Ginger Kidney Poultice when you Catch a Chill

Last night I felt a chill. So I made a ginger kidney poultice and crawled into bed with a novel. The ginger kidney poultice is deeply warming and relaxing… perfect for a damp, cold night.

Because the kidney’s are organs of detoxification, a ginger poultice gently influences detoxification processes in your body. I also find it eases tension associated with pain along the spine.

You can also place a ginger poultice over any part of your body that feels cold, tense and achy.

How to Make a Ginger Kidney Poultice

Grated Ginger

Begin with putting a small pot of water on the stove to boil.

Grate enough organic ginger to cover the palm of your hand.

Cut out a square of cheese cloth (found in most grocery stores) about 25 cm by 25 cm. The clothe should be 2 layers of cheesecloth.

Place the ginger in the middle of the cheesecloth, flatten it out but not too thin.

Tie the corners of the cheese cloth so you have a small sac.

Dip the sac into the boiling water and remove quickly. Repeat this 3 times.

Have a small saucer ready to place the hot poultice on while it cools.

When cool enough but still warm, place over your kidneys and tie a scarf around your abdomen to keep it in place.

Leave the poultice on until it cools.

Repeat 3 for three days. Rest for 3 days and then repeat.

Nettle Seed

Nettle Seed (Urtica dioica semen)
urtica from the Latin “urere” meaning to burn
dioica from Latin for “two houses” – this refers to male and female flowers occurring on separate plants.

Nettle from the Anglo-Saxon word “noedl” meaning “needle”.

In contemporary western herbal medicine, nettle seed is essentially an energizing trophorestorative for the kidneys. Some herbalists also refer to nettle seed as an adaptogen.

Let’s begin with historical uses.
First historical use of Nettle Seed
Nettle seed was part of the feed given to horses that were much loved. It made their coats shiny and they appeared to have more vigor.

This is important, the coat of an animal, or the hair of a human will tell you a lot about the health of the body from which it sprouts. Hair that lacks lustre and fullness, unless there is male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) which is hereditary, suggest the body lacks the nutrients it needs. The body will sacrifice the hair in order to conserve nutrients needed for more necessary functions. If malnutrition is prolonged changes can also be seen on the nails and skin.

So, we know from those who fed their beloved horses nettle seeds had healthier animals with sustained vigor. We can hypothesise this is because of the nutrients in the seed.

2nd historical non-use of Nettle Seed
Monks during the middle ages, 500 ce to about 1500 ce, were forbidden to take nettle seeds. It was considered an aphrodisiac. They were given Vitex agnus castus seeds instead. This plant suppresses libido in men.

We now know that Nettle seeds awakens the sexual appetite in men. A vigorous sexual appetite suggests gusto for life. This suggests the Nettle seed in some way nourishes the endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for survival of the species. It does this by releasing hormones that govern of many of life’s survival actions including inflammation and fever as well as fight, flight and freeze and sex. Sex being essential for the survival of the species.

Nettle Seed, as do most seeds, are high in essential fatty acids. These oils are necessary for a healthy functioning endocrine system which includes both sexual and immune health.

3rd historical uses of Nettle Seed
Culpepper, an English herbalist from in the mid 1600, had many uses for Nettle Seed. From Culpepper’s Complete Herbal…..
the seed provokes urine, and expels the gravel and stone in the reins or bladder, often proved to be effectual in many that have taken it. The same kills the worms in children, eases pains in the sides, and dissolves the windiness in the spleen, as also in the body, although others think it only powerful to provoke venery….The seed being drank, is a remedy against the stinging of venomous creatures, the biting of mad dogs, the poisonous qualities of Hemlock, Henbane, Nightshade, Mandrake, or other such like herbs that stupify or dull the senses; as also the lethargy, especially to use it outwardly, to rub the forehead or temples in the lethargy, and the places stung or bitten with beasts, with a little salt.

From Culpepper we learn about Nettle seed’s direct actions on the kidney. Remember contemporary herbalist now most commonly use it as a kidney trophorestorative. Culpepper tells us it removes kidney stones.

He also suggest it has anti-parasitic actions as well as anti-viral actions. Rabies is a viral infection. This is very interesting to me as I see a lot of infections in my practice and we are currently living with a virus that is changing all our lives.

Constituents of Nettle, not necessarily the seed as most research is done on the leaf is demonstrating anti-viral activity.

One of the primary finding’s researchers noticed when offering nettles as medicine, is the lack of weight loss and vitality when mice were injected with a killing virus. This refers back to those who love horses already knew. Nettles is a super food! And Nettle seed is a super, super food!

The Kidney
Herbal Medicine is the relationship between plants and the body/mind complex. To understand a plant’s medicine, one needs some understand of the organ or system that the plant effects.

The kidneys are mentioned 5 times in the Hebrew Bible as the organ as the organ God examines to pass judgement on the soul. It is said, Abraham learned the laws of God from dreams offered by his kidneys at night.

“I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night seasons” (Psalms 16:7).

The ancient Jewish sacred text the Talmudic corpus teaches that one kidney offers good advice, while the other offers bad advice.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is often said that the kidney is where fear resides in the body. The word for fear in Mandarin is Haipa. Haipa is broken into two pictograms. “Hai” which is translated as harm, evil, kill and calamity and “Pa” which translate into afraid, fear and dread.

Translations of Haipa are to be scared, to dread, to lose courage, to be unable to endure and to worry.

I find these considerations of the “emotionality” (for lack of better word) of the kidney’s important when we are speaking of Nettle Seed as a kidney trophorestorive. If we consider these ancient understanding of Kidneys – a kidney trophorestorative is a plant that restores the courage, resiliency and the power to stand in our creative goodness.

This brings us to the adoptogenic effect of a kidney restorative. Adaptogenic herbs act on the adrenal glands to moderate the body/mind’s response to stress.

Stress is such an overused word today that it has almost lost its significance. “We are all stressed out!” Think of stress as the loss of courage, coming from the French word for a “good heart.” When we lose the good heart of courage, we begin to worry. The worry spirals into fear and soon we are waking every morning with dread in our bellies.

Nettle seed restores the courage to the heart by easing the worry from the kidneys.

A more physiological understanding of the kidney.
The kidney controls the tension or relaxation in the heart and all the blood vessels and therefore the delivery of blood carrying nutrients and oxygen to the rest of the body – including the brain. Relaxed, but not too relaxed, circulation means every cell in the body receives the nutrients it needs to be vibrant and health. Tension in the kidney has a influence on every cell in the body. Worry creates tension!

The kidney also filters blood. In a cadaver antonym class, squeeze a kidney and it’s like a sponge releasing fluid. The kidney filters the by-products of metabolism, particularly protein metabolism and maintains electrolyte balance. If the kidneys are hindered in their ability to filter the by-products of metabolism the skin takes on the role. This is why people on dialysis often have the smell of urea coming from skin. Their skin is doing the work on the kidney. (Back to those horses).

Electrolytes balance the fluid levels in your blood plasma, interstitial tissue and within your cells. Electrolytes maintain the pH balance of your body and enable the contraction of your muscles including your heart and arteries and participate in transmission of nerve signals.

Your kidney’s actions touch every part of your body and can have a profound impact on your mental well being as well. When you take a kidney trophorestorative, you are supporting not just your kidneys but your whole body.

Signs and Symptoms that it’s time to take Nettle Seed.
1. Mid and low back ache when standing. It feels like fatigue in your back. (This for me is the key indication that Nettle seed is needed)
2. Dread and fatigue in the morning upon waking. This fatigue can pause once you up and getting on with your day, or it may remain if it has moved deeper into your beingness.
3. Aching legs worse with cold
4. Water retention, swollen tongue.
5. Low libido
6. Sighing

When not to take Nettle Seed?
When someone is completely depleted. Nettle seed carries a lot of energy. If someone has not inner reserves, you may want to begin with Nettle leaf and as the person re-energizes introduce Nettle Seed.

Dose: Start low and go slow. It is very invigorating and can interrupt a delicate sleep pattern if take too late in the day.

More on Nettle Seed: – Johnathan Treasure’s research into Nettle Seed credited with awakening the current interest in the plant. – This is a fantastic article with harvesting tips and recipes and much more. – Some curious clinical applications of the Nettle seeds. One needs to check the resources though.

Water and Butterflies

She, the woman with ribbons on her skirt, spoke quietly. I had to lean in to her words. She said, “I am shy,” with a voice like the wind that ripples water.

That cold winter’s day, I had gone to see the butterflies. They drifted through the warm, humid room pausing on lush tropical plants, a cement wall and tiled floor like restless hearts seeking a moment of clarity.

I had worn a blue shirt with a red flower print hoping the butterflies would mistake me for a flower and land.

My friend took my picture with a luminous blue butterfly pausing on my chest, just above my heart. It was a precious moment. I held my breath.

Yet, I could not help but look up at the water stained ceiling. Did the luminous blue butterfly seek the sky?

It was when we were leaving that I noticed her standing, uncertain, in front of people expecting somethi

ng from her words. Instead, she offered words for the people’s tongues. This is what she said –

When you cross a bridge, tell the water –

I thank you water

I love you water

I am so sorry water

Crossing bridges, I remember her and let her words flow from my tongue –

I thank you water

I love you water

I am so sorry water

Her words always stir sadness in my heart, like a butterfly that cannot find the sky.

A Basket of Flowers: A Meditation

If I had to pick the greatest pleasure of being a herbalist, beside watching people become well and fall in love with plants, its picking flowers in the morning for medicine.
There is a very old flower meditation from India. In this meditation you are ask to go out and pick a particular of flower, it could white, red, yellow, blue, even green flowers, until you have full basket. Then you sit quietly and gaze upon the flowers, imaging your body is being infused with the flowers’ softness. When you mind feels soft and still, you close your eyes and picture the basket of flowers in your mind’s eye. When you can perfectly picture the flowers in your mind’s eye, you then carry the bliss of flowers.
Now you are probably thinking, do different colours create different experiences.
In the tradition of meditation, meditating on white flowers balances the water element and calms hatred. Meditation on red flowers balance the fire element and calms desire. Meditation on blue flowers balances the space element and calms confusion. Meditation on yellow flowers balances the earth element and calms greed (as well as feelings of scarcity) and finally meditation on green flowers balances the air element and calms anxiety.
So in the morning, when picking your flowers for medicine, feel their softness in your mind/body and enjoy the bliss for the rest of the day.

Gathering Medicinal Plants and the Moon

The Moon affects plants as much as the sun. The Moon pulls water. Plants love water. Water defines the relationship between plants and the moon.

The ancients named each month after a Moon the changes or activities it evoked. Living with rhythms of the Moon, as our ancestors lived allows a profound understanding of the relationship between celestial and terrestrial events. To begin to understand this complex relationship, a careful study of the new moons and full moons and the germination, leaf development, bloom of flowers and going to seeds of plants will lay down a good foundation for understanding when to pick plants for their medicine.

Personally, the longer I am working with plants, the more I understand that each type of plants have their own unique needs for growing, gathering, medicine making and the medicine they offer and I am always so careful with generalization as there are so many variables to consider. So please take these as guidelines, not rules and watch, smell and taste your plants with each turning of the Moon, and let your inner knowing become your guide to gathering plants by the Moon.

That being said, here are some guidelines:
Plants always seem busy with the work of transformation and seem to move onto their stage of growth with each full moon. Often, they too unsettled to gather for medicine during a full moon.
The full moon also pulls water in the aerial parts of the plants, leaves, flowers, fruit. If I am drying these parts of the plants for later use or making fresh plant tinctures (or any other fresh plant medicine) I prefer as little water in the plant when I gather it.

Otherwise, follow the direction of the moon when gathering your plants. Because the energy of aerial parts of a plant are moving towards fullness, pick these parts when the moon is waxing.

The energy of roots is descending and roots enjoy the darkness, gather roots are the moon waning and during the darkest nights.

Also, it is important that the roots of perennial herbs are very different in the spring and the fall. What the plant is doing with the medicine and the nutrients the during each season is quite different, and therefore their chemical make-up shifts. For an ethical ecological point of view, particularly when wildcrafting, gathering roots in the fall after the plant has gone to seed is always the best choice.

Traditionally to enhance a plants moon energy, whether the plant is ruled by the moon or not, harvest it on a Monday. Monday is the moons day.

There are different systems for the time of day to harvest plants in relation to the planets and luminaires. Let’s keep it simple. European folk herbalists generally gathered plants ruled by the Moon at noon.

When the Moon is in Cancer, is a particularly potent time to gather plants ruled by the Moon as this is the sign that is ruled by the Moon.

Please note, where the plant is growing on the plant, the environmental conditions the plant is growing in and you respect for the plant and your intention for the medicine are also profoundly important!