Shepherd’s Purse – Capsella bursa-pastoris

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Shepherd’s Purse looks like Dandelion when it’s still in the rosette stage, but pulling a leaf will tell you the difference; only Dandelion leaves will ooze white liquid from the leaf. The leaves, flowers and seed of Shepherd’s Purse are edible, but the leaves are tastier before the plant flowers. It is from the same family as Cabbage and is similar in taste to Mustard greens.

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Shepherd’s Purse has a long history of use as food and medicine, which is usually true of an herb with this many folk names:

shepherd’s heart, shepherd’s bog, shepherd’s bag, shepherd’s scrip, shepherd’s sprout, coco wort or cocowort, mother’s heart, case weed, case wort or casewort, pickpocket or pick pocket, toywort or toy wort, blindweed or blind weed, pepper and salt, rattle pouches, rattleweed or rattleweed, Chinese Cress, Nazuna, pick purse, permacety, toywort or toy wort, St. James’ weed or St. James wort, St. Anthony’s fire, pepper grass or peppergrass, witch’s pocket, witch’s pouches, lady’s purse, ladies purse, poor man’s parmacettie, bourse de pasteur, hirtentasche, hirtenfaschel, Borsa de Pastor, clappedepouch, and Borsa di pastore.

The main medicinal use of this herb is to stop bleeding, both internally and externally. As a tea or tincture, it’s used for post-partum bleeding or excessive menstrual bleeding. Externally, it can be used as first aid for bleeding by simply crushing the plant and using it as a poultice directly on the area. An infusion-soaked cottonball can be used to stop nose bleeds and the same can be used with a cloth to make a compress for bruises.

Shepherd's Purse - May 7, 2014

Though I’m poor to human eyes
Really I am rich and wise.
Every tiny flower I shed
Leaves a heart-shaped purse instead.
In each purse is wealth indeed~
Every coin a living seed.
Sow the seed upon the earth~
Living plants shall spring to birth.
Silly people’s purses hold
Lifeless silver, clinking gold;
But you cannot grow a pound
From a farthing in the ground.
Money may become a curse;
Give me then my Shepherd’s Purse.
~ Cecily Mary Barker
Shepherd's Purse Fairy - Cecily Mary Barker
~ Cecily Mary Barker

One Herb Forty Ways – Nettle

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Nettle - spring greens

Nettle – spring greens

“My idea of a good herbalist is not someone who knows the uses of forty different herbs, but someone who knows how to use one herb in forty different ways.” ~ Sveno Brooks

There are several herbs that have a long and diverse list of uses; Nettle is one of them. It is an amazing plant who’s virtues have been masked by its awful habit of stinging people. There’s a natural fear of plants that have that kind of reputation, but, rest assured, its benefits far outweigh the sting.

A few facts about Nettle (Urtica dioica):

Urtica means “to burn” – dioica means “two houses” because it has both male and female plants

Nettle’s sting is caused by formic acid, the same chemical used by red ants

Nettle can stimulate uterine contractions and may interact with medications for high blood pressure and diabetes

Young, tender leaves and ripe seeds are used medicinally

Nettle Seeds on the right are ripe; on the left, still at flowering stage.

Nettle Seed on the right is ripe; left is still at flowering stage.

Nettle Seed Tincture

Nettle Seed Tincture

Nettle is an incredibly rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially the trace minerals that most people don’t get in sufficient amounts. According to well-known women’s herbalist, Susun Weed, Nettle has “anti-cancer selenium, immune-building sulphur, memory-enhancing zinc, diabetes-chasing chromium and bone-building boron.” She also notes that a Nettle infusion provide these critical nutrients directly to the blood stream, to every cell in the body, without having to be digested. (Infusions are stronger than a simple “tea” and usually steeped overnight.)

Check out this list of Nettle’s uses and get to know this marvelous herb:

  1. Remedy for hay fever
  2. Remedy for food allergies
  3. Used to treat candida
  4. Controls excessive menstrual flow
  5. Increases mother’s milk
  6. Used as a nutritious food source
  7. Ointment used to treat hemorrhoids
  8. Clears congestion from nose
  9. Clears congestion from chest
  10. Lowers blood sugar
  11. Used to prevent hair loss
  12. Used to treat dandruff
  13. Roman Soldiers used it to keep warm
  14. Urtication – stinging arthritic joints to relieve pain
  15. Known as a blood purifier
  16. When taken before meals, helps with food allergies
  17. Used to make horses “smart and frisky”
  18. Used to treat eczema
  19. Used to treat acne
  20. Considered an “alterative” – gradually restores proper functioning of body
  21. Aids digestion
  22. Stimulate metabolism
  23. Improves elimination of wastes from the body
  24. Used as a compress for sprains
  25. Used as a compress for tendonitis
  26. Used as a compress for sciatica
  27. Eaten as a steamed green
  28. High in Vitamin K
  29. Contains Iron and the Vitamin C needed to absorb it
  30. Nettle seed used to improve mood
  31. Nettle seed used to improve general nervous system health
  32. Nettle seed eaten for trace minerals
  33. Nettle seed tincture used to restore adrenal function
  34. Fiber used to make silk-like cloth long before flax
  35. Used to treat urinary tract infections
  36. Used to treat enlarged prostrate
  37. Poultice used to relieve insect bites
  38. Used to treat kidney stones
  39. Leaves make a greenish yellow dye
  40. One species of Nettle causes a sting that lasts a year

And that’s just the list for humans. Nettle leaves increase production of eggs when fed to chickens and make an excellent “tea” to give plants extra vitamins and minerals.

Young Nettle plants

Young Nettle plants

Young Nettle makes a delicious and nutritious spring green, cooked like spinach or added to pasta and egg dishes. For an easy side side dish, try steamed, chopped Nettle with risotto rice or orzo pasta. Potato Nettle Soup is a hearty meal, loaded with nutrition. Potato and Nettle also make a great casserole with butter, cream and cracked black pepper.

Potato Nettle Soup

2 cups Nettle Leaves (young shoots)
1 Onion
6 small Potatoes
8 cups Water (or vegetable stock)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. Parsley
3 cloves Garlic OR 3 stalks green garlic

Puree onion, garlic, and nettles with 1 cup of water or stock. Cut potatoes into small pieces. Simmer pureed mixture with potatoes and remaining water or stock for 45 minutes or until tender. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes making the soup thick and creamy.

Nettle can be added to almost any soup or stew for extra nutrition and delicate green flavor:

Vegetable Soup with Nettles

Vegetable Soup with Nettles

When harvesting Nettle, remember to look for this plant, Burdock, growing nearby to use as an antidote to the inevitable sting… Nettle in – Dock out. And if you’re so inclined, go ahead and harvest the Burdock root to add to your Vegetable Soup. They are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, as well as a liver tonic. But, that will have to wait for next week’s post on spring herbs.

Young Burdock plant

Young Burdock plant

Chive blossoms

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Chive blossoms make a lovely lavender-colored infused oil that can be used in cooking. They can also be added fresh to salads for a decorative touch. The leaves are best preserved by freezing them.

Chives have Vitamin C, which helps prevent colds, sulfurous compounds that are expectorants, potassium that is heart-friendly, calcium to build bones and iron that is good for blood. They are also high in folic acid and Vitamin A. They aid digestion and research is being done on their ability to lower cholesterol. Like many common culinary herbs, Chives are medicinally amazing.Chive Blossom

Chamomile is for people and plants

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Chamomile is blooming and ready for the first harvest. These dainty flowers are packed full of healing power. They’re considered a “cradle to grave” herb and can be use for everything from cosmetics to calming a baby to congestion relief. They are also considered a “plant physician” and help the health of plants growing near them.
Chamomile

Horseradish Blossoms

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Horseradish is blooming. Despite the pungent odor of the roots, the flowers are sweetly scented, though they have a hint of the spiciness that is in the roots. There’s a saying about Horseradish that recommends harvesting the root only in a month that has an “R” in it. While that’s true if you want the most potent root, you can use a bit of them any time of year to clear up sinus congestion. The famous herbalist and author, Dr. Christopher, recommends chewing a piece of the root until the flavor is gone to drain sinus cavities. Horseradish root is also a digestive aid, hence the culinary use of it with fatty meats.
Horseradish Blossoms

Edible Evergreens

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New growth from Spruce, Pine and Fir trees are popping out in glowing green. These soft tips are edible and medicinal. Having learned about them within the last few years and since they’re only available for a short time in the spring, I’m curious (one might call it obsessed) to learn more. We’ve been trying new recipes and making new medicines with them and plan to freeze a  few for extended use. We have an Spruce Tip Oil infusing and a Spruce Tip Vinegar to use for salads and cooking.

Spruce Tips - spring 2014

Brilliant green new growth on Spruce trees in the spring.

One of the recipes we like is Spruce Tip Mayonnaise. It can be used as a spread on BLTs or a dip for fresh vegetables or a glaze for grilled vegetables.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh tips
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Chop tips finely or put in a food processor to mince. Add to mayonnaise, along with lemon juice, and stir. Let mixture sit for a couple hours to blend the flavors. Makes a great BLT spread or flavorful addition to potato salad. They have a mild flavor of spruce; a little sweetness and nuttiness too.

Harvested Spruce tips

Harvested Spruce tips

 

Medicinally Spruce can be used externally to soothe sore muscles. Internally, Spruce has antiseptic properties that treat respiratory infections and mucus. It is also used to treat bronchitis, coughs and asthma. A simple syrup is made by boiling the tips in water and adding honey.

 

 

Feathered Friends

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Red  Road Herbs Retreat & Learning Center is not only an herbal haven, but is also a bird-lovers paradise. Here are a few of our colorful, feathered friends:

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

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Yellow-headed Blackbird

 

 

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Purple Finch

 

 

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Redwing Blackbird

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Male Cardinal

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Female Cardinal

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