“I have no Latin, but as I began to botanize, to learn to call the plants around me up here on my hill by their Latin names, I was diverted from my lack of wits by the wit of the system. There is a tree growing in the woodland with shiny, oval leaves that turn brilliant red early in the fall, sometimes even at summer’s end. It has small clusters of white flowers in June that bees like, and later blue fruits that are eaten by bluebirds and robins. It is one of the tupelos, and people in this part of the country call it black-gum or sour-gum. When I was growing up in Michigan I knew it as pepperidge. Its botanic name is Nyssa sylvatica. Nyssa is derived from the Hyseides. Sylvatica means ‘of the woodlands.’ Nyssa sylvatica, a wild, untamed name. The trees, which are often hollow when old, served as beehives for the first American settlers, who cut sections of them, capped them and dumped in the swarms that they found. To this day some people still call beehives ‘gums,’ unknowingly acknowledging the common name of the tree.”
— Sue Hubbell, A Country Year
There is nothing more majestic than sturdy, enormous trees that have stood for a century or so.
This morning, as I write, there are two squirrels clamoring for top position in the sugar maple outside my window. The maple is just beginning to bud, a wonderful and welcome sign that Spring really has arrived. Finally!
The birds are chirping with gusto and I have watched a robin and several starlings bobbing their heads up and down as they search for a morning meal at the foot of that big tree.
Since moving to this farm three years ago, I have developed a new-found respect for the trees and plants that make up our world.
Much of what I once considered weeds, I now realize are God-given plants. As I spent years searching for answers — any answers — to help my son recover from the horrors of Lyme disease after he was bitten by a deer tick at age 11, I stumbled upon herbal remedies that have been a part of our world throughout time.
Matthew Wood, an interesting man who has written numerous books on plants as healers, shared an entire chapter on teasel root as a possible remedy for the crushing symptoms of Lyme. In his writings, The Book of Herbal Wisdom, he cites the Chinese name Dipsacus japonica of teasel, which translates to “restore what is broken.” The drawing of the plant at the opening of this chapter is what we always referred to as the tall thistle.
He writes, “It turns out that teasel is a powerful remedy for Lyme disease. For the last two years, I have seen it cure five out of five cases of Lyme disease, either based on the blood tests or the persons own experience of the disease.” For those who understand the complexities of Lyme disease, it is obvious this is a very strong statement, as most who understand the enormities of the damage well-established Lyme can do will tell you that this disease cannot be cured, only pushed in to remission.
He describes a middle-aged woman, battling Lyme for five years, and living the life of a shut-in invalid. She had tried various treatments and pleaded with Wood for a remedy, describing her symptoms in detail. Wood writes, “This set me to thinking about Teasel and she came out and picked some up at the farm. After two weeks on the tincture, three drops, three times a day, she developed a rash. After three weeks, all four of her blood tests came up negative for the first time in five years. She felt much better.”
He also describes a woman in Wisconsin who had been suffering from Lyme and had been forced to quit working at the head of her small company. He writes, “She suffered the usual muscular-skeletal pains with terrible debility of the mind.” He sent a bottle of Teasel tincture to her and heard back through her friends that her symptoms improved from the top down: first the head, then the torso down to the waist. She was able to return to work.
Wood also writes of seeing deer tracks all around his patch of teasel. An herbalist in Calgary, Alberta noted that he had seen this same phenomenon — deer came to his garden from all directions to the patch of Teasel. He added that deer antler is used in China as a treatment for Lyme disease.
Wood warns that in serious, chronic cases of Lyme, even one drop, one to three times a day may produce an aggravation of all symptoms, which is exactly what happened with my son, not only with this, but also with Cat’s Claw tincture. “In this case, the dosage should be stopped or lessened for a while,” he writes. When the person is stronger, try it once again.
This serves as a great reminder that we are surrounded by blessings in country living, sometimes cloaked in what we simply call weeds.