Backyard Medicine - The Gateway to the Practice of Bioregional Herbalism
Chickweed from Bulgaria.
I was going through my herbs a few years ago and saw it…Bulgaria. Nothing against Bulgaria, but I live in the United States and my backyard had a ridiculous amount of Chickweed. In my defense, I had purchased it before I was living in a place that had me surrounded by Chickweed but keep reading to see the point I am working on.
I started to really examine my herbs. Calendula from Egypt came into view….when Calendula is an annual herb easy to grow. My heart dropped a little as the impact of having herbs flown in from around the world hit me.
It was then I decided I NEEDED to focus on bioregional herbalism - or using the plants that grew around me and in my specific bioregion AND when they are in season. It is also about learning how much I use throughout the year and planning for that. For example - if I use 5 pounds of Calendula flowers throughout the year, I need to plan to get those in season — either by growing them or purchasing from a company in the US that grows them IN THE US — which also means I need to know their season…which means I need to spend time getting to know Calendula (really know her not just her uses). Not too surprising that US growing Calendula, especially from small herb farms, can run almost double the price — which should make us think about how much we use her.
The difficulty at times was - many books and schools talk about the most popular herbs in herbalism (and those tend to get studied), whereas local other species were in the “unknown” category.
For example - I found a large amount of Late boneset (Eupatorium serontinum) - a different species than Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)…could I use this one? Not a lot of information available for me to study and I even asked in a botanical clinicians group with no avail. I opted out but I still wonder….
Then, with the new plants I was learning, how did I know how much I use throughout the year. Same with ordering. Elderberries run out of stock early in the season (although I don’t use a lot of Elderberry)…
Ahh the things you need to think about when making this a focus — as frustrating as it can be to shift a mindset…it feels good. It is honoring to the plants. It requires us to plan and use with INTENTION.
Fast forward to us living in this house in Louisiana. I am having to learn plants in Louisiana (ilke dwarf Plantain versus broad leaf). Sometimes it makes me feel like less of an herbalist but then I have to remind myself that NO herbalist knows all the plants in all the bioregions. I need to trust my knowledge of botany and also remind myself that if someone thinks less of me because I don’t know all the plants - they can go f*ck themselves..
I was super excited, then, when we let our yard grow and saw all the plants around us. Lyre leaf Sage, flea bane, Cleavers, Violets, Self heal, Wood sorrel, clovers of all kinds, Vetch, tickweed etc… It was like the plants were encouraging me to continue on this focus.
Self heal became my best friend and I enjoy still seeing her when I walk outside. Her flower stalks are starting to turn brown now but those in the shade still have just a few flowering ones left.
Between Oaken and myself, we put up a gallon of dried Self heal — and you would have no idea that we even touched all the growth in our yard. I feel done with that gallon.
We harvested Violets, and put up just under a half gallon of the leaves. I felt safe to put up more but I was extremely pregnant at that time and couldn’t get that low to the ground.
I created monographs for each plant — and continue to monograph for each plant I meet here.
And then I knew it was time to create medicine.
Now, I had already worked with Witch hazel in the fall/winter. A flower essence with her flowers and witch hazel extract with her bark but Spring is a busier time for medicine making for most of us.
So I did.
Infusing as I type this an oil I am referring to as my backyard oil. It will eventually become a salve from beeswax rendered by us during Yule (from a beekeeper a few hours south of us).
This is equal parts Self heal (flowers and first set of leaves), Violet leaves (and maybe a few flowers), and Camellia petals. Dried plants, cut into smaller pieces, and covered with olive oil.
Let sit for 6 weeks and strain.
For every 1 cup of oil, 1 oz (weight) of beeswax makes a pretty good salve — not too hard but not too soft.
I might turn it into my black salve, as we are almost out - which is additional of Bentonite clay, activated charcoal, and black walnut hull powder (2 T of each) - but I haven’t fully decided yet. When I strain it, I will know.
I look at my gallon of Self heal, and just am overwhelmed with joy in my chest. We still have plenty of fresh Self heal to use currently (such as in yoni steams and sitz baths) but I feel so loved knowing that she has provided us with medicine when she isn’t around. She is taking care of us now and in the future.
That is some powerful medicine.
This is bioregional herbalism.
Additional reading on bioregional herbalism. I cannot do this practice justice in my own writing because its something I feel and sometimes when I write, I feel like I need to justify my feelings or that I am writing to convince people of something — and it takes away from what I am trying to say. What I wrote about here is really just a part of what the practice of bioregional herbalism is.