Medicinal Herbs

March 2021 Herb of the Month ~ Viola Tricolor

 

By Sherry Schmidt ~ Western Reserve Herb Society~ Herb Scents Editor

 

 

 

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 “Perhaps no flower (not excepting even the queenly rose) claims to be so universal a favorite, as the viola tricolor; none currently has been honored with so rich a variety of names, at once expressive of grace, delicacy and tenderness”.

Dix, Dorothea Lynde. The garland of flora. S. G. Goodrich and Co. and Carter and Hendee, 1829.

Viola tricolor is a tiny 3-colored member of the Violaceae family.  As a result of its popularity, both in society and in Romantic poetry, it has acquired many common names, including Wild Pansy, Johnny Jump-up, Heartsease, Heart's Ease, Heart's Delight, Tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, Come-and-cuddle-me, Three faces in a hood, Love-in-idleness, or Pink of my john.

This little plant is an herbaceous annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial wildflower found in lichen-dominated or meadow-like rocky outcrops, dry and sloping meadows, banks, fields, gardens, wastelands, sand fields, as well as seaside beaches.  It was brought to North America from Europe.

 

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Viola tricolor blooms spring through summer.  After blooming, the fertile flowers are replaced by seed capsules producing up to 50 seeds in each capsule making it spread easily, though it is not particularly aggressive.  When mature, the capsule will divide into 3 parts and the seed will be ejected.  The plants are hermaphroditic and self-fertile, pollinated by bees.

A typical flower has violet or purple upper petals, white lateral petals and a yellow lower petal.  Several purple veins originate from the flower’s throat.  Its leaves have a variety of shapes.  The lower blades are cordate-ovate, or heart- to egg-shaped.  The middle and upper leaves are lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate (resembling a lance), rounded at the end and having parallel sides. 

The beautiful flowers of Viola tricolor have a mild pea flavor, which combines equally well with sweet or savory foods, such as grilled meats and steamed vegetables.  When newly opened, Viola flowers may be used to decorate salads.  Candied violets are the flowers preserved by a coating of egg white and crystallized sugar. Alternatively, hot syrup is poured over the fresh flower and stirred until the sugar recrystallizes and has dried.  Candied violets are still made commercially in Toulouse, France, where they are known as violettes de Toulouse. They are used for decorating cakes or trifles, or included in aromatic desserts.  The French are also known for their violet syrup.  Viola essence flavors the liqueurs Crème Yvette, Crème de Violette, and Parfait d'Amour.

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Viola tricolor has medicinal benefits.  It contains saponins (a naturally-occurring chemical compound), salicylates (a natural anti-inflammatory) and flavonoids (with powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties).  Herbal uses include the treatment of eczema and autoimmune diseases and as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, expectorant, capillary tonic, laxative and diuretic.  Topical applications are for cradle cap, diaper rash, weeping sores, itchy skin, varicose ulcers and ringworm.

This viola has many additional uses.  It supports Fritillary butterfly larvae.  The flowers attract honeybees, bumblebees, long-tongued bees (Anaphora sp.), syrphid flies (Rhingia sp.), and butterflies.  Its flowers can be used to make yellow, green and blue-green dyes.  The leaves can be used in place of litmus paper to test acidity or alkalinity.  Viola tricolor is also the progenitor of the cultivated garden pansy.

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In the language of flowers, Viola is a symbol of innocence, modesty, and decency by the allusion of its little corolla, which seems to hesitate to leave its casket of leaves.


St. Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval herbalist! 

By Shanon Sterringer ~ WRHS Member

Ph.D., D.Min, MA Theology, MA Ministry, BA
Ordained Priest, GSC
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It is hard to believe it has been almost a year since I had the privilege of presenting Hildegard the Medieval Herbalist at one of the monthly WRHS meetings.  Many of you are familiar with this amazing woman who practiced healing, not only through the use of foods and herbs, but precious gemstones.  Her work Physica serves as an encyclopedia for the use of many natural elements for holistic health and well-being.  She sees their healing properties existing through her theological understanding of viriditas (greening power) which she believed was the life-source that came from our Creator Source.  Viriditas animates and sustains all that is alive.

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St. Hildegard of Bingen describes amethyst in her work, Physica in the following way: “Amethyst develops when the sun shows its circle, as though it was crowned, which it does when it prefigures some change in the vestment of the Lord, in the Church.  Amethyst grows as a gum, and so there are many of them.  It is hot and fiery and a bit airy, since the air is a bit cool when the sun shows its circle.” She goes on to describe how to use it medicinally.  For Hildegard, God’s providence permeates every particle of the created world and therefore everything in nature has an ordered purposed.  Human beings are a part of the divine order and therefore will find benefit in mind, body and spirit from the natural world.

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One herb that is of particular interest to Hildegard, and Hildegard followers today, is fennel.  In her work she recorded almost two full pages on fennel including the following: “In whatever way it is eaten, it makes a person happy and brings a gentle heat and good perspiration, and make for good digestion… Eating fennel or its seeds every day diminishes bad phlegm and decaying matter, keeps bad breath in check and makes one’s eyes see clearly, by its good heat and beneficial powers.”  Fennel tea and seeds are often consumed today following meals to aid in the digestive process. 

This is a photo from the back of the Hildegard Haus in Fairport Harbor (where I live and pastor a community of faith).  Growing alongside of the church building is a beautiful crop of fennel.  Last year I worked in the dye garden and in the fall, I was invited to take a handful of fennel seeds from one of the plants.  This small handful of seeds produced an abundant crop here in Fairport Harbor. It is so beautiful, in part because it captures Hildegard’s charism and the spirit of the Western Reserve Herb Society.  While I have truly missed being at the WRHS garden this year, I feel gratitude each day as I walk out into the courtyard at the Hildegard Haus to visit the fennel plants. 

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Another popular Hildegard themed treat is her recipe for “Cookies of Joy” or sometimes referred to as “Nerve Cookies” because they are meant to calm one’s nerves by bringing joy.  These cookies are often made from spelt flour (one of Hildegard’s preferred grains) and include her “Spices of Joy” mixture – cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  In Physica, she wrote: “Take some nutmeg and an equal weight of cinnamon and a bit of cloves and pulverize them.  Then make small cakes with this and fine whole wheat flour (or spelt) and water.  Eat them often.  It will calm all bitterness of the heart and mind, open your heart and impaired senses, and make your mind cheerful.”  There are many recipes circulating for these cookies and when I have hosted retreats or events, many different versions often appear on the buffet table.  Some very unique, and all delicious!  A recipe is included at the end of this blog post, but I encourage you to play with it and make it your own!

Hildegard of Bingen died on September 17, 1179 and so her feast day is celebrated each year in her memory and honor.  We not only celebrate to remember who she was and what she did in 12th century Germany, but to be inspired to bring some of the charism of this remarkable woman, a German Benedictine Nun and Mystic, into our world today.  She has much to teach us about the created world, including the rich treasures of plants, trees, herbs, precious stones and foods.  Her wisdom reaches far beyond this blog post, but for now we can start by kicking back with a cup of fennel tea and a cookie of joy - actually in her book, Hildegard says to eat five or six of them each day!  

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Above is a photo of me from our Hildegard “feast” we celebrated as the culmination of a 12-day international virtual pilgrimage with participants from all over the world.  We started in Fairport Harbor each day and then traveled to Germany and experienced the viriditas (greening power) of Hildegard’s homeland through her art, music, preaching and of course, her use of herbs, plants and precious stones. As you can see on the table in front of me, I celebrated with spelt, chestnuts, fennel tea and cookies of joy!  May this season of harvest be overflowing with viridity!

In her book, From Saint Hildegard’s Kitchen: Foods of Health, Foods of Joy,  Jany Fournier-Rosset includes the following recipe:

Cookies That Bring Joy

 12 Tbsps+1tsp butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

4 egg yolks

2 ½ cups spelt flour

1 tsp salt

2 rounded tbsps “Spices of Joy”

Melt the butter under low heat, add the sugar, honey, and egg yolks, beating lightly.  Add the flour and salt, combine gently.  Refrigerate this cookie dough after mixing, for at least one hour.  Remove from refrigerator.  Roll out onto a floured surface, cut with a cookie cutter. Bake on a baking sheet at 400 F for 10-15 minutes until golden, watching closely.


The new book "Wild Remedies" is easy to use and enjoy!

Todays post was written by our guest author and good friend Paris Wolfe!

Former Blogmaster for The Herb Society of America, Paris Wolfe planted her first herb garden in 1990. She’s been growing, cooking and crafting with herbs ever since.

 

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I can’t decide whether “Wild Remedies” by Rosalee de la Foret and Emily Han, released in March 2020, is a foraging book or a healing foods book.  The authors go both ways with health benefits of “weeds” like dandelion, chickweed, violet as well as fruits like apples, blackberries, elderberries. It doesn’t really matter because the book, with its lush photographs, appeals to the garden goddess in me.

This isn’t an encyclopedic tome. And that’s a good thing. The authors limit the book to 25 plants -- most foraged – for a more comprehensive examination. Keeping it under control makes information accessible to the casual reader. Most, if not all, of this list can be wildcrafted in Northeast Ohio.

An experienced herbie and forager, I was impatient as the authors covered ecology basics and foraging “rules of the road” in the book’s first few chapters. These chapters include journal prompts and exercises that felt elementary to me. Or maybe I was just impatient to get to the action.

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As the authors explored individual botanicals, I was smitten. These were plants I knew –and I was learning new ways to use them. Each chapter includes growth habits and summary information. Medicinal properties are discussed followed by information on ecology, harvesting and use. Chapters close with easy-enough recipes. Please consult your physician before using any herbal remedies for medicinal purposes.

I received my copy in April and started with what was in season … dandelions and violets.  The first thing I made was the Dandelion Maple Syrup Cake. The cream cheese-based frosting, walnuts and raisins made it seem a bit like carrot cake. Even the skeptical eaters at the table enjoyed it.

For my next production I made violet oxymel – a mixture of violet-infused white wine vinegar and honey. That was the essential ingredient in a Simple Violet Cocktail. The first cocktail was gin-based. I’m going to repeat the recipe with vodka. I might like that better.

I cannot wait to try recipes with plantain, wild mustard, nettles, purslane, burdock and so much more. I just need a prolific, untreated “weed” patch to supply the ingredients for healing teas, tasty side dishes, delicious desserts and enticing bath products.

Here is the recipe for the wonderful Dandelion Cake!

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DANDELION MAPLE SYRUP CAKE – from Wild Remedies

Cake

1⁄2 cup butter, softened

1⁄2 cup maple syrup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3⁄4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals and bracts removed)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)

1 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 cup raisins, chopped (optional)

1⁄4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

 

Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1⁄4 cup butter, softened

1⁄4 cup maple syrup

1⁄4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals and bracts removed)

 

 

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 x 2-inch glass pie plate.
  2. Mix the butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the dandelion flowers and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir well. If using, mix in the raisins and/or walnuts.
  5. Press the batter into the greased pie plate. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.

 

For the frosting: Use a handheld mixer to combine the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup. Taste and add more maple syrup if desired.

 

Assemble the cake:  When cooled, invert the cake onto a sheet pan or large, flat plate. Frost the top and sides. Sprinkle the dandelion flowers on top.

 

Interestingly enough, this earthy book has much interactive, digital support. Right away I joined its Facebook page and book club. On the Facebook page, members share their recipe successes, photos and questions You can get more information on these by visiting Wild Remedies Book. Or following the following links …

Facebook
@LearningHerbs

@HerbalRemediesAdvice

Instagram
@rosaleedelaforet

@misschiffonade

@learningherbs

YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/user/HerbMentor 

Photos were given to us with permission from the lovely authors who are shown in the 2nd photograph....


Join us for a virtual tour of our Western Reserve Herb Society Gardens!

 

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We were so fortunate last year to have had beautiful videos made of our gorgeous herb gardens that we lovingly tend down at The Cleveland Botanical Gardens. We are closed right now due to Covid -19, but this gives us the perfect opportunity to show these off! I'll be putting a new one up every couple of days! 

Be safe and be well! Spring in it's full glory is coming soon!

Beth Schreibman Gehring Chairman of Education- Western Reserve Herb Society

Garden Overview - Western Reserve Herb Society from Blue Heron Productions on Vimeo.

 


The Feeling of Gardens to Come....

By Beth Schreibman Gehring -Chairman of Education Western Reserve Herb Society

This was written by my husband Jim one day after he came to pick me up from working in our beautiful Western Reserve Herb gardens. 

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Strolling through a large garden I found myself captivated by the smile on the Gardener's face, so I stopped for a moment to watch her at work. She looked up at me, stood up-right and in a wonderfully gentle voice she asked "can there be a more lovely day?" Finding myself in the midst of this most colorful garden with a bright blue sky and pleasant warm sunshine I not only agreed, I knew it was true.

"It is indeed just so lovely" I replied.  

I paused for a moment, but eager to keep the conversation going I asked her the first question that came to mind, "What do you do with your time when you are not in this beautiful garden?"

She looked at me and asked, "when am I not in my garden?" as a large grin spread across her cheeks revealing the most wonderful and generous wrinkles of joy.  

"Yes", I said, now feeling even more inspired.  "How about before you fall asleep or when you wake up?" I asked, sincerely wondering how she lived life outside this beautiful place that she obviously took such great pleasure in.

"That just might be the times when I do my best gardening work" she said, relaxing herself for a moment as she engaged me in conversation.  

As she continued I noticed a natural patience in her demeanor, which was easily portrayed by her soft and smooth voice. "Every night just before I fall asleep I am enveloped in the feeling of gardens to come, the one's that express such beauty and joy as I have yet to produce.  I know they are coming, because as I "see" these wonderful visions I can feel them as if they are real, I can smell them and touch them so vividly. They are to me in that moment as real as where you and I are standing right now. “

My mind was mesmerized by this picture she had so gracefully painted for me. My feelings rested contently in this garden vision, full of such beauty that was beyond the glorious place where we were both standing.

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"Of course, she laughed, my mornings are something else altogether".

 "I awake in the morning and in that moment I am present to a feeling of appreciation for all the joy and wonder that awaits me!"

She paused for a moment, smiling as she looked to the sky…

then looked at me and continued...

"The morning is when my feelings take root, backed by the images that spring forth in my mind, to bear fruit throughout the day, much like the seeds I tend here in this very garden."

"We often refer to it as gratitude, or appreciation, but for me it is like gardening, for when I open my eyes in the morning that is where my craft begins. I know in my heart that to be a good gardener it is so important to tend the soil, and to ensure the seeds have the right amount of sunlight, and always provide the right amount of water based on the unique characteristics of your plants."

She paused again, without a motion, as if to just take in the beauty that comes from an unseen place that at that very moment surrounded us.

"I feel that gardening has given me a gift for creating beauty both here" she said gesturing to the landscape around us, "and here" she said as she softly reached up resting her hand in the center of her chest. "It’s as if the sunshine, water and soil are just symbols for the thoughts, feelings and actions that, when properly tended to, ensures the same richness of experience in life as a well-tended garden, bringing to our senses the most wonderful sites, tastes and smells! "

She leaned upon her spade and smiled.

After a moments pause, she looked at me directly, eyes filled with a soft twinkle, choosing her final words with care. “For me it is such a blessing to know that one's life can be so whole and complete, no matter your career or passion.  I guess you could say that I am, simply put, a peaceful happy gardener –  both within and without, wherever I go, now in this conversation, while I eat and yes, even when I sleep. It brings me such joy that I cannot help but to wish this blessing for everyone I know.”

~James Gehring


What I am doing for the upcoming COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. February 26, 2020 , By James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P.

By Beth Schreibman Gehring -Education Chairman Western Reserve Herb Society

 

 

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I’m posting this for anyone who  will appreciate this information. Many of you may have already seen it, as it is being posted all over the internet.  It is definitely a departure from our normal herbal articles but it is timely and necessary. I received from my sister Ellen, whose husband Dr. Peter Salk  over his lifetime has been very much involved with vaccine science, pathology and virology at the Salk Institute in San Diego, so I truly trust the source. This was written by a virologist who worked at UCSD in the 70’s doing early work on coronavirus’s.

Please do not substitute any of this advice for a good old fashioned trip to the Doctor if you begin to exhibit any symptoms at all! 

According to his research it is spread by contact, much more than air dispersion. He has lots of suggestions including the use of zinc. Jim and I truly hope that you find it valuable. --------

"As some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources. The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April. Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.

1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.

2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.

3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip - do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.

4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.

5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.

6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home's entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can't immediately wash your hands.

7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!

What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:

1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas. Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average - everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.

2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you - it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth - it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.

3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.

4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY "cold-like" symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available. I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this (edited: animal)-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available. I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. You are welcome to share. Good luck to all of us!

James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P. --------- James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P., is a consulting pathologist to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR), and is also the Leader of the cancer Human Biobank (caHUB) Biospecimens Subgroup, Latin America Cancer Research Network (LACRN) Pathology Committee, and National Community Cancer Centers Biospecimens (NCCCP) Pillar. He also serves on the Board of Governors of the College of American Pathologists (CAP). Dr. Robb's research interests include molecular oncologic and neurotropic virology.


Have you ever heard of Buzz Blossoms? You Will!

By Kathleen Hale ~ WRHS Unit Chair

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There a tender member of the aster family that is showing up on social media and in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.  Spilanthes acmella goes by the common name Buzz Blossom, which is a big clue as to why it’s found appealing. While the leaves, both cooked and raw, have been used in northern Brazilian cuisine, it’s the blossoms that are now being used in fashionable and pricey cocktails. 

Why? Take a sip and your mouth goes numb. This appeals to some people. Spilanthes acmella goes by other evocative names: Electric Daisy, Toothache Plant, Tingflower and Buzz Buttons. The blossoms are attractive red and golden globes.  Their numbing nature has proven useful in numbing mouth pain.

An extract made from all parts of the plant is sold as “jambu juice”.  It makes you drool, which I suppose could also mean you can call it “mouth watering”.   If we choose to be nerdy, and I always do, we might designate jamba juice as a “sialogogue”, meaning that it stimulates the production of saliva.

But let’s get really nerdy.  As in, let’s stand in line for an hour or two in order to shell out $15.00 to the Disney Empire, Overlord to the Star Wars Cinematic Universe. 

Ladies and Gentlemen: allow me to introduce “The Fuzzy Tauntaun”. It is a signature alcoholic libation served at Oga’s Cantina. Oga’s is a “notorious watering hole” that has recently opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Note that, because there are no actual conventional liquor bottles in Oga’s, so you have to order a signature alcohol libation if you want any adult beverage.

Now, I'm sure that I don’t need to remind you that a Tauntaun is actually a space lizard that resembles a bipedal llama, and lives on the ice planet of Hoth.

After the unexpected Rebel victory at Yavin, the heroic Luke Skywalker and his companions sought refuge in a secret base on Hoth, and found a way to harness and ride Tauntauns around its snowy waste.  They were not docile mounts, and we are advised by Han Solo that they smell bad both on the inside and the outside.

Presumably, after the Rebellion abandoned Hoth, their whereabouts having been discovered by the Empire, the Tauntauns went back to gamboling in the snow drifts.

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But here we have their alcoholic avatar.  The Fuzzy Tauntaun is made of Cîroc Peach Vodka, Bols Peach Schnapps and Simply Orange®, topped with tangerine, pure cane sugar and…BUZZ FOAM.  The taste of the beverage itself is mostly peach.  But the foam does apparently deliver a tingle followed by a numbness. In the picture above, it's the vibrant yellow cocktail!

There is a smoothie chain called “Jamba”, which seems to show up in college towns. They carry preparations of ginger, wheatgrass, cayenne, turmeric and all those good things.  But not jambu juice.

You can purchase extract of Spilanthes acmella from various online sites, where it is marketed for all kinds of things, including repelling mosquitoes, acting as a human aphrodisiac and a snake bite remedy.

How Disney concocts the buzzy foam for big money cocktails is a secret and I know better than to mess around in the realm of Disney secrets. 

Or those of the Empire.


The Herb of The Year! Why do we study it?

 By Kathleen Gips ~ Ex- Officio Western Reserve Herb Society

Rubus or Brambles- The Herb of the Year 2020

The Herb of the Year ~ What is it all about? ~ Why do we study it?

In 1995 the International Herb Association (IHA) designated Herb Education Week to be the week before Mother’s Day every year. Soon after, they selected an herb for each year. The criteria were that an herb must fall into at least two of these three major categories: medicinal, culinary, or decorative.

At the time I was an active member in this marvelous organization dedicated to the retail and business world of herbs. Our members were charged with educating the public about herbs during Herb Education Week. So the public would become more aware of herbs and their varied uses, we were to explore, in depth, the herb of the year with products, written materials, seminars and workshops. What an excellent way for the educators to be educated. Focus on a specific herb and learn everything about it. How exciting! I loved researching the history, horticulture, culinary, craft and medicinal properties of all the chosen herbs. I treasured learning about my favorite herbs: lavender, scented geraniums, sage. I learned so much about some less common herbs like fennel, calendula and bergamot. Even mundane herbs such as lemon balm and mint gained new knowledge and respect.

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I became immersed in building my herbal expertise on each Herb of the Year. Some years challenged my level of excitement more than others. When it was horseradish and elderberry, I initially thought these were not herbs worthy of my passion. As I studied each of these herbs, I learned how wrong this first opinion was. Every herb has magical properties, rich history and many uses. I was rewarded with even more knowledge in my special world of herbs. In 2018 when I learned hops was designated as the Herb of the Year  , I thought, “Oh no! Not hops!”

Worse yet, I am not even a beer lover. My first introduction to hops came when I invited Jim Long to be a guest speaker at my herb shop to discuss his new book, “Making Herbal Dream Pillows". 

 I dutifully ordered hops for him, since they were an ingredient in his sweet dreams pillows that would be made in our workshop. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and the entire room smelled like stinky feet. Ewww! But then Jim explained the powerful relaxation properties of hops. So that is why my Dad fell asleep while drinking a beer and watching a football game. It was the hops!

My next introduction to hops was a golden hops plant that Mark Langdon from Mulberry Creek Herbs delivered to me to sell. Since my customers knew little about growing hops at the time, I was left with hops plants at the end of the selling season. So I planted them near an iron arch at the entrance to our herb garden. The vine grew quickly and prolifically covering the entire arch in a single season. What a magnificent show of beautiful chartreuse leaves and stunning green pendant flowers! It was a traffic stopper and attracted a lot of interest. Everyone wanted to grow these beautiful golden hops in their own garden. Imagine my surprise when it became my favorite landscape herb in the garden.

When we pulled the vines down after the first frost, I learned about the tenacious prickly tendrils of hops and came away with scratches and a skin rash. I learned about the very hardy nature of the hops plant as it came back each spring from nothingness. It spread its tendrils far and wide and even needed some restraint! What a resilient, tenacious, and beautiful herb plant. How useful it is in the garden landscape, the flavoring of beer and its calming medicinal properties. And there you have it!

A Season of Peace & Joy (15)

This is why the Herb of the Year is so important for those of us whose passion lies in the world of herbs. Our lives are enriched by studying the history, horticulture and uses of even the herbs that are not so well known to us!  We get to know these herbs by using them, observing them and even journaling about them and then suddenly a year has gone by and there is yet another new herb to get to know!

This year, our Herb of the Year is the absolutely delightful and sometimes completely frustrating Rubus, more affectionately known as Brambles, Raspberries, Blackberries or Brambleberries! This plant is definitely more familiar to me than Hops was, but nonetheless there is still so much more for me to learn!

The Herb of the Year fits very well into the mission of our Western Reserve Herb Society. Together we gather information about herbs and share that knowledge with the public.  So this year, we will all learn to be experts about  Brambles and we will  talk about them with anyone and everyone who will listen.

Join your fellow members as we stroll through  the Bramble patch in 2020, learning and teaching together.


The Rambling Beauty of Brambles!

 

By Beth Schreibman Gehring - Chairman of Education - Western Reserve Herb Society

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This year, the Rubus genus is not only HSA’s January’s herb of the month, but it is the International Herb Associations herb of the year for 2020! The Rubus is a very large and diverse species and is part of the Rose family. Blackberries, raspberries, loganberries and boysenberries are all part of this delicious and festive group! The most common name for this boisterous genus is Brambles or Brambleberries, a name that always makes me smile having grown up with Jill Barklams delightful Brambly Hedge series! Somehow, the most fun always seem to happen under a canopy of rosehips and brambleberries!

I once read a wonderful story about Bramble bushes. It was in the mid 90’s in one of those wonderful new agey books (or as my son calls them “That weird hippy stuff  YOU read mother!) and the premise was that the all members of the genus Rubus have a collective consciousness that extends through an underground network all around the world. If I’m going to be honest with you, I loved the idea of that and I found it incredibly easy to believe. At the time that I read that book, I was still living on our farm in Burton Ohio where blackberries and black raspberries were flourishing around every corner. They drove my husband crazy because if you’ve ever had a bramble bush as a best friend, then you know just how prolific they really are. Every year before they’d flower, Jim would go into the thorny vines with his gloves and his clippers and every year he’d find more and more of them.

 Fortunately, when they began to flower, he’d have to leave them alone as the blooms are a major source of sweet nectar for the honeybees. He’s quite allergic to those bees, so if he missed a few the berries got their chance! Berry bushes are a bit like willow trees and If you drop just one clipping in a wet area, within weeks it will have taken root and begun to spread. I love to imagine that they are all entwining their tendrils in the earth underfoot and that they are all connected all around the world just like my little book said.

                          
Make your dreams so clear  that your fears become irrelevant. (17)

By the time that we moved 21 years later, there were black raspberries and blackberries everywhere and to my absolute delight they’d become completely uncontrollable.  They didn’t all ripen at the same times and they were all amazing. We had our favorite patches but Alex and his best friend Jessica swore by the ones that grew down by our pond.  They didn’t start out down there , they came from some of the first clippings that my husband tossed over the fence as far away from the garden as he could find!

 When they were little, Alex and his friends Tyler and Jessica used to spend hours eating their way around the brambles.  They’d come running up with handfuls of the warm juicy berries for me and I loved them so much for the taste of course but more for the pleasure of knowing that these children that I adored were having an early experience of sustainability.  We’d share them and then they’d go running off for more.  I’d send them home covered in purple juice but thankfully their mothers forgave me! Alex is 32 now,  but he loves to reminisce about his childhood growing up on the farm and all of his favorite stories usually have something to do with those blackberries which I understand because they were so completely sweet and delicious!

 Tequila marries well with black raspberries, mint and a bit of sugar and surprisingly so does bourbon.  Black Raspberries and Meyer lemon juice mixed with  sugar, filtered water and cracked ice make a delicious and refreshing lemonade that is absolutely delicious and lovely to look at too! Fresh blackberries with arugula, fresh spearmint, ripe pear,  basil and burrata cheese is another favorite combination of mine. Served with a bit of seasoned rice vinegar  and olive oil, there really is no lovelier summer salad. Then there is fresh raspberry jam, a condiment in a class by itself. Whether you serve it with buttered toast, a savory white cheddar  or baked with a chicken breast or pork tenderloin, it’s always one of the most useful jams I make every summer.

Make your dreams so clear  that your fears become irrelevant. (18)

My first experience of the black raspberry as a medicinal tonic came when I was a child and I developed a serious tummy ache one day after eating too many pieces of very greasy pepperoni pizza. Instead of  going for the antacid in the cupboard, my mother vey wisely took out the bottle of  homemade black raspberry cordial that she kept in her medicine cabinet and poured  a nice bit of it into a cup of hot water. She gave it to me to sip and it has been my favorite stomach tonic ever since. Raspberry leaves and their fruit contain vast amounts of natural and easily assimilated vitamin C, B, A, E, Calcium and iron.  A cup of raspberry tea made with the a bit of mint , raspberry fruit, dried nettles and alfalfa and raspberry leaves really helped to ease my morning sickness. 

It’s been 17 years now since we sold our farm and I miss those black raspberries every summer.  We have created a lovely home in Cleveland Heights, with a huge front porch and gardens that wrap around the whole lot. I’ve planted an orchard now with lots of native fruits and herb beds, but until 4 years ago, it didn’t have any brambles! I have to admit that I finally planted some without asking my husbands permission.  Poor Jim! Well.. poor Jim until the first crop of enormous , juicy berries came in. After the first handful he was delighted, and although they still get wildly out of control and have ended up far from the places I have planted them, he is enjoying them very much. They were a great present for Alex that first summer when he came home from New York to find them fruiting wildly. It’s not often that you get to relive the past, but he went running out to the back yard when he saw them and stuffed himself until he couldn’t eat any more.  I hadn’t told him I’d planted them, I was keeping them a surprise. At this point, they’ve taken over my yard and my neighbors, but her children love them and I get to watch the cycle all over again. The brambly hedge is one of those wonderful plants that is capable of providing such amazing amounts of great joy.

Just keep your pruning shears sharpened.  


A Prayer of Thanksgiving inspired by St. Hildegard of Bingen

By Shanon Sterringer  - Western Reserve Herb Society Member

This was written by Shanon for our Thanksgiving Unit Meeting. It is so beautiful and it felt completely appropriate to share it here with all of you.

Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to all!

 

 

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How wonderful it is to be able to gather together for a few hours today in thanksgiving for all that we have experienced this past year through the Western Reserve Herb Society.

We offer gratitude for the peace and tranquility of our beautiful herb gardens; for the grace of our friendships – new and old; for the richness of so many educational programs and workshops; for the nourishing and beautiful meals we have shared; and for the success of another growing and harvesting season. We give thanks also for all who invested their time, talent, and resources in support of the WRHS annual herb fair. In the words of St. Hildegard of Bingen, viriditas –greenness – abounds!

It has truly been an extraordinary year!

As the fall season begins to wind down, the herbs have been cut back, the leaves have fallen from the tress, the mulch is spread, and the grass is now glistening with a light coating of snow. The darkness of winter again peaks around the corner inviting us to rest from our labors. As we prepare for this well-earned break, let us take a moment to pray that this winter season might be a time of gestation and renewal, not only for the women and men of our herb society, but for all creation.

We pray for an increase in awareness and gratitude for the great gifts God blesses us with through the earth. Mother earth is needlessly suffering. Through our intentions and our efforts, may she be restored to her full glory. And so, we pray...

(adapted from a prayer written by Michelle Balek, OSF)


Good and Gracious God, Source of all Life, all creation is charged with your Divine Energy. Ignite your
Spark within us, that we may know ourselves as truly human and holy, irrevocably part of the Web of Life.
All creation
Each star and every flower
Each drop of water and every person
Each and every atom, down to its very electrons, explodes with the revelation of your Sacred Mystery
Our minds alone cannot fathom such splendor.
Our hearts can only respond in awe, praise, and gratitude.
May we always walk gently upon this earth in right relationship.
Nurtured by your love
Taking only what we need
Giving back to the earth in gratitude
Sharing what we have
Honoring all with reverence
Reconciling and healing
Mindful of those who will come after
Recognizing our proper place as part of, not apart from, your creation.
Grant us the strength and courage, we pray, for such radical transformation into your kin-dom. Then we to,
with the very stones will should, Hosanna!

This is a painting of one of St. Hildegard’s Visions... this of the seasons!