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

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21st, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


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!

[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!


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.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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!


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

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


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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!


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Also gather:

1/2 gallon jar w/lid
9 – 10 jelly jars
Canning pot
Hot pads


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!!


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.


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!


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?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 70 – Eleuthero: King of Adaptogens

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
An eternity in an hour.”

– William Blake

Known as Siberian Ginseng in some parts of the world, Eleuthero has a long history of use as medicine. In the United States, it is illegal to refer to Eleuthero as Siberian Ginseng in commerce as the name Ginseng is used for plants in the Panax genus. Eleuthero is often referred to as the “King of Adaptogens”. We’ll discuss more on that later.

Energetically, Eleuthero is said to be bitter, acrid and warming in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Matt Wood describes Eleuthero as slightly sweet. How would you describe Eleuthero’s taste? Experiment with a bit of dried root. Traditionally the root bark is used but the leaves also contain medicinal properties.

Nutritionally, Eleuthero contains crude and dietary fiber, fat, protein as well as calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin (B3), phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin (B2), selenium, silicon, thiamine (B1), vitamins A and C and zinc. He also contains the macronutrient, Choline, an important nutrient for liver function, normal brain development, nerve function, muscle movement, supporting energy levels and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Choline is an important nutrient that helps the brain in learning and memory detention. Eleuthero contains sterols, coumarins, flavonoids and polysaccharides.

Eleuthero, leafing out in spring.

Eleuthero, leafing out in spring.

Medicinally, Eleuthero is said to be adaptogenic, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, bitter, chemoprotective, ergogenic, hypoglycemic, immunomodulating, insulinotrophic, neuroprotective, radioprotective, restorative and tonic. Let’s take a closer look at how we can use Eleuthero…

Eleuthero is best known for his adaptogen capabilities and given his title of the “king of adaptogens”, there is probably good reason for this. From Donald Yance’s book, “Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism”, “Eleuthero protects the body and enhances its various systems against the ill effects of any type of stress…Eleuthero demonstrates favorable effects on favors human functions as well, including visual acuity, color differentiation, hearing, fatiguability and thinking in association with motor activity. More so than any other adaptogenic agent it displays a normalizing effect regardless of physiological abnormalities…decreases adrenal hypertrophy and spares the loss of vitamin C from the adrenal glands.”

Close-up of Eleuthero leaves

Close-up of Eleuthero leaves

He is also supportive of lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing hypertension and relieving angina, especially when stress induced. His is best combined with Motherwort for best results.

As an immunomodulator, Eleuthero helps to strengthen the immune system over time to reduce the chance of catching a cold or other common infectious disease.

Athletes have used the power of Eleuthero’s ergogenic action to increase endurance and stamina which enhanced their performance. It is often combined with Schisandra, Rhodiola or Cordyceps to improve cognitive function and alertness, especially when under severe stress, making this combination good for supporting students and practitioners who put in long working hours with little sleep (though this should not be used as a long term solution). At the same time, as a circulatory stimulant, Eleuthero can help to improve learning and memory function. Many Soviet athletes, cosmonauts, pilots, miners, train operators and factory workers have relied on Eleuthero’s actions to increase their stamina and endurance.

Hairy petioles and veins.

Hairy petioles and veins.

Diabetics may benefit form Eleuthero’s hypoglycemic and insulinotrophic actions, helping the body to restore and nourish the production and activity of insulin and is especially supportive while the diabetic works on their diet and lifestyle to help manage their glucose levels.

Eleuthero is also neuroprotective, supporting and protecting the nervous system while nourishing it.

For those undergoing chemo or radiation, Eleuthero’s chemoprotective and radioprotective actions will protect their body from decreased white blood cell counts and bone marrow suppression while inhibiting metastasis and cancer reoccurrence. After Chernobyl, Eleuthero was used to counteract the effects of radiation for many citizens. Eleuthero also protects the liver and enhances its ability to break down and eliminate chemicals and drugs from the body and stimulates protein synthesis in the liver, pancreas and adrenal cortex. He is great for protecting the body from environmental pollutants as well.

Herbalist Deb Soule with her beautiful Eleuthero plant in bloom. Check out her video:

Herbalist Deb Soule with her beautiful Eleuthero plant in bloom. Check out her video:

As an antioxidant, Eleuthero further protects the body from free radicals.

For those who enjoy spending time outdoors regardless of the weather, Eleuthero is good to have on hand in case of hypothermia as he can help to normalize body temperature.

Though generally considered safe, Eleuthero can cause overstimulation in sensitive people so those who are sensitive to stimulates should use with caution as he may cause jitters, rapid heart beat and headaches. Eleuthero may react with digoxin so anyone taking it should not taken Eleuthero. Eleuthero has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of mycin-class antibiotics.


Want to learn more about Eleuthero? This month’s issue is on sale until the end of April.

April 2016 – Elusive Eleuthero

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1st, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


This month, Eleuthero takes center stage as we explore his many uses. Known as the King of Adaptogens, Eleuthero is traditionally used for longevity, to increase stamina and endurance and to help with many functions of the body. This is a great herb to have on hand if you are undergoing chemo or radiation.


Learn more about this herb through songs, stories, games and more in this month’s issue of Herbal Roots zine.

Elusive Eleuthero Table of Contents:

Note to Parents
Supply List
Herb Spirit
All About Eleuthero
Herbal Glossary
Scramble, Search and More: Word Search, Circle the Energetics, List the Vitamins and Minerals, Word Scramble, Multiple Choice, How Many Words
Herbal Botany
Herbal Lore: The Birth of Eleuthero
Songs and Poems: The Eleuthero Song, Eleuthero Haiku
Herbal Recipes: Eleuthero Extract, Eleuthero Decoction, Eleuthero Capsules, Adaptogen Digestive Blend, Energy Balls
Coloring Page
Herbal Crafts: Drawing/Pressing of Eleuthero, Growing Eleuthero from seed and cuttings
Herbal Jokes and Puns
Maze: Can you find your way through the Eleuthero leaf?
Journal: Write your thoughts, medicine making notes and other information about your month with Eleuthero
Crossword Puzzle

50 pages from Cover to Cover. This month only, $3.99. After April 30, 2016, the price will go up to $7.99. To purchase your instant eBook download in PDF format, click here:

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Or, you can subscribe for an entire year of Herbal Roots zine for just $34.99

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 69 – Trees of Spring

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21st, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I just love this time of year! To celebrate Spring’s arrival, all back issues of Herbal Roots zine are 40% off!

I just love this time of year! (I can’t say it enough). The peepers are peeping, the grass is greening and the trees are blooming! Last year I wrote about herbs that grow from the ground and I thought it would be appropriate for us to look up and appreciate the medicinal trees that grow all around us. 

So you can identify common spring plants, what about the trees?

Trees are often overlooked for their medicinal value. Though they are often grand, providing us with shade in the summer, privacy from our neighbors and branches to hang swings from, we often forget that trees can provide us with health as well. Have you ever hugged a tree? I highly recommend it. Though hugging a tree is often waved off as being dippy hippy, science has proven the power of hugging a tree. You may have noticed that after your kids come inside from playing in the backyard, they seem calmer. And while a lot of that expended energy comes from the natural play of childhood, the vibrations of trees can help children to function better mentally and physically.

Today we are going to take a virtual tree walk and talk about some of my favorite trees of Spring.

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel flowers photo by Ananda Wilson

Witch Hazel flowers photo by Ananda Wilson

This beauty starts blooming in late winter and depending on your region may already be done blooming but I still like to include her into the mix. Most people are familiar with Witch Hazel as she is commonly sold in drug stores as an astringent. Have you ever used Witch Hazel to clean your face? As a deodorant, Witch Hazel is also useful to freshen up when you don’t have access to a shower and can clean odors from your hands as well. Witch Hazel can also be applied to your body before working out to help keep you from straining your muscles. Forgot to rub it on pre-workout? Apply Witch Hazel afterwards to soothe tired and aching muscles. This antispasmodic is great for menstrual cramps as well, simply soak a cloth, apply it to your stomach and cover with a hot water bottle. There are so many uses for Witch Hazel, she’s a worthy tree to plant in your yard!

Want to learn more about Witch Hazel? Check out the issue here.


Hawthorn tree blossoms photo by Rosalee de la Foret

Hawthorn tree blossoms photo by Rosalee de la Foret

This tree can seem intimidating with his thorns but once you learn about Hawthorn, you will realize the message is one of your protection. Hawthorn is for the heart, both physical and emotional. When working with someone who has heart issues, whether it’s a weak physical heart or a grieving emotional heart, Hawthorn knows how to protect and soothe. Hawthorn also strengthens and protects the joint lining, collagen and discs in the back, making the extract useful during chiropractic adjustments. Hawthorn also helps with poor digestion, diarrhea and more.

Want to learn more about Hawthorn? Check out the issue here.


Peach tree blossom

Peach tree blossom

I just love the bright pink blooms of Peach! This glorious Spring bloom is starting to open in my neck of the woods, swiftly chasing Plum’s blooms down in the orchard. A member of the Rose family, this tree is one of my constant go to’s for everyday ailments. The flowers, leaves and twigs can all be harvested to make a sweet, cooling and moistening extract that can be used as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, demulcent diuretic that is great for soothing digestive complaints, respiratory complaints and more. I love to use Peach for insect stings, taking the extract internally while applying a compress of it directly to the sting. Peach instantly soothes the sting, reduces swelling and overall reduces the length of time it takes to recover. For spasmodic coughs, Peach is wonderful and has been used for pertussis, bronchitis and dry, tickling coughs that are not productive.

Want to learn more about Peach? Check out the issue here.


Malus spp. (Apple) is in the Rosaceae family.

Apple tree blossoms

Aah, Apple! Blooming shortly after Peach, Apple is another member of the Rose family. Again I like to harvest the flowers, leaves and twigs for making a delicious extract. Adding a bit of honey makes a delicious elixir that’s easy to take for soothing fevers, digestive complaints, diarrhea and more. Similar to Rose, I like Apple for soothing matters of the heart. Infusions from the leaves may be useful as an eye wash for glaucoma and cataracts.

Want to learn more about Apple? Check out the issue here.

Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry tree blossoms

Wild Cherry tree blossoms

This is one of the first trees I discovered blooming on my farm when we moved there. I was (and still am) enamored by the blooms that spilled from the branches. From the almond scented bark to the delicate white flowers to the tart berries, Wild Cherry is a favorite for treating spasmodic coughs, anxiety and some digestive complaints. Wild Cherry’s bark is most appropriate for hot coughs that may be productive or not. Wild Cherry works great for treating heart palpitations, especially when combined with anxiety, as well as restlessness and tension headaches. Wild Cherry is appropriate for conditions that are hot and red. Typically the inner bark or twigs are used but the flowers, leaves and berries can be used as well. Leaves should be looked over carefully, discarding any wilted, fermented or rotten parts as the entire tree contains a cyanide-like glycoside. While this may seem frightening, Wild Cherry is safe as long as you use only healthy parts of the tree and avoid chewing the seeds, similar to the recommendations for eating apples.

Want to learn more about Wild Cherry? Check out the issue here.

What trees are blooming in your neighborhood? Have you ever used any trees in your herbal apothecary?

Check out our previous spring related articles:

Herbal Rootlets Newsletter No. 37 – Planning Your Herb Garden with Kids

Herbal Rootlets Newsletter No. 38 – 5 Ways to Get Ready for Spring with Herbs

Herbal Rootlets Newsletter No. 43 – Preparing Your Garden for Spring Planting

Herbal Rootlets Newsletter No. 44 – Herbs for Spring


Handcrafted Herbalism Free Mini-Course 2

Handcrafted Herbalism: Free Mini-Course

Starts March 23rd!

Foraging ~ Botany ~ Medicine Making

Are you interested in learning about herbalism, but don’t really know where to start? We’ve got something just for you! This FREE mini-course, Handcrafted Herbalism, offered by our friends at Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, is a solid introduction to the most important subjects herbalists need to learn: plant identification, foraging and medicine making. You’ll connect with thousands of herb lovers from around the globe and be introduced to leading herbal experts. It’s simple to enroll: click on this link by March 22nd.

The course runs March 23rd through March 31st, and is self-paced, so you can access the videos, audio, and written lessons when it’s convenient for you! The audio and printable lessons are yours to keep so you can revisit the material year after year.

This class would be excellent for teens who are wanting to lear about herbs!