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!
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.
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.
Have a great road trip together!! Picturing the 3 of you makes me smile:). I would like to buy some tincture once made and to learn more. I look forward to your next blog post! Love, Jo
Thanks Jo, I will have a good supply of fresh cactus tincture in about 6-8 weeks. Great to hear from you!
Thanks you, this is a very useful article for everyone
Hello, I am excited to learn about the medicinal properties of night blooming cereus. My alma mater Punahou school in Honolulu has an epic yield of night blooming cereus that was planted on its historic lava rock border. I was thinking of harvesting a little bit (a pint jar) for my personal tincture collection. Do you think the species that grows in Hawaii is just as useful as the species you collected in Florida? How do you exactly make the tincture? I usually fill the pint jar to the top with plant material, fill it to the top again with 80 proof vodka, then strain after 6 weeks. Thanks for writing this article on cacti medicine.
I am unsure if the Hawaiian variety is similar medicine to the one to the Florida variety. The southwestern variety is used in the same way, so that Is a promising sign. As for making it fresh, you need 95% alcohol, because the water content already in the fresh cactus plant is so high. Using 80 or 100 proof. Idea idnlt strong enough. I would do the same technique for making it, but you need to get your hands on more potent alcohol