August 2014
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Healing Wise ...
with Susun Weed

August Harvest

Two plants that you may not think about harvesting are ready for your consideration: corn silk, actually the styles of the female corn flower, and loosestrife, that obnoxious invader of wetlands.

Corn silk
I really love corn silk as an ally when I want to soothe the bladder. Here you see the silks from six ears of organic corn laid upon tissue paper in a wire mesh basket to dry. And here are the ears of corn with their silks still on them. I carefully peel away the green leaves embracing the corn, leaving the silks exposed. A gentle twist of the top, where the silks are brown and hardened, and then a sturdy tug frees them from the ear of corn. When dry, I store in a glass jar. (One of the few herbs I store in glass.) A big handful in a quart of boiling water brewed overnight will ease overactive bladder, honeymoon cystitis, and menopausal after-intercourse burning.

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
You will find loosestrife in wet areas where cattails and Fragmites reeds grow. Expect to get your feet wet when harvesting these flowers. Just a small jar of tincture is all you need. By now, you will have your chicory flower tincture brewing. But if you don't, it is not too late. Next month we will make a tincture of flowering Artemisia vulgaris to complete our Third-Eye Opening Blend.

The first leaves of autumn bring beauty in unexpected places. It is time to harvest seeds. Let's go on a walk and see which seeds are ripe and ready.
The seeds that are closest to my heart are not the seeds of plants, however. They are seeds in the form of women who have apprenticed with me. Each unique woman is a precious seed, a thread in the healing cloak of the Ancients, a spark of the fire of the return of herbal medicine to the home. This year I celebrate 30 years of shamanic apprentices.
Like most of what I do, I didn't plan to have an apprenticeship program. (Any more than I planned to teach herbal medicine, or than I planned to offer correspondence courses, or than I planned to write books!) Yet I not only have an apprenticeship program, I have had one for 30 years, and I have graduated 300 apprentices.
In 1983, a lovely young woman approached me at Omega Institute, where I was teaching a five-day course: Talking with Plants. She announced, in her sweet, shy, and sparkling way, that she would be coming to live with me for a month the following year in order to complete an herbal program she was enrolled in. And which month would be best for me? Daphne opened the door and made a path for other women to follow, into my home and into my heart. We are still in touch, thirty years later. Still loving each other and still amazed at the way the wheel turns us up and turns us down.
Before Daphne, the first official apprentice, were several unofficial apprentices: women who learned herbal medicine from me without formal instruction, but by being in my presence, by living with me. The foremost of whom remains my ideal apprentice, Clove Tsindle. At least that is the last name I remember her by; I believe she has changed it once again. And moved from the last address I had for her, too. Do get in touch and set us all straight on what you are doing, oh beloved apprentice of my dreams. You are important to me in ways you could never imagine.
In ways that I could never imagine, the apprentices have shaped me, have crafted me, have pushed and pulled on me, helping me to fashion myself and to create a program that is not just about herbal medicine, no just about wild food, not just about goats and cheese and yogurt, not just about talking with the plants and understanding psychoactive plants, but about being a deep, passionate, useful human being.
My live-in apprenticeship program is intense. It is not for the faint of heart or those who need to be tended to. Apprentices are challenged mentally, emotionally, physically, and psychically. Challenged to be true to themselves. Challenged to give up the useless search for perfection. Challenged to live passionately. Challenged to stretch their bodies and their minds.
For every apprentice who graduates, two fail the program. The three hundred women who have graduated are women who have both feet on the ground and their head firmly planted in the present. Some are working as herbalists: teaching, training apprentices of their own, writing books, counseling, touching. Others are "merely" using what they learned to maintain optimum health and help their families to health. Every one of them is a precious spark from the fire of my fervent belief that herbal medicine is people's medicine: of the people, for the people, by the people.
I have devoted my life to helping you reclaim the medicine that grows outside your door. You don't have to be an apprentice. You can learn at a distance, without interacting with me personally at all: via my extensive YouTube library on wild plants and herbal medicines, via my teaching videos, a host of CDs and MP3s recorded at conferences, via my radio shows, by reading the periodicals I regularly contribute to, and by way of my wonderful books and my amazing website (created and run by my amazing daughter, Justine Smythe).
You can come a little nearer to me as you learn: via my online courses and online chats, by calling my Tuesday evening blogtalk show, by taking any of the four correspondence courses I offer, or by enrolling in one of my mentorship programs. You can draw nearer still: spend time with me at a conference, (upcoming ones: Green Nations Gathering and The International Goddess Festival), attend class with me in your town, come to the Wise Woman Center for a moon lodge or stay for the day and study with me and the goats. Or you can walk into the dragon's den, take your courage in both hands, and beg Baba Yaga for fire by applying to be an apprentice, like these three hundred women.

Green blessings

Seedy Weedy Walk

Plantain Seed (Plantago major)
What a great crop of plantain seed this year. Some stalks are two feet long! Here is a nice patch of plantain seed, just ready to begin select harvesting. Most of the seeds are still green. I leave those for a while, to mature and darken. Like the ones in this basket, which are brown and ready to harvest and dry. Once fully dry, the seeds and husks are stripped by hand from the stalks, and stored in jars. I drop a silicon gel packet in with my wild seeds to keep them dry.

Plantain seed makes a delicious addition to any grain, from oatmeal in the morning to brown rice at night. To use on its own, as a mild, bulk-producing laxative, just soak a tablespoonful in a cup of cold water overnight and drink it in the morning, seeds and all. Plantain, like most wild seeds, is a good source of the omega fatty acids so critical to heart health.

Queen Anne's Lace Seed (Daucus carota)
The seeds of wild carrot are famous as a natural birth control. They are not sold commercially, so if you wish to use them, you will have to harvest them yourself. I watch for the seeds to turn brown, indicating that they are ripe. But, if I wait too long, the "basket" holding the seeds opens and scatters them to the ground. Apprentice number seven, Robin Rose Bennett, has extensive experience in using these seeds to control conception. Women in India take a tablespoonful of the ripe seed after fertilizing intercourse to prevent implantation.

Yellow Dock Seed (Rumex crispus, R. obtusifolia)
The seeds of the yellow docks are delicious in vinegar, tolerable when cooked as a grain, and magnificent in autumn and winter flower arrangements. One lovely day in a bygone September, Grandmother Two Worlds laughed at my attempts to loosen a yellow dock root from my rocky excuse for soil. "We use the seeds," she confided. "So much easier to harvest." Yes, but not easy to use as a grain, for the husks are astringent and bitter, and must be removed. I have not found an easy way to separate the yellow dock husks from the seeds, so I use them exclusively for vinegar. And a tasty vinegar it is, indeed.

Amaranth Seed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
It is difficult to determine if the amaranth seed is ripe without shaking the seed head. I take a bowl to the plant and rap the seed head against the inside of the bowl. If small black seed fall out, I continue to rap the seed head against the bowl. I repeat this action every day or two until the whole seed head is brown and falling apart. The seeds are so small that they easily fall through a mesh strainer, leaving the inedible husks behind.

Burdock Seed (Arctium lappa)
Here are the beautiful flowers of the burdock. Which are followed by the burdock burs, clingy, hooked burs which trouble dogs, sheep, aond children of all ages. Inside those burrs are seeds. I have loosened a few, so you can see that they are still too young to harvest. Like the other seeds, they will be brownish black when mature and ready to turn into hair oil and other remedies. Removing the seeds from the burrs is not easy; and made more difficult by the irritating hairs surrounding them. Complete instructions on making the famous Russian scalp tonic are in Healing Wise.

Nettle Seed (Urtica dioica)
Still too early to harvest the nettle seed; it is quite green yet. Patience, patience. One of my favorite additions to grains, we put nettle seed in muffins, pancakes, corn bread, brown rice, oatmeal, everything!

Susun Weed’s books:

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year
Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.
Retails for $14.95
Order at:

Healing Wise
Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $21.95

NEW Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Introduction by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $19.95
For excerpts visit:

Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $21.95

Down There:
Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed Simple, successful, strategies cover the entire range of options -- from mainstream to radical -- to help you choose the best, and the safest, ways to optimize sexual and reproductive health.
Foreword: Aviva Romm, MD, midwife, 484 pages, Index, illustrations Retails for $29.95
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