Chicana writer Emily Prado highlights Lara's efforts to empower Brown folks to connect with their ancestral roots through herbalism. Read more about Lara's journey to curanderismo and her current work in her Portland community here.
It was an honor to be invited to write for this permaculture magazine. I often spend so much of my time teaching that I do not all that often find many opportunities to sit, reflect, and write. Pre order the Spring edition of Loam: Permaculture in Practice and be inspired by other writers and beautiful images. You can do that here.
All star apprentice for the year, Caienna Bierwerth, made this fun, creative, and very informative monograph of Usnea. A for sure ally in perilous situations and light hearted ones too. Details below!
A former volunteer/apprentice, Tilly Pelzar, created this beautiful and interactive monograph of a dear friend of mine here in the garden, Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia). More information on her artwork and musings can be found here.
I had the lovely opportunity to be a guest speaker for a freshman class learning about Sustainability at PSU. Here's a link to the blog that the students worked on a write up on my visit on April 9th and 10th, 2015. It was exhausting and yet so imperative to share this information to a group of students that had no idea what Dandelion was and how it could be used. These plants are immensely important to our survival and resilience as well as our happiness in the world.
I had the wonderful opportunity in being interviewed and featured on Portland Apothecary's 5 Questions Blog. I've also included the pasted version on here minus the images.
I recently got to meet Lara and am really impressed by all the important work she is doing. Check out her site for upcoming class listings and all her other wonderful offerings!
What motivates you to work within the health field?
To help empower people to cultivate an awareness of their bodies, and of the plants and landscapes that surround them and how they can help heal. Seeing people develop this awareness is inspirational and deepens my own work in health and healing.
Is there a certain piece of advice you find yourself giving to your clients often? If so, what is it?
Cultivating self love by carving out space and time for themselves that entails some piece of self care, whether that's making time for tea, good food, or meditation. Also, illness seems inextricably linked to emotional well being so having clients understand the importance of working through emotional baggage is vital to improving their physiological well being.
Favorite books within your healing modality?
I reference Peter Holmes, 'The Energetics of Western Herbs' a great deal, also Donald Yance's 'Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism', Aviva Romm's 'Botanical Medicine for Women's Health' and always love reading and sitting with Stephen Harrod Buhner's books, especially 'The Secret Teachings of Plants'.
Are plants part of your practice and if so, which do you find yourself using the most and for what reason?
Plants are the primary part of my practice, other than recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes. Plants are not only magical and beautiful, but when the craft of matching specific plant medicine helps resolve a specific situation a client is facing, the implication of that connection is profound and miraculous.
What are the tools of your trade that you couldn't live without?
Going out into the woods and being with plants or growing the plants I work with, this is essential to the work I provide.
What do you turn towards for inspiration?
Spending time in the woods and sea, sailing and playing music. Reading writers like Ursula LeGuin and Mary Oliver. I love reading from other herbalists like Fellow Workers Apothecary and Renee Davis and Sean Donahue.
Dandelion Vinegar recipe and visualization
Well there are two parts to this, but since we're entering Spring movement, I think making herbal vinegars is the simplest and most gentle way to get things moving that might have been otherwise stagnant. So just picking some dandelion buds, flowers and some of the leaves and placing them in a pint jar of apple cider vinegar at a 1:2 ratio is a great way to assimilate nutrients and support the hard work your liver is doing. You can have those buds sit in the vinegar for a couple of weeks, no set time is necessary except your own, strain it and dilute some in water. Take this elixir, if you will, and find a spot outside on warm day. Take a couple of sips and taste what you're sipping, notice how it affects your body and lay on the earth/ground/grass and breathe in the air. Breathe in the trees that might surround you, the birds, the plants and imagine that life that's bubbling all around you, is also animating inside of you. Do it for as long as you can stand, but even starting with a few minutes can have a profound impact.
Lara Pacheco is a clinical herbalist who founded Seed and Thistle Apothecary, which offers a monthly herbal subscription of seasonally based herbal preparations from plants she grows and ethically wildcrafts. Within this model, she also offers consultations and customized options where individuals are matched with specific plant medicine to help support their health. Lara is a Latina community organizer and teaches classes, builds gardens, and advocacy around women’s health and access to alternative medicine for the underserved. Lara learned from the plants originally in the farm and field then pursued further studies in the Pacific Northwest with the School of Traditional Western Herbalism and worked with Scott Kloos for his one time offering of the Cascadia Folk Medicine Herbal Apprenticeship.
I had the lovely opportunity to be interviewed by clinical herbalist, Sarah Holmes of the Blue Otter School, on the radio program, Herbal Highway. We discussed my Oral History project, my herbal CSH and briefly how to generally approach auto-immune issues. It's hard to hear yourself talk on radio yet it always feels great to connect with someone over plants and to hopefully help people reflect on some simple measures we can take on complex health issues like auto-immunity.
My interview with Cindy Capparelli with Portland Bitters Project explores the important role of keeping bitter foods and the bitter taste a part of our diet.
One of my favorite herbalists, Jim McDonald has a great article and resources on the subject matter and perfect for this time of year!
Taste/qualities: astringent, sweet, cooling, moistening
USE: Rub on any inflamed parts of the body, especially in any mysterious allergic outbreaks that leave your skin full of hives. Also is useful on burnt skin in conjunction with St John’s wort oil.
Taste/qualities: astringent, sweet, cooling, moistening yet drying with the astringency, restoring, decongesting
USE: An herb and flower that has long been revered since the Middle Ages and for good reason. Its selection here for your use Matt is really as a decongestant to the liver, to help promote bile flow to improve digestion, and to clear toxic heat as a tonic. In acute situations, it can help with any type of inflammation internally or externally and help reduce infection. Think of why it was so popular in the Middle Ages. Also helps lift the mind and heart.
Taste/Qualities: sweet, sour, pungent, drying and cooling
USE: as a general daily drinking tonic. Use it to help stimulate digestion or your appetite. Apple cider vinegar alone is a wonderful tonic full of digestive enzymes and anti-microbial properties but combined with an extraction of nasturtium flowers is a special treat of spice and enzymes to help support your body.
Preparation: Can either sip directly from the bottle for a powerful mouth punch or pour a little bit into your water or sparkling water as an alternative to a cocktail party.
USE: Spanish colonialists discovered its use by Natives as a sedative for children. It still acts as a gentle, cooling nervous sadative and neuromuscular relaxant. California poppy is commonoly used for insomnia, pain, tension headaches and anxiety with diet, sleep and lifestyle considered.
Dosage: For sleep support 15-30 drops an hour before bed and another 15 drops in bed if still restless. Anxiety, pain 15-30 drops for acute symptoms.
USE: A flower of the sun representing fire and solar energy and bound up with much medicinal power. It exudes its strength as a flower most flavorly in the mouth. As a poultice it helps prevent infection and heal any immediate wound, it’s one of my favorite first aid remedies around the house. Use it as a wash or gargle or douche for fungal, yeast and bacterial infections. Internally as a tincture, I like to include it in any formula in which I’m addressing lymphatic congestion. As a wonderful restorative in tissue repair, it also helps do the same internally to the body.
(Yarrow, Oregon grape root, Dandelion root, Burdock, Boneset, + Lemon balm)
Taste/Qualities: bitter, bitter, carminative, and bitter
USE: Well everybody is talking about bitters in the renaissance of distilleries and cocktails, but forgetting about the medicinal narrative of this fine concoction! These very bitter herbs have a primary action of stimulating salivation thereby initiating the digestive process. In addition to the bitter are some carminative herbs like Yarrow and Lemon balm to keep things stewing along. Drop some of this into your favorite cocktail mix or into your sparkling water or even bring it to a party to share while everyone gorges themselves with cheese and nachos and need the aid of some digestive bitters.
Horsetail, Nettles, Violet leaf
Taste/Qualities: Nutritious, sweet, stimulating, relaxing, astringent, slightly mucilaginous, cooling
USE: Horsetail is known to help strengthen hair, nails, bones with silica containing properties. Also full of minerals along with Nettles and Violet leaf, it provides the body with a gentle dose of vitamins and nutrients to the body. All of these plants are also working to gently support the kidneys in its work to excrete waste.
Preparation: A tablespoon in a cup of boiled water, infused for 15 minutes. Sip joyously and graciously whenever you feel like your body needs it.
Allergy Support tincture formula
Oregon grape root, Hawthorn berry and flower, Nettles, Turkey tail mushroom
USE: You got the hay fever this Spring? Are you sneezing a lot, itchy eyes, scratchy throat or congestion all around? Allergies are no fun and neither are the anti-allergy otc drugs. This formula is meant to support your body with the use of the turkey tail mushroom, which is an immune amphoteric. That means it helps the body in immune excess or deficiency. How brilliant! The hawthorn is cooling to the inflamed immune state in allergies and Nettles has anti-histaminic properties. Oregon grape is meant to help the liver detoxify as sometimes it can be ‘congested’ or overburdened with allergies. Try it out or pass it along to a friend in need.
Dosage: in acute situations, use 30-40 drops every 10-15 minutes until allergy attack subsides. For ongoing allergies and preventatively, use 30-40 drops 3x a day. Alcohol, food allergies can make allergy situation worse.
Ring Botanicals Oregon Attar featuring essential oils of Black poplar, Mugwort, and Lavender, Baking soda, Corn starch, and Coconut oil
We say no to those toxic anti-perspirants that stop your body from naturally trying to detoxify through your pores, especially through your pits. Can’t say we all welcome the smell that comes with a stinky pit, but we can use a nice alternative to the smell. This deodorant blend showcases, Ring Botanicals, who is a Cully hero of mine. She wildcrafts her own stuff and distills it all into lovely and potent essential oils. I use her aromatic Oregon Attar along with other natural ingredients to stay onto them pits. Use your finger to rub on freely after a nice refreshing bath or shower onto your underarm. Enjoy!
Spring tonic tea blend
Nettles, Violet leaf and flower, Dandelion greens + root, Raspberry leaf, Yarrow, Red Alder bark, Yellow Dock root, Turkey tail, a touch of Mint and sage
Taste/Qualities: Nutritious, bitter, sweet, stimulating, relaxing, astringent, slightly mucilaginous, cooling
USE: This spring tonic tea blend is meant to help you transition well and gently this season. A combination of the bitters, sweet, and astringent all work to have the body assimilate all the rich nutrients and minerals that are locked away into the cellular structure of the plant material. It is a gentle way to help get your digestive system moving again just as our bodies are beginning to expand and adjusting to the summer season.
Preparation: Make a delicious infusion by having a 1-2 tbsp to 1 cup ratio and let it steep for 20 minutes before drinking.
Spring Rain Salve by Thirteen Moons Apothecary
with Dandelion flowers, Violet, and Cleavers.
The soothing affect of dandelion flower on tender glands combines with the delicate action of violet and cleavers to stimulate lymphatic movement. This salve is also highly moisturizing and may be applied daily.
Made with grapeseed oil, lavender essential oil and beeswax.
Nettles succus and Cleavers tincture
Urtica diocia, Galium aparine
Taste/Qualities: neutral, umami, nutritious, cooling, drying, restoring, stimulating, detoxicants, alterative
USE: Succus? Latin for ‘juice’. What better way to access all the fresh plant jewels of Nettles and Cleavers then to make a succus?! It is expelled fresh plant juice with a 20% alcohol content for preservation purposes. Nettles succus mixed with a Cleavers tincture is what you have there in your hand. Both plant materials together are nutritive in their high levels of mineral content. Nettles is a abundant plant that works to restore the blood. Nettles provides a deep, all around “detox” supports the body in allergies, arthritis, eczema. It’s considered an alternative or a plant that helps the body metabolically assimilate nutrients and properly excrete waste especially through the kidneys. Great for those burned out on caffeine, sitting at the desk all day. Cleavers! Has a strong systemic detoxicant function primarily through the lymphatic and urinary system. So think of it as a gentle way to assist your lymph nodes in keeping your immune system ‘clean’.
DOSAGE: For the general support of Winter-Spring transition, 3 dropperfulls in one sitting or spread throughout the day.
Oregon grape tincture
Taste/Qualities: bitter, cold, drying, stimulating, restoring, astringing
USE: Constipated? Yes, please, I’ll have a dropper full of Oregon grape. Drank too much, yes I’ll have 3 droppers full of Oregon grape. Oh wait, you have a bacterial infection on your skin or somewhere internally? Yes, I’ll have a couple of droppers full 3 x a day. This indispensable plant is not only one of my best plant allies in the PNW, but it is also a must have in a first aid medicine cabinet. It’s what I bring in my travels abroad to help protect against stomach bugs and also help my digestive tract with its bitter properties to stimulate digestion and to assist in bile secretion that inevitably supports the good work that my liver does. It’s invaluable for backpacking trips for prevention of infections from wounds. I love this plant. Let’s talk about it some time.
Cottonwood Ghee-topical use
Taste/Qualities: moisturizing, anti microbial
USE: I use this every day on my face in the winter to moisten my skin. Most importantly this serves well for a long backpacking trip in the wilderness where you have very little with you, but need the essentials like your first-aid kit. For any type of cut, blister, abrasion, cottonwood has salicylates, which thin the blood just like aspirin. It’s also full of anti-microbial properties so it helps prevent possible infection while on the trail. Balsam poplar grows along streams and wetlands and graces us with its aroma and medicine. In tincture form it helps a great deal with deep bacterial lung infections. I never tried this, but it might be worth applying this on the chest in the case of a lung infection. I love gathering the buds this time of year and with it collecting resin on my fingers.
DOSAGE: Slather on as much as you like! Clean the area first, in the case of a cut or blister.
Taste/Qualities: sour, sweet, cooling, astringent
USE: What is a February pickup without a rose involved? Rosehips are the fruit of roses we can still find color in the dark greys of winter. High in Vitamin C, Rosehips are also bursting with anti-oxidants and flavonoids. With flavonoids, think anti-inflammatory properties that aid in any part of the body where there is heat and swelling. Rosehips are reported to help with liver, digestive woes and acts as a restorative to the reproductive system. So much to say with such little space.
DOSAGE: Like other sipping cordials, break this open on a chilly evening and gently heat a cup to sip on. You can simmer it to extract the alcohol (brandy for preservation and taste to some) or to simmer it down to syrup if you’d like it in that form.
Winter Marketplace this Saturday!
Portland Plant Medicine Marketplace Winter Edition 2: This weekend!!!
Join us for a celebration of plants and magic and stock up on local herbal medicine!
Music and Entertainment by the Talented Moe Bowstern!
Local medicine makers! Come get your tinctures, salves, flower essences, herbal chocolates, and a mini tarot or astrology reading from the very best in Portland! ...
Polish Hall, 3832 N.Interstate
1:30-5:00 Sat. February 8th
Just in time for Valentine Treats! See you there! Email Nicole at email@example.com if you have any questions or great ideas!
Blue Iris Medicinals, bluemedicinals.com
Brazen Mae Arts and Gifts
Tarot Readings with Daniel Nighting
13 Moons Apothecary, thirteenmoonsapothecary.com/
Among Thee Reedz Herbal Alchemy LLC
Cascadia Folk Medicine
The School of Forest Medicine
The School of Traditional Western Herbalism
Ash & Earth
Brown Bear Herbs, brownbearherbs.com
Groundwater Traditional Healing Arts
Green Witch Apothecary, greenwitchapothecary.com
Seed and Thistle, seedandthistle.com
Sweet Honey Farmacy, http://www.sweethoneyfarmacy.wordpress.com
Mickelberry Gardens, http://www.mickelberrygardens.com
Sarah Stanze LMT, threebreaths.massagetherapy.com/
Alquimia Botanicals, angelalquimia.wordpress.com/
Red Cedar spray
Taste/Qualities: pungent, diffusive, bitter, astringent, cooling, drying, restoring, decongesting
USE: Natives of the Pacific Northwest revered our Red Cedar as the ‘Tree of Life’ and indeed it was for it provided shelter, clothing, and medicine. I still believe it acts as our local ‘Tree of Life’. You can use the bark for various projects of basketry, but I work mostly with the leaves. The medicinal benefits lie in its essential oils and tannins. It’s wonderful at clearing out mucous damp and congestion, while toning any membranes that are releasing copious discharge. So think of it for many organ systems. Red cedar also has anti-viral properties so it’s helpful here in these days of influenza pandemics! Psycho-spiritually the plant is also useful for grounding and for helping to connect us to the ancestors of this land.
DOSAGE: Contraindicated in pregnancy. 20-40 drops/spritz 3 x a day.
Nettles, Raspberry leaf + Porcini, Morel Ghee- Urtica diocia, Rubus idaeus
Taste/Qualities: savory, umami, nutritious, neutral
USE: In these winter months, as many of our ancestors once did, we pull from what we stored in the summer and blend it with the oils and fats we have to help nurture us through until Spring. Here I have utilized my dried Nettles that I gathered last Spring and Raspberry leaf from the summer, which are both high in minerals and nutrients. I used some dried Porcini and Morel mushrooms and threw all these ingredients into some ghee and heated at a low temperature to ensure proper extraction. Spread it on some toast or use it to cook your eggs, vegetables.
Seed and Thistle selling at a holiday market
Cold/Flu Support Tea blend
Elderberry, Lemon balm, Beebalm, Boneset, Western Red Cedar, Mint, Lavender, Feverfew
Taste/Qualities: Cooling, Warming, Drying, bitter, pungent, restoring, stimulating
USE: So you’ve got a cold. You’ve got the chills or not, maybe some achiness, stuffed up nose, and general lethargy? Well here’s a fine tea for you to provide yourself for some necessary self-care. I’d recommend grating some ginger to add to this fine recipe. If you experience a fever then this tea blend will especially be helpful to bring it to the surface, so you can then be healed!
Preparation: Upon apparent symptoms of cold/flu, drink a tablespoon to : 1 cup of boiled water. Infuse for 15 minutes, strain, then sip.
Red root (Ceanothus velutinus)
TASTE/Qualities: Cooling, Drying, Astringent
USE: Widely known for the might roots of the plant that have an organ affinity for the lymphatic system. For weakness and bogginess in lymph nodes, post headache from a fatty meal (thanksgiving meal), Red root is actually known to help change the charge of our blood and help ease the work of our liver in this way. You see red root growing in areas after a fire, as it is amazing nitrogen fixer for our forest floors. Ceanothus is also indicated for fibrocystic breasts (think boggy lymph nodes here), mastitis, pharyngitis, and acute tonsillitis.
Dosage: 1 full dropper 3 x a day as a way to gently restore the function of our lymph nodes
False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacena racemosa)
Taste/Qualities: nut like, sweet, moistening, bitter
USE: M. Moore writes that the Smilacena is a mild anti-inflammatory that can help irritated gums, and throat and GI. Also seems that that our friend has an affinity towards the lungs in a way that soothes and relaxes bronchial passages. Seems like with the slightly bitter taste that Smilacena can help liver function, but it also can be restorative to the cells or tissues of the liver. Brent Davis, DC, reports it’s helpful for women who are experiencing hormonal irregularities with a history of emotional and mental stress. Matthew Wood reports its use for strengthening and moistening tendons and ligaments, but haven’t heard much success with this use.
DOSAGE: 30-40 drops 3x a day for irritation of mucosa.