The Humorous Herbalist | PostIndependent.com

The Humorous Herbalist

Laurel Dewey

“Do you like scary stories?”

That was the question one of my baby-sitters posed to me when I was 9 years old. I didn’t like scary stories but I was too scared to tell her. Her name was Gwen. She was the kind of girl who found perverted glee in sharing “bedtime” stories that had a macabre twist. That’s the same sort of girl who, in latter years, unsuspectingly helps support the practices of dozens of therapists. But I digress.

“Do you know today’s date?” Gwen asked me in a cloistered whisper.

A feeling of dread engulfed my 9-year-old body. “Uh, September 29…”

“That’s right!” Gwen said, her eyes darting back and forth. “This is Old Michaelmas Day!” She leaned closer to me. “Have you got a blackberry bush in your backyard?”

“Uh-huh,” I uttered, feeling a chill work up my spine.

“Well, listen to this: The legend goes that Satan was thrown out of heaven on this very day. When he fell, he landed in a thorny blackberry bush. He became so angry that he cursed that bush. Every year, at the stroke of midnight on September 29, the Devil comes down and breathes, spits and urinates on the bush. If you eat the berries after this day, you can become very sick and even die!”

That was all I needed to hear. The blackberry bush happened to be outside my bedroom window. Needless to say, I didn’t get quality sleep that night. I kept waiting for the Devil to show up and spit and pee on the blackberries.

It’s too bad that such a great plant has been burdened with such a nasty legend. However, when you find out what blackberry fruits and leaves can do for you, I’m sure you’ll want to pick and use as much of them as possible before the Devil descends.

The berries are rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, riboflavin and niacin. The concentrated juice from the fruit is an incredible blood-nourishing tonic that cleans the blood of impurities. This process aids in the recovery from debilitating conditions such as anemia.

Blackberry leaves are considered a strong astringent. Astringents help to pull or draw tissue together as well as absorb excess water in the system. This is the reason why blackberry leaf tea is considered one of the oldest and most reliable remedies for infant, childhood and adult diarrhea.

For stubborn cases of diarrhea, blackberry root is used either alone or in tandem with the leaves. The root tea is made by placing one heaping tablespoon of dried blackberry root into one pint of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes. Add two to three heaping teaspoons of blackberry leaves and allow the liquid to steep for 20 minutes. Strain and sip four to eight ounces of the brew every two hours.

For infants or children under the age of 12, the dried leaf tea is your best bet. Place the standard teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup and pour eight ounces of boiling water over the herb. Steep covered for 20 minutes, strain and sip the tea. It can be drunk freely ” in other words, as much as the infant or child can handle within reason. This could translate into five ounces for a baby or three or four cups for a 12-year-old.

It is always best to drink either the leaf or root tea between meals since the astringent action tends to be higher at that time. As always, if the condition does not improve or worsens within 48 hours, discontinue the herbal treatment and seek help from your holistic practitioner or medical doctor.

A strong leaf tea is also highly recommended as a mouthwash for bleeding or “spongy” gums and has been said to help fasten loose teeth. The mouthwash must be used consistently twice a day for as long as three months in order to gain any benefit.

Make a strong tea by adding two or three teaspoons of the dried tea to eight ounces of hot water. Allow the tea to cool before use. You can make up to a pint of the tea and store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to five days. Keep the dried leaves in the tea, so the tea will retain its potency.

If you want to pick and dry your own blackberry leaves, they must be dried thoroughly since, as they wilt, they develop a poison which is transformed completely once the leaves are curled and crisp. If possible, store the leaves in whole pieces and crush them only when you make the tea since they will retain their active principles longer.

Finally, never overdo on the tea due to the high tannin content. One week on and one week or more off is recommended to avoid gastrointestinal irritation. People who suffer from gastrointestinal conditions such as colitis should not use the roots since they are highest in tannins and could cause further aggravation. Adding a little bit of milk to the leaf tea, by the way, tends to neutralize some of the tannic acid.

Of course, the only other cautions are that Devil warning and hiring sadistic baby-sitters. But you already knew that.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at writer8@sopris.net.

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.

water to a boil and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes. Add two to three heaping teaspoons of blackberry leaves and allow the liquid to steep for 20 minutes. Strain and sip four to eight ounces of the brew every two hours.

For infants or children under the age of 12, the dried leaf tea is your best bet. Place the standard teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup and pour eight ounces of boiling water over the herb. Steep covered for 20 minutes, strain and sip the tea. It can be drunk freely ” in other words, as much as the infant or child can handle within reason. This could translate into five ounces for a baby or three or four cups for a 12-year-old.

It is always best to drink either the leaf or root tea between meals since the astringent action tends to be higher at that time. As always, if the condition does not improve or worsens within 48 hours, discontinue the herbal treatment and seek help from your holistic practitioner or medical doctor.

A strong leaf tea is also highly recommended as a mouthwash for bleeding or “spongy” gums and has been said to help fasten loose teeth. The mouthwash must be used consistently twice a day for as long as three months in order to gain any benefit.

Make a strong tea by adding two or three teaspoons of the dried tea to eight ounces of hot water. Allow the tea to cool before use. You can make up to a pint of the tea and store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to five days. Keep the dried leaves in the tea, so the tea will retain its potency.

If you want to pick and dry your own blackberry leaves, they must be dried thoroughly since, as they wilt, they develop a poison which is transformed completely once the leaves are curled and crisp. If possible, store the leaves in whole pieces and crush them only when you make the tea since they will retain their active principles longer.

Finally, never overdo on the tea due to the high tannin content. One week on and one week or more off is recommended to avoid gastrointestinal irritation. People who suffer from gastrointestinal conditions such as colitis should not use the roots since they are highest in tannins and could cause further aggravation. Adding a little bit of milk to the leaf tea, by the way, tends to neutralize some of the tannic acid.

Of course, the only other cautions are that Devil warning and hiring sadistic baby-sitters. But you already knew that.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at writer8@sopris.net.

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.


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