Medicinal Mushrooms by Aisling Badger, September 22, 2016

Reishi Mushroom

Fungi are fascinating. The more I get to know them, the more there is to know. They pop up anywhere they want and truly have a life of their own–one which we are only beginning to fully understand. Think about the mycelium–the tiny, intricate threads that weave together to form a reproductive network. Mycelium are fine white threads that behave in ways similar to the neurons of our brain, allowing the mushroom to grow into a living, web-like system that adapts to its environment. The spore of the mushroom is like the seed. It drops from a mature mushroom, then germinates, then meets another compatible spore where the mycelium originates from, and a new mushroom then forms, develops, and drops its spores to complete the cycle. The mycelium is responsible for absorbing nutrients from the surrounding area which aid in the breakdown of material–which some studies have shown includes the breakdown of toxic material such as pesticides. Not only do they play a major role in our health but there may be the potential for environmental use as well. Paul Stamets, the Mushroom guru, describes mycelium as the “the neurological network of nature” that behaves like an “emotional membrane.”   

While I am certainly not a mycologist (someone who studies mushrooms), I know the mushroom world is rich, just like the plant world. There are thousands of species. Many offer food or medicine, and some are highly toxic. It is endless and somewhat mind-blowing. Today, scientists are still uncovering the long history of using medicinal mushrooms in our medicine cabinets. There is a good deal of research on their […]

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Detox and Metabolism: Supporting the Liver’s Crucial Role in Health by Guido Masé, September 15, 2016

Artichoke Leaf

The liver, a three-pound sponge full of blood that is lodged just around the lower right ribs, is our tireless defender. It daily throws itself in front of a barrage of chemistry, coming from inside our bodies, from our food, and from the world around us, and helps to process and safely eliminate it before it can harm our heart, blood vessels, joints, nerve tissue, and skin. But the liver is also a wise regulator of metabolism: it takes the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins we consume and coordinates their storage, converts them like currency one into the other as needed, and packages lipids and cholesterol for shipping to long-term storage in our adipose tissue. As such, it is exquisitely sensitive to insulin, and takes care of clearing sugars from the bloodstream after we eat. It also has the ability to create cholesterol from scratch, produces bile, and synthesizes a range of important molecules used to clot blood and ensure optimal immunity. Needless to say, we owe our lives – and much of our quality of life – to the liver.

For all these reasons, healthy liver function is one of the herbalist’s primary goals. We aim to support its defensive role by ensuring that the liver is producing antioxidants like glutathione at optimal levels. We pay attention to the liver’s insulin sensitivity, helping it react to this important hormone in a healthy, balanced way so that it can fulfill its role in blood sugar management. And when working to keep healthy cholesterol levels in their normal range, herbalists turn to liver support first.

There are many plants […]

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Herb Harvest and Preservation by Jeff Carpenter, Co-Owner & Operator of Zack Woods Herb Farm, Guest Blogger, September 11, 2016

Milky Oats Drying

Growing herbs is easy! After all, these plants are wild by nature and have adapted to tolerate pests, diseases and even the neglect  of their two-legged caretakers who cultivate them for our health and pleasure.  But as we walk through our wild and cultivated gardens, the thought of how to capture and store as much of our plants healing and nourishing potential as possible can seem overwhelming.  Fortunately it’s not as hard as one might imagine but before we get into herb preservation, let’s briefly discuss when and how to harvest.

Herbs, whether culinary, medicinal (or both as many are) should be harvested at the peak of potency for maximum benefit.  For most leaf crops such as those in the mint family (i.e lemon balm, nettles, basils, etc.) harvest at the early stages of flowering during dry weather using pruning shears, field knives or by stripping leaves off with bare hands. Blossoms such as calendula, chamomile and arnica should be harvested during dry sunny weather when flowers are fully open using your hands or a device such as a chamomile rake. Roots are best harvested when the plants are dormant (late fall through early spring) and the energy of the plant has gone from above ground growth back to its roots. Spading forks are best for digging roots as they don’t tend to cut lateral roots off as shovels can do.

Chamomile and EchinaceaTo clean freshly harvested herbs, shake or lightly brush them to remove debris clinging to leaves. Washing leaves and blossom is […]

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Elderberry Medicine By Aisling Badger, September 8, 2016

Basket of elderberry

Around this time in Vermont is when one of our most prized and delicious plants finally fruits; Sambucus canadensis, the Elderberry!

The Elder, with its umbrella-like clusters of creamy, delicately fragrant blossoms flowers in early July, followed in late August by the large drooping bunches of purple juicy berries. The shrub grows on our farmlands near damp places, along roadsides and on the edges of woods and always brings with it the uncertain feeling that fall is arriving soon and the bounty and harvest of our growing season is at full peak. Elderberries are quite edible and have been an important staple of food for many centuries. The ripe purple berries can be harvested and made into elderberry wine, jam, syrup, and other yummy treats. It also aids as a powerful medicine that is widely known and loved because of its sweet and potent affinity to our immune system.

Elderberry bracts

As the cooler months approach and back to school season starts, it’s important to pay attention to the way that we feel each day, as those early signs of feeling burnt out play an important part in maintaining health. Eating good food, staying hydrated and making sure we get plenty of sleep are all important factors in living healthy through the changing seasons.

Elderberry is a wonderful superfood-like ally that we can take in large quantities, and with plenty of rest our body’s natural response kicks in. Elderberry syrups and tea have long been used to help support optimal immune function. […]

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