By Janelle Eklund
It was one of those beautiful hot summer days in July. The plane landed on Tazlina Lake and taxied to the shore. As we made camp the salmon rolled in the current of the outlet of the lake. We took an evening walk along the shore, the warm 'tropical' breeze enveloping us in an uncanny way. Tropical breeze? It seemed surreal coming off this glacial lake from the direction of the glacier. I was delighted to see some Artemisia tilesii growing along the bank. The mosquitoes were quite fearsome so I picked a stem of it and used it as a switch to ward them off. My body drank in its sweet sage intoxicating aroma. There were those amongst us that thought I was a bit crazy but I didn't care. I was luxuriating in the moment and enjoyed keeping the bugs at bay as I switched it over and around my shoulders and legs.
Where the river cuts through layers of clay and the wind blows the fine particles away, disturbing the vertical drop, Artemisia clings in a lush crop. It looks so healthy and full of life and I drool, wanting to pick some for my medicine chest. But the river runs fast and we float on by.
It likes to grow in disturbed areas. Some of the roadsides are full of it but too many car fumes and dust prohibit picking.
Artemisia is top on my plant pharmacopeia list. I like to make an Artemisia message oil to ease the tendinitis and carpel tunnel in my arms and hands. These hands and arms have done a life time of hard work and they are getting wore out. Especially at night, along with the brain going to sleep, my hands have decided - hmm that sounds like a good idea - I think I will too. This is disconcerting because it wakes up the brain, and trying to find the right position makes it hard to go back to sleep. Rubbing Artemisia oil on twice a day - once in the morning and once at night helps keep the hands from sleeping too.
To make the oil, strip the leaves and flowers off the stem of the Artemisia tilesii plant. You can mix other herbs with this that have similar medicinal qualities such as yarrow and Artemisia frigida. Finely chop them with a knife or use your handy dandy cuisinart. Put them in the food dryer at about 125° until they are dry. Pack a glass quart jar half full of the herb. Fill the jar with organic extra virgin first cold pressed olive oil. Pick a chunk of spruce gum (sap) and drop in the jar. Cover with a lid. Put the jar in a warm place (about 90°-100°) for two weeks. In the summer I put it in the hot greenhouse. In winter or if it's not sunny I'll put it in a crockpot with warm water - or without warm water - set on low. Most crockpots are too warm even on low so my husband made me a rheostat so the temperature is just right. The rheostat has a place to plug in a night light so you know its working. After two weeks, strain the oil using a coffee press or cheese cloth. If you don't have a coffee press, get one, as it is so much easier and less messy than using a piece of heavy cheese cloth or muslin. Once strained you can add a few drops of wintergreen essential oil. Put in amber colored bottles, label, and store in a cool dark area.
This oil is also great for other aches and pains including arthritis. If you have animals with sore spots it works great for them too.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.