Elder – Berry Musings by Sara Wright

I first became interested in herbalism as a young mother who kept a small herbal garden outside her back door. There is nothing better than fresh herbs to spice up any dish (as any good cook knows well) and baking my own bread, making homemade granola, etc., like gardening, was simply part of what I did. In retrospect, I see that cooking served as a highly creative endeavor that helped me to create some balance between the millions of mundane jobs associated with single motherhood and my need for creativity…

It seemed quite natural to begin to explore herbs for medicinal purposes. I first experimented with plants that grew wild near my house on the island on which I lived. I sensed that developing a personal relationship with the plants I was using mattered, an intuition that continues to inform my growing and preparation of herbal remedies to this day. If I don’t have the right growing conditions for an herb I need, I wild craft responsibly. Until recently I have never used store bought preparations.

When I studied with medicine folk in the Amazon thirty years after first using herbs for culinary and then medicinal purposes, I learned that each healer only used his/her own garden grown herbs and preparations differed based on the knowledge that each medicine person received directly from the plants, so perhaps the importance of having a personal reciprocal relationship with individual plants is tied to their efficacy – my sense/experience is that it is. The ways of the natural world are not well understood by most westernized people. Continue reading “Elder – Berry Musings by Sara Wright”

Crafting Fire Cider: Homebrewed Liberation by Kate Brunner

KateSeveral years ago I learned one startling fact about modern medicine. Many, many clinical trials of drugs commonly prescribed to women are conducted with all male subjects and approved for sale without ever being trialed with women. Coming to know this was one small piece of the puzzle in my slowly learning how to take back the care and healing of my body for myself; a journey that began with reclaiming more holistic, empowering approaches to pregnancy & childbirth and continues today in how I function as a healer for myself, my family, & the world around me. Modern medicine has its place & I do seek it out when I need it. But more often than not, when disease or injury put in an appearance under my roof, healing rests in my own hands & my relationship with the healing plants of the earth.

One of the most powerful winter tonics & cold/flu remedies I keep in my healing repertoire is a feisty little brew called fire cider. Variations on the apple cider vinegar based tonic pop up all over the world in folk medicine with versions attributed to Hippocrates & found in medieval plague remedies colorfully named “four thieves vinegar.” There’s also a 1950s version from one Dr. Jarvis of Vermont . But here in the US, it became a popular part of a modern American herbalists’ seasonal workings primarily thanks to Rosemary Gladstar who began teaching & sharing it with her students & readers in the 1980s via her written work and classes provided through her California School for Herbal Studies.

In 2014, fire cider got controversial. A company in Massachusetts trademarked the name and began policing smaller home-based producers selling fire cider on Etsy. The backlash was strong with herbalists across the country objecting to the entire concept of trademarking traditional folk remedies. The issue remains unresolved at the moment and the movement to protect the fire cider tradition continues to oppose the trademark. The entire situation echoes an ancient pattern of patriarchal systems attempting to co-opt women’s ways of healing. In addition to donating to the cause, one of the best ways to contribute to the Free Fire Cider movement is to learn to make fire cider for yourself. Continue reading “Crafting Fire Cider: Homebrewed Liberation by Kate Brunner”

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