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[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 80 – April’s 30 Days of Herbal Allies Challenge

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22nd, 2017 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

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“The most important thing we can teach our young people is to observe well.”

Dr. Ernest Mayr

I had such wonderful feedback about “discovering” a plant in your back yard to study for the year that it gave me an idea to offer up a challenge for April so #30daysofherbalallies was born!

Each day in April, post of photo on your favorite social media of choice (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter…) of something herbal that relates to the key word for the day. You may choose to stick to your chosen herb or randomly select plants/herbal medicine as you feel drawn to that matches the herb. Or do a mixture of both, focusing mainly on your chosen herb with a smattering of random plants that catch your eye throughout the month. The point is to have fun, raise your awareness of the plants around you and to get outside in fresh air every day!

How do you relate to herbs? What are you most drawn to? If you are choosing to focus on one plant, how do you think this can deepen your awareness of that plant? This is a great exploratory activity to practice with your kids (or yourself) to really get to know a plant or observe the plants in a way you might not have thought about before. I hope this month long activity will find you all taking to the outdoors with camera and sketchbook in hand, ready to capture the plants that grow in your back yard.

Photos could be of the plants themselves, medicine made from the plants, artwork of the plants, a jpeg of a poem you’ve written or anything else that speaks the daily key word to you. Mix and match, let’s have fun with this! I hope to see my Instagram feed flooded with #30daysofherbalallies as we celebrate our #2017herbalmascot!

This photo challenge is set for April 1-30. I will post reminders as we get closer to April 1. Be sure to add the hashtags #30daysofherbalallies and #2017herbalmascot to your post so that anyone participating can view and see all the lovely herbal goodness we are posting! I’ll be posting pictures to my Instagram account, feel free to follow me: @herbalrootszine

If you’re a bullet journal junkie, you can download a printable to print, cut and paste into your bullet journal here.

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Do you think this is a challenge you will do or enjoy doing? Do you think your kids will enjoy it too? If you decide to do the challenge, will you focus on one plant for the month or a variety? Or both?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 79 – Choose Your Own Herbal Mascot

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22nd, 2017 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Herbal Mascot

“Many young people find botany a dull study. So it is, as taught from the text-books in the schools; but study it yourself in the fields and woods, and you will find it a source of perennial delight.”

John Burroughs

The peepers started their call late this afternoon as I sat and prepared to write this newsletter, their siren call that beckoned me outside. I put off writing to go out and bask in the promise of sunnier days while I enjoyed the frolics of our baby goats.

Meet Ivy and Valentino, Calendula's Valentine babies.

Meet Ivy and Valentino, Calendula’s Valentine babies.

We live sort of in the middle of the USA so our winters are pretty boring. We rarely get snow anymore that lasts for more than a day or two and generally, the accumulation isn’t even deep enough to have a snowball fight with.

But even so, the grass and most plants generally die back with the exception of a few rebellious plants such as Motherwort, Catnip and Ground Ivy. They all tend to hang on. Even Monarda sprang back up pretty early, I think I first noticed her emergence in January when we cleaned out the herb gardens of their debris in preparation for this season. I counted 8-10 praying mantis egg cases which I safely located to areas around the garden.

Praying mantis case nestled under the Elderberry.

Praying mantis case nestled under the Elderberry.

This afternoon, I noticed the Speedwell was blooming. This little plant is one I am guilty of overlooking in my herbal studies. It grows proficiently around here but for whatever reason, it’s never on my radar to learn about. That got me thinking, what makes a plant interesting enough that we want to study it? Why do we often ignore some plants? Why are some more ‘in favor’ and some more ‘out of favor’ to us?

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Speedwell AKA Gypsyweed, blooming among the White Clover.

I decided to do a little research on Speedwell to see what I could find. Maude Grieve refers to Speedwell (Veronica officinalis) as Common Gypsyweed which intrigues me because I am very drawn to the Romany people. All of a sudden, I am very interested in this plant. Funny how a name can do much to stir an interest. Apparently Speedwell was a popular herb for a very long time.

Maude goes on to say:

The plant has diaphoretic, alterative, diuretic, expectorant and
tonic properties, and was formerly employed in pectoral and nephritic
complaints, haemorrhages, diseases of the skin and in the treatment
of wounds. Modern herbalists still consider that an infusion of the
dried plant is useful in coughs, catarrh, etc., and is a simple and
effective remedy in skin diseases.”

Well, I know an herb I plan to work more with this year! Sounds like a great plant for adding to our herbal first aid kit for skin issues!

How about you? What’s in your back yard that you’ve been ignoring? I invite you to go out into your own back yard and make an inventory of the plants that are growing right now. Include the trees! I know that a lot of you living in a more northern climate may not have as much to see but try it anyway, you might be surprised to see what you can find. Chickweed and Cleavers have made their debut. If you don’t have any greenery popping up yet, refer back to your Herbal Bloom Wheel. What did you list on there last year that you might have discovered but never got around to learning about? What tree blossoms in your neighborhood that you’d like to get to know better? What about your landscape plants? There are a surprising amount of landscape plants and bushes that are actually medicinal in nature. You might be surprised to see what your yard has to offer.

Don’t have a yard? What about your local park? You might be surprised to see what they have to offer.

Make a commitment this spring to learn about 1 plant that grows near you that you’ve seen for years but never bothered to get to know. Adopt it as your herbal mascot for the year.

Need some help getting started with inspiration for focusing on an herb this year? I’ve got lots of past newsletters on this topic. Check out:

http://www.herbalrootszine.com/archive/2014/07/herbal-rootlets-no-15-getting-started-on-the-herbal-journey-with-kids/

http://www.herbalrootszine.com/archive/2014/08/herbal-rootlets-no-20-what-kids-should-put-in-their-herbal-journals/

http://www.herbalrootszine.com/archive/2015/03/herbal-rootlets-no-44-herbs-for-spring/

http://www.herbalrootszine.com/archive/2015/05/herbal-rootlets-no-53-building-your-backyard-herb-list/

http://www.herbalrootszine.com/archive/2016/03/herbal-rootlets-no-69-trees-of-spring/

To get you started, I’ve created a fun little printable worksheet. Use it in conjunction with my herbal profile template. Both are available for free on my website.

2017-Herbal-Mascot

I’d love to hear about the plant you decide to adopt for the year if you decide to do so. Please tell me in the comments or send me an email! If you decide to post about it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other online media, add in the hashtags: #2017herbalmascot #herbalrootszine so we can all see what we’re learning about this year!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 78 – Of Light and Love

Posted in february calendar, Uncategorized on February 1st, 2017 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

Of-Light-and-Love

This past year has gone by in a whirlwind. Lots of interruptions from our usual routines forced me to put newsletters for Herbal Roots zine on hold. Now that life is starting to settle back down, I am hoping to get back into the swing of things, I truly have missed writing these newsletters regularly!

Before I get started with today’s post, I’d like to ask what YOU would like me to write about this year. How often would you like to hear from me? If you have any questions or topics that are herb/kid related, please hit the reply button and drop me a line! For those reading this online, please leave a comment!

Winter gives me silent hope:
Touch the terminal buds on branches.
Clear the snow and find green moss below.
Watch the sunlight fade, then linger longer.
Stand with the strength of evergreen trees.
Listen to birds cheeping at the feeder.

-Joyce Ruff, The Circle of Life

Today is the halfway point between winter and spring. Often when reflecting on this day, I feel it more to be the beginning of spring as in our area of the country signs of spring are all around: birds are returning to the area, waking me with their morning song, plants are poking out of the ground left and right, and my goat will soon be birthing. The days are getting noticeably longer, we are halfway between the shortest day of the year (winter solstice) and the midway point (spring equinox). The ancients celebrated this day as Brigit’s day, who was known as many people including Brigit the Healer, a woman who taught the properties of healing herbs. In modern times this day is also known as Candlemas and Groundhog’s Day, the day of light and hope for spring. It is traditional to eat dinner by candlelight and in honor of the sheep (and goats) who are in milk, milk laden foods are served. We wait with baited breath to see if Phil will see his shadow and go back into his underground home to wait out another 6 weeks of winter.

Chickweed

Regardless of your personal beliefs, this is a day to celebrate the steady return of light! Spring is almost here! Celebrate today by taking a walk outside with your children and playing “I Spy” to see how many plants you can spy coming out of the ground. If it is snowy in your region and not a sign of spring is to be found, create a little of your own by planting some seeds indoors or forcing some bulbs. My favorite plants for this time of year are white tulips or cyclamens. Their white reminds me of the light, something we crave here in midst of winter when most days are gloomy and the sun shine seems optional to the sky. To complete your day, burn some sweet smelling beeswax candles for dinner, to remind you of the bees who will soon begin pollinating our plants when they burst from the ground and bloom. Make a custard or pudding for dessert or serve some creamed potatoes for dinner (creamy potato soup with dried herbs is a hit for these gloomy, cold evenings) while you relish the thought of the return of spring.

February also brings us a time of love. Often through the day to day shuffle of life, our gratitude for those closest to us gets pushed aside. February is a time to offer acts of love, kindness and gratitude towards those we love and may not remember to show appreciation for. Try to take time this month to show your gratitude for little things your partner, children and friends do for you. Even just a few words spoken can go a long way. When my older children attended public school, I used to send little notes in their daily lunches letting them know how great they were or how much I loved them. My daughter, now grown, fondly remembers the notes even when she hardly mentioned them growing up. Thank your partner for the mundane things such as washing the dishes, folding the laundry or putting the kids to bed. It’s so easy to take these things for granted but making a conscious effort to acknowledge them makes not only the recipient of the gratitude happy, you’ll find it makes yourself happy too! And most of all, don’t forget to tell everyone in your life how much you love them. We all need a lot of love right now, especially during the final days of winter when the cold and gloom seem to drag on forever.

Herbal Valentines 2017 Herbal Valentines 2017

It doesn’t hurt to be a bit silly in expressing your love either! That’s why I get such a kick out of creating the annual herbal valentines! It’s my way of showing my love to all of you, my dear readers. Be sure to download this year’s version and if you’d like, the past two years as well.

Herbal Valentines 2017 Herbal Valentines 2017

Do you have any rituals for this time of year? How do you show your gratitude for those in your life? Will you be planting a garden this year? If so have you begun planning it and will you be starting anything from seed? Share in comments, we’d love to hear from you!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 77 – Deepening Your Knowledge of Energetics and Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21st, 2016 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

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Your deepest roots are in nature.  No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.

– Charles Cook

In a few past newsletters I have talked about teaching tissue states and energetics to kids. And for those of you who subscribe to the monthly zine, you know I always talk about how herbs can be warming or cooling, drying or moistening. These terms add another layer to herbalism that isn’t often talked about in beginner books and courses and so they can often feel intimidating.

Really though, learning energetics is easy and it’s important when you are trying to match up herbs to a person. Have you ever given an herb to someone, an herb that seems to ‘do’ everything they need for the ailment they have only to find out that particular herb didn’t seem to help at all? Chances are, it’s because the energetics didn’t balance out.

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I have wanted to come up with a lesson plan to teach kids and their adults how to determine which herb is right for which person but I just haven’t had the time to really sit down and think it through. Then a couple years ago, my friend Rosalee de la Forêt shared a chart with me that she had made. It was brilliant! It really helps to put the whole energetics thing into perspective. She calls it her Herbal Compass. I call it awesome! It links up the tastes of herbs (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter) with their warming/cooling and moistening/drying aspects so all that’s left is to figure out how they match up to the individual. Rosalee has done that as well! She is sharing her Herbal Compass with everyone and along with it, worksheets to determine individual constitutions.

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I still have a super simple kid friendly version of this class in mind but until I get around to it, I will keep recommending Rosalee’s Herbal Compass (and will continue to recommend it even after I do cuz it’s that awesome!). She has made her herbal compass and personal constitution worksheet free to everyone, along with a quick video that explains how to use it all, be sure to go and grab yours! I have mine sitting on my desk next to my computer for easy reference. She has shared this chart in the past but it has been updated since then so if you grabbed it the last time I shared it you’ll want to get the updated version!

Do you use energetics in your herbal practice? Do you teach your kids about herbal energetics? If you’ve just started learning about energetics, what do you find to be your most useful tool for teaching and learning about them?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 76 – Learning About Ginkgo

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

learning about ginkgo

Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Ginkgo trees are one of the ancients, having been growing and flourishing since the Jurassic period, dating them to be in existence for 145.5 – 199.6 million years. That’s a really long time! Known as a “living fossil,” Ginkgo is the only living relative in the Ginkgoaceae family. With their ancient genes comes ancient medicine. The first known Chinese herbalist, Emperor Shen Nung is the author of the ancient medical/herbal text Pen T’sao Ching and Ginkgo is listed among one of many plants used 5,000 years ago.

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In traditional and modern day herbal medicine, the leaf of Ginkgo is used. The seed has been used as well but can be toxic, especially in large doses. Many people eat the seeds shelled and cooked with no adverse reactions. If you were to chew on a leaf of Ginkgo, you would notice it to be a bit sweet and bitter. While Ginkgo is neither warming or cooling (he is considered neutral), you would notice a drying effect from the leaf.

Nutritionally, Ginkgo leaf contains protein, calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, zinc, and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), and B3 (niacin).

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Ginkgo also contains amino acids, benzoic acid, flavonoids (quercetin, rutin, ginkgolide, kaempferol), flavones (ginkgolic acid, sciaopitysin, ginkgetin, bilobetin, and more), bioflavonoids, terpenes (bilobalides, ginkgolides) and tannins.

Medicinally, Ginkgo is antibacterial, anticoagulant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, brain tonic, cardiotonic, circulatory stimulant, circulatory tonic, decongestant, neuroprotective, rejuvenative, and a vasodilator.

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So, let’s take a look at what we can use Ginkgo for…

Ginkgo’s species name is biloba, or bi-lobed, referring to the leaves that are often two-lobed in appearance. We herbalists often consider that the plants tell us their medicinal uses through various characteristics, the language of the plants, so to speak. With Ginkgo, this language translates to parts of our body that contain two: the two sides of our brain, the two sides of our heart, our two ears, our two eyes, our two arms and legs, and our two lungs. It almost seems that there’s no part of our body that Ginkgo doesn’t have an effect on!

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Let’s break this down further starting with the brain. As a brain tonic, circulatory stimulant, and neuroprotectant, Ginkgo works to improve blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the brain which helps to improve mental functions such as memory, and problem solving. It has been found to be helpful for those suffering from vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease when introduced during the early stages. Those who have suffered from a stroke may find Ginkgo to be useful in stroke recovery. For those who suffer from migraines, some have found Ginkgo to provide relief and even prevent migraines from returning.

Ginkgo is often used for those planning a trip to high altitudes to prevent altitude sickness by helping to provide oxygen rich blood to the brain as well as thinning out the blood with his anticoagulant action (blood tends to thicken at high altitudes). It’s best to start taking Ginkgo regularly several days prior to a trip; James Duke recommends 120 milligrams daily. Children would want to take 1/4 – 1/2 the dosage depending on their age and weight.

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When it comes to our heart, Ginkgo is a cardiotonic, circulatory stimulant, anticoagulant, vasodilator and antioxidant. Taking Ginkgo regularly may reduce the risk of heart disease as well as lower blood cholesterol. Taking it a step further with our circulation, Ginkgo inhibits platelet activating factor (PAF), a substance that is released by various blood cells. PAF makes our blood stickier which in turn can cause blood clotting, inflammation and allergenic responses.

For the ears, Ginkgo has been able to relieve folks of tinnitus, a condition in which a person hears a ringing, buzzing, chirping, hissing or other sound in the ears when no external sound is present. Some forms of tinnitus and other hearing impairments may be caused by a lack of circulation in the brain, in which Ginkgo can be very effective in reversing.

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As we get older, our eyes start to wear out. Many older people get a painless, progressive disorder known as macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness. Ginkgo’s circulatory stimulant and antioxidant actions work together to help improve long-distance vision. Some studies are now indicating that Ginkgo may go as far as reverse damage to the retina. 

Our outer extremities, the arms and legs, often suffer from their own conditions relating to circulation. Calling on his circulatory stimulating actions along with his vasodilating actions, Ginkgo works to strengthen capillaries and blood vessels, assisting with varicose veins and broken capillaries. Ginkgo contains rutin, which is helpful as well. A disorder in the legs, known as intermittent claudication, is often caused by the narrowing of arteries in the legs, which causes pain in the calves after walking. Studies have shown Ginkgo to be effective in lowering cholesterol, which can cause the arteries to narrow, as well as improving the flow of blood through vasodilation, lessening the severity of intermittent claudication. Another circulatory disorder, Raynaud’s disease, often causes problems with hands and feet. Those suffering from Raynaud’s may have a loss of sensation along with frigid, stiff fingers and toes, generally more noticeable during cold temperatures. Again, Ginkgo works to increase circulation to the outer extremities, returning blood flow to the fingers and toes to decrease the issues. Ginkgo can ease feelings of coldness in our extremities and may improve the ability to walk further.

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One final pair in the body that is strongly effected by Ginkgo is our lungs. Ginkgo’s anti-PAF action helps to decrease allergic reactions which reduces bronchoconstriction and inflammation in the lungs which in turn eases chest tightness and wheezing from bronchial conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. We talked about PAF regarding the circulatory system, in the lungs, PAF can be released during immediate hypersensitive reactions in the lungs, which leads to bronchoconstriction.

Ginkgo can take time to show effects so be prepared to use it for at least 6 weeks. If using long term, you should take a 6 week break every 6 months.

Those who are anticoagulant or anti platelet medications should only use Ginkgo under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. Those who have excessive bleeding should also use caution with Ginkgo. The raw leaf may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, if this happens, discontinue use or seek out a standardized extract. Ginkgo has been known to interact with many medications such as blood thinners, thiazide diuretics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Photo credit: Jo Feterle of http://redskyapiary.com/

Photo credit: Jo Feterle of http://redskyapiary.com/

Ginkgo trees are fairly easy to grow but are very slow growing. If you can find a female tree (which can be hard to do as the rotting fruits smell awful to most), you can plant the seeds and they will grow. Most reputable nurseries will only sell female trees. If you are growing yours from seed, you have quite a long time to wait until the tree matures and produces seeds as it takes 20-40 years to reach maturity. The downside to growing the male is that they produce high allergen pollen. Use caution when touching the seeds, they can cause contact dermatitis similar to poison ivy. It’s best to wear gloves when harvesting them (see the recipe section for more information).

Leaves should be harvested when the Ginkgo leaves of autumn turn yellow. See the recipe section for information on harvesting.

Do you have Ginkgo growing in your area? Have you ever harvested it for medicine? Tell us all about your adventures with this wonderful tree!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 75 – Learning About Gumweed

Posted in Uncategorized on August 24th, 2016 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

A huge thank you to Angela Willard for all the great photos of Gumweed!

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To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.

– Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gumweed is also known as Gumplant and Resinweed, Rosinweed, Tarweed, Stickyheads and Curlytop Gum Plant. The Blackfeet Native Americans refer to Gumweed as “akspeis” which translates to Stickyweed. See a theme in his name? Gum, tar, resin and rosin all describe a common characteristic to the plant that goes by the botanical name of Grindelia. Gumweed was officially recognized in the Pharmacopoeia of the United States from 1882 – 1926.

Let’s take a look at Gumweed’s energetics. If you were able to taste Gumweed, you would notice a pungent taste, followed by some bitterness. Gumweed is considered to be cooling and moistening. The resinous flowers are most often used medicinally but the leaves have been used as well.

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I have been unable to find any nutritional information on Gumweed. Gumweed contains a variety of constituents including resin containing diterpenoid acids, including grindelic acid; phenolic acids, flavonoids and small amounts of saponins. The resin acids appear to be similar in physical properties and in chemistry to the diterpenoid resin acids founds in pine trees.

Medicinally, Gumweed is alterative, antiasthmatic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, bronchospasmolytic, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, sedative, stomachic and vulnerary. Let’s take a look at what we can do with Gumweed…

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Most commonly, Gumweed is used for respiratory ailments, specifically hot, dry coughs with stuck mucus. Gumweed’s antiasthmatic, bronchospasmolytic, anti-inflammatory, and expectorant actions assist in bringing up the mucus while soothing the bronchial tubes, especially in cases of a tight sore chest, dry hacking cough, asthma, pertussis, bronchitis, and emphysema. Not only will Gumweed help to bring up stuck mucus, but he will also soothe the smooth muscles of the lungs, relaxing them and helping the bronchioles to open, allowing for more air flow. Gumweed is often found to be helpful for asthma when it is accompanied by tachycardia and is listed as so in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1983.

As I mentioned, Gumweed is useful for tachycardia, helping to slow down a rapid heart beat, including a nervous rapid heart beat and can be useful for palpitations too. Gumweed is also hypotensive, lowering blood pressure and should be used with caution under the care of a qualified herbalist or other healthcare professional for those with weak or damaged hearts. We can attribute his hypotensive actions to his diuretic actions which help to drain fluid from the heart and lungs. Gumweed is best supported by cardiac stimulants, especially when working with left-sided heart failure.

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Gumweed can be very stimulating on the kidneys and should not be used long term or by those who have acute kidney infection (nephritis). At the same time, Gumweed can be helpful as a diuretic and antibacterial herb for bladder and urinary tract infections.

Externally, Gumweed has been found very effective for a variety of chronic and acute skin conditions, especially those that are hot and dry. His demulcent action combines with his vulnerary, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory actions to soothe eczema, including those suffering from atopic terrain (asthma alternating with eczema), skin ulcers, blisters, burns, rashes and inflammation including those from poison ivy and oak, as well as insect bites and stings.

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Gumweed for dull pain in the right or left hypochondrium, the area at the base of the ribs on the the corresponding side of the body, which is often accompanied by a sallow, pallid complexion, lethargy and malaise, weakness and indigestion, enlarged spleen or liver, eye pain, chills and fever. This can be a side effect of malaria. Gumweed is useful for those who are having pain in their spleen or liver regions as well.

Mathew Wood uses Gumweed for sleep apnea as well.

As an anti-inflammatory, stomachic and aromatic, Gumweed is beneficial to the digestive tract, calming minor inflammation and is best combined with other herbs such as Fennel, Ginger, Plantain and Spearmint.

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As stated before, Gumweed needs to be used with caution for those with acute kidney infections, and high blood pressure. Do not exceed the suggested doses or use long term. Gumweed is best used in occasional small doses and in combination with other herbs.

Gumweed is easily grown in zones 3-7 and is fascinating to see and touch due to the high amounts of resin that can accumulate in the head of the flower, which reminds me of excessive sticky phlegm in the lungs, nose and throat. The stickiness of the resin is similar to that found on Pine. If you have space in your garden, consider growing some Gumweed as he is a delightful plant that will bring color and pollinators into your garden.

Do you have Gumweed growing in your area? Have you ever used it medicinally? Tell us your stories about Gumweed!

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[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 74 – Summertime Reading and Herbaling

Posted in Uncategorized on June 21st, 2016 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

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By suggestion and example, I believe children can be helped to hear the many voices about them.  Take Time to listen and talk about the voices of the earth and what they mean—the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of surf or flowing streams.

– Rachel Carson

It’s summertime and that means a lazier pace for most! Enjoying the outdoors, playing in the sprinkler or slip-n-slide, sipping lemonade and watching the fireflies at night.

I enjoy infusing sweet herbal books with past issues of HRz for some slow paced learning when it’s hot outside. To do this, I read a book with my kids and then we explore issues that correspond to the story. We pick and choose activities based on what we have available and what they are most interested in. I’ve listed a few books and ideas to get you started on this fun activity.

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The Fantastic Herbs by Carolina Major Diaz San Francisco

This lovely illustrated book was written about herbalist Mary Blue, inspired by her opening her garden to the public. A great picture book for the younger kids, this book covers Calendula, Bee Balm/Bergamot, Rose, Rosemary, Valerian, Marshmallow, Yarrow, Comfrey, Lavender, Red Clover, Passionflower, Mullein, Chamomile, Spilanthes, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Thyme, Nettles, Raspberry and Blueberry.

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The Herbalist of Yarrow by Shatoiya de la Tour

This wonderful story weaves a tale of a little girl who talks to the plants and uses them for good. Herbs in this story include: Angelica, Lemon Balm, Comfrey, Calendula, St. John’s Wort, Nettles, Elder, Mullein, Borage, Chamomile, Plantain, Red Clover, Garlic, Onion, Thyme, Usnea, Rosemary, Sage, Dandelion, Mint, Oatstraw, Marshmallow, Orange, Ginger, Licorice, Cinnamon, Yarrow, Vanilla, Lavender, Rose and Chickweed.

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Wildflower Tea by Ethel Pochocki

A gentleman harvests his herbs daily, drying them in his attic to make tea in the winter. The soft illustrations and gentle storyline make this book a perennial favorite. Perfect for a child who likes to blend their own herbal teas. Herbs mentioned are Apple, Blueberry, Plum, Cherry, Violet, Wild Thyme, Lemongrass, Rose, Edelweiss, Blackberry, Red Clover, Catnip, Yarrow, Mallow, Queen Anne’s Lace, Michaelmas Daisy, Goldenrod and Mint.

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Lessons from Mother Earth by Elaine McLeod

A grandmother teaches her grandchild about the importance of taking care of Mother Earth’s garden. This is a great book to discuss the importance of sustainable harvesting and foraging as well as the appropriate time to harvest plants. There are fewer herbs listed but still a great treasure: Lamb’s Quarters, Cranberries, Rosehips, Raspberries, Blueberries, Dandelion and Mushrooms.

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Song of the Seven Herbs by Walking Night Bear & Stan Padilla

This book contains seven stories, each on a different herb, based on Native American lore. This would make a perfect book to focus on one different herb each week. Herbs are Stinging Nettles, Yarrow, Dandelion, Violet, Chicory, Rose and Sunflower.

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Anna’s Summer Songs by Mary Q Steele

Fourteen poems make up this book. Cute illustrations, a great starting point to focus on individual herbs. Iris, Fern, Strawberry, Forget-me-not, Cornflower, Honeysuckle, Oak, Buttercup, Poppy, Chives, Rose, Lavender, Apple and Rowan.

yana-listens

Yana Listens by Nina Judith Katz

Yana is a little girl who hears the voices of the plant world and discovers how useful the plants in her yard can be. Yana faces her neighbors who want to spray the neighborhood with herbicides. Will Yana be able to convince her neighbors to honor the weeds that grow? In this book, Yana visits many plants including Oak, Maple, Pine, Apple, Plantain, Dandelion, Purslane, Nettles, Yarrow and Burdock.

How to get started

After choosing a book that most resonates with your child(ren), sit down and read the story with them. Decide on how many herbs you would like to learn about. Some children will want to learn snippets of each herb while others will want to go more in depth, maybe learning one herb a week.

For activities, songs, stories, recipes and more, select the corresponding issues of HRz. Each are linked here for your convenience. Download and print off a copy for each child. Preview each issue and decide on which activities you feel would be most appropriate. Older children will enjoy the entire issue while younger children typically enjoy the stories, songs and some of the crafts. Each issue also includes a resource page for watching videos and reading more about the herb.

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You might also wish to download a free herbal profile template and print a copy for each plant you will be learning about. This is a great quick sheet to jot down everything about each plant.

Most of all, make it fun! Summer is about loose learning. By letting your child(ren) choose which plants they want to learn about and the activities they most enjoy, they will learn a lot about the plants that grow around them in a fun way.

Are you incorporating herbal learning into your summer fun? Which herbs have you chosen to learn about? Tell us in the comments!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 73 – Learning About Mugwort

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

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Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
and shared a conversation with the house fly in my bed.

Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,
and joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,
once I spoke the language of the flowers…

        how did it go?

        how did it go? 

– Shel Silverstein

Mugwort is known by many names, sometimes dependent on the species, such as cronewort, moxa, sagebrush, white sage, silver sage, Saint John’s herb and wombwort to name a few. Botanically, Common Mugwort is known as Artemesia vulgaris. There are many other species of mugwort that can be used, such as A. lactiflora, A. douglasiana, A. frigida, A. tridentata and A. ludeviciana. Her botanical genus name, Artemesia, was named after Artemis, the goddess of the moon and the mother of nature. Mugwort is a member of the Asteraceae family.

Artemisia vulgaris

Let’s explore Mugwort’s energetics side. If you have her growing in your garden, pick a leaf for this experiment. Chew on a piece of the leaf, how does it taste? You probably want to spit it out, the taste is pungent and bitter. Does your mouth feel warm? Does chewing on a leaf leave your mouth feeling dry? Most herbalists describe Mugwort to be bitter, pungent, warming and drying.

Nutritionally, Mugwort contains vitamins A, C, K, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), and folate plus the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and zinc.

Mugwort contains many constituents such as tannins, resin, flavonoids, polysaccharides as well as the bitter principle absinthin, sesquiterpene lactones (vulgarin), sitosterol and several volatile oils (linalool, cineole, thujone, borneol, and pinene).

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Medicinally, Mugwort is considered to be analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antivenomous, aromatic, astringent, bitter, carminative, cholagogue, choleretic, diaphoretic, digestive, disinfectant, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hemostatic, nervine, oneirogen, purgative, stomachic, uterine stimulant, and a vermifuge. Let’s take a closer look at how Mugwort is used…

Typically, Mugwort is harvested right before flowering. I prefer to harvest Mugwort leaves for infused vinegars (see recipe section of this month’s issue for details) in the spring when she is only about 3-4 inches in height as this is the best time for harvesting Mugwort to be used as a food. For teas, oils and extracts, I harvest right before flowering. Mugwort is most often used as a tea, tincture, smudge or as moxa. The root of Mugwort has also been used medicinally.

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One of my favorite uses for Mugwort is gut related. Mugwort is top notch for easing intestinal cramping due to bad digestion, food allergies and spastic colon. Rely on Mugwort’s anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, bitter, carminative, digestive and stomachic actions to soothe many digestive complaints. Those who suffer from diarrhea or constipation, cramping and spastic bowels may find relief using Mugwort. Along the same lines, her cholagogue and choleretic actions stimulate bile production, helping to purge it downward in through the liver and digestive system.

Mugwort is also a gentle anthelmintic and vermifuge, helping to expel parasites. Although not as strong as her sister Wormwood, A. absinthium, Mugwort can be quite effective in this aspect. I feed a handful of Mugwort to each of my goats every couple of weeks to keep the worms at bay.

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Mugwort is traditionally used as a women’s herb. As an emmenagogue and uterine stimulant, she can bring on delayed menses. As a hemostatic, she has the ability to arrest heavy menses. For heavy cramping, Mugwort’s antispasmodic actions can soothe the uterine muscles, especially when cramping is at the beginning of a woman’s menses.

As a diaphoretic, Mugwort was traditionally used to help sweat out a fever. Combined with her expectorant actions, Mugwort can be helpful for treating various respiratory illnesses, especially those with intermittent fevers. As an antibacterial, studies have shown Mugwort to be effective against several types of bacteria such as Bacillus dysenteriae shiga, B. subtilis, B. typhi, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas, Staphococcus aureus and Streptococcus spp.

The root has traditionally been used for epilepsy and many types of seizures. It has been shown to reduce the number of seizures, sometimes reducing them altogether.

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Matthew Wood describes Mugwort as being an herb specifically for those who are highly intelligent, gifted and artistic who can describe complex, abstract and difficult

concepts but not able to remember the most simple words or names. In his book Seven Herbs: Plants as Teachers, he relates that A. tridentata is specific for dyslexia and learning disabilities.

Mugwort is great for those who get caught up in the daydream world. For those who are easily distracted, often off in another world, and who may have trouble falling asleep because of it, Mugwort can be helpful.

Artemisia vulgaris

As an oneirogen, Mugwort is often used as a dream herb. When you are taking Mugwort, your dreams are naturally stepped up. If you never remember dreams, you will with Mugwort! If you remember them, they will get more imaginative. Some people are able to control their dreams when taking Mugwort.

For the circulatory system, Mugwort is stimulating, especially for those who suffer from cold hands and feet. Applying an infused oil to the extremities can help to warm them up. Mugwort is also stimulating for cold stiffness, such as rheumatism.

Artemisia vulgaris

The topical oil is also great for a variety of other ailments such as achy, torn or pulled muscles, ligaments, and tendons, cramps, cuts, infections, bumps, bruises, contusions, insect stings and nerve pain.

Externally, a strong infusion or vinegar of Mugwort is great for poison ivy rashes. She helps to dry the rash while reducing inflammation from the reaction and reducing the pain.

For those who are on opiates, Mugwort can be useful for those who have paralyzed nervous systems and can be a key component when coming off of them.

Artemisia vulgaris

Historically, sprigs of Mugwort were placed in the shoes of travelers to keep their feet from becoming weary. Mugwort is soothing to tired and weary muscles and makes a great salve.

Mugwort is often made into bundles, just like her sister Sagebrush (A. tridentata) for smudging to purify the air. Not only can this clear the “energy” of a room but it can also clear the room of bacteria. This smudge can also be helpful in keeping insects away.

Mugwort is used in a unique way that other herbs are not, in the form of moxibustion or moxa. This is the use of specially prepared Mugwort (moxa) over pressure points of the body. There are two ways of using moxa, indirectly, by burning a stick of moxa above the pressure point and directly by placing the moxa on the body with the use of a barrier such as a slice of ginger or a layer of salt. Moxa is often indirectly used near the little toe of pregnant women to help turn a breech baby. Directly, salt is applied in a fine layer over the navel and a cone of moxa is burned for easing extreme diarrhea.

Artemisia vulgaris

Moxibustion has been shown to effect biochemical changes in the body such as the increase of white blood cells, the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Moxa is generally used in combination with other therapies on a specific condition.

Those who are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family should use with caution as they may be sensitive to Mugwort. A small percentage of people find Mugwort to cause contact dermatitis so it’s always best to start out in small dosages to ensure this does not happen. Mugwort is a uterine stimulant and can bring on delayed menses. Because of this, women who are pregnant or may suspect they are should avoid using Mugwort. Breastfeeding women may also want to avoid Mugwort as they may find it to be too drying. Prolonged use of Mugwort may be harmful to the liver. Those with liver disease should not use Mugwort.

Do  you use Mugwort? What is your favorite way to use it? Will you be planting Mugwort in your herb garden this year?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 72 – Using Your Herbal Vinegars

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Using herbal vinegars

“There is no one way to become a healer: no particular age and no special way for medicine spirits to come. When the time is right, they come.”

-Evelyn Wolfson, From the Earth to Beyond the Sky: Native American Medicine

In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned dandelion and violet make great vinegars. Last summer, I wrote a newsletter all about how to make vinegars with kids. If you are new to Herbal Roots zine and to infusing vinegars, check out that newsletter for more information. Today, however, we are going to talk about the next step, what we can use those vinegars for.

101 ways to use vinegars

Okay, well I don’t have that many uses but I imagine I could come pretty close if I really tried hard enough. Let’s take a look at some of the more common ways to use them.

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Combining vinegars with food

I like to follow Hippocrates lead when it comes to food and medicine. And since we all know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I try to incorporate herbs into our daily diet as much as possible. Herbal vinegars are a great way to add vitamins, minerals and medicinal qualities to our food. The following are some of my favorite ways to incorporate herbal vinegars into our daily diet.

Salad dressings – Make your own salad dressing with your own choice of infused vinegars combined with herbally infused oils

Seasoning for beans – Sprinkle your favorite flavored vinegar on beans for an extra kick. Cayenne, sage flower and blackberry leaf are a few of my favorites.

Topping for cooked greens – Try garlic infused vinegar or your favorite!

Seasoning for stir fry dishes – Match your vinegar to the vegetables you’ve cooked.

Soups – Some soups taste great with a dash of vinegar; for example, try a mint flavored vinegar with borscht.
Homemade mayonnaise – Making mayo? Add your own infused vinegar into the recipe for a special twist on the flavor.

Marinade for meats – Combine an infused vinegar such as bergamot, rosemary or thyme with an infused oil to use as a marinade.

Refreshing shrub drinks – Shrubs are a great break from sodas. There are many variations of shrubs, we have a recipe in our Blackberry issue.

Digestive tonic – Infuse with mugwort, wormwood, dandelion leaf and/or root, or chicory leaves and/or root

Mineral supplement – Infuse with mineral rich herbs such as raspberry or blackberry leaf, nettles, dandelion root, burdock root, chickweed, or mugwort

A few teaspoons a day...

Household uses for vinegar

Household cleaner – Any herbs will work great for this task. This is a great way to use up your vinegars that are getting old. Vinegars are great for cleaning windows, stovetops, sinks, tiles, tubs, showers and floors. Vinegar can also freshen up clothes in the laundry. I like to combine my vinegar with a bit of baking soda to make a gentle scrub when cleaning appliances. For getting tough grease off the stove, I add a drop or two of dish soap to the mix. This blend is best mixed right before using as it will fizz.

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Herbal vinegars for the body

Hair rinse – Infuse with chamomile (light hair), or rosemary (dark hair), or burdock seed (dry hair)

Facial cleanser and/or tonic – Infuse with rose, lavender, borage or calendula

Fungal control – Infuse with eucalyptus, peppermint and calendula

Sunburns – Infuse with Saint John’s wort, rose, prunella, or lavender

Poison Ivy relief – Infuse with jewelweed, peach leaf, sweet fern or mugwort and horsetail

Fevers – Infuse with bergamot, catnip, goldenrod flowers, or peppermint

Sore throat gargle – Infuse with sage leaf or flower, garlic, prunella, bergamot or thyme

Liniment for aches and sprains – Infuse with prunella, yarrow, or comfrey

Anemia – Infuse with yellow dock root, ashwagandha, blackberry leaf and nettles

Deodorizer – Infuse with witch hazel, lavender or sage

As you can see, herbal vinegars are very versatile and useful around the home. Hopefully these ideas will get you started in using the herbal vinegars that you are making!

Do you use herbal vinegars? How do you incorporate them into your everyday living?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 71 – It’s Spring, Make Some Violet Jelly!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

It’s Spring, Let’s Make Jelly

The child should learn to recognize and gather wild foods such as green salad herbs, berries and nuts of the hedgerows, and “fool-proof” mushrooms such as puffballs and orange chanterelles, though they should not be allowed to eat such foods until parents have passed them as safe. And they should learn to gather firewood and cut turf for the home fires.

– Juliette de Bairacli Levy

One of the best things about this time of year are all the blooming flowers! The yard is full of gorgeous violets, dandelions, tulips, jonquils and daffodils. Our favorite way to celebrate is to make jelly out of our dandelion flowers and violet flowers.

Our violet yard

Our violet yard with a few dandelions thrown in for good measure

Normally I like to use raw sugar but when I make violet jelly, I sometimes will get a processed white sugar, just so the results will be spectacular. It really makes a beautifully colored jelly.

This is my oldest daughter’s favorite jelly. So much so that she will gladly pick the flowers all day long to have enough for the recipe. She has recently taken over making it herself and even taught a friend how to make it.

Dandelion

The recipe

The recipe is basically the same for both, all you need are some volunteers to pick a bunch of violet or dandelion flowers. If you are using the dandelion flowers, be sure to remove the green sepals or the jelly will have a bit of bitterness to it.

4 cups freshly picked violet flowers (remove the stems)
4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
1 package liquid pectin
8 cups sugar

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Also gather:

1/2 gallon jar w/lid
9 – 10 jelly jars
Canning pot
Saucepan
Skimmer
Tongs
Dishcloth
Hot pads
Labels

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Place the violets in a 1/2 gallon jar. Cover with boiling water and let steep for 12 hours (up to 24 hours) in the fridge. Check out the color of the water! It’s a bluey-green color, so pretty. It’s going to change though!!

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When the violets are done steeping, make sure you have sterilized jelly jars ready to go. This recipe will make about 8 or 9 jelly jars worth of jelly. Place the lids in a pot of hot water and cover.

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Strain off the violets and place the liquid in a stock pot. Add the lemon juice. Wow! The color changes instantly to violet. Pretty neat, isn’t it?! Ask mom and dad to talk about chemical reactions with you!

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Add the pectin and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the sugar and boil vigorously for 3 minutes, skimming as needed.

Pour into jelly jars (also known as half pint jars). Wipe off the rims and place hot lids on top. Inverting them (turning them upside down) can help them to seal quicker. Leave them inverted for at least 7 minutes.

White sugar on the left, raw sugar on the right.

White sugar on the left, raw sugar on the right. It’s more evident in real life, the photo didn’t capture the lovely violet color.

Now, it’s time to enjoy them on some fresh homemade bread!

More fun with violet and dandelion

Violet and dandelion jelly is just one way to enjoy these delightful spring flowers. Both herbs have lots of medicinal uses and each can be eaten raw in salads. Try making violet or dandelion leaf vinegar. Simply add some leaves to a jar, fill with apple cider vinegar and let it sit for 2 weeks. The vinegar will extract the vitamins and minerals and can be used any way you use apple cider vinegar in cooking. Next week’s newsletter will give you some great ideas on how to use infused vinegars!

If you want to learn more about violet and/or dandelion, check out our back issues of each.

Do you use violet and dandelion flowers or greens in your daily meals? What’s your favorite way to use them?