Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Live an Extra-Ordinary Life

I saw this post on Dr. Mercola's site, and it so inspired me on a slow-starting Monday morning that I wanted to share it with you - I hope that you receive benefit from watching it, and are inspired to act on the suggestions contained within.  The choice IS ours!

Green Blessings!
-Donna







(Here is the link in case the above video does not play correctly for you)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6RQ4WVeLKJI

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Inaugural Mid-Atlantic Women's Herbal Conference

Although today was chilly and overcast, it was warm, friendly and inviting at the first annual Mid-Atlantic Women's Herbal Conference in Kempton, PA.  It was a wonderful event attended by about 100 women from various neighboring states.  The many workshops offered were presented by noted herbalists and alternative health care providers with many, many years of plant knowledge:  Deb Soule, Kerry Smith, Kathleen Maier, Jesse Tobin, Susan Hess, Bevin Clare and Charis Lindrooth.  A vendor tent included gorgeous hand-made items, books to be signed by the authors, herbal creams, local herbal lotions and products, gemstones, herbal cordials, delicious local organic food and so much more. 

The spark for the idea for this Conference was when the Women's Herbal Conference moved two hours further north from the usual locaton in Peterborough, NH.  Now nearly an 11 hour drive, it became a virtual impossibility with small children in tow.   Of equal frustration, the SE Women's Herbal Conference held in Black Mountain, NC is also 11 hours away.

Herbal practioners and women who speak for the plants - take noteOctober 6, 2012 is the date for next year's event.  Plan for it.  Support it.  Make time for it, and you are making time for your Self.  Invite your Self to spend a day centered on healing and women-centered energy.  You will thank your Self for it!

Chapeau, Ladies!  A lot of hard work and extensive planning made this event such a success!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ancient Herbal First Aid Kit discovered on Roman-era Shipwreck

In today's online edition of the UK's The Telegraph, there is an article about the discovery of this ancient first aid kit fould on a Roman ship that went down around 130 BCE off the coast of Tuscany.  In a wooden chest containing tin-lined wooden vials they found "pills made of ground-up vegetables, herbs and plants such as celery, onions, carrots, cabbage, alfalfa and chestnuts – all ingredients referred to in classical medical texts."

The article goes on to say: 
"The pills are the oldest known archaeological remains of ancient pharmaceuticals".    

Well, to my mind, botanical-based remedies are not 'pharma'-ceuticals but rather "phyto'-ceuticals,  again underscoring the ancient traditions of healing with medicinal botanicals.

Read the entire article here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/8627715/Roman-era-shipwreck-reveals-ancient-medical-secrets.html


(Many thanks to Gabrielle on the herbstudent@yahoogroups.com for bringing this article to our attention!)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Celebrating the seasonal holiday of Ostara / Happy Vernal Equinox!

The winter of 2010/2011 will be remembered as one of the more icy, snowy, brutal winters that we have experienced here in the northeast in the last several years.  While I generally DO like to experience each of the seasons as the wheel of the year turns, I know that I am not alone when I say that this past winter certainly stretched my patience.  As I type this, I am listening to the muted chirp of the returning birds through my closed windows.  Believe it or not, it was 70+ degrees just a few days ago, and tonight we are expecting an 'icy/wintry' mix. 

So in the spirit of looking forward to Spring, and to celebrate the brave daffodils, hyacinths and tulips that have poked their heads above ground in my yard in an overt challenge to bid winter adieu, I wanted to share the roots of this seasonal earth holiday.

The name Vernal Equinox celebrates the point in the earth's rotation when the daytime and nighttime are of equal length.  Vernal meaning 'spring' and equinox meaning 'equal night'.  Since the Winter Solstice in December, daylight has been increasing by mere minutes a day until today, when the day and night are equal.  The Equinox occurs twice a year exactly six months apart.  In the Fall, it is called Autumnal Equinox representing again when the daytime and nighttime are of equal length - only this time it is because the daylight has been diminishing by mere minutes a day since the Summer Solstice in June.

The Vernal Equinox generally occurs on or around March 20/21 when the sun is directly over the equator.  For thousands of years, indigenous populations, clans and tribal peoples and even religions have marked the beginning of spring with rituals celebrating the return of warmth, sunshine and new life.

One ancient holiday associated with the Vernal Equinox is Ostara, which is a traditional celebration honoring the Saxon lunar goddess, Eostre.  Different tribal traditions tell the story slightly differently, but the underlying thread is still the same:  Eostre once rescued a wounded bird, whose feathers and wings had become totally frozen by the harsh cold of winter.  Eostre changed her into a hare, enabling her to survive the winter more easily.

In keeping with her avian origins, the transformed creature was still able to lay eggs ~ and she expressed her unyielding gratitude to Eostre by decorating those eggs and giving them as a genuine gift from her heart.  Is this starting to sound vaguely familiar?  Good.  It should.  Missionaries adapted and incorporated these rituals of Ostara into the traditions of their Easter celebrations thereby hoping to convert pagans to Christianity.  (Hmmm:  Ostara = Eostre = Easter - similar spelling 'coincidences'?)

Whatever your "Spring" holiday traditions, rituals, celebrations and/or spiritual practices may be ~ enjoy the lengthening days, the overall increasing warmth with each day, and be sure to take a moment to appreciate the gifts that each season brings.  Blessed Be!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Holistic Mentorship Network

The Holistic Mentorship Network, founded by a lovely, forward-thinking soul named Linda, whose vision is "To support and strengthen the holistic profession".   All disciplines of holistic healers are welcomed and encouraged to participate in events, mentor new members and network to strengthen a common goal of providing holistic healing to our communities.  Of course, the HMN mission statement says it so much more succinctly and concisely than I:


To create a unified community of compassionate holistic practitioners that will contribute to enhancing our profession, and ourselves, by providing a supportive space to share, learn, teach, grow and lead."


One glance at the practioner directory and you will see 87+ different healing modalities represented - all trained, certified or licensed practioners.


I mention this, because in fall of 2009, I spent a week studying with famed herbalist Rosemary Gladstar in E. Barre, VT.  In my class were several herbalists from the greater Montpelier area.  I was impressed with how they all worked together to build a more (w)holistic, self-supportive community.


Returning to NJ, I wanted to recreate that sense of commonality and rural support that I felt in Vermont.  I wasn't sure how to do that....   and then I stumbled onto HMN about six weeks later.  I cannot remember exactly how I discovered them - rather, it feels to me like the Holistic Mentorship Network found me!


If you are a holistic practioner, I urge you to check out the Holistic Mentorship Network at http://www.holisticmentorshipnetwork.com/.


(on a cyber housekeeping note:  I had spent about 60 mins crafting a carefully worded blog entry to post about the HMN.  There was apparently some 'hiccup' in cyberspace because when I hit 'Publish' my original draft copy is what posted instead, and my finished, polished, final edition vanished into the electronic ether.  Note to SELF:  Remember to click "Save as Draft" often while creating any entry and/or copy the text before submitting.  You will save yourself from the mind-wrenching aggravation of trying to re-work, reword, recall and recapture the spirit of your original finished piece!  My most humble apologies as this entry pales from the original.  Grrrrrr.....)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Farms, Food and Family

On a sustainability note, today, I attended the local harvest event sponsored by the northern NJ convivium of Slow Food USA.  The theme was "Farms, Food and Family", and folks could purchase seasonal vegetables and fruit, grass-fed and finished beef and pork, poultry, eggs, cheese, breads, teas, and prepared foods from local growers and producers.  Additionally, there were some select, boutique vendors selling artisan chocolates for Valentine's Day (or as an indulgence for anyday!), and my friend, Anne, from Degage Gardens was offering organic eco-handcrafted herbal aromatherapy products for your Valentine.  Also featured were several local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, so folks could learn how to purchase seasonal farm shares at Genesis Farm, Howling Wolf Farm, and Rogowski Farm. Arthur & Friends, an entrepreneurial training program for adults with disabilities, presented locally grown organic hydroponic greens for sale.

So what is Slow Food?  A little history about the movement:

Slow Food began in Italy by Carlo Petrini with the founding of its forerunner organization, Agricola, in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonald's near the Spanish Steps in Rome. 

Slow Food is now an international movement.  Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.  The movement has since expanded globally to over 100,000 members in 132 countries.  Its goal is to encourage sustainable foods and promote local small businesses, and is not generally a fan of the globalization of agricultural products.


Check out a convivium (local chapter) near YOU!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Celebrating the seasonal holiday of Imbolc/Candlemas

Generally occurring around February 1 and 2, this holiday is known by many names:  Candlemas, Imbolc, Brigit's Eve, Oimelc, La Fheile Brid, Lupercalia, St. Brigid's Day and many, many others.  This holiday is typically a celebration of Hope and the promise or forecasting of Spring:  the darkness of winter is retreating, the light is returning more and more each day, and the promise of spring is in the air.  (Ok, maybe not this year with the icy/snowy winter that has dumped snow on the northeast almost once a week!).
Traditionally, it was a time of forced fasting for indigenous peoples and clans on several continents because food stores were becoming scarce. 

It is also a time of purification, of physical and spiritual cleansing in preparation for the challenges as the new year unfolds.  In ancient times, the Greeks celebrated the Lesser Eleusian Mysteries at the end of January, commemorating the return of Persephone from the Underworld to her mother, Demeter.  In more agricultural Celtic communities, this was also the breeding season when ewes began to swell with new life - not unlike the earth herself will within the next six weeks.  The name, Imbolc, means "in the belly" referring specifically to the pregnant sheep.  Oimelc means "ewe's milk".  For other Celtic peoples of northern Europe, the holiday was sacred to Brigit (who may also be one and the same as St. Brigid in the Catholic tradition):  the triple goddess of poetry, inspiration, smithcraft and healing.  For the Romans, it was Lupercalia (actually Feb 15) since the month of February was regarded as a time for cleansing and purification.  For the Norse clans, it was the Feast of Vali, which is a solar festival celebrating the strengthening of the sun which begins to mark the end winter, and thus the survival of the communities in these northern, frosty lands.  For Christians, it became Candlemas -  the time when candles were blessed in the churches (note:  the feast of St. Blaise on Feb 3rd and the blessing of throats with two crossed candles).  For the paparazzi, it is Ground Hog Day - which is still another foreshadowing of whether spring will be "early" or still another six weeks away.  A seemingly common 'thread' throughout all of the above mentioned feasts/festivals are the symbols of hope, light, warmth, lambs, fertility and emerging new life as the first spring flowers prepare to push through the snow.

What has all this to do with herbs?  Consider the recurring theme above of cleansing and purification.  About this time of year, when many folks are beginning to feel cabin fever from being house-bound and long for the warmer days when they can begin spring house and yard cleaning, this is the perfect time to reflect on personal cleansing, such as cleaning up one's diet from recent holiday overindulgences.  Reducing sugar intake as well as carbs, and adding dark green leafy vegetables will go a long way in preparing for Spring.  Cleansing teas or tonics can also help the body eliminate stored wastes and toxins from holiday overeating. 

Consider this simple tea to help support the body systems while gently eliminating stored waste.  Always try to use organic ingredients!  These dried herbs can usually be found in your local health-food store. A part can be anything from a tablespoon to a cup - depending on how much you want to make.

1 part dandelion leaf (supports the kidneys and bladder)
1 part nettle leaf (builds the blood)
2 parts red clover (supports the lymph system)
1 part milky oats (supports the central nervous system)
2 parts hawthorn berry (nourishes the heart muscle and supports the circulatory system)
1/4 part ginger (is warming and gets the blood circulating)

Combine herbs and mix well. To make tea, use 2 teaspoons herb blend per cup of water. Steep for 5 to 7 minutes and strain. Drink up to 4 cups per day as a spring tonic.   Store any unused portion in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
__________________________________________

Note: Any remedies or information listed on this blog are from historical references and used for teaching/educational purposes only. The contents are not meant to diagnose, treat, prescribe, cure or substitute consultation with a licensed health-care professional. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Growing Shiitake Mushrooms - 101

Yesterday, I attended a class in the greenhouse at Sussex County Fairgrounds to learn how to grow my own shiitake mushrooms!  The class learned how to select the best tree logs (oak, beech or maple) and the best size (a 2" - 10" diameter).  We even got to practice 'inoculating' the logs with living shiitake fungal tissue, called spawn.  Hopefully, the logs should start to produce mushrooms in the next 6 to 18 months.

While I am waiting for the fungi to grow and digest the wood before my mushrooms can appear, here is some additional mushroom information, with a few specifics to shiitakes:

The latin binomial name is Lentinula edodes, and is a member of the Polyporaceae family.  In Chinese medicine, the pin yin name is Hua Gu. Shiitake is indigenous to several temporate Asian countries, including Japan and China.  It is a wood 'decomposing' type of fungi, and the traditional mushroom cap and stem that folks will recognize in the supermarket is actually the "flower" or fruiting body.  The mycelium is the actual fungi that goes through a log, and it is from the mycelium that a medicinal extract is derived, called LEM or Lentinula Edodes Mycelium.   Shiitake is the most studied of all medicinal mushrooms. 

From a medicinal perspective, shiitake - taken in the form of LEM - has antiviral, antifungal and immuno-modulating properties, and studies have shown tumor inhibiting properties as well.

From a food standpoint, shiitakes are a nutritional powerhouse.  As with most mushrooms, one gains the maximum nutritional benefit only upon cooking them.  They contribute a wide range of essential amino acids, are low in fat, high in fiber and provide a wide range of vitamins including Vitamin D, thiamine, niacin, ascorbic acid, riboflavin and biotin.

A final note of interesting trivia:  The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology, which is often regarded as a branch of botany, even though genetic studies have shown that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants since they are the only organism to combine glucans and chitin in their structural cell walls:  glucans are compounds found in plants and chitin is found in the exoskeleton of arthropods.

So the next time you want to add mushrooms to your favorite dish, consider reaching for shiitakes:  they have a more robust flavor than standard button mushrooms, and are also a great meat substitute!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

WMH in Jan 2011 edition of Your Health Magazine

Our latest contribution to this fine magazine can be found in their January 2011 issue.  Be sure to pick one up!

Also, you can check out the Willow Moon Sightings link/page on our website at http://www.willowmoonherbals.com/Willow-Moon-Sightings.html.

Sending all manner of positive Green Blessings and wishing everyone a healthy and Happy New Year!