“All we have to do is dream.” – Cat Power

Happy Winter and New Year!


Support Radical Mycology

website-sidebarAs part of our garden pharmacy, we hope to eventually grow medicinal mushrooms at Guerrero Street Garden.  Mushrooms, and their underground network of mycellium support the growth of strong healthy plants and have been used globally for centuries to make potent medicine!  Mushrooms are incredible tonics; they can help reduce stress, illness and even fight cancer!  However, most medicinal mushrooms found in commerce are shipped from China.  At GSG we want to see local mushrooms make local medicine.

Our source and support of locally grown medical mushrooms comes from Peter and the Radical Mycology network.  He is currently running a crowd funding campaign to help fund the writing and publishing of a unique book on fungi to create positive personal, societal, and ecological change.  The book will include info on mushrooms for cultivation, bio-remediation, food and medicine.  Support the mycelial network with a donation, or by spreading the word like spores with friends on facebook or twitter.

Check out the crowd funding campaign here.  As we approach the mushroom season, let the rain begin!

Build a Relationship

Rule #3: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

Build a relationship with land. Learn the patterns of the sun, see the plants move though the seasons.  Learn to recognize seeds.  Plant something you want to see grow.

Plants are teachers.  We cannot think less of them merely because they cannot get up and move.  We must learn to respect all life forms.  Admire plants.  Tend to them often.  If you forget, the plant will most likely find a way to survive without you.  But it will be happy to see you when you decide to come back.  Don’t give up on the plant.  The plant never gives up on you.

Enjoy a flower.  You always have time to stop and smell the flowers.  Especially if a plant tugs for your attention out of the corner of your eye.  Mark says you should always stop what you are doing to go see the plant in that moment.  Bring home a bouquet!  Allow your engagement with plants to entice your senses.

Notice the season.  Where are we in the cycle of life?  Each part of the year has a purpose, are we using the ebb and flow of the earth in our favor, or are we fighting against it?  Urban life can be disorienting in this sense.  A connection to the natural world can help us get in sync.

Perhaps you know what it’s like to fall in love?  Everyday I fall more in love with this city.

frisco tattoo

Peel Bark

There is more than what meets the eye in the fall garden.  When the fig tree looses all her leaves, she is not dead.  She is merely reserving her energy for the long winter underground.  Just like we want to hibernate — stay inside, read good books, eat food and celebrate our achievements this year, by scaling back the fig tree will return with vigor in the spring!  The herbal plants hold potent medicine in their bark and roots this time of year too.

Viburnum_opulus_olvonEarlier in the month I experimented with the harvest of an ornamental shrub Snowball or Viburnum, the same genus of Cramp Bark and Black Haw, both fantastic muscle relaxants. The plant is a small tree or shrub with many small trunks; I found it growing in an older garden in the Ingleside neighborhood.  Root or bark, the medicinal part of the plant is usually a wet fleshy strip (cambium layer) of the plant.  I found the ideal piece to be about the size of a 12 inch ruler.  There are nubs opposite each other which created a natural starting and stopping point.   I pointed the lance downward into a bowl and the sharp knife will ran smoothly down the stick, inspiration for a soon-to-be favorite magic wand.  The cambium layer of the wood looks green at first, but turns to a brownish-red after after a short oxidation period.  The change in color not unlike the leaves of this plant from spring to fall.

I tinctured the bark in two parts alcohol, one part spring water.  My intention for this medicine is to be part of a formula for my hardworking farmer friends.  Every now and again I hear the complaint of weakness: one of us can’t lift our shovel so high, or must sit a little longer at lunch.  The cycle of the moon takes its toll on our bodies.  As a muscle relaxant I hope the Viburnum will provide a bit of relief to a farmer, or anyone who works hard though the cycles of the moon.

Happy Full Moon in Taurus!

Local Folk Medicine

self portrait

What is local medicine?  At Guerrero Street Garden we are looking to answer this question.  We cultivate medicinal herbs for traditional medicine like teas, tinctures, salves and syrups.  Could this be accessible and affordable healthcare for San Franciscans across cultures and income levels?

As we learn to take care of plants we learn to take care of each other and ourselves. By learning to grow medicine we hold the ability to cultivate a resilient community.  A relationship with land nurtures the body and spirit.  We create a space for social healing and grow a healthy place to live.

All of our ancestors had deep relationships with the natural world and relied on plants as food and medicine.  In the bustle of urban life we have forgotten the power and practice of this ancient wisdom.  To build a local medicine movement we will need plants and people.  We will need the faith that we can heal, and allow the plants to hold this power for us.  We will need birds, bees, butterflies and moths.  We will need shovels, seeds, fertile ground and strong arms.

I see our work at Guerrero Street as a venn diagram.  One half is the laborious work of urban farming: seeding, weeding, mulching and harvest to provide the security of local medicine.  The other half is our work as herbalists; like bookstores in the tech mecca, is plant medicine obsolete?

I’d say, no way.  We need plant medicine now more than ever!  In the middle of that venn diagram is an irrepressible feeling: we’ve got a lot of work to do.

hearts surrender

hawthornskyfor when the constraints of the garden can’t provide, a wild harvest will do. with a careful eye and an offering, these hawthorn berries will mend a broken heart </3 red like our blood.  we feast from the bread-and-cheese tree as summer slips away like the tide beneath our toes.  and still timeless:  i think of the healers that came before us, who stood below these branches singing heart songs in anticipation of winters now past.  a nod to the future herbalists who treasure seed and trust industry will surrender to plant spirits.  this season we prepared folk hawthorn leaf & berry tincture and began a heartwarming winter cordial.  all in a day’s work!


Foggy August Faith


These past August days have felt quintessentially like san-francisco-summer.  I think of Mark Twain several times a day: as I wake up to fog, bike through fog, watch thicker fog settle in over a foggy evening sky.  Powdery mildew sets in to the leaves of sun-loving plants: calendula, mugwort, lemon balm all start to decline.

This weekend Margaretha gave a talk on common medicinal herbs found in San Francisco at Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin neighborhood.  This community has a history of neglect from the rest of the city, it is not uncommon to see a houseless person shooting up or selling previously used items on the street.  Glide Church is known within the community as a haven: a place of music, hot food and many other services, no questions asked, 365 days of the year.  There is a garden there, six stories above the street on the roof of the church and adjoining soup kitchen called Graze the Roof.  It is possibly the highest garden in the city.  Lindsey, the garden steward shared a piece of the church’s morning service with the group gathered in the garden.  She spoke of Faith – the verb and the noun: the notion to believe in the divine, as well as something, anything, greater than yourself.

The events on this partly-cloudy afternoon helped me to understand the lack of trust many people have with plants as healers.  Divorced from herbal traditions, something all of our ancestors practiced, many of us were born unaware of the power of herbs.  Yet at eye level with executive suites and in the midst of  the urban hustle, I see as a culture, our faith has been lost.  As part of her workshop, Margaretha asked all the attendees to take a moment to sit with a plant — preferably one we did not even know the name of — and explore what we noticed, what came naturally and intuitively.  Through inquiry based learning, folks gleaned a calming groundedness from California Poppy, a comforting protection from Mullein and a sense of blissful courage from Borage — all traditional and scientifically proven uses for such plants.  We spoke of the doctrine of signatures –  the incredible phenomenon that plants display their healing characteristics in their physical presentation.  As a fellow urban dweller it was humbling to witness others rebuilding a relationship with the natural world.

It is all too common in industrialized countries that natural, safe and effective herbal choices get brushed aside for allopathic remedies – antibiotics, steroids, synthetics, pharmaceuticals.  How radical to teach simple, gentle and free remedies within a neighborhood so affected by economic injustice, racism and the pharmaceutical industry.  Alcohol, narcotics and poverty afflict this neighborhood quite harshly, yet with food and faith, Glide has restored a human trait, a value and a passion — a connection to the divine, however we choose to define it.   The local weeds on Glide’s rooftop serve as a reminder to keep a Faith: in the plants, in our ability to heal, in the divine Mother Earth, in the cosmos, and to trust, unconditionally, in something greater than ourselves.


Harvest: echinacea

making plant medicine

This week we made medicine from the aerial parts of second year Echinacea, what I like to call the poster child of herbal medicine. As I popped off the flower head and leaves to make the tincture I could already taste the salivating effects of the plant’s alkylamides. Traditionally used as emergency medicine for snake bites, modern usage calls to Echinacea at the first sign of a cold. To eliminate, shorten or lessen the symptoms, if used in high frequent dosing the body will respond with an increase in white blood cells.  As the #1 seller in the herbal supplements industry, could the pretty flower have anything to do with Echinacea’s popularity?