[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.

Pre-Sale of 2019 Herbal Roots zine Wall Calendars

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5th, 2018 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

It’s been 6 years since I’ve been able to put together a wall calendar for Herbal Roots zine’s upcoming herbs and I am excited to present the 2019 wall calendar featuring endangered and at risk native medicinal plants!

Some positive changes for the calendar are:

  • printed on recycled paper
  • matte finish which gives it a more handmade feel
  • saddle stitch instead of spiral binding
  • ability to customize the calendar pages to fit in with the feel of the illustrations

To raise funds for printing the calendars, I am running a quick 10 day Kickstarter sale. Early birds will get bonus note cards as a thank you for helping to support this project as well as lower pricing than general retail pricing.

I am quite happy with how these have turned out and hope you like them too. I chose to add a minimal watercolor to each illustration so that it can also be used as a coloring book if you so desire.

For full details and a view of the illustrations, head to the Kickstarter page.


[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 89 – Learning About Gravel Root

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5th, 2018 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Commonly called Joe Pye Weed due to a native medicine man who used this plant for typhoid fever and Queen of the Meadow due to this plant’s stunning blooms in mid to late summer, Gravel Root is a plant that is related to Boneset, and previously shared the same genus, though Gravel Root has been moved to a new genus. Gravel Root is also sometimes called Motherwort, Feverweed, Kidney Root and Purple Boneset.

Do you have fresh or dried Gravel Root? If so, try a taste test. Chew a piece of root about the size of half your small fingernail with your front teeth and notice how Gravel Root tastes. Do you notice a bit of pungency? Bitterness? Any other flavors? How does your mouth physically feel, does it seem to be drying up or moistening? Getting warmer or cooler? Or staying neutral? Most describe Gravel Root to be pungent and bitter, neutral to cooling and drying.

Gravel Root’s nutritional information is unknown due to lack of research.

Gravel Root contains the constituents of protein, carbohydrates, polysaccharides, the flavonoids queratin and euparin, the oleoresin eupatorin, the sesquiterpene lactones, essential oils, resin, tannins, and the unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloid echinatine.

As the name implies, the root is the part of the plant that is used medicinally.

Gravel Root has an affinity for the urinary system and the reproductive system.

Medicinally, Gravel Root is antirheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, immunostimulant, lithotriptic, nervine, stimulant and tonic. Let’s take a look at how Gravel Root is used…

Gravel Root has a long traditional use for many urinary problems. As a lithotriptic, diuretic, stimulant and tonic, she has the ability to help dissolve stones, including urinary calculus, while toning and relaxing the mucus membranes and helping the urinary system to push the sediment out of the urinary tract. Gravel Root stimulates the flow of urine which can be helpful in reducing edema, inflammation in the bladder, and chronic cystitis. Gravel Root has also been used to help those who suffer from urination issues such as frequent, scanty urination, cloudy urine, leaking, dribbling and other forms of urinary incontinence, painful urination, gout, diabetes insipidus and rheumatism.

Since Gravel Root is antiseptic and astringent, she helps to create an environment in the bladder that is inhospitable to bacteria that can cause chronic bladder infections.

The urinary system isn’t the only thing that Gravel Root helps to balance. She also works well for balancing and toning the female reproductive system and especially for the uterus. Another lesson in learning the botanical names of plants – Gravel Root has been previously referred to as “motherwort” due to her use for helping women with a history of miscarriages and was historically given three times daily to help prevent miscarriages that are caused by chronic uterine inflammation, tipped uteruses and prolapses. Gravel Root also helps to make labor go more smoothly and was often given to women who had previous difficult labors. As an emmenagogue, Gravel Root is helpful for women with menstrual cycles that are often irregular and scanty. For pregnancy, Gravel Root is most helpful when taken continuously three times a day.

Matthew Wood talks about Gravel Root’s ability to “heal broken bones and eroded tissue” by remineralizing in his book The Book of Herbal Wisdom which is a similar action to her cousin Boneset. Gravel Root seems to be an herb that brings balance into the body systems that he affects such as breaking up calcification in the bones which is a build-up of calcium on the bones while also having the ability to bring calcium and other nutrients to the bone to help heal a broken bone. At the same time, Gravel Root helps to lubricate the bones as well as the muscles, tendons and joints, strengthening them, freeing up “frozen” joints, and healing strains, sprains, pulled ligaments and tendons. Gravel Root may also be useful for those who have stiff and deteriorating joints.

Another lesser known use of Gravel Root is for her ability to help with digestive issues such as Crohn’s disease, colitis, enteritis, typhoid and other digestive issues which cause cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and inflammation in the digestive tract.

Gravel Root is easy to grow, preferring damp ground but growing fairly well in well drained areas as well.

Want to learn more about Gravel Root? Grab this month’s issue for only $3.99 through the month of October.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 88 – Learning About Elecampane

Posted in Uncategorized on September 24th, 2018 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

Elecampane is often called Elfwort or Elfdock due to his association with  elves throughout history. Another common name is Scabwort as he was used to heal scabs on sheep.

Generally the root is used in herbal medicine although some herbalists experiment with the flowers as well. If you have Elecampane growing in your garden, you may want to try some flower experiments yourself.

Let’s figure out Elecampane’s energetics. If you have a piece of fresh or dried root, try this little experiment. Take a small piece of the root and chew it between your front teeth, observing all the sensations in your mouth. How does the root taste? Is it sweet? Bitter? Salty? Sharp/pungent? Sour? Sometimes the flavor of a plant may start out as one thing and then move into another flavor as you chew. Also observe how your mouth feels – is it warming up? Cooling down? Drying up? Or are you salivating like crazy?

Most people tend to say Elecampane is bitter, pungent, sweet, warm to hot and dry. What do you think?

Nutritionally, Elecampane contains calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin (B3), phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin (B2), selenium, silicon, thiamine (B1), vitamins A and C, and zinc, as well as carbohydrates, fats and protein.

Elecampane has many active constituents as well, containing up to 45% of  the polysaccharide inulin, as wells as sesquiterpene lactones, the essential oils azulene, camphor and helenin, the lactone helenine, sterols including sitosterol and stigmasterol.

Medicinally, Elecampane is said to be alterative, analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antiscorbutic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, antivenomous, aromatic, astringent, bitter, bronchodilator, cardiotonic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emollient, emmenagogue, expectorant, hemostatic, hepatic, immunostimulant, lung tonic, rejuvenative, stimulant, stomachic, and vulnerary. That’s a pretty good list of things Elecampane can do, let’s take a closer look at them!

Elecampane is probably most known for his use as a lung tonic herb. As an expectorant, he helps to draw out deep stuck mucus, especially when it is yellow or green in color, and is great for respiratory issues such as asthma, pertussis/whooping cough, tuberculosis, bronchitis, pleurisy, colds, influenza, pneumonia and more. As a bronchodilator, Elecampane helps to open up constricted bronchial tubes to help bring out the mucus. Often Elecampane will quiet a cough and while some feel he is suppressing or pushing the cough deeper, I find that he actually goes deep to help bring up old, stuck mucus, breaking it up and moving it out to help clear the lungs. As an antiseptic and antibacterial, Elecampane helps to clear up any infections present with the respiratory ailment while his diaphoretic action will help to reduce any existing fevers present.

Elecampane is also pretty great for digestive complaints. He adds a warming spiciness to bitters blends which is helpful for stimulating a sluggish digestive system. Elecampane can help to stimulate a poor appetite, help to clear mucus from the digestive tract, relieve excess gas, fatigue, loose stools, malnutrition, and move food along when it feels ‘stuck’ in the digestive system. Elecampane also helps to expel intestinal worms as an antiparasitic and anthelmintic. As a cholagogue, Elecampane stimulates bile in the gall bladder and has also been used for gallstones. Elecampane acts on the liver as a hepatic, helping to stimulate the liver.

Elecampane also acts on the urinary system. As a diuretic, Elecampane helps to relieve water retention. Elecampane has also been found useful for working on skin conditions through the liver and urinary system for healing skin rashes, dermatosis, eczema, skin ulcers, and damp sores. As an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, Elecampane also helps ease pain caused from gout, arthritis and sciatica. 

Elecampane was historically given to those who were malnourished with a weak immune system. Elecampane is a rejuvenative and is an immunostimulant, helping to boost the immune system and rejuvenate the body (along with a proper diet). He is great for those with chronic fatigue syndrome, which is has been renamed “systemic exertion intolerance disease,” as well as other autoimmune disorders.

Elecampane contains a lot of insulin and is supportive of those with diabetes.

As a cardiotonic, Elecampane has helped people with cardiac arrhythmia, especially ventricular fibrillation, especially when the heart problem is present with yellow or green mucus either from the lungs or sinuses.

For women, Elecampane is an emmenagogue and has been helpful for bringing on a late menstrual flow as well as helping women to expel the placenta after birthing. Though Elecampane is generally regarded as safe, it is best  that women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive should avoid the use of Elecampane.

Externally, Elecampane root has been applied to venomous bites as a poultice to help draw out venom. While this can be helpful in modern day experiences of venomous snake or spider bites, I would apply the poultice but still head to the emergency room for medical treatment. Elecampane is also often applied to wounds as he makes a great vulnerary while his hemostatic actions help to slow or stop bleeding.

Want to learn more about Elecampane? Grab this month’s issue for only $3.99 through the end of September 2018.

Herbal Medicine for Beginners book Winner

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2nd, 2018 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Congratulations to Vicky! Her name was drawn in the contest out of over 1,000 entries between Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and this blog!

Thanks to everyone who joined in on the fun! I wish I could have given you all a book! If you are wanting to purchase the book, it is available for pre-order on Amazon and is being released in less than 2 weeks!

Herbal Medicine for Beginners Book and Giveaway

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24th, 2018 by KristineBrown — 87 Comments


My friends Katja Swift and Ryn Midura have written a book and I am happy to add it to my list of resources on my website!

Part herbal, part formulatory and part instructional, Herbal Medicine for Beginners is a great book for beginners of all ages! This book is a perfect companion for those who want to get started in herbalism but just don’t know where to begin.

I love that it covers 35 common herbs: Angelica, Ashwagandha, Betony, Calendula, Catnip, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Dandelion, Elder, Elecampane, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Goldenrod, Kelp, Licorice, Linden, Marshmallow, Meadowsweet, Milk Thistle, Mullein, Nettle, Peppermint, Pine, Plantain, Rose, Sage, Self-Heal, Solomon’s Seal, St. John’s Wort, Thyme, Tulsi, Uva-Ursi, Wild Lettuce and Yarrow, in an easy to understand manner and sets you up to be able to work effectively with all 35 herbs over the course of the book.

Not only does this book give a great overview of 35 commonly found herbs but it also gives great suggestions for combining herbs for a variety of common ailments and will give any beginner a great starting point for learning to incorporate herbs into their daily lives.

This book will teach you how to choose the best herbs for your body based on your body type and lifestyle and how to use them appropriately.

I decided to put this book to the test and handed it over to my 13 year old daughter and she put it to good use, using it as a supplement to learning about our upcoming herb for June, Wild Lettuce.

She found the book to be easy to follow with concise information that makes sense and recipes that are straight forward, easy to make and taste good too.

And while this book is simple enough for my 13 year old to understand, beginner adult herbalists will also find it to be a useful gem in their herbal library.

About this book

Herbal Medicine for Beginners is your everyday reference for common ailments using 35 popular herbs.

You don’t need to buy hundreds of hard-to-find herbs to start your journey with herbal medicine. Herbal Medicine for Beginners shows you how to use a few important herbs to promote the body’s ability to fight infection and heal naturally.

Herbal Medicine for Beginners shows herbalists-in-training how to use a limited number of versatile, medicinal herbs to craft herbal remedies for common ailments. From allergies to fevers to headaches, beginners will gain the essential knowledge they need to blossom into natural healers and practice herbal medicine.

Herbal Medicine for Beginners teaches you how to use herbs as preventative and restorative medicine with:

  • Herbal Medicine 101 provides step-by-step instruction on how to shop for, make, and apply herbal medicine effectively
  • Profiles on Popular Herbs teach you how to choose the right herbs for your herbal medicine collection
  • 100 Herbal Remedies for Common Ailments with easy-to-follow instructions to safely make remedies at home

Learn how to detox with dandelion, beat stress with linden, soothe burns with marshmallow and much more with remedies for common ailments in Herbal Medicine for Beginners.

About Katja and Ryn

Katja is an herbalist and teacher working to help adults, children, and families rebuild their relationships with their bodies and with their own ability to heal.

By teaching people how to understand what’s going on in their bodies, to eat real food, and work with medicinal plants, she helps them to reestablish their connectivity to the earth, to themselves, and to one another.

Katja likes words like educate and choice, hike and campfire, music and art. Also, enough, plain speech, and integrity. She abhors the way in which the phrases “I can’t” and “I have to” are overused in our culture.

Katja chooses to practice in Boston (as opposed to greener, wilder places) because city folks need plants, too. The dandelions come to live in cracks in the sidewalks just to be close to us: teaching in a city means that more people can recognize them in gratitude instead of trying to be rid of the weeds. She homeschools her twelve-year-old daughter Amber, who makes a very good pot of tea, loves dogs, and enjoys helping in the school and clinic.

Some of Katja’s favorite teas include Tulsi, Wood Betony, & Rose petals, Nettle and Friends, and Chai for a Busy Day.

Ryn found plant medicine as a path to deeper engagement with the balances and rhythms in body, mind, and environment. He’s become good friends with the soft and savory leaves of sage, the flexing knuckles of solomon’s seal, and the salamander living inside ginger.

Ryn’s first forays into healing came by way of martial arts, where he saw the difference movement can make for a person’s health. He is a MovNat Level 1 Certified Trainer.

Every day, Ryn drinks his roots, tastes his bitters, gets [almost] enough sleep, walks on all fours, takes the stairs, and stares at clouds. He feels keenly aware that while herbs alone can initiate a shift, they’re even more effective when combined with other interventions in lifestyle factors including diet, movement, sleep, and stress management, and that those changes must be chosen and pursued according to the nature of the individual, in the same way that herbal remedies must be formulated anew for each client.

This is an exciting time to be an herbalist: we see further and clearer into our past as we weave our way forward. As Ryn continues to develop his attunement to the world green and growing, he delights in sharing its gifts with the people all around who are in need of care and compassion, and those who seek to understand the connections from all things to all things.

Together, Katja and Ryn teach and run the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

The book’s release and a giveaway

This book is available for pre-sale and will be released on May 15, 2018 but guess what?! Katja and Ryn have generously offered a book for me to give away! Here are the rules to enter:

For a chance to win, leave a comment on this website.

For additional chances to win, get an additional entry for each of the following:

  • sign up for my occasional newsletter, it’s free! and you receive a free issue of HRz – the link is on the left <–
  • follow me on Instagram
  • like me on Facebook
  • follow me on Pinterest
  • share this post on Facebook
  • like my Instagram post regarding this giveaway
  • share my Instagram post on your IG account
  • tag a friend on the Instagram post (for each comment/tag you get an additional entry)

This giveaway is running through May 1, 2018 and I’ll announce the winner on May 2, 2018.

Due to publishing restrictions, this giveaway is open for USA residents only.

Botanical Illustration Workbook and Online Class

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18th, 2018 by KristineBrown — Comments Off on Botanical Illustration Workbook and Online Class

I’ve had a lot of fun collaborations this past winter and I’d like to share one of them with you now!

I am delighted to announce that I teamed up with the folks at Herbal Academy to create an online Botanical Illustration class AND a Botanical Illustration Coloring and Workbook.

These are great additions for teenagers and above who are passionate about herbs and want to learn more.

Herbal Academy has just released their Botany & Wildcrafting Course with an amazing pre-registration sale ($50 off)! The class is going to cover the art of wildcrafting and the science of plant identification so that by the end of the course, you will be able to identify new plants anywhere in the world using your newfound skills and a dichotomous key. The class just went up for registration today so hop on over to their website for all the details! 

To give you an idea of what is included in class, lessons cover topics like using the dichotomous key for plant identification, identifying botanical families and patterns in nature, drawing herbs, making a pressed herbarium, wildcrafting for wild edibles and herbs, drying herbs, and much, much more.

If you are curious to learn more about the botanical side of plants, this is the course for you!

[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!

From now through Midnight, Thursday, April 30, 2020 CT, all back issues are on sale for 40% off. This includes annuals, the complete archive and all single issues.