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[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 68 – The Meanings Behind the Names

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14th, 2016 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

The-Meanings-Behind-The-Names

Officinale….officinalis….vulgaris….purpurea….canadensis….nigra….have you ever wondered about the meanings behind the botanical names? Often a mix of Latin, Greek and other languages, what is the purpose of such strange names?

Botanical Naming History

Botanical names, known also as scientific names and Latin names, are a binomial naming system that was developed by Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus in the 1700’s. In his observations of plants, he discovered a natural order to the flowers, leaves and fruits of many plants and started to group them accordingly. He gave them a ‘first’ and ‘last’ name, similar to our names; however, in botanical nomenclature, they are switched around. The botanical last name is known as the genus and the botanical first name is known as the species.

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Genus names are always capitalized while species names are always lower case. An example of this would be Echinacea purpurea.

Often there may be several types of the same plant and we differentiate them by their species names. For example, there are several species of Echinacea including purpurea, angustifolia, paradoxa and pallida. When listing species names, it is proper to list the genus name first, i.e., Echinacea purpurea. However, if listing several in a row as I just did, instead of repeating the genus name each time, it is acceptable to abbreviate the genus with the first letter like this:

Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, E. paradoxa and E. pallida after you have written out the genus name for the first species.

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Why We Use Botanical Names

Whether you are new to herbalism or you’ve been studying it for awhile, you may wonder why we bother with using the botanical names. It’s hard enough remembering common names, even when they are easy to say such as “purple coneflower” as a generic name for Echinacea spp.

Red Raspberry - Rubus Idaeus

Red Raspberry – Rubus idaeus

There are a few reasons why it’s important to learn the botanical names. One is that there may be several different species of a plant that share a genus name. Sometimes they are interchangeable such as the species of Echinacea but sometimes, they may have different uses, or only one plant may be used medicinally such as Raspberry (Rubus idaeus, R. occidentalis) and Blackberry (Rubus villosus, R. fruticosus). While both Red Raspberry and Blackberry are used medicinally, they have different uses. Another example is Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). While T. parthenium is a commonly used, safe medicinal herb, T. vulgare is stronger and can be quite purgative when used in medium to large doses.

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Feverfew – Tanacetum parthenium

Another reason is that more than one plant may be known by the same common name. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is also commonly called Motherwort and Mayweed, the common name of two other herbs: Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Mayweed (Anthemis cotula). Common names may also vary region by region, making it hard for outsiders to understand the plants being referred to.

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Making Sense of Botanical Names

It’s easy to see why it’s important and useful to learn botanical names but sometimes the names are so crazy, it’s hard to remember them. Fortunately, a lot of species names are named after a characteristic of the plant such as the location the plant is native to, if it was a traditional plant found in pharmacopeias, plant coloration or the way the plant grows.

Traditionally used plants
Plants that were commonly used or listed in pharmacopeias often had species names such as:

Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale

officinale / officinalis – official plant listed in pharmacopeias

Examples: Rosmarinus officinalis, Taraxacum officinale

Prunella vulgaris (Self Heal, Heal All, All Heal) is a member of the Lamiaceae family.

Prunella vulgaris

vulgare / vulgaris – common

Examples: Thymus vulgare, Prunella vulgaris

Plants named by region
Often plants were named by the region they were located in such as:

Goldenrod - Solidago canadensis

Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis

americana – America, canadensis – Canada / chinensis – China / japonica – Japan / montana – Montana / occidentalis – Western North America / sylvestris – Woodland / virginiana – Virginia

Examples: Phytolacca americana, Solidago canadensis, Rosa chinensis, Lonicera japonica, Arnica montana, Rubus occidentalis, Malva sylvestris, Juniperus virginiana

Plants named by color
Sometimes plants were named because of their coloration, whether it be colorations in their stems, flowers or fruits such as:

Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis

Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis

alba – white / incana – grey / nigra – black / purpurea – purple / rubra – red

Examples: Salix alba, Scutellaria incana, Sambucus nigra, Echinacea purpurea, Ulmus rubra

Plants named by their growth habit or shape
Sometimes a description of their shape or growth habit gave plants their species names such as:

Evening Primrose - Oenethera biennis

Evening Primrose – Oenothera biennis

angustifolia – narrow-leaved / annua – annual / biennis – biennial / fructicosa/fruticosus – shrubby / glabra – smooth / lanceolata – lance-shaped leaves / reptans – creeping

Examples: Lavandula angustifolia, Artemisia annua, Oenothera biennis, Rubus fruticosus, Rhus glabra, Plantago lanceolata, Ajuga reptans

Resources for more names

Curious about more names? Check out these websites:

The Seed Site http://theseedsite.co.uk/latin.html

Gardening Know How http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/latin-plant-names.htm

Want to go deeper? Start learning plant families, these books will help:

Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure For Kids Ages 9 to 99 (book and card deck) by Thomas J. Elpel
Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel

Handcrafted Herbalism Free Mini-Course

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!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 67 – Learning About Forsythia

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7th, 2016 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

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“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

History, Energetics and Nutrition

Known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Lian Qiao, Forsythia suspensa is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in TCM. Forsythia suspensa is commonly grown in landscapes as is Forsythia x intermedia. Here in North America, we recognize Forsythia as a harbinger of spring, his bright yellow flowers blooming early before setting leaves on his branches.

The first blooms of spring, a welcome sight!

Energetically, Forsythia is said to be bitter, and cooling. You can test this by chewing on a dried fruit. The bitterness can be slow to notice, increasing in bitterness as you chew. I find him to also be a bit drying.

Nutritionally, the fruits contain vitamin P.  Vitamin P fortifies the capillaries. They also contain lignans, also known as polyphenols, such as forsythin, phillygenin, pinoresinol, and pinoresinol-β-D-glucoside, the flavonoid rutin, and triterpenoids such as betulinic acid, oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, β-amyrin acetate, and isobauerenyl acetate.

Forsythia suspensa dried fruits.

Medicinal Uses of Forsythia

Medicinally, Forsythia is said to be antibacterial, antiemetic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antitussive, antiviral, astringent, choleretic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant and laxative. Traditionally the fruit is used, either dried when green or after the seeds have dispersed. The flowers and leaves are also used. Lets take a look at Forsythia’s medicinal uses…

Forsythia is used primarily for clearing heat and eliminating toxins in Chinese medicine. He is often combined with Honeysuckle for treating colds and influenza. He is commonly used for viruses causing upper respiratory tract infections, acute bronchitis, tonsillitis, encephalitis B, meningitis, mumps and parotitis, especially when they are presented with a sore throat, cough and fever. Dr. James Duke likes to mix Forsythia with other antivirals such as Honeysuckle and Lemon Balm for best results. As an anti-inflammatory, Forsythia helps to reduce inflammation in the bronchial passages during illnesses. Taken at the first sign of an illness, Forsythia will stimulate the immune system to help fight off illnesses.

Flowers contain 4 petals and 4 sepals.

Flowers contain 4 petals and 4 sepals.

Forsythia’s diaphoretic, febrifuge and antipyretic actions help with reducing fever while his antitussive action suppresses coughs.

As an antibacterial, Forsythia has been shown to inhibit many types of bacteria, including Bacillus typhi, Hemolytic streptococcus, Moraxella catarrhalis, Mycobacterium tuberculi, Pneumonococcus spp., Shigella dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus and S. hemolyticus. He is listed by many as a broad spectrum antimicrobial.

Notice the lenticels on the stems.

Notice the lenticels on the stems.

For those suffering from acne, Forsythia has shown to be effective in inhibiting the secretion of the sebaceous glands, helping to improve oily skin to lower the incidences of acne caused by oily skin. An an anti-inflammatory, Forsythia can also help to decrease inflammation with acne while his antibacterial action helps to inhibit bacterial growth.

Forsythia has hepatoprotective actions and may be useful in protecting the liver from hepatotoxins. His choleretic action increases the volume of bile produced by the liver.

Leaves appear after the blooms.

Leaves appear after the blooms. Notice the fine hairs on the leaves.

As a laxative, a tea can be useful for combatting constipation.

Externally, Forsythia is used to treat boils, carbuncles and scrofula as well as inflammation and is often combined with Violet, Honeysuckle and Dandelion.

Forsythia has not been studied for use with pregnant or breastfeeding women but would best be avoided as he is an emmenagogue and may induce premature labor.

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Want to learn more about Forsythia? Grab this month’s issue for only $3.99. But hurry, the sale ends March 31, 2016.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 66 – Celebrating Valentine’s Day the Herbalist’s Way

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Celebrating Valentine's Day the Herbalist's Way

“Children the world over have a right to a childhood filled with beauty, joy, adventure, and companionship. They will grow toward ecological literacy if the soil they are nurtured in is rich with experience, love, and good examples.”

– Alan Dyer, “A Sense of Adventure”

2016 Herbal Valentines 2016 Herbal Valentines

A day for love, expressed through silly love notes and cacao, what could be better?! It’s the perfect day for herbalists to shine with something they are passionate about, the plants.

While we are not big on buying commercial chocolates in our house, we always enjoy making a meal with as much chocolate as possible: Chocolate barbecued chicken or Cacao encrusted pork tenderloin, Acorn or butternut squash seasoned with cocoa and other warming herbs, and a flourless chipotle chocolate cake or Pavlovas with fresh fruit and chocolate sauce for dessert. This year, I plan to add a salad, based on one I found online, a spinach pear salad with a chocolate vinaigrette.

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I always enjoy finding a way to incorporate herbs into our daily food and Valentine’s day is no exception!

Kids will get a kick out of eating chocolate for dinner, and especially when they can tell their friends it’s good for them too. With the exception of the dessert, there is almost no added sugar, only the flavor of cacao combined with spices and savory foods.

Here are a few recipes to get you started:

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Cacao Spice Butternut Squash

1 large butternut squash (Acorn can be substituted if you prefer)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 teaspoons cacao* or cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger*
1/4 t. ground ancho chili powder*

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice your butternut squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds (we like to roast them, see below) and brush the squash with olive oil.

Place the squash facedown on a baking stone or cookie sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or until tender. Larger squashes may take longer.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

Scoop out the flesh and mash in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined.

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Roasted Squash Seeds
(Great for salads or eating as is!)

Seeds from your squash
2 teaspoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
1/4 teaspoon cacao*
1/4 teaspoon garlic*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon*
1 pinch chipotle*

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.

Wash your seeds and pat dry on a towel.

Place on a cookie sheet and toss with the ingredients and roast for 45 minutes, stirring a few times during the cooking time.

Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.

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Spinach Pear Salad

1 package of fresh organic baby spinach (or mixed greens)
1 large pear, sliced into small bite sized pieces
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons roasted squash seeds or sliced almonds
1/4 cup gorgonzola or stilton cheese

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon raw honey
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
1/8 teaspoon black pepper*
3 tablespoons cacao* powder
1 tablespoon butter

In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. Turn off heat and whisk together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Toss the salad ingredients and drizzle with the dressing.

*If you are needing a source for fresh herbs and spices, check out Mountain Rose Herbs! It’s my favorite online shop for fair trade, non-gmo, organic and wildcrafted herbs.

2016 Herbal Valentines 2016 Herbal Valentines

Kids love a unique twist on food. Adding chocolate to their food is a tradition that they will want to repeat year after year.

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They’re Back!

2016 herbal valentines cover

These past few weeks, I have gotten lots of emails asking if I would be offering my free valentines again this year. My answer was absolutely! I had so much fun making them last year that I decided to make a whole new batch this year so you have double the choices this year.

2016 Herbal Valentines 2016 Herbal Valentines

So, why not print off some of my silly valentines, head off into the kitchen and cook up a delicious Valentine’s meal while filling out cards for all your friends and family!

2016 Herbal Valentines

For more in depth learning about the herbs we used this holiday season, check out their individual issues: Cacao, Ginger, Cayenne, Garlic, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Vanilla and Raspberry.

Do you have any traditions for your family for Valentine’s Day?

2016 Herbal Valentines 2016 Herbal Valentines

P.S. Don’t forget the Valentines:

herbal valentines cover

2015 contains Mullein, Violet, Rose, Dandelion, Pine, Aloe, Thyme, Willow, Horseradish and Usnea

2016 herbal valentines cover

2016 contains Reishi, Nutmeg, Butternut Squash, Plantain, Yarrow, Peach, Passionflower and Elderberry

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P. P. S. Learning Herbs is offering a FREE webinar tomorrow, Stop a Cold from Taking Hold! Given that this is that time of the year when we are all starting to feel rundown from the effects of winter, it’s perfect timing!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 65 – Calling on Cumin

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Calling-on-Cumin

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.”

– Rachel Carson

A popular spice in a variety of cuisines, Cumin has a long standing use in Ayurvedic medicine as well. This plant is native to Levant (the east Mediterranean) and India. This spice was popularized in the Middle Ages and often used in place of Black Pepper because of his accessibility.

There are several herbs that are known as Cumin. This issue of Herbal Roots zine is focusing on Cuminum cyminum, which is also known as Green Cumin, Jira, and Jiraka. Other Cumins include Black Cumin, Bunium persicum and Caraway, Carum carvi. Both are often used interchangeably with Cumin, though Caraway seems to be a closer match than Black Cumin.

Have you had Cumin before in your meals? If you’ve eaten Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and/or certain Chinese cuisines then you’ve most likely eaten Cumin.

Cumin Seed

Let’s have a taste of Cumin to discover his energetics. To do this experiment you will need some Cumin, preferably the fruits (which are commonly called seeds) though powdered will work if that’s all you have in your cabinet. Chew some of the fruits in your mouth and notice the flavors. The first thing you will notice is his bitter taste followed by a bit of pungency. How does your mouth feel? Does it seem to be warming or cooling? Views seem to be divided as to whether Cumin is warming or cooling. Most likely you will notice that Cumin does not seem to dry out your mouth or moisten it further because Cumin is neutral.

Nutritionally, Cumin if full of vitamins and minerals: vitamins, A, C, E, K, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), calcium, choline, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Cumin’s main constituent is his volatile oil, cuminaldehyde.

Medicinally, Cumin is an anodyne, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactagogue, stimulant and vermifuge. Let’s take a look at what this means…

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Cumin is best known as his use as a carminative and herbalists of the past deemed it to be stronger in this action than Caraway and Fennel but due to his disagreeable flavor as a tea, the use of Cumin for this practice fell out of favor. By adding Cumin to our food, we are taking advantage of this medicinal action. As a carminative and antispasmodic, Cumin is often added to a colic tea for babies. Adding Cumin to our food has more advantages than just being a carminative. Cumin is also a vermifuge, helping to kill and expel parasites from the body. Cumin is antioxidant, which means he will protect cells against the effects of free radicals. Being high in iron, Cumin is an important herb for those who are suffering from anemia.

Although Cumin is a mild emmenagogue and may bring on delayed menses, many women find Cumin to help with nausea associated with morning sickness and use it with no ill effects. Pregnant women should not use excessive amounts of Cumin because of his emmenagogue actions. Nursing moms may find Cumin beneficial by increasing their milk flow as he is an excellent galactagogue.

Cumin is also a mild diuretic, stimulating the flow of urine.

By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, via Wikimedia Commons

By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, via Wikimedia Commons

Cumin is often used to help fight off the common cold. My first experience with Cumin was back in the early 90’s when a friend of mine added a lot of Cumin to my chicken noodle soup when I was sick. I recovered quickly and have been sold on using Cumin ever since! Cumin is also recommended for coughs and fevers though I do not have any experience with him in this manner.

Studies show that Cumin gives promising results in lowering blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides, increasing bone density and protecting the liver from toxicity.

Externally, Cumin can be applied to bruises and swellings to ease pain and reduce swelling. Dr. James Duke, PhD., studied the properties of Cumin and discovered pain-relieving compounds, four of them combatting swelling and seven that are anti-inflammatory. He lists Cumin as an herb to take for those who are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, along with other herbs such as Chamomile, Cayenne, Willow, Turmeric, and Sage as well as gentle exercises and massage with herbal oils.

Cumin grows well in the garden but does need a long growing season so start your seeds indoors several weeks before your last frost date. There’s nothing like your own freshly harvested Cumin!

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Want to learn more about Cumin? Grab this month’s issue for only $3.99. But hurry, the sale ends January 31, 2016.

[Herbal Rootlets] No. 64 – Making Herbal Salves with Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

making-herbal-salves-with-kids

Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature.  Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.

– Zenobia Barlow, “Confluence of Streams”

Kids love to make herbal remedies. Salve making is easy to do and a lot of fun and kids take pride in being able to use it for themselves or their friends and family. Lip balms are made similarly to salves and can be another fun project. Salves are great for applying herbs where you need them without a huge mess. They are compact and can be traveled with easily and ready to use when the fresh herb isn’t around.

To make a salve, you first need to infuse your oil with herbs. You can read up here on how this is done if you missed the previous newsletter.

Let’s get started!
To make a salve, you will need your infused oils, beeswax and vitamin E. You can purchase vitamin E capsules at your local drugstore. You’ll only need a few drops.

Measure your oil and place it in the top of a double burner. For every 4 parts oil, add 1 part beeswax. For instance if you have 4 oz. of oil, you’ll add 1 oz. of beeswax.

Gently heat until the beeswax is melted. Dip a teaspoon into the salve and bring out, shake off. Let it set up either at room temperature or in the freezer for quicker results. When it has hardened, you can tell how thick the salve is. If you think it’s going to be too hard, add a bit more oil. If you’d like it harder, add a bit more beeswax. It will become a bit harder than it is on the spoon so keep that in mind when you make any adjustments.

When it is the consistency you want it, use the tip of a sharp knife to poke a hole in the vitamin E capsule and squeeze it into the salve. Stir and pour your salve into a wide mouthed jar or metal container.

Storing your salve
Salves store best in a cool, dark place. They generally remain useable for about a year. Smelling them often will indicate when they’ve gone bad as they will have a strong rancid smell. If this occurs, compost the salve and make a new one.

How about lip balms?
Once you make your own lip balm, you’ll be hooked! One batch of lip balm makes about 18 – 20 lip balms. You can use lip balm tubes or tins for pouring your salve in. Both can be found on eBay fairly inexpensively.

1/2 oz. almond oil
1/2 oz. jojoba oil
1 oz. shea butter
1 oz. beeswax
1/4 teaspoon honey
1/8 t. vitamin E
2 tablespoons Dried herbs of choice (Calendula, Prunella, Plantain are some good choices)
Essential oil of choice such as orange, peppermint, cinnamon or vanilla extract

Place chosen herbs in a mini crockpot or double boiler and cover with almond and jojoba oil. Let gently simmer for 2 -3 hours until herbs have infused with oil. The herbs will look spent. Alternatively, if you already have your oil made, you can use a previously infused oil.

Strain off the herbs.

Add the shea butter and beeswax to the mini crockpot and return the infused oil until melted. Stir to combine. Add vitamin E oil and essential oils and stir to combine.

Pour your lip balm into a small glass measuring cup that has a pour spout on it. Carefully pour the lip balm into the tubes or tins.

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What some more sources of information about making herbal salves?

Try these books:

A Kid’s Herb Book by Lesley Tierra page 94

Healing Wise by Susun Weed pages 273

Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech pages 87 – 88 (Second part of Chapter 10)

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green Chapter 18: Ointments, Salves & Balms pages 201 – 208 (click to see online…5 pages are missing from this version)

Herbal salve are easy to make and easy to use. They are a great next step for kids to learn how to make.

Have you made herbal salves or lip balms with your kids? What kinds did you make and what did you use them for?

Giveaway Monday – Cacao from Mountain Rose Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 6 Comments

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO CHRISTINA M., SHE IS THE WINNER!***

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In honor of the December issue of Herbal Roots zine, we are giving away this awesome Cacao package from Mountain Rose Herbs:

4 oz Raw Cacao $3.50

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4 oz Roasted Cacao nibs $5.00

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4 oz Roasted Cacao powder $4.25

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4 oz Cocoa Butter $5.50

Cocoa_Butter

This collection of Cacao products will give you plenty of inspiration when working with Cacao!

Mountain Rose Herbs is a certified organic processor through Oregon Tilth which is fully accredited with the USDA National Organic Program. Since 1987 they have continuously worked for the advancement of sustainable organic agriculture and state they will continue this lifelong passion into the future. They wholeheartedly recommend discovering the joys to be found in organic food products and the best place to start is right here at Mountain Rose Herbs. From the herbs they offer, to the teas they process and the oils they have distilled.

M0untain Rose also has a great YouTube Channel which offers an amazing amount of tutorials and educational videos, many created by John Gallagher and Rosalee de la Foret of Learningherbs.com.

You can also follow them on their Blog for more information and great Giveaway offers!

Love Mountain Rose Herbs? You can show your support by ‘liking’ them on Facebook. Tell them Herbal Roots zine sent you!

Want a chance to win this awesome package from Mountain Rose Herbs? Leave a comment, telling us if you’ve ever worked with Cacao medicinally before. For more chances to win, leave a separate comment every time you do one of the following:

-if you’re a kid, tell me how old you are and what your favorite Herbal Roots zine activities are

-Check out MRH’s website and tell me some of your favorite things

-Blog about it (leave reference link)

-Follow Mountain Rose Herbs and Herbal Roots zine on Pinterest and pin this giveaway with hashtags #mountainroseherbs #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your pinterest name in comments so we can find you)

-Become a follower of Mountain Rose Herbs and Herbal Roots zine on Twitter and tweet this giveaway with hashtags #mountainroseherbs #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your twitter ID in comments so we can find you)

We’ll announce the winner on Monday, January 4, 2016!

[Herbal Rootlets] No. 63 – Making Herbal Oils

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

making oil infusion

“Once upon a time, children would have learned about the many uses of plants—as food, as decoration, and most importantly, as medicine—from their elders. A wise woman or man who had learned the ways of the plants would have guided children as they discovered the natural world around them. Our world is very different now, but plants still have much to teach us.”

-Ellen Evert Hopman, Walking the World of Wonder

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In herbalism, there are many ways to extract herbs to make remedies. Infusions are a common method and can involve water, alcohol, vinegar, or oil. Today we are going to focus on oil infusions.

Oil infusions are fun and easy to make with kids. They will enjoy making an herbal remedy that they can use on themselves.

Why oil infusions?
Oil infusions (not to be confused with essential oils, which are a completely different process) infuse the constituents of herbs in oil. Resins, gums and oleoresins are most soluble in oils. Other active principles such as the hypericin in St. John’s Wort, as well as essential oils, mucilage and alkaloids are all partially soluble in oils. These make oils that are great for topical use. They can be massaged directly on the skin, or combined with other ingredients to make salves, lotions, creams and even soaps for using topically.

Internally, infused oils are great for using as a base for salad dressings or any other way that oils are used in cooking. They are best used on food after the cooking is finished so that the constituents of the herbs are not cooked out of them.

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Which oils are best?
A variety of oils can be used for making infused oils. Olive oil is a standard, all purpose base and works well as a massage oil, salve base or salad dressing. If you want to make an oil specifically for a massage oil, almond oil, apricot kernel oil and grape seed oil are all lighter and work especially well for this task. Coconut oil is also a great base, especially if you will be using it in your hair. Be aware that coconut oil generally solidifies at temperatures cooler than 76 degrees fahrenheit. Don’t limit your oils to vegetable oils. Animal oils can be used as well: emu oil, lanolin, lard, tallow, butter and ghee are all excellent oils to use.

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St. John’s Wort flowers make a great herbal oil for sunburns and nerve pain.

What herbs infuse best into oils?
Some herbs that are great for skin include Calendula, St. John’s Wort, Comfrey, Plantain, Prunella, Chickweed, Cottonwood, Garlic, Ginger, Lavender, Goldenrod, Birch, Burdock, Cayenne, Mullein and Black Pepper. The list is endless but these are a few to get you started!

Calendula flowers make a great herbal oil.

Calendula flowers make a great herbal oil.

Whichever herbs you use, it’s best to use dried herbs for the infusion. If you must use fresh, let the plants wilt for at least 8 hours so that some of the moisture will come out of the plant material. The exceptions to this rule are St. John’s Wort, Mullein and Garlic which infuse best fresh.

Infusing Cottonwood. Photo by Ananda Wilson.

Infusing Cottonwood. Photo by Ananda Wilson.

Let’s get started!
First decide what you would like the oil for. If you want to make a lovely massage oil for achy muscles, try infusing a massage type oil such as apricot or almond with herbs for achiness such as Birch, Cottonwood, Goldenrod, Lavender or Prunella. These plants work great for sprains, strains, bumps and bruises too.

For a wound healing oil, which can later be made into a wound healing salve, herbs such as Calendula, Comfrey, Plantain, Chickweed and/or Cottonwood can be used. If you are using Comfrey on wounds, be sure to add an antibacterial herb such as Calendula to the mix since Comfrey can be quick to heal skin over a wound, trapping any debris and germs inside that may not have been thoroughly removed.

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Fresh Ginger infused oil

For help with circulation, Ginger, Cayenne and Black Pepper work great. Mullein and Garlic oil make a nice ear oil, especially with a little St. John’s Wort added in.

St. John’s Wort makes a mild sunscreen, especially when infused in Sunflower oil which also has sunscreen properties. Burdock seeds, smashed and infused in oil make a nice scalp oil for treating dandruff.

Jaden with a bouquet of Prunella, ready to be dried and made into oil.

Jaden with a bouquet of Prunella, ready to be dried and made into oil.

How to infuse oils
Once you’ve decided what type of oil to make, it’s time to get started! To make an oil, place a handful of herb in the top of a double boiler. Pour enough oil to cover, bring the water below to a boil then turn down and gently heat for 2-3 hours. Turn off the heat and strain out the herbs from the oil by pouring it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze the cloth to get the final bits of oil out of the plants.

Pour your oil into a jar and cap it. After 48 hours, check to see if anything has settled to the bottom. Usually when using dried material, there will not be anything settling but when your plants are fresh, water can sometimes mix with the oil during the infusion process and will settle to the bottom. If this happens, you will want to strain off the oil from the sediment at the bottom as the sediment will cause the oil to go rancid.

There are alternative methods for oil infusions. The basic premise of oil infusions is to heat the plant material at a level that the pores open and release the medicinal constituents but not so much that you cook the plant material. Any heat source is acceptable although a continuous heat source is best.

Sun Method:

Fill a jar about 1/2 full of dried plant material in a jar and fill to the top with oil. Stir with a chopstick to get air bubbles out and put on the lid. Set jar outside in the sun for about 2 weeks. Bring inside and follow instructions for straining and settling.

Crock Pot Method:

If you are making a larger quantity of oil, you can heat it in a crock pot. Place the desired amount of herb and oil into the pot, set on low and let heat overnight. Follow instructions for straining and settling.

Storing your oils
Whichever method you use, it’s best to store your oils in the refrigerator so that they won’t go rancid. Oils typically last about a year, sometimes longer. Smell them regularly and you will notice if they go off, they get a peculiar smell about them.

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What some more sources of information about making oil infusions?
Try these books:

A Kid’s Herb Book by Lesley Tierra

Healing Wise by Susun Weed pages 271 – 273 (Similar version taken from Breast Cancer? Breast Health! can be found online here: http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/July09/breasthealth.htm )

Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech pages 81 – 86 (First part of Chapter 10)

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green Chapter 17: Oil Infusion pages 193 – 200 (click to see online…3 pages are missing from this version but you can see most of this chapter).

Herbal oils are easy to make and easy to use. They are a great ‘starter remedy’ for kids to learn how to make.

Have you made herbal oils with your kids? What kinds did you make and what did you use them for?

Herbal Blessings,

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Giveaway Monday – Black Pepper Package from Mountain Rose Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 23 Comments

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO COMMENT #9, RACHEL, SHE IS THE WINNER!***

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This week’s theme is Black Pepper, our herb for November!

4 oz Black Peppercorn

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4 oz Long Pepper

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1 bottle Rainbow Pepper

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This collection of Black Pepper products will give you plenty for learning about Black Pepper over the next month.

Mountain Rose Herbs is a certified organic processor through Oregon Tilth which is fully accredited with the USDA National Organic Program. Since 1987 they have continuously worked for the advancement of sustainable organic agriculture and state they will continue this lifelong passion into the future. They wholeheartedly recommend discovering the joys to be found in organic food products and the best place to start is right here at Mountain Rose Herbs. From the herbs they offer, to the teas they process and the oils they have distilled.

M0untain Rose also has a great YouTube Channel which offers an amazing amount of tutorials and educational videos, many created by John Gallagher and Rosalee de la Foret of Learningherbs.com.

You can also follow them on their Blog for more information and great Giveaway offers!

Love Mountain Rose Herbs? You can show your support by ‘liking’ them on Facebook. Tell them Herbal Roots zine sent you!

Want a chance to win this awesome package from Mountain Rose Herbs? Leave a comment, telling us if you’ve ever worked with Black Pepper before. For more chances to win, leave a separate comment every time you do one of the following:

-if you’re a kid, tell me how old you are and what your favorite Herbal Roots zine activities are

-Check out MRH’s website and tell me some of your favorite things

-Blog about it (leave reference link)

-Follow Mountain Rose Herbs and Herbal Roots zine on Pinterest and pin this giveaway with hashtags #mountainroseherbs #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your pinterest name in comments so we can find you)

-Become a follower of Mountain Rose Herbs and Herbal Roots zine on Twitter and tweet this giveaway with hashtags #mountainroseherbs #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your twitter ID in comments so we can find you)

-Follow Mountain Rose Herbs and  Herbal Roots zine on Instagram and share this giveaway with hashtag #giveawaymondayhrz  and tag @herbalrootszine (list your Instagram name in comments so we can find you)

-Sign up for the Herbal Roots zine monthly newsletter (and receive an issue for free!)

Sign ups end on and I’ll draw the winner on Monday, November 23, 2015. Thanks for entering and good luck!

How you can follow your passions with your kids in tow

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!
One of my childhood horses, "Spooky".

One of my childhood horses, “Spooky”.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a zoologist or a graphic designer or a truck driver. My passions were animals, art and travel. I loved to be outside with my cats and my horse, playing in the woods, concocting meals from foraged plants, reading books while curled up in a tree, my imagination opening the world around me. And while I didn’t “become” any of those early aspirations, I did follow my passion. As I grew up my passions changed a bit but always travel, animals and art were there, along with the outdoors.

The one and only oil painting I ever painted in my senior year of high school.

The one and only oil painting I ever painted, done in my senior year of high school.

With the birth of my first child, I started seeking more natural ways of living for his sake. Those natural ways led me to learn about using the plants for health and medicine which led to another passion, herbalism.

Being in the midwest and finding myself single again with two kids in tow, I didn’t have the option of traveling around or moving to find an herbalist to study with. The internet was not like it is today, dial-up was tediously slow. The library had limited options for system book loans and their selection of herbal books was non-existent. The only option that I found was Rosemary Gladstar’s correspondence course and I jumped on that whole heartedly. It was a great place to get started learning about herbs.

My first born child, who prompted me to start living a more natural lifestyle.

My first born child, who prompted me to start living a more natural lifestyle.

Today, it is easier for moms to get ahold of herbal materials to study. Library loan systems rock and the internet supplies lots of great choices. Herb books are a dime a dozen. Learning herbalism is easier than it ever has been. But it can also be confusing. So many choices to choose from!

One of the number one questions I am asked is how parents can take the next step in learning. Herbal Roots zine is a great first step for teaching about the herbs, but how can you take those herbs and apply them? If herbs aren’t like pharmaceuticals, take this herb for that ailment, then how do we know how to match them correctly? It can be overwhelming!

The inspiration behind Herbal Roots zine.

The inspiration behind Herbal Roots zine, my youngest two whom I have homeschooled since day one.

After studying herbs for 10 years, I learned there is more than just knowing the herbs. You have to know the people too. And how to match them up, so they can form a partnership in healing. And slowly, over the next 10 years, I began to learn that, through conversations with other herbalists, more studying, more reading, more conferences, more, more, more

Boy, would I have been happy if I’d been able to take Rosalee’s course Taste of Herbs 10 years ago! She makes it so easy to understand this important piece of the puzzle.

If you are a parent and you are ready to take that next step, I encourage you to check out her videos to see how easy it can be to learn this important next step. Not only are they great for adults but I feel the course is easy enough that older children will also benefit from this knowledge.

Sadly, this course, while it is a ‘work at your own pace’ course, closes enrollment tonight at midnight. It’s been 2 years since they last offered this course and it will probably be another 2 years before they offer it again.

This course is created by John Gallagher and Rosalee de la Foret of HerbMentor.com. And as a bonus, they are giving anyone who enrolls a FREE one year membership to HerbMentor.com, a really cool website that has been super helpful for folks interested in herbs and herbalism. You won’t see this membership offer listed in the Taste of Herbs page but you will get the information upon registration.

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If you are wanting to take that next step, for yourself, or maybe even with your kids, I urge you to check out Taste of Herbs to see what it’s all about, download the free “herbal compass” and recipe ebook (who knew chocolate cake could be good for you and medicinal too?!) and take that important next step on your herbal journey. Your passion will thank you!

P.S. Taste of Herbs closes tonight for registration but you can follow the course at your own pace. And if you watch the videos but still have more questions, John and Rosalee are doing a live Q&A call today at 1pm PACIFIC TIME  (2pm Mountain, 3pm Central, 4pm Eastern). The details are on their webpage.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 62 – The Benefits of Black Pepper and the Bitter Truth About Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

the benefits of black pepper

Foolish things:
A blacksmith who never touches horses, a musician with only music paper, a physician who sees no patients, a theoretical ballet dancer, a pharmacist reduced to counting pills, an herbalist who gathers no plants.

― Michael Moore, Southwest School of Botanical Medicine

Piper nigrum vine and unripe fruits By J.M.Garg (Own work) GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Piper nigrum vine and unripe fruits by J.M.Garg (Own work) GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

You’re probably familiar with Black Pepper as a popular seasoning for food but did you know that Black Pepper is actually a great medicinal herb as well? Like many of our culinary herbs, Black Pepper is an important herb that has been used far back in history for medicine.

Black Pepper is a tropical plant in the Piperaceae family, known botanically as Piper nigrum. Peppercorns were once used as a form of currency when exotic trades were hard to come by. Today, Black Pepper can be purchased rather cheaply and is a staple in just about every household. Ancient Egyptians used Black Pepper in their mummification process! Piper longum, or Long Pepper, is closely related to Black Pepper and is used as well, especially in Ayurvedic medicine.

Have you ever seen a mixed jar of peppercorns? Black, white, and green, they all come from the same plant. The color is determined by the time of harvest and the process method. Black peppercorns, the most commonly used, are harvested before they are ripe, boiled and then dried in the sun. The next most common is the white, they are harvested when the berries are fully ripe and then the outer skin is removed. Green peppercorns are harvested before they are ripe and then preserved through freeze drying, brining or in vinegar and served in pickle form. When dried, they do not last long. Pink peppercorns, though often combined with black and white, are not actually a true pepper, they are harvested from the Brazilian Pepper Tree, Schinus terebinthifolia, and have a mild pepper taste.

Close up of Piper nigrum vine and unripe fruits by K Hari Krishnan (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Close up of Piper nigrum vine and unripe fruits
by K Hari Krishnan (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ready for a fun Black Pepper experiment? Lets see what he tastes like! If you happen to have the various colored peppercorns, try this with each of them and compare their tastes. Get a peppercorn from the pepper grinder. If you only have ground Black Pepper, that will work too, though it won’t be as potent. Put the Black Peppercorn between your front teeth and crack it open. What do you notice? It’s probably very warming on your tongue! Don’t spit it out yet, keep chewing with your front teeth and notice the energetics. It has a sharp taste, very pungent. When that hits the back of your throat, do you notice the acrid taste? Acrid grips at your throat. If you have a cold when you try this experiment, you may start coughing, and bringing up a lot of phlegm. We’ll talk about this action later. One final thing to note, does he seem to dry out your mouth? Moisten it? Or does it seem to be neutral? I find Black Pepper to be warming, pungent, acrid and neutral to mildly drying. OK, go ahead and spit it out now!

Black Pepper’s main constituent is the alkaloid piperine. Piperine contributes an important role in the use of Black Pepper by making the food and herbs we consume with him more bioavailable. Piperine does many other things as well, such as offering pain relief, increasing our brain’s production of serotonin, increases our adrenal glands’ production of epinephrine, decreases stomach ulcers, increases the pancreas’ production of digestive enzymes, reduces inflammation when caused by irritation and allergies and relieves asthma symptoms. Black Pepper also contains volatile oils and oleoresin, which are often used in perfumery. Other constituents include chavicine, an isomer of piperine, coumaperine, and piperidine. Black Pepper can render astringents inert so caution should be used when taking Black Pepper with other herbs for their astringent properties.

Nutritionally, Black Pepper contains several vitamins and minerals: choline, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), vitamins A, C, E and K as well as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. He also contains carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber.

Medicinally, Black Pepper is considered to be analgesic, antibacterial, anticonvulsant, antidiarrheal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant, rubefacient, stimulant and vasodilator. Let’s take a look at what we can do with Black Pepper…

Piper longum, a close relative of P. nigrum  I, GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Piper longum, a close relative of P. nigrum by I, GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

As an expectorant and stimulant, Black Pepper is great to get mucus flowing when it is  thick and stuck. If you have a hot, irritated, dry cough, it’s best to stay away from Black Pepper as he will only make the condition more hot and dry. When congestion is present, Black Pepper helps to stimulate and clear it away.

Black Pepper is helpful as a stimulating diaphoretic for colds and influenza, especially when there are fevers with cold chills, raising the body’s temperature to help reduce fever through sweating. Asthma sufferers may benefit from Black Pepper’s actions as well.

Like Cayenne, Black Pepper’s rubefacient action is stimulating to the extremities, making him useful for cold hands and feet.

Black Pepper is best known for his use as a carminative and all things digestive. He stimulates the appetite, improves digestion and eases digestive disorders including indigestion, diarrhea and flatulence while at the same time is a gentle laxative, stimulating bowel movements when constipated. Traditionally, Black Pepper was used to treat cholera.

For those dealing with anxiety, Black Pepper can be helpful in reducing anxiety. Chewing a peppercorn, taking a whiff of some essential oil or having a cup of spicy chai with Black Pepper in it can all assist with anxiety.

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Piper nigrum, ready to be ground

Research has shown that Black Pepper’s constituent piperine has been effective in improving the bioavailability of substances in our foods such as beta carotene, pyridoxine (B6), selenium and amino acids. The bioavailability of Turmeric, Goldenseal and Juniper are also increased when combined with Black Pepper. Black Pepper will also increase the bioavailability of many pharmaceutical drugs as well so use with caution and consult a healthcare provider before using medicinal doses if you are on medications.

As an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, Black Pepper has been found helpful for reducing pain and inflammation from arthritis. Black Pepper oil and peppercorns have been used to help ease the pain of a toothache.

Black Pepper shows promise with antimutagenic actions in suppressing cancerous tumors.

Large doses of Black Pepper can cause gastric reflux problems to increase. Black Pepper is also considered a mild contraceptive, interfering with egg implantation when taken long term in large doses as well as decreasing fertilization in men and decreasing testosterone.

With all that Black Pepper has to offer, it’s kind of hard to refuse adding him to your meal!

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Want to learn more about using Black Pepper medicinally? Check out this month’s issue of Herbal Roots zine, Benevolent Black Pepper, on sale through the end of November for only $3.99.

BitterTruth

I have some cool news if you want to know how to match the right herb to the right person…

This Thursday night, LearningHerbs and Mountain Rose Herbs are presenting a free webinar called “The Bitter Truth About Herbs”.

In this webinar Rosalee de la Forêt and John Gallagher will…

* show you how TASTE helps you know exactly which herbs to use

* demystify herbal energetics into a PRACTICAL system you can put to use immediately

* explain how the bitter taste reduces anxiety, stimulates digestion, balances blood sugar, and much more

Simply register here.

You’ll be able to ask questions on the webinar and Rosalee and John won’t hang up until they drop! :-)

They are well known for their epic webinars…and live giveaways & surprises.

It’s happening tomorrow night, Thursday, November 5, so go check it out now.