How you can follow your passions with your kids in tow

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

One of my childhood horses, “Spooky”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The inspiration behind Herbal Roots zine.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

the benefits of black pepper

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

― Michael Moore, Southwest School of Botanical Medicine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Piper nigrum, ready to be ground

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply register here.

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

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

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

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

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


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

― Susan Leopold

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

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

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

Today’s newsletter is for you, and them!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ​​Herbal Blessings,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambrosia artemisifolia & A. trifida growing side by side.

Ambrosia artemisifolia & A. trifida growing side by side.

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

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

Ambrosia trifida seedling

Ambrosia trifida seedling

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

Ambrosia artemisifolia seedling

Ambrosia artemisifolia seedling

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

Ambrosia artemisifolia leaf

Ambrosia artemisifolia leaf

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

Ambrosia trifida leaf

Ambrosia trifida leaf

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

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

Ambrosia trifida male flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambrosia trifida

Ambrosia trifida – Giant Ragweed

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

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

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

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

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


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

— E.O. Wilson, The Naturalist

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

A few teaspoons a day...

A few teaspoons a day…

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


Making Spruce Vinegar

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

To make a vinegar, you will need:

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

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

Chopping needles and adding to the bottle.

Chopping needles and adding to the bottle.

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

Adding vinegar to the bottle.

Adding vinegar to the bottle.

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

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

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

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

Chickweed (Stellaria media) vinegar

Chickweed (Stellaria media) vinegar

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

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

Nettles (Urtica dioica) vinegar

Nettles (Urtica dioica) vinegar

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

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

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

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

Recipes to try using your vinegars

Linda Conroy of Moonwise Herbs shares her salad dressing recipe:

A few shrub recipes:

Susun Weed on vinegars:
Part 1:
Part 2:

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments


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

-David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Watch out for the prickly bracts on the flowers!

Watch out for the prickly bracts on the flowers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Mix equal parts:

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

Store in a labeled airtight jar.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


Marshmallow roots are mildly sweet.

Marshmallow roots are mildly sweet.


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

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

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

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


Bergamot is a great example of a spicy herb.

Bergamot is a great example of a spicy herb.


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

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

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

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


Sumach berries are sour in taste.

Sumach berries are sour in taste.


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosalee de la Foret
Tastes of Herbs eBook

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

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

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 56 – The Herbs of Summer

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


If getting our kids out into nature is a search for perfection, or is one more chore, then the belief in perfection and the chore defeats the joy. It’s a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it’s even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it’s a lot more fun.

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

While herbs are not necessarily seasonal in use, there are some that are more commonly used during certain times of the year. For instance, Elderberry and the Fire Cider herbs are often called upon during the winter while the first herbs of spring often include bitters such as Dandelion and Chicory which are good for digestive systems made sluggish by the heavy foods of winter. Herbs for summer are no exception. This time of year we look to herbs to help cool us off, soothe our sunburns and heal bumps and scrapes that happen during outdoor play.

Herbal Drinks

Getting outside and playing is a lot of fun but it can often be overheating. Making cooling herbal drinks can help us to cool down from that play. Here are some ideas for making herbal drinks delicious and refreshing:

Lemon Balm - Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis

Ice pops
Make infusions from your kids’ favorite herbal teas: Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Honeysuckle and Milky Oats all make naturally sweet ice pops that kids will ask for more of.

Lemon - Citrus x limon

Lemon – Citrus x limon

Natural electrolyte drink
This is one of my favorite ways to use Lemon during the summer, a natural electrolyte drink that is essentially lemonade. Combine 1 cup of water with the juice of 1/2 Lemon. Add 1 teaspoon raw honey and a pinch of sea salt such as Pink Himalayan and stir to combine. Serve over ice. This recipe can be multiplied to make a pitcher to have on hand in the fridge for when your kids take a break.

Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis

Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis

Herbal Soda
Though we don’t often drink soda around here, sometimes it can be a refreshing treat. Making your own soda ensures that only ingredients you want to be in it will be. Ginger, Peppermint, Birch, Lemon Balm, Elderberry, Wild Cherry, Peach or Blackberry all make great sodas! I’ve also made these with more obscure flavors with great success so don’t be afraid to try out a new herb in this way.

Start by making a syrup from your herb. You will make an infusion from the herb, strain off the herb then measure your liquid. Add equal parts of raw sugar or honey to make the syrup. If you use sugar, you will need to reheat your liquid and cook until it thickens. With honey, you only want to heat enough to combine and it is ready to use. Chill your syrup.

To make the soda, you will need seltzer water. Be sure to chill it too. Combine 1 – 2 oz of syrup for every 8 – 12 oz of seltzer water, sampling it until you get the proportions the way you prefer.

Red Raspberry - Rubus Idaeus

Red Raspberry – Rubus Idaeus

Herbal Shrubs
Herbal shrubs are made using herbal vinegars and herbal infused honeys for a sweet and nourishing drink. Summertime fruits such as Peach, Raspberry and Blackberry make a delicious shrub, see the Blackberry issue for our recipe, it can be adapted to any fruit or herb.

Herbal Foods

Herbs can also be added to foods for cooling accents to our meals. Salads in general are a great place to add herbs such as Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Sage, Borage, Thyme as well as flowers from Daylilies, Ox-eye Daisy, Dianthus, Rose and Calendula. The leaves add interesting flavor while the flower add lots of summertime pizazz with bright sunny colors.


Peppermint – Mentha x piperita

Potato Salad
Like potato salad? Try adding minced Peppermint to a potato salad made from boiled and cooled new potatoes, plain yogurt, sea salt and pepper for a refreshing barbecue or picnic side dish. For extra color, I will use half red potatoes and half blue potatoes.

Monarda fistulosa

Bergamot – Monarda fistulosa

Cucumber Tomato Salad
Bergamot flowers are a great addition to cucumbers and tomatoes.

Borago officinalis

Borage – Borago officinalis

Borage Yogurt Salad
Borage, which tastes a lot like cucumber, is also a good summertime salad herb. Added with Peppermint, this salad is a tasty treat for the mouth.

Sunny Days of Summer

Exposure to the sun is part of summer. Sun exposure is important as our body needs the UVB rays from the sun to make vitamin D. Our bodies need vitamin D3 for health, including building a strong immune system for fighting off wintertime illnesses including influenza. Having said that, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing so it’s important to follow good sunning techniques such as avoiding the sun between 10am – 2pm or at least using a good, natural sun protection for that time of day.

St. John's Wort - Hypericum perforatum

St. John’s Wort – Hypericum perforatum

Some herbs make great natural sunscreens. Infusing the flowers of St. John’s wort in Sunflower oil makes a great natural protecting oil that can be added on skin before sun exposure to reduce the damage from the sun. The same oil is also healing to sunburns.


Even with the best intentions and practices, sunburns happen. Luckily, we have many great herbs to turn to for soothing sunburns.

Burdock - Arctium lappa

Burdock – Arctium lappa

Herbal vinegars
Apple cider vinegar is wonderfully soothing to sunburns and many herbs can enhance that quality. Lavender, St. John’s wort and Burdock leaf are great additions for herbal vinegars.

Aloe - Aloe vera

Aloe – Aloe vera

Nothing soothes like Aloe! The gel from the plant is great to have on hand for easing those summertime burns.

Bumps, Scrapes and Insect stings

No summer is complete without the usual bumps and bruises, scraped knees, bee stings and mosquito bites. Luckily, there are herbs that can help with these too!

Plantain - Plantago lanceolata

Plantain – Plantago lanceolata

Plantain Poultices
Plantain is referred to as nature’s band-aid. A simple spit poultice can made from chewing the leaf of Plantain can be applied to bumps, bruises, scrapes, insect bites and stings and splinters. There are several types growing in North America, most commonly found in the midwest are Plantago major, P. rugelii and P. lanceolata, all of which can be used interchangeably. 

Self Heal, Heal All, All Heal - Prunella vulgaris

Self Heal, Heal All, All Heal – Prunella vulgaris

Prunella is also known as Carpenter’s Weed, Self Heal, Heal All and All Heal, which gives us a great indication of what she can be used for. Pretty much everything! Use the flowering tops in oils, salves, teas and poultices for any cuts, scrapes, bumps, bruises, blows that occur.

Lavender - Lavendula officinalis

Lavender – Lavendula officinalis

This lovely smelling herb can not only sooth sunburns but can also work great on insect bites and stings. Try a bit of Lavender essential oil on a mosquito bite, the swelling and itch generally go away quickly.

Peach - Prunus persica

Peach – Prunus persica

Peach leaf and bark extract is one of my favorite remedies for bee stings. I carry a bottle of it with me whenever we are out along with a handkerchief. If anyone gets stung, I soak a part of the cloth with the extract and place it directly over the sting site while also giving them a dose of the extract internally.

No need for summertime blues!

There are so many herbs that work well with summer, the hardest part is deciding which ones to try first!

Which herbs do you find yourself using more in the summer? How do you incorporate herbs to your summertime days?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 55 – Learning About Feverfew

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


There is no one way to become a healer: no particular age and no special way for medicine spirits to come. When the time is right, they come.

-Evelyn Wolfson, From the Earth to Beyond the Sky: Native American Medicine

With a name like Feverfew, it might be assumed that he was historically used as a fever reducing herb but in fact, Feverfew started out being called Featherfoil because of his leaves and over time, the name changed to Featherfew then to Feverfew. Nowadays, he’s commonly known as the migraine herb, though this plant is capable of a lot more than just relieving and preventing migraines.

Feverfew is known by many names including Featherfew, Featherfowl, Motherwort, Mayweed and Whitewort. You might notice some of those names sounding familiar: Motherwort refers to a plant we’ll be learning about next month and Mayweed is also a name given to a few species of Chamomile. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn botanical names of plants, to be sure of the plant you are working with is the correct plant. Feverfew’s botanical name is Tanacetum parthenium. Feverfew’s botanical name has been through a few genus names, while his species name has always stayed the same. He has also been known as Chrysanthemum parthenium, Leucanthemum parthenium and before that Pyrethrum parthenium. Looking at his flowerhead, you can probably guess he is a member of the Asteraceae family.

Do you have Feverfew growing in your garden? If so, harvest a leaf and a flower if he is blooming. Let’s do a little experiment: take a piece of the leaf and chew it up, what do you notice? I can see by the look on your face that the leaf is bitter and pungent. Does the leaf feel warming or cooling in your mouth? Most herbalists agree that it is warming though a few feel that Feverfew is cooling. How does your mouth feel, is it drying up or does chewing the leaf seem to encourage more saliva? You’re probably noticing that your mouth seems to be drying up. So we consider Feverfew to be bitter, pungent, warming and drying. If you also have a flower available, try the experiment with the flower and record your experiences. Both the flower and leaf are used medicinally. Some people may have sensitivities to eating the leaf so try this experiment with caution.

Feverfew contains many constituents (the parts that make up the medicine of the plant) including parthenolide ,bitter resin, pyrethrin, camphor, borneol, inulin (in the root), and tannic acid.

Nutritionally, Feverfew contains protein, carbohydrates and fiber, vitamins A and C, and calcium.

Medicinally, we consider Feverfew to be an alterative, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aperient, aromatic, bitter, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, nervine, purgative, relaxant, stimulant, tonic, vasodilator and a vermifuge. Let’s take a closer look at all these actions…

First of all, did you notice I mentioned Feverfew is both a relaxant and a stimulant? That can seem confusing that a plant can be both. Michigan herbalist jim mcdonald probably best explains this stating that we should think of it as “stimulating activity while relaxing resistance to that activity”. This is because the word ‘relaxant’ isn’t the same as ‘sedating’ but rather means that the action relaxes contracted tissues. As a nervine and antispasmodic, Feverfew may be useful for treating sciatic nerve pain and muscle spasms. Those who suffer from nervousness, panic attacks and low spirits may find Feverfew to be calming in this regard.

Though Feverfew is pinned as the migraine herb, he is not indicated for all migraines. Herbalist Matthew Wood describes a person who would benefit from Feverfew for migraines as someone who “has a pale, blue complexion that becomes full, red and hot, with fever or heat; sluggish and depressed digestion from poor circulation to the stomach, causing fermentation, flatulence” as previously reference by William LeSassier. Women who suffer from menstrual related migraines with an onset right before the start of their menstrual flow is a good example. For those who notice this pattern, eating a few leaves every day can often be preventative enough. Feverfew has been shown to inhibit the release of serotonin from blood platelets which may be part of the reason for his success with relieving migraines in blood congested situations.

As an emmenagogue, Feverfew is also used to bring on delayed menses. He is also used for treating congestion before the menstrual cycle begins, for women who are full, red and swollen, and have headaches associated with their cycles as well as heavy bleeding, clotted bleeding. Older women may find relief in using Feverfew to treat hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

As a vasodilator, those suffering from hypertension, varicose veins and stagnant blood issues might find Feverfew useful.

Feverfew also inhibits the release of histamine and may be beneficial for those with allergies. Feverfew may also be helpful in relieving the coughing, wheezing, mucus and breathing difficulties caused by allergies as well as asthma.

Feverfew’s name gives an indication of how he was also used historically. First-century Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed feverfew for “all hot inflammations.”

Chronic constipation and a sluggish digestive system may benefit from the use of Feverfew.

Feverfew as a purgative and aperient. He also works well as a vermifuge, purging parasites from the body as well. 

Externally, Feverfew has found to help with the pain from arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as insect bites and varicose veins.

Feverfew should not be used by pregnant or nursing women or folks with clotting disorders or on anticoagulants. Those who are allergic to Asteraceae family herbs may be sensitive to Feverfew and may cause contact dermatitis. Feverfew is not recommended for long term use without consulting a health professional.

Feverfew makes a bitter tea on his own. Try making a tea with other herbs, such as Lemon Balm, in this recipe:

You will need:

1 teaspoon dried Feverfew

1 teaspoon dried Lemon balm

12 oz boiling water

Tea cup
Tea ball or muslin bag


Place the herbs in the tea ball and add to the cup. Pour in enough boiling water to fill your cup. Have a big person help you if you are not used to pouring hot water.

Let steep for 10 – 20 minutes. Drink 1 cup daily for migraine prevention and allergies.

Want to learn more about Feverfew? You can find him in this month’s issue!

Do you have Feverfew growing in your garden? What is your favorite use of it?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 54 – Learning Plant Families

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

Learning Plant Families

Nature’s economy shall be the base for our own, for it is immutable, but ours is secondary. An economist without knowledge of nature is therefore like a physicist without knowledge of mathematics.”

— Carolus Linnaeus

Chicory and Bergamot

Chicorium intybus (Chicory), a member of the Asteraceae family and Monarda didyma (Bee Balm), a member of the Lamiaceae family.

Why Learn Plant Families?

Learning plant families is a useful tool for being able to identify key features of herbs and how they relate to the families they belong to. By learning these key characteristics and common shared uses, it is possible to learn to identify plants by family and know what they can be used for even if you do not know the exact genus/species of the plant.

For example, members if the Lamiaceae family (Mint family) have square stems, simple opposite leaves and many are aromatic. Aromatic plants indicate plants that are high in volatile oils. Volatile oils in Mint family plants are spicy and stimulating, which cool the body through opening pores and increasing perspiration. Many members of this family are also great digestive aids and because of this, many are what we know as ‘kitchen’ herbs such as Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, and Oregano.

Malus spp. (Apple) is in the Rosaceae family.

Malus spp. (Apple) is in the Rosaceae family.

The History of Botanical Plant Families and Genera

We have Carolus Linnaeus to thank for our modern day plant classification, he is considered the father of taxonomy. Linnaeus, also considered one of the best botanists in the world, created the system of classification, using a method called binomial nomenclature.

Linnaeus classified organisms by shared characteristics, creating 7 levels of classification: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) is a member of the Asteraceae family, Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit, on the lower left and right of photo) and  Lamium purpureum (Purple Dead Nettle) on the righthand side in the middle are both members of the Lamiaceae family.

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) is a member of the Asteraceae family, Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit, on the lower left and right of photo) and Lamium purpureum (Purple Dead Nettle) on the righthand side in the middle are both members of the Lamiaceae family.

How to Get Started Learning Plant Families

There are over 600 plant families in the world! That’s a lot of families and can sound overwhelming when you start. When teaching about plant families, I like to start with some of the more commonly found ones such as Asteraceae, Lamiaceae and the Rosaceae families.

Get familiar with common plant terms. This is important for a good identification, especially when you start comparing your notes with the field guides. If you don’t know a botany term, you may misunderstand what a characteristic is. Common terms include leaf arrangement (opposite, alternate, whirled, basal, spiral), leaf types (simple, compound) and flower parts (pistils, stamens, stigmas, styles, anthers, petals, sepals, bracts) to name a few.

Get to know the common characteristics of a family you wish to learn about. Make a list of those common characteristics.

Now that you have made your characteristics list and gotten familiar with botany terms, go out into your yard with this list and see how many plants you can find that fall into those categories.

Once you have found all the plants in your yard that you think fit into that family, grab a field guide for your area and compare your notes to the plant guide. If you don’t know what your plant is, use a field guide that lists plants by families. There are some great online websites as well that make identifying plants easy, to help double check what you’ve found.

One important thing to remember is to not try to make a plant fit into a family. So many times I have seen people try to make a plant be something it’s not. I’ve been guilty of this myself. If the plant is missing those common characteristics, chances are very good that it is not the plant you want it to be.

It can seem intimidating at first but the more you test yourself, the easier it will become. Over time, you’ll be able to add more plant families and you’ll find that learning to identify plants becomes simpler, just by knowing plant families.

There are many fun resources for learning plant families, I’ve listed them at the end of this article for you to access. I highly recommend Thomas Elpel’s books, cards and video for getting started and he makes it fun and simple to learn the 8 most common families.

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

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

Resources for teaching plant families:

Plant families and identification

Tom Elpel’s book and card set Shanleya’s Quest is a great starting book for kids and adults alike

More advanced students will enjoy his Botany in a Day book

Watch Tom in a brand new video teach plant families and explain how to use the card deck

The Wild Classroom online botany guide

Missouri Wildflower Guide is a great online resource for IDing plants by flower color

Wildflower of the United States is another great source, listing by plant families

Books on Linnaeus

Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification by Margaret Jean Anderson

Carl Linnaeus: Genius of Classification by Margaret J. Anderson

Do you feel it is important to learn plant families? Have you incorporated this aspect of botany in your herbal studies with your children? What are your favorite plant families?

[Herbal Rootlets] No. 53 – Building Your Backyard Herb List

Posted in Uncategorized on May 20th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

backyard herb list

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

-David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia

Bird enthusiasts keep Bird Lists. Herb enthusiasts keep Herb lists. Last year, we did not have time to put in our usual vegetable garden so the plot of land that usually is full of veggies this time of year has been dormant. But, dormant, no, really, it is full of life! So many medicinal “weeds” have filled the space, it is amazing. Here is a short list of what we’ve found in this new plot (this does not include the rest of the yard or the herb gardens already in place):


Ragweed: Ambrosia tenuifolia (on the left) and Ambrosia trifida (on right)

Narrowleaf Ragweed – Ambrosia tenuifolia
Broadleaf Ragweed – Ambrosia trifida


Prunella vulgaris

Prunella/Self Heal/Heal All/All Heal – Prunella vulgaris

Plantago rugelii

Plantago major

Blackseed Plantain – Plantago rugelii
Broadleaf Plantain – Plantago major
Narrowleaf Plantain – Plantago lanceolata

Vicia villosa

Vicia villosa

Hairy Vetch – Vicia villosa


Lactuca virosa

Wild Lettuce – Lactuca virosa
Fleabane – Erigeron spp. (I haven’t keyed it out yet)

Solidago spp.

Solidago spp.

Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis and related spp.

Violet – Viola sororia

Bistort – Persicaria bistorta syn. Polygonum bistorta
Lady’s Thumb – Persicaria maculosa syn. Polygonum persicaria

Red Clover – Trifolium pratense

Burdock – Arctium lappa

Lobelia – Lobelia inflata

Abutilon theophrasti

Abutilon theophrasti

Velvet Leaf – Abutilon theophrasti

Cleavers – Gallium aparine

Chickweed – Stellaria spp.

Your list can be this simple or you may choose to make it more complex. Some ideas for your plant list is to group your plants by family and then list the plants by their botanical names. You might also wish to mark down if they are annuals, biennials or perennials. If including trees, coniferous or deciduous as well. If you want your list to be a continually expanding list, purchase a journal or notebook and dedicate it to your plant list. Reviewing each year’s list is a fun way to how your yard grows and changes over the years as well as how your knowledge base grows.

While we may not know all the medicinal uses or any of the medicinal uses of each of these plants, we do know that they all have value in their own way. Besides medicine, they are wonderful for attracting pollinators, feeding the bees and hummingbirds and fixing the soil for next year’s hopefully vegetable garden.

What’s on your Backyard Herb List?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 52 – Teaching Kids the 6 Tissue States

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Teaching Kids the 6 Tissue States

“They would suppose that there is some principle harmful to man; heat or cold, wetness or dryness, and that the right way to bring about cures is to correct cold with warmth, or dryness with moisture and so on…These are the causes of disease, and the remedy lies in the application of the opposite principle according to the hypothesis.”


Herbalism is more complex than just using an herb with a specific action to heal a specific disease. While knowing these aspects is a good start, to deepen your knowledge and understanding, it’s important to have a good grasp on the other elements as well. Subscribers to Herbal Roots zine will note that I have added the tastes and energetics of herbs to my “All About” section of each issue. Today I’m going to be discussing the tissue states and how the energetics of herbs relate to them. I will be covering the tastes next month. By learning these important aspects of herbs as you and your children learn the herbs themselves, you will be adding another layer of understanding to your knowledge of herbs and be able to better apply them to individuals.

If you have never heard about the tissue states and herbal energetics, do not let them intimidate you. Even if you have heard of them, you may still find yourself struggling with them and that’s alright too. The point is to start thinking about them when you think about herbs and how they can be applied. The more familiar you become with these concepts, the more understandable they will become.

A bit of history

The knowledge and use of energetics in herbal medicine is not something new. Traditional Chinese, Greek, Ayurvedic, Native American medicine, etc. all have their own energetic systems. Terms like doshas, elements, qualities, humors, temperaments and directions are all common vocabulary used to describe these systems. Western herbalism also had a system but the terms became unrecognizable as time went on and terms were changed. Modern Western herbalists have worked to decipher these energetics and make them easy to understand.

Making sense of it all

What are energetics? They are our way of describing energy patterns in the body. While modern biomedicine looks at the molecular structure to try to heal, holistic medicine tries to return the body to a state of balance to allow healing to occur naturally. Holistic medicine is based on the knowledge that an organism (the body) is a fully functioning unit, able to self-regulate and self-correct the energy or life force of the body. Because of this basis, holistic medicine sees the organism as having the ability to be cured or returned to homeostasis or a state of balance.

Contrary to this, modern medicine focuses on removing or replacing the imbalance through pharmaceutical medicine and/or surgery. While modern medicine seeks to suppress the symptoms without necessarily focusing on the cause, holistic medicine seeks to go to the cause of the disease and return the body to health, easing the symptoms in the process.

Because of our familiarity with how modern medicine works, it is often a common mistake to try to apply herbs in the same way. Once we understand how herbs work and learn to apply the systems to this concept, we have a better chance of using herbs to make a difference with healing.

Tissue states

So what are tissue states? Tissue states refer to our bodies and the symptoms they are presenting, what the condition of the tissues are. There are 6 tissue states: hot, cold, dry, damp, lax and tense. Hot and cold refer to the metabolism, with hot being overactive and cold, underactive. Dry and damp refer to the moisture in our bodies, dry referring to a deficiency in moisture, damp indicating an excess. The final two, lax and tense refer to the tone of the body. Sometimes you will see lax listed as ‘relaxed’ which refers to atony (muscle weakness) while tense refers to spastic tone. So, when we are looking at herbs to match with illnesses, we want to find an herb that will balance out the imbalance. For instance, if someone has a hot condition, we will want to give them cooling herbs.

Let’s look at these 6 tissue states a bit more closely. Please note that herbs can fall into more than one category and sometimes be seemingly contradictory to themselves.



Shown through excitation, irritation, stimulation

Signs of heat include: Inflammation due to overreaction,  exaggeration of function, autoimmune overreaction (not from injury or infection), heat, redness, swelling, pain, tenderness

Herbal energetics needed: Cooling, refreshing, calming, sedating, pain relieving (anodyne)

Herbs to dispel heat: Rose, Apple, Hawthorn, Peach, Wild Cherry, Strawberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Honeysuckle, Elder, Crampbark, Lemon, Lime, Peppermint, Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Yarrow

How to demonstrate cooling herbs: Try drinking Peppermint tea on a hot summer day

Ginger root


Shown through depression

Signs of coldness include: Deep cold, cold hands and feet, pale tissues – may be white, grey, blue, purple or black in color, showing lessened oxygenation, lack of sensation or function, tissues may fail to respond to stimulation, skin is inactive: lack of perspiration, lack of natural oils

Herbal energetics needed: Warming, stimulating, opening the pores, aromatics, antiseptics

Herbs to dispel cold: Arnica, Calendula, Echinacea, Goldenrod, Daisy Fleabane, Wormwood, Sweet Annie, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Hyssop, Bergamot, Oregano, Angelica, Osha, Dill, Fennel, Mustard, Horseradish, Shepherd’s Purse, Melilot, Alfalfa, Red Clover, Ginger, Turmeric, Pine

How to demonstrate warming herbs: Cut a small sliver of fresh Ginger root and suck on it



Shown through atrophy (wasting away)

Signs of dryness include: Lack of moisture in tissues, a weakened state, lack of tissue function, hair loss, bloating, gas, constipation, hard bowel movements, thin tongue, tissues dry, withered and wrinkled

Herbal energetics needed: Moistening, softening, appetite stimulant, nutritive, mucilaginous, oily, emollient, demulcent, salty

Herbs to dispel dryness: Marshmallow, Shepherd’s Purse, Mullein, Nettles, Burdock root, Dandelion root, Slippery Elm, Comfrey, Fenugreek, Angelica root, Evening Primrose, Borage, American Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Codonopsis, Rehmannia root, Red Root, Mushrooms

How to demonstrate moistening herbs: Mix a bit of Marshmallow or Slippery elm with some water to make a gruel. The gruel will be sweet tasting and slimy (mucilaginous).



Shown through stagnation

Signs of dampness include: “Bad blood”, “damp heat”, thickened builds in the body presenting as thick phlegm, possibly hypothyroidism, dull facial expression, blockage of channels of elimination such as the skin, kidneys, lungs, lymph, colon, low metabolic function such as thyroid, cells, liver

Herbal energetics needed: Alteratives, bitters, laxative, purgative

Herbs to dispel dampness: Dandelion, Burdock, Oregon Grape Root, Poke root, Black Walnut Hull, Barberry, Blessed Thistle, Yellow Dock root, Senna, Red Clover, Cleavers, Chickweed, Nettles

How to demonstrate damp dispelling herbs: Eat a Dandelion leaf and notice how your saliva increases, which will stimulate sluggish organs.

chamomile 1


Shown through constriction, tension, contraction

Signs of tension include: Tension in the body or mind or both, alternating symptoms such as diarrhea and constipation, chills and fever, gas and bloating coming and going, muscle spasms, restlessness and irritability, vascular tension, cold in joints, cold hands and feet, reverse normal movement such as vomiting, hiccoughs, tremors

Herbal energetics needed: Acrid, relaxing

Herbs to dispel tension: Lobelia, Passionflower, Kava, Calendula, Valerian, Catnip, Chamomile, Hops, Crampbark, Wild Lettuce, Boneset, Blue Vervain, Vitex

How to demonstrate relaxing herbs: Before bedtime brew up a cup of Chamomile and Catnip tea to sip while relaxing



Shown through relaxation

Signs of laxness include: Watery blood that does not clot easily, tissues lack tone, prolapsed organs, cool, clammy skin, low energy, secret mucus, sweat, diarrhea, tend to have copious, clear urine, sagging tissue

Herbal energetics needed: Astringents

Herbs to dispel laxness: Oak, Rose, Sumach, Raspberry leaf, Lady’s Mantle, Apple, Sage, Witch Hazel, Tea, Blackberry

How to demonstrate toning herbs: To feel an astringent at work, lick the inside of a green banana peel or crack open an acorn and try to eat the nutmeat


Deepening the knowledge

Tissue states, energetics and these systems can be overwhelming but they are necessary to help with mastering the art of herbal medicine. Don’t be discouraged, the more you study, the more familiar you will become with them. Start by introducing the terms and relating them to known herbs that you have already studied. Try tasting the herbs and determining their energetics. As you learn about each herb’s use and properties, test yourself on their energetics.

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

Matthew Wood
The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism
Study Guide to the 6 Tissue States

Kiva Rose
Reading the Terrain: Understanding Tissue States

Steven Horne
The Six Tissue States

Kathy Eich
The 6 Tissue States as a Means for Health Assessment Part 1, 2, 3

Michael Moore
Herbal Energetics

Do you incorporate herbal energetics and tissue states with your herbal learning? Are your kids able to determine the energetics of the plants and understand the tissue states of people? What have you found to be helpful in teaching them the tissue states and energetics?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 51 – Cilantro? Coriander? What’s the Difference?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


The healing powers of nature are only limited by man’s idleness.

– Shawna @ Nature For Kids

Is it Coriander or Cilantro? That depends on the part of the plant you are using and the part of the world you live in! Both come from the plant Coriandrum sativum. Coriander is the seed, Cilantro is the leaf. Both parts of the plant are used in food and medicine and as a medicine, both have different uses.


Let’s start with the energetics of each. Do you have Cilantro growing in your garden? If you do, pick a few leaves from the plant. Depending on the time of year, your plant may have gone to seed, enabling you to harvest some seed as well. If not, Coriander is easy to find in the grocery store’s spice section. Trying each, one at a time, chew a bit. Starting with the seed, Coriander, what do you taste? Are the seeds bitter? Pungent? Do you find them a bit hard to chew? Don’t spit them out yet, first, observe how they make your mouth feel. A bit warm perhaps? Maybe a bit drying? Most people describe Coriander as bitter, pungent, warming and drying. Go ahead and spit out the seeds now, or swallow them if you want. Take a drink of water to clear your palate and try the experiment with the Cilantro. Do you like the taste? Some folks do not. Some folks find Cilantro to have a soapy taste, which has been linked to a genetic variants. If you find the taste to not be soapy, continue on with the experiment. How does it taste to you, perhaps a bit citrusy or sour? Maybe some bitterness and pungency too? How does the leaf make your mouth feel? It might surprise you to notice the leaf is cooling instead of warming like the seed.

Nutritionally, Coriander contains carbohydrates, fiber, protein and omega-6 fatty acids. She also contains vitamin C, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc. Cilantro also contains carbohydrates, fiber and protein plus vitamins A, C, E, K, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folate, choline, beta carotene, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc.

Photo by Rosalee de la Foret

Photo by Rosalee de la Foret

Medicinally, Coriander is alterative, anodyne, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, nervine, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. Let’s take a look at what we can use him for…

As many kitchen herbs are, Coriander is great for the tummy. As a carminative and stomachic, he works on digestive problems such as bloating, belching, loose stools with undigested food and other cold and damp digestive issues. Remember, we found Coriander to be drying and warming, so he is most effective on problems that are cold and damp in nature.

Coriander is good for treating acute or chronic indigestion, hiccoughs, flatulence and cramps, headaches due to digestive issues and chronic indigestion with debility. Coriander is great to add to homemade gripe water, a tea blend given to colicky babies.

If you’re suffering from sleeplessness caused by indigestion or other digestive issues, Coriander is great for calming you and helping you to get to sleep.

Those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome may find Coriander to be of use in soothing the symptoms, especially when combined with dietary recommendations.


Coriander has also been found to be beneficial for easing chronic constipation and is found in the popular Traditional Medicinals brand tea “Smooth Move”, combined with Fennel, Cinnamon, Orange peel, Licorice, Ginger and Senna. 

Coriander can also be added to bitters formulas. Herbalist Rosalee de la Foret describes Coriander as a corrigent, helping to balance formula blends. Because his taste is not as bitter and overwhelming, he is often added to digestive blends as a corrigent, which helps to modify or improve the taste of the blend.

A Strong tea of Coriander makes a great mouthwash and gargle for inflamed gums, mouth ulcers and inflamed tonsils.

Coriander is a specific for strengthening the urinary tract. For irritation of the bladder, urinary tract infections, a burning urethra, cystitis, and other urinary related problems, Coriander may be beneficial. As a diuretic, Coriander will stimulate the flow of urine.

For colds and fevers, Coriander’s diaphoretic action will help you sweat out a fever. He is often combined with Ginger for this purpose, making him a great remedy for colds and influenza.

Coriander has also been found to be helpful in lowering blood glucose levels and increasing insulin levels in type 2 diabetics, making him a useful addition to a diabetics diet.

As an antioxidant, Coriander is good for the heart, working to decrease the LDL levels in cholesterol while raising the HDL levels. Those same antioxidants may assist in delaying or preventing the spoilage of food, if the food is seasoned with the Coriander.

Poultices and compresses of Coriander can be applied externally to soothe achy joints, arthritis, cramps and inflammation.

As an antibacterial, Coriander has been found to be useful in killing Salmonella choleraesuis.

The leaves, also known as Cilantro are great for soothing hot, inflammatory issues. Try a poultice on a strain or hot, achy joint, you will find it to be quite soothing.

One of my favorite ways to use Cilantro and Coriander are in food. Coriander is one of those herbs that is easy to use as a food-medicine. Coriander combines surprisingly well with many foods…


Coriander pairs well with Apples. Add them to your Apple crisp for a surprising taste.

Add freshly crushed Coriander to Lemon Ginger tea, great for soothing upset tummies and sore throats.

Add freshly roasted and powdered Coriander to your chocolate sauce before drizzling it on your ice cream.


Want to learn more about using Coriander medicinally? You can grab this month’s issue for only $3.99 through the end of May 2015.

Do you use Coriander in cooking or medicine? What is your favorite way to prepare this wonderful herb? Hopefully this monograph has inspired you to incorporate Coriander into your meals if he is a new herb for you.