Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks to cleanse and purify

Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks to cleanse and purify …

Smudging and Smudge Sticks

Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks

Many sources consider smudging an ancient tradition of indigenous American Indians. Some believe smudging was just as prevalent in ancient European cultures too.

The idea of smudging is to burn herbs to produce a smoke, no flame, to cleanse and purify. They have many uses. Some utilise them to cleanse rooms, homes or buildings. Others to cleanse and purify the aura or in meditation.

Artemisia or Salvia Smudge Sticks

Smudge sticks known as ‘sage smudge sticks’ are most popular. You will always find these sticks for sale in new age stores. Sometimes white sage (Salvia apiana) is utilised in these sticks. However, it is more often a species of Artemisia and not, botanically speaking, a true sage speciesSeveral different Artemisia species are used.

Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticksArtemisia californica more commonly known as sagebrush apparently has aromatic sage-like foliage. Another species, is A. tridentata or big sagebrush. Perhaps the name ‘sage’ stuck due to the common names rather than scientific.

Another species commonly called California mugwort is Artemisia douglasiana. Occasionally utilised in smudge sticks. Known as mugwort or black sage smudge sticks. 

A newsletter from the Aromatic Plant Project suggest the common name for A. douglasiana is blue or green sage. They mention the herb for smudge sticks too. However, they add use ceremonially in sweat lodges.

The three Artemisia species, mentioned above, and Salvia apiana grow in North America. Of course, it is possible some of these plants were included in indigenous American Indian sacred ceremonies.

in the UK …
Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks
Mugwort – Artemisia vulgaris

The common mugwort growing in the UK, and indeed here in the Aude, is Artemisia vulgaris. There are many ancient superstitions around it. Travellers carried it to ward of fatigue, wild beasts and evil spirits in the middle ages.

Often considered a herb of magic. A favoured ingredient for dream pillows. In addition a popular smudging herb for clearing negative or stuck energy. Best gathered on a full moon apparently, particularly in June, if using for visions.

Finally, you can make your own smudge sticks and choose any herbs you like. So what would be your preference Artemisia or Salvia smudge sticks ? Perhaps you prefer other plants, like purifying rosemary ?

The Surgery of Davie Beaton the Outlander Castle Leoch Healer

The Surgery of Davie Beaton the Outlander Castle Leoch Healer

In the first Outlander book, and the first TV series, Claire is taken by Colum MacKenzie to Davie Beaton’s dank surgery. The surgery is located in the basement of fictional Castle Leoch.

Last we saw of Claire in the TV show she had returned to her own time. With less than a month until Season 3 of the popular series airs, one wonders if Claire shall return to Castle Leoch at any point in the future, or should I say past!

In Season 1 Claire makes many interesting discoveries in the surgery of Davie Beaton and not all of them useful.

Davie Beaton’s Patient Log Book

It seems Davie Beaton, in life, was unfortunately not the best healer. Incidentally, he died of fever.

On browsing his log book, Claire reads an entry for a female patient with a thumb injury. Sarah had the misfortune of catching her thumb in a spinning wheel.

The Surgery of Davie Beaton
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium

Treatment involved application of boiled pennyroyal followed by a poultice of one part each of yarrow, St John’s wort, ground slaters and mouse-ear. This combination was mixed in a base of fine clay.

The first two are reasonable choices. Yarrow stanches bleeding. St John’s wort aids wound healing.

However, it is not entirely clear if the last ingredient refers to a plant or not. Cerastium fontanum is a type of chickweed. Commonly called mouse-ear. However, Hieracium pilosella, from the same family as the common dandelion, is commonly known as hawkweed and also mouse ear.

The fictitious treatment of Sarah may well have included one of these two herbs. H. pilosella was indeed traditionally utilised as an astringent, albeit more frequently as an expectorant. It had use in treatment of whooping cough.

Unfortunately, it is also possible the recipe actually means a mouse ear! What is certain? That third ingredient of ground woodlice is definitely not of plant origin!

Consequently the treatment was unsuccessful. Although some potential beneficial herbs in the treatment regime it was seriously in need of a powerful antiseptic and strict hygiene would have been paramount and highly unlikely in poor Sarah’s case.

Davie Beaton’s Recipe Book

In addition the discovery of a book of recipes included some further bizarre and obscure remedies.

A recipe for headache recommended drying one ball of horse dung and pounding this to a powder. The resulting powder mixed in hot ale. Surely that would give you a headache rather than cure it. Perhaps the smell made one vomit. As a result of which there may have been some relief if a digestive headache or migraine.

The recipe for treating children with convulsions was five leeches behind the ear. Poor kids.

Another recipe for jaundice used decoctions of roots of celandine and turmeric. Seems reasonable. However, the addition of the juice of 200 slaters not so much! Beneficial as plant medicines. However, the cause of the jaundice would need sought for best treatment. And the inclusion of the juice of 200 woodlice – erm?

Supplies in the Surgery of Davie Beaton

The Surgery of Davie Beaton
Wormwood – Artemisia absinthium

There were many jars and vials. While some of the jars contained useful ingredients such as angelica, rosemary and wormwood. Others contained dried toads packed in moss, dried snails, oil of earthworms and, of course, horse dung and slaters!

As a result, Claire certainly had her work cut out finding the useful remedies in that surgery.

 

St Lizier Apothecary in the Ariege Department

St Lizier Apothecary in the Ariege Department

The History of the St Lizier Apothecary

St Lizier Apothecary Recently on a visit to a neighbouring department Ariege, I visited an 18th century apothecary in St Lizier. The hospital was funded by a wealthy bishop with a personal fortune. The Sisters of Nevers became the nurses.

The Sisters of Nevers were from a religious institute founded in 1680 to minister to the sick and poor. In St Lizier they took in the sick and wounded, beggars and elderly.

In addition they took in abandoned children. A special opening remains visible to the left of the hospital main entrance. The abandoned baby entrance. After baptism, every child took the surname DeDieu, meaning from God. Apparently a common surname in the area to this day.

The St Lizier Apothecary

St Lizier apothecaryThe Apothecary was a step back in time to 1764. It is quite small. The woodwork is from fruit trees, I believe it was pear and cherry trees.

Behind the glass doors are shelves for jars and vials, liquid contents. Furthermore there are 50 drawers for storing dried herbs. Each drawer numbered with a copper plate. Hence some of the drawers still had labels inside detailing the original contents. The example in the image (slideshow below) is guimauve or Althea officinalis. The English common name is marshmallow.

Behind the glass fronted doors there are a wide of array of glass vials and jars and ceramic pots. Often the contents are on the container. For example ‘H. de Chamomille’ is oil of chamomile. Those with ‘H’ is for huile whereas ‘S’ is for syrup. There are also aromatic waters for example ‘Eau de Menthe’ is peppermint aromatic water.

Other cabinets contained ceramic pots, no doubt used for storing unguents. The small ceramic dishes, like odd shaped egg cups, are eye baths.

Interestingly I assumed the ceramic canards (ducks in English) probably containers for treating the nasal cavity for infections. However, the guide described them as possibly early beakers for giving medicines to weak, infirm or children.

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Although a short tour, at around 20 minutes, it was extremely interesting. Furthermore, St Lizier itself is very beautiful. In conclusion, a wonderful way to spend a morning, particularly with a visit to the St Lizier apothecary.

Some medicinal plant photographs from the garden …

Some medicinal plant photographs from the garden …

 

Some medicinal plant photographs from the garden
lemon balm

It has been an extremely dry summer so far. Very little rain. My poor garden has been struggling this year and I fear I shall have some losses…

The beautiful icy pink of Althea officinalis (marshmallow) flowers were quite beautiful but they are now fading fast in the hot summer sun. A fabulous cooling herb. Both leaf and root have medicinal virtues.

Atropa belladonna better known as deadly nightshade has now changed from her flowers, initially to the green berry, and now covered in those shiny black berries.

Last year Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) succumbed to black fly. With the help of some ladybirds, lady Artemisia survived. This year she has not grown so tall and bushy. Next year I hope she will strengthen for harvesting. I do love her silvery foliage. An excellent digestive remedy, and not just for worms! Talking of lady Artemisia, I have both southernwood and mugwort growing in the garden too.

My golden Solidago canadensis initially coped admirably with the hot sun and glowed just as bright. Solidago virgurea looks a little different. Both commonly known as goldenrod and medicinal uses are interchangeable. A wonderful ally for the urinary tract.

Stacys betonica was quite stunning in June. Such beauty inspired me to post a plant profile. I often return to plant profiles to add some more thoughts or findings. I’m sure this is one I shall frequently return to update.

and so on to the images …

All images taken over June and July. Some medicinal plant photographs from the garden …

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Death by Gold Ring – Pretty Poisonous Potion!

Death by Gold Ring

Death by Gold Ring
Inverary Castle

On a brief trip to Scotland last week, I visited Inverary Castle. A cousin was visiting from Australia and he was keen to visit the ancestral home of the chief of the Clan Campbell.

Although the site of an earlier castle, certainly since the 1400’s, building began on this particular castle in 1743. There are some later additions. The conical roofs of the corner towers are such an addition from 1877.

I personally have always thought this particular building more French château than Scottish castle. The interior continues this theme with French-influenced rooms with Beauvais tapestries. The castle also boasts paintings by French artists Girard and Guinand.

However, for me, I found two particular pieces most fascinating. One was a rubbing stone and the other a poison ring!

Rubbing Stone

Death by Gold RingThe rubbing stone, as you can see, apparently cured colic.

Of course, in some cases a mild colic benefits from a gentle massage, or rubbing, over the tummy area. Perhaps in some cases the rubbing stone was helpful! I can think on several much more effective digestion remedies though.

Poison Ring

Death by Gold RingI would have loved a closer look at the poison ring but unfortunately it was safely stored within the glass display cabinet.

The particular example in the castle is Italian but it seems these were quite popular throughout Europe in the 16th century.

Any fans of singer, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, may remember she used a poison ring to eliminate some of her competitors in the Murder on the Dance Floor video. A lady determined to win that dance competition.

Downtown Abbey

The castle may look familiar to Downtown Abbey fans. The Christmas 2012 episode was filmed in and around Inverary Castle. It served as the fictional Duneagle Castle. Duneagle Castle was the home of cousins young Lady Rose and her parents. Thankfully there was no death by gold ring in that episode!

Elderflower Cordial, Wine or Liqueur ?

Eldeelderflower cordial, wine or liqueurrflower Cordial, Wine or Liqueur ?

Elderflowers are in full beautiful bloom. My mind is currently a spinning wondering what delicacies I can make. Do I opt for more tincture or elderflower cordial, wine or liqueur?

Incidentally I cannot abide the smell of elderflowers. In saying that, they are still one of my favourite trees to see in bloom at this time of year. The medicinal virtues far outweigh my dislike for the smell.

Earlier in the month I posted a basic tincture recipe. An easily adapted recipe for other medicinal plants. However, I suggested collecting and drying elderflowers. Ideal to keep as a winter tonic to boost immunity or a hay fever tonic for next spring.

Now I am wondering should I make elderflower cordial, wine or liqueur?

Non alcoholic versus alcoholic I hear you ask?

The Drunken Botanist

And so on to my dilemma.

Anyone knowing me, or even following my blogs, know I LOVE books. So pondering what to do with all the beautiful elderflowers I turned to one of my books – The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart.

Anyone for Sambuca?

My best friend Sharon has always enjoyed a Sambuca after a meal. She believes it helps her digestion. Sambucus nigra is the scientific name for the elderflower tree. Although this thought had crossed my mind I did not realise any part of the plant was an ingredient. Anyone having tried Sambuca will probably agree it is a more aniseed based flavour.

However, in The Drunken Botanist, Amy explains that although artificial flavours and colours are occasionally used some black sambucas actually owe that deep purple-black colour to the crushed skins of the elderberries. So there we have it.

… and back to my dilemma…

Everyone loves a bit of elderflower wine or liqueur. But you don’t always want the alcohol. Sometimes you have to work, write blogs or prepare herbal events!

Amy’s elderflower cordial sounds absolutely delicious. One obvious difficulty for me is she recommends gathering those fresh flowers on a warm afternoon when THAT fragrance is strongest. Oh dear!

 

Voodoo and New Orleans Spells with Herbs

Voodoo and New Orleans Spells

Some years back I was lucky enough to visit New Orleans. A fabulous fun place of blues and jazz. In addition, and right up my street, there are fascinating weird and wonderful herbs and voodoo and New Orleans spells. In fact it is one of the most enjoyable places I have been fortunate enough to visit. Blues, jazz, voodoo, weird and wonderful herbs and fascinating characters – what’s not to like?

Cemeteries and Voodoo

I was there at Halloween so partook in a Cemetery and Voodoo trip. We met at a French cafe. The guide was an entrancing character full of interesting anecdotes with long hair of a similar length and colour to my own. He commented on this to which I replied “Yes, grey”. I still laugh when I hear in my head his response in that New Orleans southern drawl

No honey youse and me just natural platinum blonds.

Voodoo and New Orleans spellsOn the cemetery tour we visited the future pyramidal tomb of actor Nicholas Cage and the tomb of the legendary Marie Laveau, the voodoo priestess.

The tour ended with a visit to a present day, and living, voodoo priestess. I was in a group of perhaps a dozen people. She singled me out asking where I was from. I have to confess I was somewhat unsure what she was going on about but I think she liked me and I had no intention of upsetting a voodoo priestess so happily agreed with whatever she said.

At the end of the trip I felt obliged to purchase some items from her spellbinding wares of herbs, voodoo and New Orleans spells. This brings me on to the focus for this post as one of the items I purchased was a modern herbal spell book!

Tidying the bookcase…

We’ve had some tremendous heat, in the 30’s, this last 10 days or so. This is quite high for this time of year and the garden has required watering most days particularly my small vegetable patch. My water butts for rainwater harvesting are very low.

While tidying my bookcase I came across my New Orleans purchase. Tidying the bookcase is often a lengthy process as I invariably come across a book I haven’t read for sometime and the tidying gets forgotten about for another few hours, days or weeks… and so the book…

Voodoo and New Orleans spells

And so to a make rain spell…

Quite apt for my poor draining water butts I thought!

  • Fill a large pan with water and add a handful each of sulphur, sea wrack and valerian.
  • As you put in each of the ingredients repeat the passage from Deuteronomy 11:14.

I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

This spell should be performed on a Monday, the day ruled by the Moon which is the planet controlling weather.

So there you have if it. Should you ever require a bit of rain you could always try the above spell, on a Monday. Good luck.

 

Outlander Claire Frasers Herbal Knowledge

Outlander Claire Frasers Herbal Knowledge

Outlander Claire Frasers Herbal KnowledgeTwenty years ago I began reading the Outlander series of books. Helen DuFriend, an American friend and work colleague, was engrossed in the Outlander books. She thought I would be interested in reading them as they are based in Scotland.

Another Scottish friend, Anne McOmish also read the books and we had great deliberations and musings over them. Mainly relating to the rather dashing Jamie.

Of course, one could not help but fall for Jamie Fraser, even from the pages of a book. However, Claire’s interest in healing herbs also sparked my interest. Indeed Claire’s medical and botanical knowledge certainly aided her survival, in more ways than one, at that time in history. And so Outlander Claire Frasers herbal knowledge was an integral part of the story.

Outlander? more books and a TV show…

Recently I discovered there are several more books in the Outlander series and a television production to boot!

My sister-in-law, Shirley and I sat engrossed for several evenings glued to way too many episodes. Yes, we had square eyes. The TV series is fabulous. However, as is often the case with books versus TV shows there are slight changes. Unfortunately it is not possible to include all details. Some things are cut out.

Outlander Claire Frasers Herbal KnowledgeEven with the first books there are differences. In the UK the first book was titled Cross Stitch. Across the pond it was titled Outlander. I first read Outlander when given it by an American friend. I did not know of Cross Stitch at that time.

Cross Stitch, the UK version, is different. Although the main story remains Cross Stitch includes some changes and some deletions from the version across the pond. I believe new prints in the UK still contain the content of Cross Stitch albeit with the name change to Outlander to link with the television series.

Outlander Claire Frasers Herbal Knowledge

Wow, there are so many medicinal plants in Outlander. The TV series unfortunately could not possibly cover all the healing plants included in the corresponding novels. Only a few pages into the first book Claire mentions comfrey as

“good for haemorrhoids”.

after her husband Frank Randall asks about a dried plant in his copy of Tuscum and Banks.

“that horrible crumbly brown stuff”

Personally I’d have to say I would much prefer the crumbly comfrey to what must surely be a thoroughly boring book with such a title of Tuscum and Banks!

This is the first mention of Claire’s interest in healing plants and botany in the book. However, excluded from the TV show.

Furthermore in the book version she first visits Craigh na Dun with Mr Crook, a local herbalist. Her second visit is with Frank. In the television series her first visit is with Frank. Poor Mr Crook doesn’t even get a mention in the TV episode.

After passing through the stones …

At Castle Leoch, comfrey makes a further entrance in the book and a first introduction in the TV show in episode one.

Mrs FitzGibbons brings Claire garlic, witch hazel, comfrey and cherry bark for Jamie’s painful shoulder and gunshot wound. However, in the book the medicinal plants are listed as garlic, thyme, comfrey and willow bark.

Witch hazel is a shrub or small tree. It is not native to Scotland or even the UK. The wild cherry tree would have grown in Scotland but it is rarer in the north of the country and south west. In fact in Highland folklore it was believed a witches tree!

It is possible the medicinal plants were changed for the TV show. Produced by an American cable company, initially for an American audience. However, it is also probable the television series is based on Outlander, the first book. Not the UK version, Cross Stitch.

Garlic is a powerful antiseptic, as is thyme. Chosen, in the book, for wound cleansing. Comfrey aids wound healing. Mrs Fitz brought comfrey and willow bark to ease Jamie’s pain. Willow bark is a source of salicylic acid. Salicylic acid perhaps better known today as the pharmaceutical preparation Aspirin.

Growing in the Castle Leoch Herb Garden

Outlander Claire Frasers Herbal KnowledgeIn the herb garden at Castle Leoch Claire finds fennel and mustard on the west side and chamomile on the more sunny south side.

Other medicinal allies growing include foxglove, sweet violet, fumitory, thyme, marigolds and yarrow. If interested click those underscored to learn more about their medicinal uses.

First Meeting with Geillis Duncan

In the UK book version Claire finds wood sorrel beneath roots of an alder. She searches for more. Apparently in the Outlander book she seeks a mushroom that is poisonous if prepared inappropriately. She is looking at mushrooms in the TV series too.

Geillis Duncan, talking of wood sorrel.

“Those are good for helping the monthlies”

Consequently startled Claire stands up and bangs her head on a pine branch.

A Battered and Bruised Jamie

After Jamie takes a punishment for Laoghaire he is once again battered and bruised. Willow bark again makes an appearance. Given as a tea to rinse his mouth and cleanse the cuts and ease the pains.

Claire asks Mrs Fitz about the increased chance of bleeding. Claire, from the future, probably knew about the blood thinning properties of aspirin. Mrs Fitz recommends following the tea rinse with St John’s Wort soaked in vinegar. She stipulates St John’s Wort is ground up well. After gathering under a full moon. St John’s Wort is wound healing and helpful to staunch bleeding.

And as for the surgery of the late Davie Beaton! That is a real challenge for Outlander Claire Frasers herbal knowledge. A story for another day.

I could write forever about the many healing plants from Outlander Claire Frasers herbal knowledge.

Aude Arboretum

Aude Arboretum

Trees, Trees and more Trees

I discovered a fabulous arboretum last weekend. There were some fascinating native and introduced species. As an added bonus it is not too far away so I will be able to visit regularly and see the trees change with the seasons.

The image to the right is a Sequoia sempervirens. This is more commonly known as a coast or Californian redwood. These trees can grow to a considerable size. In California these are the poor trees you may see that have had pathways cut through the middle of them. They are so large. I love the thick spongy bark.

AnAude arboretumother unusual species for this part of the world, the Cryptomeria japonica to the left. This is more commonly known as the Japanese red cedar. I am particularly fond of the cones of this tree. They look quite fluffy though they are actually quite spiky.

There were many native trees too. These included the Quercus petraea, commonly known as sessile oak and the Sorbus aria better known as white beam.

I am looking forward to visiting again in the spring when the broadleaf trees will be bursting into life.

Moroccan Spice Souks and Medicinal Herbs

Visiting Morocco

Whenever I visit a new place I am always keen to see or learn about their use of herbs and spices.

Introduction to Moroccan tea…

My first Moroccan introduction to a medicinal ally was in a riad. A riad is a traditional house built around a central courtyard. The word is from the arabic ‘riyad’ which means ‘gardens’. Riads are tranquil retreats found in the midst of an effervescent medina. This is particularly true in Marrakesh! They are a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle. Many riads are now converted into small hotels and guest houses.

Moroccan Spice Souks and Medicinal HerbsShould you choose to stay at a riad you are greeted with a typical Moroccan welcome, a pot of green tea with Moroccan mint. My first herbal encounter in Morocco!

The Moroccans have an incredibly sweet tooth. Something I have discovered throughout the Arab world. They choose to heavily sweeten this green tea and Moroccan mint blend. Occasionally, in more touristic areas, they will ask a Western palate before sweetening.

Moroccan Spice Souks and Medicinal Herbs

Moroccan Spice Souks and Medicinal HerbsNaturally on a trip to Morocco the spice souks lured me! These souks bewitch the senses; the aromas, the colours and display, the tastes and the textures of the produce, and the sounds of the busy market.

Step inside to see rows and rows of jars. Of course the Moroccans are always keen to get that sale. They have many herbal blends on offer from aphrodisiacs to detox, slimming blends to anti-stress! It is not all blends, there are individual spices too and many other weird and wonderful things. Moroccan Spice Souks and Medicinal Herbs

Almost every store in the spice souk will sell argan oil. Argan oil is popular in many cosmetics and usually, outside Morocco, very expensive. In Essaouria you frequently see shops selling only products made with argan oil. Travelling to or from Essaouria by road you see many argan trees growing. I shall write more on these trees in a future post.

All photographs taken at the spice souk in Marrakesh or the souk at the medina in Essaouira.

Moroccan Spice Souks and Medicinal Herbs