“Backyard Pharmacy” with Duane Marcus
Before Duane Marcus was a patient, he was a farmer. He’s also the market manager of the Decatur Farmers Market, an educator, purveyor of The Funny Farm in Stone Mountain, Ga., and a longtime practitioner of permaculture and organic agriculture. But herbalist Patricia Howell’s session at the 2010 Georgia Organics conference led him down a new path, one that helped him see his garden in a new light.
“I’d had a heart attack like two weeks before, so when she spoke about medicinal herbs I decided that was something I had to do for myself,” Marcus says. “It’s just been an incredibly eye-opening and awakening experience for me because now I walk out here and all these things I consider just weeds, now all of a sudden they’re medicine.”
In addition to studying herbalism, Marcus has also released a line of “functional teas,” as he calls them, that positively influence the belly, heart, calm, and mind, with other types on the way. In his Conference session entitled “Backyard Pharmacy,” Marcus will talk about the plant medicine growing rampant right under your nose. We asked him for some common Georgia plants that double as medicine, and he was kind enough to give us this list.
It’s an anti-inflammatory, good liver tonic, anti-oxidant, digestive stimulant, anti-microbial. It does many, many things. You can take a garlic clove and if you get an ear infection you can stick it in your ear and it will cure it in a matter of days.
Ginger is another anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, liver tonic.
Rosemary is a circulatory stimulant, particularly for the brain, so you can make rosemary tea and it’ll wake you up in the afternoon instead of drinking coffee.
The leaves are kidney and urinary tract tonics, very high in nutrients. The root, I use that in soup stocks, and it’s a very strong liver tonic and digestive aid.
5. LEMON BALM
It’s a digestive tonic and it’s a calming nervine, we call it, because it relaxes you.
It was actually used to make beer a long time ago but in Europe the people who set the standards for beers said “Oh, it has to be hops.” And the reason they switched from mugwort [is it] has some hallucinogenic properties, and so it enabled people to connect to the spiritual world and have their own ideas and insights and stuff. So they said no, we want it to be hops because hops is a sedative and knocks you out so you don’t think. … Mugwort is a nice, relaxing herb.
Native Americans used this as medicine in a ton of different ways. It’s very microbial and a good overall tonic, so I incorporate this in salves that we blend together and use for wound care and various types of skin care.
You can harvest the resins from the trunk and that’s very useful as a vehicle for distributing herbs. You can make little tablets and pills, so that’s a way of ingesting herbs too.
It’s a native tree and it’s commonly used as an ornamental. The flowers are very nutritious — they’re edible, and very sweet-tasting. The first time I ever ate them was at the Georgia Organics conference down in Savannah. It’s little-known that their flowers have nutritive value, but they’re quite good in salads.
10. BAY LAUREL
This is what the bay leaf is. Studies in Jordan have found this is really powerful in lowering cholesterol and so it’s very good for your heart.