A wildcrafting trip likely to yield an abundance of cactus medicine


Last month when my Clearpath Herbals apothecary crew and I were doing end-of-year inventory, we noticed that our cactus medicine — night-blooming cereus (Selenicereus grandiflorus) – was nearly gone. For me and my clinical practice, that is an unacceptable proposition. Selenicerus grandiflorus, a native southeastern variety of night-blooming cereus cacti, is powerful medicine, one I use to good and reliable effect for many cardiovascular and nervous system concerns. By the way, the southwestern variety — Peniocereus greggii – also called night-blooming cereus, is used virtually the same as a medicine. I will talk in more detail about the medicinal uses of cactus medicine later on.

Procuring cactus poses a problem that many other herbs do not. Most herb tinctures (liquid-based alcohol extracts) can be and are made from dried herbs; and most dried herbs that I need I can buy from reputable companies if I find myself unexpectedly short, or if I can’t grow or easily wildcraft them myself. Cactus is difficult on all counts. It is much better when made from fresh material; it is rarely stocked – dry or fresh – by herb companies, being too obscure I suppose; and I can neither grow it nor wildcraft it in the area where I live. What does all that add up to? Wildcrafting road trip!

cactus, night blooming cereus

So . . . this coming Saturday, my sweetie Kellianna, our dog Spike, and I are heading south for Florida. We are really looking forward to it. When you live in New England, Florida is never a bad idea in February, and we haven’t been on a road trip adventure together in a long time. That’s mostly because we are both so busy with our respective careers — Kellianna and her music, me and my school and health-care practice at Clearpath Herbals. Maybe it is one of the occupational inevitabilities of being self-employed, but it is hard to go on a vacation without justifying it or combining it with business. Fortunately, we are both passionately in love with what we do, so it is like adding pleasure to pleasure. On the way back, Kellianna will be performing at three locations — Enchanted Earth in Dunedin, Florida, a house concert in Greenville, South Carolina, and a Valentine’s concert at Mystic Moon in Norfolk, Virginia. While we are down there, we will spend quality time with Cat and Ray, her awesome parents, and soak up the warmth. And also while we are there, I will get to some much needed cactus wildcrafting and a bit of medicinal plant reconnaissance as well.

NIght-blooming cereus grows prolifically throughout Florida, so we shouldn’t have a problem finding it. Plus, Kellianna’s mother is an avid plant lover, and she is always game for an adventure, so we have already alerted her to keep her eyes peeled for places where it is it growing abundantly and safe to pick. By safe to pick, I mean in areas that are as clear and free of human pollutants as possible. That means avoiding heavily congested areas, polluted sites, along road sides, next to irrigation ditches, on golf courses, conventional agricultural sites, or other places where pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers are used.

I have been using cactus medicine right from the beginning of my herbal practice, it being one of the first plant medicines I traveled long-distance to gather. That was well over 20 years ago, and I have returned to Florida several times since then to gather more when supplies dwindle. It’s worth it to me, because I have used it to great positive effect for many people. I am surprised it is not used by more herbalists, or even known by many herbal practitioners, for that matter. I aim to correct that.

cactus, night blooming cereus flowers & cactus

Over the next blogs, I’ll introduce you to this underrated plant medicine, to its medicinal virtues, how to best use it, and how to acquire it. There is excellent chance I will find an abundance of cactus medicine. Plus, I will share relevant and interesting information and anecdotes from the various escapades, tangents and detours that Kellianna, Spike and I are bound to encounter. Among other things, I am always on the lookout for new-to-me plant and mushroom medicines, and for locations where I can meet and gather the ones I do know well, but in their preferred geographical zones and habitats. One, for instance, that is high on my list this time around, is Sida acuta, also known as broomweed, or common wireweed. I will let you know how things are shaping up and transpiring as the days pass. Stay tuned.

And if you’d like some fresh cactus medicine, contact me as soon as possible. Depending on how concentrated you want the tincture to be, somewhere between four and six pounds yields approximately one gallon of tincture.

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