Usnea is an abundant lichen medicine found in forest environments. When I moved up to the Santa Cruz mountains, I began to see it everywhere, which I took as a good sign, as Usnea is sensitive to air pollution.
This whimsical lichen has a magical quality to it. While most might pass it by without notice, its ubiquity in my area had me wondering about its medicinal value and applications. The plants that grow abundantly are usually some of the most useful and are almost imploring us to utilize them. However, because lichens grow slowly in nature, please harvest responsibly. I like to do so by picking them off of tree branches that have fallen from high winds, or off of branches in old orchards.
Usnea grows in short, small tufts or in long hair-like strands, giving it the nickname Old Man's Beard. This lichen bears resemblance to Spanish Moss. If you pull it apart, you will be able to tell it's Usnea by it's elastic, white inner thread. Spanish Moss has a black core.
Medicinal Properties of Usnea:
Usnea has powerful antibiotic and immune boosting properties. It has been used to heal lung and upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder or yeast infections. It is not very water soluble, so one of the best ways to utilize it is by making a tincture (alcohol solution) out of it.
Usnea's soft, thread-like texture makes it a great wound dressing. It helps heal deep wounds through it's anti-microbial action.
Usnea's energetic property is cooling and drying.
How to Make an Usnea Tincture:
You Will Need:
100 proof vodka
Glass jar with lid
Amber vile with dropper
-Wash harvested Usnea with water.
-Pack into a glass jar.
-Fill the jar with vodka, ensuring all of the plant matter is covered.
-Cover the jar with a lid and label with the date. Let sit for six weeks. It will turn a brownish-orange color.
-Strain the liquid out and store in an amber colored vile for best preservation. Compost the solid matter.
Astrological Correspondences: I connect Usnea to the element of air, due to it’s cooling and drying nature. It grows amongst the high branches of trees and has an affinity for alleviating the parts of the body associated with the element of air; the lungs and upper respiratory tract.
DISCLAIMER: While I believe in the potent medicine of plants, this website is not intended as a substitute for conventional medicine. Please continue to consult your doctor if you have a serious medical condition. It is also important to speak to your doctor about possible drug interactions or contraindications before consuming a new plant in medicinal form.This website is intended to inspire curiosity in nature and to foster a connection with the natural world. However this is not a definitive guide, and I cannot take responsibility for any harm that may come to you from foraging and consuming plants. If foraging, make sure you are able to identify the correct species with 100% certainty before consuming, and that you are familiar with poisonous look-alikes. It is advisable to only consume a small amount the first time you are trying a new plant, as some people have certain sensitivities of which they might not be aware.
Sweet dreams are made of Mugwort (aka Artemisia vulgaris) which is named after the lunar goddess Artemis, and like the moon, invites us to travel to with her from the material world into the magical. Use dried mugwort to make a dream pillow for your bed or wrap into a smudge stick like mine pictured here and burn over your bed before hitting the hay. Just be careful not to confuse with poison hemlock! Having mugwort around lends to more vivid and memorable dreams.
While some smoke, or ingest mugwort in tincture and tea forms, I find that just handling this herb lends to potent and memorable dreams.
This medicine has a strong lunar correspondence through helping connect us to our subconscious. It has also been used to bring about menstruation in women, promoting regular menses.
Stinging Nettle is a warrior plant. Even when slightly grazed, it will shock with an intensely sharp, lingering pain. It establishes itself prominently and defensively, yet has powerful detoxifying and restorative properties. Nettles reminds us of the old adage that if medicine is not capable of hurting you, it will not be capable of healing you. We need a little bit of poison in our lives, to transmute it to medicine.
Nettles are a great ally for blood health, adrenals and kidneys. Our adrenal glands control our flight or fight response. Stinging nettle can alleviate the burnout associated with adrenal fatigue often psychologically expressed through anxious, stressed and irritable emotions. As a diuretic, it is a drying herb that cleanses blood and can aid conditions of stagnant circulation, internal bleeding, infection and inflammation. It also contains high amounts of iron.
This abundant pioneer plant can be found growing wild throughout the country (usually in patches), and due to it's feisty nature is very easy to identify. Look for its obvious stinging hairs on the stem. Brewing nettles in water and creating a nettle infusion is a great way to enjoy this herb daily for stamina and health.
Nettle corresponds to the energy of Aries. I believe it is a great ally for everyone, but could have special impact on individuals with prominent Aries or fire energy due to it’s ability to bring down fire in the body and calm the adrenals in folks who might over-do it or be prone to burn out.
The Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) mushroom are a polypore mushroom that come in a range of colors. They have visible pores on their underside, unlike some crust mushrooms that look similar but lack this feature.
Turkey Tail is one of the most commonly used medicinal mushrooms. In Japan, a compound of Turkey Tail, Polysaccharide K (PSK) has been approved for contemporary cancer treatments. Turkey Tail has been referenced in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Materia Medica since the early 15th century. It is used to clear damp condition, strengthen the stomach, spleen, and lungs. It can help increase energy, hence its application for convalescence in long-term diseases. Turkey tail characteristically embodies this strength through it's stubborn resilience. It is found growing even on anti-fungal Pine trees!
For everyday use, a strong tea or infusion can be made of the mushroom. It is especially beneficial for treating immune suppression and sluggishness.
It's always optimal to use fresh plant matter when making medicine. If you have fresh turkey tail, wash the mushrooms and boil in water for about an hour. You can let simmer until it becomes a dark liquid. Some make tinctures out of the mushroom, but doing this requires a double extraction process as the beta-glucans, proteoglycans, and other immune-supporting polysaccharides require a water extraction.
The most simplified way to enjoy its benefits in a pinch is to simply chew on the fresh mushroom itself! Turkey Tail is one of the most medicinally researched mushrooms. I encourage you to read up on it and discover other ways folks integrate this fungi into their health routines
Fungi are interconnected. The element of water is what connects all life on earth. Mushrooms not only help support and cleanse the waters of the body (the immune and lymphatic systems), they also literally are bearers of water and nutrients to the trees. I personally think the sign of Scorpio particularly bears correspondence to mushroom medicine. Why? Scorpio represents the processes of decomposition and regeneration. Fungi release enzymes which decompose dead plants, animals and other complex chemicals (including pollutants like plastic!). They act as a clean up crew. Through recycling of nutrients they propagate and nourish new life.
DISCLAIMER: This website is not intended as a substitute for conventional medicine, nor is it a mushroom identification guide. Please continue to consult your doctor if you have a serious medical condition. It is also important to speak to your doctor about possible drug interactions or contraindications before consuming a new plant or fungi in medicinal form. This website is intended to inspire curiosity in nature and to foster a connection with the natural world. However, this is not an identification guide, and I cannot take responsibility for any harm that may come to you from foraging and consuming wild fungi.
A teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down.
Schisandra berry is quite the sensory experience. The Chinese name for it, Wu Wei Zi translates to "Five Flavor Berry". It possesses all five flavors of sweet, spicy, sour, salty and bitter! It embodies the five elements of traditional Chinese medicine which are wood, fire, water, metal and earth. It is a truly balanced tonic.
As an adaptogen, it may increase resistance to stress and disease. It promotes supple and youthful skin. It also supports the Liver and Kidneys, which helps our body’s innate cleansing process.
Due to the strong Liver and Kidney action, I correlate Schisandra Berry to Virgo and Libra , the ruling signs of these organs, respectively. It’s beautifying and balancing properties especially connect this fruit to Venus. Schisandra is a great addition to a warm cup of tea on crisp, fall day.
Raw honey is medicinal itself, in addition to being a great carrier for potent herbs. Honey is a lubricant for the bowels. A glass of tea with my recipe below for Schisandra honey is a great way to start the morning.
To Make Schisandra Honey You Will Need:
6 oz of raw honey (local is ideal, as local honey can help build your resistance to local allergens)
1/3 cup dried Schisandra berries (less than 1 oz)
-Mix berries into honey in an 8 ounce clean, recycled jam jar or mason jar.
-Let sit for a full moon cycle of 28 days!
-Stir before serving.
The wonderful thing about honey is it's staying power, which speaks to its youth retaining benefits. Your honey will last up to 10 years if stored correctly. Try to keep out of direct sunlight.
DISCLAIMER: While I believe in the potent medicine of plants, this website is not intended as a substitute for conventional medicine. Please continue to consult your doctor if you have a serious medical condition. It is also important to speak to your doctor about possible drug interactions or contraindications before consuming a new plant in medicinal form.This website is intended to inspire curiosity in nature and to foster a connection with the natural world. However this is not a definitive guide, and I cannot take responsibility for any harm that may come to you from foraging and consuming plants.
One of the first signs of Spring is the emergence of wild greens. These plants commonly known as “weeds” are some the most high energy, nutrient dense foods we can eat. This foraged salad of mallow, miner's lettuce and radish flowers is packed with Vitamin C, Calcium, Vitamin A, and minerals. Wild weeds are the trailblazers of the plant world. Interestingly, plants like miner’s lettuce were helpful for preventing scurvy, a deficiency in Vitamin C, that was common amongst many explorers and crusaders. These cooling and nutritious herbs are great for fiery pitta types like Aries, who are running so fast they might not be getting lots of fresh foods in. Keep your eyes peeled for these ubiquitous spring tonics which sprout all around us.
Common Mallow: This hearty and soft leafed plant is high in mucilax which makes it very moistening and soothing. It is high in Vitamin A, contributing to its anti-inflammatory quality. It is neutral in flavor. When steamed or sautéed like spinach it can be delicious in frittata or stews. You may also use the generously sized leaves to wrap around rice or other fillings to make dolmas! It is a good beginner herb!
Miner's Lettuce: This delicate green high in Vitamin C, iron and omega-3 gets its name from the California Gold Rush. It is native to the Western Mountain Regions of the U.S. but has since made its way to other regions. Explorers had been known to snack on these nutritious heart shaped leaves. The delicate flavor of this plant is ideal for eating raw in salad or whipping into a pesto for maximum nutrient absorption.
Wild Radish Flowers: These wild edibles are native to Asia and considered an invasive species in the U.S. They have a delicate radish flavor (similar to the radish we most commonly eat which is in the same genus). They are a great addition to salads, soups or casseroles. Sprinkle the flower into butter and stir to create a decorative confetti butter. Like many other wild plants, these flowers contain vitamin C, potassium, and calcium.
The way to the heart is through the stomach. Here is a easy, heart-fortifying soup recipe.
Beets have a long history of being a root of sexuality and vitality. can improve anemia, help regulate blood pressure, improve heart weakness, reduce irritability or restlessness and help to detoxify the liver. In Traditional Chinese Medicine they are considered cooling. Betacyanin gives beets their deep red pigment and is a powerful anti-carcinogen. Beets are high in calcium and iron, folate, potassium and manganese.
Beetroot borscht is a recipe that was popularized in what is now Ukraine. It has a sweet (low-glycemic) and sour flavor (thanks to the vinegar) and tastes great warm or cold. It tastes even better after it's been in the fridge for a day or two to marinate. Preparing this soup is an easy way to enjoy and use up your winter root vegetables. You can use the vegetable compost stock recipe I shared in my last post as the base. Enjoy plain or topped with herbs (dill, parsley and sage all work well!) or sour cream.
4 cups vegetable stock (here)
3 cups diced beets
2 Tbs fat (coconut oil, olive oil or butter substitute)
1 1/2 cups yellow onion
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 large carrot (peeled and thinly sliced)
1 stalk celery (sliced)
3 cups chopped red cabbage
1 cup tomato puree
1 Tbsp cider vinegar (you can experiment with other vinegars or herbal infused vinegars!)
1/4 cup raisins or 2 Tbsp sweetener of choice (optional)
1/4 tsp chopped fresh dill or herb of choice
black pepper to taste
-Combine onions and cabbage to your sauce your pot, lightly sauteing in the oil.
-Add the beets, carrots and celery.
-Pour vegetable broth over your veggies and cook on medium heat. Cook until beets are tender (about 30 minutes).
-Stir and reduce heat. Add vinegar, tomato puree, spices and herbs.
-Serve and enjoy with loved ones!