Medicine is growing all around us

The Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference, set on the beautiful grounds of Lake Eden in Black Mountain, promoted a simple but powerful idea — that there is a healer in us all. At the fall conference — held Oct. 12-14 — herbalists, naturopaths, midwives, doctors and alternative healers gathered to share and teach the practices of herbalism: that medicine can be made at home; that health begins with the food you eat and the way you cook; and that we all have the power to heal and be healed by the natural world that surrounds us. The conference’s mission, as stated by Corinna Wood, the founder of Red Moon Herbs and of the Southeast Wise Woman Herbal Conference, “is designed for women to learn, connect and deepen into the Wise Woman Tradition — the most ancient of all healing paths, with a lineage of granny healers, midwives and family medicine.” With 1,000 women in attendance, there is no doubt that the time to reclaim the wise woman’s herbal knowledge is now.

Here are a few simple kitchen remedies and a few herbal aids that I learned about while studying at the herbal conference.

• Onion cough syrup
This is an easy, simple recipe offered by Lupo Passero, a community herbalist and flower-essences practitioner, during her “Poultices and Syrups” class. Use onion syrup for coughs or colds, and as a remedy for upper respiratory congestion:

Take 1 classic, large yellow onion, and slice into thin circles (if the onion makes your eyes water, then it will work!)
Line the bottom of a small mason jar with a few onion slices
Then, add a layer of sugar (you’ll be using 1 cup in total)
Layer with onion slices, add sugar, layer with onion slices, add sugar, repeat until the jar is full.
Let stand overnight. The onion should be broken down by the sugar, and you’ll find a gold-brown syrup ready for use! Store in the fridge, and it should be good for two to three months.

• Elderberry syrup
Elderberries are known to boost the immune system, and are best when taken as soon as symptoms of a cold appear. For a delicious and immune-boosting syrup, Passero recommends using dried elderberries

Add 2 ounces of dried elderberries to 2 pints of water. Simmer over low heat and reduce by half. Strain, cool and then add 1 cup of honey (agave or sugar). This will keep for up to three months in the fridge.

• A Poultice for Poison Ivy, also offered by Passero.
You’ll need: 2 tablespoons of White Bentonite Clay, 1 cup dried comfrey, and a little dried lavender. Mix the dry ingredients together, and then add water to make a paste. Apply on affected areas.

• Heal your sunburn naturally
You’ll need aloe vera juice (yes, juice, which can be purchased at a health food store). Once you have your juice, add 50 drops of lavender essential oil. Keep in the fridge and apply to red and sunburned skin.

• Natural Cleaning Product
This recipe is good for windows, floors, household surfaces — and it’s totally edible and rich in vitamin C. This recipe was offered by Ceara Foley, the owner of the Appalachian School of Holistic Herbalism, on her herb walk titled “Embracing Abundance.”

Squeeze some lemons, grapefruit and/or oranges. Drink the goodness down and save the peels. Add the peels to a 1-gallon mason jar. Then add a few handfuls of white pine needles (white pine can be easily identified: If you pull on a needle, you’ll see that there are five green needles connected to a single stock). Then, submerge the citrus rinds and pine in white vinegar. If you like, you can add a few drops of lemon balm essential oil (which smells delicious and is known to “cleanse” a space).

• Add some bitters to your life!
Bitters are known a digestive aids. Before eating dinner, add a few dandelion leaves (yes, the weed is actually wonderful medicine) to your white wine, let it sit for 15 minutes and enjoy before your meal. This will spark digestion, and help the body absorb the nutrients in your meal.

• Make your own sauerkraut
This recipe was offered by Charli Vogt during her Fermentation class (and adapted from Sandor Katz’s recipe published in Wild Fermentation).

1 head of cabbage (approximately 5 pounds)
2-3 tablespoons of non-iodized salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
Chop or grate the cabbage, fine or coarse, however you like it. Vogt recommends mixing green cabbage with purple cabbage for a lovely pink sauerkraut.
Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go.
In a large wooden bowl, pound the cabbage and the salt until the leaves are wet with juice. This will be the brine, in which the sauerkraut will ferment. Once wet and juicy, add the cabbage and salt into a large mason jar. Secure with a plastic lid, and tuck away in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Enjoy!

For more information about the Herbal Conference, and to learn more about the upcoming Spring Immersion, check out this website: Medicine, it turns out, is growing all around us!


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About Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Aiyanna grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was educated at The Cambridge School of Weston, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oxford University. Aiyanna lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she proudly works for Mountain Xpress, the city’s independent local newspaper.

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