A New Year of Nourishment

January 1st marks Detox D-Day for many who practice the heroic or the scientific traditions of medicine. We all know what this looks like: a holiday season full of fatty richness and unhampered excess followed by a January resolute with green smoothies, lemon water cleanses, and partially used gym memberships. But in the Wise Woman Tradition, the new year marks a new season of nourishment.

We don’t cure or cleanse; instead, we enrapture and enrich. Instead of living the ‘out with the bad’ philosophy, we think ‘in with the good’, feeding our bodies and souls and treating them with kindness, compassion, and love. We don’t resolve to persistently scrub our colons and clear our livers, because our guts and our filtration systems are already doing that for us, 24 hours a day, and far better than we could ever do it with all the diets in the world. We don’t detox, because we aren’t dirty.

You’re Not Dirty, and You Don’t Need Cleaning

There is an overarching ethic – which gets its time in the spotlight at this time of the year – that we human bodies are walking dirtbags from years past and in order to start fresh, we must get clean first. But have we forgotten that our bodies are already doing this for us, cleaning, filtering, and ‘detoxing’ in our waking life and our sleep so that we can continue living each day as a fresh, whole, human beings? Each hour of each day, the body produces brand new cells and turns the old ones into waste products. Every minute, 1,450 milliliters of blood circulate through the liver after having been ‘cleaned’. Every 11 months, we have a completely new body made up of those brand new cells. We are renewed, replenished, re-nourished. And we didn’t even have to ‘detox’.

In the heroic tradition, which encompasses much of the alternative health world, pain is gain. Detoxing is purifying. The body is polluted, toxic, and sick, and only by hard work and careful cleansing can we get it clean again. We are filthy and must be controlled by regular detox rituals. Healing is the removal of everything bad from the body, and the addition of nothing.

In the scientific tradition of medicine, which represents much of western medicine as we know it, bodies are machines and herbs can be standardized into drugs, which fix machines. Health and sickness are always at opposite ends of the spectrum, and sickness is never a gift, never an opportunity, only a state that demands to fix. Healing the body through drugs and medicines helps the ‘machine’ to get back to a normal state of healthy function.

In the Wise Woman tradition, the world’s oldest system of healing and the one still practiced by the majority of indigenous cultures in the world today, good health is vibrancy, change, flexibility, and possibility. Health is an integrated both/and situation, rather than a black-and-white either/or dichotomy. Wholeness is ever-changing, unique, abnormal, and doesn’t involve eliminating the bad so much as including and honoring the whole. Nourishment is as simple and innocent as a steaming bowl of soup, as grounded as the powerful earth, as all-encompassing as the universal garden of healing, and as beautiful and perfect as you.

Resolve to Love Your Body for Its Pre-Existing Perfection

Trusting the body to provide you with your own optimum level of in-house cleanliness is part of trusting the body to do its job perfectly, provided that we offer it enough nourishment in terms of food, medicine, and emotional and physical engagement. It is like trusting the body to breathe, pump, and circulate the appropriate substances for those precious few hours of sleep you get each night.

This new year, consider resolving to love your body in its own perfect wisdom, rather than trying to scour every corner of it for bacteria and muck. The energy that you desire to put into detoxing is so valuable, but it would be so much better used in carefully choosing and preparing the foods that nourish your body, rather than trying to clear out any unwanted, invisible toxicity.

Those bacteria that we loathe are the same ones that grow the garden of our gut flora, those microbes that we want to purge are the same things that build up our immunity to viruses, and there is a good chance those toxins that we perceive are long gone, having being evacuated by our body’s own miraculous built-in detoxification system. Loving and nourishing yourself is a commitment to self-acceptance and self-awareness. Trust that your daily nourishing habits, like drinking nourishing herbal infusions, consuming nutrient-dense food, and using herbal medicine when appropriate, are enough.

How Can You Nourish this New Year?

Deep nourishment, soul-level, bone-level nourishment, comes from myriad different places. In the food world, we may grasp it from savory, warming winter broths and stews. We may suss it out of roasted root vegetables and lacto-fermented vegetables that are brimming with probiotics and the makings of good gut flora. And we definitely derive it from our daily nourishing herbal infusions, using the dense nutritional load of nettles, oat straw, linden, comfrey, and red clover to get our everyday doses of fully absorbable vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

In the emotional world, we find nourishment from rewarding relationships, personal time spent with the spiritual self, and the wonderful hibernation period that the only winter allows for. Nourishment is all around us, nestled in the tree buds sleeping silently until spring, tucked under the first layer of snow in the chickweed that still blooms white beneath the January ice. This year is new, this year is nourishment, and this year, you can choose to nourish yourself in your personal perfection and in your own perfectly messy, perfectly clean soul and body.


  • German Chamomile – Matricaria chamomilla
  • Roman Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis

The chamomile herb is another well known plant, used in making effective herbal remedies for the treatment of a variety of illnesses. The herb has a great relaxant action on the nervous system and the digestive system. The herbal remedies made from this plant are considered to be a perfect remedy for the treatment of disorders affecting babies and children. The main action of the chamomile is that it brings about relaxation in all the smooth muscles throughout the body of an individual. The herb acts on the digestive tract and rapidly brings relief from any muscular tension and spasms, it alleviates disorders such as colic, and it can reduce the amount of abdominal pain, and remedy excess production of wind and abdominal distension in patients.

The other major affect of the herb lies in its ability to regulate peristalsis along the esophagus, resulting in the treatment of both diarrhea and persistent constipation in a patient. The chamomile is well known for its ability to soothe all types of problems related to the digestive system, particularly when these are specifically related to persistent stress and tension affecting the person. The flow of bile is stimulated by the bitters, at the same time, the chamomile also affects the secretion of digestive juices in the body, as a result it enhances the general appetite and this leads to an improvement in the sluggish digestion of the patient. When used internally and as a topical medication, the volatile oil is known to prevent ulceration’s and is also observed to be capable of speeding up the healing process in areas of the skin affected by ulcers, this ability makes chamomile an excellent remedy for the treatment of gastritis, and in the treatment of peptic ulcers along with varicose ulcers affecting the legs of the patient.

The potent antiseptic action of the chamomile is also very valuable, the herb is very active against all infections arising from bacteria, and it can be used in the treatment of various illnesses, including common thrush – caused by the Candida albicans. Herbal chamomile tea is also another way to use the herb, and this tea helps in lowering the temperature of the body during a persistent fever and furthermore, the herbal tea is also effective against colds, flu, common sore throats, persistent coughs, and against all kinds of digestive infections such as the common gastroenteritis which affects a lot of patients annually. Inflammation in the bladder and cases of cystitis are soothed easily by the antiseptic oils in the chamomile – leading to effective and rapid relief from the condition.

Herbal remedies made from the chamomile also helps in relieving persistent nausea and sickness felt by a women during the term of her pregnancy, the herbal remedy can also help bring relaxation from uterine spasms and aids in relieving painful periods, it also helps in reducing painful menopausal symptoms, the remedy can also be used to bring relief from mastitis, it is effective against premenstrual headaches and migraines. In addition, the remedy is also used in the treatment of absent flows during menstrual period – if the condition is due to the presence of stress felt by the women. The pain felt during the contractions of labor can be relieved by drinking herbal chamomile tea; the tea can also be drunk throughout the process of childbirth to help relax the tension in the muscles. The herbal remedies made from the chamomile also function as an effective general pain reliever, thus the chamomile can be taken to treat persistent and painful headaches, it can be used in the treatment of migraines, it can be used to treat neuralgia, and it can also be used to relieve a toothache, an earache, or the achiness which occurs during flu, it is effective against muscular cramps, it can be used to treat rheumatic and gout pains in the body. Inflammation in arthritic joints can also be effectively relieved by consuming herbal remedies made from the chamomile.

The property of the chamomile in the role of a natural anti-histamine has also been observed during recent researches conducted the chamomile herb – thus there is a possibility that the herb can be used in this role. Herbal remedies made from the chamomile are also used in the treatment of asthma and to treat hay fever and the herb is used externally as a topical remedy against skin disorders such as eczema. As an antiseptic remedy, the chamomile has been used topically in the treatment of all kinds of wounds, it has been used in the treatment of different types of ulcers, it can be used to treat sores, and to treat burns as well as scalded skin.

Chamomile in the form of steam inhalations can effectively aid in bringing relief from asthma, it can ward off hay fever, and it can also alleviate catarrh and sinusitis in patients. Topical chamomile cream has also been used to treat sore nipples and this cream is also used as a vaginal douche for the treatment of all kinds of vaginal infections in women. Soothing relief from cystitis and hemorrhoids can be had by sitting on a bowl of chamomile herbal tea. The anti-septic actions of the chamomile herb is also excellent in the role of an antiseptic eyewash to treat sore and inflamed eyes and it can also be used as a lotion for the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions including eczema and common fungal infections such as ringworm.

Chamomile herbal remedies must be considered by anyone who has ever suffered from an occasional migraine headache and this remedy is also effective in treating hyperactive children, the famous French herbalist, Maurice Messegue, had great success with herbal remedies made from the chamomile in treating such ailments. In one example, a man affected by debilitating migraine attacks was cured after just 14 days of intensive treatment using herbal remedies made from the chamomile herb – such is the power of this plant. Herbal teas made from the chamomile can be very relaxing to the body, preparation of such teas involve relatively simple steps, just steep about 2 tablespoons of some fresh or dried chamomile flowers in a pint of water, boil the water for about 40 minutes. After removing the pot, cool down the broth and strain the liquid, it can then be sweetened using some pure maple syrup and this herbal tea can be drunk in doses of 1-2 cups at a time on a regular basis for long term treatment of headaches.

The chamomile has also been frequently praised for its properties by many European herbalists, who have often raved about its big cosmetic benefits – especially when used as a topical herbal application. A healthier and softer glow can be detected for example, when the face is washed several times every week, with the herbal tea made from the chamomile. At the same time, this tea also has other uses, it is considered to be a wonderful hair conditioner and has great benefits, and particularly when treating blond hair, the herbal tea makes hair more manageable and induces a shinier surface on the hair. This herbal tea can be prepared by bringing one pint of water to a boil, once the boiled water has been removed from the heat, immediately add 2 tsp. of dried chamomile flowers.

Now cover the pot and let the herbal essences steep into the water for about 45 minutes. After this infusion process, the water can be strained and the resulting tea can be used while still lukewarm or when fully cooled down.


All external conditions of the body, including inflammation in the skin can be treated using the chamomile as an herbal compress or in the form of an herbal wash; the herbal oil can also be rubbed into affected areas of the body to treat muscular stiffness and to alleviate temporary cases of paralysis in the limbs. Prepare a consumable herbal tea from the chamomile – which can also be used as a wash – by bringing about 1-2 pints of water to a boil, to this boiling water add 2 heaped teaspoons of dried or fresh chamomile flowers. The pot containing the water must then be removing from the heat at once and the herb can then be allowed to steep into the water for about 20 minutes or so-it can then be cooled and strained to get the tea. This herbal tea made from the chamomile can be drunk one cup at a time about 2-3 times every day and the tea can also be used as a herbal wash to treat inflamed areas of the skin, by applying it on the affected area several times per day. Paralysis and stiffness in the limbs can also be treated using a chamomile massage oil, this oil can be topical used to treat all aches such as lower backaches, prepare this herbal oil solution by filling a small bottle with some fresh chamomile flowers and pour some olive oil until it completely covers the flowers inside the bottle. Once the oil and the flowers are sealed into the bottle, place a tight lid over the mouth of the bottle and place the bottle under direct sunlight for two weeks at a stretch, during this time, the herbal essences from the flowers will seep into the olive oil and the remedy is ready, it can then be stored in the refrigerator and used as a topical healing oil whenever necessary. Any oil that is going to be externally applied on the skin must always be warmed before it is massaged into the affected areas of the skin. To gain immediate and incredible relief, and to help you soothe your tired or irritated eyes, soak some chamomile tea bags in some ice water for a little while, this solution can then be used as an application on the eyelids for rapid relief from the tiredness and irritation. The particular topical eyewash is an especially good idea during allergy season when eyes are typically affected because of irritants such as pollen in the air.

chamomile herbA chemical compound known as azulene is one of the chief chemical components in all species of chamomiles, and particularly so, in the German variety of the herb. This particular chemical compound is a very potent anti-allergen and has been recorded as helping in the prevention of allergic seizures, up to an hour following its administration even in experimental guinea pigs. A possible cure to hay fever might lie in careful use and administration of the azulene. In little children as well as in adults, the herbal remedies made from the chamomile are effective in relieving sudden asthmatic attacks – this is another very important ability of the herb. In a majority of health stores, a very effective chamomile throat spray is marketed under the name CamoCare, this spray has been used to relieve the distress and blockage during an asthma attack. Patients suffering from asthma can benefit from this herbal spray by spraying some of this chamomile concentrate into the mouth right at the very back of the throat, the spray will aid in relieving the sudden choking sensations during an attack and it will also help in facilitating respiration during the attack. During allergy season, vulnerable adults are advised to drink 3-4 cups of warm chamomile tea on a daily basis, young children can also benefit by taking 1-2 cups per day during this time, concurrently such vulnerable individuals are advised to inhale the warmed herbal vapors while keeping their heads covered using a heavy bath towel and they should do this while holding the face 8-10 inches above the pan which has some freshly made chamomile tea, inhalation must lasts for 12-15 minutes every sitting for beneficial results.

The ability to inducing regeneration in the body is a property possessed by only a very few herbs in the plant kingdom, such abilities as producing brand new liver tissue belong to very few herbs. German chamomile possesses this unique property, and so does the common tomato juice among herbs. The chemical compounds azulene and guaiazulene present in herbs were identified as being able to initiate the growth of new tissues in experimental rats which had a portion of their livers surgically removed, this experimental results were obtained in one research recorded in Vol. 15 of Food & Cosmetics Toxicology published in the year 1977. Patients with wasted liver tissues are advised to take up to 6 cups of the herbal chamomile tea every other day or in an average dosage amount of 3-4 cups every day – this regimen is ideal for encouraging the regeneration of liver tissues in the body of the patient. Compared to the powdered capsules, for example, it is known that the herbal tea works much better and is a more efficient way of treatment over the long term. In the treatment of patients, and especially patients already suffering from some severe degenerative liver diseases such as infectious hepatitis or the complications due to the AIDS virus, the consumption of this remedy will prove to be extremely beneficial in the long term.

Chamomile hair rinse

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dried chamomile flowers

Boil together for 5 minutes. Strain. Apply to the hair after washing.

Herbal shampoo with chamomile

  • 2 Tbs. dried chamomile flowers
  • 2 Tbs. dried rosemary
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. borax
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup dried mint leaves, crushed
  • 2 cups no detergent shampoo

Pour boiling water over the herbs in a medium bowl, cover, and allow the herbs to steep for 1 hour. Remove the herbs.
Beat the egg until frothy, and beat into the shampoo, along with the borax. Combine with the herbal infusion. Bottle, and keep stored in the refrigerator. It will keep about 1 month. Use as regular shampoo.

Chamomile cleansing milk

Chamomile cleansing milk is excellent for people having dry skin. The ingredients used to prepare this herbal cleanser include:

  • 2 tablespoonfuls (30 ml) of chamomile flowers
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) of milk containing full fat

To prepare this cleansing recipe, you should first gently heat the two ingredients together in a double boiler for about 30 minutes. However, be careful not to allow the mixture to boil. Allow the mixture to cool down for two hours, filter it and store the preparation in a refrigerator. This herbal cleanser ought to be used within seven days of preparation.

Wild Thyme {Thymus serpyllum}

Also, Known As:

  • Creeping Thyme
  • Mother-of-thyme
  • Wild Thyme

The wild thyme is native to the larger parts of Europe where the land is dry. The wild thyme is rare compared to the common thyme’s and is farmed extensively. Normally, wild thyme is found growing up to a certain altitude on the Alps, on high plateaus, in valleys, alongside trenches, roads, on rocks and also in infertile and dry soil. Wild thyme may also be found growing in moisture-laden clay soil that is improvised of chalk. Wild thyme’s can also be found in old rocky, deserted grounds, dried-up grass turfs and also on open lands. Particularly in England, wild thyme’s grow normally on moorlands and rocky terrains. Wild thyme is frequently cultivated as garden borders, in rock gardens or on the sunlit banks of rivulets and streams.

Wild thyme is a perennial herb. The herb’s sulky wooded stems grow up to a height of one foot and the leaves of the plant are converse, slender and oblong or oval shaped. The leaves of wild thyme are rarely longer than 12 inches and give off a lemon-like scent. Similar to its other thyme family members, wild thyme is full of thymol which is used by most druggists as a powerful antiseptic. It is an active element in all disinfectants, mouthwashes, and even gargles. As pharmacists are well aware of wild thyme’s lemony odor, it is also used in toiletry items. In fact, it was the ancient men of Athens who first discovered the lemon scent of wild thyme’s and massaged a lotion prepared from the herb on their chests after bathing to make them appear graceful. Wherever, the wild thyme grows, it indicates a serene ambiance and in ancient days, it was believed that the herb helped to cheer up the mental spirits by disseminating a wonderful lemon-like scent in the air. In fact, the Romans used the wild thyme as an independent medication to heal depressions.

Although wild thyme’s have less distinct in taste than the cultivated variety, it can always be used as a replacement of its aromatic features in stews, soups, stuffing as well as poultry and mutton preparations. It is said that the meat of sheep that grazes on wild thyme’s are of exceptional taste.

Wild thyme grows perennially as is thicker than the garden variety of the herb. The herb has a number of varieties depending on the neighborhood where it grows. When it grows in natural conditions like dry and exposed downhill, wild thyme is normally small and found to be lying on the ground. In such conditions, wild thyme is frequently found to be forming cushions. But when it grows along with furze, a prickly plant with yellow flowers that grows in the forests, or other plants that provide it with some kind of refuge, the herb grows up to a foot length giving it a completely unusual look. Wild thyme derives its specific name ‘serpyllum’ from the Greek term that means a creeper. The herb has obtained this name owing to its nature of lying prostate on the ground and as a trailer.

The wild thyme has woody and fibrous roots while the plant bears many stems that are firm, divided and lying prostate on the ground. The stems of the wild thyme’s are normally colored reddish-brown. The herb has bright green leaves that get thinner at the bottom into very short foot-stalks that are soft and include many small glands. The leaves of the plant are bordered with hairs at the base and contain major veins on the lower surface. Unlike in the garden thyme’s, the edges of the leaves of wild thyme’s are not recurved, but like all other plants in the Labiatae classification (all thyme’s belong to this category), wild thyme’s bear leaves in pairs on the stems. Normally, the plant bears flowers from the end of May to early June and continues till the onset of autumn. Like in the case of garden thyme’s, the flowers of wild thyme are purple in color and blossom in a circular arrangement of three or more flowers at one node of the stems.

Interestingly wild thyme’s have numerous attractions and features. While the bees especially love the thyme flowers for the nectar they can extract from them, in some parts of the world it was traditional for young girls to wear garlands made of thyme leaves, lavender, and mint with the aim of attracting their beloved ones. Particularly in Wales, the wild thyme is also related to death. While the thyme flowers were placed on the graves in Wales, till date the Order of Old fellows still carry garlands made of wild thyme to the funerals of their beloved ones and throw them on the graves. Most significantly, there is an ancient adage that says that wild thyme comprised one of the herbs that formed the perfumed bed of the Virgin Mary.

Plant Part Used:

Flowering tops.

Medicinal Use:

Like most of the other medicinal herbs, wild thyme too has numerous benefits and is useful in healing a number of problems. Wild thyme extracts may be taken in both as syrups and infusion. Normally wild thyme syrup or infusions are used to heal sore throats, flu and colds, whooping cough,coughs, bronchitis, and chest infections. As wild thyme contains decongestant properties, it is very useful in shrinking swollen nasal tissues,sinusitis, and clogging of the ear as well as all other associated problems. Many herbal practitioners use wild thyme to throw out roundworms and threadworms from the children’s body and in infants, it is also used to heal gas and colic. Wild thyme is antispasmodic and helps in relieving pains occurring from cramps and spasms. A paste prepared from wild thyme may be applied externally as a poultice or soft, moist mass of the skin to provide heat and moisture. This is largely beneficial in healing mastitis, a swelling of the breast while an infusion prepared from the wild thyme is applied as a wash to treat wounds, cuts, and ulcers. It may be noted here that wild thyme also finds extensive use in pillows and herbal baths.

Folk healers or herbal medicinal practitioners who pass on their knowledge to their assistants often recommended wild thyme as tranquilizers, antiseptics against bacteria, diuretics to increase urine flow, expectorants to increase bronchial secretions and also carminatives to prevent the formation of intestinal gas as well as relieve the body of it. Pharmacologists have already authenticated the use of wild thyme as antiseptics, expectorants, antispasmodic and carminative. In medical science, wild thyme also known as serpolet has the same qualities as the common thyme but is of a lower grade than the common variety of the herb. In brief, wild thyme is useful as an aromatic, antiseptic, and refreshment tonic, antispasmodic, diuretic as well as emmenagogue that promotes and regulates menstruation.

Wild thyme is also useful to cure chest ailments and for those suffering from weak digestion. In both cases, herbal practitioners recommend the use of an infusion prepared from the wild thyme. In addition, the wild thyme infusion is also a useful medicine to cure flatulence or excessive gas formation in stomach or intestine. When administered to people suffering from convulsive coughs, wild thyme extracts are known to have shown excellent results. Normally, an infusion made by adding one ounce of dried out wild thyme in one pint of boiling water is beneficial to heal the above-mentioned disorders. The infusion is normally sweetened by mixing sugar or honey and smoothed or made demulcent by adding acacia or linseed to it. The dosage is simple. For effective action, it is taken one or more tablespoonfuls several times in a day.

The concoction prepared with wild thyme is also extremely beneficial for treating cases of drunkenness or alcoholism and, according to herbalist Culpepper, the herb is also an effective medicine in healing complaints of nightmares. He has said that when a preparation of wild thyme vinegar made on the lines of rose vinegar and applied on the head, it immediately relieves people of all pains. The infusion of the herb is also recommended for healing both states of violent mental agitation as well as lethargy or stupor. Similarly, tea prepared with wild thyme is also a useful medication for a headache and any kind of nervous problems. The wild thyme tea may be taken directly or mixed with other herb extracts like rosemary and others.

Habitat of Wild Thyme:

Reasonably acidic to the neutral soil is best for the wild thyme to grow. In addition, less fertile soil and bright sunlight help the herb to flourish better. It can also grow on organic soils provided there is a superb drainage system. Though it grows best under full sun, wild thyme can also be cultivated in partial shade and the herb is capable of thriving even in drought conditions. While wild thyme plants grow well in temperate and arid places, development of the herb is sluggish to reasonable in superior conditions. Although snails and slugs (gastropod mollusks without shells) often cause harm to wild thyme plants, they are normally free from other kinds of pest problems. As far as diseases to the plant are concerned, the leaves of wild thyme face disfigurement or stains (leaf blight) appear on them during cold and rainy seasons, particularly during the winters.

Components of Wild Thyme:

Large quantities of wild thyme are required to derive substantial amounts of the herb’s extracts. When 100 kilograms (about 225 pounds) of dehydrated wild thyme is distilled it only produces about 150 (five or six ounces) grams of the herb concentrate. The concentrate is a yellow liquid, also known as serpolet oil that has a less intensive aroma than the oil of thyme derived from T.vulgaris. The distilled concentrate from dried wild thyme has 30 to 70 percent of phenols, including thymol, carvacrol and others. Blended with the oil extracted from common thyme, wild thyme concentrate is transformed into artificial oil. In the perfumery industry, the oil of serpolet is mainly used in the manufacture of aromatic as well as antiseptic soaps.

Life Root

Senecio aureus

Also, Known As:

  • Cocashweed
  • Coughweed
  • False Valerian
  • Golden Ragwort
  • Golden Senecio
  • Liferoot

The herb known as the life root is a perennial wild flower species of the daisy family of plants – Asteraceae; it reaches about half to two m in height. A small rosette of basal leaves approximately six to eight inches across is found at the base of each plant. The basal leaves have blades that are normally two inches in length and two inch wide. The leaves are cordate orbicular in shape, possessing crenate, dentate edges without any hair on the surface. The length of the blades is matched by the length of the slender petioles of the basal leaves. Each rosette develops a flowering stalk from its center which grows up. Usually two to three alternate leaves are borne along this flowering stalk. The size of the alternate leaves is smaller compared to the size of the basal leaves. During the blooming period and the time following the bloom, the alternate leaves as well as the stalk are devoid of hairs. The flowering stalk bears a flat headed panicle or corymb of flower heads at its tip. The panicle bears slender and hair free branches. The floral heads resemble a daisy; each is about half an inch to one inch wide. Numerous golden yellow disk florets can be seen in the center of each floral head, each of these disks are surrounded by six to sixteen yellow colored ray florets. The florets on the disk and the ray florets are fertile and take part in the sexual cycle of the plant. Many linear green colored bracts in a single series surround the base of the floral head. Life root flowers bloom from middle to late spring, floral blooms typically lasts for three weeks in a season. A bullet shaped achene with white tuffs of hair or fruit will replace each floret. Wind action results in the distribution of the achene and the plants are normally propagated through the agency of wind in the wild. Life root is also characterized by possessing a short root-stock with spreading fibrous roots that produces rhizomes or stolons at ground level. At favorable sites, the plant may produce vegetative colonies of plants.

The daisy family forms one of the largest genera of flowering plants in the plant kingdom. The botanist Senecio includes two thousand and more species in this genus – many of these plant are commonly met with in herbal dispensaries or in garden as an ornamental. The life root is a native North American species of the daisy family, with a long historical and herbal use as a treatment for an assortment of gynecological disorders. The remedy made from the life root was found to be of great use by Indian women facing the pains of childbirth, it was traditionally used to speed up a protracted labor and to ease the pain. The early colonists made similar use of the plant, and many herbalists in 19th-century America placed great faith in the life root as a remedial “female regulator.” These herbalists employed the plant to treat many types of common as well as rare disorders including leucorrhea – excessive vaginal discharge – as well as all kinds of menstrual problems; it was also used to treat different types of irregularities associated with menopause. Life root was used as a remedy for TB, much before the introduction of chemical compounds used in modern treatment for TB. In the old days, a person down with tuberculosis was almost certainly going to die as medications simply did not exists, at this time, the early stages of the disease was relieved symptomatically using the life root as a herbal remedy. Tuberculosis patients in colonial times would be given a teaspoonful of the fluid extract of life root mixed in a little water; this was believed to induce a tonic effect on the body of the patients. The treatment of urinary tract infections and disorders was also treated using the life root remedy by traditional herbalists; these herbalists also treated kidney stones using the remedy.

The life root herb is also called by other names including, “golden senecio,” the “ragwort,” the “false valerian,” and the “squaw weed.” The herb is characterized by the bearing bright yellow floral heads in full bloom. It is a member of the family Asteraceae or the daisy family of plants. The habitat types in which the life root can be found growing includes swampy grounds and places covered by moist thickets that are seen along the eastern and central United States of America. Herbalist, traditionally prepared the medication using the entire dried plant and not just the root as is commonly assumed. The life root had great popularity even up to the year 1979, when it was still among the principal herbal ingredients in the famous old proprietary folk remedy known as Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound – which was sold at so many places. On chemical analysis of the life root, small but detectable quantities of the toxic alkaloid senecionine have been found at concentrations of about 0.006 per cent of dry weight. The principal chemical compound found in the plant, senecionine is a member of the group of hepatotoxic -liver poisons – pyrrolizidine alkaloids, this chemical when given in a few doses can induce chronic disease of the liver in laboratory rats. Human liver diseases and their originators have been analyzed and a strong possibility exists that it is such alkaloids that are involved in some way; this includes the onset of primary liver cancer in many people. The presence of this chemical alkaloid makes all discussion of life root as a potential remedy irrelevant. There are no distinct therapeutic benefits and self medication is not desirable for any condition. The safety of the medication is seriously compromised due to the presence of the alkaloid compound senecionine. The use of this medication has been discontinued in conventional medications many years ago and its present limited employment in herbal medicine must also be discontinued as it is a risky medication.

Plant Part Used:

Dried aerial parts.

Herbal Medicine Use:

There are still some instances in which the life root is used in herbal medicine, it is still used as a uterine tonic quite safely – the remedy strengthens and aids the uterine lining. Remedies made from the life root are particularly useful in dealing with different types of disorders affecting menopause in women. The remedy made from the life root may also be useful in dealing with case of delayed or suppressed menstruation. The topical remedy made from the life root can be used as a douche in treating leucorrhoea. The remedy made from life root is also used to have a great reputation and functioned as a general tonic to treat tuberculosis and other debilitated states affecting the human body.

The whole herb is medicinal and is sold along with the roots in the commercial herbal market. Herbalists in England traditionally made use of the European sub-species Vulgaris, locally called the “groundsel,” this herb was very popular in England for several centuries and was a fixture in herbal medicine. The early English colonialists in the new world made use of the American sub-species; the New England colonists in the earliest settlements used the herb in many remedial preparations. The remedy made from life root tends to act moderately on the body with a persistent action; it is a blend of relaxing and stimulating effects. The life root remedy has a sharp and bitter taste, often inducing a full tonic impression on the stomach, the nervous system, as well as the uterine lining. Life root is principally used as a nervine tonic to treat female weaknesses and problems with the uterus; it has a mild but prompt soothing effect on the menstrual cycle. The remedy made from life root was also used extensively to treat problems including neuralgia and rheumatism affecting the womb in women, it was used in alleviating the aches and cramps incident in the gestation period in women under a term of pregnancy. The remedy made from life root is especially helpful in the treatment of mild cases of leucorrhea and prolapsus; it is also used in treating uterine hysteria. Life root remedy is used in boosting feeble appetite and to alleviate aches of the back – that affects so many women. The life root remedy may also possibly be beneficial for disorders affecting the kidneys and in treating urinary problems. The tonic actions of the life root remedy is the principal reason for its effectiveness at promoting proper menstruation and in enlivening a languid and partially a tonic amenorrhea in women. The life root remedy cannot be considered to be a forcing emmenagogue; it is more of an aid in cases of passive menorrhagia as it induces a toning effect on the uterine lining. When life root is taken in the form of a warm herbal infusion, it helps expedite the process of parturition in cases of uterine and nervous fatigue affecting a woman. Women experiencing disorders in the kidney due to the problems affecting the uterus feel the influence of this remedy moderately well – the remedy being effective in treating female specific renal disorders. The use of the life root remedy is especially beneficial for the lungs, while claims about its potential to cure tubercular consumption are clearly false; the remedy is unquestionably effective in treating debilitating coughs in patients. The lifer root remedy’s ability to effectively treat sub-acute and chronic dysentery has been given great value by some physicians; they prefer using the life root remedy in place of hydrastis as a tonic to treat just such disorders. The true character and nature of the life root remedy in these disorders can only be understood well by remembering its effective tonic and nervine effect.

Growing Life Root:

The life root is found all over eastern North America. Habitats in which the plant may be seen include damp grounds and marshes, and riparian habitats. The remedy is prepared from aerial parts of the plant that are harvested during the summer season.


Life root contains a volatile oil, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (including senecine, senecionine, and otosenine), tannins, and resin. In isolation, the pyrrolizidine alkaloids are highly toxic to the liver.

Infusion, Tincture:

Infusion: the infusion of the life root can be prepared by pouring a cup of boiling water over one to three teaspoonfuls of the dried herb kept in a pan. The herb must be left to infuse and steep in the hot water for ten to fifteen minutes before it is cooled, strained and drank. This remedy may be taken three times daily to treat various disorders or as indicated by an herbalist.
Tincture: the life root tincture can be taken at doses of one to four ml three times daily to treat various disorders.

 Harvesting Life Root:

The best time to collect the herb is just before the flowers open up in the summer months.


The remedy made from the life root can also be combined with other helpful and beneficial herbs such as the St. John’s wort, the oats or the pasque flower and used in treating menopausal problems and disorders.

Prickly Pear Cactus {Opuntia ficus-indica}

Also, Known As

  • Barbary Fig
  • Prickly Pear Cactus
  • Tuna Cactus

Prickly pear cactus (botanical name, Opuntia ficus-indicia) is a cacti plant that has the characteristic of being a fruit and flower compact and has been used by the native Mexican tribes for treating a range of ailments and health conditions for several centuries now. While growing naturally, it is found in places having desert-like conditions. However, currently, people in several European countries cultivate cacti plant commercially for a number of purposes. In fact, this plant has been domesticated long ago and is an important crop in agricultural economies in the parched and semi-parched regions across the globe.


prickly pear cactusThe prickly pear cactus is a perennial cacti plant that usually grows up to 5 meters or 16 feet in height. This plant bears copious minuscule thorny glochids (hairs/ bristles), which are removed easily when one touches the plant. Subsequently, these glochids get stuck to the skin and they become difficult to see and hard to remove from the body. In fact, these thorny hairs have the potential to set off great uneasiness.

Plant Parts Used:

Fruits, flowers.

Nutritional Use:

The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indicia) possesses a variety of nourishing chemical elements that have incredible remedial as well as preventive attributes. The plant itself is extremely healthful and encloses an exceptional vitamin and mineral profile, which contributes to the several helpful effects of prickly pear cactus. This cacti plant offers numerous nutrients essential for our body. It has exceptionally rich fiber content and is also a natural resource for vitamin C (ascorbic acid), flavonoids and as many as 17 amino acids. Precisely speaking the prickly pear cactus is loaded with nutrients that are known to aid the liver, pancreas and prostate. This plant is especially beneficial for people suffering from diabetes since the health of the liver and pancreas is very important to maintain the balance of blood sugar.

The prickly pear cactus possesses anti-inflammatory properties that are very familiar to most. The plant was used by the ancient tribes in Mexico to alleviate inflamed insect bites. Meanwhile, scientists in the West have found that prickly pear cactus is helpful in treating arthritis as well as inflammation of the joints, muscles, and even the eyes.

It is very natural that athletes have fallen back on prickly pear cactus to obtain additional energy in the gym, to lower muscle soreness following exercises, to lessen the modifications of developing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and to facilitate and accelerate recuperation. An extract from the prickly pear cactus has proved to be amazingly beneficial in the form of an ergogenic (mounting ability of physical and mental labor by doing away with exhaustion) recovery aide.

It has been found that the influence of prickly pear cactus on consumption of alcoholic beverages is also very impressive. Several studies have found that this plant is able to aid in lowering the consequences of too much alcohol consumption, provided it is used for drinking.

Prickly pear cactus is effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels and, at the same time, it facilitates digestion of nutrients, thereby aiding in controlling the glucose levels in the bloodstream. This plant also assists in lessening the development of plaques in the arteries and veins, thereby enhancing blood circulation. Prickly pear cactus encloses calcium which facilitates in avoiding osteoporosis while the rich fiber content of the plant enhances the digestive system. All these actions together help to make the blood purer and better, thereby aiding diuresis (increased urine discharge), which helps to cleanse the kidneys. Any individual having too much glucose in his/ her blood would observe that when they consume the potent juice of the prickly pear cactus plant, the glucose level lowers considerably within just an hour of ingesting it.

Prickly pear cactus possesses rich fiber content and this functions as an appetite suppressant – in other words, it does not allow one to eat excessively and become obese. In addition, the fiber also helps to reduce accumulation of fat and makes excretions more frequent and regular. Latest researches have revealed that ingestion of foods that have high fiber content facilitates in protecting against a variety of ailments, for instance, heart disease, diabetes, and colon disorders. Prickly pear cactus is really a wonderful plant that encloses a vegetable protein that aids in decreasing cellulite (lumps of fat deposits in the thighs and buttock) as well as diminishes excessive fluid retention by the body. Amino acids enclosed by this plant are useful in providing the body with energy as well as lessening fatigue. At the same time, they also help to diminish the sugar levels in the bloodstream and lower appetite.

eastern-prickly-pear-(2)The prickly pear cactus is an amazing plant that offers numerous health as well as nutritional gains. This plant has proved to be a wonderful supplement that can be added to any type of diet, particularly those taken by the diabetic patients. Prickly pear cactus encloses a number of natural vitamins and essential minerals which offer health benefits that are important for our health and well-being in general.

Even the flowers and stems of the prickly pear cactus possess therapeutic properties, such as diuretic, antispasmodic and emollient. Often the split stems are used as a first aid treatment and bound around the wounded limbs. The flowers of this plant possess astringent properties and are frequently employed to lessen bleeding as well as for treating problems related to the gastro-intestinal tract, for instance, colitis, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition, prickly pear cactus flowers are made use of in treating a distended prostate gland.

As an herbal medication, prickly pear cactus has long been used to cure superficial wounds (shallow, surface injuries), such as scrapes and cuts. Similar to the aloe vera, this plant is also applied externally to the affected areas.

As discussed earlier, prickly pear cactus is effective in suppressing appetite and, thereby, very useful in weight loss. Initially, the fibers enclosed by the plant attach themselves to the fat suspended (free fat) in the stomach and make that fat unsuitable for digestion. Apart from this, the fibers enclosed by prickly pear cactus are in a state that is somewhere between a solid and liquid and this makes them sticky. Thus, they are able to remain in the stomach for a longer period compared to any other common food.

This is the primary reason why people who consume prickly pear cactus do not feel hungry for a prolonged period and consequently, eat less food, taking in fewer calories. In fact, their craving for food vanishes and this, in turn, helps them to lose weight.

Since the early days, the prickly pear cactus was conventionally used by the Mexican Indian tribes as a foodstuff as well as a therapeutic herb. It may be noted that the climatic conditions in Mexico are scorching, parched, and desert-like, which makes it difficult to undertake agriculture as there is a dearth of irrigation technologies. As a result, only a few species are able to thrive under such harsh conditions. The Mexican Indian tribes have, therefore, used the prickly pear cactus as a food out of compulsion and also owing to the absence of other types of plants in the region. They have also used prickly pear cactus to prepare flavored food items, such as soups, jellies, pickles and also cheese products!

Alternatively, this plant is also blended with oil to manufacture candles. The gum exuded by prickly pear cactus also has an industrial use, as it is added to plaster, whitewash and such things to make them stick to the walls better.

Growing Prickly Pear:

Prickly pear cactus is indigenous to Mexico, the United States, and South Africa, but over the years, it has been naturalized in the Mediterranean region where this plant is found growing naturally in dry, arid and rock-strewn locales. In addition, this plant presently also grows in Africa and Australia, where it has turned into an infamous weed.

Prickly_Pear_Cactus_3_Prickly pear cactus requires an extremely well-drained or sandy soil and has a preference for a pH ranging between 6 and 7.5. It is essential to maintain the plants somewhat water-less during the winter months. Nevertheless, this plant also has a preference for rational watering during its growing period. It is ideal for the prickly pear cactus if the plant is grown in a place at the base of a wall facing south or any place where it is possible to protect the plant from the rains during winter. In order to flourish well, prickly pear cactus needs enough of sunlight and warmth. Prickly pear cactus has the aptitude to endure a lot of neglect. This plant is cultivated in several sub-tropical areas as well as warm temperate climatic regions for its flowers, which are edible, and also as a fence that helps to prevent animals from entering an area. Prickly pear cactus is found in a number of named varieties and one among them does not possess the characteristic spines and annoying bristles.

The prickly pear cactus is propagated by its seeds, which should ideally be sown in early spring. The seeds need to be sown in manure having an excellent drainage system inside a greenhouse. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently tall to be handled, pick them out individually and plant them in separate containers. The young plants should be essentially grown in the greenhouse at least for the first two winters. The plants may be put in their permanent positions outdoors during the latter part of spring or early summer when the last expected frost has passed. It is also important to provide the plants with some kind of protection from the winter dampness. While cultivating prickly pear cactus, it is important to ensure that you have some young plants in reserve in the greenhouse because it is likely that some of the plants planted outdoors may not survive the onslaughts of their first winter.

Alternately, the plant can also be propagated with its leaf pads. The leaf pads of the prickly pear cactus may be cut any time during the growing period of the plant. After having cut the leaf pad, you should leave it in an arid, sunlit place for a few days to make sure that its base is somewhat dehydrated and has started to become hard-skinned (callous). Plant these semi-arid leaf pads into containers containing sandy compost. Propagating the plant through this procedure is extremely simple and the leaf pads start to give out roots soon.


Contemporary science has found out that the prickly pear cactus encloses several health benefits. Findings of different researches indicate that apart from facilitating the healing of minor wounds and cuts, this plant also acts as a scavenger of the harmful free radicals produced by the body, thereby helping to protect the immune system as well as avert oxidative strain. Prickly pear cactus also possesses antioxidant activities and this helps in protecting the cells and organs. In addition, the antioxidant attributes of the plant also supposedly inhibit the aging process as well as prevent diseases and even injuries.

Besides the above-mentioned health benefits of prickly pear cactus, this plant also has the aptitude to decrease the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, also called the ‘bad’ cholesterol, levels, thereby bringing down the blood pressure as well as the workload of the heart.


Chemical analysis of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) shows that it is loaded with natural flavonoids, such as kaempferol 3-methyl ether, kaempferol, quercetin 3-methyl ether, quercetin, dihydro quercetin, dihydrokaempferol (aromadendrin 6), narcissin and eriodictyol. In fact, the health promoting benefits of prickly pear cactus are attributed to these flavonoids.

In addition to the above-mentioned flavonoids, the prickly pear cactus plant also encloses a number of minerals, such as iron, potassium, and calcium, as well as a variety of vitamins, counting vitamins B1, B2, and C.

Treating Anxiety, Depression, and Stress

The Wise Woman Way

So many people are experiencing mood disturbances these days. While the choice to use anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication is a valid one, the increase in use over the past decade has doubled, along with our stress levels. How can we address this issue in our lives on deeper lifestyle level and create more sustainable solutions? My favorite interpretation of the Wise Woman Tradition, which speaks to the heart of this issue, is to:

Live in your body. Speak your truth. Love yourself.

butter and oilLiving in your body is all about nourishment, the foundation of the Wise Woman Tradition. If we’re not deeply nourished, it’s very difficult for us to deal with the situational anxiety and depression that comes our way. Most women suffer from a lack of healthy fats in their diets. Healthy fats, like raw organic butter and coconut oil, contribute to a healthy nervous system unlike anything else. A robust nervous system helps us be less emotionally volatile or prone to extreme bouts of anxiety. Reducing or eliminating stimulants will also help get you on the up and down the wheel of anxiety.

Speaking your truth. The Wise Woman Tradition teaches us to embrace both the light and dark sides of ourselves – even those so-called “negative emotions” such as grief and rage. Women and men have often been taught to suppress these parts which, stored in our bodies, can create anxiety and illness.woman hugging herselfName the fears and dark emotions with your loved ones. Be vulnerable and real about who you are and what you feel. Try expressing this dark stuff in a safe way by lying on the earth and letting your tears and anger flow . . . the earth can take your pain and turn it into food and medicine!

Loving yourself. Where in your life are you being nourished? Accentuate those parts and begin to look at what drains your energy. Your job, your relationship, your community? Is there a way to live more authentically who you are? Is there a way to live more simply to reduce economic stress? Can you reach out to others to create more community in your life? Can you find a way to get nourishing non-sexual touches such as massage or cuddling? Can you do a daily movement or writing or art practice, which grounds your energy and frees your soul?

Herbal remedies for anxiety and depression

Herbs alone, just like prescription medicine alone, will not be a miracle cure. In combination with the lifestyle issues above, herbs will encourage your body and mind towards wholeness.

lemon balm patchThree of my favorite herbs to soothe the nerves and ease anxiety are lemon balm, skullcap, and catnip, all gentle, safe herbs in the mint family. Lemon balm is known as a mood elevator–if you’ve had a sniff of a leaf from the garden, you understand what that means! Skullcap is used to ease nervous tension and help with headaches and sleep disturbances. Catnip is used to for calming, pain, and bellyaches, which often accompany mood disorders.

May you discover yourself more deeply on your journey through the light and dark spiral of life.

Starting Your Seeds Indoors This Winter.

Expert answers to your herb-growing questions.

Q.  This year I want to grow some of my herb plants from seeds. What are the steps to starting seeds over the winter?

A.  Seed starting is like baking bread- you need the right mix of ingredients, the right temperature, and viable yeast. In the case of seed starting, the ingredient list includes a light-weight growing medium and containers for planting. Provide the right temperature with a warm greenhouse or sunny window; and seeds, of course, are the viable catalyst.

Use a commercial potting mix or seedling mix for the growing medium. Choose from egg cartons, yogurt cups, flats of six-cell packs or small pots when it comes to containers. {Note: Fiber- or peat-based pots should be soaked well before adding soil.} Like yeast, seeds have a limited life-be sure the seeds are fresh or packaged for the upcoming growing season for optimum germination.

The directions on the back of the seed packet will tell you all the specifics for starting that particular seed, along with germination time, spacing and transplant information. Be aware that germination time will vary during winter. Some herbs {parsley is an example} can take up to a month to germinate. Soaking seeds overnight often will help speed up germination.

Fill pots or flats with moistened potting or seedling mix. Plant seeds according to package instructions, paying special attention to whether seeds should or should not be covered. {Some seeds need light in order to germinate.} Use a fine sprayer to moisten the soil and keep it continually moist until seeds have germinated. Then, place pots in bright light or set them just a few inches below fluorescent bulbs to produce strong, healthy plants. Small pots dry out quickly, so check often and keep the soil slightly moist. Fertilize with a weak solution of liquid organic fertilizer when seedlings are about an inch high, then transplant into larger pots as needed. Most seedlings can go in the ground after all danger of frost has passed.


Q. Every year I start basil from seed without any problems. But last spring I tried growing echinacea from seed with no success. Do you have any tips for starting echinacea from seed?

A. Echinacea requires more specific germination conditions than basil. Try your hand with Echinacea purpurea first; it’s the easiest echinacea to grow from seed.

For best results, start the seeds indoors or in a greenhouse in January or February. You can increase the germination rate with a treatment called stratification- exposing seeds to cool, dark, moist conditions for a period before you sow them.

First, mix the seeds with a small amount of pre-moistened peat moss or vermiculite. Place them in a snap-and-seal bag, then refrigerate for a week ot two. Or simply scatter the seeds between two layers of moist paper towels, put the towels in a plastic bag, then refrigerate.

After this chilling period, remove the seeds. Sow them in flats or cell packs on the surface of a well-drained, commercial potting mix. Germination occurs in 10 to 30 days. Once the seeds start to sprout, lightly cover the seeds with a thin, 1/8-inch layer of fine potting mix or vermiculite. For best growth, keep seedlings beneath grow lights or fluorescent lights. Transplant seedlings to your garden in May or June.

Stratifying seeds is not essential for successful germination of E. purpurea, but it is a must for other species. Seeds for narrow-leaf echinacea {E. angustifolia} and pale-purple echinacea {E. pallida} require a longer stratification period, from three to six weeks. Stratifying seeds for yellow echinacea {E, paradoxa}, and Tennessee echinacea {E. tennesseesis} from four to eight weeks.

You also can try planting E. purpurea seeds directly in the garden in early spring, about six to eight weeks before your last spring frost, or when soil temperatures reach 55 to 70 degrees. Be sure to lightly cover the seeds with a thin layer {1/8 inch} of compost or vermiculite. This method is much easier than starting the seed indoors, but getting good germination is not guaranteed.

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