The Cultivation Syllalbus
During this time of global isolation, we are embarking on a project of cultivation, looking to our artists for guidance in new knowledges, new skills, and new preparations for an unknown future. Once a week for three weeks, join us for an expanded syllabus of lessons running the gamut from the practical to the absurd.
April 28 - May 12, 2020
Every time I leave the house for groceries or gas, or some other thing I can’t avoid being out in the world for, I get a weird pressure in my chest and anxiety when I return home. I think it's anxiety, as I’ve been washing my hands assiduously and wiping everything down with a weird mix of Everclear alcohol and clove oil that I carry in a salad dressing jar in my car. So I’ve made a special tincture for this purpose that I’ve been taking before bed, and I also sometimes use the same herbs boiled in hot water for a tea.
Calm Lung (Anxiety Cough Remedy)
Measured by Volume
5 oz. (2 handfuls) Dried mullein leaf
1 oz. (half a handful after being broken into small pieces) Chaga a friend/student gave me
2 oz. (1 handful) Dried licorice root
2 oz. (1 handful) Dried California Poppy leaves
For the oxymel
8-12 oz Honey
Vinegar to fill container
Put the dried herbs in a jar at least 16 oz. in size. Fill the jar 90% full with vinegar (I use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar for most of my oxymel tinctures). Leave in a shaded spot out of the sun for 1-4 weeks. Shake every day if you remember to.
(Note: Herbs expand when wet with vinegar so usually you want to find a jar proportional to the size of your recipe – herbs should be 30-50% of the jar, the liquid should fill the remainder, leaving 10% air).
Pour vinegar, herbs and all into a soup pan and add 8-12 oz. of honey. Bring it to a boil then turn it down to a low simmer for another 5 minutes. Then strain out the hot liquid through a fine metal sieve or coffee filter—it must be fine-pored because mullein has little hairs that can be irritating.
Add a dash (about 2 Tb.) of high proof alcohol. In this case I used Cynar 70 which adds a nice vegetal, artichoke flavor. (You can also skip this step if you are alcohol-free and just make sure you either refrigerate your oxymel or consume it in 1-2 months). This helps preserve the oxymel beyond its usual life of 1-2 months. Bottle it into a clean dropper bottle while hot. Take 1-3 dropper-fuls at night or when needed.
Note: I don’t use any bleach in sterilizing my recycled jars and bottles – I boil old jars and bottles (including glass droppers) in a large stock pot filled with water and a dash of salt that I bring to a boil for 10 minutes. I wash out the rubber stoppers with soap and hot water.
Mullein is a soft, furry plant similar to lamb’s ear. It is great for respiratory health and aids in problems related to asthma, pneumonia, colds, or sore throats. It helps to loosen excess mucus and has antibacterial qualities. I also make a hot oil infusion with mullein flowers and leaves and garlic and I use that when I get ear infections – have used this since I was a hippie teenager and used to get earaches often. This was the only thing that would fix them! This plant grew in my garden and I used to sit beside it, petting its soft leaves, with my cat nearby, petting her too. When she died, I buried her next to the mullein plant so I always think of mullein as related to feline companionship and comfort.
Chaga – I’m just getting to know Chaga after being given this piece from a friend who lives near by who got it from her girlfriend just returning from Canada. It’s a type of fungus that grows on birch trees and looks like a burnt knot of wood but has an orange interior. It’s usually turned into a powder or small pieces and brewed as an herbal tea for its medicinal and immune-support benefits. Like Reishi mushroom and cordyceps, chaga is said to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor qualities as well.
The Cultivation Syllabus