances, in overcoming obstacles-both literally and figuratively! Feeling the wind in our hair and the sweat in our armpits and finding our own inner peace. Movement is medicine! It can help with many many common health problems-from digestion to insomnia to stress to poor circulation–which we currently throw buckets of pharmaceuticals and “natural” remedies at.
Herbs will NOT fix your repression, pills will NOT give you determination, supplements will NEVER address self loathing. 100 Dr. Oz shows won’t take your fear away. Action will.
And there are barriers–class, race, gender, disability-I understand the challenges our society places in front of us. Poverty. Junk food. Stereotypes. Accessibility. Seek and destroy barriers whenever possible. True wellness is not a “diet”, it’s a way of life. Movement, emotional processing, relaxation, vegetables, music, fresh air are all tools for us to use. Mantras can be helpful-mine is currently “I HAVE NO EXCUSES!” So build your own toolbox with what works for you! Ditch the grapefruit and the supercleanses, toss the hydroxycut and the magical bioslimmer fast and easy crap.
Seek and destroy, baby! It’s time to take our power back from those who wish to exploit us-for their own financial gain. And damn, girl-have some fun and shake that thang while you’re at it.

black haw kicks ass


One of my absolute favorite herbal medicines is Black Haw-Viburnum Prunifolium. It spent years in the Caprifoliaceae family amongst the lovely Honeysuckles and Elders but someone moved it to Adoxaceae, I’m going to need to mull about that one for a bit. The Viburnums are a pretty big bunch and also includes the more well-known Crampbark plus Nannyberry, Arrowwood Viburnum and Possumhaw. What’s a haw? It means fruit, as in “Hawthorne”. Oh, and it also means “a command to a horse, telling it to turn left”.  Just in case you’re reading this on horseback.

So Blackhaw-it’s a shrub. On the large side for a shrub, with opposite branches and it flowers in late spring with tiny flowers not unlike the Elder’s flowers. I’d call it cream color, and the bark is grey and sturdy. It is a common shrub in my area of upstate NY but is native to the whole northeast and midwest area and has been, in my experience, pretty easy to grow in a moist to medium area with part to full sun. I have yet to see it decimated by critters and the haws are not super desirable because they are mostly seed-one big flat seed in each dark purple haw, sometimes called a drupe amongst botanical types.

To make medicine I harvest bark and twigs, taking just a bit from each shrub so as to not be a jerk, and tincture it fresh. I use it both internally and externally. I will make a liniment with rubbing alcohol for external use only and a tincture with grain alcohol for both internal and external use.

My most important use of Black haw tincture is to address spasms and muscular tension. Our muscles spasm for various reasons-tension, dysmenorrhea, “charlie horse”, injury, overwork, asthma. I take a high dose-1/2 to 1 dropper-internally for menstrual cramps and I’ll do so every 2-4 hours if needed. But all types of so-called uterine colic responds to Black haw including the pain of endometriosis, fibroids, threatened miscarriage, afterbirth pains, ovulation pains, and -I haven’t tried this-but Winston says testicular pains.

“As a uterine tonic it is unquestionably of great utility”-King’s American Dispensatory. Yup.

The urinary tract also responds to Black haw and I’ve started to add it to my standard UTI formula of Alder/Monarda tincture if there is pain of a spasmodic nature.

I also use it in tension headaches. I will use it straight up or mixed with Crampbark and  Lobelia-a little bit internally, and a lot externally. In my first aid kit this blend is in a spray bottle-it is a great way to get tincture on places you can’t reach that well or-when you are in the throes of a debilitating tension headache or spasm- to just push the sprayer and avoid messing around with a dropper. I strongly recommend addressing tension and other headaches BEFORE they get bad, thus the joy of carrying such a blend about. Of course, no tincture will deal with all tension, and I recommend combining herbal treatment with deep breaths, tree time and whatever therapeutic practice works for you. My favorite meditation to use with Black haw is “let go”.
For neck pain I blend it with Goldenrod tincture-fresh flowering tops. Aviva Romm recommends adding Jamaican Dogwood bark for headache, which I love for menstrual headaches but is a bit more relaxing than some folks may want. Experimentation is always called for when formulating!

The Eclectics call it a specific for leg cramps and I have used it externally on very intense calf cramps to near-miraculous effect. It is indicated for restless legs, pregnancy induced leg spasm, pain from overwork or over exercise in all parts of legs, feet, and it has a place in back pain formulas.

Matthew Wood calls it a nutritive tonic which improves the powers of digestion and nutrition and Margi Flint indicated it for high blood pressure, these are 2 areas I have yet to explore but seem to make sense to me. 





Black haw is an ally which has been used for a long time and has no reported negative qualities that I’ve found. It is a special plant which I love in every way and which deserves a place in our forest gardens, in our first aid kits and medicine chests.