Traditional Metis Tree Medicines

Populus (Poplar, Aspen)

Populus is a genus of 25-35 flowering deciduous trees native to the Northern Hemisphere. Common names for Populus include Cottonwoods, Poplars and Aspens. The name Populus (“of the people”)was given to these trees because they are so often planted in public squares and cities.

Properties of populus resin: antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, tonic, analgesic (pain-relieving), astringent, anti-inflammatory, reduces fever

Balsam Poplar Oil Infusion Recipe

  • Freshly picked or frozen sticky balsam buds 
  • Stable emollient oil (grapeseed, olive, jojoba, almond, and coconut oil are good options)
  • Dedicated resin slow cooker or glass pot

*The slow cooker or pot will be difficult to clean; it is best to use a dedicated resin pot and straining cloth when working with resins.

Put balsam buds in a slow cooker or glass pot and cover with oil. Cook on low heat, less than a simmer, for 1-4 hours.

Strain the oil through a clean cloth, and discard the used balsam buds. Allow oil to cool with a cloth over the top, so moisture can evaporate. Store the oil out of the light in an airtight glass container. Apply to skin as needed for aches, rashes and sores.

Picea (Spruce)

Spruce trees are large evergreen trees from the genus Picea, which contains roughly 35 members. Their needles attach singularly to the branches, and are 4-sided. Spruce wood is used in construction, paper production and to make musical instruments. Spruce pitch is used as a glue in crafting and as a medicine for respiratory infections, arthritis and angina.

Medicinal properties of spruce tips: expectorant, stimulant, antibiotic, contain vitamin C, tonic, pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory

Spruce Tip Syrup Recipe

  • Fresh, soft needles from the tips of the spruce tree, gathered in early spring
  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 liter of sugar

Boil 2 cups of spruce tips in 1 liter of water for 5 minutes, lid on. Strain, retaining the liquid. Add 1 liter of sugar and return the mixture to the stove, on medium heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Pour the syrup into glass jars and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Take 1 teaspoon, 1-4 times daily as needed for sore throat.

Rhodiola, My Darling!

Rhodiola is making a come-back this year in my garden! This sweet succulent starlet is one of 4 tiny bundles transplanted late last July.

All of the transplants were seeded from wild rhodiola species growing in the Rocky mountains of Alberta, Canada. They are gathered and lovingly nurtured by Arden from Wild About Flowers, who specializes in native Alberta plant species.  I highly recommend checking out her collection of native species for hardy, hard-to-find native plants.

If you want to know more about my Darling Rhodiola, Queen of the Mountains and personal favorite of mine, you can read all about her healing properties here.

Or, come by my yard in South Calgary and I will show her off in person. I love, love, love my rhodiola !

 

A Rainbow of Elderberries

One of my favorite things about elderberries (Sambucus spp.) is the colorful rainbow of possibilities they provide! I love to showcase this ‘magic trick’ for my students during the elderberry harvest. This year my apprentice caught it all on camera, so we decided to share this magic with you! Scroll down for a fascinating chemistry experiment.

Same syrup, same day – increasing amounts of baking soda (basic) added from left to right changes the color from red, to purple, to light blue.

Elderberries contain Anthocyanins, a collection of antioxidants that protect the berry from environmental damage due to sun, weather & disease. These powerful protective ingredients are part of the medicine of elderberries, providing anti-inflammatory and cell-protective properties to humans, animals and birds.

Anthocyanins have the amazing ability to change their color! Depending on a number of factors, anthocyanins can appear medium blue, indigo, purple, bright pink or ruby red. Anthocyanins can even be used to create a lovely green shade! This makes elderberry a unique natural dye for coloring fabrics, cordage and tissue paper craft projects.

Why the color changes? Anthocyanins react heavily to the pH of their environment – acidic solutions will be on the red end of the spectrum, and basic solutions tend towards green/blue. These antioxidants also darken in appearance to produce lovely purple, green, or brown colors when oxidized. Oxidation occurs naturally in response to exposure to light, heat, repeated freezing, fermentation and drying. This is one of the reasons that fresh elderberry syrup is a much brighter color than syrup made from dried berries.

Thanks for viewing our herbal chemistry experiment! You can find out more about elderberry syrup here. Until next time, Kaawaapamatin/Bonn Zhoornii!

Video – Elderberry Syrup, Traditional Method

This video was filmed by my apprentice Carmen, at our Traditional Elderberry Syrup workshop. The preparation and preservation methods are typical of a traditional Metis recipe. The berries are fresh and locally harvested! The syrup turned out lovely. Thank you for the video, Carmen!

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie & Peanut Butter Bars Dessert

I am loving this new creation: a combination of chocolate chip cookie dough, with a lavish layer of chocolate and peanut butter drizzle on top! No baking required, Gluten-free, Sugar-free, Dairy-free and Peanut-free, too.  These are made using soy peanut butter (Wow Butter), but could also be made with any nut butter that is solid at room temperature. Continue reading “Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie & Peanut Butter Bars Dessert”