Search This Blog

Friday, March 6, 2015

People and the Forest by Jae Hall

Comments posted on this blog between 10 pm pacific time Friday March 6, 2015 and  8 pm pacific time Sunday March 8th will go into a drawing for an e- copy of my contemporary romance novel TimberBeast. Published by Prairie Rose Press/Firestar Press. "Kelsy is an environmental spy running from her troubles. Fox is an timber faller living his dream. They meet in a forest full of  danger, romance and the Timberbeast." What could possibly go wrong?
People and the Forest. 
The herbal medicine in my novels helped inspire this blog.
doesn't seem like winter but the cold/flu season is in full swing in northern California. It would be nice to have lots of snow and rain, but I’m enjoying the warm sunny days.
When it comes to health care I walk two worlds. One modern and full of common medicines and the other tribal where many of our health needs are taken care of with the plant pharmacy growing around us.
Every plant has a use and there is always a way to misuse plants. I get asked the most about the ones that can help with colds and flu. We have several native plants that help with the symptoms. Remember to thoroughly research a plant before gathering or using it. Plants can vary from one area to another so be sure to learn before you gather.
Your local herb store is a good place to learn to identify local plants. Books with pictures are helpful. The US Forest Service botanist or local county ag departments can also assist in identification of wild plants.
Don’t gather near roadways or other areas where pesticides are sprayed.  Just because it’s natural doesn't mean it’s always safe and it is possible to overdose. Much depends on your health, allergies and sensitivities. Here is a little about one plant that I always keep in stock.
Most of the medicine we use comes from the forest and we gather all throughout the year. Different plant uses have come to us through various relatives. 
My mother-in-law, Betty, is of Shasta and Cahuilla Indian descent. She spent her childhood with her aunt gathering plants and learning tribal history. The stories go with the plants. She has passed down this history to me and my family.
One of her favorite herbal stories is a time when her seven children were all down with a stomach illness. She was going through bottles of medicine from the doctor to try to stop the flu symptoms but as soon as one child got better another one would relapse. 
After many days of treating her very sick children, the washer was going nonstop to keep up with all the changes of pajamas and bedding.
Her mother-in-law, Mandy, a full-blood Shasta Indian had heard how sick the grandchildren were. She came to see how they were doing. She was one of those women you see in old pictures that has a permanent frown but her dark brown eyes would sparkle when she was pleased.
She immediately told Betty to ‘Go get some manzanita’. 
(Arctostaphylos)   (

Not sure what was expected, Betty went up on the hill behind her house and cut a huge branch.

Mandy pulled a handful of leaves from the branch and washed them then handed each child 1-2 leaves with the instructions ‘chew them and swallow the juice’.

If you have ever chewed manzanita leaves you will know that they are very bitter. The children didn't argue with Grandma Mandy and did as she instructed.  By the next morning the worst symptoms had stopped and the children were feeling better and able to start eating broth. 
It taste much better to make tea with the manzanita leaves. It isn’t bitter and tastes very much like the water that comes with black olives but without the salt. When having tummy troubles  put 5-10 fresh or dried leaves in 2 cups of boiling hot water and let steep until the water turns from pale to medium green (5-10 minutes). It can be drank hot or cold. Remember to only try a little at first in case of allergies. 
The plant season can vary significantly from place to place. Our manzanita is just starting to put on buds, and soon the air will be humming with wild and domestic honey bees coming to take the sweet nectar. Only 20 miles away the manzanita in town is in full bloom and the smell is heavenly.The berries are small, powdery and edible. 

When I go outside I see our mountain full of manzanita bushes. I am thankful for the medicine the forest provides and the family knowledge that has been gathered and shared down through the generations.

It’s our tribal tradition.

Jae Hall
Find me at
On Facebook at
At twitter JaeHall @kelsyfoxx
Find my  PRP Firestar Press novels and Arcadia history books at

1 comment:

  1. I read your article on medicinal plants to the PRP blog and enjoyed all the information you presented, Jae. I think more and more people are wanting something more natural. I've noticed a rise in Homeopathic doctors in the last few years. I can only assume that people are beginning to wish for less toxic medicine made by nature instead of foreign countries who have poorly established quality control or pharmaceutical companies determined to make excessive amounts of money for their chemical products.
    Great article.