Solomon's Seal

Monday, March 30, 2020
image credit - Pixabay

Common name: Solomon's seal, sow's teats, fragrant or aromatic Solomon's seal, dropberry, sealwort, seal root, lady's seals, St. Mary's seal, Conquerer-John, High John the Conqueror.
Botanical name: Polygonatum multiflorum (formerly Convallaria), Polygonatum officinale, Polygonatum odoratum, Polygonatum biflorum, Polygonatum giganteum, Polygonatum commutatum, Polygonatum canaliculatum, etc. 
Family name: Asparagaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

Overview: Solomon's seal has been used in Western herbal medicine since classical times. An interesting attribution to the name used most often for Plogonatum spp. is to King Solomon, the Judaic monarch who was the son of David and well known for his wisdom. Many accounts claim that the scar on the rhizomes left by each year's stem growth resembled the ancient seal of the king.

Native to North America, Northern Europe, Siberia and Asia. In the United States it's mostly found in the East Coast and Midwestern states.

Solomon's seal is a perennial and loves shady woodland locations. It grows as a single stalk with the flowers hanging underneath in creamy white clusters of 2-7. The leaves have very distinct parallel veins that clasp at the base and are arranged in an alternate pattern along the stem. Though its existence may be one that's common to many woodlands, it's not always prolific, often growing in scattered patches.

The parts used are the root/rhizome. Autumn is the time to harvest the roots, which are often close to the surface. I really like herbalist, Jim McDonald's method, which is to trace back two to three inches from the stem and sever the rear portion of the rhizome with a knife, trowel or even your fingers if the soil is soft. If the growing portion of the plant is never removed from the ground, this type of harvest will have the least impact and the plant will continue to grow with no problems.

Primary therapeutic constituents: Steroidal saponins (related to those of wild yam), mucilaginous polysaccharides, non-protein amino acid (L-azetidine-2carboxylic acid), allantoin (as in comfrey - wound healing), a "glucokinin" (an unstudied constituent with antihyperglycemic effects)

Medicinal actions: Anti-inflammatory, wound healing, tissue repair, anti-arthritic, astringent, demulcent, expectorant.

Common uses: Connective tissue anti-inflammatory; prevents excessive bruising and stimulates tissue repair; helpful when tendons, fascia or ligaments are either too loose or too tight; probably by restoring moisture. Specific to joint conditions characterized by inflammation and dryness, sense of friction in joints; repetitive stress; useful for joint pain from lupus. Statin drug side effects of pain in limbs.

“Without a doubt, Solomon's seal is the most useful remedy I know of for treating injuries to the musculoskeletal system. I've used it to treat broken bones, sprains, injured tendons and ligaments, tendonitis, arthritis, dryness in joints and "slipped"/herniated discs (including mine - that sure did hurt). Solomon's seal has the remarkable ability to restore the proper tension to ligaments, regardless of whether they need to be tightened or loosened."– Jim McDonald * (great read - link in references)

Other valuable uses are that it loosens mucous in the lungs to treat dry coughs, sore throats, bronchial congestion and chest pain. Solomon's seal is considered a yin tonic.

Technique: Poultice, salve, decoction, tincture, double extraction.

Adult dose: Tincture: 1-5 drops daily - topically or internally. Decoction: 1-4 ounces, three times daily. Poultice: fresh root mashed and applied topically. **

Cautions and contraindications: considered safe when used in recommended doses. At high doses may cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea and vomiting. Berries are toxic and NOT for internal consumption.

Care should be taken not to confuse Solomon's seal with False Solomon's seal or Bellflower as they both look similar to TRUE Solomon's seal.

Taste: Sweet, bitter, acrid, starchy.

Energy: Cooling, relaxing, building, toning.

Educational video is by Jim McDonald. It's only about 15 minutes long but very informative. Enjoy!


Personal experience: Solomon's seal captured my attention due to its affinity for the musculoskeletal system. I was especially interested to see if it would help with myofascial pain. It was somewhat difficult finding a source for the tincture but I have and started with it in my low and slow method. Today I move to 2 drops!

References:

Herbal Academy, n.d. **Solomon's seal monograph. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/5102

Jim McDonald, Herbalist. *Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum biflorum. Retrieved from https://www.herbcraft.org/solseal.html

Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Solomon's seal. p. 253



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Nutritious Nettles - Easy Infusion

Monday, March 16, 2020
Image credit - Pixabay

I'm trying to remember when I first fell in love with nettles (Uritica dioica) but it's been quite awhile now. I believe this herb was the very first one I ever bought in bulk. When I discovered for myself just how amazing nettles were I knew I always wanted to keep them on hand.

You might be thinking, "Isn't this the plant that stings you if you try to touch it?" And the answer to that is yes, YES it is! But oh if you can get past its prickly nature you will discover an emerald gem of an ally you'll likely want to keep close too.

Nettles are a nutritive herb, which means they assist the body in restoring balance. They nourish, tone, and promote healthy metabolism. Nutritive herbs help in the functioning of the liver, the kidneys and the lymphatic and immune systems. Nettles have a particular affinity for the adrenal glands! That makes me especially happy as my adrenals struggle a bit. Just look at the nutrition that's packed into just a one quart infusion.

Minerals:
Calcium (1000 mg per quart of infusion)
Magnesium (300 mg per quart of infusion)
Potassium (600 mg per quart of infusion)
Zinc (1.5 mg per quart of infusion)
Selenium (.7 mg per quart of infusion)
Iron (1.5 mg per quart of infusion)
Manganese (2.6 mg per quart of infusion)
Also: chromium, cobalt, phosphorus, copper, sulphur, silicon, and tin.

Vitamins:
Vitamin A from {beta carotene} (5000 IU per quart of infusion)
Vitamin B complex, especially thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin C, vitamin D, and K 
Each quart of infusion also contains about 3mg of Boron. 

How To Make A Rich Nettles Infusion

Can there be an easier recipe on the planet? Well maybe but you'd be hard pressed to find it! So here goes... 

Take 1 cup of dried nettles (don't pack it down) and place them in a glass quart jar. Fill the jar up with hot water that's just about to boil and put the lid on. Let it sit on the counter and steep for at least 4 hours. I always do mine in the evening and let it sit over night. 

After it's finished steeping strain the liquid out into another jar, pressing down on the herbs to get as much out as possible. That's it! 

I put mine in the fridge because I like to drink it cold but you don't have to. I do try to drink it all up in the same day, about a cup at a time. However, it will remain quite good into the next day if I have some left over. I personally don't keep it longer than that. Some folks like to fill a go-cup with their infusion and just sip it all day. That would be great too! 

No matter what infusion may be in my rotation I always give it a 1-2 week break every 6 weeks. That's just my way. I don't remember where I first heard that advice but I think it's a good idea.  

Some Like It Hot On The Spot

If you just want to relax with a nice nutritive cup of hot tea then go for it. I love it this way! All you have to do is put 1-3 teaspoons of dried nettles into your favorite cup and pour boiling water over it. Let it infuse for 10-15 minutes, strain and drink. It's delicious... I think I'll go make a cup now! 

Of course, with either of these methods a little honey or stevia can be added for sweetness before drinking. Some folks even like to add a little salt to round out the flavor and/or top off the mineral content. 

There are many other surprising ways to enjoy nettles and I plan to share some of those in future posts so keep a look out! 


Cautions: Considered safe and nutritious but some allergic reactions have been reported. Raw nettle stings may cause some discomfort. Internal use may decrease the efficacy of anticoagulant drugs (Hoffman 2003). 


References:

Herbpathy - Alterative Herbs. Retrieved from: https://herbpathy.com/Action-of-Alterative-Cid617

Sassy Holistics. Nettle Infusions: The Most Versatile Herbal Infusion. September 17, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.sassyholistics.com/2015/09/17/nettles-infusions/

Herbal Academy. (n.d.) Nettle monograph. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/1023



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Fire Cider - Super Tonic

Sunday, March 1, 2020
Image credit - GrowUpDeep

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) recipes have been around for centuries! A simple internet search for recipes and verification of benefits will return with more hits than you can possibly take time for. Apple cider vinegar is apple cider that's undergone fermentation and like many ferments this results in health promoting enzymes and pro-biotics. To spare you the journey of research (unless that's your thing!) I'll just note a few of the long known proven benefits of ACV as noted by Organic Facts.

  • Prevents acid reflux
  • Assists in weight loss
  • Reduces fasting blood sugar levels
  • Reduces cholesterol and improves heart health.
  • Helps to maintain healthy skin
  • Helps to cleanse entire digestive system
  • Relieves pain in joints and curbs progress of arthritis

Furthermore, Rosemary Gladstar mentions in her excellent Fire Cider book that it's also traditionally been used for leg cramps, stuffy noses, sore throats, fever, exhaustion, sunburn, fungal infections, heartburn and hair rinses! 

So you can see that apple cider vinegar can easily stand on its own as a fantastic friend to keep on hand in the pantry. But when you take it to the next level by adding some common kitchen ingredients that enhance the flavor and pack additional healthy qualities... well then you have what Rosemary Gladstar first called Fire Cider! 

"Although I may have used the name Fire Cider first, the formula wasn't fully original; it was based on several other formulas of the time. No Herbal formula is truly original or unique" - Rosemary Gladstar. 

One of the great things about Fire Cider is that you can take the base ingredients and tweak it to your own liking or purpose. Some add dried elderberries, pomegranates, hibiscus flowers, cranberries or black currents! There are many other options and that's what is so fun and rewarding about making your own.

The Basic Ingredients

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne peppers
  • Horseradish


Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a spicy and warming herb with a fiery nature - stimulating circulation and energy, it enhances the "fire" in the body that supports digestion, heart health, immunity and balance. Ginger is anti-emetic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory.

Onion (Allium cepa) is pungent, sweet, salty, warm, moist and stimulating. It has drawing properties and is often used topically to draw out poisons, mucus and pus. Onions warm the chest, liquefy mucus and stimulate the cough reflex (especially if roasted and literally spread on a person's chest!). Raw onions, increase the flow of urine and are used for edema, to increase perspiration and quicken circulation.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is spicy, sweet, salty, heating, moistening (when fresh), oily (when fresh) and drying (when dry). It's antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antispasmodic, antiviral, diaphoretic, an expectorant and an immune stimulant. The volatile oils in garlic are excreted through the lungs and the antimicrobial nature of these oils makes it particulary helpful in cases of respiratory infections like bronchitis, catarrh, colds, flue and whooping cough.

Cayenne (Capsicum annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinensis, C. fastigiatum, C. frutescens, C. pubescens) is hot, pungent, biting, heating and moving. It's actions are analgesic, antiseptic, circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, diuretic and digestive. 

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is widely appreciated as a condiment but is now widely grown, eaten, and used as medicine throughout the world. In small doses, taken internally, horseradish is a powerful stimulant, aperient and antiseptic for the stomach. It is traditionally taken with oily, rich meat or food, by itself or steeped in vinegar! Specific indications are for sluggish, torpid conditions, viscid, and tenacious mucus.

Directions

First of all you want to decide what other ingredients to add. The very first bottle I made was following a recipe I got in my herbal courses and I still use it today. In addition to the base it includes a lemon, an orange, some fresh rosemary, turmeric and honey. Choose your extras (if you want to) for taste and purpose. The following is what I used for my current batch and how I went about making it:

1/2 cup fresh grated ginger root
1/2 cup fresh grated horseradish (I couldn't find any fresh this time of year so had to order on-line)
1 medium onion, chopped
10 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
2 cayenne peppers (or 1 tsp powder)
1 lemon, chopped
1 orange, chopped
Fresh rosemary - several sprigs (or 2 tbsp dried)
2 tbsp chopped fresh turmeric (or 1 tbs powder)
1/4 cup raw local honey to taste (I use this one if I can't get local)
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp astragalus
Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (I use this one)

Prepare all the ingredients and place them in a glass jar - quart or larger. Pour in the apple cider vinegar until all the ingredients are well submerged. Cover with a tight fitting lid. If using a metal lid make sure to cover the jar opening with parchment or wax paper first so that the vinegar doesn't touch the metal. Shake daily. After 3-4 weeks strain the solids out of the cider using a cheesecloth. Now add the honey and stir to mix well. Taste the cider and add more honey until desired sweetness is achieved. Don't forget to label it with at least the name and date!

Tips: I do not refrigerate my fire cider, I just keep it tightly capped in a cool place in the kitchen pantry. I have noticed that some folks do prefer to keep their fire cider in the fridge and you can too if you like. I think fire cider is best consumed within 24 months but I can't imagine it lasting that long! And finally, although I love the taste of fire cider straight, I usually mix my dose (1-2 tsps) in a small amount of water and drink it down in a shot. Take as needed.

We usually take a bit of fire cider when we feel that familiar funky I-may-be-getting-sick feeling. Everyone is different and your intuition will guide you on how often to take it. Fire cider is a potent blend of vinegar, honey, healthy fruits, veggies and roots - it's a food but nevertheless, you know my motto... low and slow at first 😊

Other Ways To Enjoy: Experiment! Fire cider is tasty added to salad dressings, splashed onto sauteed greens, or used as marinades for meat. I absolutely adore Rosemary's book Fire Cider which has lots of fun recipes to explore.

Cautions: Don't use if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. Consult your doctor if you are taking medications and have a concern about contraindications.



References: 

12 Proven Health Benefits Of Apple Cider Vinegar by Meenaksi Nagdeve - February 28, 2020 - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS,RD). Retrieved from: https://www.organicfacts.net/apple-cider-vinegar.html

The Earthwise Herbal Volume I - A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood. Allium cepa. Onion. p. 69

Herbal Academy. (n.d.) Garlic monograph, retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/3049

Herbal Academy. (n.d.) Cayenne monograph, retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/5144

The Earthwise Herbal Volume I - A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood. Armoracia rusticana p.107-109



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