Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Leaves of Summer Speak - BC, Canada



I remember saying to one of my Permaculture teachers during my first Permaculture Design Course, “How do you see and understand all these things?” to which he replied “Once you switch on the Permaculture part of your brain, you can’t switch it off again. Your constantly looking at things in a different way, asking why and deciphering answers”.
I will never forget this, because it was so true for me. I cannot switch that part of my brain off (I was always the kid that asked “But Why?”) and the same goes for the Wildcrafting Wild Woman part of me.
Which is exactly why part of me was more excited to delve deep into the forest during Shambahla Festival, than to actually take part in the event itself.

I took a foraging basket, a knife, paper bags and string and went to see what the land offers here which is so hard to find back home in Australia.

Behold! I found many, many things!

First of all I found Coltsfoot (
Tussilago farfara) which is actually prohibited in Australia, It is an Appendix C classed species, due to the herb containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which have been shown to cause liver damage in rats. There are other studies, however, which state that there has been no proper evaluation of scheduled species such as Coltsfoot (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874112008616). The alkaloids  occur in minute quantities, and Swedish research suggests that they are destroyed by boiling. It is also thought that the mucilage present in the plant makes the alkaloid safe. In the UK it is recommended that this herb should be used internally only under professional guidance.
The flowers and leaves of this plant are used, and it contains mucilages, tannin, zinc, inulin, flavanoids and a glycosidal bitter principle. 
 
This is a plant which grows very low to the ground, in semi-shaded areas.
It is renowned for its properties in assisting bronchitis, lung infections and coughs, and is said to give relief by actually smoking the leaves.

Other indications include laryngitis and asthma, and the herb combines well with Mullien (Verbascum thapsus) and white horehound (Marrubium vulgare) which, strangely enough, grow near one another quite often.


 Wild Violet is another (Violoa odorata) that I stumbled upon in the forest.


This plant I am very familiar with as it grows in what has been my home for 5 years in the Dandenong Ranges.
I apologies for the quality of the photo, but it does go to show where this plant likes to grow. It needs to be extremely shady and damp for Viola to spread her green wings outward.
The season in British Columbia in which I harvested these plants was high Summer, but the tree cover from the pines is that dense in some areas that there are many places Violets will grow.
I pondered whether many of these plants may like acidic soil, as I know pine needles are acidic… Another ‘Why?’ that I will hopefully know the answer too soon.
Violet has wonderful heart shaped deep green leaves which are thick and fleshy, and slightly fuzzy. Do not let this put you off! The fuzziness disappears when you chew and she can be made into many dishes and medicines.
In the winter months Violet produces purple ‘flowers’, which are in fact not true flowers as they do not produce any seeds, they do produce nectar however, and I have witnessed bees feasting on them in the colder months.
Violet flowers can be made into a syrup which is used for coughs, or can be infused into an oil as a rub for cysts. The plant is renowned for dissolving cysts, and is a very gentle healer indeed. Perscribed also for people undergoing stressfull or traumatic situations, heartache and post surgery, this plant is associated with the slow and comforting Mother energy.
Violet strengthens the reproductive system and soothes mucus membranes both internally and externally.



Wild Raspberry, or Thimleberry (Rubus parviflorus).

Apart from the berries being a delicious snack, the leaves are astringent and antiemetic. The plant tones the arteries and blood, and also tones the stomach, being called a stomachic. The leaves can be made into an infusion to treat stomach complaints, dystentry and diarrhea.
Due to its high iron content, the species can be used internally to treat anemia.
This is also a 'womans herb', aiding if menstruation is unusually long.
The large, soft, palmate leaves can be made into a poultice for dressing wounds and burns, or the powdered leaf can also be used.
The leaf ash has been known to treat swelling if mixed with oil.
The roots are also astringent and toning to the blood, capillaries, stomach and arteries.
A tincture of the root can be made to have on hand if stomach upsets occur, and I have used the herb as a pleasant and sweet tea when bleeding to tone and strengthen the uterus. 


Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

This herb is extremely hard to photograph, as its needles are so small and sparse, as well as the fact that my camera has deteriorated. 


Here is a much better photograph, taken from (http://www.hemorrhoids.org/images/Horsetail-for-Hemorrhoids-Treatment.jpg) so as to get a better idea of what the plant really looks like.


This plant is phenomenal! It does grow in Australia, but no where near as prolifically. This was one of the first species of plants to evolve, as, being a vascular plant, it reproduces by spores rather than seeds. The Equisetum is the only living genus within its family Equisetaceae.
Equisetum is considered a living fossil, it is the only living genus of the entire class. Over a hundred million years ago, horsetail dominated the understory of the late Paleozoic forests, being much more diverse a genus, with species as large as trees.

This plant contains large amounts of silica, meaning it strengthens bone, hair, skin and nails. 
Used to treat osteoporosis, the plant also contains Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc.
Horsetail has been used as a diuretic, which helps rid the body of toxins through increasing urine output. For this reason it is also used as a kidney ally, strengthening and toning kidneys and removing kidney stones.

Making an infusion of the leaves, or even a tincture to preserve the medicine, will aid joint ailments and give a healthy dose of anti-oxidants to the system.

Another thing I love about this plant is you can use it to scour dishes when camping instead of using sponges or detergent (the silica dissolves grime)!



After my forest adventure I found a stick, bound my findings to it and carried them back to the van to dry and use for teas along the way.
(From Left: Thimblebery, Coltsfoot, Wild Violet, Horsetail and Mullien)

The forest always finds me...