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Hi Friends,

THIS JUST IN:   Radicle the business will be transplanted this Summer from Seattle to Spokane, WA. The Radicle Review will remain at this original location in cyberspace.

How will this affect you? Well, if you just read the plog, it will likely affect you very little aside from probably having more to read every month. If you purchase Radicle’s Excellent Extracts or herbal products you are also in luck. I will be shipping orders direct from Spokane, and I will now have a public location in which to sell my products- The South Perry Farmers Market! From July 7th on, I will have a booth every Thursday at the market. So come on down and chat, sip some tea and pick up your herbal tonics, balms, salves, oils and medicinal honey’s all hand crafted by yours truly.  Here is a link to the market’s facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/South-Perry-Farmers-Market/118908248137385

Plant Kingdom

Sadly, this means that I won’t be offering classes in the Seattle area this season, though I may pop back over next year for a weekend workshop or two. If you would like to get on my mailing list for updates, please contact me at radicletea@gmail.com. Spokanites- I will be an herbalist in residence in your city as of July 1. For classes, consultations and the like, see the contact above.

Thanks Seattle, and lets keep in touch.

Love, Your trans-Washington herbalist, Sarah P.

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Dear Readers,
The days are growing slightly longer and the plants of Seattle are beginning to awaken. I thought it fitting that the Radicle Review should also come out of hibernation, to chronicle the first signs of spring. I promise not to gloat to all of you that are still icebound- just try to vicariously experience spring through this plog*, spring will come to you as well.
This weekend I am planning a foraging trip to hunt for the last deep winter roots of the season, those of the ubiquitous Oregon Grape. I use these bright yellow roots in my Tri-Wizard Tincture.  Tri-Wiz is Radicle’s top selling remedy for the common cold, a powerful combination of Oregon grape root (Mahonia nervosa), Yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica), and Red root (Ceonothus sp.). Yes, this tincture’s name is a Harry Potter reference, and yes, it works like magic. More on that later.  Stay tuned for next weeks instructional post- “How To Gather Oregon Grape Roots- a pictorial guide.”

p.s I missed you guys.

Hellebore, the proverbial early bloomer.

*Plant Log

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A rather dreary 4th of July here in Seattle. It’s raining at present and we’ve got the heat on. I imagine patriots huddled around the warmth of small explosions, sparklers sputtering. I am off to gather St. John’s Wort this weekend, and with morale waning in the NW as the long days of “summer” are pissed away in a grey drizzle,  I thought it fitting to dredge up an article out of the Radicle Review’s printed archives to address the ennui of my people (and, obviously, the author). This writing on the use of St. John’s Wort will be discussed in two parts. (Hang in there!)

Part one- A Real Saint

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is one of those plants that is easy to overlook.  Despite the fact that it grows almost anywhere (covering meadows, cheerfully assembled along roadsides, a lone plant catching the roof runoff in a parking lot), few know this plant by sight.  It often falls into the category of LYF’s, or Little Yellow Flowers.  Never mind that if you look at an individual flower among the profusion on each plant, you’ll find an absolutely charming specimen. Closer examination reveals cute red freckles adorning each blindingly yellow petal. The stamens sport a jaunty tuft of pollen atop their points. The leaves are diminutive, though they are many in number, and in overall effect the plant seems to say, “Go for the flowers”.  This is exactly what I do.
The flowers contains hypericin (once thought to be the “active constituent”, now known as one of many), which is responsible for the dramatic staining of your picking fingers.  A little yellow flower turns the tips of your fingers a dark purple red!  I suppose you could wear gloves, but I enjoy being marked by this plant (this differs somewhat from my position on the picking of Stinging Nettles).  You can gauge the quality of a St. John’s Wort product by the depth of the color.  The tincture should be beautiful- dark but transparent like a jewel, the oil should be a deep earthy red.
The most popular use of St. John’s Wort is of course, as an antidepressant. It exerts a demonstrable effect on seratonin levels and in early clinical trials was proven to be as effective as the popular antidepressants of the time, with far fewer side effects and a wide parameter of safe usage.  It continues to be one of the most widely used medicinal herbs despite all of the hullabaloo surrounding it.
St. John’s Wort’s specialty is transforming mildly obsessive negative states of mind in the blink of an eye.  I am not talking about serious mental illness here- I am talking about repetitive thought patterns that do nothing to improve your situation.  To my knowledge every one has these from time to time, though some of us are more prone than others.
Just a dropperful or two of the fresh plant tincture promotes a lifting of sadness and feelings of futility, especially during the winter months when sunlight deprivation causes grim emotional states.  I have employed it with success in those who have seasonal affective disorder or SAD.  I recommend taking it for a few weeks at a time.
Now, St. John’s Wort is not a powerful psychoactive drug that can cause dependence.  You don’t have to carefully wean yourself off of it. It doesn’t alter your brain chemistry in such a way as to paint a smile on your face while your spirit drifts away. While some antidepressant drugs can fracture your ability to understand yourself and what needs to be changed in your life, St. John’s Wort can support the emotional growth process*. (*This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA).
Generally speaking, if St. John’s Wort is going to work for you, it is apparent almost immediately.  I have felt results from a very small dose (i.e. 5-10 drops of the fresh tincture) in a matter of minutes. Sometimes that is all it takes to set your head straight.  For those with long standing existential sadness, you may want to take it every day for a while. It is restorative to the nervous system after periods of intense stress, depression or depletion from illness or malnutrition.  When you are feeling burned out and weak and dark thoughts have invaded, St. John’s Wort can bolster your spirits.
One under-appreciated property of St John’s Wort (there are so many!)  is it’s ability to heal nerve damage from injury and tissue trauma.  St. John’s Wort can actually promote the re-growth of the myelin sheath in cases where the nerve has been completely severed!  The infused oil of this plant works great as a topical treatment for neuralgia and various neuropathies as well as general inflammation and pain. St. John’s Wort oil stars in my Sore Muscle Salve for its’ nerve-regenerating properties.  For those of you dealing with severe nerve pain (e.g sciatica, etc.), I usually recommend taking the tincture internally and applying the oil or salve externally.  St. John’s wort also demonstrates anti-viral properties. As you might imagine, it works really well for viruses that affect the nerves, like herpes for instance. A blend of equal parts St. John’s Wort, Echinacea, Lemonbalm and Burdock tinctures is my proven formula for recurrent herpes and shingles outbreaks.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of the Radicle Review. Stay tuned for part two of our examination of St. John’s Wort!  Next week we will tackle the overblown precautions in taking this fine herb (for the fair and balanced reporting you’ve come to expect from the RR), and I will dazzle you with photographs.

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As if to tragically illustrate the importance of botanical literacy, a Washingtonian died recently as a result of not learning her local flora.  Last month a Seattle news station ran as story about a woman from Tacoma that died after eating Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) thinking that it was “something else”.  Now, you know that I don’t like to inspire fear about plants- in fact my whole mission is to promote people- plant relations. However, this relationship requires KNOWING who you are dealing with and I’m not going to lie, the Hemlocks are the bad seeds of the plant world.

Here’s the rub- We’ve got three different species called hemlock here in Western Washington. One is the benevolent Western Hemlock, a coniferous tree that doesn’t bother nobody. The other two, Poison Hemlock and Water Hemlock are famously toxic and not to be trifled with.
Water Hemlock is the deadliest plant in North America. All parts of it are toxic and can be fatal if ingested, but the root is the most potent, eating just a 1/4 inch piece of the root can cause convulsions, paralysis, foaming at the mouth and death. Poison Hemlock causes severe respiratory distress, paralysis and will cause your lungs to collapse, bringing about your demise within a few hours.
Don’t f–k with Hemlock, seriously.

The problem with Hemlock is:
1. They grow everywhere! Water Hemlock (Cicuta douglasii) grows by water, Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) grows everywhere else.
2. To the untrained eye, they look like a bunch of things that we can eat. The Hemlocks are in the same botanical family as popular favorites like carrots, parsley, anise, lovage, angelica, and parsnips to name a few. The Apiaceae family (formerly the Umbelliferae family, a name which is a bit more illustrative of the defining characteristic) has flower heads that look a bit like the skeleton of an umbrella. They share many other characteristics such as hollow stems, lacy leaves and a penchant for being either delicious, medicinal or deadly.
If you have even a cursory interest in gathering plants from the wild, this is one to know. Perhaps the one to know, as there are few others that will as swiftly end your time on earth. I counsel my students to just avoid gathering any plants in this family until they are very comfortable definitively identifying the hemlocks.  A cavalier attitude with this plant can be fatal, so don’t be a hippie about this.
Here are some photos of Poison Hemlock (please conduct an image search of Water Hemlock (Cicuta douglasii) after reading this text.) I urge you to stare at them until they are burned into your retinas and then avoid gathering anything remotely resembling them unless you have a confirmed ID on the plant. I do encourage you take a class or guide book and go out looking for the Hemlocks just to familiarize yourself and pay your respects.  Here are some key points to remember:
Poison Hemlock- (Conium maculatum) This one has leaves that look a bit like a carrot. “Lacy” we call them, which means the leaves are very finely divided and innocent looking. Like a nice delicate fern even, but DO NOT BE FOOLED! The flowers are born on umbels in little clusters, they are white and cute and also do not appear menacing in any way. This one has hollow stems which are commonly (but not always!) mottled with purple spots, which does give you a clue about it’s less wholesome qualities, I think.  It can grow up to 10 feet tall! (See it towering above me in the photo for scale.)

Water Hemlock- (Cicuta douglasii) This one looks more like a nice Italian Parsley crossed with Marijuana. It has flat compound leaves that are sharply toothed. Water Hemlocks like the murky places, on the edges of streams and wet ditches. It has a green or purple tinged stalk that is thicker at the base, and if you were to cut it open it would reveal chambers (of doom) inside. The flowers are similar to the Poison Hemlock, but a more densely clustered. The arrangement of the leaf veins is the key characteristic. The leaf veins end IN BETWEEN the teeth on the leaves, rather than at the tip. BUT- many plants look like this one, so don’t mess around.

Discalimer:  Reading this in no way prepares you to pick plants that resemble these guys, okay? You are not checked out on the Apiaceae family until you’ve had further training in basic botany and are in possession of a good field guide.

To recap: Not knowing your local plants can be dangerous.  There are plants that are harmful or poisonous if ingested, but those that have gone before us have bravely mapped out which ones (oftentimes giving them handy names like “POISON” hemlock). So, there’s really nothing to fear.

This Public Service Announcement has been brought to you by the Radicle Community Herb School. * Just to brag here, none of my students have EVER died by fatal plant poisoning!

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With Sarah P, Your trusty plant guide

Are you taking hawthorne tincture, nettle capsules, or dandelion tea? Have you ever wanted to meet these plants face to flower? It’s exhilarating to meet herbs growing wild and free where you can see who they are! (They’re Alive!). I lead Plant Walks in Seattle parks to unite you with the living beings that you might be popping every morning in capsule form. My last Plant Walk in Discovery Park was a success! and it strengthened my resolve to spread the gospel of plant recognition.

There are a number of reasons why learning about your local plants is a good idea. From a philosophical standpoint, I consider botanical literacy to be a basic life skill. Having a basic knowledge of the plants that you can eat and use as medicine and how to pick, prepare, and administer them is just being a good cub scout.

From an herbalist’s perspective, it really changes the way you think about herbal medicine when you know the plants you are using. Just to be able to conjure up an image of the plant- perhaps as it’s growing in its favorite habitat, in its particular fashion, or how its flower smells-  these details are part of the healing.  Plants are complicated polypharmacy, yes. They are a dizzying cocktail of potent chemicals. Most of our original medicines came from these compounds due to their profound effect upon our physiology. But the real power of herbal medicine lies in the fact that plants are alive! You can have a relationship with them. And I believe you already do. They have been responding to our needs and desires for millions of years, adapting to and with us. Plants and humans are friends! Just being in their company relaxes our nervous system and lowers our blood pressure.  Being on familiar terms with the plants you take as medicine taps into these other mechanisms of healing that operate beyond the physical level.

It doesn’t take much to rekindle our millions-of-years-old direct relationship with plants- just noticing the plants around you is a great start. Spend some time with them. Being able to see a plant growing right in front of you, sucking up nutrients with its mysterious pumping mechanism, sending down sugars that it manufactured from solar energy, waving in the breeze (and all while smelling great!).  This is all that it usually takes to change your mindset from regarding herbs as weak drugs to living, breathing partners in our lives on this earth. It’s easy to overlook their importance, but not only do plants provide us with food and medicine, every second of the day they are quietly completing the other half of our respiration.
Dare I say, our better half?

Now, to insert myself into this process, having a plant guide is crucial to learning your plants. It really helps to have someone who loves them point out their riveting beauty, distinctive botanical characteristics, and medicinal properties.  On my plant walks we also discuss how to pick them, what part is used medicinally and proper dosing patterns, should you decide to gather and prepare you own herbal medicines. Or the cautious among you may just want to see me eat a bit of the plant before you go out there and try it on your own (perfectly reasonable).

If you are interested in attending a plant walk in Seattle in the future, send me an email at radicletea@gmail.com. Classes are on-going throughout the spring and summer. I hope to see you out there!

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