• Materia Medica: Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)

    Our local Taxodium, the Bald Cypress, is one really cool tree! Taxodium distichum is our local Bald Cypress, and it’s a deciduous conifer. A conifer is usually (not in this case!) evergreen, and has cones as their reproductive parts instead of a flower- a gymnosperm instead of angiosperm. Marc Williams, of Botany Everyday, does a wonderful job of speaking of these glorious trees in the context of their taxonomy. Deciduous trees drop their leaves in the winter, which is a pretty rare thing for a conifer to do! They grow in the Southeastern US, and are beautifully showcased when growing in swampy areas. Bald Cypress have a feature that we…

  • Materia Medica: Florida Betony

    Florida betony (Stachys floridana also known as Rattlesnake Weed) is a special plant to me. I remember my grandmother pickled the tubers when I was a little girl. I would munch and munch on them not fully knowing even what they were. About 20 years later in Family class with Emily, she discusses Florida Betony and passes it around for us. For lunch that day, one of the students shared her picked betony tubers with me and I was flooded with memory. THIS is what my grandmother gave me all those moons ago.  I hope you become cozy with this plant and feel the abundance Florida carries for us through…

  • Materia Medica: Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

        . I still laugh out loud thinking about the Leaves and Roots customer back in the 90s who legally changed her name to “Verbascum” after a long love affair with the plant ally Mullein. We all lovingly called her Verbie for short, and really, who could blame her? This roadside “weed” is abundant in temperate climates and brings such profound medicine with a gentle strength, no wonder she adopted its moniker as her own in homage. . Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a prolific plant of European origin that grows abundantly in disturbed soils, roadsides, and meadows throughout most of the temperate United States. This biennial plant is most easily identified…

  • Materia Medica: Chaya

    I cringe when I hear the word “superfood” uttered in a mixed crowd. Between GOOP and Dr Oz, health and nutrition fads fill up my Facebook feed daily, and they fade into distant memory as quickly as they come. But many years ago, on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, I was introduced to a plant that may among the few that truly qualify for this acclaimed title! That plant was Chaya (Cnidoscolus chayamansa or C. aconitifolius) , a hearty cactus-like tree that produces edible leaves. Multiple types of Chaya can now be found on permaculture farms throughout the tropics. Chaya is used throughout Central America as a food staple, especially…

  • Swamp Medicine: Healing Plants of Central Florida

    See notes and slides from Emily’s presentation at this link. Herbalist Emily Ruff presented “Swamp Medicine: Healing Plants of Central Florida” at the 2017 International Herb Symposium, highlighting medicinal plants growing in the subtropical climate surrounding the Orlando area. While unfamiliar to many herbalists in temperate climates, the herbs featured within this presentation are central to the melting pot plant medicine traditions of this bioregion. Many traditions inform herbalism in Central Florida, from days gone by to modern times. Historic cultures using plants include pre-Seminole cultures who embraced the cycads and palms signature to our state, Spanish colonists who brought favorite plant medicines to cultivate within their settlements, migrating tribes…

  • Materia Medica: Spiral Ginger

    Insulin plant (Costus pictus) is the subject of numerous studies from the National Institute of Health for its effects on – you guessed it – hyperglycemia and diabetes. It has a history of use in India and other countries, as well as a lot of modern trials confirming its medicinal use to balance blood sugar. Please note, there are at least two other species of Costus used in similar but distinct ways, and all may be referred to as Insulin Plant. Be sure you are working with the precise species you are intending to! Cross reference for safety.

  • Materia Medica: Loquat

    Loquat Fruit Tree Eriobotrya japonica Also know as Chinese Plum, this cold hardy fruit tree is widely grown as a garden ornamental and commercial fruit and herbal medicine. Generous annual fruit production, plus many valuable Traditional Chinese Medicine remedies using the fruit and leaves for the throat and respiratory system. Thrives in full sun to part shade and well-drained soil.

  • Materia Medica: Arrowroot

    Maranta arundinaceae, commonly known as Arrowroot, is a beautiful herbal ally to grow here in sunny Central Florida. It loves our tropical weather and thrives in humid environments. The rhizomes of this plant have been used across the world as a thickening agent in foods and medicines as well as a carrier powder for pigments in makeups. The common name, Arrowroot, comes from the long history of the rhizomes being used as an antidotal poultice for poison arrows in the jungles of South America! This nourishing herb can be really helpful with upset stomachs, sunburns, and even wounds. Margaret Grieve of A Modern Herbal has a great materia medica on…

  • Materia Medica: Elder

    Plants that bring forth pollinators, grow in abundance, and provide food and medicine, are our favorite additions to a garden. One in particular comes to mind and that is Sambucus nigra, commonly known as Elderberry. This small (6-10ft) running tree is quite the eye catcher when it is in full bloom, with its bursts of white flowers and bunches of black berries that makes the branches hang heavy.   The flowers and berries are known to aid in easing the common cold and fevers and an oil infused with the leaves can be amazing in a salve for wounds and bruises. The medicine of this plant is extensive and abounding.…

  • Materia Medica: Aloe

    Summertime and the livin’ is easy, that is until you get an awful sunburn from the scorching Florida sun! One of our favorite herbs to help ease the sting of a sunburn is Aloe vera. Not only does Aloe grow really well here but it will multiply for years to come. This plant is special because has adapted to a variety of climates and terrains. It can grow almost anywhere! (It sure does love Florida though.)   This amazing mucilaginous plant calms down any sort of heat in the body. But isn’t just for burns; the glorious goo of this plant can condition hair, ease bug bites, and soothe upset…

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