I had the good fortune to try a new herb this week, dried Codonopsis root. It has an affect similar to the herb ginseng, but it is less hot and less strong. It’s considered better than ginseng for women and during hot weather, too, when you don’t want quite so hot and strong an effect (Imbalancing with herbs can be a bad idea. Hot + hot = too hot)
History of Dried Codonopsis Root:
You may not have heard of this herbal medicine – I never had before I attended herbal medicine school in Boulder. The official name is Codonopsis pilosula or Dang Shen in Chinese herbal medicine.* (Beware, there seem to be multiple herbs with a similar-sounding Chinese name.) This herb grows in northeastern China, and is part of the Traditional Chinese medicine (called TCM).
Herbal Properties of Dried Codonopsis Root:
It is supposed to have these properties: It’s warming, slightly stimulating, increases energy similar (but weaker) than coffee, and “helps the body adapt to stress.”* This is called an adaptogenic herb. It’s taken for weak digestion, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing issues (asthma, mucus), general fatigue, and more. It has a shorter affect on the body than ginseng.
Chinese nursing moms take it to increase milk supply, as well as help their own health be stronger. This may be true, as lab tests showed that it increased red blood cells.
How to Prepare:
Because it is a root herb (i.e. hard) it is prepared through a decoction method, which means slow simmering instead of a tea method (called infusions). This root is not as hard as others; it can be squished a little. It feels spongy, and looks brown.
Seven to twenty grams of the root herb is added to 2 cups of water in a pot. Then the mixture is brought just below a simmer, and kept there for 40 minutes. After that, strain out the solids, and drink the liquid. The dose is half a cup per day.
When simmering, Codonopsis smells like warm bark and sweet, similar to another herb called Astragalus root.
Taste Test: What is Codonopsis Like?
The first taste is very sweet with a mild lemon flavor or sourness to the end note. It’s sweetness reminds me of Eastern spices like cinnamon.
Bodily Affects of Codonopsis:
After having some, I didn’t feel like my energy was being pushed, like I would with coffee and caffeine. (On coffee, I sometimes feel like my heart is outside my chest, in front of it, pounding there.) I just woke up a bit more, and got my work done in a gentle way. Before that I was falling asleep, probably because I also needed some more food just before lunchtime.
I stopped drinking it by 1:30pm in the afternoon. Some adaptogens can cause insomnia later in the evening, especially if taken too close to bedtime, or even afternoon, sometimes. I was able to fall asleep, and stay asleep, with no problems.
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Great News! My Transform Health blog is now publishing through the Apple News app, which is available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers! This blog specializes in educating the public about functional nutrition, alternative & herbal medicine, common nutritional deficiencies, the Paleo Diet, special digestive diets like GAPS & SCD, and using holistic health knowledge to combat the spread of common diseases, and incidence of chronic diseases.
Why is this health education work important? Here’s a quote from Dr. Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain:
We spend nearly 20 percent of our gross domestic product on health care [in the US]… although we are presently ranked first in the world in health-care spending, we are ranked thirty-seventh in overall health-system performance, according to the World Health Organization. [bold added]
And another quote, from the same source:
We live in an exciting time in medicine…But we also live in a time when the number of people dying from chronic disease (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined.
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Have you ever heard of Doc Susie? If you had visited Fraser, Colorado, deep in the Rocky Mountains from 1910 to 1945, you probably would have heard of her. Famed actress Ethel Barrymore wanted to make a biopic about her, but was refused. Although Doc Susie came to Fraser to live out her last days from a longterm case of tuberculosis, instead she thrived in the cold, dry air!! She was a longtime resident and one of only a few country doctors serving a very wide country area. This article will talk about medical school, sexism in the medical profession, early treatment methods, and Doc Susie’s sterilization methods before antibiotics.
Medical School and Sexism: When Doc Susie attended medical school, it was not considered a good job. The hours were long, the pay was low, and it had little prestige. Doctors were on call night and day. (Some of that hasn’t changed!) However, I was surprised to learn that when she attended the University of Michigan, 25% of the student body were females enrolled with her. Later, when the pay and prestige of doctoring went up, female students’ enrollment declined. I’d like to know more about this, whether it was the schools not admitting them, or some families discouraging their attendance.
As far as treating patients, there was some sexism in her community. At first, she was a newcomer. Some men didn’t want their wives to see her. But the wives did seem to want a female doctor with which to discuss their private issues. Others just came to her to ask free advice for their “friend.” In any case, there were rumors of her being a doctor, and sometimes the one or two male doctors were simply not available. Sometimes they were attending a birth out of town for several days. It happened that her first emergency was for Dave…who turned out to be a horse! She was being called upon for an animal patient! Anyway, she did such a good job that she slowly gained some trust and patients. And – (luckily or unluckily?) she lived in an area with several industries with high amounts of injuries: logging, railroads, coal mining, tunnel digging.
Early Treatment Methods: Pneumonia and Wound Care
She was called late one night to the bedside of a young boy about twelve. He had a bad case of pneumonia, which is a deep lung infection. Doc Susie had already been out all day on another call, having just lain down, exhausted. The case caused her some personal flashes back to her brother, who had died years earlier of this same disease. Luckily, she was called early enough to this patient to do something.
She thought the case was severe already, and the patient might die in a day or two. She decided, in her sleep-deprived state, to try something new. She herself had recovered from TB in the cold, dry air. She had the boy undress, and stand in a warm water basin, wrapped only in a blanket. She then opened all the windows to the cold, winter air. At the same time, she poured hot water over his head and down the blanket. As she did this, she percussed his chest and back to loosen the phlegm, and she told stories to keep the miserable patient on his feet. It sounds like she did this for about twenty minutes. Then the patient was dressed again, and covered only with a flannel blanket, instead of mounds of quilts.
I’m trying to figure out why this worked. Extremes of cold or heat (in this case the cold air) can kill of bacteria. Bacteria can survive in many different extreme environments, but they need time to go into hibernation mode.
Cold can stimulate one’s vital response into high gear. Water therapy, like changing one’s bathing from cold to hot water and back again has a lot of history in the Water Cure movement, and in the book Nature Cure by Dr. Henry Lindlahr (This may be available in the public domain. Try the Gutenburg Project website.)
Her own recovery from tuberculosis involved sleep, sleep and more sleep; a daily cup of fresh raw milk right from a cow and into a cup; and exercise that started slowly and worked up. The fresh, cold, dry air really helped her breathe. I wonder why the damp air exacerbates the disease. After all, we use humidifiers in breathing colds at home.
Sterilization Before Antibiotics
You would not believe the trouble she had to go to in order to sterilize her own hands, instruments, wound dressings (old sheets) and the wounds. At this time, people often did not die of the injury, but from later infection that took over.
The bandages and instruments all went through thorough cleaning in hot water and then were pre-packed for emergencies into cloth kits that were wrapped up. The wound dressings were cleaned in hot water, air dried (outside in winter, then later inside). Then they were heated again with a hot iron. Then they were packed up into small kits. Local residents saved their old white sheets for her to cut up and use for wound dressings.
She started with thoroughly washing her own hands (up to the elbow) and nails in soap and hot water. Her instruments went into hot water.
Wounds were first inspected for any debris, clothing, dirt, grit, hair, etc. It was picked out carefully with tweezers. More hot water was used to thoroughly rinse out the wounds (The horse got this treatment, too.) Then all wounds were treated with iodine, which stings, but sterilizes. Then wounds were dressed with clean bandages.
The case of the horse attracted the whole town as an audience. But the crowd thinned out as the treatment lasted all day long!
It’s too bad she could not use herbs, because there are several with antibiotic properties.
My source for this article is the excellent book by Virginia Cornell, Doc Suzie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies. (Manifest Publications, 1991) The story was told in narrative form, and I believe from exhaustive research. The author studied writing, and ended up living about two miles outside of Fraser. It was captivating, and I couldn’t put it down last night.
To read more about Doc Susie Anderson, check out these sources:
Now that it’s Fall, I’m discovering smooth, brown acorns around the oak trees in the neighborhood. I think they’re so pretty! I wondered how to prepare and eat acorn as a wild-foraged food, even though I live in a city. One source said that acorns were eaten more commonly in the past than wheat and rice combined! Acorns were historically eaten on four continents: New England and dry California, Europe, Asia, and even northern Africa.(1) Isn’ that amazing? They are a nutritious food source, and work well as a cooking binder, similar to wheat products.
Plentiful Food: One video producer estimated there was over 88 pounds’ harvest from one oak tree alone based on his gathering sampling of 8.8 pounds (250 grams) in 1 square meter. And because there were seventy-five large oak trees in one area, he was wondering why we weren’t utilizing this wild-foraged harvest as large as 3 tons!(4) (All video sources included at end of article, so you can watch them, too!) However, they are eaten by deer, squirrels, and other forest animals, so they’re not going to waste.
Acorn Nutrition Information- Vitamins and Minerals:
According to Arthur Haines, acorns are rich in nutrition: calcium, potassium, B vitamins, phosphorous. They have all eight essential amino acids (essential meaning that we need to eat these substances for fuel to build our own body proteins.)
One video producer, brawny03, said that a mere one ounce has 142 calories, 9 grams of fat and 2.3 grams protein. Historically, we needed a lot of fat to get through winter, even though our metabolism became slower during cold months. Today we still need fats for every cell wall in our bodies, brain function and more.
They are high in Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acid (EFA), which we can’t make in our bodies, but have to take in with food. This EFA is good, because its in a natural state, but most of us get too many Omega 6 EFA’s already from grains in our diets and our meat & dairy animals’ feeds. Omega 6 EFA’s are best if eaten with ample amounts of Omega 3 EFA, which is found in plants like flax seed and purslane herb, as well as wild and grass-fed (pastured) animal meats and dairy. But historically, food and fats were scarce, and most hunted animals were wild game anyway, and already high in Omega 3’s.
I found these beautiful acorns around several oak trees at our local mall, of all places! They were on a parking island. They’re really pretty. I found two kinds: long and thin, and wide and round.
Different Kinds of Oak Species:
According to Arthur Haines, there are two kinds of oak trees and acorns: black oaks and white oaks. Black oaks have a sharp end lobe on their leaf tip, the acorns have hairs inside the shell, and have a long collection season from Fall through Spring. I think he said that they ripen over a longer period, as well. This makes them super important historically, when food may have been scarce after October. Black oak acorns also dry more easily, and are less prone to spoilage than the White oak acorns.
White oaks have a blunt tip lobe on their leaf tip, no hairs inside the acorn shells. They have a shorter collection season because they drop all at once in Fall. And they are more prone to spoilage. There were other species differences on the leaf sides, too.
Within each of these two species there are many different kinds of oaks. They vary the world over as to the growing environment that they like, some preferring drier conditions, some liking having wet “feet.”
How to Harvest Acorns: Wild Foraging Instructions
Video producer Arthur Haines recommends avoiding collecting acorns with holes, caps still on (shows they are immature), and those with black streaks, which can show that fungus is present. Video producer Green Deane recommends avoiding eating green acorns, and waiting until they ripen (turn brown in color) before eating them.
Tannins/ Tannic acid in Acorn Nuts:
Before being eaten, acorns need to be soaked in several changes of either hot or cold water to neutralize two things: 1) phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that becomes a phytate, binding to our vitamins and minerals and washing them out of the body, as well as 2) the bitter taste of tannins in the nuts. In the videos, people soaked (or leached) the acorns either whole in the shell or after grinding during their processing to remove the tannins. (Just FYI, phytic acid is found in all seeds and nuts, including our grains. We’ve just forgotten how to neutralize them through soaking, sprouting and sourdough processes. See cite 5 below to read more about this.)
According to Green Deane in his YouTube video channel “Eat the Weeds”, the larger the cap size to nut generally shows that they have more tannic acid. He collected or foraged acorns from a neighborhood Live Oak, explaining that hardly any leeching was needed as they were just not as bitter as other species. (I’m not sure where he filmed his video, but I know that Live Oaks grow in southern California with dark glossy leaves and great outstretched arms. They look cool and sinister in dusk light.)
How to Process Acorns to Eat as Food, According to Arthur Deane:
The most elaborate and traditional method was in the video by Arthur Deane, who used traditional preparation methods used by Native Americans with cold water leeching. Dried acorns store a very long time in the shell: two to three years!Important Tip: He said that acorns are much easier to shell after they’ve been dried, as the inner nut shrinks in a bit, and loosens from the outer shell. In fact, I saw another Youtube video (not cited), and the creator was trying to shell green acorns. It was a slow process with a lot of grousing.
Remove non-food bits from your acorn bag. Rinse them. Dry acorns in 1 layer in the sun for two weeks, bringing the acorns inside each night to avoid dew fall and on rainy days. (These instructions are for black oak acorns; white oak acorns take 2-3 times longer.)
If you’re going to store the acorns in the shell at this point, it’s recommended to store them in a cold dry place, as the high fat content can make them rancid.The video producer brawny03 said that you should eat them immediately if they start to germinate. However, she said that long sprouts (3/4″) were not good to eat.3
How to Shell Acorns for Food Eating:
Shell them like this: hold the acorn’s pointy end down into a wood board. Pound the blunt back end with a rock and the shell should break apart. Other people showed pliers or nut crackers in their videos, or hit them with a hammer on their side. Don’t worry about removing the red paper on the nut. Grind the acorns to a fine meal or flour size. Mr. Deane used a corn mill (grinder) that he ran the acorns through twice.1
How to Leach Tannins from Acorn Meal:
Then Mr. Deane put the meal into a large bowl (much larger than the meal), and added water to the rim. The meal sank to the bottom. Change the top water once or twice daily for 5 days to prevent spoilage. The acorn meal is done leaching when it stops tasting bitter or astringent (dry & tightening taste on the tongue). (Acceptable bowl materials include glass, porcelain and stainless steel.)1
Acorn Meal Preparation: Draining After Leaching
Pour off the top water only into a drain, well above the sunken acorn meal on the bottom. Strain the rest of the acorn meal through a cloth-lined strainer, into a bowl. Gather the cloth and squeeze the water out well. Use the prepared acorn meal immediately, or dry it to use later. Brief recipes are below.
Acorn Meal Drying Process: Spread 1/4″ layer onto a flat baking sheet in the sun for a few days, or use a dehydrator for several days.1 (I am wondering how we can avoid having squirrels eat them at this point.) Avoid high temps until the cooking time. A different video producer said that if you introduce heat before the actual cooking time that the meal would lose its ability to stick together. I do know that if you heat soaked nuts over 150 degree Fahrenheit, that their enzymes are destroyed.4
Acorn Drying, Shelling and Leaching According to ACampfireProduction:
The video by ACampfireProduction dried the acorns in the sun for 5 days. To shell them, he cut off the top and bottom ends crosswise while holding them sideways on a cutting board. Then he cut down into the acorn lengthwise and removed the shell. He put them into boiling water, and changed the top water for new water about 5 times or more. He didn’t really say how long he boiled them like that. From other videos, I learned that they are done boiling when they’ve lost the bitter tannin taste. This might come out as an “astringent” taste, drying to the tongue similar to black tea.
How to Dry Acorns:
Then this video host dried them in a small, dry pot. There was no duration given. (Alton Brown videos used to make fun of chefs who wrote, “Cook until done.” When was that?} The video producer then pounded the acorns into a flour using a wooden post and wooden metate. He made the acorn meal into a pancake, using these rough ingredients (no measures given): acorn meal, white flour, egg, milk, small amount honey. He fried the acorn meal pancakes for ten minutes in fat, presumably turning the pancake halfway through. He said it held together OK until the end. (This makes me wonder if the sickness factor goes away with overcooking, like it does for arrowroot powder.) The taste was sweeter than he would have thought, because he only used a bit of honey.
Leach Tannins from Acorns in Cold or Hot Water:
Green Deane from EattheWeeds.com recommended leaching the acorns or acorn meal in your choice of either only cold water or only hot water. Mixing the two methods would make the meal bind to the tannins, and leave in the bitter taste, so avoid this! He wanted us to avoid cooling them in the middle of the heating process, for instance. Heating them probably makes the acorn meal lose its binding/stickiness factor. And different people leached the tannins from the acorns either when whole or after grinding.
Green Deane leeched his acorns whole, then dried them, shelled them, ground in the food processor, added water, and then strained the meal through a cloth and sieve into a bowl. He made the acorn meal into an Acorn Bannock, but didn’t give an actual recipe. (Bannock bread is an Irish baking soda-risen bread, with no yeast for the riser. It’s a “quick-bread.”) It looked like flour, baking soda, acorn meal, and water from the time in the food processor. He fried it in oil on both sides to make a flat bread. (Maybe you could get a bannock bread recipe and replace some flour with the acorn. It sounds like acorn has binding qualities, like its more flour-like in recipes. Nuts can only be used to replace a small amount in a recipe, because they don’t act the same as wheat gluten and other binders.)
Green Deane said that if you’re boiling the acorns, the fat will separate and rise to the top. It can then be taken off.
Next – Trying to Prepare Acorns Myself:
OK, the next step is trying this process myself. Wish me luck! If you want to join me, write in the comments section. I’ll write again to update you on what I discover from doing it hands-on.
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Did you try it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks! Happy Cooking!
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Don’t you just love the warm Spring sunny days? These are especially precious after a cold, snowy winter. The dandelions are often the first thing to flower in my yard, telling me that the worst is over. A few days ago, I had the chance to play around with them in soup, salad, face wash and a cocktail mixture called aperitif.
I was weeding dandelions in the sunshine, and thought it was a waste to throw away the plants. (Really, why weed such a useful plant away at all?) The entire plant is edible – leaves, flowers and roots. I still had plenty in the yard after weeding for future meals, and a patch for the bees, as well.
Dandelions are found all over the world, and are cultivated in France and Germany. The name is a mess-up of Latin dens leonis, or lions’ teeth. The name refers to the serrated edge of the many-petalled flower.^ Another name is puff-ball or blow ball*, probably referring to the ball-like seed head that kids (and big kids) like to blow.
Dandelion is a Digestive Bitter:
The root is a well-known and easy to get digestive bitter, meaning people have used it for many years pre-meals to increase stomach acid (also called hydrochloric acid or HCL). If you take too much, it can make you cold inside or cause constipation, so use a small amount with care, maybe diluted in water. The root is also sometimes grouped with two other herbal roots to supposedly help with bowel disorders over time. (Directions for making below.)
Herbal Properties of Dandelion: The root and leaves have a lot of potassium and vitamins, bioflavonoids to neutralize free-radicals, inulin fiber (which feeds good colon bacteria, mainly in the Fall roots). They are bitter, which stimulates stomach acid secretion, which increases foods’ vitamin absorption and use in our bodies. They help stimulate bile secretion (but see caution below).*
It’s a mild laxative and diuretic, which accounts for its French nickname, pis au lit (pee the bed). It’s also supposed to help with poor digestion, mild skin issues from internal causes, and be a blood purifier.*Cautions: One should avoid its use with biliary obstructions and abscesses, and gallstones.
Unlike other diuretics, which cause a dangerous loss of potassium, dandelions come with lots of potassium as part of the package, so this is less of a problem.
The famous herbalist Susan Weed (website) has a treasure trove
of recipes in her book, Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise.
I highly recommend reading it if you get a chance, for the herbal and nutrition information. She lists about ten herbs, many of them weeds or common plants. But then she listed their properties and nutrition, and it was really amazing! (I have new respect for watercress and parsley!!) She must have twenty recipes of all kinds for dandelions, so please get a copy.
Susan Weed’s Dandelion Properties:
In addition to the herbal properties above, many of which Ms. Weed also had, she writes that they are pain-relieving, an alkalinizer, and wound-healing! They are high in vitamin C, A, Bs, potassium and calcium. Not bad!
She writes that the dandelion stem sap can get rid of liver spots, so I tried it for one morning, but didn’t continue it regularly enough to know if it really worked. I have to think it does, and I just haven’t done it enough.
I ate one flower, but it tasted slightly sweet and also a bit bitter, like the leaves.
Homemade Herbal Dandelion Face Wash: I decided to try out Susan Weed’s face wash with many dandelion flowers, pouring hot water over them, and letting them cool. Trying it for several days in the morning and
evening, I did notice that my face felt slightly tighter. The face wash “astringes” or tightens the skin, but its not so much that it could be a bad thing. (I am sure you’ve felt that overly-dry-acne-wash feeling, and who wants to really repeat that??) My skin tends to already be dry, so it needs moisturizing and tightening, but not to be keel-hauled by chemical products.
Here in Fort Collins, the dandelions only flower for so long in Spring, so I put the wash into little jars that I can freeze, and use for a few weeks. (I’ve regretted my procrastination in years past.)
How to Prepare Dandelion Root Bitters in a Decoction: The root is prepared like this: Cut up 1 root (3-6 grams maximum) into 2 cups cold water. Simmer in water for 40 minutes, and drink a small amount, and see what you think. [A decoction is a slow simmer of root or tough herbs in water.]@
Dandelion Leaf Tea
I tried the leaves made as tea, and it tasted good, just mildly bitter. I felt good drinking them, with a slightly rising energy, similar to drinking rosemary. I added some later to a fruit smoothie, without tasting it.
Dandelion in Salad I really loved eating the younger leaves in salad, with lots of olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. I couldn’t get enough! I had to go back for seconds! I mixed them with arugula, chopped raw red onion, and some young Asian greens from a salad box. These would be super great with real bits of bacon, marinated artichokes, or sunflower seeds on top.
The larger leaves are more tough and bitter, so the smaller leaves taste better. All leaves will need a good washing off, and I use a salad spinner as a colander, then spin them dry.
Dandelion Leaf in Soup
I really enjoyed eating the smaller leaves in soup. I cut off the mostly stem part, and used mostly the leaves. Barely cooking them until just soft tasted great (6-8 minutes?). Then I cooked them again for too long (we were about at green mush by then– Darn!), and they became a bit bitter. –Far warning! Less heat is more, here.
Dandelion Aperitif –
This is another of Susan Weed’s recipes. She calls for vodka, sugar, lemon rind, and flowers. You’ll have to see her book for the exact proportions, because I don’t want to plagiarize. I let it sit about two weeks, shaking it daily, and it smelled divine! The lemon oils in the peel are really strong and lovely. It was strained before drinking.
The recipe called for just the flowers, no green. I was trying to cut off the green part under the flower (sepals and stem, thank you, Josh!). Then my mom said you could just pull the two apart. Oops! That was the only tedious part of this recipe. You can have a good belly laugh at my photo, above.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the proportions just right, as I was a little short of vodka. I was halving the recipe, and still needed about 1/3 cup vodka. I still liked it, but it tasted like sweet lemon cough syrup – very nice, but I could tell that I need to dilute it with more vodka. The flavor was really good, though! I can’t wait to try it at the right mixture ratio.
Where to Gather: You might want to collect yours away from roads, or any lawns sprayed with weed killer.
I hope that YOU will try out some dandelions dishes from your yard. I had a lot of fun with this project, and they’re very nutritious. If you’ve enjoyed this article, how about sharing it with your friends? There are handy “share” buttons just below.
* Source information: Herbal Vade Mecum by Gazmend Skenderi, Herbacy Press, 2003. ^ Natural Health Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, by Andrew Chevallier, DK Publishing, Inc., 2000
@ Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, Lotus Press, 1988 Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise, Susan S. Weed, 1989
When Dr. Weston A. Price and his wife toured the world studying people’s teeth and nutrition, he noticed that many of the healthy societies had a much higher vitamin intake than the typical 1930’s American diet (ten times, in fact!). Imagine his shock today, with more sugar and vegetable oils in our diet!! These healthy groups regularly ate wild fish and game, fish eggs, seaweed, grass-fed dairy, organ meats and… bugs! Apparently the creepy crawlers have really high nutritional value.
“Terri Randolph and Rachael Sitz research agricultural, garden, and landscape insect pests at Colorado State University. Both are proponents of entomophagy, so their class is all about eating bugs! They will cover what insects are edible, how to prepare insects, and why you should incorporate insects as part of your diet. Samples will be provided!”
It’s on Wednesday, May 25th, and costs $12. There are work trades and other trades available. Register on their Fort Collins, Colorado, events page.
Other upcoming classes include vermiculture (raising garden worms), wild foraging for mushrooms, fruits, or Spring flowers, and herbal medicine making like salves, syrups, and infusions (made like tea).
Alright, who’s brave enough?! Shall we go?
To read more about Weston Price, see the Foundation website here, or find the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Price at your library or bookstore. (Reads like a travel guide)
I’ve just read a fascinating book about the creator of flower essence medicine called The Medical Discoveries of Edward Bach, Physician by Nora Weeks. (Book info at the end.)
In the past, I have been skeptical of flower essences, not knowing if they worked or not. it was one thing I had a hard time with in my herbal education.
They are said to be subtle in nature, and carry the homeopathic-type energy of the flowers. I wasn’t sure if it was the flower essences changing a person, or a person being mindful of the changes they want to make, through the taking of the medicine four times a day over several weeks.
Dr. Bach was an English doctor who studied bacteriology. He was born in 1886, and had Welsh in his background (The book emphasized this a LOT, somehow associating it with rural nature). He did love nature and being outdoors throughout his lifetime.
Early in his career he was very sick, suffering a brain hemorrhage after tending many, many patients during World War I. Though many expected him to die, he recovered though his dedication to helping others and love for his work. He realized that, to quote the author,
“an absorbing interest, a great love, a definite purpose in life was the deciding factor of a man’s happiness on earth, and was indeed the incentive that carried him through his difficulties and helped him in the regaining of his own health.”
He also studied why some war camps were ravaged by disease, but others barely touched. He was able to find and isolate bacterial strains, grow them, and then used them to unofficially inoculate some of the war camps against disease. This took place during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. What’s interesting to me is that he injected these good bacteria into the soldiers’ bloodstreams, instead of having them ingest it. Somehow the good bacteria got to where they were needed and this method worked. (These were not named, and I wish they were. But the book did list his published medical papers.)
He was able to cure some illnesses through “autogenous vaccines”: growing the bacteria a person had, raising their numbers, and give it to the same person again by mouth. This somehow cured them. I am wondering if it was merely showing the immune system, 70-80% found in the gut, the big problem?
Other vaccines were a mixture of five problem bacteria strains, and these were called “nosodes.” Eventually Dr. Bach ended up with Seven Nosodes, named that. (What is a nosode, she wonders…)
Later he found that he could isolate seven different problem bacterial strains, and match the patients’ presenting personalities to the correct bacterial strain that had infected them.He played a game where he tried to do it as they walked from the waiting room to the check-up room, and have it before they got there. Apparently they were very distinct and separate. I would love to read more about this.
Then he went to work at the London Homeopathic Hospital, where his theories agreed with Hahnemann’s, the founder of homeopathy, who had lived a long time earlier. Dr. Bach ended up reading Hahnemann’s book all night.
Hahnemann theorized that there were three types of disease, the third called “psora.” Dr. Bach felt that psora was having bad bacteria in the digestive system, and that Hahnemann saw this pretty clearly, even though he lived so much earlier. (Bad bacteria in the gut can release toxins that affect body and brain, and lower the stomach acid in order to live there more easily.) Dr. Bach ended up writing some papers to confirm the theories of Hahnemann.
Dr. Bach was in search of a better system of medicine, and had been for a very long time. Some people were not cured, even after going through surgery or long treatment. Dr. Bach decided to leave a lucrative practice. The noise and chaos of big city London had been a burden to this sensitive man for a long while, so he went to live in smaller towns around England, especially on the coasts. He travelled around the countryside looking for certain flowers that could be used for medicine. According to the book, he became more sensitive as time went on, and could feel the energy of the flowers, even before taking it back to be tested.
He wanted a simple system of medicine that could be used by everyone, that would be inexpensive and also easy to get. His flowers were not from far away places, for the most part, but common and easy to find.
How Flower Essences Are Made
Flower essences are made by placing flowers into a bowl of clean water and letting them sit in full sun during summer, for 4-6 hours. Then the water is poured into a clean bottle, and preserved with alcohol. Then the mixture is diluted twice to a great degree, which does seem similar to homeopathic medicines. During the whole process, one tries to keep the flowers and water from touching the medicine maker, which would add one’s own energies to the medicine.
Usually they are taken 4 drops four times daily for 2-3 weeks. However, Dr. Bach used them for three months or more with patients.
What’s interesting to me is that as he found and worked with the flower essences, he started treating long-standing chronic cases as well as acute cases with these. And he did it at no charge to the patients, and with great success, for over seven years. He felt that the patient’s main mood or emotional issue must be treated first. When the mind became peaceful and happy again, then the body would then be able repair itself.
How is this possible? I am wondering if this is like brain balancing therapies (Geddes is one person, and his book reads like a sales brochure. Another one involves sounds (Robert Monroe Institute.) Or if it is bringing the brain naturally back into the “rest and digest” state of calm.
But if this worked so well, why do we not use it today? Some of his cases sounded quite serious: acute or chronic. People sought him out and followed him around the country, so he must have been helping them. Or was it the free medical care?
As he saw patients again, the flower essences had to be adjusted. This was because the emotional state of the patients had changed over time, with different things appearing and disappearing. He often used the flower essences in groups together.
Later, Dr. Bach experienced great physical illnesses in rounds before finding the flower essence medicines. These were usually for the tree-sourced medicines. (This was different from previously.)
Having seen the importance of keeping the mind well to avoid disease, he often helped organize social events in his small town.
He died in his fifties, around 1936. I was wondering if there would be anyone still alive who had actually worked with him personally. I guess they would be 100 years old now. There is a Dr. Bach institute in England that I plan on looking up in the future.
I feel like I have to give flower essences a second look now, and see if they work well for clients. First, heal thyself, right?
I’ve just been reading the book, “Food in Medieval Times” by Melitta Weiss Adamson.
It’s a well-researched, entertaining book all about life in the middle ages. She wrote about where foods and things like wine fermentation came from, food habits, cuisines of different areas, and food taboos (like no-meat Fridays). I thought I’d give you a little entertainment and a tidbit for your next cocktail party.
Cooking Like You Mean It
You thought today’s cooking was difficult? How does one cook with an open fire, no temperature gauge, no standard measures, and no timers? How do you pass on a recipe to others, whether in person or in a cookbook? Challenging, yes?
It sounds like they gave cooking times as the time it took to walk a certain distance or say a certain prayer. Some measurements like quarts, pints, pounds and ounces were used in trade, but not often in cookbooks. So measurements are given as compared to other things like nut-size, egg-size, parts of the body (maybe best not to ask here, but finger-sized is given), and in comparison to other foods (apple-sized). They also have the very helpful measure, “not too much of”. Thanks! And if all else fails, medieval cookbooks apparently gave helpful hints about how to stop the food from burning to the pot and tasting like smoke.
The fire size regulated the temperature, and cooks used a pot with three feet that hung over a fire via a chain. The pot could be swung directly over the fire, and away, as well as raised and lowered. Cookbook instructions talked about making a “tiny fire” or “cook it on a gentle fire.”
You’ve probably seen all kinds of medieval movies, where the people are eating bread. We sort of take that for granted, but apparently most peasants did not have bread. You see, bread is very labor intensive: the grain as to be milled, and that involved going to someone and paying them to do it. It could be done at home, but it was a SLOW process. And after its mixed and risen, the peasant would have to pay to bring it to a baker’s oven. Remember the main peasant’s cooking tool? Right – it’s a pot, not an oven. Some ingenious peasants laid the pot sideways in the fire and layered coals around it. But most of the time, bread was a food for higher classes.
Tart juice was used like vinegar in dishes. Called “verjuice”, it was often made from unripe grapes, crab apples, or other green fruit. Verjuice was normally kept for a year.
Lamprey was considered a delicacy among Romans. It’s a parasitic fish that latches onto other fish to feed on them. They lived in the sea, but reproduced in rivers. Rich people kept them in ponds as pets! (Yikes! Don’t fall in!) They were roasted or pickled in vinegar. They could be used in eel recipes. But don’t eat them without salt and pepper if you have a weak and “moist” stomach, because physicians of the day thought they could be harmful and make you “phlegmatic” blood type (more on this later).
There were also recipes for frogs, snails, porpoise, whale, eel, all kinds of fish, swan, crane, heron, and peacock. Chickens were newly arrived from Asia and India, via Greece and Rome. People enjoyed their meat and eggs.
Pheasant had traveled from the Caucasus region to Europe by the Middle Ages. It was thought to be suited to delicate stomachs of the rich, young, old, infirm and clergy, because manual laborers were thought to need “coarser” foods. Nice of them…
We’ve all heard of apple cider, fermented apples made into a drink. Another drink was “perry”, a drink from fermented pears. Other fermented fruit drinks/wines were made from pomegranates, berries, plums, and something called “sorb-apples.”
The Arabs were already distilling rose water, which became popular in medicine and cooking. The Chinese, Greeks and Egyptians, and Romans were also fermenting before the Middle Ages, the Chinese about 800 B.C. The Greeks, Egyptians and Romans distilled sea water to desalinize it. Some alcohol might have already been present as medicine (presumably herbal medicine).
Distilled alcohol was called “aqua vitae”, or water of life. It was thought to prolong life, which it may have, if the water was contaminated with human waste. (Read more later in child rearing for weaning children off full wine). It was often mixed with herbs, so this would either make it an herbal alcohol or wine, or a tincture (herbs soaked for a time in alcohol). It was mostly used for medical treatment, or to make decorative cooked birds spout fire, and rarely drunk for relaxing time.
Wet Nurses and Foods for Breastfeeding
It was believed that an infant’s milk was nutrition, but also formed their smarts and character. The nurse should be between, “25 and 35…have rosy cheeks and strong, big breasts of medium firmness, not be too close to having given birth herself, not be sick, have kind eyes…chaste, and have good manners.” The wet nurse should have plenty of white bread, “meat, almonds, hazelnuts, rice, and lettuce” and drink good white wine. An Italian plan recommends a blend of sugar, goat’s milk, and egg yolk. This last one makes sense to me, as goat’s milk is higher in fat than cow’s milk, and more digestible. Egg yolk is a treasure trove of many vitamins, especially the B’s. (And regarding big breasts for nursing, it turns out that women store only about 1-2 TB, and actually make milk on demand. How cool is that? But here the plumpness could mean that the woman was well-fed, and it takes a lot of calories and fat to make milk(which contains a lot of healthy brain fat for the baby).)
Weaning Children were weaned around 2 years with soft foods to avoid hurting the stomach, which were dipped in sugar. Courser foods were given from 6-10 years. I thought this was funny: “Children who by the age of four drink too much wine should be given wine mixed with water, or the wind should be replaced with water altogether by the end of the meal.” I was laughing at toddlers 2-4 years drinking lots of wine, but then I remembered that the drinking water was often contaminated. As with everyone (kids too) drinking beer in Germany, the wine was probably safer than the river water because it was pathogen-free.
Foods for Healing Convalescent foods include barley soup or from Neapolitan sources, barley porridge mixed with chicken broth and almond milk. Most dishes were chicken bouillon, poultry and game birds, fish stock. Other healing foods were egg yolks (yes!), saffron, white wine, almonds and their milk, salt, perch, pomegranate seed.
Old people were thought to become more cold and dry, which seems to be true in herbalism. It is a fact that older people have less hydrochloric acid in their stomachs to digest their foods. Intolerance of fruit-sugar, and an inability to break it down properly, is common today. Middle Ages seniors were told to avoid beef, “viscous fish”, unleavened bread and coarse things, vegetables and most fruits, except for figs, grapes, dates and prunes. They were encouraged to eat runny eggs, goat, sheep, geese, ducks, well-leavened bread, chicks and little fish.
Ingredients with “strong intensity”, or hot & dry properties, like onions and garlic, were avoided. Cabbage and lentils were considered “melancholic”, causing sadness and ark thoughts. Mushrooms were considered “phlegmatic,” causing body phlegm.
In these days, physicians subscribed to the Four Humors Theory of medicine, where people tended to fall into one of four categories, with only one of them being happy and pleasant. Foods were also see to have properties of heat and cold, moist and dry. Lettuce was rated 2nd or 3rd degree in coldness, according to two different sources, Galen and Avicenna. Interestingly, I feel like the food ratings are true, and apply today to herbs. And the hot/cold, moist/dry properties can be seen in people, as well. I am not saying that some of us have “black bile” in us, but physicians were trying to figure conditions out without seeing inside the body.
A man named Chiquart, master cook to the duke of Savoy, lists richer ingredients for the wealthy patient: food dressed with gilding, gold coins, precious stones (including diamonds and emeralds), pearls, and more. I can’t imagine how painful those were going down into a weakened body.
Blanc manger was a convalescent food, and a dish for the wealthy. The aristocracy and high clergy were considered to have delicate stomachs, from all their sitting around. The author writes that they were sick in the best of times, never mind during epidemics. ( I will try to find out what this is. Julia Child?)
And speaking of epidemics, how about that Black Plague? One source recommended these foods to prevent it: sauces from cloves, cubebs(?), saffron, cardamom, galingale(?), and cinnamon mixed with vinegar or verjuice. People who are too “humid” inside (Four Humors Theory again) are advised to let some of their blood out or purge. Other foods recommended include garlic, vinegar, theriac(?), rose water, aloe, myrrh. The poor were advised to eat coarser foods, and any meat they could find, including rats, dog, fox, donkeys, cats and owls. I will try to research if any of these are anti-bacterial, and get back to you.
We’ll end with the author’s quote of a poem from the Regimen sanitation Salernitunum, which talks about herbs that can be used to prevent disease:
“Six things, that here in order shall ensue,
Against all poisons have a secret power,
Pear, Garlic, Radish-roots, Nuts, Rape and Rue,
But Garlic chief; for they that it devour,
May drink, and care not who their drink do brew;
May walk in airs infected every hour.
Sit Garlic then hath powers to save from death,
Bear with it though it make unsavory breath:
And scorn not garlic, like to some that think
It only makes men wink, and drink, and stink.”
Many thanks to the author, Weiss Adamson, for this fun tour of the horrors of Middle Ages food, life and medicine.