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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Weekly News from Farmacy: "Harmony in Nettles"

We are happy to welcome Mary Ellen Graybill, a local journalist I met after giving a presentation on Spring Tonic Herbs at the Partners In Thyme herb group based in York Co. She expressed her passion in herbalism and wanted to get involved with our farm. She is now one of our work trade students part of our Herbal Immersion Course and will be writing about the farm this season. Stayed tuned for fresh posts on what is happening at Lancaster Farmacy! 

Photo of Elisabeth talking about how to harvest stinging nettles. 

by Mary Ellen Graybill

"In farming, you can make plans, but there are so many things that can go, potentially, the wrong way," said Elisabeth Weaver, one of two founders of Lancaster Farmacy, on May 12, near the beginning of the 2016 spring growing season. Asparagus and rhubarb already has been picked, the watermelon crop is struggling, and wild nettles are in their glory.
Lancaster Farmacy, has as its goal connecting people to the healing power of herbs, as well as providing  organic vegetables and fresh picked flowers, both for Community Supported Agriculture and to the wholesale trade. Business is growing!

The infusion of herbs into tea is a big draw for consumers and right now through October at the 5-acre rented farmland, volunteers and work-trade participants are getting to the work of planting, harvesting and packaging medicinal herbs. Learning about farming from seed to seedlings to cultivation and production, medicinal salves, earth skills and more is offered in a summer program by Casey Spacht and Elisabeth "Eli" Weaver.

These two experienced herbalists want to share their knowledge of organic medicinal herbs, flowers and produce and thus restore the native healing traditions. A member farm of Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and founders of Community Supported Medicine, they have been teaching workshops and helping other farmers to grow healthy alternatives to sprayed, and genetically modified produce since 2009.

"I was kind of self- taught," said Eli, who got her green thumb from her mother and her DNA for herbalism from a paternal great grandmother.

"It's really about what' s fresh," said Eli picking the best leaves for an order for nettle to be picked up at the farm on a cool May 12 afternoon. Eli, the found and volunteer Sheryl Alvarez and Kathlynn Doughtery, work-trader, and Katie Landis who oversees work-trade operations---all worked side by side to gather nettles for the pickup at 3:30pm. They located the best, cut and shook out the bugs, bunched the best of the nettle growing wild by a meandering stream through Jim Weaver's 16 acres, where Eli grew up.
According to famous herbalist, former USDA compiler of the world's largest data base of medicinal plants, Dr. James Duke, (85 and still growing at his farm in Maryland), nettle helps against hay fever and allergies when ingested in capsules  better than a pharmaceutical. Dr. James Duke's "Sniffler's Soup" is made from Evening primrose leaves,  stinging nettle, and diced onion added to any soup recipe. according to Dr. Duke's "ESSENTIAL HERBS, Page 104)

"There you go, I've wakened up all my circulation," said Eli, about the stinging that happens when the leaves touch your skin. But it only lasts a little while, maybe five minutes. Wearing long sleeves and gloves when picking is the best prevention if you are foraging in your back yard!

In times past, people picked wild herbs that grew around them, but foraging for these plants is getting less and less possible, as there are less wild places that grow them. However, with renewed interest in medicine with no bad side effects, people may start cultivating these "weeds" for their medicinal uses. Stinging nettle, for example, is a known diuretic, astringent, treatment for anemia, gout, poor circulation, enlarged spleen, lungs discharge, internal bleeding diarrhea, dysentery and, in Germany has been used to treat prostate cancer. In Russia people are known to keep potted nettle on the kitchen window sill with an aloe plant next to it in the belief that an occasional sting is good for arthritis. 

It is important to note that the fresh plants sting, but the tea which uses the dried (and "Garbeled", sifted) leaves does not sting. (Peterson Feld Guide, Eastern/central MEDICINAL PLANTS by Stephen Foster/James Duke)

Eli's favorite herbs for spring detox are nettle, chickweed, dandelion, burdock root, red clover. Crops may change, fields will look different seasonally, and business needs will dictate some of the changes.

Eli said, "Obviously it changes from year to year. We ask ourselves if we like growing it, was it worth our time? Then, we either cut back on it, or grow more. Right now, it's the watermelons. We put a lot of time into them and we might not get anything out of them."
Eli has come a long way from the talented artist without a care in the world as she once sat by the stream hearing the ripple of water and hearing the birds, watching for insects and an occasional rabbit. She learned from a library book she opened from the public library in Lancaster that it was dedicated by her paternal grandmother to her great-grandmother. Now Eli and Casey, and son Quehanna,4,  are a family working towards making Lancaster Farmacy a success learning as they go.

We will look forward to learning more about planting, growing and harvesting and marketing the organic herbs as medicine!