Hello, this is Jesse Wolf’s partner Kiva Rose, with the second in what will be a long series of posts by us on the topics of medicinal herbs, folk herbalism and natural healing. Together we host the upcoming herbal conference and celebration in the forests near the Grand Canyon, Arizona, and produce and sell a special digital quarterly for herbalists and the students of herbalism called Plant Healer Magazine, but we are also committed to making available to everyone a certain amount of absolutely free educational content including Plant Healer’s complimentary blog “Herbaria” (subscribe at www.PlantHealer.org), and some of our newest writings will be appearing right here on this Mother Earth News blog.
In all cases, we strive to provide a balance of information, from how to identify and make use of America’s medicinal plants, to interviews with famed herbal practitioners and teachers, with the intention of helping you take some responsibility for your own health and that of your family… in the most natural ways possible.
The Brambles of Summer
Many rose family plants, including Rubus species such as Raspberry and Blackberry, are astringent tonics. This means that they tighten and tone lax tissues, and that’s useful in a practical sense because they help to restrict the loss of needed fluid through those too relaxed tissues. This could be excessive diarrhea or sweating during a fever that is leading to dehydration, excessive uterine bleeding during menstruation, excessive urination, or even bleeding, swollen gums as the result of gum disease.
Most of us think of the leaf or even root in regards to medicinal uses, but the tart, unripe or partially ripe berries are also very useful, and children are generally more easily convinced to take a tasty berry potion than even the nicest tea. The good news is that Rubus species tend to be very tasty indeed, from leaf to berry! There are a great many ways to turn Blackberries, Raspberries, and other closely related species into medicine, and I’ll provide a couple recipes here so you can get an idea of some easy ways to make your own remedies with them.
This elixir is tasty, easy to make, and lasts forever if kept in a cool, dark place. If you prefer not to use this small amount of alcohol, then a syrup also works very well. The berries are rich in antioxidants and have some value in inhibiting the flu virus (I really like to add blackberry to my Elderberry syrup as well, for just that reason), among their many other virtues. This elixir or the syrup can help reduce feverishness and diarrhea in both children and adults while still tasting good.
Note: Do NOT wash the berries just prior to using them, the extra water can make the elixir ferment! You want the berries and leaves as dry as possible.
For your elixir, it’s helpful to have on hand:
a pint canning jar (or other glass jar that seals well)
approximately half a pint of blackberries (preferably a mix of various stages of ripeness, as the less ripe berries are more astringent)
approximately half a pint of fresh blackberry leaves, roughly chopped
cinnamon to taste (optional)
fresh ginger to taste, grated or finely chopped (optional)
about a pint of high quality brandy (the better the brandy, the better your elixir will taste)
approximately 1/4 pint of raw honey
a good stirring spoon
First, fill your jar all the way to the top with the Blackberry fruit and leaves, you don’t have to pack them in but push them down a bit to minimize the air space in the jar. Add optional spices if desired, these are especially nice if being used for any sort of gut upset, and help to reduce cramping. Now, pour the honey in slowly, stirring as necessary, until the plant matter is well coated. Next, fill to the top with brandy, against stirring as necessary to remove air bubbles and fill the jar evenly. Now cover the jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake carefully to finish the mixing process. Let macerate in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks (or as long as you can stand to wait. Strain through coffee filter. Bottle and store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight until needed.
Wildflower and Bramble Leaf Tea
This is a lovely tea to drink just for taste’s sake, but it’s wonderful for calming irritated nerves, overheated children (and adults), and addressing any seasonal digestive issues as often happens with summertime bouts of diarrhea. It won’t dry up secretions to the point of causing suppression, but it will cool the body, reduce a fever, and gently lessen any excess loss of fluids.
2 tsp of fresh blackberry or raspberry leaf
1 tsp fresh rose petals
1 tsp fresh Lemon Balm leaves
2-3 fresh violet leaves
1 cup boiling water
Pour the water over the herbs and let steep 5 to 10 minutes. Honey can be added to taste. This can also be iced and served cold, and drunk as desired.
The plants you need can be ethically wildcrafted in many parts of the country, including close to or within urban areas. You can also purchase them from any of a number of herb suppliers, including one of our favorite sources, Mountain Rose Herbs.
Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal
The Plant Healer’s Path by Jesse Wolf Hardin (www.PlantHealer.org)
Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore