Herbal formulation as a swift boat.

“To create angular momentum, you can either spin a really big flywheel with a lot of mass slowly, or a smaller one very fast.”-Michael Vatalaro

I recently received an inquiry from a client about their laundry list of inputs, with the intention of adding more. It is a frequently asked question, actually.  And my response to this is not “hey, take this!” It is actually “hey, let’s get rid of all that baggage!”

I am an herbal editor.

I think what we remove is as important as what we add.

I don’t think we are suffering, collectively, from a lack of supplements.

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In this particular inquiry, the person was using/had recently used both pharmaceuticals and many popular “natural remedies” including Oil of Oregano, Grapefruit Seed extract and Colloidal Silver. These products have the power of promotion behind them, with hellish fear-based testimonials like “She was dying until she used the micro-particle colloidal silver!” and “We felt that God had led us to this information!” They are sold as forbidden cures that the government is attempting to pry from our extremely healthy hands in order to enforce BIG PHARMA HELL.

Anyway. I digress.

My suggestion is to get rid of all this crap. Forget about padding your “word count.” Like an editor, remove all the chaff and create something workable and elegant that makes sense. Because formulation is an art. Make each ingredient count.

I believe we can free the statue from the stone, if the statue is your ideal herbal protocol and the stone is an entire apothecary.

Believe me, I enjoy excess. I love a Victorian parlor filled with fainting couches, ornate gilded mirrors, murals of cherubs and mermaids, and 1,000 layers of velvet. But who is going to dust all of this crap? How can you run in that heavy dress? Some beautiful things are heavy and  can hold us back from exploration. We can love excess, yet see that we don’t want to live inside of it every day.

Simplicity in formulation is like the small boat which can change course very quickly, steer around obstacles and adapt to input. The small boat formula is adaptable. The large boat gets stuck or hits icebergs.

“We have another chance to navigate, perhaps in a slightly different way than we did yesterday.”-Jeffrey R Anderson

The great herbal formulator is an artist and a navigator.

What do these 2 paths have in common? An ability to see patterns. An ability to make connections that others are not making, to respond to your observations.  And the understanding of balance, of the aesthetics of a protocol.  When we are at sea, we must do more with less. Less but better, that is. Every drop of fresh water counts, every lime and chunk of hardtack. In design, the negative space is as important as the line. Holding back is as important as adding more.

And both are about seeing. Seeing things as they truly are. Seeing things from a different angle. Observing with your eyes, but with your whole self too.

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So we can ask ourselves:

-What is the goal of this suggestion or formula or protocol?

-What are my reasons for using  a “kitchen sink” formula or protocol?

-Is this plan clear or confusing?

-is it actually realistic and achievable?

-Are we building people up or overwhelming their systems with this input?

-could we do this with less?

-is there anything I can take away?

-are my claims ethical and truthful?

-Am I selling something that replaces rest, movement, nutrition, or tension release?

-am I making the best use of my skills or relying on excess products?

-are there any ideas that I can let go of?

One can sail smart or one can sail strong, and the leakier the boat the faster we need to sail. There may be a place for the quick and dirty protocol, or the last-ditch bailout. But ultimately i think embracing simplicity, specifics, problem-solving and UN-treating may help herbalism as a whole to move forward and create exciting new paths.

It is the space in-between, and allowing for that, which creates the room for bodies to fill in the gaps. And that is what herbalism means to me–the body healing itself, supported by plants. Light enough to travel.

“A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.”-Webb Chiles

And I believe a formulator is an artist whose medium is the plants.

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Celebrating herbs

Herbal products aren’t really a great substitute for actual human contact. I definitely suggest going outside and talking to people, family, friends, neighbors and even random strangers. But the tincture you bring home from an herbal event, the package of scented oil that shows up in your mailbox, the artisanal bitters or handcrafted muscle rub exchanged with a friend help extend the meaningful moments of connection with plants and people.
It’s a long cold winter here in upstate NY and I do miss the smells and tastes of fresh plants as well as the smells and tastes of herbalists-who tend to gather more in the summer.
So I consider these photos to be a celebration of the harvest, of the work we’ve done throughout the year and of the times we have gathered together or packaged up some goodies to send or share. It’s like, you know sports people? They have their jerseys and their giant #1 foam hands? Well, this is how I root for my team.
Often I focus on the medicinal properties of plants but the reality is that sometimes they are just good old-fashioned fun. And it’s an art. It’s a craft, and these are craftspeople who are making this stuff!
This is an art gallery.
I thought I’d share a small taste of my collection to honor those whose hands created this body of work, to honor the creativity, connection, persistence and joy. And most of all, to honor the plants that went into the jar.
To those who use their hands and craft plant medicines, gather and forage and blend, for business and for pleasure, I say this:
THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!
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January herb sale!

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Hello, my friends.
I will be downsizing my apothecary over the next 2 weeks.
This is a great time to stock up on handmade small-batch tinctures and oils!
I am offering a number of special sales in order to get these items into good homes.
I have 4 ounce sizes of the following tinctures, fresh plant in grain alcohol, grown by Fellow workers Farm or wildcrafted:
-Scullcap (scutellaria lateriflora)
-Usnea lichen
-Angelica root (archangelica)
-Tulsi (Holy Basil)
-Wild carrot seed (fresh seeds and flowers, Daucus carota)
-Goldenrod tops
-Lavender, fresh flowers
-Sage, fresh flower spikes
-Honeysuckle flowers (Lonicera tatarica)
-Monarda- fistulosa flowers in brandy, didyma flowers in grain
-Bidens bipinnata
-Aspen twigs
-Dandelion leaf
-Calendula flowers
-Lobelia inflata
-Elder berries
-Mugwort tops
-St John’s Wort flowering tops
-Mullein leaf
-Sweet Annie
-Blue Vervain tops
-Horsetail
-Turkey tail, double extraction
-Meadowsweet, fresh flowers

I also have a few oils, freshly dried plant matter infused in olive oil:
-White Pine resin
-Goldenrod tops
-St John’s Wort
-Sweet Birch twigs and bark
-Mugwort tops
-Calamus
These are all of limited quantity and while supplies last only. Inquiries welcome, I have very small amounts of a few others ready to be included.
All 4 ounce tinctures are 25.00, oils 20.00
If you buy four 4-ounce tinctures I’ll send you one extra as a bonus!
All 1 ounce tinctures are 5 for 30.00, choose 5 or I will send you a 5-item package of my choice, which may or may not be on this list.
Shipping is most likely2.00, 5.00 or a 12.00 flat rate box-or pick up here!
Order through e-mail (fellowworkersfarm@gmail.com) and Paypal or use this link:
http://www.fellowworkersfarm.bigcartel.com/products
Thank you!
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Updates, Specials and Little Nuggets

Wonderful people! I have made it to August and I have made many wonderful things for you.
I have a new set for August: a Fungi set!
This contains 3 items: a bag of dried Black Trumpet mushrooms for eating, a tincture of double-extraction Mushroom Blend (Reishi, Chaga and Turkey Tail) for immune support and a solid Black Trumpet scent–intense, woodsy and not for the faint of heart.This set provides an immersion in the world of Fungi for exploration and fun.
Sets are 30.00 and ship for 5.00!

black Trumpets!
black Trumpets!

@foragerstrong!
@foragerstrong!

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I also would like to announce a new line of restorative blends-tasty, gentle supportive elixirs for the body and mind.
Oatstorative: Milky Oats, Reishi, Scullcap
Rosestorative: Rosa Rugosa, Raw Cacao paste, vanilla, honeycomb
Florastorative: Hawthorne flower/leaf/berry, Linden leaf/flower, elder flowers
Chocostorative: raw Cacao paste, Milky Oats and Vanilla

One ounce elixirs are 10.00, or for the week of Tuesday August 5 to Monday August 11, I will offer four elixirs as a set for 30.00! (Please specify which 4.)
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Some other extra-fabulous elixirs I’ve got ready here are:

Blue Ruin, named after a Prohibition-era Gin drink, it’s a blend of fresh Scullcap, Blue Vervain and Violets. Relaxing!
Foothills elixir, Angelica, Roses, Orange, Calamus Rhizome, Currants, Maple.
I’ve got fine Rosa Rugosa and Rosa Multiflora elixirs made with my own honeycomb.

I’ve got Dandy Day elixir which combines entire dandelions-fresh flower, leaf and root-with fresh Oranges and chunks of honeycomb. (sticky, but in a good way.)

And of course I still have my award-winning Calamus bitters!
Just a taste of the apothecary, friends, I’ve got a vast inventory list and I’ll mx you up a special order on request.

Also, I will be at the IM4US conference in Portland, OR (www.IM4US.org) in September talking about bringing the JOYS of movement to the not-so-athletic and I will be at the Dandelion Seed Conference in Olympia, WA in October discussing Body image and why it matters to health care and Radherb convergence at Farmacy herbs in RI talking about niche herbal business and plant-walkin’!
Another class is in the works for me at the awesome new Providence Bodywork School in Providence RI, date yet to be determined.
I hope to see y’all there, and if you’d like to make an order go right to the source by e-mailing me: Fellowworkersfarm@gmail.com ( I use PayPal) or use this link to my Local Harvest store!

http://www.localharvest.org/holiday-special-order-3-tinctures-or-set-C23759
I thank you all fondly for your continuing support, it is my pleasure to share my treasured plants with you.

A Little Ode to Herbal Elixirs

I have been making more elixirs here lately. I tend to make mostly very “serious” tinctures- very strong single-plant extracts with a high proof clear alcohol and very little stuff and nonsense- I never make “kitchen sink” style combos. But. I have learned that I like exploring–combining a bit here and there. A rooty bitters blend, a relaxing summer nervine blend or a soothing multi-resin massage oil. 

I am always on the lookout for plant combinations that may be interesting–it sharpens the observational skills and spurs creativity. I find that harvesting plants has an element of intimacy, of communication and that is what I wish to communicate with my elixirs. I am finding that this sensual input is sacred, it is nourishing, and elixirs can be an expression of that!

So, what is an elixir anyway? I see them as a liquid (usually alcoholic) preparation, based on one or a few herbs which includes something sweet (think a splash of honey or fruit, not soda-sweet) and uses our creative interpretations of taste to maximize on the taste-properties of the plant. So ideally, the sweetness is bringing out the properties of something– not covering anything up.

I see elixirs as building, toning, adding and balancing to body and mind. There may be a focus on sensuality and grounding or relaxing and gently supporting thought or creativity. I believe it is a good idea to stop and have a thought or two about what you are trying to accomplish with it in order to build a great combo.

Moving beyond the practicalities, let’s get into the poetry. Elixirs can be a voice of the plants merging with the art of the medicine maker. If a tincture is a technical drawing, useful and sturdy, an elixir is a soft-focus landscape, a watercolor, an installation…a sacred merging. The plant artist merely gilds the Lily of taste, adds a touch of expression to what is already there. You should taste the restraint.

Elixirs are tangible but they are also an idea. Each one is a portal which requires a bit of imagination to truly appreciate. An elixir can be based on a legend or myth, a story or hope, a magical idea come to life, a liquid representation of pollination or of life force incarnate–plant sex in your mouth and in your brain. It  speaks poetically of the will to live and to survive. 

An elixir is a gift from earth to plant, from plant to medicine maker and from medicine maker to community and should be received with an open mind. It contains a darkness to explore-as plants, people and the earth all do.

Ultimately I see an elixir as an acknowledgement of some of the layers of communication going on between plants and beings–scents, tastes, shapes are all pointing us towards ideas and actions, cycles of life and nature, beliefs and openings in the armor.

Ripeness speaks. Pollination tunes up its orchestra. Sweetness sings.

Elder and Rosa Rugosa
Elder and Rosa Rugosa
Angelica
Angelica
Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy
Sweet Cicely
Sweet Cicely
Sweetfern
Sweetfern
Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle
raspberry
raspberry
Cacao-Rose
Cacao-Rose

 

Calamus Lover’s Set is now ready!

I am excited to announce the first of a series of one-plant sets designed to help herbalists and herb enthusiasts get to know a plant or deepen an existing plant relationship. The Calamus set is:
-a one-ounce tincture of the award-winning Calamus Bitters which combines fresh Calamus (Acorus calamus) root with currants, maple and vanilla. (Contains alcohol.) Straight Calamus tincture is available for the truly hardcore Calamus-obsessed.)
-a two-ounce jar of Calamus rub. This is Calamus root and leaf warm-infused into olive oil with a splash of Calamus essential oil. For external use only.
-a two-ounce tin of dried Calamus for chewing, carrying, making something with or hanging out with in your own way. Right now both coins and pieces are available if requested.
This comes in a little bag with a Calamus-print card.
How can you get it?
E-mail Traci at fellowworkersfarm@gmail.com! There is a limited amount of sets available. They cost 30.00 and shipping is 3.00. You can Paypal or propose another method. Please contact me directly for all questions.
I also have tincture, rub and various sized pieces available separately upon special request.
This Calamus is hand-harvested in Canaan, NY, hand processed and packaged. Bitters contain local currants and maple.
And if Calamus is not your most beloved ally, the next set will be…Angelica!

Tins of Calamus for chewing.
Tins of Calamus for chewing.

Calamus Lover's set
Calamus Lover’s set

Calamus coins, 2 oz. tin
Calamus coins, 2 oz. tin

Left: pieces, right: coins
Left: pieces, right: coins

Calamus rub
Calamus rub

little bag
little bag

Little pouch of chewing sticks
Little pouch of chewing sticks

This is What a Medicine Maker Looks Like

I am a medicine maker. I grow plants on a tiny farm, forage and gather plants on land (which shall not be identified) and I process my harvest into herbal medicines. I also distribute these medicines and talk about them to everyone who can’t outrun me.

"If a sunbeam wounds me I shall succumb on the moss."-Arthur Rimbaud
“If a sunbeam wounds me I shall succumb on the moss.”-Arthur Rimbaud

Sometimes I overhear people talk about going back to the land, farming or foraging and living a more “natural” life. I feel like it is nearly impossible to grasp what this “feels” like until you do it.
It is so easy to disparage land-lovers as dirty hippies–and I am indeed soiled– or romanticize the relationship plant folks have with their land. The truth is, as usual, somewhere in between.

This shade of purple MUST be able to fix something!
This shade of purple MUST be able to fix something!

I can imagine nothing more authentic for myself than my relationship with the plants I love. I am deeply grateful that hunting for a root or mixing up an elixir is my JOB. It is not always easy–folks on the receiving end don’t always grasp that I am a tiny business or the variables within that paradigm. I run out of bubble wrap and my Blessed Thistle seeds all float away. It pours rain and I fall over and the TSA confiscates my darn Felcos. But mainly I am very very lucky to be able to serve.
bark of Liriodendron
bark of Liriodendron

But more than serving the plants, which I love, and serving the humans, also interesting, I am thankful to be an example of what a medicine maker looks like. I am saying, with my being, that we can do this! I am healing our idea of WHAT medicine IS. And I do not mean to discount standard Western medicine. Not at all. I mean to expand it. Expand our vision of what is possible. Expand our vision of WHO makes medicine, and where, and how. Expand our feeling about medicines, our connections to medicines and our medicinal lineages, rivers that have ebbed and merged but still DO flow.

Birch bones.
Birch bones.

There is still value in a medicine that has my hands in it, my heart in it and perhaps a memory of the soil it grew in. I accept the responsibility of making medicine with nothing less than joy, I go out to dig and snip and gather with a mission dammit a purpose and thank you, friends, for helping me to heal myself too. I am feeling grateful for the community support and the opportunity to contribute. Heck I even go to the post office with joy because life is just too darn short to lose sight of my mission. I love how there are multiple ways to BE and various ways to heal!
So thank you, friends and community, thank you for listening, for your support and sharing.
Yes, it's Poke.
Yes, it’s Poke.

Fetid cabbage!

Ah, spring. A time of muddy pants and chilly streams, rebirth and almost-losing-boots, discovery and fresh air. Here is a photo story of my recent Eastern Skunk Cabbage
(Symplocarpum foetidum!) root harvest. This is NOT about how to use it, though i have provided a GREAT link about use, this is just about the sheer joy of mucking about with plant allies!

http://greenmanramblings.blogspot.com/2009/09/swampy-medicine-for-swampy-lungs.html

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Angel with her root
Angel with her root

Lauren
Lauren

the creature
the creature

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black haw kicks ass

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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.