Berry Pickin' Time
Guest author Robin McGee is back ...
Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries...mm mm!
Some of Nature’s sweetest gifts come in small packages, and I don’t mean the packages you buy in the local supermarket. I’m talking about the small little fruits that are in season this time of year. These morsels of juicy goodness show up when the weather is warm and we need to cool off a bit. And that is part of their medicine; they are cooling.
Just the other day I asked my husband, “Was it this hot when we were kids? How did we live without air conditioning?”
A few days later we were driving around the edges of the hayfields looking for St. John’s Wort to harvest, and we found the wild plums ready to harvest as well. Now, I know this article is about berries, but bear with me just minute. As we sat in the air conditioned truck eating the yellow “hog plums” it hit me: the heat didn’t bother us quite so much when we were kids because we spent a good portion of the day searching for and eating the wild fruits that were in season. Think about it. As the temperature becomes unbearable Nature provides us with cooling, nourishing fruits to help us cope with the heat. And as if that’s not amazing enough, these plants have other healing properties, too!
No other fruit tastes quite as good to me as Red Raspberries. I love everything about them; their scent, their color and tart sweetness of each bite. I also enjoy picking berries and preserving them for later use.
Freezing Raspberries. I like to pick at least twenty pounds of Raspberries each year, but when I harvest only a few berries at a time I freeze them until I have enough to make a batch of jam, jelly, syrup, preserves or puree. To freeze the berries I spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer. The next day I transfer the frozen berries to a quart-size freezer bag and return it to the freezer. When I want to make a smoothie I get a handful of berries out of the bag and toss them in the blender with the other ingredients.
Berry Medicine. Raspberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, may lower the risk of macular degeneration, and slow down atherosclerosis. According to nutritionandyou.com, “Raspberry has an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of about 4900 per 100 grams, crediting it among the top-ranked ORAC fruits. Scientific studies show that these antioxidant compounds in these berries have potential health benefits against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neuro-degenerative diseases” (http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/raspberry.html ).
Though not quite as effective as their cousins the strawberries, raspberries can help to whiten teeth. Chew a handful of fresh berries (or use fresh juice), hold them in your mouth for five minutes or so, then rinse your mouth with pure water to which you’ve added a small pinch of baking soda.
Red Raspberry Leaves
Alas, my real reason for writing about Red Raspberry…the LEAVES! As much as I love the berries I am equally enamored with the leaves. Raspberry leaf tea (which when sweetened tastes like southern sweet tea) is a traditional remedy that has been used for hundreds of years all over the world as a reproductive tonic. But I’m here to tell you that those leaves are good for so much more!
Leaf medicine. Raspberry leaves are full of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A, B, C, and E, tannins, flavonoids, mucilage, carbohydrates, pectin, and volatile oils. An infusion or vinegar made with the dried leaves will help build and mend bones and strengthen the hair and teeth.
Leaf tea or tincture is used to stop diarrhea in children and adults and to help control heavy menstruation in women. Matthew Wood considers the leaf his “remedy of choice for allergies or influenza with copious free discharge of clear mucus from the upper respiratory tract” (2009, 307). Raspberry leaf is also used for inflammation and irritation of the mucous membranes and works well as a wash for inflamed eyes. Scientific studies show that the leaves may also help reduce blood sugar.
Raspberry leaf is my favorite remedy for menstrual cramps. A cup of warm tea or a dropperful of tincture in water in most cases will ease uterine cramping. Sipping the tea helps prevent and ease morning sickness. Fragarine, an alkaloid abundant in the leaf, strengthens the entire pelvic area helping to prevent miscarriage. Raspberry leaf also helps facilitate a faster, less painful delivery. For men it is used as a tonic for the reproductive system and the prostate gland.
Drying. It is best to harvest the leaves in early summer before the plants bloom though I believe anytime the leaves look vibrant they are fine for harvesting. They are especially potent when the moon is in the waxing or full phase. Spread them in a single layer on a drying screen, bed sheet, etc, away from direct sunlight but where there is good air flow. Turn the leaves at least once a day until crunchy dry, usually a couple of weeks. Store in canning jars away from heat and light.
Tea. To make a cup of tea place one to two teaspoons of dried crushed leaves, or one to two tablespoons fresh, chopped leaves into a teacup and cover with boiling water. Place saucer over teacup to hold in steam. Strain the liquid after twenty minutes. You may sweeten with honey.
Infusion. To get the full benefits of the minerals it is best to infuse the herb overnight. Alcohol doesn’t really do a good job of extracting minerals, but water and vinegar do. Place 1 oz dried leaves into a quart jar and cover with boiling water. Cap and let steep overnight. In the morning strain the liquid and compost the spent leaves. The liquid will keep about 3 days in the refrigerator before it begins to ferment. It’s ok to gently heat your infusion on the stove but NEVER in a microwave oven. Only heat the amount you intend to drink immediately. Drink 2 -4 cups daily.
Vinegar. Alternately, you can fill a jar with leaves and cover with vinegar. Let it sit for six weeks, away from heat and sunlight, then strain. One tablespoon of vinegar in water twice a day is the usual amount taken.
Tincture. Gently pack a jar with fresh leaves or one-half full of crushed, dry leaves. I prefer to use them fresh. Fill the jar with brandy. After day 2 or 3 you will need to add a little more brandy as the fairies come by for a little nip the first few days. Shake the jar everyday for six weeks. A dropperful of the tincture in a little water one to three times per day is the usual adult dose.
Regardless of the method you choose for reaping the benefits of Red Raspberry, as with all things, remember to focus your intention, ask permission when harvesting, and create your medicine in an attitude of reverence, love, and respect. We get back that which we send out!
The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood.
Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards.
Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar.
Robin McGee, personal and clinical experience.
The FDA requires that I tell you that the above comments are not intended to diagnose, cure, prevent, treat, heal, etc, and that the FDA has not evaluated the above statements. I’m also supposed to tell you that the information is for entertainment purposes only and that you should consult with a qualified health professional before using any supplements. There. I told you.
Now, go have some tea!
Amarjah Wisdom School
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