WiseWoman Traditions

September 1st, 2013


Picking and Drying Herbs 


In your herbal pharmacy you transform fresh and dried plants into herbal medicines. Learning to identify and use the common plants around you is easy and exciting, beneficial and safe. Making your own medicines saves you money if you follow the Wise Woman tradition of using local herbs, free for the taking.

Even one day’s work in field, forest, and kitchen can provide you with many years’ worth of medicines. When you make your own, you know for sure what’s in it, where it came from, when and how it was harvested, and how fresh and potent it is.

Dried herbs are best for the infusions recommended in this book. Stock your herbal pharmacy with your own foraged or cultivated dried herbs; expand your resources and experiment with new herbs by buying dried herbs from reputable sources.

Fresh herbs are best for the tinctures and oils recommended in this book. If you can’t make your own, buy from sources who wildcraft or grow their own herbs to use fresh in preparations.

Whether you buy or make your own medicines, remember, herbal remedies may not work or may work incorrectly if they aren’t prepared correctly. Read this chapter carefully; it contains easy to follow instructions for every remedy and preparation mentioned in this book [Wise Woman herbal for the Childbearing Year].


Picking Herbs:

When you have positively identified the plant you wish to use, center yourself by sitting next to the herb in silence. Take several deep breaths. Feel the earth under you, connecting you to all the plants. Listen to the sounds and songs all around you. Can you hear the song of your herb?

If you are picking only one plant, ask that plant to give you its power. Tell it how you intend to use it. If you are harvesting many plants, look for a grandmother plant. Ask her permission to use her grandchildren. Visualize clearly how you intend to use the plants.

Make an offering of corn or tobacco, a coin or love to the plants. Sing with them. Talk with them if you feel moved to do so. Thank the earth and begin your gathering.

Take care to preserve and contribute to the well-being of the plant community. Take no more than half of the annuals or biennials, no more than a third of the perennials. Walk gently and with balance.


Harvest plants when the energy you want is most concentrated. Roots store energy in the form of sugar, starch, and medicinal alkaloids throughout the cold or dormant season; pick them when above ground growth of the plant has died back. Leaves process energy to nourish roots and flowers; pick them at their most lush, before flowers have formed, after all dew has dried, and before the day’s heat wilts them. Flowers are fragile, pollen-filled, joyous; harvest them in full bloom, before seeds form, and before bees visit them. Seeds are durable, but likely to shatter and disperse if left on the plant too long; harvest seeds when still green and before insects invade. Barks (inner barks and root barks) may be harvested at any time but are thought to be most potent in spring and fall. Look carefully at the plant you wish to pick and you will see where the energy is highest; let this guide your harvesting.

Deal with your harvest immediately. Allowing the cut plants to lie about dissipates their vital energies, encourages mold and fermentation, and results in poor quality preparations. If you intend to eat your harvest, refrigerate the plants, or wash and cook them and sit down and eat. If you intend to make a tincture or oil, cover the herbs with alcohol or oil as soon as possible; don’t refrigerate them. If you intend to dry the herbs, it is vital to lay them out or tie them up as soon after harvest as possible.


Drying Herbs:

To dry herbs and maintain their color, fragrance, taste, energy, and medicinal potency, you need only:

° Pick when there is no moisture on the plant and do not wash the plant (roots are the exception).

° Dry the herbs immediately after picking, in small bunches or spread out so parts don’t touch.

° Dry them in a dark and well ventilated area.

° Take down the herbs and store in paper bags as soon as they are crisply dried. If insect invasions force you to store dried herbs in glass or plastic, air-dry them, then dry in paper bags for another two weeks before sealing in tight containers.

° Keep the herbs as whole, cool, and dark as possible during storage. Under optimum storage conditions, well-dried volatile, delicate herbs last about six months; roots and barks maintain potency for six or more years.


this excerpt from:

Wise Woman herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum, C. verum) also known as Sweet Wood and Ceylon cinnamon.   Its origin is Sri Lanka.   Cinnamon is pretty common in foods these days such as cinnamon rolls and cinnamon tea.  It is a bark that is ground into powder form that can be added to food and burned as incense.

In ancient times, Cinnamon was used as a religious herb, created to purify temples.   It also helped with mummification to create a sweet smell.  Throughout history, its leaves have been used in medicine.
Cinnamon can be used and substituted for Sun Magickal work such as healing, illumination, magickal power, physical energy, protection, success, and putting an end to legal matters.  Cinnamon is very powerful in Satchels and Amulets.   Mix cinnamon with frankincense, myrrh and sandalwood for a strong protection incense.   Use it to draw love to you by dressing a red candle or add it to a red mojo bag.  You can also use it for money drawing by burning it on a charcoal and casting a spell on a bill you want paid.
Cinnamon can be help as an astringent, carminative and stomachic.  It helps with flatulence, internal hemorrhaging, as a stimulant and with vomiting.  It is known to help with stomach and digestion issues.  Many times a tea is made to help with digestion issues by putting a teaspoon of Cinnamon into boiling water and drink as a tea.  (However, you may find the tea to be very strong so you may want to use less based on what you prefer for taste.)
Remember, this is not a substitution for medical advice so always check with a medical professional to make sure working with herbs are safe for you.
Keywords for Cinnamon

Magickal Uses/Spells:  Love/sex magick, health, fertility, lust, passion, protection, prosperity/money, deep healing, spirituality, scrying, power, strength and success.
Deities:  Venus, Aphrodite, Apollo
Planet:  Sun, Uranus
Gender:  Masculine

Element:  Fire
Tarot Correspondence:  The Lovers, The Sun

Wounds are bothersome whatever time of year, however, with garden season upon us and all the other outdoor activities they can really become a nuisance. That being said, once again let us look to nature for yet another holistic remedy.

Wound Powder

1 ounce Krameria

1 ½ ounces Goldenseal root

1 ½ ounces Usnea

1 ½ ounces Echinacea root

1 ½ ounces Eucalyptus leaf

1 ounce Juniper leaves

1 ounce Wormwood

Grind all the above into a fine powder (an electric coffee grinder works great) and sift through a fine mesh kitchen sieve.

Place powder into a sealed container, it will keep in freezer for up to one year. Powder can be sprinkled on fresh open or oozing wounds, repeat as needed; can also be sprinkled on socks or in shoes for athlete’s foot and on baby’s bottoms for diaper rash.

In next month’s installment we will be looking at herbal remedy Oils for infections and Rashes.

Be Your Own herbal Expert

Part 7

herbal medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple, safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors used – and our neighbors around the world still use – plant medicines for healing and health maintenance. It’s easy. You can do it too, and you don’t need a degree or any special training.

Ancient memories arise in you when you begin to use herbal medicine. These lessons are designed to nourish and activate those memories and your inner herbalist so you can be your own herbal expert.

In our first session, we learned how to “listen” to the messages of plant’s tastes. In lesson two, about simples and water-based herbal remedies. In the third, I distinguished safe (nourishing and tonifying) herbs from more dangerous (stimulating and sedating) herbs. Our fourth lesson focused on poisons; we made tinctures and an herbal Medicine Chest. Our fifth dealt with herbal vinegars, and the sixth with herbal oils.

In this, our seventh session, we will think about how we think about healing.

The Three Traditions of Healing

There are many ways to use herbs to improve and maintain health. Modern medicine uses highly refined herbal products known as drugs. Many alternative or holistic practitioners recommend herbs, usually in less-refined (and less dangerous) forms such as tinctures or homeopathic remedies. And then there are the yarb women, the wise women, such as myself, who integrate herbs into their daily diet and claim far-reaching results for simple remedies.

I call these three different approaches the Scientific, Heroic, and Wise Woman traditions.

These three traditions are ways of thinking, not ways of acting. And they are not limited to herbs. Any technique, any substance can be used by a healer in the Scientific, Heroic, and Wise Woman traditions. There are, for instance, naturopaths, midwives, and MDs in each tradition, as well as herbalists, educators, therapists, even politicians.

Each of these traditions lives within you, too.

As I define the characteristics of each tradition, identify the part of yourself that thinks that way.

Scientific Tradition

Modern, western medicine is an excellent example of the Scientific tradition, where healing is fixing. The line is its symbol: linear thought, linear time. Truth is fixed and measurable. Truth is that which repeats. Good and bad, health and sickness are put at opposite ends of the line, where they do battle with each other. Food and medicine are quite different.

Newton’s universal laws and the mechanization of nature are the foundation of the Scientific tradition. Bodies are understood to be like machines. When machines run well (stay healthy) they don’t deviate. Anything that deviates from normal needs to be fixed or repaired. The Scientific tradition is excellent for fixing broken things. Measurements must be taken to determine deviation and insure normalcy. Regular diagnostic tests are critical to maintaining proper functioning and ensuring utmost longevity in the body/machine.

In the Scientific tradition, plants are valued as repositories of poisons/alkaloids. They are seen as potential drugs, and capable of killing you in their unpredictable crude states. They are helpful and safe only when refined into drugs and used by highly-trained experts.

In the Scientific tradition the whole is the same as its most active part, and machines are more trustworthy than people.

Heroic Tradition

There is not one unified Heroic tradition, but many similar traditions collectively called the Heroic tradition. Alternative health care practitioners generally represent the Heroic thought pattern, symbolized by a circle.

This circle defines the rules, which, we are told, must be followed in order to save ourselves from disease and death. Healing in the Heroic tradition focuses on cleansing. According to this tradition, disease arises when toxins (dirt, filth, anger, negativity) accumulate. When we are bad, when we eat the wrong food, think the wrong thought, commit a sin, we sicken and the healer is the savior, offering purification, punishment, and redemption.

In the Heroic traditions, the whole is the sum of its parts. We are body, mind, and spirit. The spirit is high and worthy; the body is low and gross; the mind is in between. In the Heroic traditions, we are personally responsible for everything that happens to us.

Religious beliefs frequently accompany herb use in the Heroic tradition. The Heroic healer uses rare substances, exotic herbs, and complicated formulae. Drug-like herbs in capsules are the favored in this tradition. Most books on herbal medicine are written by men whose thought patterns are those of the Heroic tradition.

Wise Woman Tradition

The Wise Woman tradition is the world’s oldest healing tradition. It envisions good health as openness to change, flexibility, availability to transformation, and groundedness. Its symbol is the spiral. In the Wise Woman tradition we do not seek to cure, but focus instead on integrating and nourishing the unique individual’s wholeness/holiness. The Wise Woman tradition relies on compassion, simple ritual, and common dooryard herbs and garden weeds as primary nourishers, but appreciates (and uses) any treatment appropriate to the specific self-healing in process.

The Wise Woman tradition sees each life as a spiraling, ever-changing completeness. Disease and injury are seen as doorways of transformation, and each person is recognized as a self-healer, earth healer: inherently whole, resonant to the whole, and vital to the whole. Substance, thought, feeling, and spirit are inseparable in the Wise Woman tradition. The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Spiralic and amazing, the Wise Woman tradition offers self-healing options as diverse as the human imagination and as complex as the human psyche. The Wise Woman tradition has no rules, no texts, no rites; it is constantly changing, constantly being re-invented. It is mostly invisible, hard to see, but easier and easier to find. It is a give-away dance of nourishment, change, and self-love. An invitation to honor yourself and the earth. An admonishment to trust yourself.

Coming up

In our next sessions we will learn how to make herbal honeys and syrups, and how to take charge of our own health care with the six steps of healing.

I also invite you to study with me in the convenience of your home via correspondence course! Choose from one of my four courses: Green Allies, Spirit & Practice of the Wise Woman Tradition, Green Witch, and ABC of herbalism with Susun Weed. Learn more at or write to me at [email protected]

Experiment Number One

The next time you start to feel unwell, ask yourself what each one of the three traditions would advise you to do – e.g. You feel a headache coming on. The Scientific tradition says take a pain killer. The Heroic tradition says give yourself an enema. The Wise Woman tradition says take a nap. (For more information on the three traditions, see the chart in my book Healing Wise.)

Experiment Number Two

Instead of doing what you usually do for some problem (e.g. headache), do something different. Choose something from the same tradition you usually use, or from a different tradition.

Experiment Number Three

Become more aware of the “nourishment of your senses” as Gurdieff put it. What do you look at? Listen to? Smell? Touch with your skin? Taste?

Experiment Number Four

Nourish yourself in a new or different way. You might: eat something – or eat somewhere – that you’ve wanted to try but never dared. Go to a museum, or the opera, or the ballet, or a Broadway show. Visit with a cherished friend. Listen to music that touches your soul. Sit in meditation and burn subtle incense.

Experiment Number Five

Make a list of ten things that nourish you that are now in your life.

Make a list of ten things that could nourish you if they were in your life.

Further study

  1. Become more familiar with the Scientific tradition: Read one or more issues of Scientific American and/or Science News.
  1. Become more familiar with the Heroic tradition: Skim through Back to Eden or any current book on detoxification.
  1. Become more familiar with the Wise Woman tradition. Read:

Healing Wise, the Wise Woman herbal. Susun Weed. 1987, Ash Tree Publishing.

herbal Rituals. Judith Berger. 1998, St. Martin’s Press.

Healing Magic, A Green Witch Guidebook. Robin Rose Bennett. 2004, Sterling.

The Secret Teachings of Plants. Stephen Buhner. 2004, Inner Traditions.

The Village herbalist, Sharing Plant Medicines with Family and Community. Nancy and Michael Phillips. 2001, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Advanced work

  • The three traditions of healing are not restricted to healing of course. You might have recognized these three attitudes in your profession. Wonderful articles have been written on the “Three Traditions of Teaching” (the Scientific relies on tests, the Heroic on punishment and reward, the Wise Woman on freedom to experience and express) and the “Three Traditions of Therapy” (the Scientific refers to manuals and prescribes drugs, the Heroic blames the unconscious, the Wise Woman nourishes the spirit and builds wholeness) and even the “Three Traditions of Cooking” (the Scientific uses a thermometer and a recipe, the Heroic blackens and heavily spices everything, and the Wise Woman uses what is in season where she lives).
  • Apply the three traditions to your profession.
  • Read about the history of herbal medicine. Suggested books:

Green Pharmacy, the History and Evolution of Western herbal Medicine. Barbara Griggs. 1997, Healing Arts.

The Magical Staff, the Vitalist Tradition in Western Medicine. Matthew Wood. 1992, North Atlantic Books.

Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, A History of Women Healers. Barbara Ehrenrich and Deirdre English. 1973, Feminist Press.

I see the wise woman. She carries a blanket of compassion. She wears robes of wisdom. Around her throat flutters a veil of shifting shapes. From her shoulders, a mantle of power flows. A story band encircles her forehead. She stitches a quilt; she spins fibers into yarn; she knits; she sews; she weaves. She ties the threads of our lives together. She forms a web of spiraling threads: our lives invented and shared.

I see the wise woman at her loom: a loom warped with days of light and nights of dark. White threads, black threads receive the flying shuttle. A shuttle filled with threads of many colors. Threads the colors of the earth, the common ground; threads the colors of the people of the earth. Some threads are short; some threads are long; each thread is different, each perfect and splendid. The threads are alive with sound and color. The threads are mutable; they change at a touch. The threads are crystal antennae; they respond at a thought.

And intertwined with each thread, a thread blood red, a thread of such sensitivity, it seems invisible, a thread of such vitality, it can never be hidden. As our blood flows over and under the days and nights of our lives and binds each moment to the whole, so the red thread of the wise woman binds us in the tapestried, cosmic web, holds us in our variety, spirals lovingly around us, claims us again at death.

I see the wise woman. And she sees me.

(Excerpt from Healing Wise, c. 1987 Susun S Weed. Available thru )

Healing Wise: The Spirit of Simples

What is a Simple?

A “simple” is one herb used at a time. A “simpler” is an herbalist who generally uses herbs one at a time, rather than in combinations.

Why Use Simples?

Most herbalists I have met — whether from China or Japan, Eastern or Western Europe, Australia or North America — use herbs in combinations. Simplers, like myself, don’t. Why?

Because I believe that herbal medicine is people’s medicine, I seek to make herbal medicine simple: as simple as one herb at a time. Because people worry about interactions between the drugs they take and herbs, I keep it simple: with simples, interactions are simple to observe, and simpler to avoid. Because empowerment in health care is difficult, I want to offer others easy, safe herbal remedies: and what could be easier, or safer, than a simple?

Simples Make Me Think

When I was just getting started with herbs, one thing that confounded me was the many choices I had when I began to match symptoms to the herbs that relieved them. If someone had a cough should I use garden sage or wild cherry bark or pine sap or mullein or coltsfoot (to name only a few of the many choices)? One way out of this dilemma was to use them all. I made many cough syrups that contained every anti-cough herb that I could collect. And they all worked.

As I got more sophisticated in my herbal usage, and especially after I completed a course on homeopathy, I began to see that each herb had a specific personality, a specific way of acting. I realized I couldn’t notice the individual actions of the herbs when they were combined.

It felt daring at first to use just one herb. Would wild cherry bark tincture all by itself be enough to quell that child’s cough? Yes! Would mullein infusion alone really reduce a person’s asthmatic and allergic reactions? Yes! Would sage soaked in honey for six weeks ease a sore throat? Yes! Each herb that I tried as a simple was successful. They all worked, not just together, but by themselves.

The more I used individual herbs the more I came to know them as individuals. The more I used simples, the simpler and more successful my remedies became. The more I used one herb at a time, the more I learned about how that herb worked, and didn’t work.

Simples Are Intimate

When we use one herb at a time, we come to know that herb, we become intimate with that herb. Just as we become intimate with each other by spending time one-on-one, tete-a-tete, simply together, we become closer to the herbs when we use them as simples.

Becoming intimate with an herb or a person helps us build trust. How reliable is the effect of this herb? When? How? Where does it fail? Using simples helps us build a web of green allies that we trust deeply. Simples help us feel more powerful. They help abate our fears, simply, safely.

Simples Are Subtle

Using one herb at a time gives us unparalleled opportunities to observe and make use of the subtle differences that are at the heart of herbal medicine. When we use simples we are more likely to notice the many variables that affect each herb: including where it grows, the years’s weather, how we harvest it, our preparation, and the dosage.1 The many variables within one plant insure that our simple remedy nonetheless touches many aspects of a person and heals deeply.

One apprentice tinctured motherwort flowering tops weekly through its blooming period. She reported that the tinctures made from the younger flower stalks had a stronger effect on the uterus; while those made from the older flower stalks, when the plant was going to seed, had a stronger effect on the heart.

Simples Give Me Power

Using one herb at a time helps me feel more certain that my remedy has an active value, not just a placebo value. Using one plant at a time, and local ones at that, reassures me that my herbal medicine cannot be legislated away. Using one plant at a time allows me to build trust in my remedies. Using one plant at a time is a subversive act, a reclaiming of simple health care.

Combinations erode my power, activate my “victim persona,” and lead me to believe that herbal medicine is best left to the experts.

From Complex to Simple

Take the challenge! Use simples instead of complex formulae. Let’s rework some herbal remedies and get a sense of how simple it can be.

The anti-cancer formula Essiac contains Arctium lappa (burdock), Rheum palmatum (rhubarb), Ulmus fulva (slippery elm), and Rumex acetosella (sheep sorrel). Rhubarb root has no possible use against cancer; it is a purgative whose repeated use can “aggravate constipation.” Slippery elm bark also has no possible anti-cancer properties and has no doubt been added to counter some of the detrimental effects of the rhubarb. Sheep sorrel juice is so caustic that it has been used to burn off skin cancers, but it would likely do more harm to the kidneys than to any cancer if ingested regularly. Leaving us with a great anti-cancer simple: burdock root. One that I have found superbly effective in reversing dysplasias and precancerous conditions.

A John Lust formula for relief of coughs 2 contains Agropyron repens (witch grass), Pimpinella anisum (aniseed), Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice), Inula helenium (elecampane root), Pulmonaria officinalis (lungwort), Thymus species (thyme herb), (murillo bark) 3, Chondrus crispus (irish moss), Lobelia inflata (lobelia herb). Witch grass has little or no effect on coughs; it is an emollient diuretic whose dismissal from this group would leave no hole. Anise seeds are also not known to have an anti-pertussive effect; although they do taste good, we can do without them. Lobelia can bring more oxygen to the blood, but is certainly not an herb I would ever add to a cough mixture, so I will leave it out here. Licorice is a demulcent expectorant that can be most helpful for those with a dry cough; however, I do use it for a variety of reasons, among them its exotic origins and its cloyingly sweet taste. Lungwort is, as its name implies, a pectoral, but its effect is rather mild, and its place in the Boraginaceae family gives me pause.

How much pyrrolizidine alkaloid might it contain? Thyme, and its more common anti-cough cousin garden sage, contains essential oils that could both quiet a cough and counter infection in the throat. A strong tea or a tincture of either could be our simple. Irish moss is, a specific to soothe coughs and a nutritive in addition, would also make an excellent simple. But it is elecampane that I would crown. It is not only a specific to curb coughing, it counters infection well, and tonifies lung tissues. Several small doses of a tincture of elecampane root should quiet a cough in a few hours.

Simples are fun. Give them a try.


1. Among the many variables, I have especially noticed that the tinctures that I make with fresh plants are many times more effective than tinctures made from dried plants. My elders tell me that preparations of common plants growing in uncommon places will be stronger as well. Many herbalists are aware of certain areas of their land that nurture plants that are particularly potent medicines.
2. John Lust. The Herb Book. 1974. Bantam.
3. Note that this formula, as is frequently the case, contains an “exotic” herb which Mr. Lust does not include in the 500+ herbs in his book, nor does he give us a botanical name for the plant, leaving us literally unable to prepare his formula as presented.


Salves, Balms and Lotions, Oh My!

Now that our herb gardens are rocking, I thought I’d give you all a tutorial on how to make an herbal salve, a lip balm, and a basic lotion. 

herbal Salve

To make a basic salve, all you need is an infused oil, beeswax and some essential oil.


  Making Salves: The Key Ingredients

Infused oils are carrier oils that have been “infused” with one or more herbs. They are      used to make any oil-based apothecary items, such as lip balms, creams, massage oils and salves.


You can use any oil to make a salve, I personally like infused oils of calendula, comfrey, chamomile, plantain and arnica etc.  However, sweet almond, grapeseed and even olive oil are all good choices.  To make a 4 oz jar, use two ounces oil to one ounce beeswax or a two to one ratio for a semi hard salve.  All you need do is combine the two and microwave until the beeswax melts.  One melted stir well, add any essential oils you like and stir well.  Pour into jar.  It will firm up in about 15 minutes.


Lip Balm

Lip Balm is very similar to making a salve.  Instead of a two to one ratio of oil to wax it’s a four to one.  After melting the wax into the oil, you can flavor it with any candy confectioners extract, vanilla extract etc.  If you happen to have a liquid sweetener you can use that as well.  I often times like to color my balms.  I use FDA approved micas so if using micas, note, a very tiny amount goes a long way!  This mixture will have to be stirred for approximately 5 minutes or so to combine all the ingredients or they will separate.  Fill pots or if you have tubes, fill those.


Lotions are a bit more difficult to make but the end result is wonderful!  Now all lotions need an emulsifier such as beeswax, however that makes for a greasy lotion so in this case we’re going to use borax (yes it’s an all natural product found in the laundry aisle of your local supermarket) and shea butter.


You’ll need: 1/2 cup boiling water, 1/8 teaspoon borax, 1/2 cup of almond oil and 1 tablespoon shea butter.


Boil the water and add the borax, stir, and set aside.  Melt the oil and shea butter and then pour into a blender.  On low speed start pouring in the water to the oil mixture in a very thin, slow stream.  Blend on high until well mixed.  You should now have a milky white lotion.  Makes 4 Ounces.      



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