Medicinal Plants from Arizona to Iceland

We’ve recently returned from visiting family and friends in the US. During our travels I’ve had the great pleasure of visiting two very contrasting environments: Arizona, in the Southwest of the US, and Iceland. Also I’m scheduled to teach for a week in Greece at the end of May. Sunshine, swimming, mountains…Possibly a good opportunity to transition out of winter? See below for more details.

As a herbalist both places are fascinating. The plants display a wealth of adaptation for surviving in their respectively harsh environments. In the desert regions of the US thrive a wealth of medicinal plants whose potential is nearly un-researched but whose usage by Native American herbalists of yore is relatively well-documented. If intrigued by the potential of desert medicinal plants get a hold of one of Michael Moore’s (the herbalist not the film producer) books.

Every morning I harvested a “paddle” of Opuntia cactus. Find one that is not too big, as they become fibrous and tough. With a little luck one can find one without spines. If not it is necessary to burn them off before peeling the skin off with a knife. Beneath the skin there is a moist and gelatinous substance, slightly green and translucent, mildly bitter to the taste. I sauteed this in some olive oil with a pinch of salt and some rosemary harvested from the garden. It’s delicious, very soothing to the throat and digestive tract, and helps regulate blood sugar. Its an excellent addition to an omelet. Opuntia also produces a lovely flower which ripens into a fruit, prickly pear, which was not in season, but can be eaten or fermented into an alcoholic beverage.

For information on the botany of Opuntia spp. go to:

In Iceland I encountered a diverse range of pines, birches, poplars, and willows, as well as heathers, lichens and mosses hidden beneath the snow. I was very much entranced by the degustation of tree buds, especially Populus trichocarpa, which was introduced to Iceland from N. America in the 1940’s.

For more on the botany of “black poplar” go to:

I tasted and harvested some of the leaf buds as they were clearly medicinally potent. The first whiff reveals some essential oils, possible methyl-salicylates (found in wintergreen and yellow birch), they are very resinous and sticky. The whiff of wintergreen is followed by a soapy taste, a sign of potential saponins, and a slight irritation at the back of the palate. Then a very warming and peppery flavor emerges. The effect is distinctly warming, uplifting and decongestant.

Come to a Heath and Wellness Retreat in beautiful, sunny Greece! 


Leave with some tools that will make your life better.

Enhance your Physical, Emotional and Mental Well-Being
by learning about Herbs, Nutrition and HeartMath®!

Ever feel stressed, time-pressured, exhausted, overwhelmed? Frustrated with a chronic health condition? If you are struggling in today’s high-paced life, experiencing anxiety, depression, specific health conditions, or looking to improve your well-being and vitality, this retreat is for you. Come be rejuvenated in a beautiful holistic retreat centre overlooking the sea and learn techniques for maintaining and enhancing health and wellness.  Learn to decrease and prevent stress and its impact on your health, relationships, and work, and to create a health-positive life using herbs, nutrition, stress-management techniques, and the healing power of nature.

When: May 29th to June 5th, 2015.
Where: Kalikalos, Mt. Pelion, Greece.


About owenokie

I'm a Clinical Herbalist, Wilderness Therapist and HeartMath Provider living in Scotland and am also studying Buddhist Psychotherapy.
This entry was posted in HeartMath, herbal medicine, herbalist, Integral, integral medicine, medicinal plants, nutrition and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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