The Forest Apothecary serves as an ecclectic online compilation of some of my herbal recipes, plant ponderings and insights.

I hope you find my notes here useful and enjoyable.

~ Green Blessings ~

Rosemary Journal, Infusions and Research Started ...

My first rosemary infusion didn't yield much in the way of color, but packed a punch in flavor. Unreal how much flavor a few sprigs added after steeping throughout the day! I tried some hot when first brewed, and enjoyed it's earthy pungent flavor, and then decided I may like this cooler so tried an iced version (no sweetener added) before heading to out work. This was actually quite agreeable. Strange too considering it's freezing out and we have 10" of snow on the ground, but I have always enjoyed my nettle infusions cold with a bit of mint, and now I've discovered I like rosemary this way too.

The thing about rosemary is that I love just touching the leaves. This is what I remember most as a child, when discovering herbs. They seemingly ask to be touched, and the scent that lingers behind is pure magic! This plant seems so regal and proud even being cooped up in a pot in the house. The picture that comes to mind when thinking of her image is a strong yet gentle, regal green goddess with her feet planted firmly in the earth.

In my book and online research I've discovered there are so many uses for rosemary it's almost overwhelming. Everything from natural home cleaning, medicinal uses, flavoring foods, beauty and ritual. The folklore is facinating stuff. I tend to digress and get way off track whenever studying the plant, jotting down notes for future uses and concoctions, getting lost in the folklore and poetry. I could probably benefit from some tea right now just to keep me on track. She is a practical, strong, useful plant. Though I tend to wander off and get interested in other herbs when reading the posts others have done on their ally, I really could spend a least a year with this plant and all that she offers. It's mind boggling really.

I'm also having a wonderful time discovering some beautiful writings about this herb. One of my favorite herbalists, Juliette de Bairacli Levy shares an old story here about rosemary:

"When Mary and Joseph were fleeing with the infant Jesus, Mary placed her damp blue cloak on the rosemary bush to dry it. The rosemary, thus blessed, forever more has had blue flowers, and the absolute power to protect against evil. A sprig of rosemary hung by the door banishes all thieves; a bush of rosemary growing by the door allows only love to enter.

And this lovely poem, author unknown, will also be included in my journal:

I thank you gentle rosemary
Henceforward you shall bear Blue clusters for remembrance
Of this cloak I wear.
And not your blossoms only I give you as reward.
But where His raiment clung to you Which clad the little Lord
All shall be aromatic, Said Mary, for I bless

Leaf, stem, and flower
That from this hour
Shall smell of Holiness.

Since beginning my research it has become apparent to me that I am a romantic dreamer, approaching my herbal challenge much the same way I approach many things, slowly, deliberately, with an emphasis on the sensory level. Rosemary has chosen me I think, to help me gently ground and center.

So I share here some of my books used for my rosemary research:

Healing Oils, Healing Hands, Linda L. Smith

Growing and Using Herbs and Spices, Milo Miloradovich

Plant Spirit Healing, Pam Montgomery

Herbal Rituals, Judith Berger

Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, Gaith Faith Edwards

The Wild & Weedy Apothecary, Doreen Shababy

And here a couple of pictures of the journal in progress:

Along the way I wandered off and found this book, and couldn't resist adding it to my library, again I digress....

And have added this one to my wish list....
Through the Wild Heart of Mary; Teachings of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and the Herbs and Foods Associated with Them; Gail Faith Edwards.

And since I don't want to take too many cuttings from my plant, I discovered I'm out of dried rosemary so will be purchasing some this weekend from Roots, or better yet getting some from my mother's stash if she still has some left.

I currently don't have any rosemary essential oil, but when doing my reading and working in my journal I've taken to burning a bit of Young Living's "Thieves" or "Purification" oils, both of which contain rosemary in the blend. This has helped to make the bits of time I devote to my herbal studies more of a sacred ritual for me.

Thanks for sharing in my herbal journey with rosemary. I will continue to post on the challenges as I move forward.

Herbal Ally 2011 ... Rosemary

"Who now knows the ancient tongue of the moon? Who still listens to what the Goddess says, the language of the land has slipped away into the well of the past, and only the rocks and mountains remember what was told us long ago. Yet the land still sings in the wild and open spaces and whispers still in the flowers and grasses. I have found comfort and inspiration in the silence of these places, and I am most grateful for it."

Rosemary Remembers... and I chose Rosemary for my ally this year. She was the first herb I ever had contact with as a child, and have been enthralled ever since! I usually grow my rosemary in a pot, near the kitchen entrance. I seem to find practical uses for her without even thinking much about it. A snip here and there when cooking and grilling, a snip goes into my drinking water to freshen it, even a snippet in my shoe when hiking... she is reliable, strong, steadfast and true. She calls to me when I'm weak and in need of her guidance.

So I will study her more closely as a result of this challenge, and hope I learn more of her ways.

I'm a bit nervous about trying to winter this plant indoors all winter with limited sunlight, and was hesitant to take any cuttings for my infusion. The new growth is so soft and green.

But it seemed I was given her blessing, so I made a small infusion/tea with the some freshly snipped branches.

Will soon post on the results of this infusion, and more on the journal and research.

Green Blessings!

Herbal Ally 2001

Greetings Woodland Wanderers! The weather is freezing here! I'm dreaming of spring, and just received the Richters catalog in the mail, so I'm full of inspiration for new herbs in the garden. I was delighted to come across this Herbal Ally Challenge for 2011. You can check my sidebar for the button and direct link to the challenge. I'm slow in starting since I just found out about it, but after much pondering over what herb to ally with this year, I decided on my old friend Rosemary. Since there is nothing growing in my garden this time of year, she was the obvious choice, especially given that I'm wintering a large pot of Rosemary inside for the first time this year! So it will be a winter journey for both of us. I'm already cracking the books, taking in all I can about this beautiful plant. I've also started gathering some materials to create my herbal journal and will share some of this process in future posts. Have a beautiful day!

a little post to explain the mess

This blog was originally created with restricted access (subscribers only) then I changed it up a bit (messed it up a bit) to utilize mainly for plant ponderings and herbal related postings. In an attempt to salvage a few posts from my old blog, and to get rid of some other posts, I wasn't able to retrieve all of my photographs, and may have some wonky set wording set ups and things out of order, but I did manage to salvage some of it. So here it is! Thanks for digging through the "weeds" and finding it!

Plant Ponderings ... Poke Weed

Plant Ponderings
Poke Weed
September 2008

Unfortunately my pictures could not be re-located when posting this one..

Hello my fellow woodland wanderers! This is the perfect time of year to introduce you to an old friend. Or re-introduce you, as I know you've probably seen this "weed" before. She's native to my area, with a history as deep and rich as her plump, dark, purple-red berries. She's a true wild Appalachian herb, and there is much facinating herbal lore about uses for her roots, leaves, and berries... but be forewarned... she is not for the novice herbalist and is poisonus to people if not prepared correctly! I'm content with just visiting and studying her. The berries and vibrant colored stems that reappear year after year in my woods speak to me of strength, old secrets, and autumn on it's way. Her appearance is exotic, almost tropical, and perhaps, if she allows, I'll try painting with some of her berry juice, as did artist George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879). Or, as did the root doctors of the south, carry a bit of her root to ward off evil. Her name "Poke" comes from the Virginia Algonquian word for blood, referring to the red color of the stem and berries. Native Americans used the powdered roots to treat cancers, and the mountain grandmothers had many a use for this plant.

Phytolacca americana. Folk names: American nightshade, cancer root, devil's club, inkberry, pigeonberry.

Remembering how much I loved the illustrations in this book, "A Child's Book of Wildflowers" by M.A. Kelly, and that there was a page that featured Poke plant, I thought I'd share it here. The artist Joyce Powzyk does the most beautiful watercolor illustrations. I found this book at a flea market years back, bought it for my daughter, and it quickly became a favorite of mine too.
On your next trek through the woods look for her won't you? And be sure and say hello from me.

Plant Ponderings ... Yarrow

February 2009
Plant Ponderings ... Yarrow

Don't want to get your hopes up, nothing is blooming yet, and the lack of vegetation in my little neck of the woods is causing me to have some withdrawal symptoms. I've been dreaming of having fresh herbs again, mulling over what I'll grow this year, and missing the return of some of my old green friends. I started taking inventory of my tinctures made from last year's harvest. Some almost empty, and some I'd even forgotten having put up--that was a nice surprise. Yarrow was one of the "lost but found" tinctures I found residing in the cool darkness of my herb cupboard. Thank goodness it was clearly labeled, so no mystery involved in its identification :) I love my herb cupboard. It's in a little area set off from the kitchen where my husband put up some extra shelving and counter space for me, but it could use some organization (adding another chore to my ever growing spring to-do list). In any case, let's not get too off-track as I often do (they don't call me the woodland-wanderer for nothing) this yarrow has a bit of a story. I started exploring the woods and lake near my home more seriously last year, and was happy to discover lots of lovely yarrow growing wild, undisturbed, unsprayed and plentiful. I have never grown yarrow myself, and promptly got started checking my online references, books, and favorite herby blogs to be sure I had the right plant. Feeling certain, and slightly devious, I prepared for our next early morning hike, this time adding a small shovel, large baggie with damp paper towels, and my official wild-crafter's badge. Just kidding about the badge, but there is a pretty serious-looking park policeman that I've seen on rounds there before, so one never knows it could come in handy. I went to the pretty little spot where the yarrow was growing, made certain there was lots of it nearby, gave thanks, and dug up a small bit, while my husband patrolled the area, instructed to hoot like a screech owl if there should be a threat to my herbal-highjacking. All went without mishap, and once home I immediately transplanted it with care in a large pot on my deck. It took off beautifully, and soon delicate white flowers and ferny soft leaves abounded! I ended up making a tincture of its leaves and flowers in grain alcohol, and there it has sat since. Patiently waiting.

Yarrow's Latin name is Achillea millefolium. The name comes from Achilles, the Greek warrior because legend has it that he stopped bleeding on the battlefield when using this plant as a poultice. I'm happy to say it grows easily in my area as a perennial. It comes in pink, yellow and white varieties, mine being the white which is strongest for herbal medicine. Yarrow is one of the best herbs to use to prevent congestion from building up in the lungs, and to break up existing congestion. Yarrow tea is a good remedy for severe colds and to help reduce fever. When used externally it can help with cuts and wounds, and can even be used as a bug repellant, which I fully intend to try out this year.
I look forward to Yarrow making its appearance in my garden this year, and welcome learning about other uses for Yarrow... or any herbal insights for that matter, from any of you other "wild-crafters" out there!

Green Blessings!

Plant Ponderings ... Rose of Sharon

July 2009
Plant Ponderings... Rose of Sharon

I hate it when bloggers start out apologizing for not posting, so I won't. After all... it's without obligation is it not? At least for some of us? I've still been keeping tabs on you fellow bloggers though, enjoying my trips to your blogs, admiring your creativity, and (I'll admit) wondering when some of my favs. will ever post again!

A view from the kitchen door and yes.. I've got a weed growing in the little pot (plantain!) My little visitor doesn't mind though.. although he preferred the rose geranium :)

Not to say I've been lazy! Short of a barely 1 week vacation I've been alive and working my 9-5, trying to stay fit (ahem did I mention the canoe?) and somewhat creative (ahem ahem). In my off hours I'm back to being barefoot, paint smattered and as always with a stack of books and to-do's too big to ever get done!

But Summer is for a slower take on things is it not? So with that established, I'll move on to more summer appropriate meanderings. First off, it's about time for a "Plant Pondering." This time I pick Rose of Sharon. Mainly because it is totally flourishing in my yard, partially because I do nothing for it and it keeps coming back, more vibrant and full of blooms than ever before. It has fascinated me for some time now, and I only just realized that those luscious tropical looking blooms are actually edible. Here is a link from the Recipe Zaar to a fabulous summerr recipe that I haven't tried yet, but want to: this just looks so cooling and yummy, perfect for Summer! I have merely sprinkled some of it's lovely blossoms into my wild salad and plan to make this small act a yearly tradition. I think the bees as always were trying to tell me about this lovely profusely blooming plant... the way they drunkenly visit each flower, loving every luscious minute of diving in! Can you find her, immersed in velvet petals?

A Happy... Sensuous... Juicy... Lazy... Summer to all!

Plant Ponderings ... Milk Thistle

Plant Ponderings ... Milk Thistle
October 2009

Occasional weekend trips to our cabin in West Virginia never fail to provide inspiration for another woodland "plant pondering." I barely need to hike far before another wild weed introduces itself. I've often noticed this hardy, prickly plant, knowing its name even before studying it. I've always admired it's tenacity and bright purple flowers.

Silybum marianum is called "milk thistle" or "Marian thistle", for it's milky white veins, reputed to improve the millk supply of nursing mothers. The latin name marianum associates it with the Virgin Mary. Silybon was Dioscorides' term for this herb.
It is a tall biennial with large deeply lobed spiny leaves, with white veins and purple flowers that turn white and fluffy. Can be found in sunny areas, on dry, stony soils, in fields and roadsides. It self seeds prolifically.
The parts used are the leaves and flowering stems--dried for use in infusions or for extractions of its active principle silymarin. Medicinally it is taken as an infusion to stimulate the appetite and for digesive disorders. It contains compounds known as silymarin which are said to be effective as an antidote to toxic substances that cause liver damage.
Thanks for sharing in another plant pondering.
~Wishing you many herbal autumn blessings!

Plant Ponderings ... Rosa canina

Plant Ponderings
May 15, 2010
Plant Ponderings ... Rosa canina

The sweet scent of briar roses and honeysuckles remind me of being a young girl again, goofing off in the woods as often as I could during recess in elementary school. I was always being reprimanded for straying too close to the woods during outdoor recess, never wanting to join in much on the organized games, a little woodland wanderer even back then! One of the things I most loved about this old house we purchased now over 14 years ago is that my little forest here is full of huge old honeysuckles and what we call briar roses, or "brambly hedges." The common name of this rose is the "Dog Rose" but that's hardly as endearing a name as Brambly Hedge! And here a bit of interesting herbal facts about the Dog Rose:
Botanical Name: Rosa canina Other Names: Wild Rose, Brier Rose, Dog Berry
Hardiness Zone: 5-8
Soil Requirements: Tolerates most soil types moist or well drained
Light Conditions: Full sun
Size at Maturity: Up to 10'
Propagation: Root division

History: Dog rose, a common wild rose, was thought of as useless by the Greeks, thus the name 'dog' (in this case used as a derogatory term) was attached to it. However, after a little research one may discover that the dog rose is tremendously beneficial.

Properties: Aromatic, vitamin C in hips; a diuretic, gentle laxative and an astringent.

Uses: The petals - cake decorating, tea, rosewater, a mild rose honey, potpourri, natural incense, sachets, perfumes, and soaps.
The Leaves - tea
The fruit - jellies, syrups, tinctures

Description: A very hardy, thorny shrub with fragrant flowers ranging in color from white (as ours are) to pink to hot pink.

Harvesting Tips: Pick the petals when the plant buds or flowers to dry and use in potpourris. Pick the hips (seed pods) after the petals have fallen off (before they start to shrivel) and they have turned bright red in colour. Use them fresh or in jams or syrups, or dry them for use in teas.