Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Art of Calendula and Science of Garlic

Photo credit Michelle Johnsen Photography

By Mary Ellen Graybill
Garlic and Calendula are the two recent plants harvested by work-traders at Lancaster Farmacy acreage on Gypsy Hill Road- What do these plants have in common, other than they were ready to harvest July 7, 2016  when I showed up for my two hours of field and barn work. Both are ancient, both are edible, both are healing.
Garlic, a tasty flavoring in sauces, delicious when roasted, is famous for keeping parsley in business. That is, to refresh the breath after consuming a lot of garlic, we all need parsley! (And, salt and lemon juice will get the smell of garlic off your hands!) Garlic reportedly can thin the blood, help heart health, bones, brain and the immune system. It is anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal according to sources on the internet and in books. It is most effective for medical conditions when taken raw. But, too high doses can interfere with blood clotting. In some medical conditions, it has actually been known to cause bleeding in the eyes. 
When I arrived for my two hours, Kathe Shadd, Katlyn Doughtery and our tireless and energetic leader/founder Elisabeth Weaver had already picked the garlic from the fields. Elisabeth directed the operation of harvesting the many different types. With wheelbarrow in hand, we worked to keep the various types separate. Then back at the barn, we bunched the garlic in pairs using a cord to hang them up to dry in the barn.
We all remember the culinary uses of garlic and the recipes from grandmother's about garlic and vinegar and other concoctions, for example. 
Calendula, or marigold, on the other hand, was known to the ancient gypsies, has soothing qualities for the skin and eye. Calendula reportedly can soothe itching eyes de to air pollution or allergies. It has antiseptic qualities. It contains essential oils that made our fingers sticky while picking.
Bright golden and orange colors of "Mary's Gold" flowers (calendula)  can make an artist want to paint, drink a cup of the tea, or have a stir fry made from the flower tops, rather than pick! The flowers can be made into tea useful for digestive conditions. They can be tossed into a stir fry and served in a food dish. Fresh is useful in teas and medicine from the marigold/calendula petals. But after picking, this batch would be dried in the drying room  upstairs at the barn.
Later, when we washed our hands, we might have used a calendula cream, salve or gel, calendula to heal wounds, cuts, or scrapes. And, we might have a lip balm made of calendula, the soothing flower.
One thing we all needed was a cooling spray of water, as it was a hot day in the sun.
Sources for this writing have been a "stir-fry" of my own  internet and old book searches in my library. As always, consult your doctor on both garlic and calendula uses, and be aware that this writing does not state that any of these anecdotal comments are scientifically verified, although some may be.
One thing is certain: the art of the calendula flowers are beautiful in colors ranging from yellow to gold to orange.
Calendula, a flower of the gypsies in ancient times, was cheaper coloring than saffron, back then. Now it is at home painting the earth orange and gold in the fields at Lancaster Farmacy's organic farm. 
Garlic, a gangly bulb plant we all love for its burst of flavoring in spaghetti sauce, has edible and healing properties, is now strung up in the barn to dry.
These two  contrasting harvest experiences were yet another educational and interesting time for learning about how this CSM (Community Supported Medicine)  is working from the exciting fields of Lancaster Farmacy.  Here, a "picture is worth a thousand words."  

Photo credit Michelle Johnsen Photography

Photo credit Mary Ellen Graybill

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"(Milky) Oats, peas, beans and barley grow"

by Mary Ellen Graybill

The song goes, "Do you or I or anyone know how oats, peas, beans and barley grow? 

We who have the fortunate opportunity to do the work-trade at Lancaster's only CSM, Community Supported Medicine program located on a five acre farm, we know!

"First, the farmer sows his seed.
Then, he stands and takes his ease,
Stamps his foot and claps his hands,
And turns around to view his land."

By last week, the milky oat tops of the Milky Oat Seed (Avena sativa) on the farm were ready for harvesting. Work-trader Maria Weaver and I with Katie Landis were in the field diligently harvesting the juicy shells, avoiding picking the grass.  Gathering the shells by stripping them off the stems was fun, and easy. An hour or two hour flew by until the bucket we had around our necks got heavy with the pickings. Although I didn't stamp my foot and clap my hands, I did take a break from stripping the seeds to pick out the grasses in my bucket.

"Don't worry about picking out the grass now," said Katie, "We will do that later."
These seeds were destined for the drying room back at the barn. Back at the table outside, under the pine shade, we sorted out the grasses that got into the buckets. Time was of the essence.

This crop has only about a week window of opportunity to be picked, because after that the milky tops turn into oat grain. The milky tops are the liquid medicine that goes into a tincture to support nerve tissue, called myelin. Myelin is like a coating that protects the nerves of the body as impulses go through them. Strokes, inflammation and other conditions can cause nerve damage. MS is one example of a disease caused when the myelin sheath is damaged and symptoms are profound due to weakness and other problems.

A tincture of milky oats soothes the nervous system and has no side effects, and no contraindications unless you are allergic to oats.

"Next, the farmer hoes the weeds.
Then, he stands and takes his ease,
Stamps his foot and claps his hands,
And turns around to view his land."

The oat grass grew well at Lancaster Farmacy this year with just enough rain and the bright sun. And weeds were scarce in the dense green grasses. 

"Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow.
Oats, peas, beans and barley grow.
Do you or I or anyone know,
How oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?"

Seriously, for addictions, the tincture of the Avena sativa Milky Oat Seed is a tested antidote for smoking cessation, even opium addiction and other addictions. Some clinical tests have been done, but more research is underway.

Combined with skullcap, lavender, and st. john's wort, the milky oats tincture can interact with pharmaceutical drugs, so consumers have to be careful. But by itself, milky oat seed has no known contraindications and is reportedly safe for children and infants. It is good for the heart, helps insomnia, and a natural stress buster with no bad side effects!

"Last, the farmer harvests his seed.
Then, he stands and takes his ease,
Stamps his foot and claps his hands,
And turns around to view his land."

In case you don't get to harvest the milky oat seeds in that one week period, you can enjoy a drink of oatmeal as a general tonic. Groats, oats, and a bowl of oatmeal in the morning ... these are some of my favorite things!

(This post is for your reading and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Chamomile Capers

By Mary Ellen Graybill
Herbs, like people, function best when the group has a common ground. Chamomile is a good example. Each tiny flower can easily be disregarded as a flowering stem of a weed. In a group, it becomes a bed of white dots with yellow centers sprinkled atop a soft green bed of feathery ferns. It responsibly waves in a breeze on any hot day, sending its mildly aromatic scent up to the witness, or harvester. And, its flowers pop off by a handy rake device, and give up their sap of life. 

You don't have to know all the scientific names of the German Chamomile such as "matricaria chamomilla" to enjoy a cup of the tea. The flowers are used in tea for stomach ulcers, fevers, stress, insomnia and even arthritis.  Having such good credentials in the healing cupboard, there are people that might find that this member of the ragweed family brings out the allergies, and should be avoided. In addition, the teabags sold in most stores are reportedly not effective medicine, and have a softer, less strong flavor. For medicine, you will want local, wild, organic, fresher Chamomile, which is the kind that Lancaster Farmacy is growing and packaging for their customers of CSM (Community Supported Medicine). The internet has several sources that indicate that chamomile from Egypt may be than 10% organically grown and harvested under poor conditions. 

Herbs like chamomile often flourish in forgotten beds, Each tiny flower sits on a fernlike stem like a weed. In a bed, the yellow and white flowers create a beautiful wave of color. Its flowers easily pop off by a handy rake device. (See picture)

It is a pungent and bitter taste which, in Ayurveda ("Science of Life" from ancient India) means it pacifies the Vata dosha, or the nervous, creative nature of a person. Chamomile tea can help you get to sleep. German Chamomile, the most researched chamomile,  is called a nervine, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory herb. 
George Weigel, a garden columnist for the Patriot News and author of several books on horticulture and edible plants for the landscape, says, "It makes a great cup of tea, and it's a beautiful border plant."

Any advice given about herbs as medicine has to be preceded with a disclaimer, due to FDA laws. There have been studies about the healing effects of the German Chamomile, and fewer about Roman Chamomile.  The flowers of the German Chamomile are useful in concoctions for healing eczema, reportedly.
The flowers have a flavor of apple and the scent while picking will be mildly soothing. Just don't do what I did on my first day out in the field picking chamomile. I fell asleep after lying down for a minute.

"Are you all right?" said Katie, the hard-working and inspiring supervisor of us work-trade workers.

I decided to try talking to the plants after my snooze, as well as get the job done. I would bond with the flowers. Maybe it would get easier. Before picking off the flower tops, I said to the plants, "Thank You for your healing." 

"If you cooperate and pop off your flowers easily, I will see that you will be part of a bigger purpose- making medicine that will help people. And then people will respect and keep you in their yards!" Think of it- acceptance as a medicine, going into the best homes as a tea!" Just then, the stubborn little individual flowers seemed to jump off their stems, dancing at the chance to join their neighbors in a bucket destined for making history!

Destined for the drying room, the four pounds I picked today were spread out on flat screened drawers to dry. They are all going to be packaged as a delicious, soothing cup of Chamomile tea or as a soothing skin salve as part of the CSM (Community Supported Medicine) that is pioneering its wares right here in Lancaster, on a 5 acre farm called Lancasterfarmacy!

*Please check with your medical doctor and verify that this herb is safe for your consumption, and compatible with any pharmaceutical medications. This article is not meant to give medical advice for any medical condition.

Mary Ellen raking in the chamomile bed