Make a lovely selection of safe herbal remedies to ease common ailments.
Make and use a range of nourishing herbal preparations.
Use herbal first aid.
Set up a herbal medicine chest.
Safely, ethically and legally make home remedies.
The short podcast introduces you to this course.
Simple equipment Common kitchen materials and tools are used throughout the course, to save you time and money. Having a tiny city kitchen myself, I find it essential that my recipes and methods can be made in small spaces with very little equipment. In fact, I make many of the herbal preparations outside in parks and gardens, perhaps you will try that too.
Healthy respect for herbs I know that with correct use, herbs can help us to be strong, flexible and vibrant. Herbs have an important place in today's healthcare although their misuse can also cause great harm. Some herbs can be easily overused, some interact with prescription medicines and others can cause more harm than good in certain individuals. I believe passionately in teaching people to help themselves to a state of great health by incorporating common, local nourishing herbs into their lives. I also have a great respect for modern medicine so I do not encourage anyone to shun professional medical help when they need it.
Empowerment My primary aim is to empower you to become more involved in managing your own health. This course will equip you with skills needed to help yourself more often, through using simple nourishing herbs and remedies for minor ailments. If you are not already, I encourage you to become an active participant in keeping yourself healthy and happy, rather than placing all responsibility for your health in the hands of others. As mentioned in the Healing module, the Wise Woman way involves nourishment and looking for answers within as well as seeking external help when needed.
The podcast below talks through the notes on this page
The units in the foraging course should be followed one by one. Work through all of the suggested activities, to gain the most from the units. Use the Foraging Forum to post questions about these units and to share your foraging experiences.
Each of the foraging units will help to build your confidence in picking wild food, both in the countryside and city. The skills needed will build gradually as your knowledge of botany, plant families and your local foraging grounds increase. It takes years of regular practice and study to learn about all of the edibles in one area. However, don't think that years of practice are needed to forage at all!
Even if you are new to foraging, with a little effort you will soon be noticing edible plants growing close to your home. Take a step-by-step approach to your practice and study and enjoy each new discovery which arises. It is far better to know one useful plant really well than to know almost nothing about many!
A Forager's Dream
I believe that cities should be edible environments with residents who know how to care for and use the plants. My dream is for streets to be planted with edible fruit, nut and leaf trees. Buildings such as schools, care homes, apartment complexes and hospitals would be obliged to incorporate fruit bushes, nut trees and herbs into their terrain. Playgrounds would be edged with edibles and city people would commonly forage in their local environment, to enhance their diet and improve community cohesion. Urbanites would know how to forage safely and sustainably, helping them to nurture the whole ecosystem. In time, I hope that edible plants will come to replace toxic ones as landscaping favourites and that increased urban foraging will act as a driver to further clean and improve towns and cities.
Urban Foraging Today
There is far more free-food available in public spaces than most people realise. Nettles, Elderberries, Apples, Lime leaves, Hazelnuts, Ginkgo nuts, Blackberry shoots, Ground Elder leaves, Rosehips and Cleavers are just some of my Amsterdam favourites. These and hundreds more edibles can be found in similar towns and cities around the world. I manage to forage a little something from city spaces all year round. An increasing number of people are interested in foraging from city spaces for reasons ranging from novelty to necessity. I find it a great way to connect with the land around me, to meet interesting people and to enrich my diet with varied tastes and nutrients.
Why Forage Herbs?
Foragers must always be sensitive to their internal and external environment. One way to do this is to harvest only small amounts from diverse locations. I consciously choose to forage herbs rather than the more vegetable type plants. Herbs are strongly flavoured or scented plants. As you will know from kitchen herbs, we only need a pinch of a herb to season a whole meal. With all the pressures on urban environments, it makes sense to me that I should harvest mainly herbs. When I forage herbs, I need only a few leaves. This reduces my impact on the environment and reduces my risk of eating poisonous or polluted plants. I encourage all urban foragers to focus on herbs rather than the vegetable type wild plants. There are simply not enough wild edibles in cites, for us all to forage platefuls each day. Focusing on urban herbs can make you more creative in the kitchen and can help to increase your understanding of the plants which grow throughout towns and cities.
Safe Urban Foraging
City foraging may sound unclean, unsafe and unappetising. I don't insist that everyone tries it but I do urge you to consider how little we really know about the food that we usually eat. I am sure that I know more about the plants in my favourite foraging spots than I do about the herbs and vegetables on sale in the shops. Of course, there are risks with foraging and they must be taken seriously. There is urban pollution, local law, risk of poisonous plants and more. Even so, I like to take responsibility for at least a small proportion of my family’s diet. Consequently, I eat local herbs all year round, I learn how to harvest them correctly and I look after the land where they grow.
Wise Woman System of Healing This is a traditional, logical and intuitive way to maintain health or restore balance and well being. Wise Women and Men know that nourishment is everything. This system of healing is quite different from the health management that many of us are used to. It doesn't expect other people or pills to be able to fix all of our problems. It encourages us to help ourselves whilst seeking help from others when needed. The Wise Woman System of Healing promotes self empowerment, networking, learning, listening and prevention of ill health.
This system of healing was clearly documented by Susun Weed of Woodstock, NY. Her book Healing Wise (1989) is very popular and has been followed up several other titles and a resource rich website and community. I learned how to work with the Wise Woman System from Susun and have found it of great benefit to many aspects of my life. When I am looking for answers to issues, not just those linked to health, I follow the path of the Wise Woman and take each step in turn. It has helped me enormously and so I offer this module to you as a way to help you to think and act in the Wise Woman way.
Of course there are many other Wise Women and Men which we can learn from. Many were in action long before Susun Weed wrote her book, many have since been inspired by her words and many others work the Wise Woman way without ever reading about it or knowing the name. Most of these people work quietly within their families and communities to help keep healthy balance in those around them. Perhaps you are already such a person or perhaps you know one?
Some Wise Women and Men enjoy teaching others about what they do and some of these can be found via websites, magazines and so on. Others are great teachers who are not reachable online so you will have to find them with your own two feet. A few Wise Women and Men who I enjoy various amounts of contact with are: Robin Rose Bennett (in NYC), my mentor Glennie Kindred (UK), Wildman Steve Brill (NYC) and of course Susun Weed (NY). Also there are the many other men and women who live close by and work in quiet ways with the plants and share their experiences with me. These include office workers, healers, artists and gardeners. They all have different personalities, interests and strengths but all, as myself, prefer to work with plants in a knowledge based, structured and yet intuitive way - the Wise Woman Way.
Activity I suggest that you start to build up a written list of people who can help you when you need advice and practical help. My list contains the name and contact details of a really helpful set of people. It contains wise woman herbalist friends, organic herb suppliers, Permaculture designers, masseurs, foragers, my trusted chiropractor, the local organic food co-op, translators, a builder, odd jobbers, a flotation tank company, Mindfulness course friends, Yoga teachers, healers, supplement suppliers and my GP/Family doctor. The list helps me to see that I can quickly help myself in a lot of areas before needing to reach out to others.
The units in this module will introduce you to the 7 Wise Woman steps of healing. Each unit explains how we can work within each step and offers you opportunities to explore the system, wherever you live.
Step 0 – Serenity Medicine - Do nothing - Go with the flow Step 1 – Story Medicine - Collect information Step 2 – Energy Medicine - Placebo - Mind medicine Step 3 – Lifestyle Medicine - Nourish & Tonify Step 4 – Herbal medicine - Stimulate & sedate - Alternative medicine Step 5 – Pharmaceutical medicine - Drugs - Supplements - Ess. oils Step 6 – Hi Tech medicine - Break & Enter - Mind Altering drugs
Steps to health
If I have a problem to solve, let's say an irritating but not serious cough, I try to begin my return to full health at Step 0. I set a time limit and I give my work at Step 0 that time (perhaps 1 day). Hopefully slowing down and taking some time out from my routine solves the problem. If that doesn't help my cough then I move on to Step 1. So now I try looking for the root cause of my problem. Perhaps I decide that I am simply eating too much chocolate and not getting enough sleep. I test this out by correcting both issues for a few days. Again if that doesn't help and I'm still coughing, I move to Step 2. If I achieve no success from using some mind medicine then on I move to step 3.
Step 3 encourages me to nourish myself in many ways. That usually helps me but if not then the Wise Woman System leads me to Step 4. This is the realm of herbal medicine; using herbs to address specific issues. These are the herbs that many of us are most familiar with and they are not everyday food herbs. These are strong herbs which we don't usually take for long time periods. If this step fails to give a result in my allowed time frame then I move on to step 5 and I visit my family doctor. There, I may receive prescription drugs which most likely have attached side effects. Given time, if the problem persists then the final step - 6 is my last resort. An investigation to find the problem and perhaps an operation. Usually my health issues are resolved low down the steps, simply by taking some rest, thinking about how to help myself and by good nourishment.
The Wise Woman System of Healing may seem quite long-winded and too slow but it can be fast too. If an illness gets worse, as I work through the steps then I would seek professional help far sooner. Most of my ailments are very minor, just irritations. Many people run to the doctor to solve such minor issues but I choose to work this way to try and help myself first. I certainly am not opposed to anyone visiting their doctor. I have a good relationship with my family doctor and am happy to consult his team when I need to. Generally those in the medical profession have great knowledge. Visits to doctors for seemingly minor complaints can help to detect very serious disease, due to their knowledge and experience. I do not discourage anyone from visiting their doctor. What I try to encourage people to do is to help themselves first, especially when the dis-ease is minor.
Sometimes I have needed to fly through the first steps of the Wise Woman System and reach for emergency help within a minute. Knowledge of the steps can still help in these cases. This post on my Urban Herbology blog gives an impression of what the Wise Woman Tradition can be like in reality when the situation seems to be out of the patient's control.
Three Traditions of Healing
The Wise Woman Tradition focuses mainly on steps 0, 1, 2, 3. It is a quiet, almost invisible system of healing, at most times. It focuses on self care, nourishment, listening carefully and lifestyle. This is the system you will learn more about, through this module.
There are of course other approaches to health. They can be categorised into two further traditions:
The Heroic Tradition: which relies on steps 4 and 5 mainly. Heroic health practitioners are seen as holding all the power, in this tradition. The patient is not an active participant in the health care. The healing is done to them by someone else. Others have the solutions to fix disease. I know that it can feel so relieving to put responsibility for your health into the hands of another but this can cause us to be dependent on individuals and not very resourceful. There are some Heroic style practitioners in my network but they are people who want to empower their clients. They help me when I have a problem or they help me prevent problems and furthermore they teach me ways to help myself.
The Scientific Tradition: which relies almost totally on steps 5 and 6. Clearly, steps 5 and 6 (strong medicine, breaking and entering) are essential at times. The Wise Woman System does not advise against using these steps at all but it does encourage us to try other measures first, if appropriate. The scientific tradition often sits uncomfortably with the wise woman tradition, being suspicious of remedies without scientific proof. But some scientific practitioners have appreciation that there are other ways, especially if they work. When I have a serious problem and need steps 5 and 6 then I seek out professionals who are open to my opinions and needs but of course these can be hard to find within its organisation.
When you are ready, click on Healing - Step 0 to begin your journey in the Wise Woman Tradition.