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Livingston Montana Newspaper
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Joyce JohnsonAlternative Medicine 3 - NATURE

by Joyce Johnson




Bev Axelson, in the blue hat, leads the way.

Bev Axelson, in the blue hat, leads the way.


Plant Walks - We are moving towards the end of Autumn as this story goes into print, and snow is on the Asarokee peaks, but I must share the very recent, backstage beauty and wealth of our valley, even as cycles and seasons move on. And so do the simple gifts of Montana native, Bev Axelson, who has been studying and teaching medicinal herbs for around 20 years. It began with her curiosity about wild echinacea (a natural antibiotic) growing on her property, and then medicinal herbs grew to become her passion.

“Plant Walks” for the identification and gathering of edible and medicinal plants begin in the Spring and progress monthly as the season and plants mature, but me and about 10 other new people registered for the last plant walk Oct. 10. A sudden tide of 10 new students at the end of the series of classes! It was odd, but it didn’t matter. One of us “newbees” said, “I just want to be outside with the plants,” and it was a beautiful Fall day for it. We watched and listened and took pictures, pleasant to be with like minds – strangers although it did not seem so. Herb planting, harvest, prep and use is no longer a special interest group, and I will never again call those amazing Fire weeds and wild plants just “weeds.” Nor will I, come to think of it, ever go clomping through the Bush not caring or knowing what lies around or beneath my big feet. It’s important I think for contrast to mention that for several centuries herbalists were burnt at the stake, but history is a teacher and apparently we overcome things, grow and learn, especially when challenged. Medicine is expanding in many directions today, with new discoveries as well as reaching back and rediscovering ancient healing sciences. It occurred to me long after the Plant Walk, that Bev Axelton’s wonderful classes and our local natural free apothecary will be the third Alternative Medicine article for the PCCJournal, though it should have been the first.

The living cycles of Earth, or Nature, processes, nurtures, and embellishes the land ingeniously sometimes dramatically, with all that is needed to feed (which is also to heal) life on the Earth’s surface. Mankind’s gizmos, toys and machines can’t hold a candle to Nature’s brilliant ongoing creation and maintenance. Not just weeds folks, but sun, rain and sometimes fire-treated flowering, individual often other worldly, aromatic and medicating...purposeful life forms. But, aside from all that, it’s just plain fun and invigorating to be out walking in it.

In fact, healing in itself. Nature, the Queen of sustainability, master artist and teacher, shows rather than tells and she feels so good to be with. But us 2-leggeds hunger beyond simple stuff for the details:
The Plant Walk began at a trail head near Pine Creek. Bev handed us each a 22-page description of over 20 wild growing plants and their medicinal properties and said she would point out and taste most of them in the next couple hours. My eyebrows shot up. 5 or 6 maybe but 20? Eat? She must be exaggerating, but Bev lead us up the deer and people path stopping about every 20 feet to point out and talk about and taste one plant after

another. We went over the ridge and into the burn left from the Pine Creek Wildfire the summer of 2012. I took pictures of trees turned to charcoal that shined so arrestingly in the sun.

The soft, lush multicolored summer’s growth of ground foliage stimulated by the burn was a stunning contrast and painfully beautiful.

To learn that much of the beautiful foliage have stories and known healing properties opened the curtains on a new theater for me. Many students collected plants not only for medicine and seeds, but for beauty. And a creek ran through it. Nobody talked when we stood listening and watching the water tumble and flow. One of the students happily drenched herself and it was almost a sacred thing. I felt the power of ongoing life, and the frailty of man in comparison, especially when later the good old valley wind picked up and literally blew us back down the hill. Below is the medicinal plant I chose for a class example.

Good ol’ Dandelion - I love to see them on my lawn, and someone long ago said it’s good to chew the stems to cleanse the liver. It’s a different kind of treating the body...naturally. I once saw a photo of a bear with a dandelion in his mouth. Animals know. From Bev’s shared research I read:
...”Dandelion is a slow starter but once established in the garden well, you know the rest. But for those interested in herbal medicine there is not a better introduction than dandelion with it’s broad spectrum of therapeutic and nutritional uses. It is unique as a diuretic, a rich source of potassium, trace minerals and vitamins which replace what would otherwise be lost through the urination it stimulates. Dandelion is considered a safe but powerful liver stimulant used to treat digestive disorders as well as chronic skin conditions that often result from an overworked or dysfunctional liver.

Its leaves, in a tincture taken before a meal, called a “bitter,” greatly helps digestion and nutrient absorption. Dandelion as an herbal medicine contains diverse active properties in safe quantities that the body can freely and completely assimilate. The perfect example of a plant food medicine, dandelion is rich in protein, iron, vitamins A, C and B Complex to name a few. From a holistic view, dandelion can be helpful in almost any circumstance.

Of course please don’t pick a Dandelion for use unless you know it is not sprayed and of course best not used while pregnant.” (Home made dandelion wine sounds like the best of both worlds.)

There is another step of course and that is learning harvest times, processing, and making teas and tinctures but it is easy. More info? Call 222-9999 or visit where varied classes are offered, and questions are welcome. Bev said seed harvest is going on right now, and they will have a “Seed Extravaganza” scheduled for January 30, 2016, National Seed Savers Day. Then the Plant Walk cycle begins again in the Spring,...naturally.

The PCCJournal will keep you posted on events.



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