Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana, Hamamelidaceae) is our kinky, golden-star flower shrub or small tree that blooms in cold weather, when all other flowers are absent from the landscape.
The homegrown benefits of witch hazel are easy to overlook as an herbalist, as witch hazel is not traditionally something you think of planting in the garden or making medicine with for your apothecary—drugstore brands are what most people associate with witch hazel.
With its citrusy aroma and quilted lime-green leaves, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) brightens our gardens and kitchens alike. This mint family medicinal is known as the “gladdening herb” for the uplifting qualities it brings to the spirit. Children have a particular fondness for its sunny aroma and sour flavor. Bees are equally fond of the herb—so much so that the Greek word for bee, melissa, is another name for the plant.
When we think of healing plants, our minds gravitate toward the plants growing at our feet – the garden herbs, weeds, and woodland plants of the forest floor – but there’s a veritable treasure trove of healing remedies towering above. Humans have been harvesting and using medicine from trees for millennia, and medicinal trees and shrubs probably already grow near where you live.
For those of us fortunate enough to live near forests, the woodland—with its watery seeps, shady hollows, and part-sun edges—presents us with a fertile opportunity to grow a bounty of food and medicine.
Many new or modified herbal traditions arose within Black communities in North America. These traditions were most celebrated, documented, and depended upon in the Southeast, where slavery was most concentrated. Typical elements included a combination of African, European, and Indigenous healing modalities, medicinal herbs, spiritual practices, and folklore.