[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 74 – Summertime Reading and Herbaling

Posted in Uncategorized on June 21st, 2016 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far


By suggestion and example, I believe children can be helped to hear the many voices about them.  Take Time to listen and talk about the voices of the earth and what they mean—the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of surf or flowing streams.

– Rachel Carson

It’s summertime and that means a lazier pace for most! Enjoying the outdoors, playing in the sprinkler or slip-n-slide, sipping lemonade and watching the fireflies at night.

I enjoy infusing sweet herbal books with past issues of HRz for some slow paced learning when it’s hot outside. To do this, I read a book with my kids and then we explore issues that correspond to the story. We pick and choose activities based on what we have available and what they are most interested in. I’ve listed a few books and ideas to get you started on this fun activity.

The Fantastic Herbs by Carolina Major Diaz San Francisco

This lovely illustrated book was written about herbalist Mary Blue, inspired by her opening her garden to the public. A great picture book for the younger kids, this book covers Calendula, Bee Balm/Bergamot, Rose, Rosemary, Valerian, Marshmallow, Yarrow, Comfrey, Lavender, Red Clover, Passionflower, Mullein, Chamomile, Spilanthes, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Thyme, Nettles, Raspberry and Blueberry.


The Herbalist of Yarrow by Shatoiya de la Tour

This wonderful story weaves a tale of a little girl who talks to the plants and uses them for good. Herbs in this story include: Angelica, Lemon Balm, Comfrey, Calendula, St. John’s Wort, Nettles, Elder, Mullein, Borage, Chamomile, Plantain, Red Clover, Garlic, Onion, Thyme, Usnea, Rosemary, Sage, Dandelion, Mint, Oatstraw, Marshmallow, Orange, Ginger, Licorice, Cinnamon, Yarrow, Vanilla, Lavender, Rose and Chickweed.


Wildflower Tea by Ethel Pochocki

A gentleman harvests his herbs daily, drying them in his attic to make tea in the winter. The soft illustrations and gentle storyline make this book a perennial favorite. Perfect for a child who likes to blend their own herbal teas. Herbs mentioned are Apple, Blueberry, Plum, Cherry, Violet, Wild Thyme, Lemongrass, Rose, Edelweiss, Blackberry, Red Clover, Catnip, Yarrow, Mallow, Queen Anne’s Lace, Michaelmas Daisy, Goldenrod and Mint.


Lessons from Mother Earth by Elaine McLeod

A grandmother teaches her grandchild about the importance of taking care of Mother Earth’s garden. This is a great book to discuss the importance of sustainable harvesting and foraging as well as the appropriate time to harvest plants. There are fewer herbs listed but still a great treasure: Lamb’s Quarters, Cranberries, Rosehips, Raspberries, Blueberries, Dandelion and Mushrooms.


Song of the Seven Herbs by Walking Night Bear & Stan Padilla

This book contains seven stories, each on a different herb, based on Native American lore. This would make a perfect book to focus on one different herb each week. Herbs are Stinging Nettles, Yarrow, Dandelion, Violet, Chicory, Rose and Sunflower.


Anna’s Summer Songs by Mary Q Steele

Fourteen poems make up this book. Cute illustrations, a great starting point to focus on individual herbs. Iris, Fern, Strawberry, Forget-me-not, Cornflower, Honeysuckle, Oak, Buttercup, Poppy, Chives, Rose, Lavender, Apple and Rowan.


Yana Listens by Nina Judith Katz

Yana is a little girl who hears the voices of the plant world and discovers how useful the plants in her yard can be. Yana faces her neighbors who want to spray the neighborhood with herbicides. Will Yana be able to convince her neighbors to honor the weeds that grow? In this book, Yana visits many plants including Oak, Maple, Pine, Apple, Plantain, Dandelion, Purslane, Nettles, Yarrow and Burdock.

How to get started

After choosing a book that most resonates with your child(ren), sit down and read the story with them. Decide on how many herbs you would like to learn about. Some children will want to learn snippets of each herb while others will want to go more in depth, maybe learning one herb a week.

For activities, songs, stories, recipes and more, select the corresponding issues of HRz. Each are linked here for your convenience. Download and print off a copy for each child. Preview each issue and decide on which activities you feel would be most appropriate. Older children will enjoy the entire issue while younger children typically enjoy the stories, songs and some of the crafts. Each issue also includes a resource page for watching videos and reading more about the herb.


You might also wish to download a free herbal profile template and print a copy for each plant you will be learning about. This is a great quick sheet to jot down everything about each plant.

Most of all, make it fun! Summer is about loose learning. By letting your child(ren) choose which plants they want to learn about and the activities they most enjoy, they will learn a lot about the plants that grow around them in a fun way.

Are you incorporating herbal learning into your summer fun? Which herbs have you chosen to learn about? Tell us in the comments!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 73 – Learning About Mugwort

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


Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
and shared a conversation with the house fly in my bed.

Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,
and joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,
once I spoke the language of the flowers…

        how did it go?

        how did it go? 

– Shel Silverstein

Mugwort is known by many names, sometimes dependent on the species, such as cronewort, moxa, sagebrush, white sage, silver sage, Saint John’s herb and wombwort to name a few. Botanically, Common Mugwort is known as Artemesia vulgaris. There are many other species of mugwort that can be used, such as A. lactiflora, A. douglasiana, A. frigida, A. tridentata and A. ludeviciana. Her botanical genus name, Artemesia, was named after Artemis, the goddess of the moon and the mother of nature. Mugwort is a member of the Asteraceae family.

Artemisia vulgaris

Let’s explore Mugwort’s energetics side. If you have her growing in your garden, pick a leaf for this experiment. Chew on a piece of the leaf, how does it taste? You probably want to spit it out, the taste is pungent and bitter. Does your mouth feel warm? Does chewing on a leaf leave your mouth feeling dry? Most herbalists describe Mugwort to be bitter, pungent, warming and drying.

Nutritionally, Mugwort contains vitamins A, C, K, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), and folate plus the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and zinc.

Mugwort contains many constituents such as tannins, resin, flavonoids, polysaccharides as well as the bitter principle absinthin, sesquiterpene lactones (vulgarin), sitosterol and several volatile oils (linalool, cineole, thujone, borneol, and pinene).


Medicinally, Mugwort is considered to be analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antivenomous, aromatic, astringent, bitter, carminative, cholagogue, choleretic, diaphoretic, digestive, disinfectant, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hemostatic, nervine, oneirogen, purgative, stomachic, uterine stimulant, and a vermifuge. Let’s take a closer look at how Mugwort is used…

Typically, Mugwort is harvested right before flowering. I prefer to harvest Mugwort leaves for infused vinegars (see recipe section of this month’s issue for details) in the spring when she is only about 3-4 inches in height as this is the best time for harvesting Mugwort to be used as a food. For teas, oils and extracts, I harvest right before flowering. Mugwort is most often used as a tea, tincture, smudge or as moxa. The root of Mugwort has also been used medicinally.


One of my favorite uses for Mugwort is gut related. Mugwort is top notch for easing intestinal cramping due to bad digestion, food allergies and spastic colon. Rely on Mugwort’s anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, bitter, carminative, digestive and stomachic actions to soothe many digestive complaints. Those who suffer from diarrhea or constipation, cramping and spastic bowels may find relief using Mugwort. Along the same lines, her cholagogue and choleretic actions stimulate bile production, helping to purge it downward in through the liver and digestive system.

Mugwort is also a gentle anthelmintic and vermifuge, helping to expel parasites. Although not as strong as her sister Wormwood, A. absinthium, Mugwort can be quite effective in this aspect. I feed a handful of Mugwort to each of my goats every couple of weeks to keep the worms at bay.


Mugwort is traditionally used as a women’s herb. As an emmenagogue and uterine stimulant, she can bring on delayed menses. As a hemostatic, she has the ability to arrest heavy menses. For heavy cramping, Mugwort’s antispasmodic actions can soothe the uterine muscles, especially when cramping is at the beginning of a woman’s menses.

As a diaphoretic, Mugwort was traditionally used to help sweat out a fever. Combined with her expectorant actions, Mugwort can be helpful for treating various respiratory illnesses, especially those with intermittent fevers. As an antibacterial, studies have shown Mugwort to be effective against several types of bacteria such as Bacillus dysenteriae shiga, B. subtilis, B. typhi, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas, Staphococcus aureus and Streptococcus spp.

The root has traditionally been used for epilepsy and many types of seizures. It has been shown to reduce the number of seizures, sometimes reducing them altogether.


Matthew Wood describes Mugwort as being an herb specifically for those who are highly intelligent, gifted and artistic who can describe complex, abstract and difficult

concepts but not able to remember the most simple words or names. In his book Seven Herbs: Plants as Teachers, he relates that A. tridentata is specific for dyslexia and learning disabilities.

Mugwort is great for those who get caught up in the daydream world. For those who are easily distracted, often off in another world, and who may have trouble falling asleep because of it, Mugwort can be helpful.

Artemisia vulgaris

As an oneirogen, Mugwort is often used as a dream herb. When you are taking Mugwort, your dreams are naturally stepped up. If you never remember dreams, you will with Mugwort! If you remember them, they will get more imaginative. Some people are able to control their dreams when taking Mugwort.

For the circulatory system, Mugwort is stimulating, especially for those who suffer from cold hands and feet. Applying an infused oil to the extremities can help to warm them up. Mugwort is also stimulating for cold stiffness, such as rheumatism.

Artemisia vulgaris

The topical oil is also great for a variety of other ailments such as achy, torn or pulled muscles, ligaments, and tendons, cramps, cuts, infections, bumps, bruises, contusions, insect stings and nerve pain.

Externally, a strong infusion or vinegar of Mugwort is great for poison ivy rashes. She helps to dry the rash while reducing inflammation from the reaction and reducing the pain.

For those who are on opiates, Mugwort can be useful for those who have paralyzed nervous systems and can be a key component when coming off of them.

Artemisia vulgaris

Historically, sprigs of Mugwort were placed in the shoes of travelers to keep their feet from becoming weary. Mugwort is soothing to tired and weary muscles and makes a great salve.

Mugwort is often made into bundles, just like her sister Sagebrush (A. tridentata) for smudging to purify the air. Not only can this clear the “energy” of a room but it can also clear the room of bacteria. This smudge can also be helpful in keeping insects away.

Mugwort is used in a unique way that other herbs are not, in the form of moxibustion or moxa. This is the use of specially prepared Mugwort (moxa) over pressure points of the body. There are two ways of using moxa, indirectly, by burning a stick of moxa above the pressure point and directly by placing the moxa on the body with the use of a barrier such as a slice of ginger or a layer of salt. Moxa is often indirectly used near the little toe of pregnant women to help turn a breech baby. Directly, salt is applied in a fine layer over the navel and a cone of moxa is burned for easing extreme diarrhea.

Artemisia vulgaris

Moxibustion has been shown to effect biochemical changes in the body such as the increase of white blood cells, the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Moxa is generally used in combination with other therapies on a specific condition.

Those who are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family should use with caution as they may be sensitive to Mugwort. A small percentage of people find Mugwort to cause contact dermatitis so it’s always best to start out in small dosages to ensure this does not happen. Mugwort is a uterine stimulant and can bring on delayed menses. Because of this, women who are pregnant or may suspect they are should avoid using Mugwort. Breastfeeding women may also want to avoid Mugwort as they may find it to be too drying. Prolonged use of Mugwort may be harmful to the liver. Those with liver disease should not use Mugwort.

Do  you use Mugwort? What is your favorite way to use it? Will you be planting Mugwort in your herb garden this year?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 72 – Using Your Herbal Vinegars

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Using herbal vinegars

“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

In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned dandelion and violet make great vinegars. Last summer, I wrote a newsletter all about how to make vinegars with kids. If you are new to Herbal Roots zine and to infusing vinegars, check out that newsletter for more information. Today, however, we are going to talk about the next step, what we can use those vinegars for.

101 ways to use vinegars

Okay, well I don’t have that many uses but I imagine I could come pretty close if I really tried hard enough. Let’s take a look at some of the more common ways to use them.


Combining vinegars with food

I like to follow Hippocrates lead when it comes to food and medicine. And since we all know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I try to incorporate herbs into our daily diet as much as possible. Herbal vinegars are a great way to add vitamins, minerals and medicinal qualities to our food. The following are some of my favorite ways to incorporate herbal vinegars into our daily diet.

Salad dressings – Make your own salad dressing with your own choice of infused vinegars combined with herbally infused oils

Seasoning for beans – Sprinkle your favorite flavored vinegar on beans for an extra kick. Cayenne, sage flower and blackberry leaf are a few of my favorites.

Topping for cooked greens – Try garlic infused vinegar or your favorite!

Seasoning for stir fry dishes – Match your vinegar to the vegetables you’ve cooked.

Soups – Some soups taste great with a dash of vinegar; for example, try a mint flavored vinegar with borscht.
Homemade mayonnaise – Making mayo? Add your own infused vinegar into the recipe for a special twist on the flavor.

Marinade for meats – Combine an infused vinegar such as bergamot, rosemary or thyme with an infused oil to use as a marinade.

Refreshing shrub drinks – Shrubs are a great break from sodas. There are many variations of shrubs, we have a recipe in our Blackberry issue.

Digestive tonic – Infuse with mugwort, wormwood, dandelion leaf and/or root, or chicory leaves and/or root

Mineral supplement – Infuse with mineral rich herbs such as raspberry or blackberry leaf, nettles, dandelion root, burdock root, chickweed, or mugwort

A few teaspoons a day...

Household uses for vinegar

Household cleaner – Any herbs will work great for this task. This is a great way to use up your vinegars that are getting old. Vinegars are great for cleaning windows, stovetops, sinks, tiles, tubs, showers and floors. Vinegar can also freshen up clothes in the laundry. I like to combine my vinegar with a bit of baking soda to make a gentle scrub when cleaning appliances. For getting tough grease off the stove, I add a drop or two of dish soap to the mix. This blend is best mixed right before using as it will fizz.


Herbal vinegars for the body

Hair rinse – Infuse with chamomile (light hair), or rosemary (dark hair), or burdock seed (dry hair)

Facial cleanser and/or tonic – Infuse with rose, lavender, borage or calendula

Fungal control – Infuse with eucalyptus, peppermint and calendula

Sunburns – Infuse with Saint John’s wort, rose, prunella, or lavender

Poison Ivy relief – Infuse with jewelweed, peach leaf, sweet fern or mugwort and horsetail

Fevers – Infuse with bergamot, catnip, goldenrod flowers, or peppermint

Sore throat gargle – Infuse with sage leaf or flower, garlic, prunella, bergamot or thyme

Liniment for aches and sprains – Infuse with prunella, yarrow, or comfrey

Anemia – Infuse with yellow dock root, ashwagandha, blackberry leaf and nettles

Deodorizer – Infuse with witch hazel, lavender or sage

As you can see, herbal vinegars are very versatile and useful around the home. Hopefully these ideas will get you started in using the herbal vinegars that you are making!

Do you use herbal vinegars? How do you incorporate them into your everyday living?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 71 – It’s Spring, Make Some Violet Jelly!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

It’s Spring, Let’s Make Jelly

The child should learn to recognize and gather wild foods such as green salad herbs, berries and nuts of the hedgerows, and “fool-proof” mushrooms such as puffballs and orange chanterelles, though they should not be allowed to eat such foods until parents have passed them as safe. And they should learn to gather firewood and cut turf for the home fires.

– Juliette de Bairacli Levy

One of the best things about this time of year are all the blooming flowers! The yard is full of gorgeous violets, dandelions, tulips, jonquils and daffodils. Our favorite way to celebrate is to make jelly out of our dandelion flowers and violet flowers.

Our violet yard

Our violet yard with a few dandelions thrown in for good measure

Normally I like to use raw sugar but when I make violet jelly, I sometimes will get a processed white sugar, just so the results will be spectacular. It really makes a beautifully colored jelly.

This is my oldest daughter’s favorite jelly. So much so that she will gladly pick the flowers all day long to have enough for the recipe. She has recently taken over making it herself and even taught a friend how to make it.


The recipe

The recipe is basically the same for both, all you need are some volunteers to pick a bunch of violet or dandelion flowers. If you are using the dandelion flowers, be sure to remove the green sepals or the jelly will have a bit of bitterness to it.

4 cups freshly picked violet flowers (remove the stems)
4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
1 package liquid pectin
8 cups sugar


Also gather:

1/2 gallon jar w/lid
9 – 10 jelly jars
Canning pot
Hot pads


Place the violets in a 1/2 gallon jar. Cover with boiling water and let steep for 12 hours (up to 24 hours) in the fridge. Check out the color of the water! It’s a bluey-green color, so pretty. It’s going to change though!!


When the violets are done steeping, make sure you have sterilized jelly jars ready to go. This recipe will make about 8 or 9 jelly jars worth of jelly. Place the lids in a pot of hot water and cover.


Strain off the violets and place the liquid in a stock pot. Add the lemon juice. Wow! The color changes instantly to violet. Pretty neat, isn’t it?! Ask mom and dad to talk about chemical reactions with you!


Add the pectin and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the sugar and boil vigorously for 3 minutes, skimming as needed.

Pour into jelly jars (also known as half pint jars). Wipe off the rims and place hot lids on top. Inverting them (turning them upside down) can help them to seal quicker. Leave them inverted for at least 7 minutes.

White sugar on the left, raw sugar on the right.

White sugar on the left, raw sugar on the right. It’s more evident in real life, the photo didn’t capture the lovely violet color.

Now, it’s time to enjoy them on some fresh homemade bread!

More fun with violet and dandelion

Violet and dandelion jelly is just one way to enjoy these delightful spring flowers. Both herbs have lots of medicinal uses and each can be eaten raw in salads. Try making violet or dandelion leaf vinegar. Simply add some leaves to a jar, fill with apple cider vinegar and let it sit for 2 weeks. The vinegar will extract the vitamins and minerals and can be used any way you use apple cider vinegar in cooking. Next week’s newsletter will give you some great ideas on how to use infused vinegars!

If you want to learn more about violet and/or dandelion, check out our back issues of each.

Do you use violet and dandelion flowers or greens in your daily meals? What’s your favorite way to use them?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 70 – Eleuthero: King of Adaptogens

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
An eternity in an hour.”

– William Blake

Known as Siberian Ginseng in some parts of the world, Eleuthero has a long history of use as medicine. In the United States, it is illegal to refer to Eleuthero as Siberian Ginseng in commerce as the name Ginseng is used for plants in the Panax genus. Eleuthero is often referred to as the “King of Adaptogens”. We’ll discuss more on that later.

Energetically, Eleuthero is said to be bitter, acrid and warming in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Matt Wood describes Eleuthero as slightly sweet. How would you describe Eleuthero’s taste? Experiment with a bit of dried root. Traditionally the root bark is used but the leaves also contain medicinal properties.

Nutritionally, Eleuthero contains crude and dietary fiber, fat, protein as well as calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin (B3), phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin (B2), selenium, silicon, thiamine (B1), vitamins A and C and zinc. He also contains the macronutrient, Choline, an important nutrient for liver function, normal brain development, nerve function, muscle movement, supporting energy levels and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Choline is an important nutrient that helps the brain in learning and memory detention. Eleuthero contains sterols, coumarins, flavonoids and polysaccharides.

Eleuthero, leafing out in spring.

Eleuthero, leafing out in spring.

Medicinally, Eleuthero is said to be adaptogenic, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, bitter, chemoprotective, ergogenic, hypoglycemic, immunomodulating, insulinotrophic, neuroprotective, radioprotective, restorative and tonic. Let’s take a closer look at how we can use Eleuthero…

Eleuthero is best known for his adaptogen capabilities and given his title of the “king of adaptogens”, there is probably good reason for this. From Donald Yance’s book, “Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism”, “Eleuthero protects the body and enhances its various systems against the ill effects of any type of stress…Eleuthero demonstrates favorable effects on favors human functions as well, including visual acuity, color differentiation, hearing, fatiguability and thinking in association with motor activity. More so than any other adaptogenic agent it displays a normalizing effect regardless of physiological abnormalities…decreases adrenal hypertrophy and spares the loss of vitamin C from the adrenal glands.”

Close-up of Eleuthero leaves

Close-up of Eleuthero leaves

He is also supportive of lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing hypertension and relieving angina, especially when stress induced. His is best combined with Motherwort for best results.

As an immunomodulator, Eleuthero helps to strengthen the immune system over time to reduce the chance of catching a cold or other common infectious disease.

Athletes have used the power of Eleuthero’s ergogenic action to increase endurance and stamina which enhanced their performance. It is often combined with Schisandra, Rhodiola or Cordyceps to improve cognitive function and alertness, especially when under severe stress, making this combination good for supporting students and practitioners who put in long working hours with little sleep (though this should not be used as a long term solution). At the same time, as a circulatory stimulant, Eleuthero can help to improve learning and memory function. Many Soviet athletes, cosmonauts, pilots, miners, train operators and factory workers have relied on Eleuthero’s actions to increase their stamina and endurance.

Hairy petioles and veins.

Hairy petioles and veins.

Diabetics may benefit form Eleuthero’s hypoglycemic and insulinotrophic actions, helping the body to restore and nourish the production and activity of insulin and is especially supportive while the diabetic works on their diet and lifestyle to help manage their glucose levels.

Eleuthero is also neuroprotective, supporting and protecting the nervous system while nourishing it.

For those undergoing chemo or radiation, Eleuthero’s chemoprotective and radioprotective actions will protect their body from decreased white blood cell counts and bone marrow suppression while inhibiting metastasis and cancer reoccurrence. After Chernobyl, Eleuthero was used to counteract the effects of radiation for many citizens. Eleuthero also protects the liver and enhances its ability to break down and eliminate chemicals and drugs from the body and stimulates protein synthesis in the liver, pancreas and adrenal cortex. He is great for protecting the body from environmental pollutants as well.

Herbalist Deb Soule with her beautiful Eleuthero plant in bloom. Check out her video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0TpIjFr5nY

Herbalist Deb Soule with her beautiful Eleuthero plant in bloom. Check out her video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0TpIjFr5nY

As an antioxidant, Eleuthero further protects the body from free radicals.

For those who enjoy spending time outdoors regardless of the weather, Eleuthero is good to have on hand in case of hypothermia as he can help to normalize body temperature.

Though generally considered safe, Eleuthero can cause overstimulation in sensitive people so those who are sensitive to stimulates should use with caution as he may cause jitters, rapid heart beat and headaches. Eleuthero may react with digoxin so anyone taking it should not taken Eleuthero. Eleuthero has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of mycin-class antibiotics.


Want to learn more about Eleuthero? This month’s issue is on sale until the end of April.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 69 – Trees of Spring

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21st, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I just love this time of year! To celebrate Spring’s arrival, all back issues of Herbal Roots zine are 40% off!

I just love this time of year! (I can’t say it enough). The peepers are peeping, the grass is greening and the trees are blooming! Last year I wrote about herbs that grow from the ground and I thought it would be appropriate for us to look up and appreciate the medicinal trees that grow all around us. 

So you can identify common spring plants, what about the trees?

Trees are often overlooked for their medicinal value. Though they are often grand, providing us with shade in the summer, privacy from our neighbors and branches to hang swings from, we often forget that trees can provide us with health as well. Have you ever hugged a tree? I highly recommend it. Though hugging a tree is often waved off as being dippy hippy, science has proven the power of hugging a tree. You may have noticed that after your kids come inside from playing in the backyard, they seem calmer. And while a lot of that expended energy comes from the natural play of childhood, the vibrations of trees can help children to function better mentally and physically.

Today we are going to take a virtual tree walk and talk about some of my favorite trees of Spring.

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel flowers photo by Ananda Wilson

Witch Hazel flowers photo by Ananda Wilson

This beauty starts blooming in late winter and depending on your region may already be done blooming but I still like to include her into the mix. Most people are familiar with Witch Hazel as she is commonly sold in drug stores as an astringent. Have you ever used Witch Hazel to clean your face? As a deodorant, Witch Hazel is also useful to freshen up when you don’t have access to a shower and can clean odors from your hands as well. Witch Hazel can also be applied to your body before working out to help keep you from straining your muscles. Forgot to rub it on pre-workout? Apply Witch Hazel afterwards to soothe tired and aching muscles. This antispasmodic is great for menstrual cramps as well, simply soak a cloth, apply it to your stomach and cover with a hot water bottle. There are so many uses for Witch Hazel, she’s a worthy tree to plant in your yard!

Want to learn more about Witch Hazel? Check out the issue here.


Hawthorn tree blossoms photo by Rosalee de la Foret

Hawthorn tree blossoms photo by Rosalee de la Foret

This tree can seem intimidating with his thorns but once you learn about Hawthorn, you will realize the message is one of your protection. Hawthorn is for the heart, both physical and emotional. When working with someone who has heart issues, whether it’s a weak physical heart or a grieving emotional heart, Hawthorn knows how to protect and soothe. Hawthorn also strengthens and protects the joint lining, collagen and discs in the back, making the extract useful during chiropractic adjustments. Hawthorn also helps with poor digestion, diarrhea and more.

Want to learn more about Hawthorn? Check out the issue here.


Peach tree blossom

Peach tree blossom

I just love the bright pink blooms of Peach! This glorious Spring bloom is starting to open in my neck of the woods, swiftly chasing Plum’s blooms down in the orchard. A member of the Rose family, this tree is one of my constant go to’s for everyday ailments. The flowers, leaves and twigs can all be harvested to make a sweet, cooling and moistening extract that can be used as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, demulcent diuretic that is great for soothing digestive complaints, respiratory complaints and more. I love to use Peach for insect stings, taking the extract internally while applying a compress of it directly to the sting. Peach instantly soothes the sting, reduces swelling and overall reduces the length of time it takes to recover. For spasmodic coughs, Peach is wonderful and has been used for pertussis, bronchitis and dry, tickling coughs that are not productive.

Want to learn more about Peach? Check out the issue here.


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

Apple tree blossoms

Aah, Apple! Blooming shortly after Peach, Apple is another member of the Rose family. Again I like to harvest the flowers, leaves and twigs for making a delicious extract. Adding a bit of honey makes a delicious elixir that’s easy to take for soothing fevers, digestive complaints, diarrhea and more. Similar to Rose, I like Apple for soothing matters of the heart. Infusions from the leaves may be useful as an eye wash for glaucoma and cataracts.

Want to learn more about Apple? Check out the issue here.

Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry tree blossoms

Wild Cherry tree blossoms

This is one of the first trees I discovered blooming on my farm when we moved there. I was (and still am) enamored by the blooms that spilled from the branches. From the almond scented bark to the delicate white flowers to the tart berries, Wild Cherry is a favorite for treating spasmodic coughs, anxiety and some digestive complaints. Wild Cherry’s bark is most appropriate for hot coughs that may be productive or not. Wild Cherry works great for treating heart palpitations, especially when combined with anxiety, as well as restlessness and tension headaches. Wild Cherry is appropriate for conditions that are hot and red. Typically the inner bark or twigs are used but the flowers, leaves and berries can be used as well. Leaves should be looked over carefully, discarding any wilted, fermented or rotten parts as the entire tree contains a cyanide-like glycoside. While this may seem frightening, Wild Cherry is safe as long as you use only healthy parts of the tree and avoid chewing the seeds, similar to the recommendations for eating apples.

Want to learn more about Wild Cherry? Check out the issue here.

What trees are blooming in your neighborhood? Have you ever used any trees in your herbal apothecary?

Check out our previous spring related articles:

Herbal Rootlets Newsletter No. 37 – Planning Your Herb Garden with Kids

Herbal Rootlets Newsletter No. 38 – 5 Ways to Get Ready for Spring with Herbs

Herbal Rootlets Newsletter No. 43 – Preparing Your Garden for Spring Planting

Herbal Rootlets Newsletter No. 44 – Herbs for Spring


Handcrafted Herbalism Free Mini-Course 2

Handcrafted Herbalism: Free Mini-Course

Starts March 23rd!

Foraging ~ Botany ~ Medicine Making

Are you interested in learning about herbalism, but don’t really know where to start? We’ve got something just for you! This FREE mini-course, Handcrafted Herbalism, offered by our friends at Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, is a solid introduction to the most important subjects herbalists need to learn: plant identification, foraging and medicine making. You’ll connect with thousands of herb lovers from around the globe and be introduced to leading herbal experts. It’s simple to enroll: click on this link by March 22nd.

The course runs March 23rd through March 31st, and is self-paced, so you can access the videos, audio, and written lessons when it’s convenient for you! The audio and printable lessons are yours to keep so you can revisit the material year after year.

This class would be excellent for teens who are wanting to lear about herbs!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 68 – The Meanings Behind the Names

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14th, 2016 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments


Officinale….officinalis….vulgaris….purpurea….canadensis….nigra….have you ever wondered about the meanings behind the botanical names? Often a mix of Latin, Greek and other languages, what is the purpose of such strange names?

Botanical Naming History

Botanical names, known also as scientific names and Latin names, are a binomial naming system that was developed by Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus in the 1700’s. In his observations of plants, he discovered a natural order to the flowers, leaves and fruits of many plants and started to group them accordingly. He gave them a ‘first’ and ‘last’ name, similar to our names; however, in botanical nomenclature, they are switched around. The botanical last name is known as the genus and the botanical first name is known as the species.


Genus names are always capitalized while species names are always lower case. An example of this would be Echinacea purpurea.

Often there may be several types of the same plant and we differentiate them by their species names. For example, there are several species of Echinacea including purpurea, angustifolia, paradoxa and pallida. When listing species names, it is proper to list the genus name first, i.e., Echinacea purpurea. However, if listing several in a row as I just did, instead of repeating the genus name each time, it is acceptable to abbreviate the genus with the first letter like this:

Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, E. paradoxa and E. pallida after you have written out the genus name for the first species.


Why We Use Botanical Names

Whether you are new to herbalism or you’ve been studying it for awhile, you may wonder why we bother with using the botanical names. It’s hard enough remembering common names, even when they are easy to say such as “purple coneflower” as a generic name for Echinacea spp.

Red Raspberry - Rubus Idaeus

Red Raspberry – Rubus idaeus

There are a few reasons why it’s important to learn the botanical names. One is that there may be several different species of a plant that share a genus name. Sometimes they are interchangeable such as the species of Echinacea but sometimes, they may have different uses, or only one plant may be used medicinally such as Raspberry (Rubus idaeus, R. occidentalis) and Blackberry (Rubus villosus, R. fruticosus). While both Red Raspberry and Blackberry are used medicinally, they have different uses. Another example is Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). While T. parthenium is a commonly used, safe medicinal herb, T. vulgare is stronger and can be quite purgative when used in medium to large doses.


Feverfew – Tanacetum parthenium

Another reason is that more than one plant may be known by the same common name. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is also commonly called Motherwort and Mayweed, the common name of two other herbs: Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Mayweed (Anthemis cotula). Common names may also vary region by region, making it hard for outsiders to understand the plants being referred to.

chamomile 1

Making Sense of Botanical Names

It’s easy to see why it’s important and useful to learn botanical names but sometimes the names are so crazy, it’s hard to remember them. Fortunately, a lot of species names are named after a characteristic of the plant such as the location the plant is native to, if it was a traditional plant found in pharmacopeias, plant coloration or the way the plant grows.

Traditionally used plants
Plants that were commonly used or listed in pharmacopeias often had species names such as:

Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale

officinale / officinalis – official plant listed in pharmacopeias

Examples: Rosmarinus officinalis, Taraxacum officinale

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

Prunella vulgaris

vulgare / vulgaris – common

Examples: Thymus vulgare, Prunella vulgaris

Plants named by region
Often plants were named by the region they were located in such as:

Goldenrod - Solidago canadensis

Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis

americana – America, canadensis – Canada / chinensis – China / japonica – Japan / montana – Montana / occidentalis – Western North America / sylvestris – Woodland / virginiana – Virginia

Examples: Phytolacca americana, Solidago canadensis, Rosa chinensis, Lonicera japonica, Arnica montana, Rubus occidentalis, Malva sylvestris, Juniperus virginiana

Plants named by color
Sometimes plants were named because of their coloration, whether it be colorations in their stems, flowers or fruits such as:

Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis

Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis

alba – white / incana – grey / nigra – black / purpurea – purple / rubra – red

Examples: Salix alba, Scutellaria incana, Sambucus nigra, Echinacea purpurea, Ulmus rubra

Plants named by their growth habit or shape
Sometimes a description of their shape or growth habit gave plants their species names such as:

Evening Primrose - Oenethera biennis

Evening Primrose – Oenothera biennis

angustifolia – narrow-leaved / annua – annual / biennis – biennial / fructicosa/fruticosus – shrubby / glabra – smooth / lanceolata – lance-shaped leaves / reptans – creeping

Examples: Lavandula angustifolia, Artemisia annua, Oenothera biennis, Rubus fruticosus, Rhus glabra, Plantago lanceolata, Ajuga reptans

Resources for more names

Curious about more names? Check out these websites:

The Seed Site http://theseedsite.co.uk/latin.html

Gardening Know How http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/latin-plant-names.htm

Want to go deeper? Start learning plant families, these books will help:

Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure For Kids Ages 9 to 99 (book and card deck) by Thomas J. Elpel
Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel

Handcrafted Herbalism Free Mini-Course

Handcrafted Herbalism: Free Mini-Course

Starts March 23rd!

Foraging ~ Botany ~ Medicine Making

Are you interested in learning about herbalism, but don’t really know where to start? We’ve got something just for you! This FREE mini-course, Handcrafted Herbalism, offered by our friends at Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, is a solid introduction to the most important subjects herbalists need to learn: plant identification, foraging and medicine making. You’ll connect with thousands of herb lovers from around the globe and be introduced to leading herbal experts. It’s simple to enroll: click on this link by March 22nd.

The course runs March 23rd through March 31st, and is self-paced, so you can access the videos, audio, and written lessons when it’s convenient for you! The audio and printable lessons are yours to keep so you can revisit the material year after year.

This class would be excellent for teens who are wanting to lear about herbs!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 67 – Learning About Forsythia

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7th, 2016 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments


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

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

History, Energetics and Nutrition

Known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Lian Qiao, Forsythia suspensa is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in TCM. Forsythia suspensa is commonly grown in landscapes as is Forsythia x intermedia. Here in North America, we recognize Forsythia as a harbinger of spring, his bright yellow flowers blooming early before setting leaves on his branches.

The first blooms of spring, a welcome sight!

Energetically, Forsythia is said to be bitter, and cooling. You can test this by chewing on a dried fruit. The bitterness can be slow to notice, increasing in bitterness as you chew. I find him to also be a bit drying.

Nutritionally, the fruits contain vitamin P.  Vitamin P fortifies the capillaries. They also contain lignans, also known as polyphenols, such as forsythin, phillygenin, pinoresinol, and pinoresinol-β-D-glucoside, the flavonoid rutin, and triterpenoids such as betulinic acid, oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, β-amyrin acetate, and isobauerenyl acetate.

Forsythia suspensa dried fruits.

Medicinal Uses of Forsythia

Medicinally, Forsythia is said to be antibacterial, antiemetic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antitussive, antiviral, astringent, choleretic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant and laxative. Traditionally the fruit is used, either dried when green or after the seeds have dispersed. The flowers and leaves are also used. Lets take a look at Forsythia’s medicinal uses…

Forsythia is used primarily for clearing heat and eliminating toxins in Chinese medicine. He is often combined with Honeysuckle for treating colds and influenza. He is commonly used for viruses causing upper respiratory tract infections, acute bronchitis, tonsillitis, encephalitis B, meningitis, mumps and parotitis, especially when they are presented with a sore throat, cough and fever. Dr. James Duke likes to mix Forsythia with other antivirals such as Honeysuckle and Lemon Balm for best results. As an anti-inflammatory, Forsythia helps to reduce inflammation in the bronchial passages during illnesses. Taken at the first sign of an illness, Forsythia will stimulate the immune system to help fight off illnesses.

Flowers contain 4 petals and 4 sepals.

Flowers contain 4 petals and 4 sepals.

Forsythia’s diaphoretic, febrifuge and antipyretic actions help with reducing fever while his antitussive action suppresses coughs.

As an antibacterial, Forsythia has been shown to inhibit many types of bacteria, including Bacillus typhi, Hemolytic streptococcus, Moraxella catarrhalis, Mycobacterium tuberculi, Pneumonococcus spp., Shigella dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus and S. hemolyticus. He is listed by many as a broad spectrum antimicrobial.

Notice the lenticels on the stems.

Notice the lenticels on the stems.

For those suffering from acne, Forsythia has shown to be effective in inhibiting the secretion of the sebaceous glands, helping to improve oily skin to lower the incidences of acne caused by oily skin. An an anti-inflammatory, Forsythia can also help to decrease inflammation with acne while his antibacterial action helps to inhibit bacterial growth.

Forsythia has hepatoprotective actions and may be useful in protecting the liver from hepatotoxins. His choleretic action increases the volume of bile produced by the liver.

Leaves appear after the blooms.

Leaves appear after the blooms. Notice the fine hairs on the leaves.

As a laxative, a tea can be useful for combatting constipation.

Externally, Forsythia is used to treat boils, carbuncles and scrofula as well as inflammation and is often combined with Violet, Honeysuckle and Dandelion.

Forsythia has not been studied for use with pregnant or breastfeeding women but would best be avoided as he is an emmenagogue and may induce premature labor.


Want to learn more about Forsythia? Grab this month’s issue for only $3.99. But hurry, the sale ends March 31, 2016.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 66 – Celebrating Valentine’s Day the Herbalist’s Way

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Celebrating Valentine's Day the Herbalist's Way

“Children the world over have a right to a childhood filled with beauty, joy, adventure, and companionship. They will grow toward ecological literacy if the soil they are nurtured in is rich with experience, love, and good examples.”

– Alan Dyer, “A Sense of Adventure”

2016 Herbal Valentines 2016 Herbal Valentines

A day for love, expressed through silly love notes and cacao, what could be better?! It’s the perfect day for herbalists to shine with something they are passionate about, the plants.

While we are not big on buying commercial chocolates in our house, we always enjoy making a meal with as much chocolate as possible: Chocolate barbecued chicken or Cacao encrusted pork tenderloin, Acorn or butternut squash seasoned with cocoa and other warming herbs, and a flourless chipotle chocolate cake or Pavlovas with fresh fruit and chocolate sauce for dessert. This year, I plan to add a salad, based on one I found online, a spinach pear salad with a chocolate vinaigrette.


I always enjoy finding a way to incorporate herbs into our daily food and Valentine’s day is no exception!

Kids will get a kick out of eating chocolate for dinner, and especially when they can tell their friends it’s good for them too. With the exception of the dessert, there is almost no added sugar, only the flavor of cacao combined with spices and savory foods.

Here are a few recipes to get you started:

squash 02 - search

Cacao Spice Butternut Squash

1 large butternut squash (Acorn can be substituted if you prefer)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 teaspoons cacao* or cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger*
1/4 t. ground ancho chili powder*

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice your butternut squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds (we like to roast them, see below) and brush the squash with olive oil.

Place the squash facedown on a baking stone or cookie sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or until tender. Larger squashes may take longer.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

Scoop out the flesh and mash in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined.


Roasted Squash Seeds
(Great for salads or eating as is!)

Seeds from your squash
2 teaspoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
1/4 teaspoon cacao*
1/4 teaspoon garlic*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon*
1 pinch chipotle*

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.

Wash your seeds and pat dry on a towel.

Place on a cookie sheet and toss with the ingredients and roast for 45 minutes, stirring a few times during the cooking time.

Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.


Spinach Pear Salad

1 package of fresh organic baby spinach (or mixed greens)
1 large pear, sliced into small bite sized pieces
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons roasted squash seeds or sliced almonds
1/4 cup gorgonzola or stilton cheese

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon raw honey
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
1/8 teaspoon black pepper*
3 tablespoons cacao* powder
1 tablespoon butter

In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. Turn off heat and whisk together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Toss the salad ingredients and drizzle with the dressing.

*If you are needing a source for fresh herbs and spices, check out Mountain Rose Herbs! It’s my favorite online shop for fair trade, non-gmo, organic and wildcrafted herbs.

2016 Herbal Valentines 2016 Herbal Valentines

Kids love a unique twist on food. Adding chocolate to their food is a tradition that they will want to repeat year after year.


They’re Back!

2016 herbal valentines cover

These past few weeks, I have gotten lots of emails asking if I would be offering my free valentines again this year. My answer was absolutely! I had so much fun making them last year that I decided to make a whole new batch this year so you have double the choices this year.

2016 Herbal Valentines 2016 Herbal Valentines

So, why not print off some of my silly valentines, head off into the kitchen and cook up a delicious Valentine’s meal while filling out cards for all your friends and family!

2016 Herbal Valentines

For more in depth learning about the herbs we used this holiday season, check out their individual issues: Cacao, Ginger, Cayenne, Garlic, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Vanilla and Raspberry.

Do you have any traditions for your family for Valentine’s Day?

2016 Herbal Valentines 2016 Herbal Valentines

P.S. Don’t forget the Valentines:

herbal valentines cover

2015 contains Mullein, Violet, Rose, Dandelion, Pine, Aloe, Thyme, Willow, Horseradish and Usnea

2016 herbal valentines cover

2016 contains Reishi, Nutmeg, Butternut Squash, Plantain, Yarrow, Peach, Passionflower and Elderberry


P. P. S. Learning Herbs is offering a FREE webinar tomorrow, Stop a Cold from Taking Hold! Given that this is that time of the year when we are all starting to feel rundown from the effects of winter, it’s perfect timing!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 65 – Calling on Cumin

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.”

– Rachel Carson

A popular spice in a variety of cuisines, Cumin has a long standing use in Ayurvedic medicine as well. This plant is native to Levant (the east Mediterranean) and India. This spice was popularized in the Middle Ages and often used in place of Black Pepper because of his accessibility.

There are several herbs that are known as Cumin. This issue of Herbal Roots zine is focusing on Cuminum cyminum, which is also known as Green Cumin, Jira, and Jiraka. Other Cumins include Black Cumin, Bunium persicum and Caraway, Carum carvi. Both are often used interchangeably with Cumin, though Caraway seems to be a closer match than Black Cumin.

Have you had Cumin before in your meals? If you’ve eaten Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and/or certain Chinese cuisines then you’ve most likely eaten Cumin.

Cumin Seed

Let’s have a taste of Cumin to discover his energetics. To do this experiment you will need some Cumin, preferably the fruits (which are commonly called seeds) though powdered will work if that’s all you have in your cabinet. Chew some of the fruits in your mouth and notice the flavors. The first thing you will notice is his bitter taste followed by a bit of pungency. How does your mouth feel? Does it seem to be warming or cooling? Views seem to be divided as to whether Cumin is warming or cooling. Most likely you will notice that Cumin does not seem to dry out your mouth or moisten it further because Cumin is neutral.

Nutritionally, Cumin if full of vitamins and minerals: vitamins, A, C, E, K, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), calcium, choline, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Cumin’s main constituent is his volatile oil, cuminaldehyde.

Medicinally, Cumin is an anodyne, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactagogue, stimulant and vermifuge. Let’s take a look at what this means…


Cumin is best known as his use as a carminative and herbalists of the past deemed it to be stronger in this action than Caraway and Fennel but due to his disagreeable flavor as a tea, the use of Cumin for this practice fell out of favor. By adding Cumin to our food, we are taking advantage of this medicinal action. As a carminative and antispasmodic, Cumin is often added to a colic tea for babies. Adding Cumin to our food has more advantages than just being a carminative. Cumin is also a vermifuge, helping to kill and expel parasites from the body. Cumin is antioxidant, which means he will protect cells against the effects of free radicals. Being high in iron, Cumin is an important herb for those who are suffering from anemia.

Although Cumin is a mild emmenagogue and may bring on delayed menses, many women find Cumin to help with nausea associated with morning sickness and use it with no ill effects. Pregnant women should not use excessive amounts of Cumin because of his emmenagogue actions. Nursing moms may find Cumin beneficial by increasing their milk flow as he is an excellent galactagogue.

Cumin is also a mild diuretic, stimulating the flow of urine.

By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, via Wikimedia Commons

By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, via Wikimedia Commons

Cumin is often used to help fight off the common cold. My first experience with Cumin was back in the early 90’s when a friend of mine added a lot of Cumin to my chicken noodle soup when I was sick. I recovered quickly and have been sold on using Cumin ever since! Cumin is also recommended for coughs and fevers though I do not have any experience with him in this manner.

Studies show that Cumin gives promising results in lowering blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides, increasing bone density and protecting the liver from toxicity.

Externally, Cumin can be applied to bruises and swellings to ease pain and reduce swelling. Dr. James Duke, PhD., studied the properties of Cumin and discovered pain-relieving compounds, four of them combatting swelling and seven that are anti-inflammatory. He lists Cumin as an herb to take for those who are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, along with other herbs such as Chamomile, Cayenne, Willow, Turmeric, and Sage as well as gentle exercises and massage with herbal oils.

Cumin grows well in the garden but does need a long growing season so start your seeds indoors several weeks before your last frost date. There’s nothing like your own freshly harvested Cumin!


Want to learn more about Cumin? Grab this month’s issue for only $3.99. But hurry, the sale ends January 31, 2016.

[Herbal Rootlets] No. 64 – Making Herbal Salves with Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15th, 2016 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature.  Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.

– Zenobia Barlow, “Confluence of Streams”

Kids love to make herbal remedies. Salve making is easy to do and a lot of fun and kids take pride in being able to use it for themselves or their friends and family. Lip balms are made similarly to salves and can be another fun project. Salves are great for applying herbs where you need them without a huge mess. They are compact and can be traveled with easily and ready to use when the fresh herb isn’t around.

To make a salve, you first need to infuse your oil with herbs. You can read up here on how this is done if you missed the previous newsletter.

Let’s get started!
To make a salve, you will need your infused oils, beeswax and vitamin E. You can purchase vitamin E capsules at your local drugstore. You’ll only need a few drops.

Measure your oil and place it in the top of a double burner. For every 4 parts oil, add 1 part beeswax. For instance if you have 4 oz. of oil, you’ll add 1 oz. of beeswax.

Gently heat until the beeswax is melted. Dip a teaspoon into the salve and bring out, shake off. Let it set up either at room temperature or in the freezer for quicker results. When it has hardened, you can tell how thick the salve is. If you think it’s going to be too hard, add a bit more oil. If you’d like it harder, add a bit more beeswax. It will become a bit harder than it is on the spoon so keep that in mind when you make any adjustments.

When it is the consistency you want it, use the tip of a sharp knife to poke a hole in the vitamin E capsule and squeeze it into the salve. Stir and pour your salve into a wide mouthed jar or metal container.

Storing your salve
Salves store best in a cool, dark place. They generally remain useable for about a year. Smelling them often will indicate when they’ve gone bad as they will have a strong rancid smell. If this occurs, compost the salve and make a new one.

How about lip balms?
Once you make your own lip balm, you’ll be hooked! One batch of lip balm makes about 18 – 20 lip balms. You can use lip balm tubes or tins for pouring your salve in. Both can be found on eBay fairly inexpensively.

1/2 oz. almond oil
1/2 oz. jojoba oil
1 oz. shea butter
1 oz. beeswax
1/4 teaspoon honey
1/8 t. vitamin E
2 tablespoons Dried herbs of choice (Calendula, Prunella, Plantain are some good choices)
Essential oil of choice such as orange, peppermint, cinnamon or vanilla extract

Place chosen herbs in a mini crockpot or double boiler and cover with almond and jojoba oil. Let gently simmer for 2 -3 hours until herbs have infused with oil. The herbs will look spent. Alternatively, if you already have your oil made, you can use a previously infused oil.

Strain off the herbs.

Add the shea butter and beeswax to the mini crockpot and return the infused oil until melted. Stir to combine. Add vitamin E oil and essential oils and stir to combine.

Pour your lip balm into a small glass measuring cup that has a pour spout on it. Carefully pour the lip balm into the tubes or tins.


What some more sources of information about making herbal salves?

Try these books:

A Kid’s Herb Book by Lesley Tierra page 94

Healing Wise by Susun Weed pages 273

Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech pages 87 – 88 (Second part of Chapter 10)

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green Chapter 18: Ointments, Salves & Balms pages 201 – 208 (click to see online…5 pages are missing from this version)

Herbal salve are easy to make and easy to use. They are a great next step for kids to learn how to make.

Have you made herbal salves or lip balms with your kids? What kinds did you make and what did you use them for?

[Herbal Rootlets] No. 63 – Making Herbal Oils

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

making oil infusion

“Once upon a time, children would have learned about the many uses of plants—as food, as decoration, and most importantly, as medicine—from their elders. A wise woman or man who had learned the ways of the plants would have guided children as they discovered the natural world around them. Our world is very different now, but plants still have much to teach us.”

-Ellen Evert Hopman, Walking the World of Wonder


In herbalism, there are many ways to extract herbs to make remedies. Infusions are a common method and can involve water, alcohol, vinegar, or oil. Today we are going to focus on oil infusions.

Oil infusions are fun and easy to make with kids. They will enjoy making an herbal remedy that they can use on themselves.

Why oil infusions?
Oil infusions (not to be confused with essential oils, which are a completely different process) infuse the constituents of herbs in oil. Resins, gums and oleoresins are most soluble in oils. Other active principles such as the hypericin in St. John’s Wort, as well as essential oils, mucilage and alkaloids are all partially soluble in oils. These make oils that are great for topical use. They can be massaged directly on the skin, or combined with other ingredients to make salves, lotions, creams and even soaps for using topically.

Internally, infused oils are great for using as a base for salad dressings or any other way that oils are used in cooking. They are best used on food after the cooking is finished so that the constituents of the herbs are not cooked out of them.


Which oils are best?
A variety of oils can be used for making infused oils. Olive oil is a standard, all purpose base and works well as a massage oil, salve base or salad dressing. If you want to make an oil specifically for a massage oil, almond oil, apricot kernel oil and grape seed oil are all lighter and work especially well for this task. Coconut oil is also a great base, especially if you will be using it in your hair. Be aware that coconut oil generally solidifies at temperatures cooler than 76 degrees fahrenheit. Don’t limit your oils to vegetable oils. Animal oils can be used as well: emu oil, lanolin, lard, tallow, butter and ghee are all excellent oils to use.


St. John’s Wort flowers make a great herbal oil for sunburns and nerve pain.

What herbs infuse best into oils?
Some herbs that are great for skin include Calendula, St. John’s Wort, Comfrey, Plantain, Prunella, Chickweed, Cottonwood, Garlic, Ginger, Lavender, Goldenrod, Birch, Burdock, Cayenne, Mullein and Black Pepper. The list is endless but these are a few to get you started!

Calendula flowers make a great herbal oil.

Calendula flowers make a great herbal oil.

Whichever herbs you use, it’s best to use dried herbs for the infusion. If you must use fresh, let the plants wilt for at least 8 hours so that some of the moisture will come out of the plant material. The exceptions to this rule are St. John’s Wort, Mullein and Garlic which infuse best fresh.

Infusing Cottonwood. Photo by Ananda Wilson.

Infusing Cottonwood. Photo by Ananda Wilson.

Let’s get started!
First decide what you would like the oil for. If you want to make a lovely massage oil for achy muscles, try infusing a massage type oil such as apricot or almond with herbs for achiness such as Birch, Cottonwood, Goldenrod, Lavender or Prunella. These plants work great for sprains, strains, bumps and bruises too.

For a wound healing oil, which can later be made into a wound healing salve, herbs such as Calendula, Comfrey, Plantain, Chickweed and/or Cottonwood can be used. If you are using Comfrey on wounds, be sure to add an antibacterial herb such as Calendula to the mix since Comfrey can be quick to heal skin over a wound, trapping any debris and germs inside that may not have been thoroughly removed.


Fresh Ginger infused oil

For help with circulation, Ginger, Cayenne and Black Pepper work great. Mullein and Garlic oil make a nice ear oil, especially with a little St. John’s Wort added in.

St. John’s Wort makes a mild sunscreen, especially when infused in Sunflower oil which also has sunscreen properties. Burdock seeds, smashed and infused in oil make a nice scalp oil for treating dandruff.

Jaden with a bouquet of Prunella, ready to be dried and made into oil.

Jaden with a bouquet of Prunella, ready to be dried and made into oil.

How to infuse oils
Once you’ve decided what type of oil to make, it’s time to get started! To make an oil, place a handful of herb in the top of a double boiler. Pour enough oil to cover, bring the water below to a boil then turn down and gently heat for 2-3 hours. Turn off the heat and strain out the herbs from the oil by pouring it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze the cloth to get the final bits of oil out of the plants.

Pour your oil into a jar and cap it. After 48 hours, check to see if anything has settled to the bottom. Usually when using dried material, there will not be anything settling but when your plants are fresh, water can sometimes mix with the oil during the infusion process and will settle to the bottom. If this happens, you will want to strain off the oil from the sediment at the bottom as the sediment will cause the oil to go rancid.

There are alternative methods for oil infusions. The basic premise of oil infusions is to heat the plant material at a level that the pores open and release the medicinal constituents but not so much that you cook the plant material. Any heat source is acceptable although a continuous heat source is best.

Sun Method:

Fill a jar about 1/2 full of dried plant material in a jar and fill to the top with oil. Stir with a chopstick to get air bubbles out and put on the lid. Set jar outside in the sun for about 2 weeks. Bring inside and follow instructions for straining and settling.

Crock Pot Method:

If you are making a larger quantity of oil, you can heat it in a crock pot. Place the desired amount of herb and oil into the pot, set on low and let heat overnight. Follow instructions for straining and settling.

Storing your oils
Whichever method you use, it’s best to store your oils in the refrigerator so that they won’t go rancid. Oils typically last about a year, sometimes longer. Smell them regularly and you will notice if they go off, they get a peculiar smell about them.


What some more sources of information about making oil infusions?
Try these books:

A Kid’s Herb Book by Lesley Tierra

Healing Wise by Susun Weed pages 271 – 273 (Similar version taken from Breast Cancer? Breast Health! can be found online here: http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/July09/breasthealth.htm )

Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech pages 81 – 86 (First part of Chapter 10)

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green Chapter 17: Oil Infusion pages 193 – 200 (click to see online…3 pages are missing from this version but you can see most of this chapter).

Herbal oils are easy to make and easy to use. They are a great ‘starter remedy’ for kids to learn how to make.

Have you made herbal oils with your kids? What kinds did you make and what did you use them for?

Herbal Blessings,


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 HerbMentor.com. And as a bonus, they are giving anyone who enrolls a FREE one year membership to HerbMentor.com, 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.