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[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.


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!


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.


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.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 61 – The next step in teaching your kids about herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with plant species disappearing at alarming rates. We need botanists! We need young people to embrace the wonders of plant life and to be ambassadors for the ancient beings that make life possible on this planet we call home.”

― Susan Leopold

It has been awhile since I have had a moment to compose a newsletter for all my wonderful subscribers and I apologize. I am gearing up to get back into the swing of sending out weekly newsletters full of great tips and ideas for working with herbs and kids, please bear with me. I appreciate your patience.

For all my new subscribers, welcome to the list! I have lots of great back issues of this newsletter and you can access them all on my website here.

Many of you have been with me since day one (thank you so much for your years of support) and while Herbal Roots zine is great for your kids, you may wonder what is the next step for YOU. Or perhaps you have teenagers who may still love Herbal Roots zine but are ready for that next step.

Today’s newsletter is for you, and them!


Earlier this year, I discussed teaching kids about the tissue states and tastes of herbs. They are a foundational building block of taking herbal learning to the next step. Herbalism is more than just herbs, it’s knowing people and knowing which herbs to match them with. And while Herbal Roots zine does a great job of teaching kids (and adults) all about herbs and their energetics, we have not been able to take the next step in teaching how to match the herbs to people (so little time, so much information…).

One thing in this life’s calling that I am grateful for is community. And connections. And teachers. And knowing many herbalists who have many walks in life, all within the herbal community that I am grateful to be a part of. Which leads me to the point of today’s newsletter, how to take this knowledge on step further.

My good friends Rosalee and John have put together the next step in a really awesome way. While the course is too advanced for most children, I feel that teens who have studied herbs and adults who have a basic knowledge will really appreciate what they have created. This course is a great learning tool to take your herbal knowledge to the next step.

Vending machine for the sale of drinks. Vector drawing for your design and advertisements

Vending machine for the sale of drinks. Vector drawing for your design and advertisements

Check out the video they’ve posted today and you’ll see what I mean. They also have lots of great free handouts to download that help you to take the next step. Honestly, I love the Herbal Compass that Rosalee has created and I keep a copy on my desk for quick reference. It’s an herbal cheat sheet to make using herbs easy peasy, as Jamie Oliver would say.

Next week I’ll be diving back into great ideas for teaching the younger crowd. If you have a question or topic you’d like me to talk about in a future newsletter, please drop me a line at

 ​​Herbal Blessings,


[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 60 – Ahh-aah-CHO! Ragweed to the Rescue?!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 5th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

Aah-aah-CHO! Ragweed to the Rescue?!

The Environmental Protection Agency now warns us that indoor air pollution is the nation’s number one environmental threat to health- and it’s from two to ten times worse than outdoor air pollution. A child indoors is more susceptible to spore of toxic molds growing under that plush carpet; or bacteria or allergens carried by household vermin; or carbon monoxide, radon and lead dust. The allergen level of newer, sealed buildings can be as much as two hundred times greater than that of older structures.

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

As I sit here to write this newsletter, my writing is interrupted in a volley of sneezes. Ahhh, Ragweed has struck at last! In the years past, this time of year was a time of misery for me on a daily basis for weeks at a time. Since working with herbs to treat my seasonal allergies, I now generally only suffer one or two days for the entire season. Blessed herbs!

As always, I attack with a multi-pronged approach. I drink Nettles infusions several times a week throughout the year. In the spring, when Ragweed sprouts out of the ground, I start adding a leaf to my daily tea, increasing the dosage as the leaf size increases. And when an episode happens, I take a few doses of Ragweed extract and the spell is over by the end of the day. This month’s issue, Redeeming Ragweed, is about how our foe, Ragweed, can be turned into our ally. The following is an excerpt from this month’s issue…

Ambrosia artemisifolia & A. trifida growing side by side.

Ambrosia artemisifolia & A. trifida growing side by side.

Sneaky Ragweed, shyly blooming in the autumn, has a tiny green flower that is not visible without closely searching the plants upper stalk to find it. Goldenrod generally gets the blame for the allergies that are caused this time of year, unfairly so as Goldenrod is insect pollinated while Ragweed, blooming at the same time, is wind pollinated, freely sharing his pollen with anyone within sneezing distance.

Interestingly enough, the plant that causes much misery (he is the number two cause of allergens, following closely behind the number one spot held by mold), can also be the cure. Like cures like, as homeopathy suggests, and Ragweed is no exception. I prefer to add small amounts of leaf to my morning teas throughout the season, increasing the size of the leaf as the plant grows. In doing so, my body has become acclimated to the Ragweed and autumn is no longer dreaded. Similarly, the tincture can be taken over the year or taken during an acute episode to relieve the symptoms as well. More on this later.

Ambrosia trifida seedling

Ambrosia trifida seedling

Common Ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, removes lead out of the ground more efficiently than any other plant, making him a good crop for cleaning lead toxins from the soil.

Ambrosia artemisifolia seedling

Ambrosia artemisifolia seedling

Ragweed is often called Ragwort, the name of another plant that contains toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, Jacobaea vulgaris, syn. Senecio jacobaea, which is also called Ragweed. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are toxic to our livers, as well as animals which may consume the plant. This is a great example why it’s important to learn the botanical names of plants!

Ambrosia artemisifolia leaf

Ambrosia artemisifolia leaf

Historically, the Native Americans grew fields of Ragweed. Were they crazy? It would seem so but interestingly enough, the seeds (and leaves) of Ragweed have a great amount of nutrition to be had. The seed, or grain, contains 47% crude protein and 38% crude fat according to Green Deane. Given the botanical name of “Ambrosia” or “food of the Gods”, it seems likely that Ragweed was at one time considered a staple of their diet and documented by white man who later named it accordingly. Ragweed also contains calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, sulfur and zinc. He most likely contains vitamins but no studies could be found with that information.

Ambrosia trifida leaf

Ambrosia trifida leaf

Ragweed contains a good many constituents including volatile oils, quercetin and bitter alkaloids.

If you have Ragweed growing in your yard or garden, pick a leaf to try this experiment. Chew a bit of the leaf and notice what you taste. Is the leaf bitter? How does it make your mouth feel? A bit dry? Does it seem to warm it up or cool it down? Most agree that Ragweed is bitter, drying and cooling.

Ambrosia trifida male flowers

Ambrosia trifida male flowers – there’s a lot of sneezing power in that pollen!

Medicinally, Ragweed is antibacterial, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, circulatory stimulant, febrifuge, hemostatic, kidney tonic, stimulant, styptic and tonic. Let’s take a look at what this means…

Ambrosia trifida male flowers on top, female flower at the base.

Ambrosia trifida male flowers on top, female flower at the base in the leaf cluster.

If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to Ragweed, you won’t forget it: itchy eyes, nose and throat, sneezing, runny nose, eyes bloodshot; a whiff of the pollen is enough to make many people miserable. It is possible to build up a tolerance to the plant, by taking small doses of it throughout the year. It’s generally best to start as soon as the plant emerges from the ground, building up the amount taken as the seasons progress. Likewise, an extract or homeopathic dilution can also be taken to help nip the reaction in the bud. Ragweed is also helpful for rhinitis, or a stuffy nose, as well as sinusitis and ear infections caused by allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies). Herbalist jim mcdonald uses Ragweed similarly to treat tissues that are swollen, inflamed and leaking, along with Goldenrod, Yarrow and Ox Eye Daisies. As an antiphlogistic, Ragweed helps to reduce inflammation of tissues and membranes, especially those associated with the sinuses.

Ambrosia trifida male flowers, can you see the star patterns?

Ambrosia trifida male flowers, can you see the star patterns?

Ragweed can also help to reduce fevers associated with colds and infections. As an added benefit, he is antibacterial and antiviral, helping to ward off the colds and infections at the same time.

As a styptic and hemostatic, Ragweed helps bleeding to stop. Chewed leaves can be applied as a poultice on a cut or nosebleed, stopping bleeding fast. Powdered Ragweed is useful for this as well and easier to keep on hand for use any time of year. Combined with his astringent actions, Ragweed is helpful for treating hemorrhoids too.

Ambrosia trifida

Ambrosia trifida – Giant Ragweed

Herbalist Tommie Bass spoke of other folk herbalists using Ragweed for treating kidney problems though he never used it himself. Ragweed has a tonic effect on the kidneys, and has been historically documented as such. William Cook, in his book The Physic-Medical Dispensatory: A Treatise on Therapeutics, Materia Medica, and Pharmacy, written in 1869 wrote: “a use of a strong devotion influences the kidneys considerably, sustains the tone of the stomach, and slowly elevates the circulation”.

Ragweed is very drying and astringent, making him a good herb to use for treating diarrhea, especially crampy diarrhea and dysentery. This same drying action can help to reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth as well for those who have an overabundance of saliva.

Want to learn more about Ragweed and his uses? Check out this month’s issue of Herbal Roots zine, on sale through the end of the month.

Giveaway Monday – Motherwort Issue of HRz

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 14 Comments

***Congratulations to this week’s winners: Mark Egelston, Nancy Estes and Cindy!***jul2015-motherwort

This week we are giving away a copy of the July issue of Herbal Roots zine, Marvelous Motherwort to 3 lucky people!

Motherwort is one of my top 10 herbs. We all could use a little Motherwort in our lives at one time or another. While Motherwort is often considered an herb for women, Motherwort is beneficial for everyone. Not only is she wonderful for the reproductive system, she is also wonderful for treating anxiety and nervous conditions as well as treating many problems with the heart, both physically and emotionally.

Marvelous Motherwort Table of Contents:

Note to Parents
Supply List
Herb Spirit
All About Motherwort
Herbal Glossary
Scramble, Search and More: Word Search, Circle the Energetics, List the Vitamins and Minerals,  Word Search, Word Scramble, Multiple Choice
Herbal Botany
Herbal Lore:
Songs and Poems: If You’re Cranky and You Know It, Motherwort
Herbal Recipes: Motherwort Extract, Motherwort Tea, Happy Heart Tea, Motherwort Oil, Motherwort Vinegar, Motherwort Flower Essence, Ginger Motherwort Chicken
Coloring Page
Herbal Crafts: Pressing/rubbing/drawing of Motherwort, Motherwort Pendant
Herbal Jokes and Puns
Maze: Can you find your way through the Motherwort leaf?
Journal: Write your thoughts, medicine making notes and other information about your month with Motherwort
Crossword Puzzle

52 pages from Cover to Cover

You can become a fan of Herbal Roots zine on Facebook if you would like to do so.

If you’d like a chance to win this month’s issue, leave a comment below, telling us who this issue would benefit (yourself, your kids, your grandkids, etc). For more chances to win, you can leave a separate comment each time you advertise this giveaway by:

-Kids, you get 1 extra point for being a kid! Leave a comment telling me how old you are and what you like best about Herbal Roots zine.

-blogging about it

-tell us which herb you’re most excited to be learning about this year with Herbal Roots zine

-telling me your favorite section(s) of Herbal Roots zine

-share this giveaway on your Facebook page

-follow Herbal Roots on Pinterest and pin this giveaway with hashtags  #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your Pinterest name in comments so we can find you)

-follow Herbal Roots on Instagram and pin this giveaway with hashtags #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your Instagram name in comments so we can find you)

-follow Herbal Roots on Twitter and tweet this giveaway with hashtags #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your Twitter name in comments so we can find you)

Sign ups end and I’ll announce the winner on Monday, August 3, 2015. Good luck!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 59 – Making Herbal Vinegars with Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23rd, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist. Better to be an untutored savage for a while, not to know the names or anatomical detail. Better to spend long stretches of time just searching and dreaming.

— E.O. Wilson, The Naturalist

Looking for a simple herbal project to do with your kids? How about making some herbal vinegars? For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this is a great time of the year to make vinegars as we have lots of herbs in abundance right now.

A few teaspoons a day...

A few teaspoons a day…

Why herbal vinegars?
There are many reasons for making and using herbal vinegars. Typically, apple cider vinegar is used which has a lot of healing properties itself. Vinegar helps to build strong bones, improves skin tone, lowers cholesterol, and much more. Vinegar is great at extracting minerals from plant materials, something water and alcohol isn’t always good at. Vinegars are versatile in their use too. They can be applied externally to sunburns and fungi for soothing relief. Internally, vinegars can be added to a glass of water for a refreshing healthful drink, combined with an herbal syrup to make shrub (how to can be found in the Blackberry issue), combined with herbal infused oils to make salad dressing, and sprinkled on beans and grains. We can use leaves, flowers, roots and seeds for making vinegars, though they should be harvested in season. Roots are best harvested in the spring or fall, leaves before the plant flowers (or after if it is an early blooming plant) and flowers right as they open.


Making Spruce Vinegar

Herbal vinegar making basics
Herbal vinegars are easy to make, making them a great project to do with kids. Letting kids make their own vinegars from their chosen plants empowers them to take control of their health. Kids who make their own herbal remedies are more likely to want to use their own herbal remedies.

To make a vinegar, you will need:

A jar with a lid
Waxed paper
Apple cider vinegar
Fresh herbs of choice
Knife and cutting board

Chop up the herbs you are using. You can make a simple (a single herb in vinegar) or blend a few herbs together. Simples are more versatile and can be blended later to make more elaborate vinegars but combinations are wonderful too (see the note of fire cider at the end of this article).

Chopping needles and adding to the bottle.

Chopping needles and adding to the bottle.

Fill your jar half to 3/4 full of chopped up herbs. Pour the vinegar to fill the jar to the top, leaving 1/2 inch air space.

Adding vinegar to the bottle.

Adding vinegar to the bottle.

Place a piece of waxed paper over the top of the jar, then screw the lid on. The waxed paper will prevent the vinegar from corroding the lid if it is metal (you can omit the waxed paper if your lid is plastic).

Label your vinegar and set aside for 4 – 6 weeks, out of direct sunlight.

The pickled herbs can be chopped and added to salads or eaten straight when it comes time to strain them off. We find it easiest to just leave the pickled herbs in the vinegar and eat them as we want, using the vinegar as needed, until the jar is empty.

Your herbal vinegars should last indefinitely, they are well preserved but will be most potent in the first year of use.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) vinegar

Chickweed (Stellaria media) vinegar

Herbs that make great herbal vinegars
Many herbs can be added to vinegars. Herbs that have lots of minerals work well, as do aromatic herbs. This is a short list of possibilities.

Bergamot (Monarda spp.) flowers and leaves
Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus, R. villosa, R. canadensis) leaves
Burdock (Arctium lappa) roots
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) leaves
Chickweed (Stellaria spp.)
Chicory (Chicorium intybus) roots
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves and roots
Fir (Abies spp.) needles
Lavender (Lavedula spp.) flowers and leaves
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) leaves
Mugwort (Artemeisa vulgaris) leaves

Nettles (Urtica dioica) vinegar

Nettles (Urtica dioica) vinegar

Nettles (Urtica dioica) leaves
Pine (Pinus spp.) needles
Plantain (Plantago spp.) leaves
Raspberry (Rubus idaeus, R. occidentalis) leaves
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) blossoms
Rose (Rosa spp.) petals
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Sage (Salvia officinalis) leaves and flower buds
Spruce (Picea spp.) needles
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Violet (Viola spp.) leaves
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) roots

Fire cider, it's so easy, anyone can make it!

Fire cider, it’s so easy, anyone can make it!

Don’t forget about fire cider!
Fire cider should be the staple in every home for winter health! A combination of Apple cider vinegar, honey, Garlic, Onion, Cayenne, Horseradish and other herbs, this traditional herbal recipe was brought to popularity by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar many, many years ago. For more info on the benefits of fire cider and how to make your own, download our free fire cider ebook. For a more in depth look, you may choose to purchase the ebook with corresponding Herbal Roots zine issues.

Recipes to try using your vinegars

Linda Conroy of Moonwise Herbs shares her salad dressing recipe:

A few shrub recipes:

Susun Weed on vinegars:
Part 1:
Part 2:

Do you use herbal vinegars? What are your favorites? Do your kids like making and using herbal vinegars? Tell us about your experiences with herbal vinegars in the comments.

Giveaway Monday – Boneset Package from Mountain Rose Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on July 20th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 13 Comments



This week’s theme is Boneset, our herb for August!

8 oz organic Boneset herb


1 oz organic Boneset extract



This collection of Motherwort products will give you plenty for learning about Motherwort 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

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 Boneset 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, July 27, 2015. Thanks for entering and good luck!

Giveaway Monday – Motherwort Tea Cup from Mulberry Mudd

Posted in Uncategorized on July 13th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 14 Comments


This week I am delighted to give away this beautiful Motherwort tea cup from Mulberry Mudd. Motherwort is such a wonderful ally to have and this tea cup is a wonderful reminder of all she can do for us.


This beautiful teacup is handleless and rests comfortably in your hands. The body of the tea cup is made with tan clay, has the stalk of Motherwort etched into the front and a flower of Motherwort etched into the back.  It holds approximately 16 oz. and fits comfortably in your hands, warming them as the hot beverage contained within it warms your insides!  What would be your favorite drink in this cup?


About Rebekah:


Artist and herbalist Rebekah Dawn has been walking with the plants for as long as she can remember. A life long love has translated into passionate study of herbal lore that has deepened and grown through the years. She currently lives with her family at Labyrinth Gardens, a United Plant Saver Botanical Sanctuary, where she gives monthly plant walks and medicine making workshops. When she is not in the garden or wild-crafting she is most likely in her ceramic studio. Rebekah is the Teen Camp Coordinator for the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference.

Be sure to stop by to check out her other items in her store. She makes beautiful Herbal Faeries, pendants, birdhouses, mugs and more! She also does custom orders so if you have a special ally or idea, convo her with questions! There may be a few other one-of-a-kind pendants featuring past Herbal Roots herbs as well! Rebekah uses naturally found elements in nature combined with clay to create these amazing pieces. Her sculptures are amazing, incredibly original and just plain wonderful. I fall in love with each one she creates.

Each piece in Rebekah’s store is original in every way, she uses no molds or reproductions ever. A percentage of her profits go to Tree Sisters and Radical Joy for Hard Times each month, and the rest builds her own Botanical Sanctuary at Labyrinth Gardens.

You can become a fan of Mulberry Mudd on Facebook if you would like to do so.

If you’d like a chance to win this one of a kind Motherwort tea cup, leave a comment below, telling me what your favorite beverage would be to sip in it. For more chances to win, you can leave a separate comment each time you advertise this giveaway by:

-Kids, you get 1 extra point for being a kid! Leave a comment telling me how old you are and what you like best about Herbal Roots zine.

-blogging about it

-tell us which herb you’re most excited to be learning about this year with Herbal Roots zine

-telling me your favorite item in her store

-share this giveaway on your Facebook page

-follow Herbal Roots and Mulberry Mudd on Pinterest and pin this giveaway with hashtags #mulberrymudd #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your pinterest name in comments so we can find you)

-follow Herbal Roots on Instagram and pin this giveaway with hashtags #mulberrymudd #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your Instagram name in comments so we can find you)

-follow Herbal Roots on Twitter and tweet this giveaway with hashtags #mulberrymudd #giveawaymonday #herbalrootszine (list your pinterest name in comments so we can find you)

Sign ups end and I’ll announce the winner on Monday, July 20, 2015. Good luck!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 58 – Learning About Motherwort

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far


If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.

-David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia

Motherwort is commonly known as “Mother’s Little Helper” because of her ability to help ease stress and tension for weary moms. While Motherwort is wonderful for this aspect, she is also useful for many other ailments as well.

A member of the Lamiaceae family, Motherwort’s botanical name is Leonurus cardiaca, “leonurus” referring to lion and “cardiaca” to the heart, giving another indication for her use.

Do you have Motherwort growing in your garden? If so, pick a leaf and try this experiment: chew the leaf and notice the flavors of Motherwort. What do you notice? Bitter? Yes, pungent too? Yes. How does the leaf make your mouth feel? Does it seem a bit dry? Cooler? We describe Motherwort’s energetics as bitter, pungent, drying and cooling.


Nutritionally, sources indicate Motherwort contains beta carotene, calcium, choline, cobalt, copper, iodine, manganese and potassium.

Motherwort contains many constituents that give her healing power: alkaloids such as leonurine, stachydrin, betonin and turicin, flavonoids such as rutin, apigenin, and quercetin, bitter glycosides, volatile oils, resins, tannins, and acids such as magic, citric and vinitic.

Motherwort has an affinity for the reproductive system and the heart. Medicinally, Motherwort is considered to be analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, astringent, bitter, cardiotonic, circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, hemostatic, hypotensive, immune stimulant, laxative, nervine, parturient, sedative, stomachic, tonic, uterine tonic and vasodilator. Let’s talk about these actions in greater depth…


Motherwort is one of the first medicinal plants that I used after I started seriously studying herbs for the medicinal uses. My first plants were patiently grown from seed and I have happily grown her ever since. Focusing on the common name, indicating her use for mothers (wort means ‘herb or plant’ indicating her common name to be mother’s herb or plant), I found this herb to be very helpful as a new mother, as well as mama’s little helper during my cycle. Motherwort has an uncanny way of making everything seem alright for mothers and women who become tense and irritated due to hormonal changes.

Motherwort is wonderful for women of all ages. Young women, coming into womanhood, will find Motherwort to be a powerful ally while they adjust to the extra hormones that are flooding their bodies. Menopausal women will find Motherwort to be just as supportive when their hormones once again wildly fluctuate, by helping to moderate hormone levels, calm hot flashes and night sweats and emotional mood swings as well as easing heart palpitations, insomnia and depression, which are often a common part of the menopausal journey. Mothers laboring in childbirth may find Motherwort beneficial for a smooth birthing process.

Watch out for the prickly bracts on the flowers!

Watch out for the prickly bracts on the flowers!

At the same time, Motherwort is also a uterine tonic, supporting the uterus and toning it. Menstrual cramps are often eased with doses of Motherwort. Motherwort can also help to bring on delayed menses, especially when the delay is caused by clots in the uterus, or when menses is scanty.

For those stuck in extreme emotional upset, whether due to hormones, grief or even unexplainable reasons, Motherwort will gently bring you back to a more calm emotional point of wellbeing.

Motherwort is not just for women though. Men can also benefit from her hormone balancing actions. As a reproductive tonic, Motherwort not only tones the female reproductive system but also the male reproductive system.

Motherwort is also very supportive to our hearts. Her botanical name Leonurus cardiaca, lionhearted, refers to her support of the cardiac system. Motherwort strengthens the heart muscle, calms palpitations, relaxes the heart, can slow a rapid heartbeat and improves circulation. As a mild hypotensive, Motherwort combines well with Hawthorn, Linden and Black Haw.

Those heart shaped anthers are sending a message: Motherwort is all about the heart!

Those heart shaped anthers are sending a message: Motherwort is all about the heart!

Emotionally, the name infers courage and Motherwort is wonderful for helping those navigate through dark times and periods of intense grief.

David Winston recommends the combination of Motherwort, Bugleweed (Lycopus americanus) and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) to help with hyperthyroidism, especially when nervousness and palpitations are present.

Lesser known and utilized uses of Motherwort include her effectiveness as an analgesic, especially for post partum pain. Motherwort is also good for treating digestive system upsets, especially when tied into the nervous system such as nervous dyspepsia, as well as indigestion and liver/gallbladder stagnation due to her bitter and digestive actions.


Some may also find relief from chronic skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema.

As an antispasmodic, Motherwort is also great for working with spasmodic conditions in the respiratory system, including asthma. I like to combine her with New England Aster for this.

Motherwort should not be used by pregnant women as Motherwort is a uterine stimulant but is safe during lactation.

Harvest Motherwort when she begins to bloom. The flowering tops, leaves and stalks can all be used.

Want to try a tea with Motherwort? Try my Happy Heart Tea blend:

Mix equal parts:

Dried Motherwort
Dried Tilia flower and leaf
Dried Hawthorn leaves and flowers

Store in a labeled airtight jar.

To make a cup of tea, add 2 teaspoons tea to a tea ball and steep in boiling water for 10 – 20 minutes.

For more information, recipes and activities with Motherwort, check out the July issue of Herbal Roots zine, Marvelous Motherwort.

Have you worked with Motherwort? What are your favorite uses of this plant?

Giveaway Monday – EarthDeva Oracle Coloring and Activity Book

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 3 Comments


This week I have 2 giveaways!


For the first giveaway, one lucky winner will receive a copy of the EarthDeva Oracle Coloring and Activity Summer Solstice Book by Maria Falce of Kindred Root, which is scheduled to be released on Sunday, July 12. 

The EarthDeva Oracle Coloring and Activity Summer Solstice Book is a heart-centered journey of self discovery through our connection with the Earth.  Allow the 13 plant devas to guide you in rediscovering your innate creativity and joy, through coloring pages, photographs, recipes and journal pages.  This book is for everyone who has a love of nature and a desire to cultivate a deeper relationship with the naturalworld. It is a beauty full homeschooling companion as well as a fun activity book for humans through all ages.  

The herbs listed in the summer solstice issue are: Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, Cinquefoil, Fleabane, Hoary Allysum, Lavender, Motherwort, Queen Anne’s Lace, St. John’s Wort, White Campion, Yarrow, Spiderwort and Self Heal.

If you want to preview what EarthDeva is all about, download a sample chapter from the Spring Equinox issue. Though the Summer Solstice issue’s order has not been finalized, you can see the Spring Equinox’s table of contents to get an idea of what is in store for the summer issue:


And for the second giveaway, everyone’s a winner! Maria is offering a copy of the Motherwort coloring page from the upcoming summer solstice issue to anyone who wants to download and print it off! Simply click on the picture below to start the download.


A Bit about Maria Falce and Kindred Root. 


Maria is a spiritual writer and a self-love warrior with a deep and diverse background in both the culinary and healing arts. As a teacher, chef, integrative healer, business owner, craft herbalist and organic gardener it has been her path throughout her many lifetimes to guide others (by sharing her process) to find strength and direction, gently planting seeds of heart centered, connected awareness. She is most passionate about guiding people to connect with their inner voice, a midwife to the joyful birth of inherent authentic creativity that lives within us all. When she is not busy unschooling her feral daughter, she can often be found writing, playing in the woods, communing with the flora and fauna and dancing with the Devas.


Love Kindred Root and EarthDeva Oracle Coloring and Activity Book? You can show your support by ‘liking’ them on Facebook. Tell them Herbal Roots zine sent you!

Want a chance to win this beautiful coloring and activity book? Leave a comment, telling us if you’ve ever worked with Motherwort 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 Kindred Root’s website and tell me some of your favorite things

-Blog about it (leave reference link)

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

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

-Follow 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, July 13, 2015. Thanks for entering and good luck!


[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 57 – Introducing Kids to the Tastes of Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on July 3rd, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


Without continuous hands-on experience, it is impossible for children to acquire a deep intuitive understanding of the natural world that is the foundation of sustainable development. ….A critical aspect of the present-day crisis in education is that children are becoming separated from daily experience of the natural world, especially in larger cities.

-Natural Learning, Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching, Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong

Awhile back, I wrote about teaching kids the 6 tissue states of the body which can be helpful with matching up the proper herbs to the individual person. Today I am going to introduce another facet of herbal energetics, the tastes of herbs and how they apply to herbal healing. We call the combination of the tissue states actions of herbs (drying, moistening, cooling, warming, tightening and relaxing) with their tastes herbal energetics. By understanding herbal energetics, we can fully understand how plants work in the body to bring about balance and optimal healing.

There are 5 basic flavors that herbs fall under: bitter, sweet, pungent/spicy, sour, and salty, according to traditional Chinese Medicine. In Ayurvedic medicine, astringent is also added to this list (in TCM, astringent is considered to be a part of sour). In Traditional Western Herbalism, these tastes were lost over the years and modern day herbalists have begun recreating their own herbal energetics systems. Many herbalists focus on the basic 5 – 6 tastes, with a few exceptions. Matthew Wood speaks of 13 tastes in his teaching: sour, fruity, aromatic, pungent, tingling, moist, salty, bitter, sweet, nutty, meaty, puckering, and acrid. David Winston teaches on 10 tastes: sweet, mineral salt, true salt, pungent, spicy, acrid, sour, astringent, bitter and bland. Both of their systems dig deep into the subtle nuances of herbs. Today we will stick to 5: bitter, sweet, spicy/pungent, sour and salty.


Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) is a member of the Asteraceae family.

Dandelion is a great example of what a bitter herb tastes like.


Bitter taste is the most loathed taste in the standard American diet. We do all we can to remove the bitter from our taste buds by adding sweet to kill the taste. Unfortunately, this is not doing our bodies any good as bitter is a very important part of our digestion. Bitters increase salivary secretions and send a message to our stomachs to prepare for food, creating digestive secretions that are necessary for proper digestion.

Bitters are generally cooling and drying and generally contain glycosides and alkaloids.

Common bitter herbs: Dandelion, Chicory, Coffee, Motherwort, Cacao, Burdock, Oregon Grape Root, Black Walnut Hull, Yellow Dock root, Gentian, Boneset, Milk Thistle

How to demonstrate bitter herbs: Eat a Dandelion leaf and notice how your saliva increases.


Marshmallow roots are mildly sweet.

Marshmallow roots are mildly sweet.


Sweet is one of the most desired tastes in the standard American diet. The over sweet tastes in our diet are often calorie laden, though not usually nutritive or nourishing. In herbalism, sweet is often nutritive, nourishing and caloric. They are important as nutritive tonics. Though sweet herbs have a sweet taste, this sweetness is often not as noticeable to our palates because of the overly sugary foods we often consume on a daily basis.

Sweet tasting herbs are generally moistening and neutral to warming and generally contain carbohydrates and may contain protein, fats, sugars and polysaccharides.

Common sweet herbs include: Astragalus root, Marshmallow, Licorice, Slippery Elm, Stevia

How to demonstrate sweet herbs: Chew a piece of Licorice or Astragalus root or a bit of Slippery Elm bark and notice the mild sweetness.


Bergamot is a great example of a spicy herb.

Bergamot is a great example of a spicy herb.


Spicy/pungent herbs are often broken into 2 – 4 categories: spicy, pungent, aromatic, and acrid based on their more subtle tastes. Most herbs falling into these categories have a kick to them. The heat may be felt instantly in the mouth or may hit the back of the throat. Some herbs may have a perfume like taste to them. These herbs often stimulating and can affect the circulatory system, digestive system and respiratory system depending on the herb. They are great for moving congestion and stagnation in the body. Lobelia is a great example of an acrid herb, if you chew a piece of leaf, you will feel a bile like feeling at the back of your throat. Too much will make you vomit.

Spicy/pungent herbs are generally warming and drying and generally contain essential oils or terpenes.

Common spicy/pungent herbs: Ginger, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Bergamot, Rosemary, Thyme, Lobelia

How to demonstrate spicy/pungent herbs: Taste a variety of kitchen spices such as Rosemary, Thyme, Cinnamon and Ginger to get a sense of the spicy/pungent taste.


Sumach berries are sour in taste.

Sumach berries are sour in taste.


Sour foods are often high in vitamin C, assisting the immune system with healthy function, helps the body to produce collagen for wound healing, helps with the absorption of iron, and good for tightening tissues. Sour herbs are often cardiotonics and are often helpful for cooling the body.

Sour herbs are generally cooling and drying and generally contain acids, flavonoids and vitamin C.

Common sour herbs: Rose hips, Hawthorn berries, Lemon, Sumach

How to demonstrate sour herbs: Eating a slice of Lemon will give you a quick idea of how sour works.


Chickweed is a great example of the minerally 'green' taste of salty herbs.

Chickweed is a great example of the minerally ‘green’ taste of salty herbs.


David Winston divides salty into 2 categories: mineral salt and true salt. This distinction can help to identify the mineral salt taste of herbs. True salt is the flavor of sea salt and table salt. Mineral salt is the flavor herbs give. Salts give our body important minerals which are needed for proper hydration and aiding in digestion. Salty herbs are often diuretics and are generally calming, especially for those who are malnourished.

Salty herbs are generally drying and cooling and generally contain minerals.

Common bitter herbs: Nettles, Kelp, Cleavers, Chickweed, Horsetail

How to demonstrate salty herbs: Try nibbling on a bit of kelp for an extreme salty taste. For the more subtle, minerally taste, eat some Chickweed, drink a Nettles infusion or a piece of Spinach, which will give that ‘green’ taste salty herbs generally have.

Deepening the knowledge
Tastes and energetics can be easy to learn and are helpful with mastering the art of herbal medicine. Start with plants that are stronger in taste and more obvious then as you and your children grow more confident, try out more subtle tasting herbs. Taste herbs often to become familiar with their tastes and to notice the change of tastes throughout the growing season as well as changes between species and wildcrafted vs. garden grown plants. As you learn about each herb’s use and properties, test yourself on their energetics.

A note of caution, be sure to only taste plants that are ‘safe’, eating low dose botanicals can cause problems until you’ve learned how to safely taste them. Stick with common plants that you can positively identify.

For further study on this subject, try these links and books:

Matthew Wood
Matt’s book: The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism
Energetics and Pharmacology online article

David Winston
The Ten Tastes – The Energetics of Herbs video (based on his same titled course)

Rosalee de la Foret
Tastes of Herbs eBook

Michael Moore
Herbal Energetics pdf file from his website (a wealth of information for more advanced learners)

Do your kids notice the different tastes of herbs? Which ones are they more drawn to?