This Article COPYRIGHT Jan. 1988. Nicholas Morcinek. First
published in Toronto Dimensions magazine Feb. 1988.
If you would like more info please write:
Botanic Medicine Society.
P.O. Box 82. Stn. A.
Willowdale, Ont. CANADA.
Well here we are again, February already and before too long the
Spring and Summer and a whole new crop of fresh herbs to waken up
those flat and jaded Winter taste buds! Can't you just feel the
taste of Spring in the air? Yes I do realise that its not too
easy, particularly if you're driving through a white-out on the
Don Valley Car Park, but one month from now will see the first
stirrings of the new Season. (O.k. so I'm an incurable
optimist!). However, just in case you're not feeling so good
here's a tip to help you through 'til March.
If you really do feel down and grumpy there's no better pick
me up than a walk in the garden and if you live in Toronto you
can do exactly that! Just pop down to the Allen Gardens at
Carlton Street and Sherbourne, and spend an afternoon surrounded
by exotic and fragrant plants. The Gardens have many varieties
that were originally collected from every Continent and it is
easy to imagine yourself luxuriating in a tropical paradise in no
time at all.
You can see and smell the aromatic Jasmine, a plant that has
a long history of medicinal use. You will find the flowers in
China tea, and in all sorts of Asian herbal potions, where their
fragrance is used as a "pick-me-up" or tonic. Just a few drops of
Oil of Jasmine rubbed into the skin or dropped into the bath can
work wonders, lifting away that tired and run-down feeling! You
may find Pomegranates from the Middle East, (still used today to
destroy intestinal parasites), and Carob, grown for its' food
value and delectable chocolate-like flavour. If you travel deeper
into this contained jungle you can find Orchids and Date Palms,
Papyrus and Eucalyptus and dozens of varieties of Peppers and
Spice. If you are lucky you may spot the Piper Methyisticum, or
"intoxicating pepper". It's a pity this fellow doesn't grow here
in Canada as it makes an interesting anti-depressant when
correctly prepared. The whole root is collected and mashed well
together with Coconut milk to form a thin paste. This is then
placed in clean sealed containers and left in a cool place to
ferment for about a month, whereupon the mixture is ready to
drink. The effect is quite unusual, for the active ingredients in
this mixture seem to directly affect the feeling centres of the
brain, producing a warm and gently serene sensation of well-
being. Just what we all need in the middle of a long Canadian
Seriously though a walk through the Gardens can be an
uplifting experience particularly at this time of year. If you
take along a good herb book, (e.g. A Modern Herbal- Mrs. M.
Grieve), you can check out some of the uses for the plants that
you see, and it becomes very easy to spend the entire day there.
( You could take your camera ). Oh and unlike so many of
Toronto's expositions there's no charge to get in!
"Where can I find a good herb class?" If I had a dollar for
every time I've been asked this question..... There are many "so-
called" herb classes that offer only dry text, with no emphasis
placed on plant recognition, or harvesting from the wild and so
students inevitably feel disappointed and cheated. Finally
though, I can feel confident in recommending a new series of
classes being provided here in Toronto by members of the Botanic
Medicine Society. These classes are given by full-time
professional herbalists and cover all aspects of practical
herbalism, from plant recognition to clinical assessment. Classes
start the first week in March. For more details regarding
syllabus and enrolment please call (416) 221-1662, or (416) 534-
Next issue looks at readers letters so if you have any questions
about herbs and herbalism please write to me here at T.D. See you
in the Spring!