[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 87 – Learning About Calamus

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3rd, 2018 by KristineBrown — Comments Off on [Herbal Rootlets]: No. 87 – Learning About Calamus

“Nature is just enough; but men and women must comprehend and accept her suggestions.”

– Antoinette Brown Blackwell

Known by many common names including Sweet Flag and Bitterroot, Calamus is a plant that has long been revered by Europeans, Asians and Native Americans alike for his many uses.

Calamus has a history of use all around the world. The Mongolians believed Calamus to purify water so they traveled with it, planting it in their water sources wherever they roamed. Because of this, Calamus was given the name Mongolian Poison and the people avoided any water found with Calamus growing in the water, fearing the Mongolians had planted the plant there to poison their water supply. Many years later people began to realize the value of the plant.

This beautiful reed-like plant loves to grow in moist, damp, watery places and is often found growing among Iris, Cattail and other water loving plants. I have successfully grown Calamus in a dry area but found that he was more easily overgrown by other land loving plants and while he can hold his ground, does much better with his rhizomes in water.

Energetically, Calamus is considered to be bitter, pungent, acrid, warming and drying.

Typically the rhizome is used for medicine but the leaf has some uses as well. While this plant can be extracted, it is most often used by chewing or sucking on a bit of the rhizome or through cold water infusions.

Nutritionally, Calamus has calcium, choline, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

Calamus contains many constituents. He contains the amines choline, methylamine, dimethylamine, and trimethylamine, tannins, resin, acoric acid, palmitic acid, and the bitter principle acorin. In addition, Calamus contains many volatile oils: calamenol, calamene, calamone, eugenol, methyleugenol, and the sesquiterpenes acolamone, acoragermacrone and isoacolamone. In addition, the Indian Acorus calamus contains large amounts of beta-Asarone, while the European variation contains small amounts and the American variation contains little to none. Some lab tests on rodents have indicated in the past that this volatile oil is cancerous which prompted the FDA to consider Calamus to be an ‘unsafe herb’ and its use is prohibited in food. Interestingly enough, the Council of Europe lists Calamus as a category N3 source of natural food flavoring in the traditional manner.

Medicinally, Calamus is analgesic, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, antihistamine, antispasmodic, antitussive, aromatic, astringent, bitter, brain tonic, carminative, central nervous system stimulant, decongestant, demulcent, diaphoretic, digestive, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, laxative, nervine, rejuvenative, relaxant, spleen tonic, stimulant, tonic, vasodilator, and vulnerary.

As an aromatic, bitter, carminative, digestive, laxative tonic, Calamus helps with a variety of digestive related issues including indigestion, dyspepsia, heart burn (often described as burning water rising from the stomach up into the throat), lack of appetite, dry mouth, bad breath, gas, bloating, cramping, colic, constipation, gastritis, nausea and gastric ulcers. Calamus works well mixed with Marshmallow for assisting with digestive issues.

Combining his digestive uses with his anti-anxiety actions, Calamus is useful for helping individuals address anorexia, making him an important part of a protocol to overcome this eating disorder. A word of caution though, even though Calamus can be used for nausea, if too much Calamus is used at once, he becomes emetic and can induce vomiting. Even chewing on too much root can cause nausea to occur so be sure to start out small on your usage.

Calamus is also supportive of a healthy respiratory system. He is astringent, anticatarrhal, antibacterial (some say antimicrobial), antitussive, decongestant, and expectorant, assisting with a variety of respiratory ailments such as congested sinuses, bronchitis, asthma, chronic catarrh, rhinitis, and laryngitis. As a warming and drying herb, Calamus is especially helpful for resolving cold, damp lung issues.

Calamus is often used by speakers, singers and other vocal supporters to strengthen the voice, increase the range and help a person to continue talking longer. This should be used with caution, however, as the vocal chords could become strained or injured if it is used too much.

Traditionally, Calamus was used by Native Americans as a tea or decoction for liver, gallbladder, bladder, and kidney issues, including stones. Today we still use it for these issues as well.

Traditional and modern Native Americans find Calamus to be helpful for those with adult onset diabetes. Herbalist jim mcdonald discusses this use in his monograph: “There is evidence that Calamus increases insulin sensitivity, may possess hypoglycemic effects, and the effects of Calamus as a bitter would help with nutrient assimilation as well, which would be an assisting factors to consider. It’s important to realize that while Calamus could serve as an important medicine, diet and lifestyle factors would also need to be addressed.”

Turning to the nervous system, we can see that Calamus’ listed actions are a central nervous system stimulant and a nervine. Calamus is great for increasing our attention, especially if we have spent a lot of time trying to focus and study. For those who have suffered from brain damage, stroke or head trauma, Calamus has often been helpful in restoring neurological function during recovery. Calamus has also been found to be helpful with those who have autism.

Calamus is great for those suffering from anxiety issues. For post traumatic stress disorder, Calamus assists in bringing the sufferer back to the present which can be helpful for warding off various feelings of anxiety and panic, fear, and nausea. At the same time, Calamus is helpful for other types of nausea, including motion sickness.

Externally, Calamus can be poulticed for animal bites, bruising, wounds, skin blemishes and eruptions, rheumatism and gout.

Learn more about Calamus through the April 2018 issue of Herbal Roots zine. It’s on sale through the end of April.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 86 – Let’s Learn About Sassafras

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12th, 2018 by KristineBrown — Comments Off on [Herbal Rootlets]: No. 86 – Let’s Learn About Sassafras

As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unself-consciously to the soughing of the trees.

– Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

Have you ever drank root beer? Most likely you have! Did you know that the name “root beer” was called such originally because the flavoring was from a bunch of tree and plant roots? Sassafras and Sarsaparilla were two popular roots that were used in the tonic. Today most root beers are artificially flavored or flavored with safrole-free Sassafras extract.

Though it has been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years as a tonic and as medicine, the first written documentation of Sassafras’ uses were recorded in 1574 by Nicolas Monardes, in which he wrote 22 pages on the tree. He was a fan of Sassafras!

Do you have Sassafras growing near you? If so, harvest a bit of the root to do a taste test. If not, try it with a bit of dried (see resources for listings of where to purchase it). Put a bit in your mouth and chew it. What is your first impression? What are you tasting? Is it sweet? A bit pungent? Aromatic? How does it feel in your mouth? Do you find it warming or cooling? Does it seem to dry your mouth or moisten it? Most people describe Sassafras as pungent, sweet, aromatic, warm and moisten. Is that how you would describe it?

Traditionally the root and root bark is used but the twigs and the leaves can also be used.

Nutritionally, not much is listed for Sassafras due to his past ban by the FDA. Sassafras does contain iron. Sassafras contains alkaloids such as boldine, norboldine and reticuline, the volatile oils thujone, safrole, camphor, asarone, eugenol, pinene, myristicin, and anethole, albumin, gum, sassafrid, sitosterol, the lignans sesame and desmethoxyaschantin, mucilage, tannin, resin and wax.

Medicinally, Sassafras is alterative, anodyne, antigalactagoguge, antirheumatic, antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, carminative, circulatory stimulant, decongestant, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, mucilaginous, stimulant, tonic and vasodilator.

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

Before we get into the uses of Sassafras, I want to address the concern of Sassafras being carcinogenic. The FDA has placed a ban on using Sassafras commercially due to a lab test performed on rats back in the late 50’s. The constituent safrole (which is also found in anise, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper) was isolated and force fed in extremely large doses to the rats over a period of time until they got cancer. A third party decided to test safrole and found it not cause cancer in humans. The tests concluded that when the safrole was digested, it broke down and produced a carcinogen in their digestive tract. However, when humans digest safrole, this chemical is not produced, nor are any other carcinogenic chemicals. Of course, you should make your own decision on whether or not Sassafras is safe to consume.

Interestingly enough, the Native Americans have traditionally used Sassafras for treating cancer and studies have shown that safrole may actually be anticancer.

Sassafras was often used in the spring as a tonic. As an alterative and tonic, Sassafras gets the blood moving, which was often sluggish at the end of winter due to several months of eating only preserved meats and foods. With the surge of spring came tonics and greens to get the body cleaned out and ready for a long working summer and Sassafras was one of those plants employed to help boost their energy and stamina. As a vasodilator, Sassafras is similar to Yarrow in that he stirs up stagnant blood, moving it to the surface which opens up our pores and helps us to perspire. This action also thins the blood which helps with cardiovascular health, and improves peripheral circulation, including to the brain, which can be helpful for mental clarity. Those with cold hands and feet may also find Sassafras useful.

As a diuretic, Sassafras assists the kidneys to reduce edema, combats nephritis and has been used to dissolve stones. Sassafras also assists the liver and has been helpful for chronic eczema, dermatosis, acne, and jaundice. Sassafras is also antirheumatic, and helps with rheumatism, gout and arthritis. Traditionally, Sassafras was combined with Sarsaparilla to make a tea used for many things including rheumatism.

Sassafras is carminative and aromatic, aiding in digestive issues such as abdominal pain and distention, gas and indigestion, and promotes good digestion. Sassafras was often drank as a tea to help with digestive issues and is warming to the digestive tract. Gumbo filé, which is powdered Sassafras leaves, is often added to southern cooking, a practice introduced by Native Americans to the European and African settlers in the south.

Women have long used Sassafras as an emmenagogue for reproductive health including delayed or stopped menses, cramping, infertility, amenorrhea, spasmodic dysmenorrhea as well as postpartum pain. As a antigalactagogue, Sassafras can help to reduce the flow of milk in a nursing mother. Please note that women who are pregnant should not use Sassafras.

For the respiratory system, Sassafras has been used to soothe dry coughs, sore throats, remittent fevers, and acute issues such as sinusitis, colds and bronchitis. As a decongestant, Sassafras helps to clear out the sinus and bronchial passages.

Externally, Sassafras can be applied to sore eyes, dark bruises, muscular and joint pain, sprains, strains, sores, wounds, boils, ingrown hairs, and insect bites. As an anodyne and antiseptic, Sassafras is great at cleaning and soothing cuts, bumps and bruises on the body. Sassafras is also used for poison ivy rashes. The pith of Sassafras is mucilaginous, making a nice demulcent poultice that can be applied externally to soothe.

Sassafras should not be used by folks who are on blood thinning medications, those who bleed easily and those who typically run hot as he can increase these issues. Pregnant women should also abstain from using Sassafras. And though it’s most likely not harmful, as a precaution, Sassafras should not be used for long term use.

Do you work with Sassafras in your herbal practice? If not will you be trying it this year?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 85 – Splendid Speedwell

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6th, 2018 by Test Account — Comments Off on [Herbal Rootlets]: No. 85 – Splendid Speedwell

“I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer — and what trees and seasons smelled like — how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odors is very rich.”

― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

This lovely little spring flower has a long history of medicinal use but has sadly fallen out of use with most modern herbalists. Veronica officinalis, the “official” species listed in the pharmacopeias and dispensaries, grows wild but may not be as easy to find as other species such as V. persica. There are several species which can be used medicinally so if you have a species growing in your area, look to various sources for the species’ medicinal usage. Some common names of Speedwell (V. persica) are Gypsyweed and Bird’s Eye Speedwell. V. officinalis was also referred to as Gypsyweed as well as Paul’s Betony, Upland Speedwell, Veronica, Low Speedwell and Groundheil.

My usage of Speedwell has only begun in the past year as it is so small a plant that I overlooked it for years. After having her on my radar for several years, last year I made a conscious decision to try to learn more about her many uses. In my studies I discovered through Peter Holmes (The Energetics of Western Herbs) that Speedwell is “virtually identical in its nature, functions, indications and preparations to Pipsissewa herb and root” with the exception of a few things; most notably, Speedwell is not used for pain relief. This is great to note as Pipsissewa is a more commonly used herb here in North America but is unfortunately on the “to watch list” for United Plant Savers. Speedwell does not have this problem as she can be found taking over yards and fields all around the world. And even though she can be a bit invasive, she is short lived, preferring to die back when the weather gets too hot, making her a great ground cover for springtime when not much else is growing (and blooming).

Veronica officinalis – Photo taken in upstate New York by Beth LeGoff

If you cannot find Speedwell growing in your area, there are some resources online for purchasing the dried herb (as well as seeds if you’d like to try growing it!). If you have Speedwell growing in your yard, you can harvest and use the entire plant. If you do have Speedwell growing in your yard (and she is not buried under three feet of snow) try a taste test of a leaf to see if you can describe her energetics. The first thing you will notice is there is a bit of bitterness. In fact, historically, Speedwell was a substitute for black tea in Europe, something herbalist Ben Charles Harris suggested was because Speedwell “helped to strengthen and fortify the body against disease in her book “The Compleat Herbal”. You might next notice that your mouth seems to be drying up a bit as you chew on the leaf and seems to cool it off as well. Most people describe Speedwell as bitter, drying and cooling. What do you think?

V. persica blooming in early spring.

Because there is not a lot of modern use for Speedwell, finding nutritional information is a bit more difficult. I did discover that she has vitamin C. In addition to vitamin C, Speedwell contains resins, alkaloids, tannins, bitters, saponins, phenylethanoid, and the glycosides iridoid and scutellarin (which is also found in Skullcap).

Medicinally, Speedwell is considered to be alterative, anti-ulcer, astringent, decongestant, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, hemostatic, hypocholesterolemic, lithotriptic, restorative, stimulant, stomachic, tonic and vulnerary.

Veronica persica in early spring in southern Illinois

Let’s take a look at what Speedwell can or has been used for…

Most historical sources list similar uses for Speedwell, including skin conditions, respiratory conditions and urinary issues. Another aspect is Speedwell’s usefulness for eye issues as well.

Starting with the eye issues, Speedwell has been used as a poultice and as an eyewash to ease tired and inflamed eyes. Try this herb for sore, swollen and strained eyes. Because she is often used for itchy skin conditions, I hope to try a wash out for itchy eyes soon.

For the respiratory system, Speedwell is decongestant and expectorant. She has been used for all things respiratory including coughs, congestion, asthma, tuberculosis, and bronchitis. As being a primary drying herb, Speedwell helps to dry out damp conditions of the lungs. This is also a helpful herb to use for helping to break up dried up mucus that is stuck in the lungs. Used as a gargle, Speedwell is also good for scratchy sore throats and possibly sore throats caused from sinus drainage. I would reach for Speedwell any time a respiratory complaint comes up, perhaps mixing her with Thyme, Plantain, Wild Cherry and any number of other respiratory herbs.

Veronica spp. – Photo taken in upstate New York by Beth LeGoff

Urinary issues such as stone formations, cystitis, urethritis, blood in the urine, bedwetting, cloudy urine, incontinence, and water retention, Speedwell may be helpful. Many of these issues can be resolved with Pipsissewa and there is some historical use of Speedwell for urinary conditions as well. Speedwell is diuretic and astringent which are useful for many of these urinary issues and as a lithotriptic, she has the ability to dissolve urinary stones.

Speedwell excels when it comes to skin conditions with her vulnerary and hemostatic actions. She is listed in almost all resources as being a wound healer and for her use on various skin conditions including chronic skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis as well as “leprosy-like” conditions. Speedwell can also be used for slowly healing sores, pimples and itchy skin. As a hemostatic, Speedwell can help to stop bleeding on a cut or wound that won’t stop on its own. Speedwell would combine well with Burdock for skin issues. The late Juliette de Bairacli Levy used Speedwell for a number of skin complaints including inflammation, eruptions, ulcers and rashes. For chronic skin conditions, be sure to use Speedwell both internally and externally.

A modern herbalist named Harald Tietz suggests that the tincture can be rubbed into the skin for rheumatism and gout. I would pair this with daily cups of Speedwell tea as well.

Juliette de Bairacli Levy stated that the Romani people also used Speedwell (commonly referred to as Gypsyweed, indicating an herb that was often used by the Romani) as a tonic and blood cleanser, which we sometimes refer to as an alterative. Speedwell would be a great herb to add to springtime teas to help with getting our winter sluggish blood moving.

I find it interesting that Speedwell is listed in herbals as being a stimulant but contains scutellarin, a glycoside found in Skullcap, which is an herb that is known for being very calming. But as herbalist jim mcdonald points out, herbs can be both stimulating and relaxing at the same time. UK herbalist Lucinda Warner backs up this phenomenon with her first impression of tasting Speedwell tea: “The first sip had an immediate mental clearing effect and I felt soothed but not sedated, the effect being both relaxing and clarifying.” This is an herb I would reach for when I need to calm down and focus on a task.

In my research, I found a few other uses listed but could not find much to back up these uses. These uses included epilepsy, jaundice, worms, sore breasts for nursing moms, as well as being hypocholesterolemic and anti-ulcer. Hopefully as time goes on, more research will be done by herbalists to discover more uses and to back up these mentioned uses.

Speedwell is one of the first green plants to appear in my yard. She will be one of the first plants to bloom as well, dotting the lawn with minuscule blue-purple specks. The best time to harvest Speedwell is in the spring when she starts to bloom. The entire plant can be harvested for use or you may choose to simply trim the aerial parts, leaving the roots behind. I find it easiest to just pluck her from the ground since she is so small but V. officinalis is a bit larger and would probably be easier to harvest the aerial parts.

It is easy to dry Speedwell by simply placing what you’ve gathered in a basket in a warm, dry place, fluffing it daily to turn, allowing it to evenly dry. Store in a glass jar away from light.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 84 – Winter Plant Identification (and a Freebie)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25th, 2018 by Test Account — Comments Off on [Herbal Rootlets]: No. 84 – Winter Plant Identification (and a Freebie)

“Nothing in nature, even weeds, should be considered unworthy of study.”

– Quirky Science

Often we forget to get outside in the winter. Reasons are multitude. It’s too cold. It’s a hassle to bundle up the kids. It’s dreary. There’s nothing to see or do. Nothing is growing. There are no plants around to harvest.

Don’t let these excuses keep you inside! Winter is the perfect time to hone up on your plant identification skills. I’d like to challenge you to get outside and see what you can identify, you might be surprised! Grab your sketchbook, a pen or pencil, and the kids and head outside!

Look up! Look towards the sky for the tree line.

This is a great time to study trees. You can stand off a distance and check out their skeletons. What shape do they form? How do the branches spread out? Is there one main central trunk or is it branching? Or has it been coppiced and has a multitude of trunks?

Do a rough sketch of the overall tree shape then move in closer. Check out the tree bark. Is it rough or smooth? What color is it? Does it have lenticels? Can you identify the tree from the bark? Sometimes the bark gives us clues to the tree’s identity. Do a tree bark rubbing or sketch a sample of how it looks.

Now look at the buds. There are lots of clues in the buds as well. There are some great books that can help with identification through their buds, check my online book list under plant identification.  Sketch the buds too. Touch them, are they sticky, such as the Cottonwood buds are? Write down what you observe and sketch the buds. This is the perfect time to harvest those Cottonwood buds!

Make it a goal to learn to identify all the trees in your back yard or in your local park this winter. If that seems too overwhelming (parks can be huge!), try for 3-5 trees.

There’s a fungus among us.

Often overlooked, mushrooms can be abundantly found as well this time of year. Shelf mushrooms, such as Reishi and Artist’s Conk will be visible, as will True and False Turkey Tails. Surprisingly, I found Oyster Mushrooms growing on a dead oak tree in mid-January this year. As a bonus, most of these are found growing on trees so when you’re checking out your local trees, scour their limbs and trunks for any fungi that might be there.

Though it might be hard to identify the dried up remains of some of the mushrooms, others will be easy to identify.

Go on a scavenger hunt to see what the plants have left behind.

This is also a fun time to go on a wild weed walk and see what skeletons you can find. Many plants leave behind telltale clues where they are located. Turn your walk into a scavenger hunt! Can you find a Mullein torch?

How about Queen Anne’s reversed umbrella?

Or Echinacea’s pincushion?

Goldenrod’s plume?

You might even be able to find Evening Primrose’s fairy candle holders.

What other plants can you find? To get into the swing of things, I have created a fun little scavenger hunt printable to take on your winter weed walk. It’s free to download, just click here!

If you don’t have plants growing in your back yard to investigate, head out to a local preserve or conservation area. They typically do not cut down the dead plants giving you lots of specimens to observe. You’ll be surprised what you can find there.

This time of the year doesn’t have to be downtime for learning about plants! You’ll be surprised how many you can find and learn about even in the middle of winter! So go ahead, bundle up the kids, grab a sketch pad and pen and head on out to see what you can find. And don’t forget your free scavenger list printables!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 83 – Lavish Licorice

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16th, 2018 by Test Account — Comments Off on [Herbal Rootlets]: No. 83 – Lavish Licorice

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

– Jerry Garcia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Maurice Mességué

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to make a Turkey Tail decoction.

1 – 2 tablespoons broken up Turkey Tail

2 cups filtered water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

burdock flower

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


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


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

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

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

Burdock - Arctium lappa

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

Instant. Relief.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


“The most important thing we can teach our young people is to observe well.”

Dr. Ernest Mayr

I had such wonderful feedback about “discovering” a plant in your back yard to study for the year that it gave me an idea to offer up a challenge for April so #30daysofherbalallies was born!

Each day in April, post of photo on your favorite social media of choice (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter…) of something herbal that relates to the key word for the day. You may choose to stick to your chosen herb or randomly select plants/herbal medicine as you feel drawn to that matches the herb. Or do a mixture of both, focusing mainly on your chosen herb with a smattering of random plants that catch your eye throughout the month. The point is to have fun, raise your awareness of the plants around you and to get outside in fresh air every day!

How do you relate to herbs? What are you most drawn to? If you are choosing to focus on one plant, how do you think this can deepen your awareness of that plant? This is a great exploratory activity to practice with your kids (or yourself) to really get to know a plant or observe the plants in a way you might not have thought about before. I hope this month long activity will find you all taking to the outdoors with camera and sketchbook in hand, ready to capture the plants that grow in your back yard.

Photos could be of the plants themselves, medicine made from the plants, artwork of the plants, a jpeg of a poem you’ve written or anything else that speaks the daily key word to you. Mix and match, let’s have fun with this! I hope to see my Instagram feed flooded with #30daysofherbalallies as we celebrate our #2017herbalmascot!

This photo challenge is set for April 1-30. I will post reminders as we get closer to April 1. Be sure to add the hashtags #30daysofherbalallies and #2017herbalmascot to your post so that anyone participating can view and see all the lovely herbal goodness we are posting! I’ll be posting pictures to my Instagram account, feel free to follow me: @herbalrootszine

If you’re a bullet journal junkie, you can download a printable to print, cut and paste into your bullet journal here.


Do you think this is a challenge you will do or enjoy doing? Do you think your kids will enjoy it too? If you decide to do the challenge, will you focus on one plant for the month or a variety? Or both?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 79 – Choose Your Own Herbal Mascot

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22nd, 2017 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Herbal Mascot

“Many young people find botany a dull study. So it is, as taught from the text-books in the schools; but study it yourself in the fields and woods, and you will find it a source of perennial delight.”

John Burroughs

The peepers started their call late this afternoon as I sat and prepared to write this newsletter, their siren call that beckoned me outside. I put off writing to go out and bask in the promise of sunnier days while I enjoyed the frolics of our baby goats.

Meet Ivy and Valentino, Calendula's Valentine babies.

Meet Ivy and Valentino, Calendula’s Valentine babies.

We live sort of in the middle of the USA so our winters are pretty boring. We rarely get snow anymore that lasts for more than a day or two and generally, the accumulation isn’t even deep enough to have a snowball fight with.

But even so, the grass and most plants generally die back with the exception of a few rebellious plants such as Motherwort, Catnip and Ground Ivy. They all tend to hang on. Even Monarda sprang back up pretty early, I think I first noticed her emergence in January when we cleaned out the herb gardens of their debris in preparation for this season. I counted 8-10 praying mantis egg cases which I safely located to areas around the garden.

Praying mantis case nestled under the Elderberry.

Praying mantis case nestled under the Elderberry.

This afternoon, I noticed the Speedwell was blooming. This little plant is one I am guilty of overlooking in my herbal studies. It grows proficiently around here but for whatever reason, it’s never on my radar to learn about. That got me thinking, what makes a plant interesting enough that we want to study it? Why do we often ignore some plants? Why are some more ‘in favor’ and some more ‘out of favor’ to us?


Speedwell AKA Gypsyweed, blooming among the White Clover.

I decided to do a little research on Speedwell to see what I could find. Maude Grieve refers to Speedwell (Veronica officinalis) as Common Gypsyweed which intrigues me because I am very drawn to the Romany people. All of a sudden, I am very interested in this plant. Funny how a name can do much to stir an interest. Apparently Speedwell was a popular herb for a very long time.

Maude goes on to say:

The plant has diaphoretic, alterative, diuretic, expectorant and
tonic properties, and was formerly employed in pectoral and nephritic
complaints, haemorrhages, diseases of the skin and in the treatment
of wounds. Modern herbalists still consider that an infusion of the
dried plant is useful in coughs, catarrh, etc., and is a simple and
effective remedy in skin diseases.”

Well, I know an herb I plan to work more with this year! Sounds like a great plant for adding to our herbal first aid kit for skin issues!

How about you? What’s in your back yard that you’ve been ignoring? I invite you to go out into your own back yard and make an inventory of the plants that are growing right now. Include the trees! I know that a lot of you living in a more northern climate may not have as much to see but try it anyway, you might be surprised to see what you can find. Chickweed and Cleavers have made their debut. If you don’t have any greenery popping up yet, refer back to your Herbal Bloom Wheel. What did you list on there last year that you might have discovered but never got around to learning about? What tree blossoms in your neighborhood that you’d like to get to know better? What about your landscape plants? There are a surprising amount of landscape plants and bushes that are actually medicinal in nature. You might be surprised to see what your yard has to offer.

Don’t have a yard? What about your local park? You might be surprised to see what they have to offer.

Make a commitment this spring to learn about 1 plant that grows near you that you’ve seen for years but never bothered to get to know. Adopt it as your herbal mascot for the year.

Need some help getting started with inspiration for focusing on an herb this year? I’ve got lots of past newsletters on this topic. Check out:






To get you started, I’ve created a fun little printable worksheet. Use it in conjunction with my herbal profile template. Both are available for free on my website.


I’d love to hear about the plant you decide to adopt for the year if you decide to do so. Please tell me in the comments or send me an email! If you decide to post about it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other online media, add in the hashtags: #2017herbalmascot #herbalrootszine so we can all see what we’re learning about this year!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 78 – Of Light and Love

Posted in february calendar, Uncategorized on February 1st, 2017 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far


This past year has gone by in a whirlwind. Lots of interruptions from our usual routines forced me to put newsletters for Herbal Roots zine on hold. Now that life is starting to settle back down, I am hoping to get back into the swing of things, I truly have missed writing these newsletters regularly!

Before I get started with today’s post, I’d like to ask what YOU would like me to write about this year. How often would you like to hear from me? If you have any questions or topics that are herb/kid related, please hit the reply button and drop me a line! For those reading this online, please leave a comment!

Winter gives me silent hope:
Touch the terminal buds on branches.
Clear the snow and find green moss below.
Watch the sunlight fade, then linger longer.
Stand with the strength of evergreen trees.
Listen to birds cheeping at the feeder.

-Joyce Ruff, The Circle of Life

Today is the halfway point between winter and spring. Often when reflecting on this day, I feel it more to be the beginning of spring as in our area of the country signs of spring are all around: birds are returning to the area, waking me with their morning song, plants are poking out of the ground left and right, and my goat will soon be birthing. The days are getting noticeably longer, we are halfway between the shortest day of the year (winter solstice) and the midway point (spring equinox). The ancients celebrated this day as Brigit’s day, who was known as many people including Brigit the Healer, a woman who taught the properties of healing herbs. In modern times this day is also known as Candlemas and Groundhog’s Day, the day of light and hope for spring. It is traditional to eat dinner by candlelight and in honor of the sheep (and goats) who are in milk, milk laden foods are served. We wait with baited breath to see if Phil will see his shadow and go back into his underground home to wait out another 6 weeks of winter.


Regardless of your personal beliefs, this is a day to celebrate the steady return of light! Spring is almost here! Celebrate today by taking a walk outside with your children and playing “I Spy” to see how many plants you can spy coming out of the ground. If it is snowy in your region and not a sign of spring is to be found, create a little of your own by planting some seeds indoors or forcing some bulbs. My favorite plants for this time of year are white tulips or cyclamens. Their white reminds me of the light, something we crave here in midst of winter when most days are gloomy and the sun shine seems optional to the sky. To complete your day, burn some sweet smelling beeswax candles for dinner, to remind you of the bees who will soon begin pollinating our plants when they burst from the ground and bloom. Make a custard or pudding for dessert or serve some creamed potatoes for dinner (creamy potato soup with dried herbs is a hit for these gloomy, cold evenings) while you relish the thought of the return of spring.

February also brings us a time of love. Often through the day to day shuffle of life, our gratitude for those closest to us gets pushed aside. February is a time to offer acts of love, kindness and gratitude towards those we love and may not remember to show appreciation for. Try to take time this month to show your gratitude for little things your partner, children and friends do for you. Even just a few words spoken can go a long way. When my older children attended public school, I used to send little notes in their daily lunches letting them know how great they were or how much I loved them. My daughter, now grown, fondly remembers the notes even when she hardly mentioned them growing up. Thank your partner for the mundane things such as washing the dishes, folding the laundry or putting the kids to bed. It’s so easy to take these things for granted but making a conscious effort to acknowledge them makes not only the recipient of the gratitude happy, you’ll find it makes yourself happy too! And most of all, don’t forget to tell everyone in your life how much you love them. We all need a lot of love right now, especially during the final days of winter when the cold and gloom seem to drag on forever.

Herbal Valentines 2017 Herbal Valentines 2017

It doesn’t hurt to be a bit silly in expressing your love either! That’s why I get such a kick out of creating the annual herbal valentines! It’s my way of showing my love to all of you, my dear readers. Be sure to download this year’s version and if you’d like, the past two years as well.

Herbal Valentines 2017 Herbal Valentines 2017

Do you have any rituals for this time of year? How do you show your gratitude for those in your life? Will you be planting a garden this year? If so have you begun planning it and will you be starting anything from seed? Share in comments, we’d love to hear from you!

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

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21st, 2016 by KristineBrown — 3 Comments


Your deepest roots are in nature.  No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.

– Charles Cook

In a few past newsletters I have talked about teaching tissue states and energetics to kids. And for those of you who subscribe to the monthly zine, you know I always talk about how herbs can be warming or cooling, drying or moistening. These terms add another layer to herbalism that isn’t often talked about in beginner books and courses and so they can often feel intimidating.

Really though, learning energetics is easy and it’s important when you are trying to match up herbs to a person. Have you ever given an herb to someone, an herb that seems to ‘do’ everything they need for the ailment they have only to find out that particular herb didn’t seem to help at all? Chances are, it’s because the energetics didn’t balance out.


I have wanted to come up with a lesson plan to teach kids and their adults how to determine which herb is right for which person but I just haven’t had the time to really sit down and think it through. Then a couple years ago, my friend Rosalee de la Forêt shared a chart with me that she had made. It was brilliant! It really helps to put the whole energetics thing into perspective. She calls it her Herbal Compass. I call it awesome! It links up the tastes of herbs (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter) with their warming/cooling and moistening/drying aspects so all that’s left is to figure out how they match up to the individual. Rosalee has done that as well! She is sharing her Herbal Compass with everyone and along with it, worksheets to determine individual constitutions.


I still have a super simple kid friendly version of this class in mind but until I get around to it, I will keep recommending Rosalee’s Herbal Compass (and will continue to recommend it even after I do cuz it’s that awesome!). She has made her herbal compass and personal constitution worksheet free to everyone, along with a quick video that explains how to use it all, be sure to go and grab yours! I have mine sitting on my desk next to my computer for easy reference. She has shared this chart in the past but it has been updated since then so if you grabbed it the last time I shared it you’ll want to get the updated version!

Do you use energetics in your herbal practice? Do you teach your kids about herbal energetics? If you’ve just started learning about energetics, what do you find to be your most useful tool for teaching and learning about them?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 76 – Learning About Ginkgo

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

learning about ginkgo

Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).

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

Ginkgo trees are one of the ancients, having been growing and flourishing since the Jurassic period, dating them to be in existence for 145.5 – 199.6 million years. That’s a really long time! Known as a “living fossil,” Ginkgo is the only living relative in the Ginkgoaceae family. With their ancient genes comes ancient medicine. The first known Chinese herbalist, Emperor Shen Nung is the author of the ancient medical/herbal text Pen T’sao Ching and Ginkgo is listed among one of many plants used 5,000 years ago.


In traditional and modern day herbal medicine, the leaf of Ginkgo is used. The seed has been used as well but can be toxic, especially in large doses. Many people eat the seeds shelled and cooked with no adverse reactions. If you were to chew on a leaf of Ginkgo, you would notice it to be a bit sweet and bitter. While Ginkgo is neither warming or cooling (he is considered neutral), you would notice a drying effect from the leaf.

Nutritionally, Ginkgo leaf contains protein, calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, zinc, and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), and B3 (niacin).


Ginkgo also contains amino acids, benzoic acid, flavonoids (quercetin, rutin, ginkgolide, kaempferol), flavones (ginkgolic acid, sciaopitysin, ginkgetin, bilobetin, and more), bioflavonoids, terpenes (bilobalides, ginkgolides) and tannins.

Medicinally, Ginkgo is antibacterial, anticoagulant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, brain tonic, cardiotonic, circulatory stimulant, circulatory tonic, decongestant, neuroprotective, rejuvenative, and a vasodilator.


So, let’s take a look at what we can use Ginkgo for…

Ginkgo’s species name is biloba, or bi-lobed, referring to the leaves that are often two-lobed in appearance. We herbalists often consider that the plants tell us their medicinal uses through various characteristics, the language of the plants, so to speak. With Ginkgo, this language translates to parts of our body that contain two: the two sides of our brain, the two sides of our heart, our two ears, our two eyes, our two arms and legs, and our two lungs. It almost seems that there’s no part of our body that Ginkgo doesn’t have an effect on!


Let’s break this down further starting with the brain. As a brain tonic, circulatory stimulant, and neuroprotectant, Ginkgo works to improve blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the brain which helps to improve mental functions such as memory, and problem solving. It has been found to be helpful for those suffering from vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease when introduced during the early stages. Those who have suffered from a stroke may find Ginkgo to be useful in stroke recovery. For those who suffer from migraines, some have found Ginkgo to provide relief and even prevent migraines from returning.

Ginkgo is often used for those planning a trip to high altitudes to prevent altitude sickness by helping to provide oxygen rich blood to the brain as well as thinning out the blood with his anticoagulant action (blood tends to thicken at high altitudes). It’s best to start taking Ginkgo regularly several days prior to a trip; James Duke recommends 120 milligrams daily. Children would want to take 1/4 – 1/2 the dosage depending on their age and weight.


When it comes to our heart, Ginkgo is a cardiotonic, circulatory stimulant, anticoagulant, vasodilator and antioxidant. Taking Ginkgo regularly may reduce the risk of heart disease as well as lower blood cholesterol. Taking it a step further with our circulation, Ginkgo inhibits platelet activating factor (PAF), a substance that is released by various blood cells. PAF makes our blood stickier which in turn can cause blood clotting, inflammation and allergenic responses.

For the ears, Ginkgo has been able to relieve folks of tinnitus, a condition in which a person hears a ringing, buzzing, chirping, hissing or other sound in the ears when no external sound is present. Some forms of tinnitus and other hearing impairments may be caused by a lack of circulation in the brain, in which Ginkgo can be very effective in reversing.


As we get older, our eyes start to wear out. Many older people get a painless, progressive disorder known as macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness. Ginkgo’s circulatory stimulant and antioxidant actions work together to help improve long-distance vision. Some studies are now indicating that Ginkgo may go as far as reverse damage to the retina. 

Our outer extremities, the arms and legs, often suffer from their own conditions relating to circulation. Calling on his circulatory stimulating actions along with his vasodilating actions, Ginkgo works to strengthen capillaries and blood vessels, assisting with varicose veins and broken capillaries. Ginkgo contains rutin, which is helpful as well. A disorder in the legs, known as intermittent claudication, is often caused by the narrowing of arteries in the legs, which causes pain in the calves after walking. Studies have shown Ginkgo to be effective in lowering cholesterol, which can cause the arteries to narrow, as well as improving the flow of blood through vasodilation, lessening the severity of intermittent claudication. Another circulatory disorder, Raynaud’s disease, often causes problems with hands and feet. Those suffering from Raynaud’s may have a loss of sensation along with frigid, stiff fingers and toes, generally more noticeable during cold temperatures. Again, Ginkgo works to increase circulation to the outer extremities, returning blood flow to the fingers and toes to decrease the issues. Ginkgo can ease feelings of coldness in our extremities and may improve the ability to walk further.


One final pair in the body that is strongly effected by Ginkgo is our lungs. Ginkgo’s anti-PAF action helps to decrease allergic reactions which reduces bronchoconstriction and inflammation in the lungs which in turn eases chest tightness and wheezing from bronchial conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. We talked about PAF regarding the circulatory system, in the lungs, PAF can be released during immediate hypersensitive reactions in the lungs, which leads to bronchoconstriction.

Ginkgo can take time to show effects so be prepared to use it for at least 6 weeks. If using long term, you should take a 6 week break every 6 months.

Those who are anticoagulant or anti platelet medications should only use Ginkgo under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. Those who have excessive bleeding should also use caution with Ginkgo. The raw leaf may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, if this happens, discontinue use or seek out a standardized extract. Ginkgo has been known to interact with many medications such as blood thinners, thiazide diuretics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Photo credit: Jo Feterle of http://redskyapiary.com/

Photo credit: Jo Feterle of http://redskyapiary.com/

Ginkgo trees are fairly easy to grow but are very slow growing. If you can find a female tree (which can be hard to do as the rotting fruits smell awful to most), you can plant the seeds and they will grow. Most reputable nurseries will only sell female trees. If you are growing yours from seed, you have quite a long time to wait until the tree matures and produces seeds as it takes 20-40 years to reach maturity. The downside to growing the male is that they produce high allergen pollen. Use caution when touching the seeds, they can cause contact dermatitis similar to poison ivy. It’s best to wear gloves when harvesting them (see the recipe section for more information).

Leaves should be harvested when the Ginkgo leaves of autumn turn yellow. See the recipe section for information on harvesting.

Do you have Ginkgo growing in your area? Have you ever harvested it for medicine? Tell us all about your adventures with this wonderful tree!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 75 – Learning About Gumweed

Posted in Uncategorized on August 24th, 2016 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

A huge thank you to Angela Willard for all the great photos of Gumweed!


To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.

– Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gumweed is also known as Gumplant and Resinweed, Rosinweed, Tarweed, Stickyheads and Curlytop Gum Plant. The Blackfeet Native Americans refer to Gumweed as “akspeis” which translates to Stickyweed. See a theme in his name? Gum, tar, resin and rosin all describe a common characteristic to the plant that goes by the botanical name of Grindelia. Gumweed was officially recognized in the Pharmacopoeia of the United States from 1882 – 1926.

Let’s take a look at Gumweed’s energetics. If you were able to taste Gumweed, you would notice a pungent taste, followed by some bitterness. Gumweed is considered to be cooling and moistening. The resinous flowers are most often used medicinally but the leaves have been used as well.


I have been unable to find any nutritional information on Gumweed. Gumweed contains a variety of constituents including resin containing diterpenoid acids, including grindelic acid; phenolic acids, flavonoids and small amounts of saponins. The resin acids appear to be similar in physical properties and in chemistry to the diterpenoid resin acids founds in pine trees.

Medicinally, Gumweed is alterative, antiasthmatic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, bronchospasmolytic, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, sedative, stomachic and vulnerary. Let’s take a look at what we can do with Gumweed…


Most commonly, Gumweed is used for respiratory ailments, specifically hot, dry coughs with stuck mucus. Gumweed’s antiasthmatic, bronchospasmolytic, anti-inflammatory, and expectorant actions assist in bringing up the mucus while soothing the bronchial tubes, especially in cases of a tight sore chest, dry hacking cough, asthma, pertussis, bronchitis, and emphysema. Not only will Gumweed help to bring up stuck mucus, but he will also soothe the smooth muscles of the lungs, relaxing them and helping the bronchioles to open, allowing for more air flow. Gumweed is often found to be helpful for asthma when it is accompanied by tachycardia and is listed as so in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1983.

As I mentioned, Gumweed is useful for tachycardia, helping to slow down a rapid heart beat, including a nervous rapid heart beat and can be useful for palpitations too. Gumweed is also hypotensive, lowering blood pressure and should be used with caution under the care of a qualified herbalist or other healthcare professional for those with weak or damaged hearts. We can attribute his hypotensive actions to his diuretic actions which help to drain fluid from the heart and lungs. Gumweed is best supported by cardiac stimulants, especially when working with left-sided heart failure.


Gumweed can be very stimulating on the kidneys and should not be used long term or by those who have acute kidney infection (nephritis). At the same time, Gumweed can be helpful as a diuretic and antibacterial herb for bladder and urinary tract infections.

Externally, Gumweed has been found very effective for a variety of chronic and acute skin conditions, especially those that are hot and dry. His demulcent action combines with his vulnerary, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory actions to soothe eczema, including those suffering from atopic terrain (asthma alternating with eczema), skin ulcers, blisters, burns, rashes and inflammation including those from poison ivy and oak, as well as insect bites and stings.


Gumweed for dull pain in the right or left hypochondrium, the area at the base of the ribs on the the corresponding side of the body, which is often accompanied by a sallow, pallid complexion, lethargy and malaise, weakness and indigestion, enlarged spleen or liver, eye pain, chills and fever. This can be a side effect of malaria. Gumweed is useful for those who are having pain in their spleen or liver regions as well.

Mathew Wood uses Gumweed for sleep apnea as well.

As an anti-inflammatory, stomachic and aromatic, Gumweed is beneficial to the digestive tract, calming minor inflammation and is best combined with other herbs such as Fennel, Ginger, Plantain and Spearmint.


As stated before, Gumweed needs to be used with caution for those with acute kidney infections, and high blood pressure. Do not exceed the suggested doses or use long term. Gumweed is best used in occasional small doses and in combination with other herbs.

Gumweed is easily grown in zones 3-7 and is fascinating to see and touch due to the high amounts of resin that can accumulate in the head of the flower, which reminds me of excessive sticky phlegm in the lungs, nose and throat. The stickiness of the resin is similar to that found on Pine. If you have space in your garden, consider growing some Gumweed as he is a delightful plant that will bring color and pollinators into your garden.

Do you have Gumweed growing in your area? Have you ever used it medicinally? Tell us your stories about Gumweed!