~ Herbal Medicine with Susun Weed ~
    Bookmark and Share        
APRIL 2003 ~ Volume 3 Number 4

What's Inside Weed Wanderings this Month...


Herbal Medicine Chest

Excerpt from Nature’s Children
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy

Chapter 1

The Mother

Pg. 3-12

The health of every family begins with the mother. She is the tree from which the healthy fruit must come. All primitive peoples recognize this, and there are numerous simple laws which the mother is taught to follow to ensure easy and almost painless childbirth, and the production of healthy, stalwart infants who vigorously drink their mother’s milk and sleep well.

From the first moment that conception is known, the mother should plan a daily regime for building the mental and bodily health of the child, who for nine months will be growing within her and sharing her thoughts and food, for better or worse.

A happy mind and gladness in the fulfillment of motherhood are the first requirements for mental health in both mother and the forming child. A vast number of people, especially in modern times, are barren, lonely. Pregnancy should be a daily song of triumph and thanksgiving in a woman’s mind and heart. It is good to be in true kinship with Nature, with the budding fruit trees, the wild flowers and herbs; to understand the meaning of the songs of the nesting birds, why the brown swifts flute as they travel in their chosen farthest regions of the skies; and to share the contentment of the animals in the pastures awaiting the coming of their young ones.

The safest ages for women to have children are said to be eighteen to twenty-five years old. But some of the most memorable children I have met—distinguished by intelligence, beauty and powerful health—were born to women in their early forties, triumphant and joyful births at a time in life when childbearing was considered not very likely!

Motherhood. What maturity there is in that word; all those round "O"s. Motherhood! It is the blossoming of female life, and indeed it is far more: It is the survival of the family. "Ye are blood of my blood, and bone of my bone," it says in the Bible. It is beautiful the way family features and character are passed down. The same eyes, hair colors, the special voice, even the talents: a blending of the parents. The mother has an obligation to do all possible to keep herself healthy, and to raise healthy children, otherwise the family will perish, with all its special characteristics and talents.

Maternal devotion is beautiful, and often heart-rending. Have you heard of Jewish mothers en route to their death in Nazi concentration camps, holding out their babies to persons on railway platforms, beseeching total strangers to take their children and save them? And, similarly, in the recent horrific wars in Yugoslavia, Muslim women flung their children onto departing army trucks to save them from approaching massacre, knowing that reuniting was very unlikely. Mother love is an inspiration, and children never forget this.

Each night beside my bed,

My mother sang so tenderly and low,

There are no songs like hers of long ago.

Arthur L. Salmon

Of all the basic rules for healthy birth, the first one must be the necessity of daily physical exercise. In the Western world it seems that pregnancy is the one time women choose to exercise less than usual—and the modern woman takes scarcely any hard exercise in her daily life. "Toil hard, walk far," say the Gypsies and Bedouin Arab women, when asked their recipe for ensuring healthy pregnancies and good condition of their bodies. I have lived among them and can say that they do what they recommend: Their mare and she-camels are ridden until the time of birth, and the pregnant women work hard in the fields and around their firesides almost to the hour of birth. Most of them manage their childbirths at home without the need of clinics or hospitals.

Half the ills of modern people are caused by lack of exercise. All members of the animal kingdom bend, leap and run, if they have limbs. Only humans seem content to stay stationary with rigid limbs.

During the prenatal months a woman’s body must be kept slim and hard in order to prevent formation of a big, burdensome child which will, from its unnatural size, make for difficult childbirth and will ruin beyond recovery the figure of the mother. It is helpful and encouraging to attend classes for pregnant women to learn useful exercises to keep the body supple and in good shape.

In pregnancy, natural exercise is always best, such as fast walking, running, swimming, horse riding, hill climbing. If this cannot be managed during the week, it can be confined to weekends. When natural exercise is not possible, the simple bending exercises taught in school can be used. Or one can practice dry swimming strokes, lying on a rug on the floor.

Lack of exercise in pregnancy means slack muscles, excess fluid around the child, swollen limbs and often varicose veins. It was noted in World War II that women porters, who got much exercise in their railway work and lifted heavy weights as a matter of course, had very easy pregnancies, although it was commonly believed at the time that lifting heavy weights could cause a miscarriage. I always felt a great need for hard exercise, such as tree felling, axing and sawing, as well as daily swimming in summer and winter. In both my pregnancies my babies were so small that people never knew I was pregnant, and when I carried my new born baby in my arms, they wondered where I had obtained the child!

All my life I have kept dogs, and greyhounds are my favorites; above all the Afghan hound. They possess the speed of the wind in their feet. They greyhound breeds are known for the ease with which they produce their young. The females run and hunt up to the day they whelp their litters. Through the eight weeks of pregnancy their bodies keep so slim and lithe it is often most difficult to tell if they are in whelp or not, and this remains a mystery until the hour of birth.

Sleep must come after exercise, and exercise must follow sleep. It is well proven that the best hours of sleep are the natural ones, which means from dusk to dawn. The hours between dusk and midnight are worth twice as much as the hours from midnight to dawn. Monks and nuns who take a scientific interest in sleep, wanting to be awake during the hours of greatest mental alertness, usually sleep at dusk and awake at around three in the morning. Too many of the human race, under-exercised and overfed, seem to exist in a stupor of sleep taken at the wrong hours.

Another healthy rule is daily bathing. All creatures seek water (even owls! I was surprised to see how well my pet owls like their bath), and there is a reason for this. Water keeps the skin tissues in good tone and relieves nervous tension, as well as ensuring simple cleanliness.

Gypsies like to pull their wagons close to running water. Apart from the practical benefits of being close to water, it is considered good for their pregnant women, for their peace of mind and gladness of heart. There is nearly always a pregnant woman in a Gypsy family, for the Children of Nature follow the ways of Nature, and every two years a new baby is born to the majority of mature women—one year allotted to create a child and one year for the provision of abundant and healthful breast milk. As Gypsy men often have two wives, there is then a new baby in the family every year. This ensures that there are many children.

Mohammet gave the Gypsies fertility above that of all other peoples. It is said that Gypsies saved the Prophet’s life when he was dying from an unknown poison. They brought him a strange herb, today called rue (Ruta graveolens), which is known to surpass every other plant as an antidote for poisons of all kinds. For this, Mohammet promised the Gypsies many children. Rue also has the lovely name of "The Herb of Grace."

Cold bathing is natural and advisable. Hot bathing is unnatural and enervating, but a weekly hot bath is needed for cleansing the skin, as so many people have to endure a grimy environment in this modern world. Bath water can be improved by aromatic substances, such as drops of pine resin and natural flower extracts, or crude plant material such as pine needles, eucalyptus leaves, slivers of cinnamon bark or the flat heads of elder blossoms. Put the plant material in a square of cheesecloth; place the tied-up square into the hot water while the bath is running, and keep this in the water during bathing.

Air and limited sunbathing of the entire body are also powerful health aids in pregnancy. Sunbathing should follow, not precede, water bathing, for water will remove the vitamins deposited in skin tissue following a sunbath. The early and late hours of the day are the most beneficial for sunbathing. The feet should face north, if possible, and the head and soles of feet should always be covered. If work is not being done and rest is managed during the sunbath, then cool green leaves or strips of cucumber peel can be placed over the eyes: very soothing.

Vegetable oil applied lightly to the body helps to increase the benefits from the sun, and in pregnancy it aids suppleness of breasts and the abdominal area. Oil should not be applied undiluted to the skin, but rubbed on from a large swab of cotton previously dampened in plain water. Water with a few drops of vinegar added is better, and buttermilk is excellent instead of water.

Why use monotonous plain oils, when a short spell of work can turn such oils into aromatic lotions? It is easy to collect fragrant flowers and leaves, pound them to a pulp in a mortar and pestle, add them to the oils, and infuse them in glass jars, well-stoppered, in sunlight or in a barely warm oven for several days. When hot sun is available, it is preferable to stand the bottles in a container of sand. This attracts and holds the sun heat. I use at least two tablespoons of crushed plant to every pint of oil, plus a teaspoon of vinegar, to help break up the plant matter.

The flowers and leaves I use most often to scent my oils are lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), lavender (Lavendula Offininalis), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), honeysuckle flowers (Lonicera japonica), southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum), wild meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), woodruff (Galium odoratum), elder blossoms (Sambucus species), and briar roses (rosa canina). Such give healing powers, as well as sweet odors, to the oils.

The question of what and how to eat during pregnancy is immensely important, as we are what we eat. Daily, the food intake builds up the body or destroys the body. All is dependent on whether vital, natural foods are eaten, or unnatural, devitalized ones. By the time they are ready for pregnancy, most women know what is good for them to eat and do not need such instruction either from books or individuals. Therefore I shall only give a few basic rules which I was pleased to learn from such a great medical writer as Professor Edmund Bordeux Szekely, whom I knew; from Dr. Douglas Latto, the gynecologist whose personal advice greatly helped me; and lastly from the so-called "simple people," the Gypsies, wandering Bedouins, Berbers and others who have no need of doctors in childbirth, as I, too, had no need.

The simple rule to use when choosing foods is to take only natural things. Cereals, with the exception of sweet corn and barley and wheat, have to be prepared before they can be digested by man. Corn, cut fresh, can be eaten raw, and barley needs only to be soaked in a covering of water for twenty-four to forty-eight hours to be palatable and digestible. Sprouted wheat can be eaten raw, so can flaked oats which are a basic, chosen food of mine. All other vegetarian or dairy foods can be eaten natural and raw, direct from wild countryside, garden, orchard and dairy—or from the greengrocer’s shop.

However, I am sure that during pregnancy it is advisable to control intake of cereals so as to prevent a heavy-boned child. The heavy bones can be made after the child is born, the mother providing bone building elements in her milk. I have followed this rule for myself and for the animals that I have brought through many pregnancies. Always easy birth was the result.

It is healthful to take only a few kinds of food at each meal; too large selection causes indigestion and overeating. Adults should not eat anything heavier than fruit before midday. That is, avoid a heavy breakfast. It has been proved by examination of human urine that the adult human body is cleansing itself of the by-products of the previous day’s food until midday of the following day. If more food is taken, the cleansing is checked.

One day per week on fruit juices or fruits only is desirable. Any digestive upsets in pregnancy can be treated by a short fast on fruit or vegetable juices. Carrot juice is especially good.

Miscarriage is a tragedy. For women who fear it, perhaps because of a previous mishap, Nature provides rock rose (helianthemum canadense) to give strength to the reproductive system. It can be used nightly. Make a tea of a heaped teaspoon of the flowers, fresh or dried, mixed with a teaspoon of peppermint, in one cup of water. "Strength of the rock," the Gypsies say of this herb.

Black currant berries are also used to prevent miscarriage. The berries are taken raw when they are in season, or preserved as a jelly, syrup or puree. Black currant leaves can also be used: fresh ones added to salads, or the dried leaves can be added to other herbal teas and drunk daily in the morning. I have saved many a cow threatening to miscarry by feeding her large amounts of black currant fruits and leaves.

All primitive people fearing difficult childbirth have their remedies. My personal choices, selected from the many teas, seeds and tree barks which I have seen in use, follow. For an easy birth, mix together these powdered herbs (which should be freshly ground, if possible, in a blender or clean coffee mill): two tablespoons wild raspberry leaves (Rubus species); a tablespoon each of wild rose hips (Rosa species), elder berries or leaves (Sambucus nigra), and hawthorn hips, flowers or leaves (Crataegus species); a half tablespoon of feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium), a teaspoon dill seed and a quarter teaspoon of cloves. Pour 2 cups hot water over two tablespoons of the mixture, steep several hours, keep covered tightly. Strain, sweeten with honey, and take. A teaspoonful in food or brewed into a tea can be taken throughout pregnancy or each year for a few weeks as a general tonic.

To prevent morning sickness, drink a tea of ginger (Zingiber offininale) with a pinch of gentian (Gentiana species), or a tea of peppermint (Mentha piperita) and dill seed. Make these in the usual way, using dried herbs instead of ordinary tea, and drink once a day. A stronger brew results if the herb is put into cold water and brought almost to a boil. Leave the brew to stand until tepid. In any case, and especially in pregnancy, hot drinks should not be taken. No animal will touch liquids from which steam is still rising. We would do well to learn from them.

The morning sickness which plagues many pregnant women is mostly a body cleansing, to protect the forming infant from the toxins resulting from faulty diet or from cigarettes’ nicotine, or simply to combat the harm of overeating, a common error in pregnancy. Never, never, take any drugs in pills or liquid form to quell morning sickness. Better to suffer a little discomfort than to worry about, and perhaps have, a deformed child as a result of taking such pills. A few pieces of candied ginger, chewed slowly, will reduce painful vomiting. (Ginger is provided on many ships to combat seasickness.) Honey is also helpful, as is peppermint.

To soothe the nervous stomach, Nature supplies lime blossoms (Tilia species), lemon verbena (also called yerba Luisa) and garden sage, all to be taken as teas. Sage, the chosen herb of Hippocrates, is, after rosemary, woodruff and vervain, my favorite herb. A warm drink of sage tea is a comforter for the entire body (and the soul!). Savlia simply means "to save." It is a holy herb of the Arabs who strangely call the herb Miriam, which is their name for Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Sweetening a brew of sage tea with honey increases its restorative powers.

I hope that women interested in natural birthing have never taken The Pill. For any type of pill which sets out to confuse the normal rhythms of menstruation and ovulation is harmful and dangerous and ought to be avoided.

Also avoid all use of what is called genetic engineering. Such will surely evoke the displeasure of God. And it must be remembered that its roots lie in the terrible experiments performed on young Jewish and Gypsy women in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and who were brutally killed when no longer useful.

Many women find pleasure in cigarettes and alcohol, and suffer because they are unable to give them up during pregnancy but know they are detrimental to the child that they are bearing. When the urge for either comes, one can try these tactics: Plunge the face into a deep basin of cold water (that is my choice), or chew on bitter herbs (the Artemisias are the best), or chew some spice (such as clove), or press one’s face into a bunch of strongly scented flowers and remain therein for awhile. (Better to spend one’s money on such flowers than on more costly alcohol and cigarettes!) Ill effects of alcohol are much reduced if milk is added to it, and I consider the flavor of the alcohol enhanced.

Legend says that women in pregnancy and childbirth have their protectors. The Holy Mother Mary is said to come in spirit to every woman who is in labor. The Greek goddess Artemis, known as Diana by the Romans, is the protector of women in childbirth and of the newly born infant. Artemis is also goddess of beauty, deer, and the moon. (The moon is very influential on menstruation and female fertility in general.) A group of medicinal herbs are named after her: Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), Artemisia abrotanum (southernwood) and Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort). Used cautiously (for they powerfully stimulate the central nervous system), each can be of great help in pregnancy.

Wormwood gives general strength, is highly disinfectant and helps expel worms. Its common name is Old Woman.

Southernwood strengthens the stomach and brain, and alleviates morning sickness. Its common name is Old Man. I used it daily throughout both of my pregnancies.

Mugwort is one of the most ancient of the childbirth herbs, widely used in Asia, often as a steam bath which a woman squats over while in labor.

All Artemisias have silvery-gray foliage. A small sprig of any one, added to the daily raspberry tea, prevents nausea.

Finally, "Man does not live by bread along;" there is a mental side of pregnancy to be considered. The soul is great in the human body, and it is mirrored in the eyes. Pregnancy is the time in the life of every woman when the soul is exceedingly powerful in her body. The soul needs food also: Time should be found daily for daydreaming and reading beautiful things, and for giving praise to God and Nature. Time must be found for care of the soul, or pregnancy will never reach its true glory.

I think pregnancy is a wonderful time because of all the senses of body and mind are enhanced. Sight, scent, hearing, thought, are all more alert than normally. God and Nature arranged this. This is a time of great creativity and also great danger. Body and mind must be keen and alert to provide for and to protect the growing child, the child who may be poet, prophet, or leader.

Before ending this chapter, which is a mixture of practical information, odd facts collected on far travels, herbal medicine, legend, I want to say that the results of practicing what I preach have been good. I personally have tested all these prescriptions for many years. And long before, for over fifty years, I have used these methods in veterinary work, helping animals of all kinds, from mares and she-goats to the miniature breeds of dogs. All animals which had a record of difficult birth time or loss of offspring in the early months responded to a Nature diet and herbal treatments, and amply proved the benefits of working with Nature.

Minka Farouk writes from Holland: "Yesterday I attended an evening for pregnant women. So good to see all those interesting, spreading bodies! We saw splendid slides and films of deliveries at home. It was so emotional to see those sweet babies coming into the world that almost everybody was crying."

The biblical description of a woman is yet one of the best.

She riseth when it is yet night,

And giveth food to her household.

She examines a field and buyeth it,

With her earrings [sold] she planteth a vineyard.

Her lamp goeth not out by night…

She eateth not the bread of idleness.

However, in conclusion, I will add that one should not take pregnancy too seriously. Give some time to dancing around. The embryo surely loves the rhythm of its mother dancing! So, when the Piper of Dreams comes by, enjoy his music, and waltz!


Susun Weed and Juliette de Bairacli Levy,
Upstate NY, Summer 2002

top of page

“In Memory of Juliette the Grandmother of Herbal medicine”

This collection includes three great herbal medicine books and one video by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, well-known as the "grandmother of herbal medicine."

Nature's Children
is a classic book on natural childrearing; it includes remedies, recipes, and fascinating lore.

Traveler's Joy is a unique guide to finding the wild bounty in simple living; Juliette covers topics such as travel, water, dwellings, medicine, and food.

Common Herbs for Natural Health is an essential herbal with lore and uses for 200 herbs including cosmetic, culinary, and medical recipes.

Juliette of the Herbs, the exceptional video included in this collection will delight, entrance, and inspire!

20% savings YOURS for $45 ($55.80 value), plus shipping.

Order Juliette of the Herbs Collection in our Bookshop



Read a review of Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

Read a review of Nature's Children

Visit our Bookshop for more Wise Woman reviews and excerpts


go to wise woman wisdom