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Herbalist teaches people the basics

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The Northfield Public Library hosted self-taught herbalist LuAnn Raadt on May 3. 

Raadt discussed how she got involved in herbal medicine and walked the crowd through some basic tenets of making your own. 

Though she was a scattered presenter, the subject was really interesting and I walked away tempted to try my hand at making my own herbal remedies.

Raadt first became interested in herbal medicine when her daughter-in-law Katie, who suffers from fibromyalgia, wanted to have a baby. However, her sleep medication was not safe for pregnant people. That’s when Raadt, determined to get grandkids, decided to take a few classes in the Twin Cities taught by an herbalist.

“The first class I took was a spring plant walk, and she introduced us to plants I would never have thought to eat – weeds – that were out there,” Raadt said. “I was hooked right then.”

Katie started taking a few herbal medicines recommended by an herbalist, and slept soundly for eight hours.

“At that point, she got off her medication,” Raadt said. “I thought this was amazing stuff.”

There are 10 plants that can treat almost any common disease, the three most important being dandelion root, broadleaf plantain and nettle.

 “If you think about your yard, or what’s around you, if there is a weed that is just tenacious or a plant that you can’t get rid or is just growing very well, that is likely the plant that you need,” Raadt said.

The most simple form of herbal medicine is a tincture. 

Tinctures are made by soaking the aerial plant material – parts of the plant that grow above ground, like flower petals – in alcohol for six to eight weeks. 

Raadt recommends using 100 proof vodka, as the alcohol extracts the medicinal properties of the plant. Tinctures can be taken orally, by placing two to three drops under the tongue. 

Raadt passed her own plantain tincture around for everyone to try. It smelled strongly of alcohol and tasted quite bitter. 

If alcohol isn’t an option, glycerin and vinegar can be used in place of the alcohol. Beyond tinctures, Raadt also makes herbal oils and ointments for external use.

Raadt also emphasized environmental stewardship when wildcrafting, which is the practice of harvesting plants for medicinal purposes. Always harvest the plants in a way that helps it grow back or spread some of the plants seeds as you harvest. Ideally, harvest the plants three days after a rain, as the plant will be clean, but dry.

It is important to remind anyone who is interested in trying herbal medicine to conduct extensive research or consult an experienced herbalist, as some medicinal herbs can counteract prescription drugs or may not be appropriate for pregnant women.

Raadt is hosting another lecture on May 10 at the Library, and will also host plant harvesting events in the coming months.

neuner1@stolaf.edu