Materia Medica

Herb in season: Fresh Milky Oats

Fresh Milky Oats in Upstate NY, 2017

Fresh Milky Oats in Upstate NY, 2017

Making medicine with “fresh and in seaon” herbs is very special. When plants are in their peak time, that means their energy, vibration, and nutrient are in the highest point. Although many herbs carry its potency when in dry, some herbs only offer treasures in very limited period when in fresh. Oat is absolutely one of them! We already know oats as energy boosting food. Do you know that "fresh milky oats" have deeply nourishing and medicinal aspect?

"Fresh milky oats” are harvested when oat tops produce milky sap. This milky stage lasts only for a week or so (Depends on the weather. Late summer in general). This is why it’s worthy of special mention. How do you ingest them as medicine? — Tincture from fresh milky seeds gives you a great benefit.

This year (2017) in NY state had experienced cooler summer, so the milky stage had been later and lasted longer than usual years. Now it’s the time to make medicine with them. Here are benefits of fresh milky oats.

• Supremely moistening (super Yin nourishing), demulcent

• Nervine tonic

• Nervous system trophorestorative

• Anti-depressant

• Help withdrawal from addictive substances

The taste is very sweet and the texture is viscously smooth as infusion. Sweetness is nourishing and restorative flavor. For conditions related to anxiety, insomnia, severe fatigue, nervous debility... Fresh milky oats is definitely the go-to herb. In addition, menopausal conditions, including vaginal dryness and low libido, are in its indication.

Jul 8, 2017 The Many Forms of Herbal Medicine: Yarrow

Yarrow in the still

Yarrow in the still

We held a garden workshop at 61 Franklin Street Garden in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We demonstrated how hydrosol (flower water) is made with a copper still. Many people are familiar and know about essential oil, however hydrosol is not widely known and used. It was a great opportunity to witness another aspect of plant alchemy! Our focus is to introduce what plants can offer in many different forms — infusion, tincture, flower essence, and hydrosol, and also what each modality can provide therapeutically.

We used Yarrow, having its peak-time around this time in a year, to demonstrate, taste, and talk about.

Hydrosol is so-called 'by-product' of essential oil making — my herbal fellow puts it as "Distillation of a plant, often used in cosmetics for it’s aromatic qualities. It is the essence or soul of a plant in liquid form, and because it also has some chemical constituents, it has the ability to work on the physical level as well as spirit medicine." 

Yarrow hydrosol is used for protection from negative energy, and wound healing as Yarrow always is good at! 

Blue is Yarrow essential oil. Chemical constituent, azulene, create this beautiful deep blue.

Blue is Yarrow essential oil. Chemical constituent, azulene, create this beautiful deep blue.

Yarrow has a long history as medicine in many regions world wide. Its Latin name, Achillea millefolium, comes from Achilleus, an ancient Greek hero in Greek mythology. He was given Yarrow by Chiron, and used it in the battle field to cure the wounds. Millefolium means 'thousand leaves', as its leaves have many layers of fine leaves. In Japanese language, Yarrow is called 'Seiyou-nokogiri-sou' (Western Saw Weed), because the leaflets resemble teeth of crosscut saws. Sure enough, Japanese people found its leaflets pretty distinctive.

Yarrow has 2 Major known usages:

1: Any conditions involving 'bleeding'

Matthew Wood, American herbalist, describes Yarrow as 'Master of Blood'

Native American also uses it topically with conditions of injuries, wounds, and inflammations. Both open wounds and old scars, bruises, blisters and such. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) uses it for topical injuries, and also internal inflammations. Modern herbalism, too, uses it for internal inflammations in GI tract, such as gastritis, ulcers, colonitis, enteritis, diarrhea etc... Another big benefit of Yarrow is seen in regard to menstrual bleeding. As 'Master of Blood', Yarrow can calm and regulate blood flow.

2: Cold and flu

Yarrow has properties of anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and diaphoretic (=promotes perspiration). Bitterness and pungency are the prominent flavors. The strong bitterness gives cooling and downward energy, and the pungency helps pushing the heat out to exterior through the pores. 

At the onset of cold and flu, we may experience shivers, chills, fevers, sore throat, aches... this is the best time to start taking Yarrow, before the pathogen and symptoms go deeper into the system. Take it every 1~2 hrs then. Combining with Elder may result in synergy!

Entire aerial part can be used. Yarrow can be taken internally and externally as infusion and tincture. For the external wounds, you can crush the plant and apply directly.

Yarrow can be also used as flower essence — the pure vibrational energy from plants, working on spiritual ~ physical levels. Here also, Yarrow is associated with "protection from vulnerability" – Protection specific to the mental and social aspects. For those who feel they have to hide their true selves to be in a social setting. It helps a person stay mentally and socially receptive without feeling vulnerable. (* from my herbal fellow, Maiya's speech on Yarrow flower essence)