Plant Ally: Common St. Joan's (Hypericum perforatum)
Parts used: flowering tops
June - August
Common St.Joan's Wort (many call her St.John's), has appeared just in time for Summer Solstice! Hypericum perforatum is a perennial plant with five-petaled yellow flowers that can be found in many temperate areas of the world. I usually find St.Joan blooming in abandoned lots, on trail edges, in meadows and near railroad tracks; look in places where there is disturbed soil and full sun. An an oil made from St.J's is great applied topically to heal a sunburn, and some even use it as an actual sunscreen with good results.
Apart from bringing sunshine back to your brain in the middle of winter (aiding depression*), did you know that a dropper full or two of the tincture taken internally will diminish muscle - and especially nerve - pain? Both tincture and oil are great for sciatica and any physical soreness, and, because it works on the nerve endings, to thwart a herpes outbreak. To identify Hypericum perforatum, look for a flowering yellow plant between approximately 1-3ft tall with leaves that are opposite each other, oblong, and about the length of your thumb nail. To be sure you've found Common St. Joan's Wort and not another member in the Hypericum family, take a single leaf off the plant and hold it up to the sun. You will clearly see tiny translucent dots over the entire leaf. While there are many species of Hypericum (genus name), this species, perforatum, is the only one with these perforations, thus the Latin name!
To make an oil of St.Joan's:
Harvest the flowering tops of Hypericum perforatum by cutting the top 1/3 of the stems /leaves/flowers with scissors. The more open flowers the better. Be sure it has not rained for at least 48 hrs. prior to your harvest as the plant material cannot be wet at all.
Find an appropriate size jar for the amount of plant material you've gathered.
Fill your very dry and clean glass bottle full to the top with the fresh flowering tops.
Pour your oil of choice (olive, almond, etc.) over the St.J's, stirring with a chopstick to be sure it gets in the nooks and crannies. Fill to the top then put a lid on the jar and label with name and date.
Keep your jar out of direct sun and heat, somewhere like a cabinet or shelf, for six weeks or longer.
*This article is not meant as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before taking any herb internally.
As part of Six Petals' commitment to Pilates and Plants education, enjoy a serving of Lamb's Quarters!
Plant Ally: Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodium album)
Parts eaten: leaves, seeds. shoots, flowers
June - September
Lamb's Quarters is an annual wild edible that has an earthy, mineral rich taste, and like chard and spinach, is best eaten cooked due to it's oxalic acid content. From now into the fall I enjoy throwing it into soups or adding it to stir-fries. Look for a weedy green plant that appears to have a white powdery dusting near the tops of the leaves and on the undersides. Most of the leaves have small teeth along the edges, are somewhat diamond shaped, and resemble the shape of a goose-foot. Chenopodium album produces tiny green flowers that form in clusters on top of spikes. Like it's domesticated relative quinoa, the seeds are edible but need to be rinsed well due to their heavy coating of saponins. Find Lamb's Quarters as a common weed in gardens, near streams, rivers, forest clearings and along sidewalks. Harvest just the leaves or the entire plant, rinse and enjoy the free nutrition! You can also dry the leaves and save to toss into winter recipes.
Salt and Vinegar Lamb's Quarter's
5 cups washed chopped lamb’s quarter leaves
2 tbsps. raw apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsps. of any finely chopped fresh garden herb of your choice (rosemary, basil, thyme, mint, etc.)
Wash and chop greens and place into a bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
Bake for 20 minutes at 325°F. (Spread evenly on a baking sheet.)
Recipe courtesy of ediblewildfood.com
"By all means never fail to get all the sunshine and fresh air that you can," says Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) in his most well known book, Return To Life Through Contrology. The same text includes such gems as, "Whenever and wherever possible, wear 'shorts' or sun suits outdoors, and let the life-giving ultraviolet rays reach and penetrate into every skin pore of your body."
Conceding the importance of skin cancer prevention, we now have some science to support the suggestions in Joe's book, which he wrote in 1945. We know that Vitamin D, largely acquired by mammals through sunlight, is responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate and zinc, directly impacting the mineralization of our bones. In fact, Vitamin D was first discovered as scientists searched for a link between an unknown nutrient deficiency and those suffering from rickets (the childhood form of osteomalacia).
Historical accounts say that Joseph Pilates himself suffered from rickets as a child, among other ailments. It's unlikely that he knew of the relationship between poor bone health and lack of sunshine when he was young as Vitamin D3, the specific form produced by the skin, wasn't identified until 1937. Nevertheless the young Joseph was determined to strengthen himself; he began bodybuilding, studying martial arts and training in gymnastics, all modalities that would influence his creation of Contrology, now known as Pilates.
In his first book, Your Health, published in 1934, Joe talks about the ancient Greeks, a culture he seemed to revere: "These people were nature lovers. They preferred to commune with the very elements of nature itself - the woods, the streams, the rivers, the winds and the sea. All these were natural music, poems and dramas to these Greeks who were so fond of outdoor life." He continues on, highlighting that the Greeks were not hampered by extra clothing, instead preferring very little on their bodies. Joe certainly practiced this philosophy, as evidenced by the many photos and videos we have of him demonstrating his method in just underwear or swim trunks!
Joseph Pilates had one daughter and offers plenty of observations about young ones in his first book: "Children, if left to follow their own natural inclinations, without restraint, will not hesitate to discard unnecessary garments. In fact, the fewer the clothes, the better they like it." I must say that I can relate to that one. Born in Tahiti and with frequent travels to Australia my mother could not keep clothes on me. Like many children, I was constantly pulling them off no matter how comfortable or cool the fabric. Perhaps young people instinctively know what Joseph Pilates claims, "that your body also 'breathes' through the pores of your skin as well as through your mouth, nose, and lungs."
Joe's thoughts on this topic allow his method once again to reach far beyond the Pilates studio, indeed out into the hills and onto the beach! If "doing Pilates" means being in the sunshine and fresh air wearing little clothing, there's no excuse to not keep up your practice this summer!
By Téana David