March 3, 2012
The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
There were 15 in attendance today, including: Virginia Young, Audrey Roth, Margaret Sanders, Bonnie Reed, Tim Horn, Rebecca and Emily Troxel, Jeannie Bennet, Sharon Clark, David Poppe, Kat McElroy, Tara, Gabe Blair, Carol Waters and Miles Martin.
WELCOME followed by the READING OF MISSION STATEMENT: By this week’s chairperson, Jeannie Bennet.
PRAYER was lead by Virginia Young, followed by the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE.
PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: There were no changes to the agenda as presented.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Minutes were posted to the WIN link at www.railbelt.org and submitted electronically to the WIN e-list with one correction noted.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS: Carol Waters was introduced. She is Hal Chapman’s mother, visiting our community.
Nenana Health Fair Update: Planning efforts are coming along well. Perspective presenters are signing up. Begging letters have been generated and sent out. We have begun to receive some donations already. The fair will be held March 31st, 9 AM -1PM, at the Civic Center, with blood draws beginning at 7 AM, and will focus on adult health issues. Meetings continue being held each Wednesday evening at the Troxel’s at six.
Winter Plant Medicine: Tara brought supplies and made spruce and birch teas for us to sample. She said that although one could dig through the snow to get to medicinal plants such as chickweed, during the deep cold months, the easiest plants to use for medicine are our trees. She provided information to us on five: birch, spruce, poplar, alder and willow. She said there are three primary ways to make medicine concoctions of these trees: tea, tincture, and salve. Teas are made when you use the plant material to steep in hot water to extract the medicine. Tinctures use alcohol (vodka, or brandy), or glycerin to extract the medicine. Leave the plant material in the alcohol or glycerin for a couple of weeks to extract the medicine, then strain. For salves, you warm the plant material in oil or grease (lard or any other animal fat, coconut or olive oil, etc.), not on too high a heat, for at least overnight—-a couple of days is better. Then you can strain the plant material out and let the salve solidify. If the fat used is liquid oil, add a small amount of bee’s wax to make the salve stiff. With all tree medicine, she said, start with small doses but you cannot cause harm by giving too much.
Birch: Is a good nervine—has a beneficial effect on the nerves. It is bitter, with a minty under-taste. During the spring when the waters are running is when the most medicine is in the trees but you can harvest tree medicine any time of year. The medicine is in the inner bark, but don’t strip bark from the trees to peel the inner bark, she said. Instead, harvest slender branches, which you break into small pieces and use then wood, stem, bark and all. Birch can dry up anything that is wet and drippy, it is slightly astringent—think wounds. It is bitter, so helps the liver make bile. It has a slight calming effect. It acts as a pain-killer.
Spruce: The medicine comes from the needles. The pitch can be used to draw infection out, but it is important to NOT use pitch to seal infection IN. Spruce is our warming plant. It is good for the metabolism. It helps digestion. It can be used as an expectorant, to bring up phlegm. It is mildly antibacterial. Also, can be used to draw splinters out.
Poplar: With cottonwood, the most medicine is in the smooth-barked big trees, as they seem to have the strongest buds. The greatest concentration of medicine is in the buds, which can be harvested early in April while still frozen as they will then be less messy and sticky. Used as a salve, this is the Balm of Gilead of old. They can be used to treat any kind of pain: rheumatism, arthritis, nerve pain, internal pains. It is a super strong expectorant. It can be used as a topical analgesic. For headache, use birch tea with a shoit of poplar tincture.
Alder: Is sacred in many traditions. Known to shrink and draw out tumors. Use the branches to make tea. Leaves and bark can be broken or chewed and used as a poultice. It is antibacterial. The small green cones are the best remedy for diarrhea or upset stomach. You can grind the cones up and mix with honey, roll into little balls and let them dry.
Willow: is good for one thing—stopping pain, although there are vitamins in the leaves. The medicine is best extracted with alcohol. The medicine is salicin, from which is made acetylsalicylic acid, as used in the manufacture of aspirin.
Tara spoke briefly about uses for cranberry, primarily to counteract bladder infection . She also mentioned using bedstraw, the use of which I somehow missed, and horsetail which is rich in silica. Tara has a web site, www.wildalaskaplantmedicine.com and she is starting an herbal CSA. She has a degree in Psychology but has a lifelong interest in the healing properties of plants from her early life being raised in Bush Alaska. Anyone who wants to may join and for $30.00 per month, she will deliver to them an array of herbal medicines.
Somewhere in here we had a long discussion about gentian violet which was a much used home remedy but now is suspected of being carcinogenic.
WELLNESS THOUGHT: Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.
UPDATES/ANNOUNCEMENTS: Miles: has been talking to his friend Jack about doing an Envisioning Wellness presentation to us about raising honeybees. Jack typically does a six hour class but might be willing to do a shorter “infomercial” for WIN. As we are interested in sustainable agriculture and as honeybees require only a small amount of work spaced across the seasons, Miles is interested in finding out more about this process.
Bonnie: understands there will be a science demonstration at the school tomorrow from 3-5 PM to learn about maps and how to use therm. The presentation will be given to students during the day and then will be repeated in the late afternoon for homeschoolers and the general public.
Sharon: has been appointed by the governor to a citizen’s advisory board for mental health, alcohol abuse and suicide prevention services. The board meets four times each year and she will serve for three years. She is just back from a four day meeting in Juneau. She would like to make a report to us after each meeting, to gather feedback from our communities for the board. The next meeting will be in Nome, in May. She will coordinate with Tim to schedule quarterly presentations to WIN.
Rebecca: Republican primary caucus today, 4-8 PM, at the Civic Center.
School board meeting (in the Pit at NCPS) and City Assembly meeting (at the Senior Center) are both this Thursday evening, at 5:30 PM.
Spring ahead one hour on Friday.
Book club meets next Friday, 7 PM at the city library.
Spring break at the school begins Friday with a teacher in-service; school will begin again Monday, March 19.
Virginia: per news from the Cooperative Extension Peony Growers meeting, she is ordering her peony starts three years out due to high demand.
David: has been having problems with the cows getting loose. They have learned how to lift the latch on the gate. Oh dear.
Kat: heard that Railbelt has been closed since before Christmas. Wants everyone to know Railbelt has been open all along. Has no idea how this rumor got started.
Tara: spent some time this morning speaking with the legislative aid office to find out about various bills: one is for a large tax exclusion incentive for people wanting to drill for gas out on our Minto Flats, the others is regarding an item in the governor’s budget to fund the building of a bridge across the Nenana River and a road 15 miles out to the agricultural parcels there. Because of potential negative effects on her homestead, she has become alerted to both these ideas and is interested in sharing information with others interested in following these items.
ADJOURNMENT: 2:10 PM