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[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 83 – Lavish Licorice

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16th, 2018 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

lavish licorice

We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.’

– Jerry Garcia

When you think of Licorice, a black colored candy may come to mind. But did you know that Licorice is also a very prized herbal medicine? It’s a flavor that people either seem to love or hate but is often found in tea blends because of his sweet taste. How do you feel about Licorice? You might be surprised that many “Licorice” flavored candies today are actually flavored with another herb called Anise. But Licorice has a history of flavoring candies, teas, alcoholic beverages, cough syrups, throat lozenges and more. You will know if you are eating a true Licorice flavored candy if your tongue and lips become tinged with a yellowish-black color.

Let’s start off with a taste of Licorice. Take a piece of root and chew on it a bit. Bits of the outer bark may come off easily, just spit those out. What do you notice about Licorice’s taste? Do you find him to be sweet? Perhaps with an after taste of bitter? Does Licorice seem to dry up your mouth or moisten it? Does the herb in your mouth seem to be warming, cooling or neutral? Most people describe Licorice as sweet and slightly bitter, moistening and neutral to cooling.

Licorice’s main constituent is a glycoside known as glycyrrhizin or glcyyrrhic acid, which is 50 times sweeter than sugar. Licorice also contains saponins, phytoestrogens, coumarins, essential oils, flavonoids (isoflavones, liquiritin, isoliquiritin) and amines (asparagine and betaine). Nutritionally, Licorice contains protein, fat, calcium, choline, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, tin, zinc plus vitamins A, B (niacin/B3, riboflavin/B2 and thiamine/B1) and C.

Medicinally, Licorice is an adrenal tonic, alterative, antacid, antiarthritic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, antitussive, antivenomous, antiviral, aperient, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic, chi tonic, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, galactagogue, hepatoprotective, hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic, immune tonic, immunomodulator, mild laxative, lung tonic, nutritive, pectoral, phytoestrogenic, rejuvenative, sedative, sialogogue, and tonic.

Let’s take a look at what Licorice is used for…

Licorice is a popular herb to take for many respiratory ailments including coughs (especially dry, hacking coughs), sore throat, hoarseness, wheezing, bronchitis, shortness of breath, tuberculosis and mucus membrane inflammation. As a demulcent, he soothes dry irritated membranes while calling on his expectorant, antitussive and pectoral properties for soothing coughs. Licorice also helps to remove phlegm from the lungs that is stuck. For those who suffer from chronic asthma and have the need of steroids, Licorice can help to strengthen and tonify the lungs, assisting in their recovery and combines well with Saw Palmetto as a lung tonic.

Licorice’s neutral to cooling action combined with his moistening, demulcent and anti-inflammatory actions work well to soothe dry, inflamed and burning issues in the stomach, including gastritis, gastric ulcers and other stomach disorders, especially when caused by NSAIDs or corticosteroids. As an antacid, Licorice may help to neutralize an acidic stomach which can cause indigestion and heart burn. Licorice is very soothing to the gastrointestinal tract, nourishing, lubricating and providing a mild laxative effect. Licorice has also been used for combatting food poisoning and in cases of malabsorption syndrome, malnutrition and metabolic acidosis.

Besides stomach ulcers, Licorice is also helpful with ulcers in the mouth, and can be made into lozenges for helping with the mouth and throat. Licorice also makes a great toothbrush and may help to reduce cavities. One end of the root is chewed until it frays and the outer bark comes off (spit that part out of your mouth) then use the frayed end to rub over your teeth and gums. Before we had toothbrushes, roots and twigs were used in this manner to help clean teeth. Licorice’s antibacterial action helps to reduce the bacteria that causes cavities while his anti-inflammatory action can help to soothe and heal inflamed gums.


As an adrenal tonic, Licorice can be very helpful for those suffering from adrenocortical insufficiency (commonly referred to as Addison’s disease), chronic exhaustion, chronic fatigue syndrome and hypotension (low blood pressure). Studies have show that Licorice is helpful in recovery due to stress, burnout due to stress, diseases with chronic exhaustion and prolonged corticosteroid use, especially when combined with other herbs specific to the individual and their needs, a good diet and an exercise program. At the same time, Licorice’s chi tonic, immune tonic and immunomodulating effects supports the use of Licorice for recovering from adrenal insufficiencies.

It may surprise you that Licorice is also a cardiotonic, assisting with palpitations and  arrhythmias, especially when brought on by exhaustion. Licorice also is hypocholesterolemic, helping to lower cholesterol levels, and hypoglycemic, which helps to lower the blood glucose levels in the body, making Licorice a possibility for helping those with diabetes.

Licorice is a phytoestrogen and may be helpful for those with estrogen deficiency disorders, especially women who have amenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, depression or are going through menopause and presenting with hot, dry conditions.

As an antibacterial and antiviral, Licorice is effective against a variety of bacteria and viruses including pertussis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, hepatitis, peptic ulcers, laryngitis, and many other digestive, respiratory, and urogenital diseases.

It has been found that Licorice’s antioxidant, antimutagenic and antitumor actions may be effective in fighting tumors and cancer including liver cancer.

Topically Licorice can be used as an emollient for numerous dry, inflamed skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, pruritus (severe itchy skin) and cysts.

Because of Licorice’s sweet flavor, he is often added into formulas and teas that are not great tasting to enhance the flavor. It is also said that Licorice helps to increase the effectiveness of other herbs and pharmaceuticals. Because of this, Licorice should be used with caution in conjunction to other herbs and medications.

While it is good to know we can call on Licorice’s help with just about any condition that is presenting with hot, dry inflamed symptoms, we should approach some with caution. Licorice should not be taken in medicinal amounts for those with hypertension (high blood pressure) and water retention as excessive use may result in abnormally high levels of cortisol in the kidneys which may result in mineral imbalances, sodium retention, potassium depletion and edema.

Do you use Licorice? If so, what do you use it for?

Want to learn more about Licorice? Find the January 2018 issue in our shop!

Free Herbal Cold Care Chart

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7th, 2017 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


My latest newsletter talked about how great Turkey Tail is for winter health and in that newsletter I mentioned a few other herbal remedies such as Elderberry syrup and Fire Cider.

My friends John and Rosalee have put together a handy little chart of what herbs to use when for cold and flu season and they are giving it away for free!

You can grab it here.

This handy little chart can be printed out and hung on your fridge for easy access when you need it most.

It’s another great tool to have in your herbal toolbox for tackling the winter funk!


​​​​​​​Herbal Blessings,




P.S. When you download the chart, you’ll also get access to a video that shows you how to use it best. It’s available for a limited time, so go here to get it now:


[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 82 – It’s Turkey (Tail) Time!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2nd, 2017 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

It's Turkey (Tail) Time!

Let us hope that the destruction and pollution that our civilization wreaks upon nature will be brought to a halt; let us hope that our children in their turn will have the chance to admire the cornflower and the poppy and the wild rose and rejoice in their beauty… before they use them to ease their complaints!                 

-Maurice Mességué

Halloween has passed and with it, the last little remnants of summer. Autumn is well under way and headed directly to winter and with it comes the first round of colds and flus. This is the time to stock up on all our winter herbal favorites including fire cider, Elderberry syrup and Turkey Tail mushrooms!


This wonderful “white rot fungi” is a powerful ally to have on hand for this time of year due to his immunomodulating properties. Turkey Tail is a strong immunomodulator, meaning that he has the ability to help an overactive immune system to slow down and an under active immune system to speed up. Because of this, he works well for those with an impaired immune system and is often used to strengthen the immune system during cancer treatment, especially during chemotherapy. Turkey Tail helps to rebuild the weakened immune system during and after treatment. For those who have a suppressed immune system, Turkey Tail can assist in reducing the susceptibility to infections and has shown promise in supporting those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, you don’t need to be seriously ill to take advantage of Turkey Tail’s immunomodulating action. Adding a few mushrooms to your soup or stew pot can help to keep you healthy throughout the winter, as will a daily cup of decoction. Turkey Tail will help you to fight off colds, influenza and respiratory infections.

In addition to being an immunomodulator, Turkey Tail has also been used for those undergoing cancer therapy as not only assisting the immune system but in killing off cancer cells as well. Turkey Tail also has antifungal properties and has been used for ringworm and other fungal infections. An as antibacterial, Turkey Tail works well with impetigo too.

Turkey Tail is helpful for many liver problems including hepatitis B and C, cirrhosis and nephritis, thanks to his hepatoprotective properties. Studies are showing the effectiveness of Turkey Tail for reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and helping to control diabetes.

In China, Turkey Tail has been used for many applications including increasing circulation, relieving rheumatism, lowering fevers, stimulating a weak appetite, stopping diarrhea, treating hepatitis and other liver conditions, relieving chronic coughs and asthma and for assisting those with chronic fatigue syndrome.


There are more things Turkey Tail can be used for as well but I just wanted to point out what a great fungi Turkey Tail is to have around. Be sure to check out the November issue to learn all about Turkey Tail’s many uses.

There are many ways we can use Turkey Tail. The easiest is to throw a handful of them into your broths, soups and stews (remove them prior to eating as they are too tough to be eaten) or to make a decoction by simmering a few in water. For more serious consumption, using a double extracted tincture or capsules is the way to go.

How to make a Turkey Tail decoction.

1 – 2 tablespoons broken up Turkey Tail

2 cups filtered water

Place the Turkey Tail and water in the saucepan. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding more water if it boils too low.

Strain and flavor with honey and cream if desired or drink as is.

Adults drink 2 – 4 cups daily, children drink 1/2 – 2 cups daily.

This decoction is fairly mild flavored. You might find the addition of honey and cream to make it a bit more flavorful. Use it plain as an external wash for wounds, ringworm and impetigo.

Hope you enjoy this Turkey Tail recipe! For more great Turkey Tail recipes and information, check out this month’s issue of Herbal Roots zine!

Which herbs do you like to have in your winter repertoire for winter wellness? If it’s not already in there, will you be adding Turkey Tail to the list?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 81 – Burdock Band-aids

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12th, 2017 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


Can we teach children to look at a flower and see all the things it represents: beauty, the health of an ecosystem, and the potential for healing?

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

Burdock is one of those plants that you love and appreciate once you get to know him. If you don’t know anything about Burdock, you will probably be very disgruntled about his presence in your garden.

burdock flower

Burdock is a biennial, taking two years to complete his life cycle. He has rather large, handsome leaves, similar to the popular elephant’s ear landscaping plant but during year two, he puts up a stalk that grows thistle like flowers which turn into burrs and can become a long haired nightmare. Ever get a Burdock burr tangled in your hair or discover one in your pet’s? Then you know exactly what I’m talking about. And, if you never have, well, Burdock is the original Velcro, his hooked seedhead giving the creator inspiration for creating the hooked fabric.


Medicinally, most parts of the plants can be used: the roots, seeds and leaves. His roots, leaf and flower stalks are also edible.


The roots are viewed as slow acting, working long and deep in the system. Most herbalists these days accept that Burdock is an adaptogen, an action that was not historically used in traditional Western herbalism. Burdock works strongly on chronic issues, especially when liver support is needed. For instance, Burdock can help to clear acne, eczema and psoriasis but it can take several months to a year or longer before the effects are noticed. But, this slow action is strong and long lasting once it begins.


The seeds are more for acute situations. Crushed and infused in an oil, they make a great tonic for dry, itchy scalps.

My favorite part of Burdock; however, is his leaves. It is my number one go to for burn relief. Years ago I had read a story about how some of the Amish community were allowed to enter a hospital and use Burdock leaves along with a green salve for burn victims. The study compared their treatment to the traditional burn treatment. What the hospital discovered was that the burns covered with the Burdock leaves healed faster, were less painful and needed less care. When the Burdock leaves were removed from the burns, the skin stayed intact, unlike when regular bandages were removed. This gave the skin an opportunity to heal faster and left less scaring.

Burdock - Arctium lappa

A couple years ago, I got to try out first hand just how well Burdock works for burns. It was late in the evening and I was heating up a pot of water on the stove for some tea. A lid for a pan was sitting on the stove and without thinking, I grabbed the lid to move it to the counter behind me. Halfway around, I realize the lid was burning my fingers — it had been resting next to the burner and had gotten heated up. I set the lid down but immediately, my fingers turned a charred white from the burn. I ran them under cool water then proceeded to use my usual go-to burn relief herbs: vanilla extract, aloe, lavender essential oil. None of them were helping, in fact, I felt they were making the burn worse. The pain was intense. I recalled the use of Burdock leaves so I ran out into the garden with a flashlight to find me a leaf. Bringing it back inside, I used a rolling pin to break down the cells a bit then dipped it in the water I had heated for my tea, letting it steep a minute to further break down the cells. Once I removed and cooled it, I cut it into strips and wrapped it around my fingers.

Instant. Relief.


It was crazy. The pain was completely gone. I left the leaves wrapped around my fingers for the night and the next morning, when I peeled them off, I expected to see blisters or dead skin falling off. Instead, I was amazed to see only a bit of redness where the night before, the skin looked charred and dead.


From that day forward, I have kept a stash of dried Burdock leaves in my apothecary. To dry them, I generally cut out the middle vein, then lay them flat on a screen or in a basket to dry. Once they are dry, I roll them up and stuff them into a jar. Once spring arrives, I compost them and rely on fresh for the remainder of the growing year, harvesting again in the fall to have on hand through winter. It’s also in my travel first aid kit. For dried leaves I simply soak in boiling water for about 5 minutes, remove with tongs and cool then use.


Burdock leaves are also great for strains and sprains and relieving inflammation. Wrap a sprain the same way I wrapped my burnt fingers. As a bonus, the leaves are also mildly antibacterial, making them usual for not only healing wounds but keeping them free from germs in the process.


I have an entire issue on Burdock that gives a full rundown on all the uses of Burdock. However, if you are considering joining the Herb Fairies book club, you will get that issue for free as Burdock is one of the herbs in the series! Everyone who joins Herb Fairies gets 13 corresponding issues of Herbal Roots zine for free. Herb Fairies sign up is only around for a few days so if you’re interested, check it out now! Or, download the first book for free so that you can “try before you buy.”


Do you use Burdock? If so, what is your favorite use for it?

Herb Fairies is Giving Away Book One for Free!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 10th, 2017 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


Hope you are having a beautiful spring! So many herbs have been making their appearance, it seems daily I spy a new one reappearing. I just love this time of year!

And with spring is the return of the Herb Fairies Spring Book Club!

Have you heard about Herb Fairies? It’s an enchanting book series written by Kimberly Gallagher of and it’s adorable! My kids have been enamored with the series since its inception. It’s one of my favorite gems to share with my friends and kids when I’m teaching about herbs and now you can check out the first book for free!

If you haven’t heard of Herb Fairies, let me give you a brief synopsis…Herb Fairies is a 13 book adventure series that teaches kids about healing herbs. With Herb Fairies, not only will kids be entertained with the fun herbal adventure, they will also be learning valuable life skills at the same time. Life skills that will lead to healthier lives that are connected to nature. If you know me, you will know that I am a big fan of anything that connects kids to nature and healthy living!

There’s no catch, all you have to do is head over to the Herb Fairies website and they’ll send a digital copy of Stellaria’s Big Find to you. 

If you’ve been on the fence about signing up for Herb Fairies in the past, this is the perfect opportunity to check it out for free!

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

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22nd, 2017 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far


“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.


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?


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:

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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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

Photo credit: Jo Feterle of

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!