Archive for October, 2009


My teacher Robin likes to say, “If you make people’s medicine taste good, they are more likely to take it.” Well, if you ask me, there is no tastier medicine than an herbal elixir. My father actually makes this old school remedy when he has a cold; but until we made it in our herbal circle, I always thought it was just an excuse for him to drink some hard liquor.

Good medicine:

  • Brandy (Yes, brandy. Herbalists are not as boring as some of you thought, huh?)
  • Honey (The old school recipe calls for sugar, my father uses rock candy but I prefer honey for its antibacterial goodness)
  • Fruit  (concord grapes, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries or elderberries which are specific for combating colds and flu)

Rinse whatever fruit you are using, squish it a bit and put it in a glass jar. Cover the fruit with brandy and add a fair amount of honey. Let this mixture sit for six weeks (if you can stand it) but check it daily in the beginning stages to make sure that the fruit remains covered by alcohol. If the fruit is sticking out of the liquor, add more brandy.

When the mixture is ready, take one teaspoon at night. You might think I am encouraging you to be a lush. I’m not. Really. This stuff can keep colds at bay. My friend, L, took a teaspoon of one of my elixirs and swears it stopped a cold she felt from coming on.

I’ve got three elixirs brewing right now: concord grape, rose petals, and elderberry. My husband already snuck into the concord grape one. “I couldn’t resist,” he confessed. That’s one medicine he won’t have to be convinced to take.

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This Little Light of Mine

I have become more and more enchanted by autumn. There is magic in seeing deep green turn canary and crimson and walking through streets covered with carpets of crisp copper leaves. The air whistles that it is time to get back on the path, time to gather closer to the warmth of home, time to give thanks for all we have received. It’s lovely.

And yet with the light retreating earlier and my shoulders already missing the caress of the sun, I watch the last defiant rose petals flying on the breeze and try not to think of the cold days ahead.

Cold days mean adding at least 15 minutes on to the time it takes to get my girls ready for an outing. No more summer dresses and shorts. Sandals must be put away. Comforters, jackets and scarves brought out. No more picnics, pow-wows or impromptu gatherings wherever the good free outdoor concerts are.

What’s a summer enthusiast to do once the clock goes back and that precious hour of light is once again gone? I plan gatherings, break out the herbal elixirs and tinctures and get ready to have a fabulous time. St. John’s Wort is one of my favorite herbs for making the transition into fall smoother.

St. John's Wort

St. John's Wort

St John’s wort (Hypericum Perforatum)

This little flower wows me. It’s a balm for the emotional body and a strong healer for the physical one.

Much has been made about St John’s wort’s efficacy in helping people who suffer from certain forms of depression*. This herb is also a fabulous friend for those of us who get a little down when summer gives way to fall or fall steps aside to make way for winter. Last year I took a dropper of tincture twice a day for about two weeks when the light started disappearing.  I kid you not: it was like ingesting sun. Instead of brooding about having to wear a sweater, I organized a small gathering and feast for the Equinox and looked into the many celebrations that take place world-wide around this time of year. Between all of the homages to ancestors, the Durga festival, Diwali, All Hallows Eve, and the celebrations of the harvest, I felt as warm in the fall as I had during the summer. I think that my short dance with St. John’s wort helped me to embrace the change that fall ushered in. Introspection, productivity and thankfulness became the marks of the season.

I’ve also used St. John’s wort to help heal physical injuries.  Some time ago, my mother-who bruises very very easily-was in her bedroom moving furniture around. I heard a loud bump followed by an expletive or two. I rushed to check on her and she showed me a cut on her leg and the beginning of a bruise. I grabbed my St. John’s wort tincture, put a couple of drops on her leg and went to sleep. The next day she showed me her leg: not a mark. We were both amazed. I also got to try this out on my Mother in Law. She had a deep, fresh bruise she thought wouldn’t go away. I gave her St. John’s wort and the bruise practically disappeared overnight.

Oil made from this gorgeous yellow flower turns a luscious shade of red. I use it to bring warmth to muscles and calm to the body.

This is one herb that I have no desire to be without. It soothes both my physical nerves and my metaphorical ones. Thank you, St. John’s wort.

*If you are on anti depression medication or other meds, please consult an herbalist before taking St John’s wort.

Enjoying St. John's Wort

Enjoying St. John's Wort

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