Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lesson 2 Assignment

February Task List

Practical Task: Discovering what herbs are growing around you
Year 1: Walk around your “harvesting space” (this may be your garden, a local park or field, hedgerows, allotment, canalside etc) and identify what plants are growing. If you can find them, pick and make tea with cleavers, chickweed and young nettles. If you can gather enough, add chickweed to a salad or stir-fry and make an oil and/or salve. With nettles make an iron tonic and/or soup. (Make sure the area you are picking from is not frequented by dog walkers and rinse your harvest thoroughly before eating/cooking.)
Theoretical task
Year 1: Research the function of blood and skin, looking particularly at why people develop acne and eczema. What herbs could be used to help control and alleviate these conditions?

The functions of blood are numerous but can essentially be broken down into two subsets. Blood transports things to the various tissues of the body, and it removes things from the tissues of the body.   
As a delivery system, there are numerous functions of blood. Key among these is to deliver oxygen to all tissues, since no area of the body survives without a regular supply of oxygen. Other things that travel in blood include hormones, nutrients, temperature regulating elements, and various forms of nourishment, such as minerals and vitamins. Source: Wisegeek

The skin is the largest organ in the integumentary system of the body. The integumentary system is composed of skin, hair and nails. The function of skin Regulation of temperature, excretion of waste, immune response and protection of the underlying tissues are among the many functions of the skin.Source:   Functions of the Skin |
Why people get Acne: There are three main reasons which come together to cause this irritating skin disease. High hormonal activity during puberty, excess oil (sebum) production by sebaceous glands and a bacteria residing on the surface of human skin. Source: Acne Resource Center online
Herbs that are good for treating Ance:
   Witch Hazel is good  astringent to blot on the affected areas 2-3 times a day.
   Lavender essential oil is antibacterial and can also be applied to the affected areas, it is also beneficial to prevent scarring from acne.
   1 tsp. of chasteberry leaves with 1 tsp. of calendula leaves covered with boiling water and allowed to steep for 10 minutes will make a tea that is beneficial in regulating hormones progestrone and estrogen in women that can affect the skin and cause acne breakouts. Drinking 1-2 cups per day as a hot tea. It may take 2-3 menstral cycles to notice a difference in the appearance of skin. Source:
    Saw Palmetto tincture can be used to clear up acne.
    Rose petals are good for the skin as are chamomile. There is a very nice Acne wash recipe in The Herbal Kitchen by Tami McBride, that would be nice to try.
Why People get Eczema: Eczema, which looks like dermatitis or inflammation on the skin, is characterized by swollen, itchy and reddened skin.The main reasons of Eczema have a lot to do with the lack of nourishment or caring about your body, and mainly the skin. Germs, toxins, pests, and bacteria are common sources that can cause inflammation on the skin that is typical to Eczema. Source:
Herbs for Eczema: Red clover alleviates eczema and other chronic skin conditions. Gotu Kola helps treat rashes and helps reduce itching and redness.  Burdock root, Stinging nettle, Chamomile are also beneficial in treating eczema.

Herbal terminology
Research and note the meaning of the following terms: astringent and carminative
Astringent - is a tightening or toning of the skin tissues, often reducing secretions and eliminations. It can occur in such herbs as blackberry, Lady's mantle, Plantain, Raspberry,Sage, Self Heal, Willow and Yarrow.
Carminative- often rich in volatile oils, they support digestion, reduce and relieve flatulence as Catnip, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Spearmint and Thyme will
Definitions as given by another Herbal teacher I had, whom I shall not name -as to name her would offer honor and she, though knowledgable has dishonored herself. But that was another lesson...... 
Your herbal ally: Continue with the tasks sent out last month
 Finishing up with a January task.... Oh slow though I am, I finally got the pith removed from my elderberry branch and sanded and cut each piece to make my necklace. Nothing fancy, but since I love Elder I can wear it during ceremony.
My Herbal Ally this year is Danelion, I have been reading about Ms Dandy in Susan Weed's book Healing Wise. Susan makes it fun to read about herbs and I get a kick out of how she speaks out in the "personality " that she feels that the herb is. There is not one part of the dandelion that is not useful. I have made tinctures of her roots before, and eaten her flowers and leaves, but I must have missed the part where she tells about the sap being a great external eraser. The sap can be dabbed on warts, corns, calluses,bee stings, blisters, and pimples to help them dissolve. Since this month we are learning about skin issues, this was a timely lesson to learn.  
Seasonal task: Collect an amount of horsechestnut/sticky buds and make a flower essence using the heating method. If you don’t have access to horse chestnut, find some cottonwood or balsam poplar (balm of gilead poplar) and make an infused oil.

I have not been able to clearly identify any chestnut trees in my area as of yet. I still have some cottonwood salve that I made from last season, better use that up first, or gift it before making more- waste nothing! Oh but I still remmeber the heavenly smell as i was making the infused oil. So very nice!

The winter weather has been odd this year here in Michigan. One day it is in the 40's and the next you get 6 or more inches of snow, only to have it melt all off again in just a couple of days. This has been a repeat performance all winter. Has been a little difficult for those of us with sinus issues. All in all I am very much looking forward to spring and to the rebirth of many of our plant friends.


  1. Well done you, Feb tasks up already - your enthusiasm is inspiring.

    Your detailed descriptions are fantastic. The photographs too are a great help. Once I've made my choice of 20 herbs I will have to have photographs of them so I can remember whats what. I am only just learning to recognise & label the herbs. Thank you so much, its great to have such good mentors. To see the pans, jugs, oils etc fills me with hope as opposed to blank fear. It makes so much more sense to me seeing the photographs of how things are done than reading only instructions. Thank you.

  2. How did I miss this earlier?! Fabulous post, Pat xxx Wonderful information:) Your necklace turned out awesome! Well done dear. So sorry I didn't see this sooner! xxx