Showing posts with label herbalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label herbalism. Show all posts

May 24, 2015

On Attracting and Repelling Bears

• Illegal campsites are usually trashy. Yes, that's a stereotype, but stereotypes have to come from somewhere. And when you have trash in the Colorado mountains, you have bears. Hungry bears. Bears that don't want you to get between them and the food.

Man gives bear the angry-hominid treatment in a Swedish forest  (You Tube).

I have been told that Eurasian brown bears, Ursos arctos artos, like North American black bears, are generally shy of people. Is that because they both primarily live in forests? (But some live on steppes, I know.)

Likewise, some argue that grizzly bears, Ursos artocs horribilis, which were originally found on the prairies (although often in riparian corridors) and polar bears have a "take no prisoners" attitude because they have nowhere to seek refugre if, for instance, their cubs are threatened.

Evolution or adaptation to pressure from humans?

Black bear mamas — and I have seen this a couple of times — will send the cubs up a tree and run away themselves. Whether that is for self-preservation or to lure away the perceived threatening agent, I will let someone else decide.

• If you have read this far, you too are fascinated by people's complex relationship with bears. One takeaway from David Rockwell's Giving Voice to Bear — which includes some northern European as well as North American cultural material — is that bear-hunting must be the most ritualized of all hunting.

More than any other animal, Bear is not only quarry but teacher. A great deal of "bear magic" is not just hunting stuff but herbalism. People say that they or their ancestors learned how to cure from watching bears — or from getting the power of bears.

But can bears teach them how to live in the woods?

August 18, 2011

A Couple of Poisonous Plants & One Useful One

Monkshood
M. and I went looking for mushrooms on Monday, which was a bust. Although there were puddles on the dirt road leading to it, our favorite area was mushroom-less. Both edible and inedible species were missing, so it's not that someone else came in and cleaned it out—evidently the modest rains of the last few days up in the high elevations (about 10,000 feet) were not enough.

False hellebore pods
So we did what we the last time that happened and went looking for wildflowers, of which there were a few: a small stand of monkshood (in the hellebore family) managing to keep its feet damp,and also also some false hellebore (locally called "skunk cabbage," but not the same as the Northeastern plant of that name).

Rather than photograph the showy striped leaves, which you can see at the link, I snapped one of the pods. Too bad I did not catch it in bloom—but you can see blooms here too.

Monkshood, also known as wolfbane, has poisonous roots and leaves. The man who taught me to identify it was surnamed Bane (which means slayer, poison, etc.), so he got a kick out of that.
Usnea 

False hellebore is poisonous to sheep in particular.
The whole plant is poisonous, containing highly toxic alkaloids that affect the heart and nervous system."

Sheep which eat false hellebore while during the first trimester of pregnancy have lambs with severe abnormalities of the brain and face (known as Cyclopia).
This area is elk range, but apparently they are not bothered. One article I found while browsing suggests that deer, if not elk, not only eat some plants poisonous to livestock but follow the approach of "a little bit won't kill you."

Continuing our walk, we came to stand of firs that were a real Usnea (old man's beard) plantation, both live trees and dead ones.

M. wanted some for an herbal wound powder that she is making, so we partly filled what was supposed to have been a mushroom sack with Usnea.

July 27, 2011

MMJ University Goes Up in Smoke

Too funny. Guys start a "medical marijuana university" (a misuse of the term, it's true) and neglect to mention the small matter of their prior felony convictions for embezzlement and mail fraud.

The state shuts "Greenway University" down.

April 14, 2011

Medical Marijuana's Claimed Contribution to Climate Change

An article in the San Francisco Business Journal links medical marijuana to climate change, via the energy costs of the crops.
People growing marijuana indoors use 1 percent of the U.S. electricity supply, and they create 17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year (not counting the smoke exhaled) according to a report by Evan Mills, an energy analyst at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

After medical pot use was made legal in California in 1996, Mills says, per-person residential electricity use in Humboldt County jumped 50 percent compared to other parts of the state.

In order to produce some 17,000 metric tons of marijuana this year, Mills estimates authorized growers will use $5 billion worth of energy. That works out to the output of seven big electric power plants.
Seven? 

But since Colorado also permits medical marijuana, I am waiting for one of the many clinics advertising in the Colorado Springs Independent, for example, to trumpet their "solar-powered MMJ."

(Via Ann Althouse.)

May 22, 2008

Voodoo* Botany

My allergies -- mainly to tree pollen -- have been awful this spring. They were jump-started by a March trip to New Mexico, and then getting the flu in April probably did not help either.

An old friend suggested eating locally grown honey. Local honey is often touted as a preventative for hay fever, a sweeter way to desensitize your body than weekly shots. But I think that the suggestion rests on a misunderstanding of botany and a world view that, while appealing, does not always work out.

First, honey is made by bees that fly from flower to flower gathering nectar--and with it, pollen. They transfer the pollen to other flowers of the same species, and plant sex occurs. It is "heavy" pollen.

But the pollen that causes allergies is airborne. These trees -- junipers, elms, whatever -- are fertilized by the wind. (You never see a bee on a juniper tree.) They have "light" pollen. This lighter pollen does not end up in honey, except by accident, and presumably in lesser amounts than the pollen from plants visited by bees.

The idea that local honey prevents hay fever represents, I think, the world view of the 15th-17th centuries, an era when a scientific attitude was not incompatible with a view of the cosmos as harmonious and meaningful to humans. Think of Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton casting astrological horoscopes.

Think of the old herbalists' "doctrine of signatures," the idea that you could tell by looking at a plant what disease it would treat. That doctrine was based on a belief in a meaningful universe with humanity at its center.

At least honey is still good for a sore throat and cough, if they are not too severe.

*I use "voodoo" in the sense that George H.W. Bush used it in referring to supply-side economics, not as a reference to the religion.

January 06, 2007

Goatheads are good for something?

Every gardening writer likes to write about reading seed catalogs as the midwinter snow falls.

So I won't do that. I will just mention that I was perusing the new Richter's catalog as ten inches of fresh powder--well, OK, it is more than a cliche. It happens.

"What the hell," I said. "They're selling goatheads!" Also called puncturevine. Tribulus terrestis. Nasty, invasive, spreading Eurasian weeds whose multi-pointed seed capsules can bring a dog to a whimpering standstill, not to mention being hard on bicycle inner tubes.

M.'s response was to pass me a copy of Tucson herbalist Charles W. Kane's Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest, which she had just brought home from the Pueblo library. (We may have to buy it.) She held it open to the section on puncturevine.

It turns out to be helpful for moderate hypertension, to increase male libido (herbal Viagra?), and to contain some natural steroids.

Many men using the plant often notice a related sense of increased physical strength and will -- a good tonic for older men and the metrosexual alike.

I consider Michael Moore (not the filmmaker) to be one of the best Southwestern herbalists.

He contributed the foreword, noting, "Charles has written an impeccable book."

Here is Kane's border-country spin on the usual herbalists' advice on wildcrafting--gathering plants in the wild:

Collect away from roadsides, inner city areas, industrial sites, agricultural areas, and heavily traveled foot trails -- explaining yourself to every busy-body hiker gets to be tiresome, although visibly packin' heat usually limits conversation to furtive glances.

Although a short drive takes us to eastern Fremont County, Colorado, which is sort of the last outlier of the Chihuahuan Desert, a lot of Kane's plants are hundreds of miles away. But about half of them are here.

Methods of preparation are clearly described, and the plants are illustrated with color photos and Frank Rose's meticulous botanical paintings.

If you live in the Southwest and you like to take care of some minor ills yourself or learn some herbal first aid, you should have it.