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News flash 2014

Hello Radicles,

 You may have noticed a long period of silence between my last post and this one, but I assure you I haven’t been idle. As I write this, I am sitting under a pile of sleeping babies. Two babies, to be exact. Yes, I now have 6 week old twins!  We are all happy and healthy and I’m loving every minute with them. The babesHere’s an adorable picture of the babes to tide you over until I can post another intellectually stimulating article about plants (it might be a while). It turns out, two babies is a rather lot.

Pictured here: Javier Cypress (L) and Frances Hawthorne (R). Hale and hearty herbal babies!

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If I find it hard to speak of the medicinal properties of ‘herbs’ to a certain type of person, without getting a conspiratorial wink and them saying “Yeah, I know of one herb with medicinal properties, huh huh huh huh huh (laughter)”, imagine the delicacy with which I must proceed in announcing that I also sell mushrooms- MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS.  I’m not going to lie, mushrooms are special, weird, and some are psychedelic. But there are a few species in particular that must be taken seriously. Therefore, in the following article, if you detect an air of cool factuality when discussing said mushrooms, it is so that we may examine them in the rational light of day rather than under a trippy black light. You feel me?

So, lets explore some of the non-consciousness-shifting properties of the world of fungi. I’d like to begin with one of my personal favorites for enjoying ordinary reality, The Royal Reishi.

Reishi mushroom is a polypore. This type of mushroom is dense and hard, usually found growing on trees, and not at all lending itself to be sauteed in butter and eaten on a steak. According to Chinese medicine, where the virtues of Reishi have been extolled for over 4000 years, there are at least 6 varieties of Reishi mushroom, classified according to color, and possessed of different medicinal properties.  We will be focusing on the use of the Red Reishi, Ganoderma lucidum, which grows around the world, even in the US, but sadly, not my corner of it. It is frequently cultivated, however, and much easier to find in commerce than the other varieties. We do have two species to be found in the NW, Ganoderma tsugae and G. oregonense, both of which grow on conifers- and so rare I have yet to see one in the wild (but, to be fair, I am mostly looking at green things, which makes me a terrible mushroomer).reishi 1

Here is why you should be taking Reishi mushroom (the short list):

Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms have a remarkable trait in common. Due to the presence of certain chemical constituents, mainly polysaccharides and triterpenes, Reishi mushrooms are immunomodulators. This means that they exhibit the unique ability to stimulate a depressed or weakened immune system, or dampen and calm excessive immune function, as in the case of auto-immune conditions. This makes them appropriate for nearly any immune dysfunction, and one of the only herbal treatments for auto-immune conditions. In this same vein, Reishi can sedate the hyperactive immune cells that create allergies and arthritis, thereby acting as an anti-inflammatory when your immune system is causing a ruckus.

Medicinal mushrooms have gotten a lot of well deserved attention for their anti-oxidant and anti-cancer benefits. Reishi is a potent anti-oxidant that helps protect healthy cells from free radicals and inhibits the growth of certain cancer cells. Its chemical arsenal targets and kills cancer cells through activation of the immune system. I use Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms as long term immune tonics with cancer patients and survivors with good effects.

Reishi is also a tonic to the heart, helping lower both blood pressure and cholesterol, a rather useful trait. It’s also protective of the liver and lungs. It is especially useful for chronic bronchitis, allergic asthma and altitude sickness, as it improves oxygenation of the blood.

Here’s where we get a bit metaphysical- Reishi is known as Ling zhi or ‘Spirit plant’, in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has also been referred to as the “herb of spiritual potency”. It is used for disturbances in the spirit, heart and mind, known collectively as ‘shen’ in TCM. In clinical practice, this means Reishi is used for anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and hyper-emotionalism. I think of Reishi for people that suffer from excessive mental activity, but who’s energies are so scattered that they rarely accomplish anything. This mushroom is clarifying and grounding for those prone to confusion and unsteadiness, with mental agitation and an underlying state of exhaustion and depletion. It is not difficult to find people in need of Reishi.

Wild Reishi has always been in rather short supply.  In ancient China, it was often reserved for the emperor or other important people in the high court. Ancient Chinese medical texts refer to Reishi as ‘the plant of immortality’ and it’s reported to make you live forever. Don’t let the obvious holes in this argument throw you off, like the fact that everyone who wrote this stuff has been dead for centuries. It’s reputation for extending and improving life may not be that far off the mark, considering how it protects the body from inflammation, oxidation, heart disease and cancer in one fell swoop.

To prepare Reishi extract, I make a double extraction out of the dried mushrooms- a two part process that involves extracting first the water soluble chemicals, then the alcohol soluble ones, and combining the two. The capsules are also valuable medicinally. Traditionally the tea was taken daily, but I find that the bitter, sour, flavor makes it impossible for me to do so. The dose varies based on the condition, but a good tonic dose, to be taken over a period of months or years is as follows:reishi 2

Tea (good luck with this one) <gag> 1-3 C per day
Tincture- 60-90 drops 2-4X per day
Capsules- Three 500-1000mg capsules 1-3X per day

Contraindications: Don’t use mushrooms if you have a mushroom allergy (obviously).
And be cautious using Reishi with blood thinning medication, as it may potentiate this effect.

You will find Radicle Reishi offered singularly or in the following formulas:

Mighty Mushrooms: A blend of Reishi, Maitake, Chaga, Turkey tail, and Shitake Mushrooms, for the long term tonic effects of medicinal mushrooms. This blend enhances Reishi’s broad spectrum immune-regulating, anti-cancer actions and further supports liver, lung, and heart health. I could write volumes about all the other fungal heroes in here, but that’s for another day.
Dose: 60-90 drops 2-3X per day

Pollen Proof: For allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma. Decongests respiratory passages and regulates excessive immune response to seasonal and environmental allergens. Contains: Reishi mushroom, Fresh Turmeric rhizome, Fresh Nettle leaf, Yerba Mansa root, Yerba Santa leaves in a base of grain alcohol, water and Glycerin. This can be taken daily before allergy season begins and acutely as needed. (It’s really best to preempt the pollen season.)

Dose: Maintenance 30-90 drops 2X per day
Acute: 30-90 drops 1-5X/day
That should keep you off the ‘hard stuff’.

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Elder Sambucus spp.

When you come across an Elder in the wild, it is difficult to tell if it is a tree or a bush. Its leggy, hollow branches bend and sway, sporting delicate sprays of flowers in early spring and laden with heavy clusters of fruit by fall (A bush! you’d think). Yet in maturity it towers over you with a rather commanding presence (A tree, perhaps?). In the literature and folklore discussing Elders, both terms are used. Though I can’t imagine that Elder actually prefers one to the other, I find ‘tree’ to be a little more flattering, and I will explain shortly why I strive to be polite in my dealings with this particular plant.

Elders grow all over the world and have been used medicinally for thousands of years. In Medieval times, nearly every part of the Elder tree was used for different medicinal properties (bark, leaf, flower, berries)*.  Perhaps because of this prodigious usefulness, clever Elder devised an ingenious strategy for protecting itself.  There is a persistent superstition throughout Europe and the British Isles that something terrible will befall you if you disrespect an Elder tree. Where did this idea spring from? I am not pointing fingers, but only the Elder tree itself stands to gain. This dark glamour is still effectively protecting Elders from abuse in the Old Country, where reportedly even loggers refuse to cut them down. (Well played, Elder!)Blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea)

Though I feel I’m on good terms with all the plants I pick, this is clearly not one to be trifled with.  I take great pains to gather the powder blue berries of our native Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) in late summer, snipping each cluster very precisely, so as not to snap one of the hollow supporting stems (and possibly become cursed). Note: The Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), native to Western Washington is not edible or medicinal (but still magical).

Elders command respect, and like another of my slightly standoffish plant friends, Stinging Nettle, they have earned it. We need their medicine.  Throughout our long history with Sambucus, it has evolved a unique set of chemicals that allow it to be as wicked as it wants and we’ll forgive. You see, Elder is a foe to the dreaded flu.

This is how it seems to go- chemicals in Elderberry disarm the spikes on viruses that allow the influenza virus to stab into your cell and inject it with viral babies. (If you aren’t scared of the flu yet, do a little research on viral infections and replication–it’s terrifying!) Anyway, Elder just snaps that little viral arm right off and it can’t do its evil viral business in your cells anymore! (It‘s a little more complicated than I am making it seem, it’s more of an enzymatically mediated arm breaking than a literal one).  Researchers have recently discovered that taking the syrup of Elderberry reduces the duration of the flu to just 3-4 days in most cases and promotes increased levels of antibody production. It has been shown in in-vitro studies to be effective at inhibiting ten different strains of the influenza virus!  I have made an Elder syrup that combines the immunostimulating, viral arm-disabling, antibody-boosting properties of Elderberry with the gentle but powerful diaphoretic** effects of the Elder flower.  Here at the Radicle lab, I make a Black Elderberry glycerite (Sambucus nigra) and a Blue Elderberry tincture (Sambucus cerulea) and they both taste lovely (Thanks, Elder!). With flu season in full swing, I recommend stocking your medicine cabinet full of fine preparations such as these. Most of us have lowered resistance this time of year after battling some of the more common viruses, and that’s when the dastardly flu attacks. This season- Fight Back with Elderberries!

Elder flower
*A word of caution: Though the medicinal properties of Elder leaf, root and bark are espoused in many ancient texts, I cannot recommend taking them internally for any reason. These plant structures contain tricky compounds that are violent purgatives, laxatives and emetics. There have even been cases of poisoning from the leaves and stems due to the presence of active cyanide-like compounds. Only the flowers and blue or black berries from a properly identified Elder plant are safe to ingest.
**A diaphoretic is a substance that reduces fever by causing you to sweat. While the standard practice is to suppress a fever,  herbalists tend to support the process, encouraging its quick resolution. Unless a fever becomes dangerously high, fevers are healthy response and play an important role in disrupting viral takeover.

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Dear Readers,

Here’s one from the vault! This article appeared in my very first issue of the Radicle Review in 2008 (printed on paper back then, if you can believe it!). You will see that I have moved ever nearer to my beloved Hawthorne patch in NE Washington, where I am writing to you from now. I’ve finished up the Haw harvest once again this year, and have gallons of cordials and tinctures made from it. I am, as always, smitten with this plant, and I may just drink them all myself if you don’t claim some.

Crategus douglasii (among many other species)
The featured plant in this issue is the Hawthorne tree.  Hawthorne is a native to North America, though there are a few European escapees that have naturalized here, and the ever-popular varieties that are sold in nurseries as ornamentals. Many of these are also medicinal, and I have used the cultivated Hawthorne in the past with success as well as the wild, which I prefer.  I traveled last month to North Eastern Washington in a mad dash to gather ripe Hawthorne berries in order to make my famous Hawthorne Cordial.  Since Hawthorne grows abundantly throughout Washington, I did debate this long journey eastward as an impractical use of my time, seeing as how I could probably obtain them closer to home. However, I am nothing if not impractical, and I am partial to these particular trees that are growing on my friend Phyllis‘ land.  So, familiarity won out, and I made the trek across the North Cascades Highway, gathering wild ginger and pipsissewa from high in the mountains as I went.

Phyllis’ property is at elevation, a large meadow bordered by a beautiful stream to one side and a forested area to the other.  It rained the night before, but the grasshoppers had returned to the eternal chirping that signals the end of summer. One step through the tall grass sends hundreds (seemingly) leaping hither and thither, just to fall in the path of your next step, and so on and so forth.   The Hawthornes grow on the edges of the meadow, on the banks of the stream and edge of the forest. They look like tall shrubs when they are young, only after many years do their trunks require you to acknowledge them as a proper tree. They tend to grow closely together in a clump or thicket, with their thorny branches hanging low, protecting the heart of the tree.  The thorns appear more wicked and bloodthirsty than they actually are, and I am rarely stabbed when I gather the abundant, reddish black berries that hang in clusters off the branches.  Hawthorne doesn‘t wish to harm anyone, it just knows how to protect itself.  This, it turns out, is one of its virtues.
Herbalists know Hawthorne to be a superior heart tonic. Unlike many herbs, which exert equal influence on multiple organ systems, Hawthorne’s effect is direct and focused on the cardiac muscle. The activity of this plant is a mystery to science, as only the whole plant preparations show any physiologic effect (a confounding trait when you are focused on isolating the active constituent and removing it from its crude form- tree form, in this case).  Though it won’t reveal its secrets, the effects are predictable.  Therapeutically, Hawthorne dilates blood vessels and arteries, increasing blood supply to the heart muscle, and reducing spasms and the likeliness of a heart attack.  It is also effective in relieving shortness of breath, tachycardia (rapid pulse), brachycardia (slow pulse), and the general effects of aging on your most important pump. In combination with other herbs it is useful in treating both hypertension and arteriosclerosis, and many other heart related disorders. The berries contain flavonoids that are both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.  Hawthorne nourishes and tones the heart muscle, I like to think of it as heart food. As you can see by the broad range of effects, Hawthorne is an all-purpose heart herb, capable of normalizing function depending on what is needed. It can dampen excessive function or nourish and support deficient function.  And you don‘t even have to tell it what to do, it just knows!  This is but one example of the intelligence of plant medicine. (After having evolved with plants over hundreds of thousands of years, you could say that the plant kingdom has got our number).

Through my many dealings with the plant, I have found Hawthorne to promote openheartedness and soften grief and anger.  I give Hawthorne not only to those who suffer from heart related pathology, but also those that are working on developing courage and maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships.  If I may borrow liberally from Chinese Medicine, Hawthorne seems to strengthen what is called the ‘Heart Protector’, and therefore ones ability to allow experiences and emotions to touch the heart without damaging the person.  Our defenses must be intact but permeable so that life can penetrate and change us. As Hawthorne demonstrates with it’s thorns just visible beneath a protrusion of berries, true generosity has limits.  An attempt to ravage the tree would leave you rightly shredded. Indeed, a healthy level of self-protection is what allows us to remain open and giving without fear.

As I gathered berries that day in the meadow, I ran across a disturbingly large pile of fresh bear droppings, studded with partially digested Hawthorne berries!  It seems that humans are not the only creature to make use of this tree’s generosity. I nervously finished picking and packed my things to go, hoping that this particular bear may have been a little less prone to an irrational burst of anger and dismembering after its meal of medicinal berries?  As I did not catch a glimpse of the bear, we can imagine Hawthorne engenders a sense of rational self-protection and equanimity in bears as well.
The effects of this gentle, safe plant are felt (in humans) after a month or so of continuous use, so do not expect a quick fix. However, the benefits are long lasting and it has no recorded side effects.  I suggest those with clinical heart conditions try my Hawthorne Heart Tonic, a blend of the fresh flowering tips and the dried berries.   Those who wish to work on the emotional heart primarily will enjoy a nip of my Hawthorne Cordial each evening.  You will be pleased to know that both are ranked among the most palatable of all of my creations.

TROUBLED? DOWN? TAKE HEART! TAKE HAWTHORNE HEART TONIC!

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This spring violets are in! (In season, that is). You’ll see them sprouting up in yards, marshy places, stream-sides, and on the edges of moist forests. They are a must-have for your home medicine chest and oh, so seasonal.

Violet leaves and flowers are a spring delicacy. They are abundant in the most mundane areas (grass lawns), and are the perfect introduction to urban foraging.  Here are some tips on hunting the varied species of the Viola genus, and why you might want to, of course.

That said, the only way to spy a violet is to look down. Way down, just below the tips of grass in a lawn. Scan your yard (or any other moist, green collection of plants) and look for a slight purple hue. Then zoom in, ending up on your hands and knees, face to face with the cutest of flowers. Despite their reputation, violets are not shy, per se. They just prefer to grow amidst blades of grass or behind other plants. This isn’t due to insecurity, they’re just doing their own thing.

The beauty of the violet is that we have to stop, really see and come down close to the earth to spend time with them. They demonstrate that “living small” can be a powerful position. They are highly economical and efficient little flowers. There are over 80 species of wild and cultivated violets growing throughout North America. Apparently, as a genus, Violas are doing quite well for themselves. Their thrifty use of energy affords them the luxury of creating a sterile flower (and, in some wild varieties, a frivolously floral and girly scent). That’s right, in most species, the flower has no part in reproduction (which is done discretely under leaf cover by a plain-looking seed sac close to the ground), it seems they flower just because they know they‘re gorgeous. Hardly the move of a painfully shy plant, wouldn’t you say?

The Edible Violet

Both violet leaves and flowers are very palatable in salads or as a garnish. The flowers make a conversation-starting edible cake decoration (great for boring weddings and parties).  The leaves have a mucilaginous (slippery) quality when chewed and apparently can be used to thicken soups and stews (though I haven’t tried this one, personally). They have a mild, slightly sweet and grassy flavor, and the earlier in the season, the more tender they are (but wait until they flower to make a positive ID). I’m telling you, this common weedy volunteer that you can literally harvest in your yard will have you hailed as a culinary innovator at your next dinner party. The fact that violet blooms at the very end of winter- the most flower deprived, scurvy prone time of year- doesn’t hurt either. In any case, you are a star. Just gather both leaves and flowers from an organically grown lawn or a wild place and toss into salads as desired. For instant class, put one flower in each cell of an ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze, then toss into fancy beverages. Like I said, you’re a star!

The Medicinal Violet

Though cultivated species of Violas also produce edible flowers,  wild violets take all of that energy that could be spent on luxuriant growth and height, bigger blooms and a stronger scent (as some of its less thrifty ornamental cousins have done) and invest it in potent, effective medicinal compounds.
Nutritionally, violets supply ample amounts of vitamin C and bioflavonoids such as rutin, making it a useful tonic to those with venous insufficiency such as hemorrhoids, spider veins, varicose veins, broken capillaries and easy bruising. They are also loaded with carotenes, the precursor to Vitamin A. Both of these important vitamins are associated with increased immune function and wound healing. Violet’s a healer, you see. Violet roots reach way down into moist spring soil and pull up vital nutrients and minerals such as Calcium and Magnesium. The leaves become little green vitamin tablets.

Violet leaves also contain a good deal of mucilage, the slippery stuff that appears in your mouth as you chew. This has soothing, moistening effect in the body and is responsible for much of violet’s medicinal activity. Mucilage makes for easy bowel movements, moist, healthy lungs and mucus membranes and it helps soothe and heal abraded tissue externally and internally (g.i. tract, bladder irritations, etc.) Violet has been employed for such diverse conditions as: bronchitis, constipation, urinary tract irritation, and chronic skin conditions.

The presence of chemical compounds called saponins gives violet the ability to dissolve troublesome cysts, tumors and nodules, specifically those in the breasts. Violet has been used for centuries for dissolving both cancerous and benign lumps in the breast. I use it as a preventative for women who are worried about breast cancer and for women with benign lumps or fibrocystic breasts. When a woman has cancer, violet leaves can be a supportive therapy in addition to other treatments, though I wouldn’t rely on violet alone. For cysts, lumps and tumors, the tea or tincture is taken internally and warm compresses are applied externally to the breast and wrapped with a cloth. Susan Weed’s excellent book Breast Cancer? Breast Health! details the use of violet for various breast conditions. Violet is also a  gentle lymphatic tonic, aiding the body in removing waste products from the bloodstream. As such, it is an effective detoxifier and a specific remedy for treating chronic skin conditions such as eczema, dry skin, rashes- especially the oozing, weeping variety- and cradle cap in infants. Violet leaf and flower can be consumed as an infusion (tea), tincture, syrup, glycerite or used topically as an oil, compress or poultice for skin conditions. Caution- Plants with a high saponin content can cause nausea and vomiting if taken in excessive doses. I have yet to see this happen, so I imagine the upper limit is pretty high- just a warning to those of you who might try to subsist on violet leaves alone.

Lastly, another name for violet is Heartsease, which refers to its gentle strengthening effect upon the heart.  I feel like violet is a soothing friend that cools anger and irritation- like retreating into the shade of a forest on a hot day. (You may actually meet violet there in real life. She likes to keep things shady, moist and low-profile.) When I take violet, I feel restored and nourished, and somehow stronger overall.

The Violet of Lore

Folklore and myth surround this plant. Though the above mentioned, proven benefits were also known and have been employed for the last 2000 years or so, there many uses that may be, ahem, a bit more difficult to explain scientifically.  Here are a few gems as reported by Pojar and Mackinnon in the book Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast-

“If violets bloom in autumn, there is going to be a death or epidemic. It is unlucky to bring only a small number of flowers into the house; this may harm the laying capacity of hens;… spiteful neighbours might encourage children to take only one flower home. Violets worn as a wreath around the neck were said to prevent drunkenness.”

As your trusty herbal reporter, held to the highest standards of journalistic integrity, I vow to at least try out the last bit there. And soon. It’s basically my top priority right now.

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Cham drops in the making

I have just finished pressing a fresh batch of Chamomile Glycerite, or what I like to call ‘Baby Drops’. Chamomile’s quiet, faithful service over many years has caused it to be regarded as generally prosaic and kind of a bore, as far as herbs go. There are flashier and trendier herbs, straight out of the rainforest, with drug-like specificity. But as a tireless advocate for common herbs, I must spring to its defense. When used appropriately, Chamomile demonstrates powerful medicinal effects, especially on the very young and very old. In these more delicate populations, predictability and subtlety in herbal therapy are virtues. For babies and young children, it is an essential herb to have on hand. The effects of Chamomile in children and babies is four fold: as a carminative for colic and gas pains, as a digestive bitter to alleviate constipation and indigestion, as a relaxant for fussiness, insomnia and hysteria, and as an anti-inflammatory for teething pains. And sometimes, as we know, these four miseries gang up on your kid all at once.

I have used Chamomile baby drops successfully for all of the childhood woes listed above. When baby’s incessant crying has been diagnosed a ‘colic’ and the nursing mother has tried various dietary modifications, Cham drops work wonders to soothe and comfort when the parent’s heroic efforts are proving futile. A few drops can be put directly on the baby’s tongue (perhaps as it arches it back, and wails loudly with its mouth wide open, inconsolable). Or it can be painted on the nipple before nursing. My Chamomile Baby Drops are made with fresh chamomile flowers and pure vegetable glycerin and are alcohol-free, resulting in a product that is safe for even very young babies. (And it tastes lovely and sweet).

The same goes for irritable, fussy and tired babes and kids. Cham drops will calm the nervous system and settle the tummy, allowing them to mellow out enough to rest and regain their infant composure. (I believe Chamomile to be the herbal equivalent of a soft hand rubbing circles on your back and a soothing voice saying “There, there now, shhhh.”) And for the painful business
of cutting teeth, Cham’s anti-inflammatory effect soothes swollen tissues and heals abrasions in the gum tissue. (Teething tip: make a strong infusion of Chamomile blossoms, freeze in an ice cube tray and give it to baby in a soft cloth to suck on- Amazing!) For constipation try a little Chamomile to stimulate the flow of bile (our endogenous stool softener) and some baby probiotics. Sometimes it just takes a bit for babies to master the complicated task of digestion and elimination. Cham can help.

You may be wondering “Can grown-ups use this?” The answer is yes, just take more. A strong cup or tea or few dropperfuls of the glycerite ought to do. Just don’t expect a powerful sedative effect, as this property doesn’t seem to translate from babies to adults. What does translate are the gas relieving, anti-spasmodic and digestive qualities. Chamomile also exerts a powerful protective effect on the stomach lining, and can really help with healing ulcers (usually as a tea combined with marshmallow, calendula, and licorice). I highly recommend it for those taking nsaids as a prophylactic against developing ulcers. (Again, better as a tea, here.)

Once again, the common herb we’ve overlooked has got our back. Mercifully, I have found flora to be very forgiving.

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A Gentle Friend

Roses are easy to love. For some of us, smelling them is not enough. We need to eat them, drink them, imbibe them. I am one of these people. Allegedly, a rose was the first wild plant that enticed me to eat it, sealing my fate as an herbalist. The way my mother tells it, she was walking along with me in her baby backpack, and she saw my little hand reach out, clutch a rosehip and pop it right in my mouth before she could stop me. (I don’t remember this particular incident, but it sounds credible.) Alarmed that I had just eaten a wild plant with presumably limited botanical knowledge ( I was just under two), she asked one of her friends what I had eaten and if it was going to kill me. Her friend told her (correctly) that it was the fruit of the wild rose, and not only edible, but very high in vitamin C.  Perhaps “she just needed vitamin C”, they suggested helpfully.

Having thus averted infant scurvy,  rose and I are still BFF’s. The past few weeks have found me out collecting rose blossoms from these same rosebushes on my family’s land. I infuse their perfect petals in brandy to make my famous Wild Rose Cordial.  The substance produced tastes as good as roses smell (or better even, if you like brandy). You might want to try some.

Beyond the obvious virtues of the rose, there are very practical reasons to love them so much you want to eat them. Roses are medicinal and nutritious. Rosehips, (the cute red fruit of the rose plant) are an excellent alternative to vitamin C supplements, being extremely high in this nutrient, and conveniently packaged with all of the bioflavonoids that your body knows just what to do with. Vitamin C is highly soluble in water and makes an excellent tea, with a slight tartness and a hint of sweet.

The hips are collected after the first good frost of the fall, which “sets” the sugars therein, making their flavor slightly fruit-like. Their texture is a bit lacking (they are what you might call mushy, if you were being ungenerous). The core is filled with an abominable mixture of throat-irritating fluff and seeds, requiring you to eat them like a very small apple, just the flesh. Like many wild foods, it would be hard to stuff yourself on this alone, but if you happen to be in the woods, do try one. The flavor is delicate and perfect, the fruition of the rose.

That petals can be employed in tea, tincture or brandy cordial form with many beneficial effects. Possessed of a gentle cooling and astringent nature, rose is good in cases of tissue inflammation and poor tissue tone, such as gingivitis, sore throats, mouth ulcers, or heavy menses, spotting between periods or after miscarriage or abortion. Specific to the female reproductive system, rose is also indicated for PMS, menstrual cramping, hot flashes, absence of menses, vaginal dryness and infertility. With long standing associations to Venus and Aphrodite, we may infer that rose can help to increase romantic feelings and support healthy sexuality in both sexes.

And then there are the effects upon the mind. Rose softens grief, anxiety and self-doubt. Rose is a gentle friend, inviting you to open, relax and stay present with its disarmingly comforting smell and flavor, and the medicinal actions to back it up. But we must take the first step. Perhaps there is more wisdom in that “stop and smell the roses” bit than we had previously thought?

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