The tea cabinet has taken a few years to truly assemble the various assorted wild and domestic herbs. But building such an expansive tea cabinet has required a lot of learning, and a lot of self-health evaluations working with the herbs. Yet I’ve managed to gather quite a few herbs, treat them properly through the preserving process, and properly store them until needed.
I call it Herb-keeping. I began my odyssey in 2011, when I landed on this beautiful land of Switzerland. It truly is a picturesque countryside. So many varieties of healing herbs grow literally in the wild. You can fill your eyes with fields full of angelica, lady’s mantel, and Queen Anne’s Lace. You can comb the rougher terrain of the Alps and see endless patches of Arnica Montana or Alpen Lilly’s. Natural ponds are often home to nettle, wild mint, and yarrow. It’s a stark contrast from living in California, where years and years of drought have dried up most of the native perennials that once flourished our countrysides. But in Switzerland, we have plenty of moisture at the moment, and that will bring an abundant spring with fields and fields of natural herbs springing up.
No where else, can I imagine opening my front door and taking a wander for several hours with no car involved. My choices are endless really for immersing myself in nature. I could go right, left, up, down. Forest, lake, open field. I’ve learned the ways of the land thus far and I know how to navigate my walks in summer. For example I know which routes not to take in order to avoid the big biting horse flies. But if I do get stung, I know that reaching for St. John’s wort while on my walk, will take my sting away and begin the heal. Knowing where to find the early shoots of coltsfoot, lungwort and schluesselbluemen when the early signs of spring begin to present themselves. I know which shadowy forests grow horsetail.
Though this ground knowledge has taken a while to instill in me, I wouldn’t have been inspired had I not begun to read a complete guide to herbs and their healing power, the book called “Herb Wise” by Mathew Wood. Tapping into just the surface of what his book has taught and inspired me to do, it has given me great confidence to walk the fields and identify the countless healing herbs. Being able to identify them. Researching them further when I’m unsure. It’s a very stimulating process.
Reading his book cover to cover, taking notes. Dog-earing pages where I wanted to learn more. Practicing, picking, drying, storing. Then using. At the beginning, I had about 10 assorted herbs, but the easy ones. Peppermint, chamomile, verbena, yarrow, lemon balm. So, I began with those, as they were already established in my herbal garden we inherited when we moved to our current house and they were the ‘easy’ ones. The ones I knew and could easily identify by smell, and shape.
So many possibilities
But a years later now, the process got deeper. Today, I don’t know how many jars I have now, over 20 I’m guessing. All with a very specific purpose. I have the ‘must have’ herbs, or the ‘go to’ herbs that were a must in the Medieval times. Herbs such as yarrow, nettle and yssop were once thought of the support system in herbal medicine. It was also a trend that every ‘apoteke’ garden was sure to have a ‘Elderberry’ bush. It was a life-line through the threats of winter.
Sadly, times are different. We’re pretty far away from this ground knowledge and have very few practitioners who understand the healing characteristics of herbs. It makes you so aware when you walk the trails in nature, to be careful where you step, and what you are stepping on! Don’t rape the prairies, rather gather a few and make them live on when they are needed through herbal medicine at home.
Use your herbs like medicine
Every day has the potential to heal. Today was the first time I’ve seen sunshine in a while. Yesterday was 31 degrees Fahrenheit and heavy fog. Today is totally different. Around 38 degrees and a large patch of blue sky. I was drawn to walking the wild trail today to absorb some direct Vitamin D rays from the sun. It was delicious! And my tea needs were as such: Nettle (have some slight scratching in my right tonsil side. Lungwort: passed cars, they stunk and just pollute, the herb keeps the lungs healthy, clean and open. Verbena: I love it! Peppermint: needed the buzz and the kick from peppermint today. It really is that easy!