Autumn Abundance – Birch Polypore

As the seasons are changing and the vivid summer green has made way for the autumn foliage colors, something else has caught our attention: a beautiful variety of mushrooms. We have just started learning more about foraging in general, and mushrooms were something that frightened us in the beginning. It seemed difficult, complicated, dangerous, and not worth the risk. But after talking with different people who knew more about it all than we did, we slowly became more confident. We focus on mushrooms that are very easy to identify and are extremely careful. We would never eat/use mushrooms if we aren’t 100% sure that we have the right one. And of course, if you decide to go out into the forest to find herbs or mushrooms, make sure you do your research and harvest responsibly.

Entering The World Of Mushrooms

So finally, we have embarked on our journey through the magical world of mushrooms. We went to a beautiful lake in France a while back together with some friends. On our last day, we found an abundance of mushrooms which we cooked up in ghee with onions and garlic in a big wok pan on our campfire. Accompanied by chapati (Indian flatbread) baked on the hot coals of the fire, the meal was extremely satisfying. It was our second experience with a foraged meal, the first one being with friends in a beautiful forest in Oregon. We had met somebody who had learned the mushroom foraging skill from his father, and he learned it from his father. We cooked up the mushrooms in a curry and had an evening filled with music and laughter. Thanks to the knowledge of our friends, plenty of good identification books, and the internet and its abundance of information, we felt confident enough to start foraging ourselves.

A foraging feast!

Getting To Know Birch Polypore

One of the mushrooms that caught our attention this last week is birch polypore. Birch polypore or berkenzwam* (Fomitopsis betulina) is a parasitic fungus which grows on dying or dead birch trees, and grows abundantly in a forest near our home. This mushroom smells great and mushroom-y, and is edible but does not taste very pleasant. However, it is highly medicinal and has been used by humans for centuries upon centuries. Birch polypore was found on Ötzi, a 5300-year-old mummy (dating from the Bronze Age) that was found in the Alps. Ötzi suffered from parasitic worms, and it is believed that he carried the mushroom on him so he could use it as a treatment. Parasitic worms are not our highest concert in modern life, so how can it help us today? Well, first of all, birch polypore is highly beneficial for the immune system and has been used as an immune tonic in the form of tea or tincture. Besides this, it has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and styptic properties which makes it an effective wound healer. If you ever find yourself on a hike and you hurt yourself, wrapping a slab of birch polypore around the wound can help to treat your wound for that time being. How amazing is that!

Young birch polypore growing on a dying birch tree

How To Identify Birch Polypore

You’ll find these mushrooms growing on dead or dying birch trees, often starting as little white bumps. As they grow older, they become flat and kidney-shaped. The upper skin tends to be white and smooth while young, becoming browner with age. The flesh is white, as is the pore surface (although the latter might become more gray or brown as it ages.) It smells mushroom-y, but the taste is quite bitter. The mushrooms don’t have gills, but tubes with tiny pores that are barely visible on the underside. Sometimes they are directly attached to the tree with no stalk, however, sometimes they have a stalk that is short and narrow.

These are all identification features which we have gathered while doing research, however, we are not professionals and are sharing this information out of love and appreciation for nature! Always do your research and triple-check with multiple sources. 🙂

An older birch polypore

How To Brew Birch Polypore Tea

So you’ve gone out into the forest and positively identified birch polypore. The next thing you do is make a decision, do you want to use it fresh or dried? If you want to use it fresh, you can immediately start brewing your tea. Otherwise, you want to dry your mushroom in a food dehydrator or just air dry it by spreading it out on and underneath a paper towel. A ventilator can greatly speed up this process! So you’ve got your mushrooms, fresh or dry, now it’s

time to make a brew. Ideally, you want to use filtered water to make sure no contaminants enter your medicinal tea. You’ll roughly need about 5-10 grams of dried mushroom. If you use fresh birch polypore this will roughly be about ten times the amount (50-80 gram). All you need to do is fill a pot with water, bring it to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add your fresh or dried birch polypore and let simmer for 15-20 min up to an hour (the taste will be quite bitter after an hour). Strain and enjoy this healing infusion. The taste can be bitter, but a little bit of raw honey will solve this and also add its own medicinal properties. Ahhhh… The taste of nature! For now, we’re drinking a few cups of birch polypore tea a week as an immune system tonic during the colder months.

Besides birch polypore, we have found fly agaric (vliegenzwam* – amanita muscaria), reishi (gesteelde lakzwam* – ganoderma lucidum), turkey tail (elfenbankje* – trametes versicolor) and a variety of edible boletes, puffballs, and so much more! One thing is certain, there is a lot more to explore and learn about these wonderful organisms, and how they can provide us food and medicine. Thank you Mother Earth, thank you great mushrooms!

*the names of these mushrooms in our language (Flemish – Dutch)

One of the most well-known and beautiful mushrooms – fly agaric or amanita muscaria

Have any of you gone out foraging this autumn? Which mushroom do you like to use culinary, medicinally or for any other reason? Let us know in the comments!

If you want to read and learn some more about birch polypore and its many uses, check out the sources I used:

Birch Polypore – Medicine Ancient and Modern – Lucinda Warner


Morning Ritual – Preparing A Mindful Drink

Preparing a special drink each morning has become a morning ritual that I won’t often skip, and I am very grateful that I have the time and space to do it. This drink can be different some mornings, but a select few always return. It’s a beautiful thing to wake up, open your eyes, and be thankful for another day. Stretch, meditate, smile. And start your morning ritual by preparing a nourishing drink to heal the body and mind. It might be different for everyone and might take a few tries to find out what works for you. To inspire you to maybe try out a few new ideas for each morning, I decided to write a little bit about my favorite drinks to wake up with. Keep in mind that some of these herbs might take a while of continuous use to notice an effect (although I feel that if you listen to your body – you start noticing subtle things quite quickly). Of course, always check certain herbs and their contraindications (especially when you are pregnant, breastfeeding, …), and safety precautions before adding them to your day. Although most of these herbs are very safe and easy to use and are probably also well-known to you already.

Warming & Stimulating Lemon Water

Something that I often enjoy in the early moments of the morning is hot water with lemon juice (inspired by Ayurvedic tradition, and the ginger-lemon-honey tea we often enjoyed in India) to gently wake up the stomach and get things going. I often combine my hot lemon water with turmeric (anti-inflammatory), black pepper (to activate the curcumin, the active compound in turmeric), ginger (anti-inflammatory and digestion aid), and on cold mornings: a pinch of cayenne pepper – a powerful and heating stimulant that boosts circulation and digestion.

As I mostly prefer to wake up my stomach with a hot water drink that is not caffeinated (no coffee, tea, yerba mate, …), this is what I prepare right after I wake up, and before I start to move my body through yoga asanas or stretching. I feel that this special drink wakes up my body, and gets everything moving and warmed up to start my day.

Healing Hot Milk

But later in the day, and definitely on colder days, there is something I often look forward to, which is to prepare a creamy, milky, latte-like drink. Made with (plant-based) milk – I prefer (homemade) oat milk at the moment – and combined with herbs such as raw cacao powder (rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals), ashwagandha (Ayurvedic herb, tonic, and adaptogenic abilities, reduces stress and anxiety), maca (used by the Incas to give energy and strength), matcha (powdered green tea, bursting with antioxidants and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals – providing clean energy for the body and mind), turmeric (powerful anti-inflammatory herb – combine with black pepper), cinnamon (warming and stimulating, boosts the circulatory and respiratory system). You can heat the milk, or first whip everything in hot water and then add a bit of milk, it’s up to you.

And often finishing with a scoop of raw honey to welcome in the antioxidants and antibacterial properties it contains. Of course, you can use any kind of sweetener you prefer. Another idea is masala chai, the spiced milk-tea they drink in India. It’s full of healing spices such as clove, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and so on. It’s made with black tea, which has plenty of antioxidants and helps you wake up in the morning. Leave out the black tea and add turmeric and you’ll have golden milk, again a drink that has its origins in Ayurveda and India.

Coffee

Of course, one of the most obvious and well-known morning drinks, enjoyed by many people around the world, is coffee. A steaming hot cup of coffee in the morning is definitely something I enjoy, but I’ve noticed that coffee is often more of a social drink for both me and Tim, and we drink it most often when we are camping, or staying with friends. While we were traveling with our van through the States, coffee was the perfect drink to accompany us on long rides and seemed to fit perfectly at that moment. I remember early, cold mornings in misty forests, when we were quickly cooking up a pot of coffee in our percolator, to enjoy the warmth of a cup and to fill the van with the heat of the stovetop. Or slow mornings with friends, sharing coffee, breakfast, music, laughter, … These are moments that I hold very dearly, and the drinking of coffee together has been an important part of that.

Coffee has medicinal benefits but is not for everybody. It’s widely over-consumed, which is probably not good for any herbal remedy. Coffee is a stimulant. It boosts energy, circulation, and digestion. For some people, a cup of coffee a day might work, but for others, it might not. People who have trouble sleeping or have anxiety issues probably won’t always benefit from even one cup of coffee a day. The important thing is (as always) to listen to your body, what does it say? 

Yerba Mate

Another drink that I greatly appreciate and enjoy is yerba mate, which was the thing I drank most in the mornings for a whole while. Not in South America, as some people will expect (as it’s an important drink in many South American countries) but in Malaysia. It’s made from the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant, native to South America. The plant is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and boosts energy and can improve mental focus, along with plenty of other benefits. It’s traditionally consumed through a tea straw called a bombilla and the cup is traditionally a dried calabash gourd.

These are just a few of my favorites, but I’m curious to hear some of yours! What is your favorite drink in the morning? Which healing herbs do you include in your morning ritual?

Sources

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide

Herbs With Rosalee

Yerba Mate: Herb of The Week – Katja Swift

Healthy Coffee Benefits


Healing Plants of the Low Lands – Nettle and Dandelion

We are back in Belgium, our homeland in Western Europe, after being in North America for 7 months, and I see the world through new eyes. With the current health crisis still going on and an immense fear still in the air, I feel that it is important to spread awareness about all the ways to maintain your own health. I want to talk more about medicinal plants that are easily found in the wild or spices that you most likely already have in your kitchen, or little things you can do everyday that will benefit your health immensely. I am not a health professional and I don’t want to convince anyone that I have the ultimate herbal remedy for everything. I know that there are things going on inside your body that you often do not have control over, and especially when a certain illness has developed, it is wise to always seek help from a professional! But besides that, everyday you have the power to love and nourish your body by choosing what you eat, what products you use, by moving and breathing mindfully and so on. So, there are things you can’t control, but the power to make these choices is always within you, and that, to me, is such a wonderful thing!

While growing up in the city, I was not always aware of nature and what important role it played in our world. Of course, on sunny days we fled to the areas of the city that were greener and forest-like, and that always felt wonderful. After Tim and I met each other, I quickly moved to a small town on the country side, about a fifty-minute drive away from the city and surrounded by forests and heaths. A new world opened before my eyes and I spend more and more time in the sweet embrace of Nature. For some reason, when I was learning more about medicinal plants, I did not think many of the plants I read about were to be found in Belgium. In my eyes, Belgium hardly had any real nature, apart from some forests in between the seemingly never-ending towns. But coming back to our homeland, I realize I was wrong. No, Belgium does not have vast, wide-spread forest going on for hours or enormous mountain ranges, or wild coastlines, but it does have its unique environment of deciduous forests and heaths.

So, after our travel, we set out to the forests to see what plants could be found. Arriving at the end of spring, we were too late to harvest some plants, but right in time for others. Nature is constantly changing, flowing in her life-cycles, and we can dance along, not mourning the things we’ve missed, but celebrating the plants we are right in time for.

We are deepening our knowledge about the healing plants of our homeland and while doing this, I thought it would be nice to write about the plants that can be found in the area where we are now which is Flanders, Belgium – in the Low Lands of Western Europe.

The Area

Belgium is divided into two main parts, Flanders, where they speak Flemish – Dutch, and Wallonia, where they speak Walloon – French. Flanders is more northern and is situated against the ocean. The natural environment is similar to The Netherlands, which is quite flat. Wallonia is more southern and mostly borders France, Germany and Luxembourg. The natural environments of the two parts are quite different. Flanders has beautiful deciduous forests and heaths, and the occasional pine forest (which is mostly not native but planted somewhere in the 19th century) but thanks to the density of the population, there is less biodiversity than in Wallonia. It has a coastline, which is mainly flat with a little dune here and there and a lot of towns. Wallonia is less densely populated and has more forests and hills, the highest point being 694 meters high called Signal de Botrange. They built a little tower there to let people reach a height of 700 meters, which is quite funny.

If there is one word I would have to put on Belgium, it would probably be wet. On average, there are 200 days of rain a year so it’s safe to say it rains a lot, and one of the plants that thrive on this is the well-known, versatile, loved-by-some, and hated-by-others stinging nettle.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica)

Common nettle, or stinging nettle, is one of the plants that I’ve known consciously for the longest time. We know it as brandnetel, which means burn(ing) nettle – for obvious reasons. Nettle grows abundantly in areas that have a lot of annual rainfall (and Belgium has that) and most people know nettle for the stinging sensation they experience when they accidentally venture into a nettle patch. But stinging nettle is so much more than that. It is often seen as a weed, and as quickly as possible removed from gardens, but nettle has so much to offer if we allow it. If the people only knew that instead of going to the store to buy spinach, they can go into their backyard to harvest the nettles they’ve been trying to get rid of. Such plants are truly gifts and have been used by our ancestors for many centuries.

The Uses of Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle has an abundance of vitamins and minerals. To name a few, nettle contains calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and protein, as well as vitamins A, B, C, and K.

Fresh, nettle has to be lightly steamed or cooked (blanched) to remove the sting. After the sting has been removed, it can be used in any meal as a replacement for spinach and much more. Think green smoothies, nettle pesto, nettle omelet, nettle soup… the options are endless. Drying also makes the sting go away and afterward it can be used in an infusion, infused oil, tincture, and so on. Nettle nourishes and supports the body systems, and is often called upon in times when the body needs extra strength such as after an illness or pregnancy. For a while now, one of the drinks I love to have in the morning (or any time of day) is a simple nettle infusion. A cup of warm nettle tea for chilly mornings, or an overnight nettle infusion for warm summer days. It is one of those perfect drinks to start your day, nourishing your body with essential minerals and vitamins.

Nettle is also known as an efficient remedy for inflammation and rheumatic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. Not only does eating nettle of drinking nettle tea help, but there is even a practice called urtication, which is stinging the particular area of the body with nettles, and is thought to help with relieving the pain. Other than this, nettle also can encourage hair growth. This can be by ingesting nettle through food, tea, capsules, externally massage the area with nettle oil, or … yes! sting that bald spot!

Other than providing food and medicine, nettle has also been used as a natural light-green dye or for its fibers to make things such as baskets, clothes, and fishing nets. Nettles are also cooked (or left to rot for a few weeks) and is afterward added to the soil of a garden as a fertilizer or as a natural remedy against insects.

“When in doubt, use nettles” – a quote by David Hoffman, an American herbalist. Nettle is one of my favorite herbs, thanks to its abundance, its many uses, and my connection to it from a young age. Hopefully, the public view on nettles takes a turn soon, from being an invasive weed to being an amazing source of food and medicine (and clothes or baskets – if you have the skills.)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The next herb I’d like to talk about is another well-known one, the common dandelion. The name dandelion is derived from dent de lion which means lion’s tooth in French. We call it paardenbloem which means horse flower, or occasionally pisbloem when we were younger. The literal translation of this name is pee flower, probably referring to its diuretic (removing fluid from the body) properties. With its bright yellow flowers and afterward its puffball of seeds that can be blown in the wind, dandelion is another plant that I’ve known for as long as I can remember. As with nettle, it’s often dismissed as a weed, thanks to its abundance, resilience, and the fact that its bright flowers stand out on perfectly green lawns. But, let’s all hope that in the future when more awareness is spread about the wonders of weeds, dandelion will also be welcomed into everyone’s hearts and homes.

What does dandelion do for our gardens?

Before actually talking about all the things dandelion can do for your health, let’s look at another reason why someone would want it in their garden. Dandelion is a very beneficial plant to have in the garden. First of all, dandelion is one of the first flowering plants of spring, making it a very important one for all the bees and all of our other pollinator friends. Besides that, dandelion’s roots grow quite deep and make their way through compact soil, loosening it, making way for air and water to flow through and carrying minerals from the deep soil to the surface. This also attracts earthworms who play a valued role in our ecosystems, and in maintaining healthy soil.

What does dandelion do for our bodies?

As for food and medicine, dandelion has plenty to offer too. Rich in minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K, dandelion is a wonderful plant to add to your daily lives for a nutritional boost.
Dandelion is an herbal bitter, which is known to be beneficial to the digestive system. It helps to relieve constipation and promotes proper absorption of nutrients. Dandelion root does wonders for the liver and the kidneys, and thanks to its diuretic properties, it can help with urinary tract infections too.

The yellow flowers or flower petals are edible, as are the leaves and roots. The flowers are best harvested in springtime and can be dipped in batter and fried, used in salads, or made into a delicious jam. The leaves can also be used in salads, soups, and so on. The best time to harvest the leaves is in the early moments of spring when they are not too bitter yet. In spring or autumn, you’ll find the perfect moment to harvest the roots, which can be dried and chopped up and used in meals or to make a decoction. The roasted roots are also used as a coffee substitute!

As you can see, the common dandelion and stinging nettle are two valuable plants to have in the garden, gifted to us by nature, with the ability to heal our bodies through food and medicine – if we allow them. So, hopefully, after reading this blog post, you will be inspired to dive deeper into the wonderful world of these healing plants that many consider to be weeds, and how they can support us throughout our lives. Invite them into your gardens and homes, you won’t regret it!


Soaking in Hot Springs – a Relaxing and Restorative Ritual

Without water, life can’t exist. Water is essential to life. In ancient times, humans rapidly learned this, and the first civilizations often settled near the ocean, rivers, or other bodies of water. Due to its importance, water was often believed to be sacred and in many cultures bathing in these holy waters could heal and purify one’s body and soul. For example, the Ganga river is very important in Hinduism and is a place where many people come together to bathe and meditate. We’ve done meditation practices in the Ganga river ourselves when we were in Rishikesh, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the river just descends out of the mountains and where it is still crystal clear and ice cold. Those meditation exercises were up to this day still one of the most transcendental experiences we’ve ever had and the cold water energized our bodies and quieted our minds. 

The History of Healing with Water

 In both Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, hot and cold water (sometimes infused with herbs) are an essential part of many healing rituals. In ancient Egypt water was used for maintaining hygiene and beauty, and herbs were also often added to baths to infuse them with therapeutic components. The studying of the healing qualities of water began in ancient Greece, where philosophers like Plato and Hippocrates studied the benefits and called it hydrotherapy (water cure). Later, the ancient Romans followed in their footsteps, and bathing became of great importance to their culture too. Since the beginning of the Roman empire, they made use of baths which they called balnea. These could be private in their homes, which was mostly for the elite, or communal. After the building of aqueducts and gaining the ability to move water from the outside to the inside of the city, these baths became huge centers called thermae and these became a major destination for social gatherings, often having gardens, libraries, and so forth. These baths were not only meant as a place for a social or relaxing experience but were also used for their therapeutic benefits and served as a place where wounded soldiers could come and rest. In modern times, bathing in hot and cold water is a big part of all cultures around the world, both for hygienic and therapeutic purposes.

Hot Springs

On our journey through the mid-west and western United States, many things brought feelings of wonder and joy. The astounding views on the open road, the music, and of course, the numerous hot springs. From the Californian high desert to the magical Oregon forests, we visited as many hot springs as we could. They provided the warmth and relaxation that was often missed on a cold winter night, sleeping in a van. Many hot springs that we visited were secluded and quiet and we often had moments where we were soaking alone in sacred waters on a full moon night. 

Hot springs were of great significance to many Native American tribes, who thought of it as sacred grounds and often as a place where the Great Spirit lived. The healing waters were used by tribes as a place to retreat and rest. Tribes that were at war ceased fighting when entering these neutral grounds, honoring the sacredness of the land and the Earth.

Hot springs, picture by Matt Palmer.

Healing Abilities of Hot Springs

There are plenty of reasons why one enjoys being in a hot spring. It is a natural pool provided with warm mineral-rich water from the Earth. Relaxing and restorative. But it is not only the comfort or beauty of taking a hot bath, in the middle of a forest or desert, that makes it a wonderful experience. Many health benefits come with enjoying the waters of a hydrothermal spring. 

Soaking in hot springs can relax the body and mind and at the same time, (thanks to the heat) our pores open, and the minerals that are present in the water get absorbed. Calcium, sodium bicarbonate, sulfur, magnesium, silica, lithium are just a few of the minerals that can be found in natural hot springs.

The heat of the water, and the weightlessness the body has while in it, may relieve musculoskeletal problems such as tense and sore muscles, symptoms of arthritis, and more. Many of these minerals can improve blood circulation, carrying more nutrients and oxygen around, and eliminating toxins from the body. Minerals such as magnesium, potassium, sulfur and silica can help nurture the skin and relieve symptoms of skin issues such as eczema. The steam of the hot water may relieve nasal congestion.

If there is no natural hot spring to be found near your home, but you do have a bathtub, you can find many things to make your own healing bath at home. There are various herbs, salt, clay, or essential oils that all provide therapeutic effects and have the ability to soothe your body and mind, and unwind from your day. 

The Powers of Relaxation

In modern society, being able to relax is often a problem with work, school, or other obligations that worry the mind. Long-term stress can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and more. It is essential to find a way to let go of these worries and unwind, and finding your way to do this can be different for each individual. You might want to listen to calming music, meditate, go for a walk in Nature, do breathing exercises, or soak in hot, healing water. Allow yourself to have these loving, quiet moments to tune in and be aware of your body and mind.  

Resources:

History of the Baths and Thermal Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5535692/#ref1

John W. Lund – Historical Impacts of Geothermal Resources on The People of North America https://oregontechsfstatic.azureedge.net/sitefinity-production/docs/default-source/geoheat-center-documents/quarterly-bulletin/vol-16/art2.pdf?sfvrsn=4b3f8d60_4


White Sage – a Sacred, Purifying Herb

While driving down the steep roads of San Francisco, our van started making strange sounds. We did not want to spend the night somewhere parked on a busy city street, so we drove on, towards Monterey. The next day, the culprit turned out to be the front brakes, which had to be replaced. It cost us a good amount of money, but all was well with our little home so we were happy. Our day was spend strolling down the coastal pathway, up to Lovers Point, and enjoying the serenity of a sunny November day by the seashore. A street vendor, selling crystals at the Old Fishermen’s Wharf, had gifted us two Oregon sun stones he had found himself, two Rose Quartz (the stone of Love – because we had told him that it was our anniversary) and a bundle of White Sage. This bundle lasted us for the rest of our journey, and became an important part of our little daily rituals. We could turn to it to cleanse our mind and space of negative energy, and to give thanks to the Universe for guiding us on our path.

As mentioned in the previous post, there were many sacred plants that were used in Native American culture, and that are still used up to this day. These plants were used for various reasons, from herbal remedies, to ceremonies – where they were smoked or burned (smudging) – or to cook or bathe with.

White Sage (Salvia Apiana)

Even if you have never studied herbs, you probably have heard of sage. An herb that is well-known to people all around the world, and used for culinary or medicinal purposes. Many cultures use their local variety of sage, as there are more than 900 hundred different kinds to be found on our planet. The one that is most commonly used in Europe is Salvia Officinalis or common sage, native to the Mediterranean. 

White sage, or Salvia Apiana, is a variety of sage that is very important to many Native American tribes. It is a perennial, evergreen shrub, and is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It was used by tribes in this region, however, thanks to its wide variety of medicinal, spiritual, and practical uses, it quickly spread to other tribes across North America, and became an important part of Native American culture.

Traditional Use 

White sage purifies, cleanses, and strengthens the connection to the spirit world, and the Creator. The herb was ceremoniously harvested, dried, and burned afterward. The smoke was believed to carry up prayers to the Creator while cleansing the space and the people participating of negative energies, emotions, spirits. It was also used to enhance mental clarity and heighten one’s sense of awareness during these rituals, while inviting positive spirits and harmony. The burning of white sage was often offered to the Creator, or the Spirit World while calling upon them to support them in the healing or purifying ritual.

Culinary, some tribes enjoyed the nutritious benefits by including the leaves and stems of the white sage shrub in their diets, while other used the seeds. The seeds were ground up together with different ingredients to create a nutrient-rich powder that was the base of many different meals such as porridge.

Some native tribes used this versatile plant as an herbal hair or body wash. They did this by rubbing the leaves, together with water, in the palms of their hands.

Medicinal Powers

White sage is believed to be very powerful, supporting the overall health and vitality of the body. It balances, and soothes the body and soul. Known to have a positive effect on the nervous system, white sage can ease anxiety issues, sleep disorders, and other problems that can come forth out of an imbalance of the nervous system. It is also known to have strong antimicrobial properties, and therefore it was applied topically to heal wounds. The seeds were used to treat problems with the eyes, by inserting seeds underneath the eyelids throughout the night. In the morning they would remove the seeds, and the eyes would be cleansed of contaminants.

As a tea, it was often drunk by Native women to ease the painful symptoms connected to childbirth, or their moon time (menstruation). White sage was also used for relieving a sore throat, respiratory problems, digestive issues, or treating a cold or fever.

The Present Day Use of White Sage

Nowadays, white sage has become an important part of many rituals, for healing and spiritual purposes. There is nothing wrong with honoring all things that nature has gifted us, but sadly, as with many things that became popular (such as Palo Santo), white sage has been over harvested (due to non-ethical, non-sustainable harvesting methods). Therefore, if you would like to use white sage in your own rituals, it is wise to always get it from a source that ethically cultivates it, or grow it yourself if your climate allows it. When wild-harvesting, it is important to never take more than 20 % of any shrub in order to not damage the plant and its change to survive. It is good to be conscious about the scarcity of the plant, give thanks while harvesting, and not burn too much at once while using it during a ritual.

Sage is a mystical, powerful plant. With her ancient wisdom and healing powers, she’s a beautiful gift of Nature, important to many of our ancestors, and she continues to be important to many people today.

For burning/smudging, there are plenty of alternative herbs that you can use such as cedar, sweet grass, mugwort, lavender, and so much more. Chances are big that a post about all of these, and our experiences with it, will follow in the future!

Resources:

Sarah Outlaw – Sage throughout the ages

 Evan Sylliaasen – White Sage: Wisdom, Clarity, Cleansing

Robin DiPasquale – The Many Faces of Sage

https://ndnr.com/botanical-medicine/the-many-faces-of-salvia/