Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tincture-Making Workshop - June 12th

Wapsinonoc Gardens is hosting another tincture workshop, Sunday afternoon, June 12th from 1:00-5:00.

At this workshop you will:
  • Learn about the healing properties of a variety of medicinal plants growing here at the farm
  • Choose one or more plants that you would like to tincture
  • Tour the medicinal gardens
  • Harvest your chosen plants, clean, prepare, and fill tincture jars to take home
  • Handouts of medicinal plant descriptions and uses, and instructions on tincturing
  • Lots of individual attention as you choose your plants and make your tinctures
  • Medicinal plants
  • Large and small jars for tincturing
  • Small dosage dropper bottle
  • 100 proof vodka
  • Snack
Cost: $50 per person. Please register early as workshop is limited to ten participants.

Contact info: Nan Fawcett, 2039 Eureka Avenue, West Branch, IA 52358, or, or 319-643-3342

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Big Tomato Sale at Iowa City Farmers Market - Saturday!

All Wapsinonoc Gardens tomatoes will be half-price on Saturday, May 29th, at the Iowa City Farmers Market. Here are the varieties available. They are all heirlooms:

Pink Brandywine
Garden Peach
Wapsipinicon Peach
German Pink
Oxheart Giantissimo
Early Bird
Amish Paste
Cherokee Purple
Principe Borghese

Sale Prices: 4" pots - $1.00
4-packs - $1.50

Come and get some!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Raising the Tipi

We had set the time to put up our tipi at 4:30 this Sunday afternoon, but a thunderstorm came along first. Instead, we had an early dinner at the family cabin, watching the wind and rain pelting down. And then, as can happen so often in Iowa, the storm blew past, the sky cleared, and we had great weather for tipi-raising just an hour after the storm started. Here are a few pictures of the process. As we commented while we were at it, the Native Americans would laugh at us reading the instruction book. But in the end, the tipi graced the landscape, pointing toward the sky.

Friday, May 13, 2011

YOU can make your own medicines!

For thousands of years, people kept themselves healthy with herbal medicines, and today these simple remedies are perhaps as important as they ever have been. In general, using herbs for healing is a gentler way to treat disease than drugs. And now that many people are having reactions and unpleasant side effects to drugs, lots of folks are turning to a more natural alternative. As someone who has been fascinated with healing plants most of my life, I have found that growing and using all kinds of plants for healing is an adventure and a pleasure!

Many medicinal plants are already up outside. Above, you see a dandelion. Rosemary Gladstar (perhaps the best known herbalist in this country) calls the dandelion one of the great tonic herbs of all time. It is rejuvenating, it's great for the digestion, a wonderful herb to promote healthy liver and kidneys, it's extremely high in vitamins and minerals, and it grows everywhere. You can eat the leaves in salads or stir-fry, and the root can be tinctured for a stronger, long-lasting remedy.

The herb pictured above is another plant that grows wild in Iowa. It's called Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), and it's one of my favorites because of its effect on the cardiovascular system. Most of the women in my mother's family have a heart issue: sometimes between one heartbeat and the next, the heart will start beating at two or three times the normal rate, and this can go on for quite awhile. You can do nothing but lie down and wait it out when this happens. But then I discovered motherwort. I make a tincture with it and carry it with me wherever I go. And when my heart starts pounding (which only happens a couple times a year), a few drops of motherwort tincture under the tongue returns my heart to its regular rhythm within seconds. It's truly amazing! The herb is a popular one for women, good for the side effects of menopause, strengthening the heart, and some folks use it for a calming remedy. Like dandelions, it grows everywhere!
Here's another plant that grows everywhere. The Native Americans reputedly called it "White Man's Footsteps" because it grew wherever white men walked. It's call plantain (not the banana), and you'll find it especially in well-trod lawns and paths. It loves compacted soil. This lowly plant has leaves that are a miracle healer for skin ailments, from stings to cuts, rashes to dry skin. And the seeds that come later in the summer in a spike up through the middle of the leaves is actually psyllium seed (the stuff that promotes "regularity"). You'll see (above) a dandelion in the foreground, and the plantain leaves just behind it. Look for it the next time you go walking. And if you get stung, just pick a leaf, chew it up a bit, and plaster it on the sting.
This last picture is of Lady's Mantle, with some Catmint growing around the side. These are growing just outside my door, and they serve as decorative low ground covers as well as a medicinal plants. As with so many plants, both these herbs have a variety of uses, and I am learning more every day. One woman came to me at the farmers market, hoping to get lady's mantle because it was the only thing that cured her skin condition. It was the first time I'd heard of that use!

If this has whetted your interest in medicinal herbs, let me announce that I am giving a Tincture Workshop at Wapsinonoc Gardens in June. It will be Sunday, June 12th, from 1:00-5:00 p.m.  We'll spend some time at the beginning talking about tinctures and about the plants growing outside in the gardens and what they are good for. Then we'll go out and harvest the ones you choose, clean them, cut or grind them up, and prepare bottles of tinctured herb that you'll take home with you. Tinctures last for years, and are a great addition to your personal first aid basket. The workshop is $50, which includes the plants, vodka for the tinctures, large bottles, small tincture bottles, and a snack. Register early since space is limited. If interested, call 319-643-3342, send an email to, or reply to this blog post.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Medicinal Herbs at Wapsinonoc Gardens - 2011

Andrographis (Annual): fights common cold, flue, and upper respiratory infections.
Angelica (Perennial): treats cold and flu, warms the body, and aids in digestion
Anise Hyssop (Perennial): relieves congestion and indigestion, soothes and relaxes
Apricot Sprite Agastache (Perennial): wonderful aroma; use in tea and other beverages
Arnica montana (Annual): topical anti-inflammatory, used in homeopathy
Ashwaganda (Perennial): treats joint and nerve pain, insomnia, infertility
Astragalus (Perennial): strengthens digestion and immune system, raises metabolism
Balloon Flower (Perennial): cough remedy, young foliage can be added to salads
Basil (Annual): anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-microbial properties
Bergamot (Perennial): stimulant in tea, antiseptic, poultices for wounds, mouthwash
Betony (Perennial): relieves headaches, soothes aching joints (topical), general tonic action
Blessed Thistle (Annual): Eases lactation in nursing mothers, good for digestion, anti-cancer
Blue Flax (Perennial): relieves rheumatic pains, diarrhea and coughs
Boneset (Perennial): enhances immune system, helps with fevers and flu
Borage (Annual): Herb of Gladness, exilerating, lowers fever and decongests the lungs
Calendula (Annual): potent healing properties, anti-inflammatory, externally treats burns and bruises
Catnip (Perennial): treatment of colds, flu and fevers, upset stomach and insomnia, gently relaxing
Celandine (Perennial): treats warts and corns, stomach pains, anti-cancer properties
Chamomile (Perennial): provides relief from anxiety, headache, cold and flu, and digestive complaints
Chinese Wolfberry/Goji berry (Perennial): anti-oxidant, immune booster, vision & cardiac disorders
Clary Sage (Perennial): relaxant for nervous disorders; relieves sore throat, gas and indigestion
Comfrey (Perennial): promotes healing of bones; currently it is suggested to avoid internal use
Echinacea (Perennial): strengthens and stimulates digestion and the immune system
Elecampane (Perennial): quiets coughs, stimulates digestion, tones the stomach
Fennel (Perennial): relieves congestion and abdominal pain caused by gas and indigestion
Fenugreek (Annual):Increases milk production in lactating women, anti-viral, relieves arthritis pain
Feverfew (Perennial): treats colds and digestive problems and it great for headaches, esp. migraines
Foxglove, purple (Biennial): source of digitalis; do not use without medical supervision
Gayfeather (Perennial): used for kidney diseases and to relieve sore throat
Horehound (Perennial): provides relief from cough, and aids in treatment of chronic lung problems
Hyssop (Perennial): relieves sore throat, congestion, colds & flu, and aids in treating chronic bronchitis
Jacob's Ladder (Perennial): relieves nervous complaints, headaches and heart palpitations
Lady's Mantle (Perennial): good for menstrual disorders, lack of appetite, rheumatism, stomachache
Lavender (Perennial): antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, soothes insect bites, soothes headaches
Lemonbalm (Perennial): stimulates heart and calms nerves
Lion's Tail (Perennial): small shrub, treats fevers, headaches, flu, hypertension; anti-inflammatory
Lovage (Perennial): woman's tonic, increases energy, relieves indigestion, colds and flu
Maralroot (Perennial): Siberian plant with remarkable metabolic and tonic effects
Marjoram (Annual): oil used for sprains and bruises, emmenagogue
Marshmallow (Perennial): relieves coughs and is used to aid treatment of diabetes and tuberculosis
Meadow Clary (Perennial): wonderfully aromatic, calms and relaxes
Milk Thistle (Biennial): remedy for liver diseases
Motherwort (Perennial): good for PMS, menstrual pain and delay in menstruation, strengthens heart
Mugwort (Perennial): eases feelings of unease and general malaise; used in moxibustion
Ox-Eye Daisy (Perennial): relieves chronic cough, asthma and nervous excitabilitiy
Pennyroyal (Perennial): used in aromatherapy, good insect repellant
Pleurisy Root (Perennial): treats cold, flu, fever and congestion
Pyrethrum (Perennial): insecticidal properties, good companion plant to repel insects
Rue (Perennial): lowers blood pressure and relieves aches and pains. Do not take in large doses
Sage, Garden (Perennial): gargle tea to relieve sore throat, woman's tonic herb
Shungiku Edible Chrysanthemum (Annual): rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants
Skullcap (Perennial): calms and relaxes, induces sleep, and relieves headaches
Soapwort (Perennial): crushed leaves or roots used as a soap, cleaning delicate fabrics, shampoo
St. John's Wort (Perennial): relieves depression, especially in children and teens
Sunset Flower/Mexican Butterfly Weed (Perennial): clots wounds, wart removal, treats poison ivy
Sweet Annie (Annual): anti-malarial, anti-cancer, anti-parasite; traditionally used for fevers; strewing
Sweet Marigold (Tagetes lucida) (Annual): similar to tarragon; makes a stimulating tea, strewing herb
Sweet Woodruff (Perennial): gentle sedative, flavors wines and spirits, popular potpourri scent
Tansy (Perennial): promotes menstruation and is applied externally to injuries and bruises
Thyme (Perennial): soothes cough and sore throat, aids in treatment of asthma and digestive problems
Toothache Plant (Annual): numbs toothaches, treats dry mouth, smooths facial wrinkles, anti-diabetic
Valerian (Perennial): acts as a calming sedative and relieves pain and cramps
Vervain (Perennial): use for fevers, ulcers, pleurisy; anti-sposmatic, astringent
Wallflower (Perennial): fragrant golden flowers good in potpourris
Winter Savory (Perennial): topical treatment for joint pain
Wormwood (Perennial): treats arthritis, relieves itching from rashes, and regulates liver
Yarrow (Perennial): improves digestion, circulation, and functions of the liver, gall bladder & kidneys