[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 100 – Some Herbal Options for Viral Outbreaks

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19th, 2020 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

**Edited to add in a few extra links.

This is going to be a rather lengthy article! I apologize in advance, there is so much to say on this topic. I tried to be as succinct as I could.

In my last article, I talked about how to help boost and keep the immune system healthy. There’s been a lot of fear and talk about the coronavirus so I thought I would talk about herbal remedies today and how they can be incorporated into healing according to symptoms.

Antivirals for all?

One thing I can’t stress enough is that there isn’t a one size fits all herb for any illness or person. Each person is an individual, and we all react to viruses and healing modalities differently, based on our own individual body types.

For instance, I run cold. I’m forever bringing a sweater, jacket, or even blanket with me (I keep a wool blanket AND a down blanket in my car at all times) because I never know when I’ll get cold. My partner, on the other hand, is always warm. While I may have 2-3 blankets piled up on me in bed, he’ll have the covers tossed aside, sleeping with a sheet or less covering him.

At the same time, some people have very moist bodies, lots of mucus or sinus congestion, with supple skin that never needs moisturizing while others have dry bodies, presenting with dry, flaky skin, dry noses that may lead to nose bleeds, and often chapped lips.

When we think about herbs, we have to think about how that herb reacts with our bodies. The person who has dry skin may benefit from frequent cups of marshmallow leaf tea, which is very moistening and emollient, while the person with the sinus congestion finds the marshmallow leaf tea makes those conditions even worse.

Previously I wrote a post about teaching kids the 6 tissue states. This is a great overview of how herbs work in conjunction with hot/cold, warm/dry, and tense/lax to bring about balance.

Keep these thoughts in mind when you are considering an herb for a virus and pay attention to how the herb you are considering may affect that person based on the energetics of the herb.

What is my experience with the recent new virus, COVID-19?

Like other herbalists who have written about COVID-19 and herbs that may be helpful, as of this writing I have not seen any cases first hand so I do not know how these herbs will react with the actual virus. That remains to be seen once we start working with those who are affected. Herbalists are now starting to see cases so hopefully more information will become available soon.

Before I tuck into my favorite herbs for viruses, coughs, and other respiratory issues, I want to share some links that I’ve found to be helpful and comforting during this time period.

  • For a sobering but important understanding of what’s going on with COVID-19, read this article by Tomas Pueyo.
  • The American Herbalists Guild has put together a list of growing resources regarding COVID-19 here.
  • For a series of informative articles written by midwife, herbalist, and medical doctor Aviva Romm, go here.
  • New York Times podcast for kids explaining the virus.
  • Several herbalists have posted great articles/handouts about various herbs and aspects. Here is a rather short list of the ones I felt had concise information:

So now let’s take a look at some herbs.

General antivirals and how to offer them to your children

The following is a list of herbs that I rely on for helping to ward off viruses. Remember that this is just a drop in the bucket of what herbs we have available that may be effective against viruses.

Not listed in depth but worth noting: Cinnamon also makes a great antiviral, is a pleasant tea and can be combined with other herbs to make them more palatable. Many other kitchen herbs such as Rosemary, Basil, and Sage work similarly to Thyme.

Echinacea* Echinacea spp.

Energetics/tissue states: pungent, bitter, cooling, drying

Part(s) used: whole plant

Why I like this herb: I like Echinacea at the first sign of illness. Often, several high doses at the onset can help to reduce or eliminate the illness altogether. Echinacea is helpful for sore, scratchy throats, boosting the immune system, and works on the lymph system to help clear stagnation, helping to flush it out.

Pairs well with: Spilanthes, Yarrow, Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Elderberry

How to use it: I prefer to use the aerial parts only, as the plant is an “at-risk” native medicinal plant. Because it is easily cultivated, I feel comfortable using it and only harvest my own plants. It can be made into a tea by steeping 1/4 cup dried in 1 quart of water for 15-20 minutes. Drink at the first sign of an illness, 1/2 cup for children, 1 cup for adults every hour for the first day. Tinctures help to get large doses of the herb more easily and I use 1 drop of tincture for every 2 pounds of body weight – a 100 lb person would take 50 drops – every hour for the first day. After the first day, it’s best to back off and use other herbs.

How to get your children to use it: The tea is fairly mild and can be spiced up with a bit of honey and a pinch of peppermint or a tablespoon of Lemon Balm to enhance the flavor. This tea blend can also make a great popsicle.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use though those with compromised immune systems need to use with caution as it can be overstimulating for some.

Elderberry/leaf/bark/flower* Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis

Energetics/tissue states: sour, cooling, drying

Part(s) used: Berry, flower, leaf, bark

Why I like this herb: Elder is very versatile and has traditionally been used for colds, influenza, and other viruses. It is full of vitamin C, which has been shown to be effective in helping to counteract viruses, and is an immunomodulator, helping to balance out the immune system. This herb is often taken to help prevent illness and at the first sign often taken in conjunction with Echinacea to help ward off sickness. The flowers are often found in fever reducing recipes and the leaf and bark have more antiviral properties than either the flowers or the berries. The leaf and bark are not often used due to their potential emetic properties – no one wants to throw up when they are already feeling ill! However, in small doses, this herb has the potential to kill off many viruses. Elder can also help to break up mucus in the lungs and help to move the mucus out of the lungs. Berries and flowers also help to sweat out a fever when used in a hot tea.

Pairs well with: Yarrow, Peppermint, Echinacea

How to use it: Elderberry can be made into a syrup or used in a tea. Elderflower is used as a tincture or tea. To make a tea of berries, simmer 1/4 cup dried berries in 1 quart of water for 20 minutes or steep 1/4 cup dried flowers in 1 quart of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Elder leaf and bark are made into a tincture and taken 1-30 drops 3 times daily.

How to get your children to use it: Elderberry syrup is generally sweet enough that children won’t mind taking it as is. Tea can be made with the flowers and can be flavored with Lemon Balm or Peppermint and frozen as popsicles.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use though those with a compromised immune system need to watch how their body reacts to it. See the articles I referenced at the beginning for more information specifically on using Elderberry. Elder leaf or bark may cause nausea and should be started out with a half dose, increasing 1-2 drops each time it’s taken until the full dose or nausea is reached. Back down to lower dose if nausea occurs. Use all parts of Elder with caution to determine tolerance and if symptoms worsen or nausea occurs, discontinue use.

Ginger* Zingiber officinale

Energetics/tissue states: sweet, spicy, hot, drying

Part(s) used: rhizome

Why I like this herb: Ginger is spicy and warming, great for those who run cold and are dealing with cold respiratory conditions. It is pleasant tasting and well received by children. Ginger eases a sore throat, helps one to sweat out a fever, and can lessen the duration of an illness. Ginger eases nausea, stimulates the circulation, and helps to warm cold lungs.

Pairs well with: Cayenne, lemon

How to use it: The tea of the rhizomes is spicy and can be sweetened with honey if needed. Brew up a tea of fresh rhizomes about 2 tablespoons chopped to 1 quart of water and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serving size is about 1/4 – 1/2 cup for children to 1 cup for adults, several times daily. You can turn that tea into a syrup by following these instructions and substituting rhizomes for the berries in the recipe. Take 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon syrup several times a day to soothe coughs and sore throats.

How to get your children to use it: The sweetened tea can be made into popsicles if your child is hot and craving cold items. Ginger syrup can also be made into a “soda” drink that children enjoy by adding 2 ounces of syrup to 6 ounces of seltzer water.

Cautions: This herb is contraindicated in large doses for pregnant women and can irritate peptic ulcers, acid reflux and some inflammatory issues. Don’t use in combination with blood thinning medications.

Honeysuckle* Lonicera spp.

Energetics/tissue states: sweet, bitter, cooling, drying

Part(s) used: flowers, leaves, stems

Why I like this herb: First of all, much of the Honeysuckle that grows here in North America is an invasive species. So, the use of this plant helps the native plants to thrive. Honeysuckle is great for hot, damp conditions. Think an upper respiratory infection that is hot and full of mucus, often painful. This herb is great for assisting with fevers as well and is often used for pneumonia, influenza, and colds. This is one of the herbs that has been used in China to help combat COVID-19.

Pairs well with: Peppermint, Yarrow

How to use it: The tea of the leaves and/or flowers is mild tasting and can be sweetened with honey if needed. Brew up a tea of fresh leaves and/or flowers, about 1/2 cup to 1 quart of boiling water or 1/4 cup dried to 1 quart water and steep for 15-20 minutes. Serving size is about 1/2 cup for children to 1 cup for adults, several times daily.

How to get your children to use it: The sweetened tea can be made into popsicles if your child is hot and craving cold items.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use.

Read more about Honeysuckle here (includes a recipe for infused honey).

Lemon Balm* Mellissa officinalis

Energetics/tissue states: sour, cooling, drying

Part(s) used: Leaves

Why I like this herb: Lemon Balm has a delightful smell and taste – it reminds me a bit of Fruity Pebbles cereal. Lemon Balm helps to lower fevers when drunk as a hot tea, and is well liked by most children without any additions. It works well against a variety of viruses, most notably chicken pox, cold sores, colds, and shingles, to name a few. Lemon Balm is also calming to the nervous system so a cup of this tea can help to calm down anxious children (and parents).

Pairs well with: Echinacea, Spilanthes, Thyme

How to use it: Lemon Balm can be used as a tincture, 30-60 drops 5 times daily or made into a tea with 1/4 cup dried herb to 1 quart boiling water, steeped for 15-20 minutes. Drink 1/4-1 cup of tea 5 times daily.

How to get your children to use it: This herb is great as is, most children will drink the tea straight or sweetened with a bit of honey. The tea also makes a delicious popsicle.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use though pregnant women should use with caution as it is an emmenagogue in large doses.

Spilanthes* Spilanthes acmella

Energetics/tissue states: pungent, salty, warming, drying

Part(s) used: aerial parts

Why I like this herb: Spilanthes is great for boosting the immune system and stopping viruses. It has been used against influenza, malaria, dengue, and tuberculosis. You’ll find that Spilanthes has a tingly numbing effect, similar to Echinacea and makes a great throat spray to help soothe sore throats. Spilanthes can also help to reduce fevers.

Pairs well with: Echinacea, Lemon Balm, Thyme

How to use it: Spilanthes is best used as a tincture due to the taste. I generally use 30-60 drops at the onset and repeat hourly. 

How to get your children to use it: This tincture is rather shocking so it’s best to add it to a bit of water, juice or herbal tea to disguise the taste. Some children enjoy the effect of chewing on a fresh flower – they find the tingling tongue and drool hilarious. This is probably an activity best saved for when they are feeling well!

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use.

General demulcents and how to offer them to your children

Demulcent herbs are helpful when the bronchial tubes are hot and dry as they help to cool and moisten the lining, reducing inflammation in the process. They are soothing to dry coughs.

Licorice* Glycyrrhiza glabra

Energetics/tissue states: sweet, slightly bitter, cooling, moistening

Part(s) used: root

Why I like this herb: It is naturally sweet, making it a great flavor enhancer to less than tasty herbs. I also like to add Licorice in with herbs that are drying in nature (see the herbs in the antiviral section) when the lungs are dry and need some mucilaginous action to help moisten dry and inflamed tissue. Licorice is specific for respiratory ailments with dry, hacking coughs, sore throat, hoarseness, wheezing, shortness of breath, and inflammation. This root helps to bring up stuck mucus from the lungs. It is also an antiviral and antibacterial and is often used for pertussis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and influenza.

Pairs well with: Other herbs when moistening and cooling is needed or when needing a flavor enhancer

How to use it: Licorice is naturally sweet and makes a great decocted tea. Add 2 tablespoons cut and sifted root to 1 quart of water and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1/4 – 1 cup up to 5 times daily. A tincture can also be used, 15-60 drops 4-5 times daily.

How to get your children to use it: As Licorice is sweet, most kids will drink the tea readily.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use but should be avoided if you have high blood pressure.

Read a bit more about Licorice here.

Marshmallow* Althaea officinalis

Energetics/tissue states: sweet, cooling, moistening

Part(s) used: leaf, root

Why I like this herb: Marshmallow is cooling and soothing to the mucus lining of the respiratory tract. The sweet flavor makes this another easy to use herb, though the wrong infusion can make it hard to drink so be sure to read the ‘how to use it’ portion! Marshmallow helps to break up stuck mucus in the lungs, cooling inflammation and soothing dry, irritated passages.

Pairs well with: Other herbs when moistening and cooling is needed

How to use it: Add 1/2 cup dried root to 1 quart of lukewarm water and steep for 4-8 hours. If you use hot or boiling water, you will end up with a slimy concoction that few find appetizing to drink. Alternately, you can make a tea from the dried leaf, with 1/4 cup dried herb to 1 quart boiling water, steeped for 15-20 minutes. Drink 1/4-1 cup of tea 5 times daily.

How to get your children to use it: Marshmallow root tea is generally naturally sweet so kids will usually drink it without complaint. Other herbs can be added to flavor it, as well as to add more medicinal value. The leaf tea is a bit bland and can be sweetened with a bit of honey or licorice root. Old fashioned marshmallows can be made with Marshmallow root as an alternate to a cough drop.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use.

Decongestant herbs and how to offer them to your children

If you’re needing herbs to help reduce congestion and to help dry out the mucus, look for some of these herbs to help. Many of the antiviral herbs fall into this category as well so be sure to double check that list.

Onion* Allium cepa

Energetics/tissue states: pungent, warming, drying

Part(s) used: bulb

Why I like this herb: Onion is easy to find and generally in the pantry of every home. Onion can help to dry up mucus and congestion, as well as help to remove it from the lungs. Onion can also help to ward of influenza, colds, and other viruses.

Pairs well with: Use Onion in conjunction with other herbs to reduce coughs and congestion

How to use it: Besides adding it to food, Onion is great as a plaster on the chest, helping to draw congestion out, easing coughs. To make a plaster, slice 1-2 red or yellow onions and sauté them in a bit of coconut oil or butter. When they soften add 2-4 tablespoons of cornmeal and stir until it makes a paste-like consistency. You can also use any flour of choice instead of cornmeal. Place the mixture onto a square of flannel cloth, spread evenly and fold closed. Place the flannel on top of the sick person’s bare chest while they are lying down and cover with a hot water bottle then bundle them up with warm blankets. If the pain is greater in the back, you can place the plaster on the back instead of the chest. Leave the plaster on for about 20 minutes then remove (remove sooner if it seems to be irritating). For best results, follow up with an oil infused with Sage, Rosemary, Eucalyptus or Mint.

How to get your children to use it: Children are generally pretty accepting of the Onion plaster and often find it soothing. You can also make a syrup, the instructions can be found here.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use.

Herbs to help with coughs and how to offer them to your children

Coughs are generally a good thing, helping to bring mucus up out of the lungs but at times they can become overwhelming. These herbs can help to reduce coughing through various actions.

Elecampane* Inula helenium

Energetics/tissue states: bitter, pungent, sweet, warming, drying

Part(s) used: root, leaf, flower

Why I like this herb: Elecampane contains camphor, which helps to clear up stuffed up passages. Elecampane helps to draw out deep stuck mucus, opens up bronchial passages to reduce constriction, going deep into the lungs to break up, thin and move out stuck mucus to remove it from the lungs and ease coughing. Elecampane has been used for pleurisy, colds, influenza, pneumonia, pertussis, and asthma.

Pairs well with: Ginger, Spilanthes

How to use it: Tincture is a popular way to take Elecampane as the root can be quite strong, 10-90 drops up to 6 times daily. Candied root and Elecampane syrup are also quite palatable since the honey helps to mellow out the flavor a bit. Follow the instructions for Ginger to make a tea/syrup and take 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon syrup several times a day to soothe coughs and sore throats. To make candied roots, place 2 cups fresh or 1 cup dried roots in a saucepan with 1 quart water and simmer for about 30 minutes, adding more liquid if needed. Strain off the liquid, reserving 3 tablespoons, then add 1 cup of sugar to the roots and the 3 tablespoons of reserved liquid. Bring back to a boil, stirring often and cook until the roots are transparent and the liquid has almost evaporated completely. Reduce heat and cook until almost dry, turn off the heat and cool. Toss with super fine sugar to coat, spread on parchment paper and dry overnight. Store in an airtight jar. Use in place of a cough drop as needed.

How to get your children to use it: Even though Elecampane is strong, the syrup and candied roots are often a hit for kids.

Cautions: Elecampane should be avoided in large doses during pregnancy. Large doses may cause diarrhea, stomach cramping, or vomiting so don’t overdo it!

Read more about Elecampane here.

Thyme* Thymus vulgaris

Energetics/tissue states: pungent, mildly bitter, warming, drying

Part(s) used: aerial parts

Why I like this herb: This herb is easy to find and is probably in your kitchen cabinet right now! Thyme is useful for soothing sore throats and easing spasmodic coughing – it was one of my go to’s when we had pertussis. This herb also helps to dry up mucus, helping to reduce the amount of mucus that may end up in the lungs. Thyme contains thymol, which seems to be effective against COVID-19.

Pairs well with: Ginger, Cinnamon, Spilanthes

How to use it: For a sore throat, a tea of thyme can be made and used as a gargle. Thyme can be drunk as a tea by adding 1/4 cup dried herb to 1 quart boiling water, steeped for 15-20 minutes. Drink 1/4-1 cup of tea 5 times daily. For sinus congestion or dry, inflamed lungs, try an herbal steam by pouring the hot tea in a bowl and covering your head with a towel while you lean over the steam and inhale it.

How to get your children to use it: The tea is mild enough that most children will drink it. It can be flavored with other herbs to add more interest, or sweetened with a bit of honey if needed.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use.

Read more about Thyme here (includes a recipe for Thyme Honey).

Wild Cherry* Prunus serotina

Energetics/tissue states: bitter, sweet, warming, drying

Part(s) used: inner bark, leaf, fruit, flower

Why I like this herb: Wild Cherry helps coughs that are hot, both dry and wet, soothing and relaxing tight, constricted lungs. Wild Cherry also helps to relax the nervous system, helping sleep to come easier when a cough keeps you up at night.

Pairs well with: Ginger, Echinacea, Spilanthes

How to use it: The original cough syrup! Wild Cherry tastes great, like cherry so it can be taken as a syrup, which can also be cooked down to hard ball candy stage to make cough drops. A tincture can be used as well, 10-60 drops up to 5 times daily. For syrup, take 1-3 teaspoons full as needed for a cough.

How to get your children to use it: The syrup or cough drops are your best bet! They are sweet, taste like cherry and sooth sore throats and coughs quite well.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use but can cause drowsiness if taken in large doses.

Herbs to help relieve fevers and how to offer them to your children

Fevers are another line of defense our body has and help to burn off viruses. As long as your child is comfortable, allow their fever to burn. You’ll often notice that the fever will rise and fall, similar to a thermostat in your house – when it gets too hot, it will allow the body to cool off, but then when it gets too cool will kick up again. The body is helping to burn off the virus. Herbalist jim mcdonald has a great article about fevers, you can find it here.

Boneset* Eupatorium perfoliatum

Energetics/tissue states: bitter, pungent, cooling, drying

Part(s) used: aerial parts

Why I like this herb: Boneset has the nickname of ‘bone break fever’ indicating its use with fevers. Have you ever had the flu to the point that your entire body ached so much that any movement was a nightmare? Boneset is specific for that. This herb also helps to lower fevers, when drunk hot as a tea and has been used for fevers resulting from measles, mumps, scarlet fever, yellow fever, typhoid fever and more. Boneset helps to move mucus that is stuck in the lungs by stimulating the cough reflex while helping to relieve stronger spasmodic coughing by relaxing the diaphragm.

Pairs well with: Peppermint, Yarrow, Lemon Balm, Licorice

How to use it: Boneset works well as a tea but is not pleasant tasting. Some people find they actually don’t mind it when they are not feeling well, as if their body is craving what they need. To make a tea, steep 1/4 cup of dried Boneset in 1 quart boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Drink 1/4 – 1 cup as hot as possible 3-5 times daily. A tincture can also be used, 3-10 drops up to 5 times daily for up to two weeks.

How to get your children to use it: This tincture is rather bitter so it’s best to add it to a bit of water, juice or herbal tea to disguise the taste. They may find the tea palatable if diluted with juice.

Cautions: This herb has pyrrolizidine alkaloids and should not be used more than 2 weeks. If you have any liver issues, do not use Boneset.

Peppermint* Mentha x piperita

Energetics/tissue states: pungent, sweet, cooling, drying

Part(s) used: leaf when in flower

Why I like this herb: Peppermint (and other mints such as Spearmint) is a flavor that is well received by kids and adults alike. It is a refrigerant and helps to cool the body from the inside out, bringing down a fever fast when it has been ongoing and is uncomfortable. This herb also contains menthol which helps to sooth spasmodic coughing. Peppermint works well against colds, influenza, chicken pox, measles, and more to lessen the duration, move mucus from the lungs, and ease pain and inflammation.

Pairs well with: Boneset, Yarrow, Elderflower, Echinacea

How to use it: Peppermint works well as a tea, 1/4 cup dried herb to 1 quart boiling water, steeped for 15-20 minutes. Drink 1/4-1 cup of hot tea 5 times daily for fever reduction. For sinus congestion or dry, inflamed lungs, try an herbal steam by pouring the hot tea in a bowl and covering your head with a towel while you lean over the steam and inhale it.

How to get your children to use it: Children will generally drink a tea made with Peppermint. Spearmint is a bit milder and sweeter and is sometimes better tolerated. Either tea can be made into popsicles.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use. Pregnant women should avoid large doses and nursing mothers should drink with caution as it can reduce breast milk.

Yarrow* Achillea millefolium

Energetics/tissue states: bitter, pungent, mildly sweet, cooling, drying

Part(s) used: aerial parts

Why I like this herb: This herb will help to sweat out a fever, which can be helpful when a fever just continues without breaking. As with most diaphoretics, the herb is best drank hot. Yarrow is antiviral and often used for influenza and colds.

Pairs well with:  Peppermint, Elderflower, Thyme, Ginger, Echinacea

How to use it: Yarrow can be drunk as a tea by adding 1/4 cup dried herb to 1 quart boiling water, steeped for 15-20 minutes. Drink 1/4-1 cup of hot tea 5 times daily for fever reduction. A tincture can also be used for antiviral properties, 10-30 drops 4-6 times daily.

How to get your children to use it: This tea is best flavored with a bit of Peppermint, Lemon Balm, or Ginger and a bit of honey.

Cautions: This herb is generally safe for all to use but avoid use if pregnant.

As I have previously mentioned, this is a very short list of herbs that may be helpful. Again, it’s always important to pay attention to how symptoms are presenting in a person and matching the herbs to best alleviate their concerns.

If symptoms are getting worse, seek medical attention immediately.

*for more information on these herbs, look for the corresponding issues of Herbal Roots zine.

[Herbal Rootlets]: 99 – Building A Strong Immune System

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6th, 2020 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

This time of the year is especially challenging to stay healthy – after a long winter, the lack of daily fresh air and sunshine providing vitamin D tends to find our immune systems weakened. This is the time of year we often see influenza on the rise.

This season, there’s another viral threat, the coronavirus. Understandably, this new virus has many worried about what it might mean for their families. You may be wondering how you can keep yourself and your family healthy during this outbreak, and what to do if you or your loved ones become sick.

There are many practical things that can be done to help keep healthy and avoid spreading viruses. Many of these things are common sense, practical measures that are often simple but can make a big difference. Sometimes, they are so simple that we overlook them completely.

Simple health measures to keep your children’s immune systems healthy

  • Get plenty of sleep. In our go, go, go society, it can be hard to remember to get enough sleep each night. Create a nighttime routine by counting back from your projected bedtime and including everything your children need to do before bed. Do they like to wind down with a bedtime story? Add that into the time line. Or perhaps a bit of snuggle time to talk through the day’s events. Be sure to add enough time in for that as well as the usual baths, tooth brushing, and getting out clothes for the next day. Once you have a routine planned, set an alarm on your phone for the appropriate time to start the routine. It’s especially important that you and your children get a good night’s sleep to keep that immune system strong.
  • Avoid sugar and processed foods. Remember that saying, you are what you eat? It’s true! Your body runs more effectively when you put good fuel into it. Cut back on processed foods such as chips, sodas, candies, etc. Food dyes, preservatives, and processed foods all weaken and suppress the immune system. Increase fresh, whole foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. I find that if I whip up a batch of fruit salad or a veggie tray with hummus and leave it sitting on the counter, much of the contents disappear within a few hours. Kids love those things, they just don’t love looking for them in the fridge and will grab a bag of chips instead because it’s more convenient. Place healthy food in convenient locations and less healthy food (if you have it in the house) in less convenient locations.
  • Pay attention to food sensitivities such as gluten and dairy intolerances. Even if you don’t suspect any food sensitivities, try to cut back on foods such as gluten, dairy, and corn, as they often cause digestive issues that you don’t realize are happening. I recently discovered this for myself. I never felt I had a dairy sensitivity until recently when I stopped eating dairy and discovered I had better digestion, a complete reduction in fatigue, and a clearer complexion.
  • Incorporate nourishing broths into your meals, whether it’s bone broth, mushroom broth, vegetable broth, or miso. Add in immune boosting herbs such as garlic, astragalus, reishi, turkey tail, maitake, and fire cider.

  • Get some fresh air and exercise every day! For example, instead of driving to school, walk to school if it’s not far. Or park further away from the school so there’s a 10-15 minute walk. Alternatively, take an afternoon bicycle ride or walk around the block.
  • Don’t over schedule activities. Allow your children to have regular downtime so they can relax and recharge. Planning too many back to back after school activities can lead to fatigue, weakening the immune system.
  • Drink plenty of water. Limit sugary and caffeinated drinks like soda, tea, and juice and aim for your children to drink at least half their body weight in ounces daily.
  • Remind them to keep their hands off their faces. Touching eyes, noses, and mouths can spread germs that they’ve picked up directly into their bodies. Help them to be aware of these actions and how they can impact their health.
  • Let them play in the dirt and get muddy! I hear you cringing but really, mud is good for them. There is beneficial bacteria in the soil that can help our immune systems grow and become resilient. Clothes are easily washed and so are kids so let them enjoy the outdoors to the fullest.
  • Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands! This meme has been bouncing all over the internet but it’s a great time to remind your children to wash their hands often. I’m not huge on hand sanitizers but I do like the Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer and keep a bottle of it in my car. It’s great to use after you’ve been to a public location and touching shopping carts.

These are all general common sense things that we should be practicing every day, regardless of the season or viral outbreak, but often getting caught up in the daily grind can make us forget the importance of these things.

Supplementation as another immune building tool

The next step to keeping your children’s immune system strong comes in the form of supplements. It’s always best to get nutrients out of food, but sometimes a little extra supplementation is helpful, especially this time of year when we can’t necessarily get them naturally.

I use these for my family to keep our immune systems strong during the winter months. When we slack off, we always notice a difference. My partner didn’t take his vitamin D this year and has been sick twice, once with influenza that took him out for over a week. I’m linking my favorites with my Amazon affiliates link.*

  • Vitamin D3/K2. I like a combo and use this brand. Vitamin D is technically a hormone but we receive it through sunlight, which is impossible during the wintertime unless you live near the equator. Everyone in my family takes one a day (except my partner who slacked off). Vitamin D is fat soluble so get your levels checked at least once a year. My levels were so high this winter my practitioner asked me to back off taking it.
  • Vitamin C. USDA recommendations are 40 mg but alternative doctors are saying 1,000-2,000 mg is not unreasonable. It’s water soluble so no worries on taking too much, other than getting diarrhea if you take too much too fast. Normally, I don’t supplement with vitamin C as my kids enjoy drinking homemade ‘hot lemonade’ but as a precaution, we have decided to take it to boost our levels. We’ve been using this brand and I really like that it’s made with food instead of a chemically concocted version. But again, there are lots of natural food sources for vitamin C, including lemons, limes, oranges, berries, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes, and pine (makes a great tea) so if your children consume them regularly, it’s not as important to supplement. However, many alternative doctors are stating that high doses of vitamin C can make all the difference in treatment of viral infections so keep some on hand.
  • Zinc. The daily requirement of zinc for children ranges from 3-11 mg depending on their age and we can get zinc in a variety foods including nuts, beans, red meat, poultry,  and oysters. In supplemental form for fighting off illness, 20-40 mg is suggested. This supplement is often taken at the first sign of a cold to reduce the duration up to 4 days. This is the brand we use to increase our immune system response. Avoid zinc with citric acid in the ingredients as it binds with the zinc, making it unavailable for our bodies to utilize. This is the brand that we use.

These are the basic vitamins and minerals that can help support and strengthen or boost the immune system. If you feel your children aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals through their meals, you might also consider giving them a good multivitamin. I don’t give my children any but if I did I would opt for Naturelo’s Whole Food Multivitamins (they have gummies, chewable, and a version for teens) or Nordic Naturals’ Nordic Berries, though there are many other brands out there that are reputable.

One final supplement to think about offering is a probiotic. A healthy digestive system is important for keeping a healthy immune system. Look for probiotics that are refrigerated with live cultures for the best options.

*If you choose to purchase them, I’ll get a small percentage of the money you pay Amazon without any extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Herbal options for boosting the immune system

As this is getting quite wordy, I’m only going to focus on herbal support for the immune system. In the next issue, I will follow up with herbal antivirals and how they can be used to help fight off viral infections. But for today, let’s take a look at herbal immune boosters and modulators.

First, let’s talk about the difference between an immune booster and an immune modulator. Immune boosters are herbs that boost an immune system, putting it into overdrive to help kick out disease and infection. Immuno modulators have the ability to ramp of the immune system if needed, but also to help slow down an over zealous immune system when it’s already kicked into overdrive but shouldn’t be.

There are lots of herbs that are considered immune stimulators and modulators. The following are my favorites. (The links will take you to the corresponding zine issues in case you want to learn more about any of them):

  • Astragalus is a slow immune system builder and great for using after a long illness. After my family had pertussis, I put us all on Astragalus for the following year. Astragalus is slow to act but very nourishing and supportive for our immune systems. It has a sweet flavor, making it an herb that even children don’t mind consuming. A few root slices can be added into soups, broths, etc. as Astragalus is best extracted with water. Making a strong decoction then adding alcohol to preserve it can give a large quantity of tincture to have on hand for long term use. Astragalus is best taken when you are well, so if you find yourself or your children starting to come down with something, stop using Astragalus and switch to another immune boosting herb then restart once well again.
  • Echinacea is often combined with Goldenseal which is poor combination. It’s better to combine Echinacea with Elderberry in rotation (1 hour take Echinacea, next hour take Elderberry) for better results. When taken at the first signs of illness, the combination of the two often help to knock out the virus before any real symptoms set in. Echinacea is generally taken as a tincture in large amounts for his immune system action.
  • Elderberry syrup is one of the best things to have on hand year round for fighting off viruses! It’s easy to make up, tastes great, and stores well in the fridge. As an immune modulator, Elderberry helps to boost the immune system when needed but also has the ability to slow down an immune system when it’s ramped up too much.
  • Fire Cider is a combination of several herbs steeped in vinegar then sweetened with a bit of honey. It contains Ginger, Cayenne or other hot peppers, Garlic, Horseradish, Onion, and often Lemon, all chopped and steeped in Apple cider vinegar for a month. A shot of this every couple of hours when you feel something coming on generally kicks the virus to the curb. Adding honey to sweeten this concoction helps it to go down easier for kids.
  • Mushrooms – Maitake, Shitake, Oyster, Turkey Tail, and Reishi are a few of my favorites but there are others such as Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps too! All these mushrooms have great immune boosting actions and many can be added to foods, making them easy to sneak into your family.

Hopefully this will help to ease your mind about the current viral season. By combining common sense lifestyle and dietary actions with some supplements and herbs, you are able to easily create an arsenal to help keep your family healthy!

Do you already have a regimen for keeping your family’s immune systems boosted? If so, share them with us in the comments!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 98 – How to Store Your Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6th, 2020 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

If you’re new to herbalism, chances are you have a lot of questions. I completely understand, I still have lots of questions and I’ve been doing this for many years! One of the biggest questions I get about herbs is what is the best way to store herbs? Is one way better than another? In this article we’ll look at the best practices for storing dried herbs.

First off, let’s talk location.

There are many ways to store herbs but the general rule of thumb is that light and heat will destroy their properties so it’s best to store them in a dark, cool location in your house. Cabinets, a pantry shelf and drawers all make great storage locations. Try to avoid spots such as on top of your fridge, above your stove and other locations that have appliances giving off heat.

Depending on the container you’re storing them in, placing them behind a cabinet door is often the best place so that direct contact with sunlight is avoided.

Now let’s take a look at vessels.

Dried herbs store best in an airtight container. I like glass jars and use a variety including some larger quart, half gallon and gallon mason jars, as well as a variety of jars I’ve recycled from my pantry after use such as nut butter jars, jelly jars, and Cocoyo jars. Be cautious about using pickle and salsa jars as the scent often lingers and can mix in with the herbs. I once used a garlic jar for a Spilanthes tincture and the tincture tasted garlicky when I tried using it a few months later. It didn’t seem to affect the tincture’s use but it’s something to look out for as it can make your tinctures taste off. However, if you are making an herbal infused vinegar, a pickle jar most likely would be fine.

Another container that works great, especially if you have harvested and dried your own herbs and are worried they might not be completely dry are cardboard oatmeal containers. They seal with their plastic lid, keep your herbs about an inch below the lid to avoid touching the plastic, but the cardboard will help to wick out any leftover moisture so that they won’t mold.

Brown paper sacks can be useful for storing dried herbs as well, just be sure to fold them over and tape them closed.

Packaging to avoid.

Often herbs are shipped to you in plastic bags. While this is logical for shipping – they weigh less, have a lesser chance of breaking open and are more adaptable for packing – for long term it’s best to remove your herbs from their original plastic packaging once you receive them. Often it’s easy to remove their labels with enough sticky residue that they can be easily placed on the jar or paper bag you are storing them in.

Some companies such as Frontier Herbs ship their herbs in mylar packaging. I like to transfer these out as well although I will leave them in this packaging if I’m freezing the herbs.

Open containers are another thing to avoid. Air is the enemy of your herbs, along with light, something an open container will allow. Not to mention, dust, insects and moisture have a greater chance of destroying your herbs as well.

Glass containers with ill fitting lids is another container to avoid, especially if you are storing your tincture in it. Speaking from experience, the first time that container gets knocked over, your tincture is going to end up everywhere but in your container and it’s a sad day when you’ve realized all your prized St. John’s Wort tincture has leaked out and evaporated because of the lid not being air tight.

Hopefully this helps to clear up any questions you have about containers!  How do you store your herbs? Do you have an idea for storing them that I haven’t suggested? Do you have any container mishap stories you’d like to share? Share your ideas and stories in the comments!

A Look Inside My Book

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2nd, 2019 by KristineBrown — 4 Comments

Thank you for all the responses on my book! I am very excited to be launching it.

I realize the preview is not up on the Amazon page yet so I wanted to give you a glimpse inside my book today.

First off, here’s the list of the 40 individual herbs covered:
BlackberryB, lack Haw, Black Walnut, Burdock, California Poppy, Catnip, Dandelion, Ginger, Goldenrod, Gotu Kola, Ground Ivy, Hawthorn, Milky Oats, Monarda, Motherwort, Mugwort, Plantain, Prunella, Queen Anne’s Lace, Reishi, Rosemary, Saint John’s Wort, Spearmint, Spilanthes, Stinging Nettles, Thyme, Vitex, Wild Cherry, Wild Lettuce, Yarrow, Borage, Calendula, Cleavers, Comfrey, Lemon Balm, New England Aster, Passionflower, Poke, Saw Palmetto, and Yellow Dock.

As you can see, it’s mostly herbs that can be found out in the back yard. As you know, I find it extremely important to know the plants that grow around you! There are a few in there that don’t grow all over such as Saw Palmetto but I felt those plants were important and irreplaceable with other herbs.

Now for a peek inside the book! First the Table of contents:

As you can see, the book is broken down into two primary sections. The first section is instructional, listing what you’ll need to get started making herbal remedies, instructions on how to make different remedies, and the herbs covered in this book.

Part two is the nitty gritty – 125 recipes that cover many common issues in households. Chapter Four is Common Ailments, which lists 29 every day issues that might arise and remedies for them:

Chapter Five is for emotional well being. There are 11 recipes in this section:

Chapter Six is all about children’s health! This covers 22 remedies that are common to kids and teens (though they will work for adults too!)

Chapter Seven is Women’s Health. Here you’ll find 12 remedies that cover a variety of women’s health issues:

Chapter Eight is for the men. There are 9 remedies in this section:

Chapter Nine covers aging. There are 22 remedies for common ailments that hit us as we start to age:

Chapter Ten covers personal care. There are 20 remedies broken into five sections: bath, body, face, hair, and mouth.

The final section includes some of my favorite resources and a glossary of herbal terms.

If you are wanting to buy my book, Herbalism at Home, please consider pre-ordering it! Pre-orders help with the success of the book, making it visible to more companies so that it receives a higher chance of being available in bookstores and other retail locations around the country.

Guess What?! I Wrote A Book!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24th, 2019 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

The past several months I’ve bit a bit MIA and I wanted to take a moment to explain why – after a lot of hard work behind the scenes for the past several months, I am so excited to finally announce that I wrote a book and it’s coming out on January 7, 2020!

Herbalism at Home is a great little book to have on hand in your home if you are new to herbs and are looking for guidance to get started. From the pantry to the medicine cabinet, this book will tell you all you need to have stocked to get started making your own herbal remedies for yourself and your family.

Though the book isn’t coming out until January, it can be pre-ordered now. Want to see more of the book? Head to here to read more about it, see the book and pre-order your own copy now.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 97 – Fire Cider is Free!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14th, 2019 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

For the past 5+ years, a battle has been happening. An unscrupulous company decided that they wanted to claim the term “Fire Cider” as their own, taking it away from fire cider makers around the world (who had been doing so for many years, even before the owners of this company were born). After a long, drawn out court battle, the Fire Cider Three were victorious and a judge ruled that the term “fire cider” could not be trademarked.

Just What is Fire Cider?
So just what is fire cider and why should you care anyway?

Fire Cider is a term that renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar made popular through her many wonderful books, classes, correspondence course and teachings through the years. She chose to share her knowledge and recipes freely with anyone who wanted to learn about herbalism because she cares deeply about keeping the tradition of herbalism going. A fire cider is an herbal remedy that is made with vinegar, much like a tincture is an herbal remedy that is made with alcohol. The ingredients of fire cider can vary but usually the base contains apple cider vinegar, honey, horseradish, onions, garlic and cayenne or other spicy pepper. There have been many variations of the recipe over the years, each herbalist putting their own special twist onto this recipe, adding other ingredients such as citrus peels, turmeric, rosemary, sage, holy basil, goldenrod, prunella, elderberries and other cold and flu fighting ingredients. There is no right or wrong, if it’s part of your arsenal, it’s game for becoming an ingredient, that’s part of the beauty of fire cider! The end result is something that is sweet, sour and spicy, all in one. It warms you all the way to your stomach.

A Toast to Fire Cider

This concoction can be taken straight, added to water or tea for sipping or even used as a food (try adding it to your winter salads for an extra zip). It’s used to help heal people who are sick from colds and the flu, digestive issues, sinus infections, treating people with chronic nausea and many other things. This is the number one herbal remedy that was sitting on our grandmothers’ kitchen shelves all around the world. In fact, it goes back many, many, many generations.

The Ingredients
As I mentioned earlier, traditionally, fire cider is made with a few base ingredients: apple cider vinegar, honey, onion, garlic, horseradish, ginger and cayenne (or other spicy pepper). Let’s take a look at what makes these ingredients so special.


Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) – This ingredient is what gives the sour to the “sweet, sour and spicy” in this recipe. But, ACV is more than just adding a bit of pep to the blend. There are books written on the value of ACV because it’s that good for you. Full of trace vitamins and minerals, ACV supports the immune system, helps digest food, prevents indigestion, eases allergies and can help control diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, just to name a few.


Raw Honey – Don’t confuse raw honey with the honey substance that is sold in the grocery store. Do your research on the differences, they are too long to discuss in this article. Make sure your honey is from a local source and is not heated during straining. This will ensure all the nutrients of honey are still there. Honey can be applied directly to wounds and burns to promote healing while soothing pain. Honey is also very soothing internally and is great for soothing sore throats and coughs during an illness. Honey is also antibacterial and antioxidant. Darker honey contains more of these actions than light honey. Local honey can help ease the problems of seasonal allergies because local honey contains pollen from the area, the very pollen that causes your allergies. By taking a daily dose, it acts as a sort of natural vaccination, giving your body a minute dose that can be tolerated and grown accustomed to, helping your body get the ability to fight off the invading pollen from the air. And, just like ACV, honey can also help to lower cholesterol when taken daily. Those with diabetes should be cautious though as honey IS a sugar, even though it’s more natural.


Onion – Onion is quite nutritious and contains vitamins A, B6, C, Folate and the minerals Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium and Zinc. Medicinally, Onion is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and vulnerary. Onion is great for treating coughs, colds, the flu and many other illnesses.

garlic bulb 1 - search

Garlic – Known as the poor man’s antibiotic, Garlic is used extensively in times of illness. Medicinally, Garlic is diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, immune stimulant, antibacterial, antifungal, alterative, antispasmodic, cholagogue, vulnerary and vermifuge. He can be used for treating strep throat, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fevers, boost the immune system, candida and more.


Horseradish – I LOVE Horseradish for all things sinus, he really gets the sinus passages opened up and loosens up the mucus to help with draining. At the same time, he kills the infection. Medicinally, he is antibacterial, antibiotic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-parasitic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, rubefacient, stimulant (gastric and immune), tonic and vermifuge.


Ginger – Ginger is very warming. We use Ginger for treating nausea, stimulating circulation, treating sore throats and coughs, and aiding in digestion. Ginger is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, rubefacient and stimulating.


Cayenne – Cayenne is also very warming and stimulating to the circulatory system. Cayenne has been used to save people’s lives during a heart attack, he’s that powerful. Cayenne improves circulation by preventing blood from clotting. He also stimulates the brain to secrete endorphins, relieves pain, and treats arthritis, high cholesterol, colds, coughs, the flu, dysentery and sore throats. Cayenne is  alterative, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, stimulating and tonic.

As you can see, these are some very powerful ingredients! All are very warming and stimulating and really help the body to kick what ails you. Fire cider sounds like snake medicine but with one small difference: it actually works! It’s no wonder so many people consider fire cider to be part of their daily supplement for keeping themselves healthy.

This was just a quick run down of what each of these herbs can do. If you’d like to learn more about them, there are back issues available on Apple, Cayenne,  GarlicGingerOnion and Horseradish.  I have put together a Fire Cider Collection that includes all 6 of  past issues plus information about the history of fire cider and instructions on how to make it. For more information, go to our Fire Cider Collection page. A  copy of the Fire Cider ebook (without the 6 issues)  is also available for free on that page or click here to download it now.

The Not-So-Secret Recipe
And now, how to make fire cider!  I highly recommend watching Rosemary’s video on how she makes fire cider put together by Learning Herbs. You can see it right here. The following is the recipe written out, with my added suggestions but play with the recipe and make it your own!


First, assemble your ingredients. Fresh is best. You will need:

1 onion
2-3 heads of garlic
1 horseradish root
1 small – medium piece of ginger root
Cayenne pepper (can be dried, only takes a tiny amount) or other hot pepper such as habanero
Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw Honey
Optional: other ingredients to make it your own special blend such as citrus peels, turmeric, rosemary, sage, goldenrod, prunella, elderberries


To process, you will need:
A cutting board
A sharp knife
A quart jar to hold all your ingredients
Waxed paper if your jar lid is metal (it will react with the vinegar and corrode the lid)

Got everything assembled? Ok, let’s get started!


Begin by chopping up your onion, grating your horseradish and smashing your garlic. You’ll want to add equal parts of garlic, horseradish and onion and then add about 1/2 part of ginger.


Add these bits to your jar. Add in anything else you want to put in to make your fire cider special: freshly grated turmeric, a few organic lemon peels, a handful of sage leaves, 1/2 cup dried elderberries, a few sprigs of rosemary. It’s up to you, you don’t have to add any extras if you don’t want to!

Place a piece of waxed paper over the top of the jar and then screw on your lid.  Shake well and don’t forget to label your jar! Leave on the countertop for 4 weeks and shake daily.

Once the 4 weeks is up, strain off the spent herbs and compost them. Add honey and stir. Taste and add more if you’d like it sweeter. Generally I find 1 part honey to 3 parts infused vinegar is all that is needed. Stir to completely incorporate the honey and now you’ve got fire cider! Pour it into smaller bottles and share with your friends, family and community! I’ve created a label and recipe card that you can print off here to attach to each bottle.


Watch Jaden make fire cider on our youtube channel.

Hey kids, want to learn more about the healing properties of herbs? Why not start off with issues on AppleGarlicGingerOnion and Horseradish? You can also download our entire Fire Cider Collection for a reduced rate.


We drink to our health! Long live fire cider!

Do you make Fire Cider? Tell us what special ingredients you like to add to your version of it!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 96 – 35 Herbal Activities for a Screen Free Week

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15th, 2019 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

This year, International Screen Free Week is from April 29 – May 5. All around the world schools, communities, families and individuals participate in this event. Turn off the computers, smart phones and electronic devices for a week, go outside and enjoy nature.

Why not make the most of this week and try out some of these herbal activities! These activities can be enjoyed any time of the year so after your screen free week you may just decide to have a screen free day once a week throughout the year!

  1. Play an herbal game such as Go Cultivate!, Herbal Bingo or Wildcraft! Love games? You could also try out Herbaceous or Morels as well. For more game ideas, check out our game list (scroll down on the page).
  2. Go on a spring herbal scavenger hunt.
  3. Make a salad using some of the spring edible herbs.
  4. Start an herbal journal to keep track of the herbs you learn about. or
  5. Make an herbarium to keep track of the herbs you learn about.
  6. Take a walk through your back yard or neighborhood and make a list of all the herbs you see. Don’t forget the trees!
  7. Learn all the botanical names of the herbs you found in your back yard or neighborhood.
  8. Learn the meanings behind the botanical names.
  9. Draw a map of your neighborhood or back yard with a key of where all the herbs are located.
  10. Pick a plant from all the herbs on your list and find out about it. Use our free herbal mascot and herbal profile printable templates to take notes.
  11. Print off a copy of the issue of Herbal Roots zine for each child and learn more about your chosen herb.
  12. Make an oil from one of the identified herbs you found.
  13. Make a salve from one of the identified herbs you found.
  14. Make a tincture from one of the identified herbs you found.
  15. Make an elixir from apple twigs and flowers (peach and cherry work well too).
  16. Make a vinegar from one of the identified herbs you found.
  17. Make a syrup from herbs that help with coughs and sore throats such as basil, sage, or thyme. Hawthorn berries also make great syrup.
  18. Make a video about the herb.
  19. Make a leaf rubbing using your herb. Add it to your herbal journal.
  20. Invite a friend over and make some herbal tea to drink.
  21. Write and illustrate a story about an herb.
  22. Draw and/or paint some of the plants you found.
  23. Make a dye out of some plants. Black walnut (hulls or leaves), avocado pits and/or skins, turmeric, dandelion flowers, coffee, and tea all make great easy to use dyes.
  24. Plant some herbs in your garden. Got shade? Plenty of native medicinal plants love the shade and can be found at local nurseries. Even kitchen herbs have a lot of medicinal value.
  25. Don’t have room for a garden? Grow a few herbs in pots.
  26. Visit a local nature preserve and learn about the plants that grow in your area. Compare them to the plants you see in your neighborhood. Be sure to bring along a bag so you can pick up any trash you might see.
  27. Visit a local park and pick up trash.
  28. Visit your local botanical garden and see how many medicinal plants you can find.
  29. Take a hike and scout out the native plants. Bonus points if you can also find the invasives.
  30. Got Violets? Make some jelly.
  31. Violets stopped blooming but dandelions are growing like crazy? Make some Dandelion jelly instead!
  32. Make a batch of fire cider. Though it’s traditional for winter time, it’s always good to have on hand year round!
  33. Have a daily read aloud story time and fill it with herbal stories.
  34. Play some herbally adapted games such as “Weed, Weed, Herb” or “Herbal Freeze Tag”.
  35. Celebrate Herb Day on Saturday, May 4, by throwing a Herb Day party.
  36. BONUS! Celebrate May Day!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 95: Throw Your Own Herb Day Party

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4th, 2019 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Saturday, May 4 is Herb Day, a day that is celebrated all around the world. Falling on the first Saturday of May every year, this is a great day to celebrate your love of herbs with friends and family. So why not throw a Herb Day Party?

Make some herbal decorated invitations by drawing herbs on a card or cutting out pictures of herbs to glue on the invitation front. Send them to all your friends and family that you want to invite.

Herb Day Activities

Plan some activities to educate your attendees about medicinal herbs. You might offer to do a springtime scavenger hunt, do a plant walk and talk about the plants that grow in your back yard or neighborhood or a specific activity for one herb such as making Dandelion or Violet Jelly or use herbs to dye some play silks.

Herbal Games

Take your Herb Day Party to the next level with some herbal inspired games. For a more relaxing game, try our free Herbal Bingo printable. Or, if you need to work up an appetite for snacks, there are several herbally adapted games you can try as well.

Herb Day Feast

After all those activities, your guests are sure to have worked up an appetite so serve them some delicious herbal inspired foods. Lavender lemonade, ice cream with homemade herbal syrups (Hawthorn, Peppermint, Basil and Elderberry are some delicious choices), Dandelion fritters, Chipotle flourless cake, Bee Balm cucumber salad, heart treats or homemade marshmallows are some great choices. Freeze some spring flowers in ice cubes to serve in your drinks!

Here are some recipes:

Dandelion Fritters

1/2 cup chopped dandelion leaves

1/2 cup dandelion flower petals

1/2 red onion, minced

1/4 Coconut flour

1/4 cup almond flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 clove Garlic, minced

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix together the ingredients.

Heat a skillet on medium heat until hot then grease with butter or bacon fat. Spoon 1/4 cup measure of the batter into the pan and fry on both sides until cooked through, about 3 – 4 minutes on each side. Repeat until all the batter is fried up.

Serve warm with Ranch dipping sauce.

Simple Syrup

This is easy to make with any delicious flavored herbs. Try Hawthorn or Rosehip berries, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Dandelion or Violet Blossoms, or Elderberries.

2 cups fresh or 1 cup dried Herbs

4 cups water

1 cup raw honey

Place the herbs in a saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil then slowly simmer until the liquid is reduced to down to 2 cups.

Strain off the haws and return the liquid to the saucepan. Add half the amount of liquid measurement in honey which should be 1 cup. Turn the heat back on and stir while heating until the honey starts to thin. Turn off the heat and stir to combine.

Store your syrup in the refrigerator.

Herbal Marshmallows

2 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons Marshmallow root powder

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Beat whites until very foamy and not quite stiff. Beat in Vanilla.

Slowly beat in sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time. When sugar is completely  mixed in, add the Marshmallow root powder.

Drop mixture using a teaspoonful at a time on a baking tracy covered with parchment paper, Bake 1 hour.

Remove from sheet and let cool.

To store, tightly cover and place in the refrigerator for several days.

For Valentine’s Day, mash up 6 Raspberries and add to the mix after adding the Marshmallow root powder.

Split the spoonful in half and drop side by side using your fingers to taper the end into a heart shape. After cooling, wrap in tissue paper and place in a bag for freshness.

More recipes can be found in the back issues of Herbal Roots zine as well!

Storytelling and Singalongs

After eating, gather round and tell a few of your favorite Herbal Roots zine herbal lore stories such as How Starweed Got her Stars or How Violet Got Her Showy Flowers. Or pick out a few storybooks.

Or perhaps you like to sing? Sing some of your favorite Herb songs from past issues of Herbal Roots zine! Have your guests bring their instruments so they can play and sing along with you.

Parting Gifts


Press some Violets and glue them on bookmarks, laminating the bookmarks or covering them with clear packing tape to give as parting gifts along with a jar of Violet or Dandelion jelly so your guests can have something to remember your herb day party for a long time afterwards.

Do you celebrate Herb Day? What kinds of events to do you do?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 94 – Growing A Native Medicinal Garden

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6th, 2019 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

“I have a vision on the earth made green again through the efforts of children. I can see children of all nations planting trees and holding hands around the globe in celebration on the Earth as their home and all children, all people as their family.”

Richard St. Barbe Baker

This year, the theme at Herbal Roots zine is Native Medicinal Plant Awareness – letting everyone who learns about and uses herbal medicine the importance of sustainably using plants that are slow growing and becoming scarce.

Many of our North American native medicinals can grow for 20-30 years, slowly producing roots or rhizomes that are large enough for harvesting to make medicine.

Solomon’s Seal, Bloodroot, Trillium and Wild Ginger all growing happily together.

Harvesting plants for their roots is a two-fold problem. We are removing the entire plant, often before the seed can spread for the regeneration of future plants, which removes all chances the plant has at continuing its growth cycle so not only are we taking away the main life of the plant (the root) but we are also taking away the plant’s chance of reproduction (the seed).

Reality TV shows highlight the profit behind harvesting American Ginseng roots and ‘seng hunters will go to crazy limits to find roots for selling. Because of the requirements for roots remaining fully intact, sustainable harvest practices (leaving the crown and main portion while harvesting only the side roots is a better practice) are not followed, thought it’s doubtful many would follow sustainable practices even if they could.

Ginseng is a very slow growing native medicinal that can be grown in a home shade garden.

The plants are relying on us to sustain them. We must stop wildcrafting plants such as Osha, Trillium, True Unicorn Root, False Unicorn Root, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, American Ginseng, Goldenseal, Wild Yam and so on and start cultivating them wherever possible.

Most of our endangered species prefer to grow in full to partial shade. While some, such as Osha, require strict growing requirements, many others are quite easily grown in a shady back yard. If you have a bit of space that is in the shade, why not try growing a few native medicinals this year?

Goldenseal blooming along with the violets

Some Ideas to Get Started

Many of our native medicinal plants are fairly small in size, such as Goldenseal, False Unicorn Root, Trillium and Bloodroot. They do great growing nearer to the front of your garden bed, along edges and peaking out of other plants. Wild Ginger, a native medicinal that is not endangered, also fits well in the front.

Wild Yam is a vine and needs support to grow on and is found growing on trees in the wild. You can plant Wild Yam near your trees to bring upward movement into your garden, or add trellises in strategic locations if the trees are not accessible.

Wild Yam growing up another vine in the woods

Black Cohosh and Solomon’s Seal make a great background plant as they can grow to a height of 3-4 feet or more.

Mid-height plants such as Blue Cohosh and American Ginseng can help to fill in between the edge plants and background plants.

Black Cohosh planted in the woods behind our barn

Don’t Have Shade? Try Growing Native Prairie Plants

Pleurisy Root and Echinacea prefer sun so if you are needing a more sun-loving garden, they fit in nicely along with other natives such as Culver’s Root and Wild Indigo for a more colorful butterfly garden.

Pleurisy Root, also known as Butterfly Weed, grows happily in the sunnier part of the garden.


Finding plants to grow can be hard. Check with local native plant nurseries, botanical garden plant shops and local conservation shops for natives that are local to your area. Online, there are some great sources as well. I have had great luck with these:

Companion Plants

Mountain Gardens

Shade Flowers

Strictly Medicinal Herbs

Thyme Garden

Baker’s Creek Seeds


Johnny’s Selected Seeds

False Unicorn Root planted in the woods behind our barn.

How to Grow

Don’t be intimidated by trying to grow these plants. Most are fairly easy and don’t require much more than planting and watering to establish. Generally the online sources will send you instructions on how to plant but if you’d like to read more in depth, try these books for in depth information:

Planting the Future edited by Rosemary Gladstar and Pamela Hirsch

The Future of Ginseng & Forest Botanicals edited by Alison Ormsby and Susan Leopold

Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs by Richo Cech

Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and other Woodland Medicinals by Jeanine Davis and W. Scott Persons

Solomon’s Seal creates beautiful uplifting accents in the shade garden with delicate white bell shaped flowers.

Further Resources

This is a great family project, one that can get kids involved with not only learning about the medicinal aspects of plants but also bring awareness to just how fragile some plants can be. Kids love to take charge of tending their own gardens and this can be a valuable experience for them.

If you’d like to broaden the topic of sustainably growing our native medicinals, there are some great resources for more information, offered by some great people who have dedicated their time to bringing this awareness to our community. I highly recommend checking them and their work out:

Susan Leopold and the entire staff at United Plant Savers – This non-profit organization has been key for supporting and bringing awareness to the plight of our fragile native medicinals. If you are not already a member, you should be! Students of Herbal Roots zine are given a one year membership when they take a course from me such as the Native Medicinal Plant Awareness Journey.

Ann Armbrecht’s Sustainable Herbs Project – a multi-media project educating consumers about sustainability, quality and equity in the herbal products industry. The Sustainable Herbs Project and American Botanical Council have teamed up this year to help educate consumers together.

While it’s not feasible for everyone to grow all the plants, due to space and time and locale constrictions, if we all grow a bit of our natives, together we can help to save our native medicinal plants!

Do you have a native medicinal plants garden? If so, what do you grow? If not, do you have plans to grow any this year? We’d love to hear about your plans, share them in the comments.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 93 – 5 Ideas for Getting Outside in Winter

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18th, 2019 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before as an argument to get outside regardless of the weather. But often, even with the right clothing it can be almost impossible to get kids out into the elements.

The reasons for getting outside all year round are applaudable – it’s mood lifting, it can help to improve your memory, it boosts the immune system, it recharges the brain, and during certain times of the year it can help to increase your vitamin D levels – but sometimes (well probably almost always) knowing it’s good for you just doesn’t seem to be enough to convince kids it’s the right thing to do.

So how can you get your kids to get outside when it’s cold? Funny enough, in my house, all it took was a puppy! My daughter wanted her own puppy and when she got it, she started joining me and my dog on my daily woods walks with her puppy. And when she re-discovered how fun it could be playing next to the stream and exploring, she convinced her brother to join in with us on our adventures.

Granted, there are still times that neither wants to join me but I find if I’m firm and insist they come along, generally the one who resisted the most is the one who doesn’t want to leave when it’s time to return home.

Not everyone can get a puppy so here are some other ideas to get your kids outside in the winter!

Herbal Scavenger Hunt

It may even seem there’s no reason herbally to get outside and explore so it may come as a surprise just how many plants you can find in the middle of winter This is a great time to learn to identify trees, discover the evergreens and look for emerging buds on deciduous trees. Make a list of what you find and try to guess which trees will bud out first. This is a great ongoing game as it encourages returns to the outdoors to follow up.

At the same time, you can learn to identify the skeletons of plants from last year’s growth. How many can you find and identify? Plants such as Goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace, Echinacea, Nettles and Milkweeds are all easy to find.

Some plants such as Nettles, Chickweed and Cleavers are all early risers to they are plants to look for in the ground if it’s not covered in snow.

Keep A Winter Plant Journal

Record all your findings in a journal. Take time to sketch a few of the plants you’ve discovered, what’s start gin to emerge and when everything starts coming back to life. Use colored pencils to color in drawings. Collect leaves, twigs, seeds and do bark rubbings during your walks to add to your journal.

Take a Hike

If you don’t have a woodland area near your home, head out to a local park or conservation area and explore. It’s fun to find streams and outcroppings of rocks to play on while you’re out.

Clean up your Garden

Got a garden? Late winter is the perfect time to start clearing away the debris. Look for praying mantis egg sacs, collect them as you clean, then redistribute them once your garden is cleared and ready for planting. See who can find the most sacs! Dream about the plants you’ll grow in your garden, it’s fun to see what plants kids like to grow. They’ll feel a bit of ownership in the garden and will be more enthusiastic when it comes to planting, growing and weeding the garden later in the year.

Feed the Birds

From hanging the bird feeder to filling it up, there’s not a single activity related to feeding the birds that my kids don’t enjoy. And if you have plants growing in your back yard, chances are you have birds! During the summer we love to watch the finches eating the Echinacea seed and the swallows dipping in the sky as they eat insects. Birds are not only welcome but a necessary component to herb gardening as they help to spread seeds and eat insects and snails. Adding a few bushes such as Forsythia, Eleuthero and raspberries or other bramble berries offers habitats for the birds as well as the trees. Once the bird feeders are filled, it’s fun to go around the yard and discover bird habitats making it a great way to get kids outside.

Do you make a habit of getting outside during the winter? What tricks do you use to entice your kids to get outside? We’d love for you to share them with us!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 92 – 10 Ways of Documenting Your Herbal Journey with Video

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8th, 2019 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is how to get children to get involved in herbal learning. With the distraction of video games, social media and other electronic pulls, sitting down to learn about herbs the old fashioned way can sometimes seem a bit boring.

Sometimes bringing a bit of the modern into our learning can go a long way in piquing their interest. One thing I know about my kids is they love to video. My daughter will record her puppy on a daily basis, as well as her dances and skits she and her friends put together. My son likes to record himself playing video games and also create ‘how to’ videos on making crafts.

Pulling out the phone camera to record a video about the plants they are learning might just make it get a little more interesting. Here are some ideas for creating a video:

  • Let your kids create a video of a plant that is growing in your yard that they have studied. Have them observe all the parts of the plants, getting close up shots of leaves, flowers, seeds, etc. and talk about the uses of the plant.
  • Do they like acting out stories? Have them create paper dolls of the story characters from the issue of Herbal Roots zine that they are working on and act out the story while they narrate it.
  • Got a singer? Have them learn the corresponding song and sing it on video and create a ‘rock-n-roll’ style video for the song.
  • Does your kid like cooking in the kitchen? They could create a video while they make their favorite herbal recipe.
  • Crafters might enjoy doing a ‘how to’ while they create a craft from Herbal Roots zine.
  • A couple of siblings might enjoy creating a game show style video, quizzing each other on the medicinal uses of a plant they are learning about.
  • For a longer video, record segments over the course of the month while your kids learn about a particular plant. At the end of the month, put together the montage as a review of all they’ve learned over the month.
  • Go on a plant walk with your kids and record it. Take turns talking about each plant you find.
  • Create a video on how to properly harvest a plant.
  • Create a video on how to grow an herb from seed. Continue creating videos over the course of the plant’s life then put together the series to show that herb’s life cycle.

Once you’ve created your videos, share them with your homeschool group, friends or family to let them see what the kids have been up to! If you are part of a homeschool community, this could be a community project in which all the kids create their own videos on a plant they are learning about and then have a film day to show all the created videos. This could work equally well in a regular school setting.

Now that you have a few ideas, grab your camera and start recording!

Do your kids like to create videos? Which video do you think they’d like to create? If you do create a video, we’d love to see it! If you post it on social media, tag us – #herbalrootszine so we can check it out.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 91 – Pass the Cranberry Sauce!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20th, 2018 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

When you think “Cranberry sauce” what comes to mind? Do you envision a gelatinous loaf, globbed out of a can and sliced onto a dainty glass serving tray? Cranberry sauce, for me, has always been up there with fruitcake – something that was served at family holiday meals, traditions that were tolerated but never enjoyed.

Other times I have been served cranberry sauce that was made fresh from Cranberries, cooked to mush and over sweetened. Just about as nearly delightful as the canned stuff.

But then, one Thanksgiving dinner, my cousin served a bowl of Cranberry sauce that looked delicious. So I tried it and was pleasantly pleased! This Cranberry sauce was tangy, sweet, packed with flavor with no mush, no slime. It actually tasted real and healthy! When I asked the recipe, I was so amazed – it had 3 ingredients and required no cooking. In fact, the only kitchen appliance needed was a blender or food processor.

From that day on, this version of Cranberry sauce became a staple in my Thanksgiving meal and every year I make it and gobble it up (along with most of my family). The best part about this version is that it keeps all the valuable vitamins and nutrients as well as the medicinal value of the Cranberry intact. You can read all about that here. Do yourself and your family a favor and try it out this year! Make it today or tomorrow so it has time to sit and infuse for best results on Thursday.

3 Ingredient Cranberry Sauce

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 organic orange, chopped up with peel on plus the juice of 1 orange
Raw, locally sourced honey

Place the cranberries and chopped up orange into a blender and blend until well pureed. The sauce will still be lumpy. Add the juice of the extra orange if needed to help blend.

Add honey to sweeten, about 3 – 4 tablespoons depending on your taste. More can be added later if needed.

Place in a bowl and refrigerate. The sauce tastes better if it’s allowed to sit for a day though it’s ready to eat at any time.

Want to learn more about Cranberry’s medicinal uses? Check out the November 2012 issue on Cranberry.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 90 – Learning About Oyster Mushroom

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13th, 2018 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Often found in the produce aisle of grocery stores, Oyster Mushrooms are a popular culinary mushroom. In Japan, Oyster Mushroom is known as Hiratake and is revered as a potent medicinal mushroom. Oyster Mushroom is a saprophytic mushroom, meaning he likes to grow on dead wood, helping to break down the fibers of fallen trees.

Let’s try an experiment with Oyster Mushroom. You will need a small piece of mushroom. Chew it between your four front teeth and notice any flavors that come out. How does it taste, is it mild? Sweet? How does your mouth feel, does it seem to be warming up or cooling off? Drying or moistening? Most people describe Oyster Mushroom as sweet, moistening and neutral to warming.

The entire mushroom, which we refer to as the fruiting body, is used medicinally.

Oyster Mushroom contains many constituents including the statin lovastatin, mevinolin, sterols including D2 and D4, ergosterol, carotenoids, fatty acids, polyhydroxysteroids, tricholomic acid, formic, malic and acetic acids, guanide, trihydroxy-ketones, tetrahydroxy-ketones, tetraol, epidioxide, cerevisterol, and triol.

Nutritionally, Oyster Mushroom contains protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber, vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyrodoxine), B7 (biotin), C, P, ergosterol (provitamin D), betaine and choline and the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium and zinc.

Medicinally, Oyster Mushroom is antiaging, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antilipidemic, antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antinematodal, antineoplastic, antioxidant, antitumor, antiviral, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, hypotensive, immunomodulator, nervine, and relaxant.

Let’s take a look at what we can use Oyster Mushroom for…

In Chinese medicine, Oyster Mushroom is used to relax tendons and is used to help with low back pain, numb limbs and to strengthen blood vessels.

Much research has been done on many mushrooms, including Oyster Mushroom, for their use in inhibiting cancer cells and tumors. Oyster Mushroom has been proven to be antineoplastic, antimutagenic and antitumor. Oyster Mushroom seems to be especially helpful for leukemia, lung tumors, colon cancer and prostate cancer, with studies showing promise of Oyster Mushroom’s ability to help with hormone-sensitive cancers. Oyster Mushrooms are also antioxidant, which helps to reduce oxidative damage that can lead to cancer.

As an antimicrobial herb, Oyster Mushroom has the ability to inhibit many bacteria including Salmonella, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Eschrichia coli, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis, Bacillus megaterium, Candida albicans, and C. glabrata. Antiviral activity includes inhibiting the herpes simplex virus type-1 and type-2 and the hepatitis C virus.

Oyster Mushroom is great for helping to lower cholesterol as he contains the statin lovastatin, a compound that is used to create the pharmaceutical medication by the same name. Robert Rogers states that the lovastatin compounds are “higher in caps than stems and more concentrated on mature gills” so if you want to consume Oyster Mushroom for lowering cholesterol, it’s best to focus on eating the caps only to get more lovastatin in your diet. While statin medications are contraindicated for many health issues such as liver disease and alcoholism, as well as pregnancy, Oyster Mushrooms are not. Livostatin also seems to prevent and reduce the inflammation that is caused by pancreatitis and stops the progression of the excessive formation of fibrous connective tissue which often happens with inflammatory bowel disease and liver disease. Another compound in Oyster Mushroom, the metabolite mevinolin, is also a fat lowering compound.

Oyster Mushroom also helps with high blood pressure and regular consumption may be helpful for lowering your blood pressure. At the same time, Oyster Mushroom helps to strengthen blood vessels while decreasing cholesterol which helps to widen blood vessels, ensuring easier blood flow which leads to lower blood pressure.

Diabetics may find Oyster Mushroom to be helpful for lowering blood glucose as a hypoglycemic due to his compound guanide. Consuming Oyster Mushrooms on a regular basis may have a beneficial effect on the blood glucose levels but if you try this, be sure to closely monitor your blood glucose levels while doing so.

Oyster Mushroom supports the liver and as we talked about earlier, contains lovastatin which helps to stop the progression of fibrous tissue, which can happen in the liver for those with chronic liver issues such as cirrhosis. As a hepatoprotective, Oyster Mushroom protects the liver and reduces inflammation.

As with many medicinal mushrooms, Oyster Mushroom is also an immune stimulant and immunomodulator, helping to balance our immune system when it’s under or over active and boost our immune system when we are feeling run down. Oyster Mushroom is an excellent addition to our daily diet, especially in the wintertime when our immune systems are often sluggish.

Oyster Mushroom is also antinematodal – in fact, he is considered to be a carnivorous mushroom as he likes to eat nematodes. Oyster Mushrooms contain tricholomic acid which paralyzes nematodes that eat on Oyster Mushrooms. Oyster Mushroom also contains several other nematocidal compounds. Oyster Mushroom hyphae then completely cover the nematodes and absorb the nutrients which provide nitrogen to allow fruiting to take place.

Oyster Mushroom contains a good amount of iron and is considered to be a blood builder. Adding Oyster Mushroom to your food can be helpful for those with anemia.

Oyster Mushroom can be found growing in the wild with his main season being the fall though he can often be found from September – February depending on the climate. Here in zone 6B (near St. Louis, MO), I find them from late August – March, generally with a break from December – January.

Do you harvest Oyster Mushrooms from the wild or cultivate them? I’d love to hear your experiences about either! Share them in the comments below.

From now through Midnight, Tuesday, March 31, 2020 CT, all back issues are on sale for 40% off. This includes annuals, the complete archive and all single issues. Pins are on sale for 20% off!