Marvelous Marshmallow & Courageous Borage

Nourishing Nervines, part 3

Marshmallow

Marshmallow, Althea, is another mucilaginous, demulcent plant, the root is what’s use. Marshmallow is the one that grows about 5-6 feet tall and it has very softy velvety leaves and powder blue flowers that go from pink to blue and it’s just stunningly gorgeous. I wish I could make clothing out of the leaves–they’re so soft and delicious! If I’m mixing the Milky Oats with marshmallow and making it a decoction, then I want to use the root instead of the leaves. If I’m just making an infusion, I would just use the leaves and flowers. Althea basically has all similar properties, without the reproductive properties, of Milky Oats. Marshmallow root is the most effective combination with the Oat straw or the Milky Oats. Both fill that extracellular matrix. They’re both demulcent and nutritive. You can interchange those three herbs in the nourishing nervines series so far: Marshmallow Root, Slippery Elm, and Oats. You can change it up so as not to get sick of it. Some people create an aversion to marshmallow root after a couple of weeks, so I try to switch it out for slippery elm.

Borage

I wanted to say a word about Borage [Also called starflower]. Borage is one of my favorite herbs, I actually use it a little bit for its magical component. My very first teacher was Rosemary Gladstar and she said, “Borage is for courage,” and whenever I’m working with somebody who is having an addiction, they need to have the courage to drop the past and enter the future. So I will always put a little bit of Borage into their formula for its magical component. It’s a little bit sweet and a little bit salty and it’s a little moist and cooling. It’s full of essential fatty acids. It will nutritionally fill a void that needs to be filled for this transformational time. It works directly with the mind and I think that’s why that thought of having courage is so important. It connects you to you to your senses. It affects your nerves in a positive way. When you look at Borage, that beautiful blue flower with the mandala image is so powerful, it comes into your body in a powerful way and brings you to a higher place. It helps with dizziness and fainting and people will often, as they’re re-entering being on earth in a good way, not be steady, so Borage can help bring them back into the physical world. It’s a great plant.

Slippery Elm helps with Addiction.

Nourishing Nervines, part 2

Being Nourished with Slippery Elm Bark

The other herb I use with Milky Oats for nourishing the nervous system is Slippery Elm. Slippery Elm is Ulmus rubra and you want to gather the inner bark after the tree is at least ten years old. It’s a very slow-growing tree, that was actually saved by the Boy Scouts of America, who replanted them-good for them! That spring inner bark is what we want to gather. The Native Americans’ way of gathering slippery elm is used for diarrhea and constipation as well, and often times with addiction, you’re going to have digestive readjustments as people reenter life in a more natural way. So, if you have diarrhea, you’re going to gather the bark from the bottom up. And if you have constipation you’re going to gather the bark from the top down. And that was taught to me by David Winston, it’s from Cherokee tradition. Slippery Elm is a demulcent, emollient, expectorant, it’s also diuretic and nutritive. We’re focusing on nutrition. 

Nutritive Slippery Elm helps in addiction to rebuild digestion.

Slippery Elm is a bark, so it needs to be done in a cold way. You never pour boiled water over barks, because they’ll close up, as they protect themselves by closing. Begin with cold water and bring the water to simmer, and I follow the Phyllis Light tradition of letting it simmer for 15 mins and then taking it off the stove and letting it sit for 15 mins. I don’t really strain it, I think it’s beneficial to just chew on it. So, if you’re doing a separate decoction of slippery elm, I would just have the person pour it in a cup and sip it as a sorta’ watery porridge. Some people are offended by the texture, so then you just dilute it more. Chewing on it gives people something to do with their mouths, and often times people with addictions need to have oral stimulation and this gives you something a little extra to do. it’s very tasty. Slippery Elm is sweet, it smells good, it tastes good, it’s very pleasing. People can add cinnamon or nutmeg for more flavor and it’s healing action affects all parts of the body it comes into contact with. It has as much nutrition in it as Oatmeal. So you’re getting food in a form that in the early stages of coming off any kind of medication or opioid, you’re not able to tolerate ingesting a lot of food. So this is a way to get pretty solid nutrition in a liquid form that is going to be able to be taken without being ill. 

Helps with Inflammation

Slippery Elm is in general safe for all human beings. The only caution I have does not take it with any pills, in case those pills are eliminated from the body without digesting them. Slippery Elm is for all forms of irritation in the mucous membranes. And when people have been addicted to anything, they usually have inflammation in the body and this is a great anti-inflammatory that is just completely delicious and safe. It doesn’t need to be sweetened, so it’s great for any of the “-itises”, gastritis, any of the gastric irritations. Really wonderful for mucus colitis, it’s just tolerated really well… people who are really ill, really young, really old. Also good for a cough or a cold. Classically there were those Thayer’s tablets of slippery elm and honey and a little bit of water and you just formed tablets and sucked on them when you had a sour throat. That’s a great way to treat someone who is trying to get off the drugs you use for acid reflux. 

Being Nourished – Nervines and Milky Oats

We hear much about various addictions these days and how people are not being nurtured to health in responsible and loving ways. Let’s look to the plants, specifically nourishing nervines to see a way forward. Nervines are some of my favorites [herbs] because most of them are nourishing and enlivening to the body. When the body, mind and spirit are attacked by too much stress, media, etc, the nervous system slowly breaks down a bit and needs the support of nervines. When they are not working properly, the nerves are like a pool table, they send the message, but it goes off in the wrong corner and doesn’t hit the pocket. So, we want to have plenty of delicious nervines in our lives in a daily way. We want to slowly build our bodies up and feed it what it needs, so that you can in fact go to sleep at night. I don’t like the pharmaceutical approach, where you take something at night and knock yourself out. I like to treat the nervous system all day long and that way, you’re ready to go to bed and embrace the pillow.

When working with addiction, whether it’s addiction to pharmaceutical prescriptions, substances or even screens, my two absolute favorite herbs are milky oats or oatstraw (two different parts of the plant) and marshmallow root. I use these herbs together, but you can also use them apart. Let’s look at Avena sativa, Milky Oats. Milky oats is the stage of the oats where when you squeeze the beautiful tip of it, the exudate looks like mother’s milk-and it is like mother’s milk. When people are working with addictions, what they really want is nurturing, they want to be back at the breast and milky oats is as close as you’re ever going to get to being nurtured by the Great Mother. If you gather the oats in the milky stage the milk dries into the oats, or you can make a fresh glycerite, and that has an advantage because the glycerite has no alcohol in it and many people suffering from addictions should avoid alcohol, even in tincture form. Another advantage with glycerites is that it expands within the body, it’s as though it fills the gap of need.

I work with people coming off serious opioids and this is very very helpful, as that sense of being held is what people need and the oats can fill that gap. When you think about oats, imagine seeing this field of oats blowing in the wind…and the feeling there is calmness, it’s like having a stroke of love across the body. Milky Oats is incredibly calming. It’s full of silica, the light of life, so it brings back to the person that spark that they might be missing. When you’re depressed, you need to have more sources of light, but adding some plants, that hold light, can nourish you and bring more light. The demulcent action of Milky Oats is completely necessary from mouth to exit in the human body. All those mucus membranes also need to be nurtured, so the demulcent action supports the body, supporting the extracellar matrix of the body. Oatstraw can be used interchangeably as the milky oats, although it is not going to have the major kick that milky oats has, but I have used oatstraw very successfully and it works incredibly well. When we think about oats, you’re going to see beautiful shiny horses dancing in the fields—and the oats will make you more frisky too! It feeds your hair and nails and makes what is dull shiny, and that dullness is dullness of the brain, as well as the dullness outside that you notice. We want to be alive and vital, so this type of deep nourishment is vital to helping someone get away from any sort of addictive behavior….

“Taken from an interview with Margi Flint at The Plant Medicine Summit.”

~ edited for this blog by Beth Mwano

To be continued…