Thursday, October 18, 2012
Guinea Pig Time
Today was my first test (on myself) of the leaves of the Verbesina virginica (White Crownbeard) in an infusion. I found mention online in a facsimile copy of a very old materia medica where the tops and leaves of the plant were used for urinary tract support and as a diuretic, and that one doctor in Texas used this plant extensively in his practice. It stated a strong decoction was made and was safe to use regularly.
As I cannot find any other information yet except scant mention that the native Americans did have some uses for the plant, I decided to test it only on myself beginning with a few sips of the leaves in an infusion (less strong that a decoction). It was pleasant in taste, noticeably but not irritatingly astringent, and may have use even at that strength as a mild diuretic. I was testing for any allergic reaction, with my Benadryl close at hand.
I just have a feeling about this plant, which is not enough to speak for its use for anyone but myself (I'm making that very clear here). It is found everywhere here this time of year, hardy and making itself seen at the same time goldenrod and the sunny wild helianthus (sunflowers) are all along the roadsides. It's allergy season here for some and there's a slow shifting in the weather. A lot of the plants I've been documenting and trying to identify recently (since we don't know as many of our wild plants yet as we'd like) are immunity boosters and also kidney supportive. I have not tried any of the others I've documented yet. But this feeling I have about this mild plant is that its abundance may be a signal of its appropriate matching to the changing season and the vulnerabilities those of us who live here have as the climate makes it way towards winter....which is mild here, but is a change nonetheless.
Like I said, it's a hunch, but it's also pretty well established in herbalism worldwide that despite the exceptions (no set "rule" for this...) many plants are naturally suited to being supportive nutritionals for the human ills of that particular area. In a sense, this is locavore herbalism if we pay attention to the native and wild plants that seem to thrive in our own areas. It really makes sense to me. Like I said, I'm very new to this, but I find it exciting and it makes me notice things in a different way. It makes me take a second and further looks at the humble and beautiful plants I often noted only in passing before, and it makes me want to know more about them. I start thinking of them as "friends" that mark the progression of the changing seasons and the changing needs of the community at large and it also makes me feel very grateful that God's design works this way...this wisdom of having in beauty and our own backdoors or backwoods the very things that we need for a particular time and place.
I'll continue to be my own guinea pig and I'll document for my own uses my own results while I still will be on the lookout for others who have a lot more experience and knowledge about these plants. Some plants are so well documented in their benefits and energies (the effects they produce within our bodies), especially those plants found in Ayurveda and TCM dating back 3,000-5,000 years, that there's no "starting from scratch" in the same way that western herbs are (except for the ones common to both sides of the pond). It may be there's an Asian equivalent to the Verbesina virginica that I can find. Or there may be some specific source in native American documentation or specific folk herbalists here in North America (or even South America, etc) to be found.
The thrill is in the hunt :) In the meantime, we find new wildflower "friends," we learn a lot, we begin to notice our world differently and more appreciatively, wonder more at the generosity and wisdom of how God ordered things and see His ultimate joy in spreading so much bounty so freely for us humans to enjoy and benefit from. It's all good!
And next time I'll test a little stronger infusion of the leaves and tops. I could use a great locally-available (my backyard!) diuretic from time to time :-D
That's all for now... :-D