Bobinsana~ From Help Healing Grief, Heartbreak and Pain to Shamanic Lucid Dreaming

A relative of the mimosa tree, Bobinsana (Calliandra Angustifolia) is a water loving plant that belongs to the Pea family (Leguminosae). It grows around 4-6 meters high and is usually found alongside, rivers, streams, and bodies of water in the Amazon basin. It is found in regions of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia. It produces an abundance of gorgeous pink to reddish powder puff-like flowers.

Traditionally bobinsana is taken by tincture in an alcohol made from cane sugar called aguardiente or a strong tea (decoction). All parts of the plant are used for healing. The roots, bark, leaves and flowers.

Bobinsana is a well-known “plant teacher” sometimes used in conjunction with a psychedelic amazonian brew called “Ayahuasca”. While bobinsana alone is not hallucinogenic, it is considered a plant teacher or master plant and is sometimes added to ayahuasca recipes to help the shaman connect to and learn from the plants. The plant is typically taken on a special diet or during these shamanic ceremonies for opening and healing the heart, to enhance empathy, to deepen one’s connection to nature and provide grounding. According to many Ayahuasca curenderos “doctorcita bobinsana” as they say, is a very gentle healing plant spirit increasing clarity, focus, compassion and for addressing heartbreak, grief, and loss.

“According to many Ayahuasca curenderos “doctorcita bobinsana” as they say, is a very gentle healing plant spirit increasing clarity, focus, compassion and for addressing heartbreak, grief, and loss.

Many times in our lives we have experienced forms of heartbreak, sadness, sudden loss, emotional struggles. It’s human nature to experience these feelings. And it’s good to know that you can have support during those troubling times. This plant is just one of many that can hold our hand along the way, while we process our feelings and life experiences. The plant is also becoming very well known for producing profound lucid dreaming experiences, colorful shamanic visionary type dreams in which new insights about one’s life are found and healing can occur.

“profound lucid dreaming experiences, colorful shamanic visionary type dreams in which new insights about one’s life are found and healing can occur.”

Among other uses, the Shipibo Conibo people of the Ucayali area in Peru and other Amazonian indigenous tribes use the sacred plant to treat arthritis, bone pain, rheumatism, uterine cancer, edema, nasal congestion, fevers, colds, inflammation, and to purify the blood. They also bathe in the freshly grated bark to improve dexterity, increase resistance to illnesses and protect against colds and chills.

Now that we see how useful this plant can be. It’s a good thing to share the information and see if it’s the right herb for you, your family or your friends. Whether you or someone you know is experiencing grief, loss, pain or intense sadness, this sacred plant can be a gentle ally during the healing process. AND If you’re interested in having enhanced lucid dreams then this special plant is right up your ally! People can also use this for deepening their shamanic, meditation, dreaming or yogic practices. Which makes this herb one of a kind!

“People can also use this for deepening their shamanic, meditation, dreaming or yogic practices.”

As always I love to share the joy of being a herbalist and since this plant is very useful and quite rare it’s hard to find a good place to get it. So I’ve made a very potent 1:2 liquid extract tincture of ethically wild-harvested bark and leaves made with organic alcohol, organic honey, and Colorado mountain spring water. You can find it here>>> Bobinsana Tincture

Disclaimer~ Bobinsana is traditionally used as a contraceptive in Peru. While there is no research to confirm this possible action, those seeking to get pregnant should avoid this plant. Should not be used during pregnancy or lactation. If you take pharmaceutical drugs or have a medical condition please consult your doctor before using. Make sure to always do your research and talk with your medical advisor before adding any herbs to your diet. This post’s information is not approved by the FDA to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any diseases. The information presented in this post is provided for informational purposes only.


Spicy, lemony shrub with its rich history needs a reintroduction into the kitchens and medicine cabinets of North America.

It can be found from Maine to Florida, as far west as Kansas, and in parts of Texas. It is happiest just inside the edge of the forest but can successfully be grown out in the open with strong attention to its watering. The bush has a long American history that is enjoying a bit of a renaissance.

When European settlers first arrived in the Americas, they would have had to struggle with many elements of homesickness — particularly the loss of familiarity with the plants around them. Seeds were surely transported, and some even thrived in the New World, but many of the plants that colonists depended on for food, medicine, dye, and textiles had to be left behind. This meant that settlers needed to quickly understand which plants could serve as substitutes for lost staples.

If you’re in a strange place and need to know the landscape, the logical thing to do is to ask the natives. One of the important plants the Cherokee people taught early settlers about was spicebush. Spices have moved humans from place to place, started civilizations, and founded empires. Here on the temperate shores of the U.S., the bright spices cinnamon and ginger don’t grow, but we’ve always had milder and cooler substitutes. Spicebush berries can be used as a replacement for allspice, and the powdered bark makes a serviceable cinnamon.

Spicebush is known as fever bush, Benjamin bush, snap-wood, wild allspice, Appalachian spice, spicewood, and “forsythia of the forest” to name a few. Beyond its culinary use, Native Americans taught the settlers about the ways they used spicebush as a medicine. This native population used the leaves, bark, berries, and sap in various ways. Internally, they prized the plant for its diaphoretic properties, or its ability to induce sweating. Native people used spicebush to ease colds, cough, fever, and measles. Externally, they used oil from the pressed berries to ease the pain of arthritis. They used all parts of the plant interchangeably as compresses (external applications of cloth soaked in tea) for rashes, itching, or bruises, and they also used it to remove internal parasites.

Soon, the colonies began to expand, and many itching to explore the West. As they walked, they deepened their relationship with spicebush. Paul Strauss, in his book The Big Herbs, tells us that chewing on the twigs will quench thirst and moisten the mouth. In this way, spicebush walked with the settlers, many of whom were traveling with their families as they moved toward a farm they’d bought, sight unseen. Spicebush was associated with rich soil and easy access to the water table. If the surveyor said that the shrub was on the land in question, it was a safe bet for a successful farm.

Over time, the Americas’ access to the hot and intense spices of the East became easier. Medical advancements yielded awareness of plants with healing properties, and then modern drugs left the need for many plants behind. Spicebush was left alone in the woods to quietly feed the insects and animals that depend on it for survival. Only now are we coming back to an awareness of its presence?

Cultivating Spicebush

Spicebush is now a featured member of Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste. Many are stepping back into the dappled shade of the forest’s edge to become reacquainted with this shrub. Spicebush is fond of moist soils along streams or in rich woods. It grows between 6 and 12 feet high. At its base, one often finds some of the most endangered of our medicinal plants, such as black cohosh, ginseng, false unicorn, goldenseal, and wild yam. In March and April, just before the leaves emerge, it sports pale yellow blooms that are a great early source of nectar for bees. The male and female blooms arise on separate shrubs. When the leaves appear, they are opposite, simple, smooth, and oval to oblong with a spicy, aromatic smell when crushed. In fall, the leaves turn a beautiful yellow that contrasts sharply with the red spicebush fruit. This fruit is an oval-shaped drupe containing one large seed. It’s bright, glossy red, and spicy when ripe in August through September.

In winter, after all the fruit has been eaten, you can identify the spicebush based on the gray to an olive-green color of the stems, which have a spicy smell when broken. The leaf scars are crescent-shaped, and both young stems and old bark are dotted with pale lenticels (raised pores where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged). Spicebush spreads as a colony, by its roots. If you have a friend with an expanding group of spicebush, late fall is a great time to dig up some of the colony and move it to your house.

Growing spicebush is relatively easy, provided you have a good spot. Plants can be grown in full sun if you water them often and provide a rich soil with plenty of leaf compost. After they get established, they require little in the way of pruning or animal-proofing (deer don’t like them). You can just sit and enjoy the constant visual interest and all the other wildlife your spicebush will attract. The real problem will be deciding exactly which recipe you’d like to use with the leaves, twigs, and fruit your shrub will provide.

Uses for Spicebush

As a supplement, almost all parts of spicebush can be used in food and medicinal preparations. Spicebush bark’s antifungal capacities were demonstrated in a 2008 study that showed its activities against both Candida albicans and the fungus that causes athlete’s foot. To use the bark in this way, either make a tincture or simmer (decoct) the root in water for 15 to 20 minutes.

The entire shrub is high in volatile oils, making all parts of the plant likely effective at settling the stomach when made into a tea. The leaves are especially good as a tea and should be picked while glossy and green. The twigs can be picked to add to a tasty medicinal brew at any time of the year. If you’re hoping to have a cleansing sweat or break a fever, brew your tea for 30 minutes (4 ounces twigs to 1-quart water) and serve hot.

If you wish to use the berries, the possibilities for food as medicine are endless. Berries are ripe around the same time as apples, so think of the potential combinations! Dry berries in a dehydrator, and store them on a shelf or immediately freeze them. Some people cut the seed out of the middle before freezing, but I think that’s unnecessary and potentially removes some of the flavors. You’ll need to run unblanched, frozen berries through the food processor before adding them to a dish. Dried spicebush berries can be ground with a spice-dedicated coffee grinder. Try adding the resulting powder or pulp to coffee, cookies, chai tea, cobblers, curries, and more.

Spicebush is a strong part of our country’s past — but why keep it there? With so much to offer our landscape and even more to bring to our pantry and apothecary shelves, it deserves another look by all who enjoy a little history in the garden.

Spicebush Seed and Plant Sources

Strictly Medicinal Seeds (listed as “spice bush”)
Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co.
Fedco Seeds

Fever Chai with Spicebush

spicebush teaRelieve typical fever symptoms, or make without milk to soothe fever caused by respiratory illnesses.

Total Hands-On Time: 1 hr

Cook Time: 1 hr

Yield: 5-7 cups

Fever Chai can bring some relief to fever symptoms, but you may make it without the milk for someone who’s experiencing a fever related to a respiratory illness, as milk can exacerbate symptoms of congestion.


• 8 whole cloves
• 8 spicebush berries
• 7 twigs spicebush (broken to equal about 2 ounces)
• 2 sticks cinnamon (smashed)
• 1 cardamom pod
• 1 tablespoon fresh sliced ginger
• 1/2 star anise
• 2 cups water
• 4 to 6 cups milk (or almond milk)
• 2 tablespoons black tea
• Sugar or honey to taste


1. Crush all the spices lightly with a mortar and pestle and place them into a saucepan.

2. Cover the spices with water and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the water has reduced by half.

4. Add the milk to the saucepan and bring back almost to a boil.

5. Remove from heat. Add the black tea, cover, and steep for 5 minutes before straining.

6. While still warm, add sugar or honey to taste, and then use a milk frother to whip your chai.

7. Serve immediately.

Wild Allspice Java Rub with Spicebush

spicebush rubThis sweet and spicy rub is the perfect addition to steak, brisket, or pork.

Total Hands-On Time: 5 min

Preparation Time: 5 min

Yield: 1 cup

This rub is best on a grilled steak or brisket but also works well with pork.


• 5 tablespoons ground coffee
• 2 tablespoons coarse salt
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 teaspoons freshly ground pink peppercorns
• 2 teaspoons garlic powder
• 2 teaspoons ground spicebush berries
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder


1. Combine all ingredients and place in an airtight container.

2. This mix is shelf-stable but should be used within 6 months.

Plan a Hydrosol Garden

This year, I plan on using the plants from my garden in an entirely new way by making hydrosols or “floral waters.” Hydrosols are steam distilled water-based plant essences that can be used in body care products, flavored waters, baked goods, aromatherapy sprays, and more. Rose water is the most recognizable form of hydrosol on the market.

Hydrosol is stronger than tea but much weaker than essential oils. In Suzanne Catty’s book Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy she explains that tea typically has a 0.08:1 herb to water ratio, whereas hydrosols have 3 or 4:1 herb to water ratio. Catty calls hydrosols “herbal espressos,” and just like you wouldn’t drink an herbal tea that may contraindicate medication or a known medical condition, you should also research hydrosols before consuming them internally.

There’s evidence that humans were making hydrosols as long as 5,000 years ago, and the useful floral waters predate essential oils by hundreds if not thousands of years. The original hydrosols were made by putting herbs and water in a pot and bringing the concoction to a boil. A sheep’s skin was hung above the pot to catch the steam, and when the pot was finished boiling the sheep’s skin would be wrung and the hydrosol collected. You can also make hydrosols at home using more modern equipment that you probably already own (read “Rose Water Recipe” for step-by-step instructions), and this year I plan on taking my hydrosol creations to the next level by investing in a 10 liter copper alembic still (see photo, below), which will also allow me to collect very small amounts of essential oil. I’ll blog my way through this learning experience, so be sure to check back in over the course of the summer!

Grow Your Own Hydrosol Ingredients

You need a lot of fresh plant material to make hydrosols, so I’ll add a few new plants to my garden this year including holy basil (tulsi) and clary sage. However, to save on seed costs and weeding/watering time, I’m going to prioritize using plants that already grow in my kitchen garden.  I’ve done some research to see which easy-to-grow plants will now double as tasty and useful hydrosol ingredients.

Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum Nobile)

With a sweet, apple-like aroma, this is a great all-purpose hydrosol with a shelf life up to four years. This is the go-to hydrosol for babies and can safely be added to their bath water, used for homemade wet wipes, or rubbed on sore, teething gums. For adults, this astringent hydrosol can be used as a skin cleanser, toner, makeup remover, or soothing eye wash for those suffering from computer fatigue. Internally, chamomile hydrosol can be used much like chamomile tea, as a soothing bedtime drink; simply add a teaspoon to a cup of warm water.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender hydrosol has a floral, soapy taste and many people prefer to sweeten it when taking internally. This hydrosol is ideal for all skin types when used externally, so consider mixing it with oatmeal for a deep cleanser, using it as a makeup remover or aftershave, or spraying it lightly on the skin when experiencing a sunburn, rash, or itch. Like chamomile, it’s safe to use in a baby’s bath water, and it will help people of all ages sleep deeper when it’s sprayed onto linens before bedtime. Keep a spritzer bottle in your car or your desk drawer to enjoy the calming aroma when traffic is frustrating or work feels tedious. Lavender hydrosols should last about two years.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

A member of the mint family, lemon balm spreads like crazy and begs for uses beyond sun tea. I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty using a plethora of lemon balm for homemade hydrosols, which is reassuring because the finished product tastes good and is quite useful.

The citrusy, slightly bitter flavor of lemon hydrosol is best diluted for a refreshing, uplifting, summer beverage. This hydrosol is safe to ingest in limited quantities during pregnancy and can be helpful with morning sickness, water retention, and digestive issues. Suzanna Catty recommends drinking a diluted lemon balm hydrosol for three weeks during cold and flu season to act as a possible prophylactic (dilute 2 tbsp of hydrosol in 1 liter of filtered water per day).

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Like lemon balm, mint can become invasive so I relish it’s abundance while filling a big wicker basket with armloads of this uplifting herb. When taken internally, peppermint hydrosol is stimulating to both the mind and the digestive system; try drinking some in the morning for an instant pick-me-up or spritzing some on your face after spending a hot afternoon in the garden. Peppermint also helps ease pain associated with headaches, so if you feel a headache coming on then spray the air around you. An anti-inflammatory, peppermint hydrosol can be applied externally to help ease the pain of sore or sprained muscles or to soothe uncomfortable bug bites.

Do not give peppermint hydrosol to children under three-years-old, and this fairly unstable hydrosol won’t last longer than one year.

Basil (Ocimuun basilicum)

Basil hydrosol has an intense licorice-like flavor and needs to be diluted to bring out the basil taste we all know and recognize. Play with this hydrosol while cooking savory dishes by mixing a bit into your homemade pesto or salad dressings.

Basil is an effective digestive aid and will help ease a nervous stomach. Also a carminative, add a few tablespoons of basil hydrosol to a glass of water for fast-acting relief from gas and bloating.

For aromatherapy, basil’s crisp and refreshing scent is both balancing and calming. Externally, basil’s anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties make it an especially good option for oily, acne-prone or aging skin.

Rose (Rosa damascena)

The hot pink “rose water” typically sold at grocery stores is too overpowering and artificial tasting for most people. Homemade rose hydrosols, on the other hand, are gentler, subtle, and absolutely delicious. A homemade hydrosol should evoke the feeling of walking through a fresh rose garden and this relatively shelf-stable hydrosol should keep for two years or more.

Rose is a recommended hormone balancer for all ages and can be used to help combat symptoms of PMS, including cramps and moodiness. Externally, rose adds and retains moisture and is particularly beneficial to dry mature, or sensitive skin. Try using rose hydrosol on a cotton ball to remove excess makeup or dirt after washing your face, or add a few tablespoons to a hot bath for an act of pure self-love.

Rose water has a time-tested role in the kitchen, as well, and is used in sweet and savory dishes alike. Trade rose water for vanilla in baked goods, combine it with saffron and cinnamon for a Middle Eastern rub, combine it with fruit syrups or sorbet, or add a splash to a glass of celebratory champagne. After you taste true, high-quality rose water, you’ll start looking for excuses to use it as often as possible!

New Additions

There are a few plants that I plan on adding to my garden this year specifically for the purpose of making hydrosols: holy basil (tulsi) and clary sage. I’ll also experiment with cedar, which I can forage locally and year-round. People who are lucky enough to live where eucalyptus or Douglas fir grow wild can experiment making hydrosols with those two native plants, and a few other hydrosol experiments could include the use of catnip, cucumber (use whole fruit), calendula, and rose geranium.

rose-flower-water-june-2011-005Rose Water Recipe

Delightful rose water can be a flavorful culinary addition, a great base for beauty products, or a natural freshener for air and linens.

Total Hands-On Time: 1 hr 45 min

Preparation Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 1 hr 30 min

Yield: 1 cup

Fragrant Rose Water

Roses aren’t just beautiful to look at — they can also be used to make delightful, delicious rose water. It appears in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Chinese cuisines in ice cream, cakes, baklava, and marzipan, and rose water can also flavor lemonade, sodas, shrubs, or cocktails. Also called a “hydrosol,” this aromatic floral water can be added to the base of homemade lotion, sprayed on linens to refresh the scent, or used as a natural air freshener.

Making your own rose water is easy, and it will last for months in the fridge. Find the most fragrant roses possible, and, of course, make sure they’re free of toxic pesticides. (If you use store-bought roses, make sure they’re intended for culinary use.) Try this recipe with other fresh flowers and herbs, such as orange blossoms, lemon balm, or lavender.

For this recipe, use a lidded saucepan with about a 12-quart capacity and a convex lid (a glass lid is ideal for seeing what’s going on inside the pot). You’ll also need two small and sturdy heat-safe bowls, such as ramekins, ceramic bowls, or glass bowls. If you have one, a heat-safe glass measuring cup works well for the second bowl.


• 6 cups fresh rose petals
• 6 cups water
• Large zip-close plastic bag filled with ice cubes, plus more ice cubes as needed


1. Gently shake the petals to remove any dirt or insects.

2. Place a small and sturdy heat-safe bowl upside down in the center of a very large saucepan.

3. Arrange the rose petals around the sides of the bowl.

4. Pour just enough water into the saucepan to cover the rose petals; the water level should remain below the top of the upside-down bowl.

5. Balance another bowl right side up on top of the first bowl; this is what will catch your rose water.

6. Cover the pot with the lid flipped upside down.

7. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. After it starts to simmer, put the bag of ice on the inverted lid.

8. Adjust the heat if necessary to maintain a gentle simmer.

9. When the ice cubes melt, pour out the water and add new ice cubes to the bag.

10. As the steam rises inside the pot, it will condense on the underside of the cold lid and drip into the open bowl.

11. Peek inside the pot occasionally; when you have about 1 cup of rose water in the bowl (which will take approximately 1-1/2 hours), turn off the heat. Let cool.

12. Uncover the pot and carefully lift out the bowl of rose water.

13. Using a funnel, transfer the rose water to a sterilized glass bottle. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months or until cloudy material forms on the liquid.

Aromatic Rose Cultivars

These exceptionally fragrant cultivars will make delicious rose water.

‘Madame Hardy’ (pictured above): white damask rose; hint of lemon; grows 4 to 6 feet tall
‘Leda’: white flowers with red edges; winter hardy
‘Jaques Cartier’: large, pink flowers; bushy plant; repeat blooming
‘Madame Isaac Pereire’: raspberry-purple flowers; grows as a shrub but will climb; one of the most fragrant roses
‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’: pale, pink flowers; continuous bloomer
‘Gertrude Jekyll’: popular; pink rosettes; repeat flowering

Antique Roses

Some antique rose cultivars can be traced back to the Roman Empire, but the term “antique” refers to any cultivar that dates prior to 1867. These cultivars are known for their especially rich fragrance and longevity, requiring little upkeep. In fact, many older cultivars shrink with the amount of pruning usually done for newer cultivars — spring pruning or too much pruning can reduce blooms. Most older cultivars that bloom only once per year do well with light pruning after they flower, in midsummer.

Plan a Moonlight Garden

Focus on white and light-colored flowers to create a garden that glows in the moonlight.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the more subtle floral colors, not for their daytime hues, but for how magically they transform after sunset, even in simple starlight. And all of those brilliant blue and crimson flowers I love in the daylight literally disappear from view at night.

I sometimes stroll through my garden enjoying how different it is at night. Not only do the white flowers glow with unexpected light, the pinks and lighter yellows seem to have a vibrancy totally absent in daylight. Flowers I’ve overlooked during the day, such as white cosmos, appear to actually glow at night.

A moonlit garden has a different set of fragrances, as well, some subtle, some pronounced. In the heat of the day, many essences are lost to our senses because the heat evaporates them so quickly. At night fragrances are considerably more noticeable. Dianthus, of any color, which has lovely, clove-scented fragrance by day, is absolutely delicious at night.

Plants such as the often overlooked yucca even change shape after dark! In the daytime, the waxy, cream colored blossoms hang down like little bells. But at night when the evening has cooled, the young, recently-opened flowers turn somewhat upward, releasing their scent to attract the evening moths that pollinate them.

I have light-colored gravel pathways in my garden, which are unremarkable by day but are almost like lighted walks by moonlight. In the background, I have a little fish pond fountain, and the sound of trickling water adds a peaceful backdrop to the allure of the garden.

The simpler elements of my garden, such as a light gray limestone bench, look most inviting by the full moon. During the day there are often so many interruptions, noises, and responsibilities that I seldom get to sit and actually enjoy my garden space. But at night, when the world is quiet and others’ demands on my time have ceased, I like to retreat to my nighttime garden. Many times I’ve sat on the bench with a midnight snack, enjoying the serenity, and sometimes, when friends are willing, we have a picnic by moonlight.

There is a myriad of plants to choose from which magically transform themselves from almost invisible in sunlight to glowing performers at night. Any plant you choose with the name, ‘alba’ after it, will be white, such as Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’) for example, or Dianthus deltoides ‘Alba’. White, yellow and pink hollyhocks shine like subtle beacons of lights, even in hushed starlight. Glowing additions of white Echinaceas (like ‘White Swan’ and ‘Fragrant Angel’) seem to pop into heightened reality at night. Angel’s Trumpets (Datura inoxia), white salvia (Salvia coccinea ‘Snow Nymph’) and Shasta Daisies all show up like little walkway lights.

Even the gray-colored plants, Gray Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) or Curlicue Wormwood (Artemisia versicolor ‘Seafoam’) seem to awaken at night, as does Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) and Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum). Plants with fuzzy, gray leaves like my favorite, Silver Sage (Salvia argentea) seem more alive and vivacious under the moon. All of the clary sages look fanciful at night as well. Silver-Leaf Creeping Thyme and Dwarf Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea ‘Dwarf Garters’) glow subtly at night. And the common native plant, Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is most showy at night with its yellow flowers and fuzzy, light colored leaves and stems.

Any plant with silver in its name, like Silver Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum ‘Silver’), is a good choice too. Vines such as Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) add additional charm. The Moonflower’s 6-inch diameter blossoms are open only at night when they release a rich, enticing fragrance and attract fascinating large moths. The flowers themselves, on a moonlit evening, are so deliciously bright they appear to be lit from inside and almost as beacons floating in the evening air.

A moonlight garden should have lots of fragrant things to smell, including plants to walk on along the pathways. Creeping Thymes, such as Caraway and Lemon Thyme, are a good addition because while their scents may not be noticeable in the daylight, you will become aware of their fragrances at night when your senses are more attuned.

Other plants to add for moonlight viewing and fragrance include White Spider flower (Cleome hassleriana ‘Helen Campbell’), white peonies, white roses, and Night Phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis), which is also called Midnight Candy — a clue to its charming appeal. Any of the Evening Primroses, (Oenothera spp.), including our Missouri native (Oenothera macrocarpa), send forth their fragrance in the evening.

There are special considerations to making a moonlight garden. First, you need full sun for most plants. Also, a spot that gives full sun will generally provide full moonlight as well, and you don’t want big moon shadows blocking out the night light. I like to bunch the brighter whites together rather than scatter them about. The duller whites and yellows can be clustered as well. These will cause the darker colors of plants to be seen in daylight, while at night those contrasting colors come into their own, as the red, blue and orange flowers recede in the darkness.

I have learned to appreciate a lazy walk in the garden by moonlight, enjoying beauty not visible by day. All of the colors I hadn’t earlier enjoyed are now the stars of my night time garden, and they shine brightest when the rest of the world is resting.


We are entering a Full Moon in Scorpio this afternoon at 2:42 pm PST (5:42 pm EST). I am always one to fall deep into the preparation for a Scorpio Moon and find that it is a few days before this particular Moon that I can truly find what I need to release. Scorpio is a sign that delves deeply into the emotional waters and communication is one of the themes of this Moon as she is sitting in the Third House.

I have been preparing for a Full Moon Ceremony tonight and what came forward for me this Full Moon is the Nautilus. The Nautilus brings messages from the depths of the oceans connecting us to our ancient wisdom and knowledge. She is a living fossil that has survived the earth’s oceans for over 500 million years! As the Nautilus grows it continues to stay connected to its central point. This is a beautiful reminder that as we grow and evolve we become more centered and move back to our center ~ your experiences lead to wisdom. This beautiful Cephalopod also teaches us to grab opportunities as they come our way and her medicine will guide you to connect to your intuition and let go of past emotions that do not serve you. The nautilus shell is a perfect spiral and reflects the order of the universe connecting us to our ancient wisdom and knowledge.

I offer you a simple yet beautiful way to work with today’s Full Moon in Scorpio and the Nautilus ~ today, tonight, or tomorrow.

  1. Below are two Nautilus Mandala’s ~ choose one and print it out.


  1. Tune into the energy and wisdom of the Nautilus. Let her help you to unfold life mysteries to you. Connect to your ancient wisdom.
  2. Grab colored pencils, crayons or markers to color your mandala.
  3. Choose a number between 1 and 10.
  4. Look below to see the word and energy connected to your number.
  5. While coloring your mandala use the colors, the energy of the nautilus and the energy of this Full Moon in Scorpio to release what you need around the word you are working with.For example ~ if you are working with the word resentment ~ think of all the ways you hold on to resentment and how you can learn to release it, or bring to mind what/who you are holding resentment for and laugh at how much time/energy you have spent on holding that resentment…use the mandala to create new space around the released energy and fill it with thoughts that bring you joy or happiness as you color. 
  6. Once you have finished the coloring the mandala write down three words that you want to carry forward that came to you while coloring. For example, it could be …release, joy, centeredness.
  7. Place the mandala somewhere you will see DAILY for the next two weeks. Use it to discover the intention you will place under the New Moon in Gemini on May 25th.

Words to work with on releasing

  1. Resentment
  2. Jealousy
  3. Revenge
  4. Vendettas
  5. Betrayals
  6. Blocks to transformation
  7. Destructive relationships
  8. Unhealthy joint financial situations
  9. Obstacles to having a healthy sex life
  10. Resistance to changing paradigms

Lunar Energy

While the majority of the Countries around the world use a Solar calendar to establish the length of a year based on the Earth’s rotation around the sun, some countries and groups use a Lunar calendar. This means that one month is complete with a full cycle of the Moon, from New Moon to New Moon. The Lunar calendar year consists of twelve months, just like the Solar calendar, yet each month is slightly shorter. Rather than the average month lasting more than 30 days such as in the Solar calendar, each month in the Lunar calendar is approximately 29.5 days.

The different phases of the Moon bring different Energies. You are able to channel each phase and her Energy, depending on what your desires are. Recognizing how each Moon Phase works will ultimately prepare you to use the Lunar Energies to your advantage.

The Full Moon:

The Full Moon encourages you to follow your Heart. The Energies embodied by the Full Moon are at her strongest, because of this the Energies last almost a full week—three days prior and three days after the Full Moon. It is a significant time to focus on your heart’s desire’s and follow the guiding force of her Energies.

The New Moon:

The New Moon signifies Commencement. The Energies that this Moon offers, are for starting anew. This could be beginning a new project or relationship, a career change or making a new life alone or with your partner. Whatever the undertaking may be if you are embarking on a new unknown journey, it is best to begin under the New Moon.

The Waxing Moon:

The Waxing Moon signifies Growth. This is when the Moon enlarges herself, as she grows you will feel the Energies growing more powerful and your wishes and desires strengthening. With the Energies of the Waxing Moon, it is wise to continue complementing your endeavors from the New Moon to draw positivity and prosperity into your life.

The Waning Moon:

The Waning Moon signifies Purification. During this Lunar phase, the Moon is shrinking and taking with her all that we wish to purge. It is a time to rid yourself of negativity whether it be stress, an addiction or a person. Use her Energies to banish the negative influences that linger in your life.

The Dark Moon:

The Dark Moon encourages you to pause and take a breath. Although there are those who choose to use this time to carry out Curses as it is ideal for negative workings. For most within the Craft, the days that the Moon is not visible will use this time for Meditation and relaxation as Luna, is also recharging her Energy.

The Moon is often attributed to Goddess and thus plays a very important role in life. While the Sun is constant and remains in the same place in the celestial sphere, the Moon is constantly changing and evolving like humanity and the seasons. As opposed to being called Lunar Phases, these are called Seasonal Moons.

Each month has a seasonal Moon with their own unique set of names and characteristics:

January: Wolf Moon
February: Snow Moon
March: Worm Moon
April: Pink Moon
May: Flower Moon
June: Lover’s Moon
July: Deer Moon
August: Sturgeon Moon
September: Harvest Moon
October: Hunter’s Moon
November: Beaver Moon
December: Cold Moon

This month’s Full and New Moons are quite special as both Moons in May’s Night Sky will be an occasion to marvel at.

The Full Moon of May known as the Flower Moon will sparkle in all her glory the 10th of May and will be the sole day the Moon remains in the sky. Known as the Flower or Hare Moon, it is a time to gain wisdom, find love, take care of your health needs and allow your personal energy to overflow into other people’s lives.

The New Moon of May is a Supermoon that will grow in size May 25th. It will be the first time in 8 years that a Supermoon is a New Moon instead of a Full Moon.

The Moon generates Energy that flows throughout this realm and the next. This Lunar Energy affects us and the things that surround us. The Moon is an important aspect of life as well as in Magick whatever the circumstances may be that cause you to call upon the Moon, the aftermath will certainly leave you surging with Energy.

What is a Supermoon?

A Supermoon or the official name “Perigee Moon” occurs when the Full or New Moon is the closest to Earth, thus it appears much larger, stronger and roughly 30 times brighter than it normally is.

important datesImportant Dates:

Monday, May 8th
Moon Phase: Second Quarter and Waxing, Incense Rosemary, Color – Silver

Tuesday, May 9th
Moon Phase: Second Quarter and Waxing, Incense Ylang-ylang, Color Red

Wednesday, May 10th
Moon Phase: Full Moon, Incense – Honeysuckle, Color – Yellow

Thursday, May 11th
Moon Phase: Third Quarter and WaningIncense – Nutmeg, Color – Purple

Friday, May 12th
Moon Phase: Third Quarter and Waning, Incense – Orchid, Color – Pink

Saturday, May 13th
Moon Phase: Third Quarter and Waning, Incense – Sandalwood, Color – Blue

Sunday, May 14th
Moon Phase: Third Quarter and Waning, Incense – Frankincense, Color – Orange

DIY Mother’s Day Tea Bags – The Herbal Academy

Whether she has been sipping teas for years or is in need of trying her first cup, these DIY Mother’s Day tea bags are the perfect way to show your mom some love and appreciation.

Source: DIY Mother’s Day Tea Bags – The Herbal Academy

What is an Heirloom Seed?

You can barely walk through a farmers market or produce stand without seeing signs proclaiming “heirloom vegetables for sale” — and who doesn’t want to snack on an heirloom carrot or cook with heirloom squash? The word “heirloom” pulls at our heartstrings and reminds us of simpler things and slower times. Heirloom has also become a hot marketing buzzword for vendors and a term that’s often confused with other phrases, such as “certified organic,” “locally produced,” “non-GMO,” and “non-hybrid.” Some people simply use the term to mean odd, unique, or somehow nonstandard in appearance; however, the term has a specific meaning that’s often overlooked by vegetable vendors and seed salespersons.

The Origins of Today’s Heirloom Craze

What exactly is an heirloom seed? The heirloom history started with an enthusiastic vegetable breeder and bean collector named J.R. Hepler (“Hep”) and his son, Billy, who both recognized that there’s something special about vegetable cultivars that have been passed down from generation to generation as if they’re valuable family keepsakes. The first published usage of “heirloom” as a descriptor for vegetable cultivars is likely Billy Hepler’s 1947 seed catalog, Novelties, Specialties, and Heirloom Beans. Billy promoted himself as America’s youngest seed grower at age 12, and it was hard to argue with him. But young Billy’s use of the term “heirloom” to describe the cultivars he was selling was just a repetition of a term his dad, Hep, had been using for more than a decade.

Billy recounted the origins of Hep’s usage of the word in a 2012 Seed Savers Exchange publication. Billy wrote that his father started collecting beans in 1919 and first used the term “heirloom” in the 1930s to describe old bean cultivars because Hep felt that “these plants were as valuable as pieces of furniture, jewelry, and trinkets that were handed down through generations.” He started using the term “heirloom” with respect to the beans because these cultivars were indeed family treasures. He then applied the term to all cultivars that had been maintained by families through generations.

When Hep and Billy talked about heirlooms, they weren’t talking about what a cultivar looked like, how it was grown, or where it was grown. They were talking about cultivars that brought meaning to someone’s world and that connected people to their ancestry. Americans needed that anchor to the past then, just as we need it now.

Importantly, the heirlooms need us, too. Every heirloom cultivar that’s still around today has been saved and shared by generations of home gardeners rather than by seed companies — and if not for the home seed-saving efforts of individuals, all these great-tasting artifacts of our past would be extinct. For an example of an heirloom seed story, see “‘Michels’ Heirloom Cowpea” at the end of this article.

As American as Apple Pie

In many places around the world, people with a shared culture and lineage have tended to stay put, continuously occupying the same region for hundreds or even thousands of years. In these places, the food that’s grown, the way it’s prepared, and the traditions that surround its eating are strongly tied to that particular place; examples include ibérico ham in Spain and Portugal, haggis in Scotland, and pho in Vietnam.

However, the American experience is different — and this difference may be part of the reason heirlooms appeal to us. Nearly all families in the United States, including the original settlers — the Native Americans — live where they live today because of historic (or recent) displacements. Sometimes this has been voluntary, but often it has been forced. As a result, the typical strong bond that people feel to a homeland where their ancestors once lived has been replaced with a deep connection to the tangible things that represent those places and those ancestries. One of the interesting ways this connection materializes is in our gardens with the carrying on of seed-saving traditions and the passing of beloved cultivars from one generation to the next.

It’s interesting, too, to think about the practicality of traveling with seeds from far-off places with little money and few possessions. Cultivars that have taken long journeys, such as ‘German Pink’ tomato, which came to America from Bavaria in the 1870s, were valued and beloved. They were easily transported and had the added benefit of making a strange land a bit more habitable because at least the vegetables were familiar.

Consider this: Perhaps today’s trend in heirloom vegetables is the direct result of the world in which our lives are more and more portable and therefore less and less anchored to a specific place. In this case, the importance of family heirloom cultivars will only intensify as people discover they’re a convenient and useful way to preserve lore and memories, to stay connected to our heritage, and to retain a sense of belonging no matter where we actually live.

A Modern Take on an Old Idea

How old does a cultivar need to be to be considered an heirloom? That depends on who you talk to. Some authors and heirloom aficionados say that cultivars must be at least 50 years old to be deserving of the term. Others say the cultivar must predate 1950 (a rough demarcation of the beginning of modern industrial farming practices).

In the opinion of our Seed Savers Exchange staff, any cultivar that has a history of being saved and shared by generations of home seed savers can rightfully and accurately be called heirloom, with the following caveat: Only those cultivars that retain their distinct characteristics when they’re propagated are eligible for heirloom status. This means they’re either open-pollinated cultivars that reproduce true to type from saved seed (unlike most hybrids), or they’re crops that are traditionally propagated by cuttings, tubers, roots, bulbs, or the like. Most heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers fall into the former category of open-pollinated cultivars, while in the latter category are grafted fruit trees (apples, grapes, and stone fruits); perennials (chives, roses, and some asparagus); and some root crops (potatoes and sweet potatoes).

An important distinction we make at Seed Savers Exchange is between heirlooms and cultivars that have been primarily preserved within the commercial seed trade for decades. We call these “historic commercial varieties” when they’ve been around since before the 1950s. They were usually developed by plant breeders, many within the rich tapestry of small and regional seed companies that blanketed the United States. Many others were developed by publicly funded plant-breeding programs at universities and by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, especially in the golden age of public plant breeding between 1900 and 1960. These historic commercial cultivars represent their own valuable tradition and should be recognized as such. But they’re not heirlooms.

That being said, the important role that the commercial seed trade has played — and continues to play — in keeping old cultivars on the market cannot be understated. While the safest place for an heirloom cultivar is in the hands of many capable gardeners, the sale of heirloom seeds by seed companies keeps at least a few heirlooms in the hands, hearts, and minds of gardeners and allows these old cultivars a venue to be rediscovered by a larger audience.

Take the controversial case of the ‘Green Zebra’ tomato, a fine cultivar that was released in 1983 by breeder Tom Wagner in his Tater-Mater seed catalog. This novel cultivar stays green when fully ripe and is often bestowed heirloom status by seed companies and vegetable vendors because it’s a bit of an odd duck. However, even though the cultivar has been around for a good while, the fact that it hasn’t been stewarded and shared by generations of gardeners means it’s not, strictly speaking, an heirloom — at least, not yet!

While Seed Savers Exchange does a considerable amount of work finding heirlooms, documenting their stories, and keeping the seeds and the stories alive, this work happens in partnership with ordinary gardeners all over the world. And we need your help to do this. Learn to save seeds, adopt, and steward a few cultivars that you love to grow, and share those cultivars and everything you know about them with your friends. Join in on the tradition of saving and sharing seeds so that great heirloom cultivars can survive for another generation of gardeners to fall in love with them.

‘Michels’ Heirloom Cowpea

‘Michels’ cowpea came to Seed Savers Exchange in 1987 from Audrey (Michels) Kreutzer of Osage City, Kansas. For a while, Seed Savers Exchange knew little about the cultivar except that Audrey’s family had maintained it for many years. Here’s Audrey’s original letter to Seed Savers Exchange, which included her cowpea seeds:

Dear sir,

After watching your program on victory gardens, I’m wondering if you could put a name to this bean. The habits and height of the bean resemble the black-eyed bean used for New Year’s Eve recipes, only this has a natural tan-colored pod. The plant sends up a stem producing two cream- and lavender-colored blossoms. Then the long pods form eight to 10 beans inside. Originally, a few seeds were brought from Tennessee in 1941 and my family has kept the seeds growing through the years. However, we could never find a name. It’s a good producer for a small garden and last year we raised 20 pounds.

Andrey Kreutzer

Seed historians reconnected with Ms. Kreutzer in 2012, when she was 96 years old, to learn the rest of the story (see letters, below). Shortly after sharing her account of this family heirloom, Audrey Kreutzer passed away. In 2016, Seed Savers Exchange exposed a wider audience of gardeners to this great-tasting family heirloom by selling packets of the seed. ‘Michels’ cowpea is available at for $3.75 per packet of 50 seeds.

Dear sir,

My brother was in the Army at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, in WWII and in 1942 they held their maneuvers by walking from Ft. Leonard Wood across to Tennessee.

While walking in a field, my brother noticed they were in a field of something planted with pods on it. So he picked some pods and put them in his duffle bag and took them along until he got to a more appropriate place where he could mail those pods home to his dad.

And, of course, my dad took over from there. Every year he would plant several rows in the garden. When he had accumulated some seeds my Mom soaked some overnight and then the next day cooked them in a soup (like Navy Beans). But they had a different flavor, and when cream, salt, and pepper were added mom had the soup fixed for the day. My dad always planted enough for his winter supply of soup. This went on for years.

In later years, I sent some seeds to Decorah, Iowa, to see if Seed Savers Exchange knew what kind of seed that was…My Mom & Dad are dead. The brother that was in that field in Tennessee that year is long dead, too. I am 96 years old and living in an Old Folks Home so that about ends the life story of that brand of Cow Pea.

Those seeds you have there are the only ones around in the area, so you had better take care of them!

Audrey C. Kreutzer

A Wild Foodie’s Guide To Sustainable Harvesting – Urban Moonshine

Wild foods have become highly sought after, and this has resulted in over-harvesting of popular favorites. Here is a guide to wild, sustainable harvesting.

Source: A Wild Foodie’s Guide To Sustainable Harvesting – Urban Moonshine

Butterfly Weed ~ Asclepias tuberosa

With all the ”buzz” about bees and butterflies, why not celebrate an excellent plant known for its ability to support insects and birds and serve as the primary caterpillar food for a beloved North American native butterfly? The Perennial Plant Association is proud to announce Asclepias tuberosa as its 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year™.

Hardiness USDA Zones 4 to 9

Light – Butterfly weed grows best in full sun.

Soil – Grows best in well-drained soils and it is drought tolerant.

Uses – Butterfly weed is a perfect selection for full-sun meadow or prairie gardens as well as formal to semi-formal urban gardens. Flower arrangers find the plants make long-lasting cut flowers.

Unique Qualities – Asclepias tuberosa are butterfly magnets. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for the monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Maintenance – Butterfly weed is subject to no serious insect or disease problems. Deer usually avoid butterfly weed.


Asclepias POY flyer 2Commonly known as butterfly weed, this long-lived and striking perennial is native to the continental United States (except for the northeast) along with the Canadian provinces Ontario and Quebec. With vibrant orange/red/yellow flowers that seem to jump out, butterfly weed is a great addition to a sunny garden with average to dry soils. As the common name suggests, these plants are butterfly magnets.
They also have a medicinal history as a treatment for pleurisy, a common ailment in early colonial times, causing wheezing, coughing and great pain due to the inflammation of the pleura around the lungs. Asclepias tuberosa reportedly was so effective in treating this ailment it earned another common name, pleurisy root.
Butterfly weed is a member of Apocynaceae, or milkweed family. This family includes plants with a milky sap poisonous to most insects. Unlike other milkweeds, Asclepias tuberosa contains little sap. The leaves are 2-5” long, more or less alternate, growing closely together spiraling up the stem, hairy, unserrated, lanceolate, sessile or lacking leaf petiole and appearing attached to the stem. Leaves are dark-green on top, lighter green beneath. Stems are hairy and branched near the top with at clusters (umbels) of many showy flowers in late spring through mid-July.
Butterfly weed flowers are easy to recognize because of their “5 up & 5 down” appearance. Each flower has 5 colorful petals that hang down, and 5 upright curved petals called hoods, each possessing one horn. Horns are more or less orange, erect, sickle-shaped, inward curved, forming within the hood. When cross-pollinated dry fruit forms. This dried fruit also called a follicle, opens along one side to disperse the seeds. It is 4-5” long and only 1⁄2”-3/4” wide, with a smooth surface. Initially green, they mature brown and split open to release the seeds. Deadheading Asclepias tuberosa is recommended to prevent reseeding, keeping the plants more attractive and promoting the second push of color later in the season.
Asclepias tuberosa makes excellent, long-lasting cut flowers. Cut stems when more than half the flowers are open; buds do not open well once the stem is cut. Searing the cut end is not necessary to prevent sap from seeping out of the stems. Instead, cut flowers have a good vase life if they are immediately placed in warm water after cutting and either placing stems in a refrigerator for 12 hours or transferring the stems to cold water. This process eliminates what little sap may be produced.
Mature plants do not transplant well so proper sighting is important. Young plants develop from a single central stem but with age plants will tiller (develop shoots) at the base, sending up multiple erect stems from a large taproot extending down a foot or more. Due to the taproot, the division is difficult but can be done in early spring before new growth begins. Butterfly weed is hardy to zones 4-9 and reaches 2-3’ high with about a 2’ spread. Don’t cut back in late fall; rather wait until early spring. Mulching young plants prevents frost heaving. Be patient since butterfly weed is slow to emerge in the spring.
Butterfly weed is often grown from seed. Experts report 50-80% germination if the freshly cleaned seed is used. If germination does not occur after 3-4 weeks provide a 2-4 week cooling period. Collected seed will result in flower color variation. To ensure color, purchase seed from a reputable source. Propagation through root cuttings can be used to ensure quality from forms showing merit. Cutting back once, early in the growth cycle, will promote compact growth.
Since Asclepias tuberosa is a native prairie plant, butterfly weed is quite comfortable in meadow gardens, native plantings, and wildlife sanctuaries but is finding its way into more formal to semi-formal urban gardens. Plant in large masses, for an unrivaled display of eye-popping orange flower color. Butterfly weed pairs well with summer blooming Phlox, Hemerocallis, Liatris, Echinacea, Salvia, and most of June/July sun loving perennials. Another bonus is that deer will leave Asclepias tuberosa alone!
Many bees, wasps, ants, butterflies and beetles visit butterfly weed as well as hummingbirds. All members of the milkweed family serve as larval food for the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus) and the Milkweed Tussock Moth (Euchaetes egle). Let them munch on butterfly weed and you will be rewarded with these “flowers of the air.”