Old Ways Herbal: Juliette Abigail Carr, RH (AHG)

Women & Children's Herbal Clinic, Vermont Herb School, & Ramblings on Family Herbal Wisdom


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Oxymels: Love in the Medicine

Oxymels: Love in the Medicine

Oxymels are one of my absolute favorite remedy forms.  There’s something about the sweet tang of an oxymel that seems to embody the love and heartfelt good wishes of the medicine maker, as well as the complexities of caring for each other.  They are delicious, versatile, high in a wide variety of medicinal constituents, and I can generally get them into any client–from the world’s crankiest toddler to my fussiest “…but it tastes weird” clinical client.  This delicious, nutritious medicine is a mineral-rich digestive aid, in addition to being full honey’s anti-inflammatory, wound healing, probiotic, and immune-boosting properties, as well as the medicinal properties of whatever herbs you used.

Any combination of honey and vinegar medicines is an oxymel, including fire cider and herbal vinaigrette.  There’s no wrong way to do this.  Following is my preferred method after years of puttering and experimenting.  I find that combining gently heated honey and raw vinegar gives me the perfect balance of effectiveness and palatability, but find your own kitchen magic and do what works for you.

I usually use equal parts honey and vinegar if everything tastes good.  If one of the herbs is especially bitter, I may infuse it in the vinegar and use half as much.  Sometimes I’ll use less vinegar if I want less of those particular herbs, as I have a pretty solid stash of both infused honeys and infused vinegars in my apothecary, so I’m often just mixing together existing creations.

My favorite herbs for oxymels are fragrant flowers and herbs, including rose, lemon balm, lilac, bee balm, thyme, and garlic.  I also really like using herbs with primarily water-soluble ingredients (more info here) like borage, as those constituents extract and preserve really well in vinegar.

  1. Infuse half your herbs in honey, instructions here
  2. Turn the other half of your herbs into a folkloric tincture using vinegar, instructions here
  3. Combine honey and vinegar in a glass jar or pretty bottle and shake vigorously
  4. Label with ingredients and date.  Store for years in a cool, dry place.

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Goldenrod: August Medicine Journal

Get ready for goldenrod!  This much maligned plant is a wonderful ally for allergies, sinus issues, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, sore throats, and more.  It is wonderful as a tincture, syrup, honey, or dried for tea.

Allergy syrup is my favorite way to use goldenrod.  I combine it with Tulsi, Nettles, & Schisandra, in raw wildflower honey.

I also love goldenrod as part of a cold & flu syrup, together with Thyme, Bee Balm, Hyssop, & Elder.

Learn to make your own Herbal Allergy Syrup with goldenrod!

Goldenrod


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Garden Planning: February Garden Tip


Now is the time to plan!

Spread out on the rug in front of the fire with your gardening notebook, last year’s leftover seeds, your favorite seed catalogs (mine are Fedco, Richters, and Horizon Herbs), and a mug of tea of course.  Ideally, you wrote down what went where and how it did last year, and can now look through those notes and find ways to improve your rotation, soil fertility, use of microclimate, etc.  Eliot Coleman’s books are a useful resource for this.  If you didn’t take notes, turn over a new leaf this season so your skills can build as your garden grows!

Sort your seeds into annuals and perennials, time of year they’re planted, soil needs (rich vs. poor), microclimate needs (sun/shade/wet/dry/wind etc.), transplants vs. direct seeds, etc.  Do you see any promising combinations?  Perhaps your Arnica may like to grow together with St Johns Wort and Bee Balm, instead of in with the Marshmallows.

Make some lists:  What do you have?  What do you need to buy for next season?  What plants will you start indoors, and what will you direct seed?

Draw some diagrams: where was everything last year, and where are you planting each new friend?  How can you rotate your annuals around your perennials?  Some people like to use index cards or scraps of paper to do this so they can move them around easily.  I use a pencil in my notebook, that way I can refer back to my thoughts later.

This year, as you putter and tend and mulch and hoe and coax, draw pictures of your work.  The better your records, the easier it is to find ways to improve your garden’s vitality.

Interested in in-depth study in all of these topics (and much more)?  Check out the Medicinal Gardener Course!

Solstice Sunset


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Starting Medicinal Seeds: March Garden Tip

Get ready to start seeds!

Starting seeds is a cornerstone of my herbal practice, not to mention my sweet sideline as homestead queen.  I highly recommend growing this skill, as it quintuples your access to strange and interesting plants.  There is a great, wide, green world of herbs and flowers out there beyond the garden center, and it can be yours for a small investment in supplies, a bunch of practice, and the willingness to try again.  Here is an article on starting fussy medicinal plants that I hope you find helpful!

Starting Medicinal Plants from Seed

Seed Set-up


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Identifying Lookalike Forest Plants: June Wild-crafting Journal

Solomon’s Seal and Blue Cohosh are blooming! 

This is a great time to practice differentiating look-alike plants.  Remember that Solomon’s Seal blooms from all its chakras, with flowers all down the stem, whereas Solomon’s Plume only blooms from it’s head, with the flowers protruding from the end of the stem.  Another friend that is sometimes confused with Solomon’s Seal is Uvularia, or wild oats.  Appreciate its diminutive size, flexibility in habitat–dappled sunlight or deep forest–and small, sweet yellow bell of a terminal flower.  Solomon’s Seal is on the United Plant Saver’s At-Risk List; in other words, don’t harvest it unless you have a ton–just love it growing right where it is.  If you don’t have a huge, super abundant population, you might try using willow, turmeric, meadowsweet, or black birch instead.

In terms of Blue Cohosh, it is not Black Cohosh, nor is it wild Columbine or Rue.  Check out the buds and blooms and be like “oh yeah totally, I get it, so different.”  Now is the time, my friends–follow the same plants through the season to see how they differ from their cousins.  Fun fact: the people who gave Blue Cohosh its scientific name agreed with the rest of us that those leaves look really similar to Meadow Rue–Blue Cohosh is Caulophylum thalictroides, or “looks like thalictrum” (the scientific name of Meadow Rue).  So fun.

Read more about the importance of ethical wild-crafting here.

 


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Long, Cool Spring Survival: June Garden Tip

This cold, rainy weather is very weird for the Spring to Summer transition.  I’m making the most of it by transplanting perennials like crazy and dropping plenty of cover crop seed.  Use this time to harden off your plant babies and finish up whatever cool weather tasks you didn’t get to this spring.  Have you dropped clover seed on your garden paths?  Did you plant enough lettuce, kale, peas, and cabbages?  What about that flowering hedge you never seem to have time for–it’s the perfect April weather!

Despite the frost date, be careful setting your starts out into cold soil–it will shock the roots and set the plants way back (or kill them).  Setting out into cold soil is more dangerous than setting out on a hot day!  This spring weather is definitely an exercise in patience and trust.

In the meantime, enjoy plenty of tea from the abundant fresh herbs–here’s a short piece on tea to set the mood–and what’s the difference between infusions and decoctions, anyway?


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Iced Tea & Ice Cubes: July Medicine Journal

It’s hot, and delicious tea herbs are abundant!  Take a cue from the weather and keep the fridge stocked with herbal iced teas.  If you’d like to relish these teas again after the flowers have faded, try herbal ice cubes and popsicles for a year-round treat!

Right now, my family is enjoying homemade lemon balm, hibiscus, & tulsi iced tea, with borage & lavender ice cubes (from last summer).  We’re all feeling very cool and relaxed.

Learn to make your own herbal ice cube treats here, in my article Preserving Water-Soluble Magic Beyond the Growing Season!

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