By Jules Pecson, Wild Craft Herbalist
Herbal solutions and natural skin-care products have found a home at Fiona’s Forest in Paradise, California. As an herbalist, I harvest local plants, process the gathered components, and offer an apprenticeship program at the shop. The local environment provides hundreds of herbs to accommodate “wild crafting,” which offers alternatives to pharmaceutical products with undesirable side effects. With a responsible and sustainable harvesting method, gatherings are ongoing and production of tinctures and salves is under way daily at Fiona’s Forest. Consultations with an experienced herbalist are available and can help you find your way back to health.
The natural healing process has a long history but has become more crucial with the onset of genetically modified food crops. The human body recognizes and is able to absorb and use the benefits of a plant when all the constituents—the active ingredient along with the vitamins, minerals, and essential oils—are present in the remedy. The forests in our own backyard provide health-related solutions from wild harvested plants grown in their natural environment. Fiona’s Forest extracts herb and plant constituents in small batches with time-tested techniques to ensure high quality and freshness.
In 2009, while living in McCall, Idaho, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had the lump surgically removed but was reluctant to continue through the radiation and chemotherapy. A friend introduced me to Darcy Williamson, a master herbalist who lived just across the ridge. Williamson, a highly respected and extensively published master herbalist, was sustainably harvesting and processing plants into medicinal alternatives to Western medicine.
I set up an appointment with Darcy and never left. I spent the next six years apprenticing under Williamson. I spent time foraging for plants in the Salmon River Range of the Rocky Mountains and learning how to incorporate the medicines into my own recovery process. Recognizing how the plants helped save my life, I am now committed to advocate the alternative medicinal approach.
Advocating for the plants meant bringing what I learned back to Northern California. Having grown up around Chico and Paradise, I made frequent trips back to Butte County from Idaho, and I quickly discovered there was a need for more access to herbal-wellness information and products.
A unique aspect of my mission is “wild crafting,” or going out and searching for essential plant ingredients to harvest. Every Sunday I invite anyone who’s interested to forage in the local area. We look for native plants that can be processed into useful health products. That process takes place at Fiona’s Forest, the shop in which a bevy of jars, distillers, and other containers are full of plant parts awaiting transformation into new forms, from healing salves to hydrosol liquids.
While harvesting the plants, I make sure to follow sustainable practices. A wild-crafting herbalist harvests things that are growing in their natural environment. If things are growing in a patch, only an eighth of the patch is harvested. If leaves are collected, only the lower leaves of the plant are harvested so the plant will continue to thrive.
My lifelong commitment is to share the knowledge with apprentices and to make highly concentrated medicinal tinctures. A tincture is made by placing the harvested plant material in a container where it is covered with food-grade alcohol. The alcohol dehydrates the plants so that all the medicinal constituents are left in a concentrated liquid form. You need just half a teaspoon, twice a day, for example, of the tincture made of cleavers, which grows here in Northern California. The cleavers tincture is a strong immune-system booster and offers a lymphatic cleanse. In the spring, cleavers are harvested before they flower in the valley. Six weeks later, as the valley heats up, the plant is also harvested at higher elevations.
The list of native plants in Butte County that can be used as medicinal remedies is endless. Elderberries offer the flower as a soothing element in salves, and the berry itself produces a strong immune-system booster. Butte County also has local plants that help fight Lyme disease, such as the teasel and Japanese knotweed roots. With the change of seasons, there is always a changing variety of plants to look forward to!
Seasonal Questions and Suggestions, Winter
I am often asked which herbal remedy should be kept on hand for the winter season.
My answer always includes the following suggestions.
|Anti-Viral Throat Spray—Lomatium root, arrowleaf balsamroot, and gumweed flowers combine to offer a throat spray that you can use as a first defense against the cold and flu viruses making their way around the community in the winter. If you are exposed to a virus but catch it early, you can nip it in the bud. If used before exposure you can prevent experiencing winter’s typical health challenges.|
|Chokecherry -Elderberry Cough Syrup—Chokecherry bark is a strong cough suppressant and along with the immune system–building qualities of the elderberry and a local honey, this syrup delivers a tasty solution to coughs that accompany seasonal illnesses.|
|Brown’s Peony Root Tincture and Salve—Brown’s peony root is a strong pain-relieving herb especially for sore muscles and joints. Activity in cold weather often sends muscles into cramping or soreness. In addition, joints react to those tense muscles by stiffening and sending a painful reminder that the cold season has arrived. Brown’s peony offers nearly instant relief of this pain.|
|Derma Bar Soap—This moisturizing bar is made with a strong tea of wolf lichen, which is specifically helpful for psoriasis and eczema, but it highly recommended for any dry winter skin condition.|
Best of health!