Food Medicine

Asian Beef Broth Soup

Asian Beef Broth Soup

It was rainy and cold and I was out of ideas for dinner one day. Craving this type of soup, I found a several recipes, made changes, and ended up with this soup. I like stir frying the veggies separately, as it keeps them from becoming over cooked. This requires a little more effort, and there is the standard recipe at the bottom.

I think this soup could be made in to a cool summer time alternative, if I were organized enough to not be starving when I made it. Still, it’s savory in the winter and not too hot in the summer. It passes the taste test for my kid, and when the veggies were kept separated, added just before eating, it traveled well, unlike second day Pho!

Lots of Veggies. Warm & Soothing. Quick to make. I like this soup very much!

 

Asian Beef Broth Soup

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup rice – Bonton (semi-sticky white) or Jasmine work well

1lb ground turkey or ground beef, cooked into large chunks over medium heat or 1 lb stew meat in 1 inch cubes

½ Tablespoon Olive Oil

1/2 teaspoon Sesame Seed Oil

*

4 Cups Beef Broth, or Beef Bone Broth

¼ Cup Soy Sauce

¼ cup Sake or Cooking Sherry

2 Teaspoons Sesame Seed Oil

4-6 green onions chopped

3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

1-2 cloves minced garlic or 1 scant teaspoon prepared garlic

1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger, or 1 ½ teaspoon minced ginger

*

1 ½ cup sliced carrots

1 ½ cup sliced bokchoy    (I love this stuff)

1 cup Chinese pea pods (flat) or green pea pods (puffy)

1 ½ cup sliced mushrooms

(I like portabella’s, shitake is nice too, but doesn’t pass the daughter-taste test)

Hot sauce: Sriracha or Ground Chili Garlic Oil

 

Instructions:

Start rice.

In a cooking pot, brown the meat on all sides. Drain meat if necessary (beef). Add beef broth, soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, sesame seed oil, garlic and ginger. Have a sip of sherry. See – it’s only worth cooking with! Good thing your not drinking!  Cover bring to a boil and simmer for 10 – 20 minutes.

Stir fry the vegetables and add separately to soup. Cook carrots on high for 3-5 minutes, add bokchoy stem pieces for 2 minutes, then add onions, leafy bokchoy and mushrooms, stir intermittently, until tender, then add the pea pods last, so everything is still fresh and brightly colored.

Add hot sauce to flavor.

Serve jasmine rice, or optionally: finish rice by adding sushi seasoning to bonton rice and stir well while hot.

Serve soup, add vegetables, and finish with a scoop of rice in the bowl. Serve hot, or in summer, slightly cooled.

Notes:

Alternatively you can add the vegetables to the broth. Add carrots first, cook until starting to become slightly tender, but still bright – 5 to 10 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook 3 to 5 minutes so color is bright and tenders or vegetables are just slightly tender. It is harder to maintain freshness in the vegetables if you cook the soup this way, and left-over’s are not as nice, but it is easier, so warrants mention!

Herbal:

To add some herbal medicine, other than the fresh veggies, consider using some shitake mushrooms, and definitely throw in a slice of Astragalus root (often found at Asian Markets or health food stores, some Gobo root (Burdock – found at Asian Markets).

Burdock Information:

My daughter loves it, I think it’s fine, we think it tastes like celery. My fiancé dislikes it. He says it tastes like flowers, and is not something he wants in his soup.

Burdock root, with the Japanese name ‘Gobo’, and the scientific name Arctium lappa, is the tap root of a burdock, grown as a vegetable and flavoring agent in Asian cooking.

It is considered a winter tonic in Western herbal medicine, thus, it goes in most of my soups in the winter. It’s herbal actions also include use of the roots, seeds and leaves.

It is a perennial in the Asteraceae Family. There are no know side effects from Burdock or drug interactions, however , it is reported that you can get contact dermatitis from handling the plant. I suspect this means the whole plant and not the nice little roots you can by at Asian markets.

It is a great source of manganese and magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, or copper.  It also has good amounts of folate, vitamin C, and pantothenic acid. Burdock has a high inulin, a prebiotic, it supports the growth of healthy bacteria. However, it is important to cook it well, or it can give you gas.

“The Difference between a Weed and a Flower is a Judgment” –  Unknown

 

by Tama Cathers

Burdock
Burdock in the ‘wild’
IMG_4026
Soup broth

IMG_4027

IMG_4028
Spicy options
IMG_4034
Second Day Soup
IMG_4028
Spicy options

 

Food Medicine, herbal medicine, Uncategorized

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

My daughter has just turned into a teen, a cycling teen-aged female, but still has the palate of a child (rather like me!). Those facts are important. We have to be able to make our herbal consumption part of regular life!

There are so many lessons to be learned as we grow, and our body has much to teach us. The transitions between childhood and adult, between listening and hearing, are hard, but vital. Listening to ourselves is a skill that takes decades to develop, and longer to hone. Listening to our bodies, listening to the little voice inside our minds. These are all really important tasks to maintain balance.

*   *   *

Tea Recipes:

Basic Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

1 tsp to 1 Tbs of loose leaf red raspberry leaf

1 cup of boiling water.

Pour boiling water over leaves and steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain the tea and drink.

 

To make a gallon, just 3/4 to 1 cup of Raspberry Leaf per gallon of boiling water. Leave overnight before straining for a strong tea. Refrigerates well.

 

For Adrenal Fatigue

4 parts Raspberry Leaf

1 parts Nettle Leaf

 

For Morning Sickness

Add 1 part Peppermint Leaf for help with nausea during early pregnancy.

 

Disclaimer: Ask your doctor before consuming any herbal supplement during pregnancy. If you experience cramping, either discontinue use or reduce your intake.

 

The tea does NOT taste like raspberries, but my daughter is willing to drink this. The taste is pleasant, a little like black tea, but without the caffeine. I can often convince myself for weeks to months at a time, that it is ‘tea.’ When I get bored, I mix it with green tea or toasted rices green tea, or better yet, toasted rice green tea and nettles.

By drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea 3 times a week I was, previously, able to totally stop all menstrual pain. It was quite amazing.

Did I do it regularly – No – But I should have! At the time it felt easier to suffer and then swallow a pill, than to make a cup of tea a couple times a week. I am hoping to teach my daughter a different way.

*   *   *

Red Raspberry Leaf is wonderful in many ways. First, it is so common and easily identifiable. In North America, most wild raspberries are red raspberries. They spring up in almost any sunny disturbed area. They grow around the edges of the soft ball fields, the parks, the cow pastures, the forest edges, etc. They are easy to identify, even without the berries. My favorite identification is eating the Red Raspberries! My second favorite way is the back of the leaf. The underside of the leaf is whitish. Blackberry bushes look similar, but the underside of the leaves are green. Umm – and they have blackberries! (Yum, yum, yum…In my mind, I am stuffing my face with little berries borne of sunshine! Black, red – who cares! Well, I do if I am making tea, but not if I am eating berries!)

In the fall the leaves blush red, instead of black, like a blackberry. There are many good websites for further identification, but I suggest you have a person who knows Red Raspberry introduce you to the plant. I think we learn best from the plants and people, and books are a far second contender, especially for identification.

For those science geeks like me: red raspberry, is Rubus idaeus – the Eurasian red raspberry.   The eastern North American black raspberry is Rubus occidentalis. Most propagated berries are combinations of the two. Common Names include Red Raspberry, Dewberry, Bramble Fruit, Thimble Berry. Like an old time thimble, these berries do not have a core in the center, that is a differentiating trait between raspberries and black berries.

Harvest:

Red Raspberry leaf is easy to harvest, but gloves or scissors help you avoid the small thorns. I rarely have such devices handy when I come to a rich stand of summer happy Red Raspberry, and I just make do. I usually snap the compound leaves of at the cane, as the junction is easy to snap. Dry the leaves, generally this is accomplished by hanging bundles upside down in a dry non-sunny area. I spread them to dry, in a well ventilated area. They can mold easily, so be sure to take care of them, so they do not stay moist. The oven often seems too harsh, but a few hours in a dehydrator should work well too. Next, shred them/ crumple them in a sac. Pick out the stems. Now you have Red Raspberry Leaf tea. If you decide to purchase it as a packaged tea, use 100% red raspberry leaf. Other teas may be labeled “raspberry,” but often are blends of rosehips, hibiscus, raspberry leaves, and…raspberry flavor (Gasps of Horror!) That is not what we want!

Uses:

Red Raspberry leaf is loaded with vitamins: Vitamins C, E, A, B including niacin. It is also a good source of macro-minerals: magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium, as well as essential trace minerals such as zinc, iron, chromium and manganese.

Plant constituents include: polyphenols; like tannins and flavonoids, like quercetin and kaempferol. Polyphenols act like antioxidants, and may help slow aging and diseases such as cancer. In addition, raspberry leaves contain phenolic acids and plant alcohols. All of these likely contribute to the effects the plant has on humans.

Information:

Red Raspberry Leaf has so many wonderful traits:

As an herb it is astringent, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, Antioxidant, Anti-Cancer, Anti-inflammatory, Emmenagogue (helps your period start). It has been historically used for antiseptic and anti-microbial properties. It has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years (Fu-p’en-tzu = Rubus strigosus) Red Raspberry Leaf was also extensively used by Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Ayurvedic physicians.

For Reproductive health, it is good for managing menstruation, for heavy periods, for lack of periods, and for menstrual pain. I can attest to that! It increased fertility in men and women, During pregnancy, it is used to prevent or decrease morning sickness, to reduce miscarriages and to ease labor and delivery. Postpartum, raspberry’s astringency is used to help with bleeding and swelling as well as to restore tone to the uterus.

While considered a women’s herb, it is good for the whole family. Red raspberry leaf tea helps support the prostrate health, may lower unhealthy blood pressure and support control of blood sugar levels. Due to its high mineral content, it also may help reduce leg cramps, and improve sleep, for women, men, and children. For teens consider that is used to treat acne, canker sores. In children it is used to treat diarrhea, vomiting or the flu. As a whole family herb it is used for cold and fevers, sore throat, gingivitis, anemia, and adrenal fatigue. (Hence we circle around to hwy it is on my blog today!)

The tannins in raspberry leaf give it astringent properties which make it soothing both internally and externally. Made into a strong solution, raspberry leaf tea or tincture can sooth sunburn, eczema, and rashes.  Other external uses include: poultice, irrigation for sores, minor wounds, burns, and ulcers and varicose veins.

*   *   *

Controversy = Safety in Early Pregnancy

According to research there is some controversies about the safety of this herb in early pregnancy. One source says

 “Some medical and popular media make reference to raspberry leaf tea as something to avoid during pregnancy for risk of miscarriage. This notion stems from a study conducted in 1954 where fractions were isolated from Rubus sp. and applied in vitro to the uterine tissues of guinea pigs and frogs. The scientists discovered such things as one fraction acted as a spasmolytic whereas another caused uterine contractions. Herein lies the risk of isolating the parts of a whole. When used as a whole plant, neither action is exacerbated and the herb is deemed safe. If a mother is prone to miscarriages she may feel safer avoiding raspberry until the third trimester. This is an herb with centuries of safe use behind it, there is usually little cause for concern.” – Mother and Child Health, Dec 7, 2016

As always, it is important for you to do your own research. Most sites I visited discussed the theoretical safety issues, some of the women even gave it up during their first pregnancy, only to use it and become believers later. You have to use your judgment, listen to your body, and ideally, have some relationship with the herb to use it well. In everything, moderation. I want to encourage you, however, to investigate this friendly, helpful, common herb.

by Tama Cathers

 

Identification:

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/identify-red-raspberry-bushes-leaves-56436.html

and

http://www.gardenguides.com/127831-raspberry-leaf-identification.html and

https://www.hunker.com/12345803/how-to-identify-raspberry-plants

and

http://identifythatplant.com/blackberry-or-black-raspberry/

= good identification sites

Recipes:

https://www.mamanatural.com/red-raspberry-leaf-tea/ – a blog like mine, with really good recipes for teas!!!

Safety:

http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-raspberry-leaf.html -Good references of studies on red raspberry leaf.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10754818 – excerpt of study on effects of RRL

https://wellnessmama.com/5107/raspberry-leaf-herb-profile/

1 – quote on safety

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10754818 – excerpt of study on effects of Red Raspberry Leaf tea

http://avivaromm.com/herbal-medicines-in-pregnancy-safety

– Romm, Aviva. (2015).

 

General Info:

https://www.eastwesthealingacademy.com/herbs/raspberry/ Chinese herbal medicine properties.

http://www.susunweed.com/Article_Pregnancy_Problems.htm

 

Books:

Weed, Susun. (1986). Wise woman herbal for the childbearing year. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing.

Gladstar, Rosemary. (2001).

Rosemary Gladstar’s family herbal. North Adams, MA: Storey Books.

 

 

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor before consuming any herbal supplement during pregnancy. If you experience cramping, either discontinue use or reduce your intake.

More disclaimer:

Information offered on my websites is for educational purposes only. I make neither medical claim, nor intend to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Links to external sites are for informational purposes only. I do not necessarily endorses them nor am in any way responsible for their content. Readers must do their own research concerning the safety and usage of any herbs or supplements.

 

 

Food Medicine, herbal medicine, Uncategorized

Walking Oatmeal

Walking Oatmeal

These nice little handfuls of yumminess are my daily breakfast now, and a good way to secretly add supportive herbs to my diet. These started with learning that people who eat oatmeal on a regular basis can lower their cholesterol. As an herb, oats are soothing and kind. I needed a breakfast I can grab and walk out the door with, set aside, and nibble on until gone. However, cold oatmeal is not so attractive. I found the basic recipe for these, then continued to develop them. They can be made vegan, vegetarian, or you can add the eggs as I do.   30 seconds of warming will make these delicious and warm.

This nice plain recipe is made to be adulterated to your needs and desires. Just start here and add things as you feel comfortable. Your Walking Oatmeal will evolve and change with supplies, season and familiarity. Below the plain recipe, I will give you my current herbal recipe.

PLAIN RECIPE:

Wet Ingredients:

4-5 mashed bananas (old ones work best)

4 eggs (optional)

½ cup apple sauce (optional; you may need this or 1 more banana if you skip the eggs)

¼ cup coconut oil – vegetable oil of your choice

¼ cup sweetener – maple syrup, honey, agave, etc

2-3 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Some berries, nuts or chocolate chips if you desire.

Mix well.

Dry ingredients:

5-6 cups old-fashioned rolled oatmeal

Mix into wet ingredients until a thick shapeable consistency, but not crumbly.

Optional: ¼ cup mini chocolate chips

(Makes eating with hands a little more messy, but adds yumminess and kid-friendliness.)

Using ½ to 2/3 cup, shape into large biscuit type formation. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. Cool. Store. Good for 7-10 days. Can be frozen and thawed.

***

As I am trying to eat my medicine, but still like my herbs and food to taste good (to me), I have evolved this recipe. I can still get my daughter to eat them, so I think I am doing pretty well. She likes them with chocolate chips, of course!

HERBAL RECIPE FOR WALKING OATMEAL:

Wet Ingredients:

4-5 mashed bananas

½ cup apple sauce (optional; you may need this or 1 more banana if you skip the eggs)

4 eggs (optional)

¼ cup coconut oil – vegetable oil of your choice

¼ cup sweetener – maple syrup, honey, agave, etc

2-3 teaspoons vanilla

Mix well.

Middle ingredients:

Herbs:

2-3 Tablespoons of cinnamon,

2-3 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper (optional)

½ cup or more of finely shredded nettle leaf

Optional:

¼ cup of powdered herbs of your choice: ashwaganda, astragalus, hawthorn berry  powder, rhodiola… I usually choose 2-3 of these.

1-2 tablespoons ground olive leaf (olive leaf is rather bitter)

Other optional spices: ginger, cardamom, garam marsala…

Dried Berries/Etc:

½ cup cranberries and

¼ to 1/3rd cup of currants and

¼ to 1/3rd cup of raisins

Add other berries as desired: blueberries, elderberries, gogi, Candied dried ginger is nice in the winter.

Optional: ¼ cup mini chocolate chips

(Makes eating with hands a little more messy, but adds yumminess and kid-friendliness.)

Nuts/Seeds

1/4 to ½ cup of the following nuts of your choice:

Pecans, Walnuts, Almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachio.

(For low lectin diet do not use cashews or peanuts)

Dry ingredients:

5-6 cups old-fashioned rolled oatmeal

1/3 cup ground flax seed (because it’s good for you = optional)

Mix into wet ingredients until a thick shapeable consistency, but not crumbly.

Using ½ to 2/3 cup, shape into large biscuit type formation. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. Cool. Store. Good for 7-10 days. Can be frozen and thawed.

by Tama Cathers

Food Medicine, Uncategorized

Cut the Crap

Cut the Crap

I was going to title this “A Lectin Free Diet.”

The problem is – I don’t really believe in a lectin free diet.

I believe in a “Eat Your Vegetables Diet”, and “A Cut Out the Crap Diet.”

I believe in a “Don’t Eat Out, Stupid!” Diet, and a “Willpower is not THE Answer Diet.” So I could not title this blog  “A Lectin free diet.”

That being said we are following a modified Lectin free diet. We’ll call it the Low Lectin Diet. I will explain what, why, and how I am fortunate.

Lectins are plant products that are hard for humans to digest, even after being cooked. High lectin containing foods are Nightshade Vegetables – tomatoes (seeds and skins mostly), Peppers, and Potatoes, as well as Grains, Legumes, Cashews, Peanuts. They are meant, by the plants, to be hard to digest – so we won’t eat them! They are meant to protect these foods so they pass through digestive tracts unharmed. They are part of the immune system of plants and they bind carbohydrates into sticky glumps (yes, that is a term -I just used it here, so it’s a term) that are difficult for our bodies to manage. That is a simplification of the theory behind avoiding them. I watched a long video touting an expensive probiotic and pre-biotic, complete for only $75.99 per month….. I did not get the …biotic, but the diet stuck.  Again – not because I believed in it specifically. I mean its all the same Good Diet Advice. It made sense in the same way Eat More Vegetables make sense.  Let’s be honest, we all pretty much know what we should do – it is just the doing of it that is hard!

I liked this diet, because it was conceptually simple, and a Lectin-free diet removes most all of the grains in the diet.  As you can see, this is going to remove substantial amounts of carbohydrates. That is a major factor in why I like it. I have been trying to get rid of carbs for years. There are so many issues with corn and soy and glyphosate (Round-Up). As a biologist, gardener and butterflybeelovingfuckingtreehugger, there are a whole host of other factors that make me against the company of Round–Up, Monsanto.

I also liked the diet because it still allows for seeds. It still allows for coffee and chocolate. He likes coffee. I like chocolate.

People often have problems tolerating nightshade vegetables, our most common veggies of the north Americans: tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Honestly, I don’t have anything against potatoes, except they are another carb, and they are rather addictive.  Long ago I found I actually “Can’t eat just one Lay’s” potatoe chip. Fortunately, I can generally find the will power to avoid eating potatoe chips, even when dangerously displayed at parties, and coquettishly eyeing me at picnics. So – I am okay losing the potatoe. I am not so good with cookies. They seduce me as soon as I walk in the room. I am helpless to their innocent looks and ways. Damn the cookie!

What I really like about this diet, and the reason we changed, is that it gives my partner a framework in which to formulate his shopping and cooking efforts. You see, I am so very fortunate that he is the primary cook and shopper. Being that, he has a lot of influence in our dietary life.

My handsome fabulous man is lean, a Jack Sprat, and while I am not a Jack Sprat wife, I tend towards curvaceousness more than he. He needs the calories of carbs, though e does not care for them. I need to stay away from them, though I love them so. Let’s not talk about my cookie addiction again!

So – Diet change to Lectin free because it was the first time I could give the shopper cook a framework in which we could seriously reduce our carbs. The response is…increasing our vegetables. Bingo! I win one for Veggies! We modified the premise to include rice. I was all for wild rice, but one member won’t eat that weird healthy stuff. And it was rice or potatoes. Rice won.

I am also not saying that a lectin-free diet may not do all, or some, of the things it is purported in doing.  Maybe it is the key.  After decade of society having an ever rotating ‘the thing,’ I think by now we should all recognize that there likely isn’t one ‘the thing.”

 

Making this change is a slow process. We have backlogs of typical high carb foods; corn ships, pita chips, cracker…(cookies!!!!). however, as we eat them up, we are not replacing them. It’s a step in the right direction.

Secondly, we find we are a lot hungrier sooner after dinner. You just have to eat more veggies, and more often. You do know what happens when you eat more veggies. Yep – more poop, let’s be honest. I don’t mind the hunger, sometimes I can even ignore it.

The other thing that we already had in place, due to Mr. Handsome Cook, is that we don’t eat out much. He cooks. He cooks so that we have leftovers. For everyone. For every lunch. This is amazing! Honestly.

This means I no longer eat a warmed up possibly healthy frozen lunch, wrapped and lined in plastic, heated in a microwave, and full of …crap. Salt – it makes food taste better. Sugar – every tongue loves. Fat – yum yum. Plastic infused ‘goodness’ has been replaced with leftover dinners in glass or metal. So I am lucky. This whole diet thing would have been much harder if not for Mr. Handsome Sprat, Chief Cook of the Home.

So we are eating our veggies and lowering our carbs. Reducing our round-up intake, and our plastic use and …consumption.

That all sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it.  I was tired of eating plastic anyway!

by Tama Cathers

Here are a few links on lectins, just in case you want to know more.  Okay 2 links.  It’s bedtime.  More to come.

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-lectinshttp://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-lectins

Seems informative, have not read the whole page.

 

https://selfhacked.com/2015/12/11/dr-gundry-turning-off-autoimmunity-with-a-lectin-avoidance-diet/

Sells that pre-biotic.

 

 

 

Food Medicine, Uncategorized

Her History on Herbs and Plants

Her History on Herbs and Plants

I have studied herbs since 2006….. That is not true. I have studied herbs since I was a little girl.  From the time I can remember, I walked over the open plains identifying plants with my mom, looking at ancient shells from oceans past. (Most of them were likely fresh water clams from just decades ago – but let’s not tell.) I rode horses and studied sunshine. We picked pokeweed and Grandma cooked it up with onion and a fried egg.  We collected mulberries, blackberries, tried dandelion greens (yuck!), and wild onions.  Wild garlic and red clover where collected, while the bees made dark brown sorghum honey.  Horseradish grinding was done outside, by adults only, but we picked and chewed what we could stand.

At nine, we lived in the southeastern appalachian forest for a couple years. I learned to run, and went all over the mountaintop.  I spent a lot of time pretended to be more native American than I am.  I read books on herbal lore of the pioneers, and indians.  I remember leaping through the forest, pleased when some adults identified me as a wild deer, from my snorting and leaping. Yep – that was me.

I was also out there identifying plants and learning their ‘magic powers,’ as well as retaining some information on their edible and medicinal uses. Dog Wood, Jack in the Pulpit, Trillium – all these were my fairy herbs.  I wrapped small elder sticks with Dogwood blossoms, wrapped with gold thread and stuffed into small bottles – for the fairies.  I lay for hours in the jonquils and daffodils that crowded the wide forest path. Okay, much of the herbal medicine part passed over my head, but I did learn quite a lot in the forests of Tennessee mountains

At 13, my mother took me on an well-fated Wild Edible Food Weekend, in the cold fall of Kansas. I didn’t want to go! It was boring (scary), there were only adults (embarrassing), I wasn’t interested (I was)….it would be cold.

It was cold, but I ended up not noticing. The weekend forever changed me.  I was stuck with a lifelong fondness for eating wild things, and for learning about plants. But only the ‘useful plants’ (that is a later story).  I remember making sumac aid. That is really the only food I remember. But when I grew older, these types of events drew me.

As a middle schooler and young adult, I studied tracking, read all the My Side of the Mountain Books, then the Hatchet books, then Tom Brown’s books.  I worked on the Red Wolf Project in North Carolina, where those tracking skills were used, at least a little.  I learned about the delicacy of cat briar shoots, collected mormon tea, and ate clams straight out of the sound.

After grad school I pent 6 weeks on a mountain, with a stranger releasing baby falcons. We had a lot of free time and a lot of walking. He identified flowering plants. I learned them ‘if they were useful;’ edible, medicinal, or poisonous were my qualifiers. When I was older still, in a rip in my life between grad school and walking away from a very expensive northern veterinary college program, I went to the coast to heal. I signed up for the first herbal food course in decades and made friends for life with two beach guys, just down for the food and nowhere to stay. They’d gone to my grad school – funny how life works that way.

I moved and grew. I learned to cook better each year, though I am by no means a great or inspired chef. Nor even a great cook. I was best at pies. I love pies.   After settling down, and having a baby, I joined a fateful herb walk, again, changing my life. I and 3 other women from the walk joined together and had an herb study group every 2 weeks. I already knew a lot, as did each of us, but we shared our knowledge. We poured through books and courses by Susan Weed, and Rosemary Gladstar. We ate chickweed, and dug burdock, though not very successfully I admits. My favorite herb experience was drinking cleaver and pineapple smoothies, then feeling like I had clean with bright light radiating out of my body.   My favorite pictures are the photo we took eating herb salad in a big bowl with our small daughters, and a pencil drawing of the 4 of us around a big wooden table.

We talked about ‘hearing herbs talk to you’. I admit, I thought that was a little flaky at first. Then one winter full of colds Mullen kept showing up in my pathway, making its way into my pocket, and then kitchen. Finally I made a tea of it. I have to admit, I was rather scared to drink it. The hot brown liquid called me and I risked a sip. It tasted – like vanilla and maple. Okay – so it had been calling me. It helped me with my winter respiratory blues. Why is it harder, scary even, to do things when you are alone? That is the only explanations I have for my hesitation and fear.

I’ve kept herbs and used them personally since then. However, I have never gotten really serious. Yes, I might have had my yard decorated in comfrey, lemon balm, three kinds of mint, oregano, rose, lobelia, motherwort, chamomile, feverfew, tea chrysanthemum, lavender, sage, and a bay tree, but everyone has that, right. Oh sure, my ex called me, and I brought our baby daughter a poultice of herbs after she stuck…well…anyway, kids do silly things, don’t they. Let’s move on!

Once I consulted a friend landscaper/master gardener on my yard.  I realized her ideas of useful plants and mine were drastically different. The mulberry was not a trash tree! (As my Grandpa would call it.)  It provided abundances of berries and jam (Jam! Umm! Much like pie!). The pine had wonderful sap, and fresh needle tee. The stinging nettle wasn’t a noxious weed, it just needed respect and it’s own place. What good was a commercial shrub? Would it provide berries or useful roots or flowers!?  No, we aren’t taking out the scrawny elderberries bush, I just planted it last year, after barely saving it from the plow at the edge of a farmer’s field! I just wanted a few more. Where could I get pawpaw trees?

I have to admit I was a little offended when the plumber suggested I pull up my poison hemlock! Couldn’t he see – it was clearly a Queen Anne’s Lace! (I was growing it to identify the differences between the two, and I had no Hemlock on my property.) Yes, I like the oxalis, and yes the chickweed. I am a little unsure on the pretty purple iris, however. It’s poisonous and it really doesn’t do anything useful. But the Day lilies! Ah – a whole meal’s worth of pretty, right there! The Poke weed can stay, along with the wild grape. We made wreaths out of that. But man – that redbud tree doesn’t seem helpful, nor the trumpet vine.

My herb group friends made closer friends out of herbs, than I.   I was always the one in the group that wouldn’t eat anything if it didn’t taste good. To be honest, I hated licorice root!  Well, we all have to get start on our journeys at our own time. I think this is actually of value, though. If I wouldn’t eat it, how could I expect my child to eat it, much less a partner, or a friend. Remember – I liked pies! And lotion. I loved making lotion. Deodorant. Homemade soap. Homemade Lara Bars, Homemade granola, Chai tea, real miso soup, baked tomato chips and crunchy kale leaves….. Very pragmatic.

My daughter grew up identifying plants, eating oxalis, chickweed, mustard, sumac, wild berries, and mulberries. I can’t tell you how many times she has been chided for eating wild edibles, and worse – sharing her knowledge with her peers. Poor thing. She is so happy to own these pieces of knowledge.

When we are out hiking along the Appalachian Trail, yes, we made tea: how can you help it with the wild bergamot, the happy red clover and some stinging nettle? Oh here’s some jewel weed or plantain.  When poked by a deep thorn while running deep in the woods, where no plantain grows, I made politics of other useful herbs, stopping the pain and bleeding immediately.

My idea of what tastes good has grown. I even like licorice root. You might not like all the things that I do. That’s okay. It’s my blog. I am just happy you are here!

by Tama Cathers, DVM, MS, BA Biology and Sociology, 2nd Degree in ToShinDo, Elemental Self Defense Instructor, Meditation Instructor, Threshold Choir Director, TriYoga Teacher Training Student, Sex Coach Trainee, Mixed Media Artist – Ceramics, Fused Glass, & Wire Wrapping, 2000 miler Appalachian Trail hiker, Gardener, and Herbalist.

Food Medicine, herbal medicine, Personal Wisdom

Food Wisdom Herbs and Burnout

Food Wisdom Herbs and Burnout

After years as a professional, okay, decades, I am feeling burned out. I love what I do. Don’t get me wrong. Lately however, I am finding, it is too much. It could be that I am also a mom. Or that I have 16 pots on the stove at any given time. The stresses involved in my life, however, are overwhelming the restorative times.

Regardless, my life won’t wait. Change must happen……Or Else.

I know that. I can hear that. I can FEEL that.

For years, I have lived this busy way. However, for years, my body took it. I didn’t seem to age. I could really do anything I wanted. At midlife, I did not hurt, like so many of my peers complained about. I held a positive outlook and still felt fresh. Too fresh, perhaps. I often felt like a novice.

Much of that has changed. Some of that is expected with life. But something is really off in my life, and it demands change. Change NOW.

The things that I have studied, the tools I have acquired, outside my professional life, along with the wisdom I do actually have, those things are no longer hoping to get out. They, too, are demanding my attention. It is time to give then their space.

It is time to transform my life. But this time, it is also time to give back.

I am writing this blog as a personal journey story. I am sure to fail. Many times. I hope I do, because that means I am still trying. I will persist until I find my way into a new balanced life. Wish me luck. I wish it to you.

by Tama Cathers

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