Mar 17, 2011

Numen: The Nature of Plants (Action Guide)

By Films For Action /
Numen: The Nature of Plants (Action Guide)

There is a tremendous amount of information available on the Internet and in books exploring different aspects of issues raised in the film.

Our goal in creating this resource guide is to make it easy for viewers to act, now while the film is still fresh in your mind - not re-create the wheel! We hope these handouts and questions will get you started and inspire you to seek out the herbalists and teachers in your communities.

The most important take home message from Numen is, as Bill Mitchell and Rosemary Gladstar and so many others in the film say, to step outside, spend time in your garden, in the woods, in the meadow outside of town. Be grateful and open your heart to the mystery that is around us all, each moment.

This resource guide has been compiled with the help of two amazing community herbalists, health educators and medicine makers, Dana Woodruff of Dandelioness Herbals and ManaCulture Menstrual Gear and Sandra Lory of Mandala Botanicals, both of whom generously shared the educational resources they have put together for their students. With deep gratitude for the good work they are doing for the plants and for us all.

What To Do

Growing & Making Your Own Medicine

by Dana L Woodruff, Community herbalist, Health educator and Medicine maker, Dandelioness Herbals, Montpelier VT. © 2010

In this fast paced culture of quick fixes, herbal remedies are being marketed in highly concentrated, standardized pills and liquids, as replacements for pharmaceuticals.

Making your own herbal remedies from the whole plant is simple and for the same price as a store-bought preparation, you could make enough for you and many more.

Also, by preparing herbal remedies for yourself and your circle of friends/family you are continuing a long history stretching back through your ancestry, since all cultures have long traditions of using herbs for food and medicine. You are taking your health and healing into your own hands and encouraging self- and community-sufficiency, which is incredibly empowering.

Also, when you make remedies by hand, you are infusing it with your love and intention, which will make good, strong medicine.


Gardening Resources

by Sandra Lory, Herbalist and Food Educator, Mandala Botanicals, Barre VT. © 2009

Seed and Plant Nursery Catalogs are the best 'books on gardening'! Request catalogs from companies that specialize in local and hardy plants (we are zone 2-4 in VT). High mowing, Horizon herbs, Fedco, St. Lawrence Nursery, Johnny's, Seeds of Change. Local Heirloom seeds are special because they have been handed down for generations and are adapted to the local growing season and climate. There is an abundance of germinating, planting, growing, harvesting, storage and seed saving tips to be found in seed and plant nursery catalogs.


  • Volunteer at an organic farm, herbalist's garden or friend's garden to accelerate your learning. Schedule garden field trips locally to view plots of land similar to yours, and what is appropriate for the size, slope, moisture, exposure and soil type. Bring a notebook or camera to record your inspirations.

  • Talk to vendors at farmer's markets they have the experience with locally appropriate plants.

  • Participate in a hands-on garden program or workshops in your area.
  • Get dirty and start growing your garden - don't worry about making mistakes! Country mouse and City mouse, seeds want to grow and most are quite resilient. You can read about gardening for years but will not feel the rhythms in your body and understand the process for yourself until you just do it!

  • The best mentor you'll find is a single seed: Pick one plant, (be it tomatoes, basil, calendula, cucumber, etc) and follow it from seed to seed one whole year. Plant it, watch it grow, harvest it and save it's seeds for next year. Don't be discouraged if you have to re-plant, you find you've picked a plant that doesn't form a seed at the end of the year, it dies early, etc. - that is the process of life and death that is nature, the best teacher.



Harvesting Your Medicine

by Dana L Woodruff, Community herbalist, Health educator and Medicine maker, Dandelioness Herbals, Montpelier VT. © 2010
Once you've properly identified a plant that you'd like to harvest, check out the land that you're on. Is there a busy road nearby? Are you close to the town dump, fields sprayed with pesticides, or another source of toxins? Do the plants look healthy and vital? Are there lots of pollinators buzzing around the plants? If the land and plants feel good, you can begin gathering. There are many traditional practices for harvesting plants. Some people find the largest plant - the grandmother plant - and ask its permission to harvest. If you receive a yes, you can proceed, harvesting the surrounding plants while leaving the grandmother plant be. You can also sit with the plant, observe and listen, draw or photograph it, sing to it, or you can just get down to business (i.e. you're bleeding and need the yarrow pronto!). The important thing is to harvest with gratitude, appreciative that the plant is sharing its life force with us. You can show your appreciation in whatever way feels good to you. If you wish, you can leave an offering of a piece of your hair, water or spit, a song, or a pinch of an herb that is special to you.

Plants are affected by the moon and seasons, changing throughout the month, as well as throughout the year. Plants have different qualities according to the phase of the moon. Like the pulling of the ocean tides, the energy of the plant shifts, affected by the lunar cycle. The full moon is the optimum time to harvest aboveground parts (leaf, flower, stem, and bark) and the new moon is the time for harvesting the roots. In general, the aboveground parts of plants are best harvested in the spring and summer, before or during flowering. Roots are best harvested early in spring or late in the fall, when the plants' energy is down in its roots. The ideal time of day for harvesting is after the morning dew has evaporated, and before the full strength of the sun has potentially wilted the plant in late afternoon. The best harvesting weather is a clear, sunny day, since rain can wash away some of the very constituents you're hoping to gather. When harvesting, you want to be sure to take only what you need from each plant.

When gathering leaves, flowers, stems, and bark, you want to take the most vital parts of the plants. If a leaf is chewed up by insects, leave that one and find ones that look healthy. One way to harvest is to pinch off the new growth -the top leaves and flowers or buds - which stimulates the plant's growth. Another way is to harvest the entire stem, cutting it close to the ground or just the top few inches. Having a good knife helps you to harvest the parts that you want, and to not harm the plant by pulling or tearing. Roots are potent medicine and should be harvested with respect since the plant must be killed for its root to be gathered. When we harvest roots in the fall, the plant has time to flower and go to seed. This ensures more plants for the future. Some slower-growing roots can be gathered, and its new growth or buds can be replanted after you've harvested what you need.

When harvesting roots, you want to loosen the earth around the plant with a shovel or trowel, so that you can lift the whole root system out gently. Some plants with taproots are difficult to harvest whole because they are so rooted that they usually break before letting go of their hold, such as Burdock. Once you've dug up the roots, remember to fill space back in with soil, leave-no-trace style.


Drying Herbs

by Dana L Woodruff, Community herbalist, Health educator and Medicine maker, Dandelioness Herbals, Montpelier VT. © 2010
When you gather the whole aboveground part of the plant, including the stem, you can dry them in bunches. You want these bunches small enough for air to circulate so that the plant can dry thoroughly. You can tie the bunches with string or use rubber bands, which will adjust as the water evaporates and the stems get smaller. Your bunches can be hung in any area out of direct sun with good air circulation. If your indoor space is damp or doesn't have good ventilation, cars make great drying rooms. In my backseat I tie a string between the handholds to hang the bunches from. The bunches can be hung up on the line with paperclips that are bent to create two hooks. The rubber band or string that holds the bunches can also be looped around the line. If the weather's not rainy, leave your windows down a bit for air circulation, and either park in the shade or drape cloth up to protect the plants from direct sunlight. Leaves, flowers, stems, and bark can also be dried by laying them in baskets or on screens (nylon, not metal). Depending on the weather and the herb's moisture content, your herbs may be completely dry in just a couple days, while others may take several days.
For drying roots, you first want to wash the soil off of them. When washing, remember not to use water that's too hot. As an herbalist I once apprenticed with told me, "We're washing roots, not making tea!" Some folks choose to dry roots whole, but I like to slice roots with knife while they are fresh and easier to cut. You can dry your whole roots or root slices in baskets, on screens, or in the oven, as described above.


Dried herbs should be stored in airtight containers, preferably glass jars. To help the dried herbs maintain their vitality, store them in a dry area away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Be sure to label your jars and bags! Really! Just do it! I know every harvest is so special that we'll never forget it, but you'll be so happy when you don't have to make a 'what is this?!' pile of herbs. Many herb books will tell you to use your dried herbs within 6 months or a year, and your dried roots within 3 years. However, I know an herbalist who comes from a long line of medicine makers who said she has herbs and roots that are many years old and still good medicine. Use your judgment and your senses (sight, smell, taste) to decide whether an herb or root still possesses its vital essence.



How to make a Medicinal Tea

by Dana L Woodruff, Community herbalist, Health educator and Medicine maker, Dandelioness Herbals, Montpelier VT. © 2010

Infusions or Tisanes


Infusions or Tisanes extract medicinal properties from the leaf, flower, certain seeds, and a few roots that are high in volatile oils (such as valerian). Fresh herbs can be chopped, torn, or bruised. Dried herbs can be broken up or rubbed between your palms. This helps to break down the plants' cell walls to release more of their medicinal properties, including the oils that give herbs their scent and taste. Place the herb(s) into a vessel such as a cup, teapot, or mason jar, and then fill with hot water. Cover the container to maintain the tea's medicinal qualities that may otherwise escape with the steam.


Decoctions extract medicinal properties from the roots, bark, medicinal mushrooms, and hardy seeds. We have to work a bit harder to get to the medicines of these plant parts, by boiling and chopping/grating/grinding, too, if possible. Chop or grate fresh parts (if whole, break up or grind dried parts) into a glass, enamel, or stainless steel pot, and cover with cool water. Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the flame and simmer for 20-45 minutes, covered. If possible, let the herb soak for a few hours or overnight, before decocting the herb in order to extract the most properties possible.

Solar Infusions

Solar infusions draw out the medicinal/energetic properties of herbs with the sun. Pour fresh water over your herbs and set out in the sun for a few hours, with or without a lid.

Lunar Infusions

Lunar infusions draw out the medicinal/energetic properties of herbs with the moon. Place herbs into a glass bowl or jar of fresh water and set out in the moonlight, uncovered.


When making an infusion or decoction, choose containers (mugs, kettles, teapots, French presses) made of glass, stainless steel, or enamel. Other materials (aluminum, plastic) may react with the herbs or leach harmful chemicals into your brew.

Steeping Time and Temperature

Herbal infusions can be steeped for any length of time, from just a few minutes to all night long. Some herbs, such as chamomile, become bitter if left to steep more than a few minutes. Other herbs such as nettles and oats become more mineral-rich (and better-tasting, I believe), the longer they steep. I prefer to steep my nutritive herbs such as oats and nettles overnight in room-temperature or hot water. It's a nice bedtime ritual to prepare the next day's blend and let it infuse as you sleep. When you wake, it's ready for you to just warm and drink.


At any point in your tea-making process you can take time to breathe, unwind, and focus on the changes you'd like to welcome into your life. As the photos in The Hidden Messages in Water show, water physically responds to energy. The waters that we take into our bodies, swim and bathe in, and contain in our bodies can carry negative messages that we've received and replay inside ourselves, or we can infuse our teas, baths, and self with new messages of gratitude, love, and growth.


Since the water has been evaporated out of dried herbs, their medicinal properties are more concentrated than fresh herbs and less is needed. These measurements are only a guide. There are herbs that you may want to use by the handful or pinch. If in doubt, just look them up in a good herb book!

Dried herbs : 1 tablespoon per cup or 4-6 tablespoons (1/4+cup) per quart
Fresh herbs : 2 tablespoons per cup or 8-12 tablespoons (1/2 - 3/4 cup) per quart
Chronic conditions (i.e. muscle tension): 3-4 cups daily, one cup at a time, for several weeks
Acute conditions (i.e. headache, fever): 1/4 - 1/2 cup throughout the day, up to 3-4 cups

The longer you infuse or decoct the herbs, the stronger your tea will be. You can use the same herbs more than once, especially roots and barks. Each brewing will be less potent than the last, so you can add a bit of fresh herbs with the old, if you'd like.



Some Herbal Remedies to Have On Hand

Herbal Salves and Balms

by Dana L Woodruff, Community herbalist, Health educator and Medicine maker, Dandelioness Herbals, Montpelier VT. © 2010

A salve is a blend of oil, herbs, and wax, used externally to soothe and protect the skin. Depending on the herbs you choose, you can make a heal-all salve for cuts, dry skin, burns, stings, and scrapes, or you can make ones for specific ailments such as bites, diaper rash, and fungus. There are many methods for making herbal salves. Here is one way:

Warm 1 cup of herb-infused oil in a double boiler or a pan over very low heat. Add 4 tablespoons of grated or chopped beeswax, stir, and let the wax slowly melt into the oil. Dip a spoon into the mixture and blow on it until it's solid or put in the freezer for a few minutes to cool quicker. If the salve is too hard, add more oil. If it's too soft, add more beeswax. Once you get it to the consistency you're seeking, remove from heat and pour it into dry, clean containers right away. If you wait too long, the salve will begin to harden in the pot. Either just before or just after you pour the salve into containers, you can mix in extra ingredients such as vitamin E oil or essential oils. Each essential oil (e.o.) is different, and each person is more or less sensitive to them than the next, but in general you can add 1-2 drops of e.o. per lip balm tube and 2 or 3 drops e.o. per ounce. If you choose to add them before pouring, give the liquid a stir so that the e.o. blends together with the other ingredients. Let the salves harden slowly, allowing them cool completely before moving them. Be sure to have plenty of extra jars because when the oil and wax warm and blend all together a magic alchemical reaction always seems to happen, somehow making more salve appear.

Most salves keep for about a year. They last longer if kept in a cool, dark place, rather than letting it melt and remelt in a hot car, for example. You can use an array of herbs, oils, waxes, and other ingredients. Lip balms are made as above, but usually with more beeswax, for a harder consistency.

Some possibilities for salves and balms:

Heal-All Salve with Calendula blossoms, Plantain leaf, and St. Johnswort flowers.

Anti-Fungal Salve with Calendula blossoms and Black walnut hull oils, and Tea tree essential oil.

Decongestant Salve with essential oils of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Thyme, Rosemary, and/or Pine.

Mint Chocolate Lip Balm with cocoa butter & essential oil of peppermint.

Lip Gloss with oil infused with alkanet root, which gives a red color.




Immune Support: Preparing for Winter Health with Food and Herbs

by Sandra Lory, Herbalist and Food Educator, Mandala Botanicals, Barre VT. © 2009

Immunity is the boundary of protection and integrity that interfaces your body and the larger world. Your immune system is your Ozone. Winter, the dark side of the year, is the time of the year for building and storing energy like a seed in the ground does in preparation for springtime's melting snow and sprouting green. Hibernation regenerates your strength and endurance.


If you feel a cold or flu coming on

  • Simplify your diet to veggies, grains, soups, bone/seaweed/and/or miso broths, tea, and fresh water. Take an immune tincture every 1-2 hours; dot diluted tea tree or other immune essential oil on your body and around your home/office. Sleep a lot.

  • Keep warm - cover up your feet, neck, ears and lower back.
  • Flu virus is transmitted in the nose and mouth, so keep them clean with light sea salt water rinses or a drop of tea tree oil in water as a rinse.

  • Do an electricity or media fast to let your nervous system recuperate, and give your adrenal glands a rest: Turn off the radio, TV, computer, cell phone, newspapers, magazines, junk mail and shopping. This practice helps you slow down, hear your internal voice and de-stress.

  • Avoid sweets and milk products, (raw milk ok) for a few days. Sugar feeds bacteria and increases inflammation, pasteurized cold milk increases mucus and congestion.


Healing Foods & Herbs for Immune Health

Increase circulation and elimination with hot liquids while feeding your body healthful foods:

  • Homemade veggie and miso broth with kombu or wakame seaweed, and long simmered bone broths are super healing to the digestive, immune and nervous systems. Miso tea/broth - alkalizes, grounds the body and reawakens intestinal flora. Stir a teaspoon of miso paste into hot but not boiling water (to preserve live enzymes and beneficial bacteria), and drink.

  • Lacto-fermented veggies like sauerkraut and kim chi are anti-viral and probiotic, a traditional way to enjoy fresh veggies in winter.

  • Tasty Immune Strength Miso Spread/instant soup paste: 1-2 T minced raw garlic and ginger, 1/2 c raw honey, mix. Add a pinch of cayenne and turmeric powder. Mix 1/4 c miso paste, and 1/2 cup tahini. Use as a spread on celery or carrot sticks, toast or crackers.

  • Top a fresh lemon wedge with local raw honey, and suck out the juice. Repeat.
  • Garlic Honey- chop raw garlic into a spoonful of raw honey. They must both be raw for their medicinal, natural anti-biotic qualities. *Garlic-honey-vinegar - chop 5-10 cloves garlic into 1 cup apple cider vinegar. Steep over night and add honey to taste in the morning. Drink by the heaping spoonful throughout the day. Cures lung and throat infections, soothes a cough.

  • Hot Ginger Honey Lemonade - Boil 2 inches minced ginger in 1 quart of water for 10 minutes or longer. Take off heat, add fresh squeezed lemons juice and raw honey, and sprinkle a few grains of cayenne in. Drink up and sweat it out!

  • Sage gargle for strep throat - Boil 1 cup water, add 1 tsp culinary sage leaf and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Steep 5 minutes, gargle and spit. Can curb strep in a few hours.

  • Horseradish condiment - mince fresh horseradish and mix with equal parts raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar. Store in fridge. Excellent lung strengthening condiment, and clears out the sinuses.

  • Curried onions and greens are one of my favorite cold season foods: sautay a sliced onion with a Tbl olive oil, plus 1T each minced garlic and ginger and pinch of sea salt. Add 2 sliced shitake mushroom caps. Cover. Add a 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp coriander and 1 tsp cumin powder (or 1 T curry powder), stir. Finely chop one washed bunch dark leafy greens, like collards or kale. Add to pan, add a splash of water to sizzle, and cover immediately. In 5 minutes you have a delicious side dish that's great alone or with eggs, beans, toast, etc. Add cayenne to heat it up even more.
  • Make Deep Immune Broth for use throughout the winter. This is a deeply restorative soup and excellent preventative medicine. Place several pieces of chicken (or turkey, beef, fish) in a pot with a few pieces of kombu, wakame or dulse seaweed. Add a small handful of each or any of the following herbs: codonopsis root, reishi mushroom, shitake mushroom, burdock root, astragalus root, turkey tail mushroom. You may also add garlic and ginger. Add 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar, and cover pot contents with water. Bring to boil, then simmer for several hours, at least 2, and up to 24. Turn off heat, strain into another pot and cool. Remove meat from bones and add back to broth. You may add a teaspoon of miso paste, into each bowl upon serving. Freeze it for ready use throughout the season.

  • Drink water, between 4 and 8 cups/day.

  • Eat with the season. The winter storage crops of the Northeast are primarily root vegetables, (onions, garlic, carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, rutabega, Jerusalem artichokes, etc) dried beans and grains. Carnivores - long cooked meat stews and casseroles. Dark leafy greens like kale and collards can grow in early snowfall, freeze well, and are important vitamin and energy sources. Apples, plums and berries are our local fruits. Hot herbal teas, hot soups, roasted, cooked and baked foods instead of raw foods, sweet drinks/sodas, ice water, iced coffee, cold dairy products, cold cereal, salads, cold sweet desserts (like ice cream), fruit juice. These things are better suited for summertime.

  • Make your own Echinacea tincture by filling a quart jar 3/4 full with fresh or 1/2 full with dried herb. Fill the jar to the top with 80 or 100 proof vodka, shake and let sit for 2-6 weeks. Shake daily and strain on the last day, squeezing out every last drop of medicine before composting the herb material left (called the marc). This is a very inexpensive way to have a winter supply of tincture. I prefer to make and strain tinctures on a full or new moon to potentize the medicine. To make an alcohol-free herbal extract, use food grade vegetable glycerine (from a health food store), mixed 50% with distilled water, instead of alcohol.
  • Make yummy anti-viral Elderberry Syrup. Harvest elderberries in early September, or buy dried berries. Soak in 3x their volume of water. Add ginger, rose hips, or other herbs such as elecampane roots, codonopsis roots, reishi or hawthorne berries. Cook, reducing the liquid mixture to 1/2 or 1/3. It takes a few hours. Strain, and compost the pulp. As the juice cools, dissolve raw honey to taste into the mixture. Preserve the syrup with raw apple cider vinegar and tinctured Echinacea or Brandy, or pure vegetable glycerine. You need to match the volume of cooked syrup to the volume of 'preservatives' you use. Store in the refrigerator and use within 3-6 months. Delicious flu remedy!

  • Cook with culinary herbs which are also highly medicinal: Parsley, coriander, cumin, fennel, dill, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, basil, mint, ginger, cardamom, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon.

  • Awareness of your body's boundaries, listening to your inner voice, healthy self-esteem and a shield of protection are issues of immunity, this system is an energetic system as well as a physical one.

  • Anti-bacterial and anti-viral room spray - use 9-21 drops of above mentioned essential oils in a sprayer bottle filled with distilled water. Shake and spray around home, office, etc. Avoid contact with eyes. Avoid near cats, their bodies cannot handle essential oil.

  • Flower essences for the immune system: Echinacea, garlic, self-heal, nasturtium, morning glory, and yarrow. Flower essences work on the cellular, emotional, and spirit levels of the body. They are simple to make at home. See "the Complete Floral Healer" by Anne McIntyre for instructions.



Herbalists Nancy Phillips, Kate Gilday, Josephine Spilka, Atmo Abram, Amy Goodman, Annie Wattles, Guido Mase, Ms. Beatrice Waight, Rocio Alarcon, Hadar Sarit, Rosemary Gladstar.

The Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, The Complete Floral Healer by Anne McIntyre.



There is much more to be found on the Numen website. The complete guide can be downloaded via the PDF on the left, or viewed on the web via the website link below.

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