While hiking in the mountains recently, I came across several patches of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). The plants were lush, and several were about 4 feet high. I carefully picked off about two cups of leaves, stems and flowers, with the idea that I would create an infusion from them.

The plant gets its name from its leaves’ strange characteristic of resisting water — if you pour it on the leaves, the water simply beads up in balls that look like little crystal gems.

One of the medical constituents of jewel weed is Lawsone, which has  antihistamine and anti-inflammatory activity. I experienced the medicinal power of jewelweed several years ago while on a guided nature walk. I accidentally brushed against stinging nettle with my bare calf, which instantly resulted in extreme stinging pain and a raised, burning rash. The woman guiding us pointed out some jewel weed growing next to the nettle and instructed me to grab a bunch, smash it into a ball and rub it against the inflammation. It was miraculous how quickly it alleviated the pain. And the swelling went away just as quickly.

I have since read that it works equally well for insect stings and poison ivy. It also is effective in preventing poison ivy rash if rubbed on immediately after exposure to the poison ivy.

For an instant cure, you can just crush up a bunch of leaves, stems and flowers until they become juicy, then apply the poultice to the affected area. Or you can make an herbal infusion.

I made an infusion of the leaves, stems and flowers and used it to make jewel weed and calendula soap. It will be fully cured and ready for sale by the next Ballston Arts & Crafts Market, scheduled for August 14!

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Take A Hike, For Your Own Good

Hiking in YellowstoneThe following is a post by guest blogger, Julia Guarino. Photo courtesy of Julia, too!

I am not someone you’ll find in the gym seven days a week. Don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace the importance of exercise, and I notice how good I feel when I am working out regularly, but the treadmill is just not for me. Yoga, dance, spin, zumba, and best of all, getting outside to walk, hike or bike; that’s where you’ll find me. I believe that exercise should be fun.

I have had the good fortune to spend the last year in the small city of Billings, Montana. Although there are many great opportunities to practice fun exercise here, it is our proximity to Yellowstone National Park that I am most grateful for. Yellowstone offers approximately 3,472 square miles (2,221,766 acres) of undeveloped park land, 1,000 miles of trail where you can hike, bike and horseback ride, all while enjoying the western wildlife, and views of some of the most incredible natural phenomena in the world.

But even if you are not so lucky as to live near Yellowstone, or one of our country’s other incredible national parks, hiking can be a wonderful way to relax, get some exercise, and spend the day in the company of people you enjoy. My love of hiking was not in fact discovered in Yellowstone, but in places like Devil’s Den in southern Connecticut; a 1,756 acre (less than 3 square mile) park in the suburbs about 60 miles outside of New York City, where my dad and I used to spend many Saturday afternoons.

But even if you live in a city, far from even a 1,756 acre patch of forest in which to hike, getting outside for a brisk walk can be a wonderful way to replace a dreaded trip to the gym. “Urban hiking” is a great way to get to know your neighborhood, burn some calories and come home energized. In my opinion, exercise should not be a chore (and honestly, if it is, I’ll find an excuse to do something else). The best exercise, as one of my friends put it recently, is the kind where you’re having so much fun you forget that you’re exercising; and that’s the kind you’ll never find an excuse to skip!