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This is Getting Personal…

Oh where to start, where to start…

With transformation there is no begining..no ending..no distinct points and places to divide. Too divine. A slow and steady molding of my soul. Lifetimes in the making..but right now, is a turning point. A bend. A wrenching twist. A sudden shift.

This website is being overturned.

From here on it will be a collection of expressions…a baring of my innards. A journal of my journey through the mundane, the everyday. It will be a housing of my orphaned thoughts, and a record of personal revelation. Reflections, dejections, and mutilated mantras abound.

Something vital has been missing from my life since I put down the pen. It’s time I pick it up again.

Taking a moment to know a moment.
Let’s exercise our awareness…

The easiest place to start expanding your awareness of sense is at the dinner table. (Or the breakfast, lunch, brunch and all the snacks in between table…) Before you let anything on to your fork, spoon or fingertips, take a look at it. What color is it? What sort of texture does it appear to have? What shape is it? Admire its hue, study its curves, witness its potential. After a good long stare down, a good hearty observation, move on to the next sense. How does the food smell? Allow yourself to indulge in the olfactory performance from begining to end. Try to acknowledge every layer of its aroma as it presents itself. After you have absorbed the visual expression of your feast, and have consciously inhaled its essence, you can move on to taste and touch. Put a small amount of food in your mouth, and recognize how it feels on your lips, your tongue, against the inside and roof of your mouth, and between your teeth. Be aware of the taste…is it bitter? sweet? sour? salty?a little bit of everything?

Now, I present this “exercise” in the form of a process with distinct steps (look, smell, touch, taste)…but in reality the exact order in which you do these things is not important. It is the MANNER in which they are done that is pivotal. There is nothing to accomplish here, nothing to expect, nothing to achieve except a very CONSCIOUS moment in your life…which seems to me like the only real reason worth living.

BODY LANGUAGE

A Brief Intro into Herbal Energetics

I have recently been subjecting myself to learning about herbcraft through the insightful and humorous teachings of Jim McDonald. Spending 6 hour days in his narcotically comfortable, sunlit living room while he passes around bits of botanical experience and charm has been a blessing, and a sliver of a dream come true.

Jim begins his sharing of the art and science of herbwifery with an overview of what he calls foundational herbcraft. He stresses the importance of understanding “the foundational nature by which herbs function”. It is his opinion that what sets a good herbalist apart from a mediocre one is the use of this foundational herbcraft…understanding on a visceral level, through primal energetics, why a plant is helpful in a certain situation rather than being able to intellectually retain a long list of secondary actions and maybe even chemical constituents. This is often referred to as herbal energetics. The manner in which he lays out this information is so nonchalant , so logically expressed, that if I weren’t so overwhelmed with awe at having finally grasped the concept of energetics, I might feel stupid for not having figured it out myself. Jim nonetheless has a way of explaining complex systems and ideas in a totally comprehensive fashion; one that we students can easily process. The way Jim teaches this previously mind boggling system of energetics seems so simple because he recognizes and reminds us that we HAVE already “figured it out for ourselves”…

As a child growing up in Michigan the great outdoors never ceased to amaze me. Even in the dead of winter I wanted to roll around with the cold wet earth and experience all its glory. After spending a few hours building forts, throwing ice, and just laying in an angel gazing up at the sky, my body was more than pleased to come inside to a warm cup of hot chocolate; it never-ever crossed my mind to come in and eat a bowl of ice cream. In the summer months, however, riding packed in the backseat of a car with 3 other kids, the sun following us intently, every atom in my body wanted to cry out in deep yearning as we passed by the ice-cream shop. When our hands are dry we use lotion or oil to restore them to their natural state of balance, when our lungs are damp with excess mucous we drink a hot cup of tea; or at least we should. We consume cooling salads, fruits and lemonade in the summer, hot soups, heavy meats, and fats in the winter. These are a few common examples of how we all understand energetics. It seems fair to say that we are naturally drawn to contrasting energies whenever we find ourselves lingering in an extreme.

The bedrock of all being can be reduced to four primal substances, or energies: hot, cold, dry, and damp. Hot is dispersive in nature, stimulating an outward flow of energy with the intention of purifying, where as cold is innately condensing bringing energy inward and binding things together no matter what their relationship to one another. Dry can be understood as a hardening, bringing in, and protecting of its own energy. Damp energy spreads itself in all directions until it meets a boundary. If we start to feed our awareness of this tendency toward balance that is in us all, we can gain confidence in both our use of herbs for health and healing and our individual intuition. We can rely on our own bodies to teach us how to use plant medicine, instead of looking to an outside source to tell us what is right from wrong.

When using this approach we are essentially nurturing the inherent abilities we all hold, as human animals, to communicate with the plant world. As Jim makes mention, we first need to break down the assumption that communication between an animal and a plant would be congruent to the exchange that takes place between two animals. The communication you partake in amongst the varying human beings you know is itself very individual, and you don’t convey your thoughts and feelings with other non human animals in the same manner as you do humans…(at least not most of the time..although I must admit I have slipped up and patted my knee at my son a few times to try and get him to come.) When I think about this, it seems silly to consider the prospect of interacting with a plant in a strictly human manner..the idea that we are going to hear a plants voice in our heads, or be witness to an apparition of its spirit is likewise a misconception of what the words communing with nature, talking to the plants and other common phrases are actually referring to. Again, while this is not typical, I am not saying it cannot or does not ever happen..simply that it is not the usual means of expression when dealing with botanical beings. Plants live and work on a very different plane of existence than animals; this is very apparent when considering anatomy and physiology (which I think is worth noting when we think of communication and the way it is manifested through our physical bodies). Plants are constantly expressing themselves to us through the most primitive, and consequently most widely accessible and understood manner possible…through stimulation of our sacred senses. Through use of primal energetics. Plants transcend the nuisance of human barriers when it comes to communication. The plant speaks through sensation. No matter what language you speak or don’t, no matter what sex, race, or religious affiliation you tend towards, the plant speaks a language that is universally understood to a depth no word can touch…That is of course, as long as you have ready access to a few of your other four senses; through taste, touch, smell and sight we are fully equipped to interact with the entire plant kingdom.

Unfortunately, a very common and chronic issue that will be had is that of sensory oblivion. Sure, you can taste, you can smell, you can see, and you can feel…but to what degree? Do you understand what all you are perceiving means? Are you consistently aware, accepting and actively participating in the processes your body experiences? Or are you constantly overstimulating, numbing out, or down right ignoring what your body is telling you? Yes, plants speak to us by acting on our senses, by initiating certain sensation, and those sensations are our bodies communicating with our consciousness. If we are unable or unwilling to take the time and energy needed to create healthy communication with our bodies, then communing with something as divine and highly intelligent as the terrestrial protrusions of Mother Earth seems futile.

Strengthening the relationship with yourself is an interesting, intricate, and intensely involved journey to delve into. Although I would love to explore and express what I know of this process , elaborating on its details is not what this set of words was intended for. I too am learning everyday how to strengthen this relationship with myself, and am by no means a guru of bodily awareness. Kiva Rose, a Medicine Woman spreading love and wisdom to the world from a canyon tucked deep in the Gila Wildlands, is co-founder of a Lifeways School that builds its teaching on the foundation of nurturing awareness. I highly recommend anyone interested in strengthening the love for themselves and the world, breaking down comforting illusions and learning to bring their mind, body and soul together in harmony look further into her work. I truly feel that Kiva’s words and experience are more valuable than what I can share on this subject and think it important that before we go any further with primal energetics, you first read Kiva’s “3 Steps to ReLearning Original Language” In this article she suggests we 1)Surrender to our senses 2)Inhabit our bodies and 3) Engage the present.

The Wintergreen Experiments

For the Bioregional Herbs for Cold and Flu Blogparty
Hosted by Rosalee at her blog Methow Valley Herbs

Imagine how thrilled I was when Osro (my baby boy) started coughing, running a slight fever, and dripping mass amounts of clear liquids from his little button nose just in time for my first blogparty post; the topic being none other than “Bioregional Herbs for Cold and Flu”. My intent has been to focus on one plant that I am just becoming acquainted with in a healing manner, sharing all the knowledge I have been able to gather and the experiments of preparation I am undergoing. Osro’s symptoms seemed to coincide rather perfectly with this whole event, leading me to believe that as upsetting as this bug may be it might give rise to experience. Personally, I am coming around to a state of perception in regards to illness and dis-ease brought to my attention by Susun Weed…a philosophy she calls the Wise Woman Tradition. Instead of viewing sickness as something that must be feared and beaten, or as something we must blame and shame ourselves for having created with our own bad choices, I am starting to see a stray from “good health” as opportunity.

Disease and injury are doorways of transformation. Each one of us is inherently whole, yet seeking greater wholeness; perfect, yet desiring greater perfection….Good health may be freedom from disease, but it is also openness to change, flexibility, and compassionate embodiment, even when dancing with cancer or healing from a serious accident..” -Susun Weed from Healing Wise.

It is this understanding of health that keeps me from becoming a useless, sloppy mess of empathetic mama mush when I see my baby suffering. Recognizing that this discomfort is part of his life’s course helps me stay calm and offer him nourishment, love, and a strong, stable place to curl up while he allows himself to heal. Sure, it would be easier to have a child who never got sick or hurt or experienced any form of discomfort or unease. But, aside from being completely implausible, it is slightly absurd to think that a life void of any semblance of suffering would be desirable. “Your joys are your sorrows unmasked,” writes Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” The more dis-ease (emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually speaking) we endure, the more completely we are able to embrace and appreciate our recovery and freedom from such dis-ease. Although it can be hard to keep this in mind when your bed becomes center stage for a cacophony of wails, whimpers, sputtering phlegm-filled coughs, and rattling purges. Especially when it is coming from your favorite little creature at 3, 5, 6, and again 9 in the morning. Once you are back to an even slightly more rational place of existence it is easier to accept the role these moments play in the overall evolution of things.

Unfortunately, no matter how delicate and charming the tea, Osro has been interested in drinking one thing and one thing only…momma milk. Instead of experience I bring you found facts and intuitive notions. And so, it is with both an exhausted sorrow and a humbled joy that I present to you:

THE WINTERGREEN EXPERIMENTS
Gaultheria procumbens
Wintergreen-x3

In a shady forest of oak, fern, birch and blueberry, creeps a small strong plant through its sandy soil. Some of you may have experienced this plant’s sweet minty berries yourself, but many have only ever come in contact with its imitator in toothpastes, gums, hard candies, and sports rubs. Gaultheria procumbens is its name but you may call it wintergreen, teaberry, checkerberry or partridgeberry for short. I have recently been reunited with this evergreen without a moment’s hesitation to become deeply involved. Memories of taking time to pluck a few red berries as I sprint through enchanting woods melting coolly into early spring bring on a meaningful connection and eager inspiration to embrace wintergreen all over again; and in a whole new way.

After coming into contact with Gaultheria recently I felt compelled to learn all I could from it. Its abundance here in the Great Lakes Bioregion makes it a perfect candidate as a favoured ally in health and wellness. Upon spending some time with the hardy little plant itself, I was inclined not only to nibble on some berries but also a few leaves. Although the berries are stronger in flavor, the leaves house a pleasant wintergreen taste as well, feeling mildly astringent and slightly cooling on the tongue. Even the stem, which at first appears to be only a couple inches tall shares the signature wintergreen palatability when chewed. Upon further inspection I found that what looked like stalks were in reality small branches which shot up from a creeping stem that grows just under or just above the decomposing organic matter that covers the forest floor. I couldn’t help but wonder if there are other unseen actions wintergreen may have…perhaps in relation to its interaction with the human body.

After pursuing the subject of Gaultheria and her gifts, I came to find that there is little reference to her use in herbal medicine these days. Native Americans used it for many situations, a few being rheumatism, arthritis, colic, colds, and flu. The use of Gaultheria procumbens for external pains has evolved to an active ingredient approach which although useful has also proven fatal. Oil of Wintergreen is the extraction of one of the key components in wintergreens make-up; methyl salicylate. Most people know methyl salicylate in the form of IcyHot. Methyl salycilate focuses its attention on pain and inflammation blocking the hormones that make us feel pain. Thus you find it used for back aches, muscle aches, and arthritis on such a regular basis that it has in fact made headline news after a high school girl died from liver failure due to overuse of the heat rub IcyHot. This is a good example of wintergreen working beneath the surface without notice. I am sure that Oil of Wintergreen has a place in healing, but am personally more interested in avoiding any worries of toxicity and learning how to use the plant as a whole.

In order to understand the plant as a whole, it is important to understand its parts. Simply stating that wintergreen is useful in managing and recovering from cold and flu might leave you with some questions. The fact that our ancestors trusted this plant would help with certain states of being without the intricately dissected approval of science may seem amazing to some, reasonable to others and downright foolish and folksy to others still. Regardless of the fact that I believe in the communication of plants and people, I understand how it can seem unfathomable to others and respect their desire for scientific explanation.

Following is an outline of the major properties of wintergreen and the concluded outcome of their effects on symptoms of cold and flu.

Methyl Salycilate

The draw methyl salycilate seems to have toward flu and cold symptoms is a result of its ability to suppress the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormones that manifest in specific areas of the body and are multi-talented. Just to name a few of its natural abilities, it tells the brain that you are experiencing pain, creates inflammation and influences the body’s regulation of temperature. Sounds like a real party animal, huh?

In the case of cold and flu, the methyl salycilate hiding out in the thick glossy leaves of wintergreen could be a great foul-weather friend to have around. Think of the dull throbbing aches that seem to plague every useful part of your body when held prisoner by a winter bug. Or, when after days of hacking, a persistent cough has brought on the formation of a six pack and its accompanying soreness that can accumulate in your abs. Externally, an intimate encounter with some wintergreen sounds like it might be a godsend.

Wintergreen-Oil-Infusion
Because of its topical use as an infusion and extracted oil for general discomforts, I have been inclined to believe I might have success making a salve from infused oil. Last week, Osro and I spent a few hours out in the woods collecting leaves, playing in the sandy trails and hunting grasshoppers. After gathering a basket full, I filled one jar with fresh whole leaves and another with fresh leaves that I cut up into slices. I poured grape seed oil into both jars, tickled out the bubbles with a wooden skewer, and capped tightly. If I am able to extract any of the valued pieces of Gaultheria that lend herself to external discomforts, the next step will be seeing which method, if any, results in stronger oil.

Methyl salycilate and prostaglandins relationship also provides a helping hand in the inflammatory aspects of cold and flu symptoms. A gargle or hot tea should readily soothe inflammation in any and all mucous membranes, easing the soreness and irritation inflicted upon both respiratory systems.

Let’s not forget the fever. Although fevers are a good sign that our body is fighting whatever virus or infection we are involved with, too high a fever can be dangerous; especially to babies and small children. One of the many uses natives had for wintergreen was reducing fevers. I can only assume that this works by decreasing the amount of prostaglandins that may be interfering with the body’s thermostat.

For use internally to reduce fever and inflammation a tea is probably your best option although I imagine a tincture could be useful in some situations. To coax anything out of the fresh leaves for tea you must fill a jar with leaves, pour boiling water over them, cover and let ferment in a warm place for 3-4 days until bubbly. Initially I left out the boiling part of this equation and after 4 days was disappointed to find a tea rich in scent and lacking in flavour. After realizing and correcting the mistake I made, I am now anxiously waiting to taste the end results. Apparently the leaves used in this tea can be dried and reused to make a tea without repeating the fermentation process.

Tannins

When you bite into, or take a drink of something and your tongue puckers up, you are most likely tasting tannins. Tannins are polyphenols found in plants of all kinds. It is the astringency that causes your mouth to pucker. It is the astringency that tannins are most valued for. Astringents cause soft tissues to tighten up, and induce the excretion of proteins from their surfaces. This means that the secretion of mucous membranes and other discharges related to cold and flu would be limited by the astringency of the tannins found in wintergreen. Astringents also have antiseptic properties which could be helpful if your virus makes a date with an infection to have dinner in your bod.

Mucilage

Mmmm..yummy yummy mucilage. Mucilage is a friendly element to come across in a plant, especially when you plan on using the plant to aid in cases of cold and flu. Upon coming into contact with a surface, mucilage lays itself down and caresses the tissue, soothing irritation. Its emollient actions are fond of the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts. It may not stop the nausea, diarrhea, or ache in your lungs from a dry cough, but it will lessen every bit of them giving way to an opportunity of relief.

Wintergreen-basket-leafs

It seems as if wintergreen was made just for us and our cold season woes. A plant that stays green and strong beneath the snow all winter long AND aids in the relief of nearly every symptom that is experienced in the illnesses that are so rampant during this time of year?? Either there’s a catch, or nature has an intricately designed, perfectly symbiotic, and nurturing plan for all of her babies. I’m betting on the latter, and thanking mother earth for her wisdom and generosity. There is so much we have to learn from the genius of this planet and her ways of life.

Contraindications: People taking warfarin, aspirin or other blood thinners, people allergic to aspirin or naproxen should not come into contact with any part of the plant, and people suffering from tinnitus, or GERDS should avoid consumption of wintergreen.

Thanks again to Paul David Randall for his soul soothing photography, without his talent this post would have been lacking in the visual beauty necessary to fully recognize this plant.

Dent de Lion

(Or, Giving Obnoxious Weeds a Chance to Earn Their Keep)

Dandelion
Taraxacum officinale
DSCF6245
My entire life I have been drawn to Taraxacum. To most it is a strong willed and stubborn weed destroying the pride and joy that is their pesticide doused, religiously trimmed, and mechanically watered lawn. It is an obstinate pest making a mockery of their submission to the neighborhood doctrine. Children love them, but adults don’t understand why they can’t just follow the rules. To me, it has always been a cherished flower; the embodiment of all I have ever felt. Vibrant, bright, free, yet constantly repressed, abused, and misunderstood.

Although she downright loves to nestle into rich, moist soil, you are likely to find this warrior weed just about everywhere. The dandelion is able to survive situations and environments that would cause many plants to give up almost instantly. She is an adamant species that can be pulled, plucked, and perceivably drowned in herbicides and yet return even stronger than before. If even the tiniest piece of her root is left, a new plant sprouts. Better yet, if while trying to destroy her you leave multiple fragments, you will get multiple plants in return for the one life you so casually attempted to extinguish. She can endure the harshest of treatment and still readily share her golden smile, emanating more elegance than the prissiest, most pampered petunias lining any given walkway. It is this positive energy, in spite of the masses that are against her free spirit, her ceaselessly sunny disposition through it all, which gives me inspiration.

I don’t know that there is any part of her that is anything less than impressive. Let us start with her deepest parts and work our way up.

The Roots

Anchoring the dandelion is a strong and stable tap root. It has a dark and mysterious outer skin artfully disguising the pristine milky insides. The root tapers with wise folds and slight curves. It feels solid and fleshy in the palm of your hand; feels heavy with an ancient consciousness that I can only vaguely brush up against. I have read that they can reach up to a foot in length, but have only unearthed roots about 4-5 inches long.

Contained within Taraxacum’s rapturous root is a surplus of nourishing vitamins and minerals. Most beneficially it is packed full of antioxidant vitamins A, D, C and B complex. It is thoroughly comprised of zinc, iron, calcium and potassium. While the abundance of vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients is enough to make it worthy of our love and consumption, it doesn’t end there.

Although the leaves have been used for thousands of years, from what I have found, the root has only more recently been used medicinally. Dandelion is a bitter herb, which stimulates all levels of digestion to begin their process. It is this general downward flow of energy that is dandelion’s signature. The root is most commonly praised as a liver tonic and laxative. Its bitters help the gallbladder and liver in the production and flow of bile. If you need to clean some toxins out of your system, dandelion root is the way to go. My own intimate encounters have proven it to be a soothing diuretic while suffering from bladder infections. Nothing has ever given such great relief to the discomforts of these infections, and never so instantly. It has also helped in relieving painful intestinal gas.

My first dance with dandelion root was years ago. I was working on putting an end to a debilitating bout of alcohol abuse and found myself craving herbal love. It was to be assumed that not only would my liver need a good flushing but that my entire body needed to be nourished and cleansed. After browsing through some of my thrifted herbals, dandelion seemed the most appropriate ally for my situation. I decided I would pull a few roots out of the front lawn and make some dandelion root coffee. I only drank a few cups then, but the taste and feeling left a positive impression in my memory. A few years later, I bought a couple cups of the dried cut root from my favorite health food store. After being intrigued by the idea of dandelion root coffee I roasted a quarter of it. The roasted root has a delicious aroma reminiscent of milk and cookies. The taste is hearty, yet delicately bitter, and quickly incorporated itself into the desirable section in my Rolodex of flavours. I have read that it makes for a great wild food, and plan on finding this out first hand after we get a good frost. I think a stir fry or soup sounds intriguingly worthwhile.

If you were to find yourself interested in getting to know this useful bit of life, the most appropriate times to do so are early spring or late fall, after the first frost. Not only are they easier to dig up, but they are also at their most abundant states as far as nutritional/medicinal quality goes. Keep in mind, that dandelion, like most plants, act upon the earth the same way they do our bodies. Just as Taraxacum can pull the toxins out of your body and replace them with nutrients, it can pull the toxins from the earth and give back nutrients. This means that you want to be sure that the land you are gathering your dandelion root from is free of pesticides and chemicals of any sort. If you are intrigued by the idea of trying some dandelion root yet not quite sold on getting dirt under your fingernails, you can always find it in the bulk section of your local health food store.

The Leaves

From their dark roots, dandelion leaves burst through the earth in a rosette arrangement. Some of the fiercest show very defined jagged teeth as they sprawl themselves out against the ground. Others, a little less intense, will come out more curved and only slightly toothy. It always amazes me how vastly different dandelion leaves can look and yet there is never any doubt that they are the vivacious Taraxacum. I imagine most people have been introduced to dandelion’s leaves at some point in their life, so I will spare you the detailed description. However, I must express my appreciation for the silvery red vein that can evolve, looking like a ribbon strung right through the middle. And their smooth texture has always been a joy to run between my fingers. But then, I have a tendency toward petting plants of all kinds.

Whether serrated and severe or smooth and serene, the leaves of dandelion are nutritionally generous. They are a superior source of vitamins A, C, D, and B complex, along with calcium, iron and potassium; harboring anywhere from 3-10 times the amount contained in spinach. When combined with the digestive stimulation this plant promotes, its nutritional value and accessibility make it a perfect dinner (or lunch) guest.

As I mentioned, dandelion is a bitter herb and it is exactly this bitter taste that triggers the digestive actions that are necessary for it to work most of its magik. As much as that may be true, if you are used to eating store bought food, a mouthful of dandelion leaves alone will most likely make your face twist up and your tongue go stiff. Don’t worry. Don’t deny it a place in your meal plan. You can start small, mixing a few fresh picked leaves in with your usual salad or sandwich. Once you dress it up in your typical individual way, you will find the sparse bursts of bitter-wild to be enchanting. It can be taken one step further if you like by adding it to pesto, soups, pizza and pasta dishes just the way you would use spinach. I have had great success with turning this into pesto, usually with a hint of basil, a handful of violet leaves, a few cloves of garlic and any amount of walnuts.

There is something refreshingly empowering that makes its way into my being when I realize that I am healing myself with my food. Dandelion leaves are as diuretic in action as its hidden half, some might claim more. Its abundance of potassium makes it ideal for this as most diuretics will deplete your body of potassium in the process of eliminating so much fluid. As a result, you usually will need to take a potassium supplement. I will admit that I am biased, but it seems that adding dandelion to your diet would be the most efficient and cost effective way to achieve diuretic action. That general downward flow of dandelion proves helpful in a variety of cases, from urinary infections, respiratory problems and skin conditions. Essentially, by freeing your body of excess fluids, built up toxins and replenishing with vital nutrients, you are giving it the perfect conditions to heal itself the way it is designed to.

Taraxacum leaves seem to have an affinity for the ladies. Of course it is a promising herb for everyone, including your little ones and your furry ones, but it seems to lend a special helping hand to women and their needs. During that lovely time of the month when we lose a potential for new life, and a piece of ourselves that we have intimately cradled since we came into this world (not to mention our patience, loads of iron, and any bit of self confidence we had in that bikini, or gorgeous dress) dandelion is a great ally to have. It restores iron, helps relieve bloating and helps stabilize those “mood swings” some claim we are prone to. Dandelion leaves (and roots) are also safe for pregnancy as long as it is not used for long periods of time (vitamin A can build up in the body). It helps in reducing water retention, fills you and the babe up with yummy vitamins and minerals and is as you know by now, nourishing to the liver. After birth, dandelion leaves continue to be cherished companions to women. Your liver is in charge of breaking down unneeded hormones produced during pregnancy, and getting rid of any drugs or medications used during labor and birth. Nourishing this hard working organ with dandelion leaves guarantees speedy elimination while enriching your milk supply. I have also seen claims of it being used topically for sore nipples and mastitis, a painful breast infection.

Whether you are looking for a wild new taste to add to your life, relief from some nagging ailments, or just some nutritional insurance, dandelion is most likely nearby and happy to help. Gathering the leaves can be done from spring to fall, although a lot of people claim they are best in the spring before they ever bloom. The younger leaves are less bitter and tenderer, but the older ones are still edible. I read a few months ago that they are now being sold at markets in New York. Seems absurd to me, but if that’s what gets you to invite this amazing plant into your home, so be it. You can also find the leaves in bulk at health food stores. Of course the dried herb is not ideal for salads but can be used for infusions, soups and breads…be creative.

The Stem

Shooting straight up from the rosette of ambrosial leaves is a hollow, light purple stem. It is silky smooth and light as a feather. I used to enjoy crunching it between my teeth just barely as a child, or breaking it open to watch its milk ooze out. Its pliability combined with those irresistible yellow flowers make it ideal for linking into fae inspired crowns, necklaces and rings.

Although the stalk is not dangerous to eat, it is apparently not a very usual thing to do. Aside from my days of chewing on it, I don’t have any experience with this either. I imagine I will be inclined to try it out next spring.

One possibility as to why Taraxacum’s stalk is not touted as edible could be it’s just too bitter to bother with. The milky substance it bleeds when broken open is surely strong. If this milk keeps people from ingesting the stalk, it is not without good reason. The milk can be applied to warts, corns, pimples, and more. It has anti-bacterial properties, and is used to help heal wounds. I remember applying this milk to a small bunch of warts I had on my leg as a child. I can’t tell you what it was that inclined me to do this, other than perhaps some innate wisdom and a nudge from Taraxacum herself. This sticky milk is also said to be soothing to bee stings and blisters. What an ingenious set of creations…if you happen to get stung by a dandelion-loving-bee while you yourself are doting upon her beauty, your mutual friend has healing milk on tap to ease your discomforts.

I recently read a blog entry about using the stalks as a decoration in water. After splitting them open, and dropping them into the water, they curl up into happy little corkscrews. I am envisioning sacrificing a few of the precious flowers to accompany them in a cool fish bowl swim sometime. Curly Q’s and sunny fluff do synchronized swimming in the window sill…

The Flower

Mmmmm…at long last, the flowers. Those bubbly, succulant, soulful flowers. Those heartwarming, eye drawing, lip smacking flowers. Like round little canaries perched upon flower stalks. The petals are kissable soft like yellow kitten furs sprouting from the earth. I can get lost in the crown like layers of dandelion flowers. The yolky yellow petals gush out in an orgasmic anemone like stretch for the sun. They don’t smell like most flowers, but have a stellar, musky allure all their own. If you have ever stood in a field of dandelions, you are well aware of the sprightly, energetic buzz they can induce upon your psyche. Just thinking about it makes me long for spring, and we have barely even started fall.

I have not yet gotten acquainted with the flowers on anything more than a playful level. As a child there were numerous games played with the flowers. One was to hold it under a persons chin and giggle at the golden reflection because, OBVIOUSLY it meant that they loved butter…which I guess is down right hilarious when you’re 7 years old. Then there was the “Momma had a baby and its head popped off!” which resulted in many a decapitated dandelions; their furry little heads jolted off their stems by the tip of my thumb. I think that was my favorite, the pop being so satisfying. I can’t forget to mention the many different ways in which we found to smear the yellow blossoms all over one another, leaving us streaked with mustard war paint as we headed in for the night. And the most adored of all are the links of garland and crowns so intently crafted. Again, I am typing myself into a longing that will have to wait months to be satisfied…let’s move on to the less enchanting, more useful information.

People make wine, fritters, cookies, pancakes and stir fries with this brazen flower. It has all the easily appreciated nutrients found in the rest of its parts along with a liberal amount of lecithin. Lecithin increases the production of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in learning, mood and memory. As I said, I have no experience with the flower in anyway but play so can only share what I have learned from books and other’s experiences. Most praise dandelion flowers for their pain relieving qualities when it comes to external uses, and I have also read that they can be brewed into a tea to help relieve headaches, backaches, stomachaches, menstrual cramps and depression. Feel free to come back next April or so to see if I have learned anything new from Taraxacum’s pride and joy.

The Seeds

The dandelion can go to seed almost overnight. Its dense, cushiony, canary mane transforms into a light, downy, globe of swan. Each seed is on the edge of its seat ready to be kicked out the nest at any given moment. This is when it’s real magik plays out. Whether it is by wind, by savage beasts, or thoughtful Homo sapiens with a dream to be fulfilled, the brown seeds can float far and wide hanging by a string fastened tight to nature’s tiniest parachute. It is this irresistible sight of a ride that may be most at fault for the abundance of dandelions. It is simply too hard to deny yourself the pleasure of setting these seeds free. The softest breath pushes the dandelion’s future into a sporadic, gentle dance between the ethereal and material that enriches the imagination and brings spirit to the mundane.

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As with every plant and every part if buying the herb be sure they are organic and haven’t been sitting on the shelf for a long time. The best way to know how long they have been hanging around in that glass jar waiting for a home is to ask. But never under estimate the power of your own senses…if it is lacking in color and scent, it is probably past its prime and will yield little to no benefits. Another important factor in bringing herbs home is where they came from, and how they were harvested. If you are harvesting your own I strongly advise you look into ETHICAL wildcrafting before you go out. If you are buying, ask the store clerk what they can tell you about the company the herbs come from. Just like with people, plants can act differently, and treat you in different ways depending on how they were treated by the people that came before you.

Special thanks to Paul David Randall for putting this blog together for me, for being the inspiring force behind it, and for the breathtaking photos of our son and me. To Kaycee Newell for her brilliant design work on my website. And to my mother Carol Sue for offering such perfectly embodied portraits of Taraxacum officinale.