Last week, I used two medicines that I nearly forgot I had in my apothecary: New England Aster and Coltsfoot flowers.
Using these herbs got me thinking about the all the stories that are associated with not only the harvest, but of the herbs themselves. Sometimes the harvest in and of itself is an adventure! But also what the herb holds in terms of meaning, on a deeply personal level.
I love the stories and deep meaning associated with nearly every herb that I’ve harvested and made medicine with.
And, I wanted to take a moment to share the stories about these two herbs with you.
What’s most important, to me is that despite nearly forgetting about them, I did remember that I had them! Gosh, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve outright forgotten that I had certain herbs in my apothecary and then remembered them days or weeks later. Yay to remembering them when they could be helpful! (Pats self on back…)
What’s so great about this is that in this very same week, I used New England Aster harvested from Eastover (in Massachusetts) the very same weekend that Lonny Jarrett taught a special weekend class that covered a lot of what’s in his new book… at Eastover.
Did you follow that?
If not, let me try again: I was at a class with Lonny learning about what is now his new book at Eastover in MA, where I also harvested New England Aster.
What’s even more awesome is that the very same week that I had to use this valuable cough medicine is the very same one Lonny’s new book arrived. Cool, right?!
Back to the Aster… (also known as zi wan in Chinese Medicine)
I was on THE HUNT for this medicine that year, and I’ve gotta say, I’d nearly given up. It was mid-October, no New England Aster in sight, then, poof! There it was, right when I was about ready to drive home to Brooklyn. I harvested what I could from the prolific stands, and made medicine from it that night! So grateful that I was able to harvest that medicine because I haven’t seen NE Aster since!
(I also got a speeding ticket on the drive home, but that’s neither here nor there…)
So why did I insist on having this medicine?
Well… when I get sick, I really get sick. And when I get sick, I get the cough that won’t go away. The cough that keeps me up at night. The cough that gives me headaches because I am coughing so much cough. The cough that lingers for a month and a half…
You guessed it: New England Aster is great when you have the cough that won’t go away with, and after, an external invasion (aka a cold). And, well, seeing as I tend to that particular issue when sick, I wanted to get on that cough as quickly as possible! I mixed a teensy bit of it with water and kept it on my nightstand so that any time I woke up coughing, I could take a sip then slip back to sleep…
Also in this bedside (and couch-side) brew was coltsfoot.
Known mostly for working with whooping cough, the flowers are used in Chinese Medicine (CM) to assist with cough and Lung issues.
Combined with… aster in CM, this two herb combination (dui yao) decreases phlegm, and relieves cough with difficult to expectorate sputum.
I harvested the flowers up on Tug Hill, the same weekend that my grandparents were interred. There was still snow on the ground, yet there were these unmistakable yellow flowers all over. Bringing light and sunshine from the darkness of winter.
This particular medicine holds a special meaning for me. This meaning has grown exponentially given the journey I’ve been on the past couple of years. By shifting and releasing inner dynamics, blueprints, stories and programming that no longer work for me, I am no longer tethered to the same fate that many in my family have suffered. What a gift of light that has been for me.
It’s poetic that an herb that helps release something that’s created in response to illness (phlegm/sputum is created in response to pathogenic imbalance) holds such significance to me personally as well.
As both herbs affect the Lungs, a lot of grief that I’ve held on to is being released as well.
What can I say?
This has been the strangest and most uplifting cold I’ve had… ever.
Want to learn more about New England Aster? Jim McDonald has a lovely write up. He’s been working with this plant longer than I have and has had some interesting experiences with this plant.
There’s not a lot written about coltsfoot online, as it’s not used with frequency as in times past due to it’s toxic nature. The flowers are safer to use, whereas the rest of the plant is not. It was used traditionally for… whooping cough. Fascinating, right?
As ever – consult with a practitioner prior to use, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are on any medications, have chronic conditions, so on, and so forth.