The Southern Herbalist Darryl Patton was in the house and on the land this weekend. Making the trip from his northeast Alabama homestead, the Pejuta Wicasa Master Plant Medicine Man shared his extensive knowledge, treating attendees of the Southwest Michigan Summer Herbal Immersive weekend to talks, treks and sessions on both the culinary and medicinal value of herbal formulas. Walking in the footsteps of old-school Mountain Medicine Men like his teacher A.L. “Tommie” Bass and other elder herbalist of the Southern Appalachians, Darryl offered a glimpse into his vast pharmacopeia as well as his skills as chief cook of a wild woods kitchen. Crossing paths with him last year at his summer 2018 workshop hosted by Maggie Baker Conklin of Douglas, Michigan’s Ladyhawk Holistic Nutrition, I was impressed with Darryl’s knowledge, easy-going, engaging, storyteller style, and the way he treated his wife Jane. “The ability of a bark, leaf, or root to transform the body in a positive manner,” states Darryl, “is a mystery that serves to daily rekindle my passion for the natural world.” A passion that clearly fires the same ardor in others.
Darryl’s eyes on the land open one’s own understanding to the natural world’s abundance of healing plants, herbs that can help establish a sustainable, natural approach to well-being. Whipping up syrups made from Chaga and Milkweed turned us on to nourishing ourselves at home with healing foods. Crafting fusion tacitos with kimche venison and wild vegtables, coupled with spicy Fina’denne’ — a condiment found in many Guam households — we were also treated to Yellow Dock pancakes and small, savory, deep-fried hushpuppies made from a Chicken of the Woods-based batter. He brought along tinctures of Lion’s Mane Mushroom — offering a range of health benefits from improved cognitive functioning, to memory and brain cell rejuvenation — along with Wild Lettuce, a natural remedy promoting sleep and muscle or joint pain relief.
In a discourse on the benefits of Chaga, a parasitic on birch trees with the appearance of burnt charcoal well-known today for its cancer fighting properties, Darryl expounded: “When I was first doing primitive skills, no one was into Chaga except as a fire starter. And it was cheap - no big deal getting it. Then people in this country discovered its medicinal value — for cancer, for the immune system — and all of a sudden it went bonkers, and can be quite expensive at times.” Darryl recounted the history of Chaga, citing Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian Dissident writer who was also a doctor and author of the novel Cancer Ward. As an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and communism helping to raise global awareness of its Gulag forced labor camp system, Solzhenitsyn was sent off to Gulag Archipelagos prison camps every few years to shut him up. Applying his skills as a physician, he’d seek out black market medicines for groups of 40-50,000 prisoners, an assemblage with all the health challenges and diseases of a small city. Yet amongst these populations, cancer was oddly statistically non-existence. What were these people doing collectively to prevent the disease?
Solzhenitsyn soon realized that the poor people of the rural area area only drank Chaga coffee, made from a rich Chaga syrup tasting like hot chocolate, and when boiled down thick becomes Hershey cocoa-like. Looking into the phenomena and its properties more closely, Russia and China made Chaga a prescription drug for cancer. “It’s the one I like to put anybody on for cancer because of the way it works overall,” Darryl explained. “What’s the big therapy in cancer now? Immunotherapy. They rev your immune system up to fight cancer, but sometimes that system in its firing can kill you, because its out to kill something. And if it doesn’t have cancer cells to kill, it can go after healthy cells. Chaga gives you a very strong immune response, but resets the system so that it doesn’t see the body as the enemy”
On wooded walkabouts, Darryl expounded on the virtues of Indian Ghost Pipe (once referred to as Fit Root, acting on opium receptor sights and increasing pain tolerance), Bitter Dock (boiling it down for its asthmatic curative powers) and Wild Sweet Violet (with leaves that contain more Vitamin C than an Orange and a Rhizome – the subterranean plant stem - that stops heartburn in its tracks. There was talk of warm potatoes sucking the poison out of Brown Recluse bites, maggot therapy, frying up Queen Ann’s Lace in pancake batter (just confirm that under skirt and the central purple flower), Alchemists like Sir Isaac Newton and others, the story of a Chinese Governor who faked his own death just to acquire a drop of Reishi on his tongue, and mushroom folklore. Speaking of mushrooms, Anthony Michael Blowers, our local, well-loved amateur Mycologist also showed up, identifying an aggressive patch of Purple Tooth, expounding on the intelligence and nimble nature of Slime Mold, and pointing out some incredibly yummy ramps that grow all along the river bed, “if (you) can get to them before the deer do”.
As to future happenings, I heard through the Vitis Vinifera Vine that Darryl runs a hardcore primitive excursion, leading a circle of dudes into the wilderness with a knife and little more. I dubbed it the Darryl Patton Weight Loss Program and am hoping to learn more, with an eye toward the Summer of 2020 and Lake Huron’s Les Cheneaux Islands archipelago. Anthony will certainly be back this Fall for a ‘Shroom Stroll akin to our first as we work on rolling a mushroom hunt in with a culinary experience. Anthony creates a legendary ice cream from Blue Spruce tips, along with his butter poached Chanterelles, Black Trumpets and other wild mushroom inspired dishes. If there’s an interest shout me out, as we gear up for our monthly Ceremonial gathering this coming weekend, our upcoming Fall Women’s Retreat, a Men’s Retreat Weekend in the works, and other upcoming Fall classes and workshops. Toksha