D. Lopez, This week in the garden


As the meeting progressed into the afternoon, everyone seemed to be asleep. A woman looked me straight in the eye, rather languidly, and accused me of doping the water. The group started laughing and making jokes. We were at a corporate meeting in the Los Angeles area. It was my job to support the event, as well as to participate in the role of communication consultant. The meeting completely shifted gears, for a time, as the group seemed genuinely interested in plant medicine. It was true – the water was not so secretly herbal, and there was interest in knowing more. Something useful to share.

The nice thing about plant medicine is that growing your own medicine doesn’t require a lot of space. For the Los Angeles meeting, flowers and flower leaves were collected from a friend’s garden and infused with water overnight in a large water urn with a tap. Rose petals, white sage leaves, mint and jasmine flowers floated decoratively in the water urn, then were covered with ice in the morning. Perfect for a hot day. As the group became more relaxed, they were surprised by this simple medicine. It seemed relevant to me to approach this teachable medicine within the framework of workshops dealing with stress management, family support or cultural applications.

If we were to go to the grocery store, we would find herbal waters and herbal teas for up to four dollars a single-use bottle. In four minutes, we can make our own, for less than a dollar. Herbal concoctions have medicinal value. Due to the dilute nature of infused waters and teas, there is unlikely to be a contraindication with western medicine. We can check in case of uncertainty. There are several herbal remedies that are easy to acquire through store-bought clippings or home propagation. Eventually, you’ll develop favorites and a new established routine of having iced tea in the summer and hot teas in the winter.

For the boisterous, lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, is a hardy mint that grows in part sun, part shade. Beautiful in pots, it also thrives on the ground. It often appears in new places in my garden, dies in winter and reappears in spring. Place the sprigs in a pot of water until it comes to a boil, then turn off and let stand. The water will change color. Strain and sip warm or refrigerate.

Lemon verbena, Aloysia citrodora, is a perennial shrub from South America. Stress, digestive disorders, anxiety, are the specialty of this herb. This will complement your current treatment of these issues. This can help prevent them, if there are anticipation of challenges in the near future. The natural oils in the leaves of this plant are fragrant and soothing.

Herbal baths have been popular around the world for centuries. Boiling bath tea is simple and can also be used for foot baths, facial steamers or full body baths. Boil the plants first and then add them to the bath water. Here are some popular soaks and vapors: Lavender, Rosemary, Calendula, Marigold, Thyme, Jasmine Blossoms, Lemon Blossoms, Mint, Cleavers, Rose Petals, and more. Add magnesium salt to any of them for muscle relaxation, inflammation and pain management.

Scented geranium, or citronella, makes a versatile floor or surface cleaner. Clean the sprigs of geranium leaves, then boil a large quantity in a pot. Once boiled, let steep until cool. Strain and add to an empty spray bottle/bucket, with a 50/50 dilution of water, a splash of wood alcohol and a pea-sized bead of herbal dish soap, the solution becomes a scented cleanser. Shake or stir until the mixture is blended, then put it to use.

More than flavor, plants such as oregano, parsley, purslane or rosemary can promote healing. Some, like purslane, contain amino acids, or like oregano and dill, flavonoids that the body registers as immune system enhancers or support organ health. Freshly ground parsley in apple and cucumber smoothies is often combined for system cleansing. A friend of mine added ground dried sage to food grade bentonite clay to make a teeth whitening polish to prevent infections. Herbs can have so many uses.

If we ever meet, you have my solemn promise that I will not put you to sleep at the next meeting (without your consent, of course). Ironically, it could easily be proven that we are a society that indeed would like to be sedated, or at least feel better.

There is something elegant about working with plants and becoming an alchemist to heal the mind, body and a space. It seems that gardening, on its own, can be that calming force. In future writings, expect to read how other landowners are healing others, themselves, and the land.

Enjoy your garden, and a big thank you plant people.

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