[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 47 – Eat Something Wild Every Day Challenge

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


Once we have tasted wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat the more we will awaken.

– Stephen Harrod Buhner

It's always exciting when the first Blackberries are ready for picking! Caution is needed as the prickles are vicious.

It’s always exciting when the first Blackberries are ready for picking! Caution is needed as the prickles are vicious.

This is a little challenge that I like to take every year. Add something wild to one meal a day. Some days I succeed in adding to all my meals, and some days I’m lucky if I remember to run out and eat a wild flower. Bringing my kids on board with this challenge is a great help in reminding me to eat wild every day, they love this sort of thing! Each year I try to push it further into the season. My goal is to eventually practice this daily year round. 

Harvesting Maitake mushrooms on an autumn walk. We harvest enough to enjoy them fresh and dry them for using throughout the winter in soups, stews and other dishes.

Harvesting Maitake mushrooms on an autumn walk. We harvest enough to enjoy them fresh and dry them for using throughout the winter in soups, stews and other dishes.

What is wild?

Wild foods grow all around us. They come in many forms. The more you learn about wild foods, the more you’ll discover all around you. They can be simple like the Dandelions, Violets, Chickweed and Plantain that grow in our backyard, providing greens and flowers for our salads, or roots, such as Chicory and Dandelion for roasting and drinking as our morning beverage. Local trees such as Mulberry, Wild Cherry, Apple, Peach, Plum and Pear are often planted as landscape trees and then abandoned, offering a multitude of wild fruits at our reach. Berries grow in pockets of wild as well: Blackberries, Raspberries, Wineberries, Dewberries, Currants, Gooseberries, Elderberries, Grapes and Blueberries often can be found. Don’t forget the nuts! Acorns, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Beechnuts, Hickory nuts are just a few that can often be found in neighborhood parks and woods.


My forage for today…Dandelion flowers and Nettles to add to fritters and Violet flowers and Chickweed for our daily salad.

Why eat wild?
There are countless reasons, here are a few…

Eating wild speaks to the feral child inside of us. It returns us to our roots, grounding us in nature.

It helps us to weed our gardens. Suddenly, all those Dandelions have value. Violets add color and nutrition to our salads. Chickweed adds variety to the ho-hum salad or grilled cheese sandwich.

Wild foods often have more vitamins and minerals than garden grown foods because they choose to grow where the most nutrients are available.

Wild foods are not treated with fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and such. They do not get waxed as produce in the grocery store often is.

Eating wild gives us confidence. We can learn to provide food for ourselves and not rely on the grocery stores to feed us.

Wild food is sacred. It connects us to the divine sacred. Eating wild food is honoring the divine sacred inside all of us.

With the drought in California, food prices are going up. Adding local, wild food to our diets gives us a healthy variety without worrying about the cost.

It forces us to slow down and be aware. By taking 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour a day to walk to the wild places, we learn to observe. What is growing and available now? What is almost ready? What is finished growing? Where do the most lush wild foods grow?

It fuels a desire to learn and remember. Discovering wild foods in your area can inspire you to keep a nature journal of what grows where and when it’s ready to harvest. It can inspire you to want to learn more about that plant. Yep, I love to eat Nettles. Besides the nutrition, what health benefits can I gain from it? Will my allergies really go away? These questions are best answered through experience and keeping a journal helps to keep track of those experiences.

Maitakes, known as Hen of the Woods, and Laetiporus, known as Chicken of the Woods, getting prepared for a dinner sauté.

Maitakes, known as Hen of the Woods, and Laetiporus, known as Chicken of the Woods, getting prepared for a dinner sauté.

How to get started eating wild?
Take a walk through your neighborhood. Look for wild areas. Even cities have abandoned lots which sprout wild foods. Make a list of what you find and where you found it. Search your backyard. Have you made a list of what’s growing in it yet? Look up those plants and see what makes a great edible plant as well (there are lots of resources at the end of this article).


A few of my favorite foraging books.

Resources and recipes for eating wild
The following are a few of my favorite resources for identifying wild edibles and recipe inspiration.

Foraging and Feasting by Dina Falconi

The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer

A City Herbal by Maida Silverman

The Wild, Wild Cookbook by Jean Craighead George

The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes by Connie Green

Mushrooming without Fear by Alexander Schwab

The Complete Mushroom Hunter: An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. Don’t have a wild patch of earth nearby? Check out this book to see how you can eat on the wild side with every day produce.

Harvesting wild Persimmons. This little monkey loves to climb in the trees to reach the juicy sweet ones high up.

Harvesting wild Persimmons. This little monkey loves to climb in the trees to reach the juicy sweet ones high up.

Online articles and inspiration, food for thought
Wanting a little more inspiration? These articles and websites are my go to inspiration to eat wild.

Why you should eat like a gorilla

Nourishing the wild self: wild food and community

Foraging in the winter

Return to Nature

Wildy Nourished

Wild Food Girl


Nettles and Dandelion flowers chopped up and ready to add into the fritter base.

A wild recipe for you
This is a versatile recipe that changes as the seasons go by. Carrots or zucchini can be added as a base if your family gives you the hairy eyeball over it being filled completely with wild greens.

Combine together:

3 beaten eggs

1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic or 2 cloves freshly minced

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Add in:

2 – 4 cups of chopped wild foods such as Nettles, Dandelion leaves and/or flowers, Lamb’s Quarters, Chickweed, Purslane, etc.

If only adding 2 cups of wild edibles, add in another 2 cups of grated zucchini or carrot

Stir together until combined.

Fry in a cast iron skillet in bacon grease, butter or coconut oil until brown on one side. Flip and cook on the other side until brown, about 3 minutes per side.

Sprouted acorns ready for processing. Some will be ground into flour and some will be used in a wild chai blend.

Sprouted acorns ready for processing. Some will be ground into flour and some will be used in a wild chai blend.

Wild is all around us! Do you harvest wild foods to add to your meals? What are your favorite wild edibles? Will you take the wild food challenge this year? How do you think it will help you and your kids to learn about the plants that grow around you?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 46 – Creating Your Herbal First Aid Kit

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

Creating Your Herbal First Aid Kit

Long before people bought medicine or food at a store, they learned to use the wild plants growing all around them. They watched animals to see which plants were good to eat and which plants were poisonous. They experimented and learned which plants could heal people when they were hurt or sick. People passed their knowledge on to their children and grandchildren for generations.”

-Ellen Evert Hopman, Walking the World of Wonder

This is a travel version herbal first aid kit. It fits into a plastic case or a small back pack. This is quick and easy to assemble and will help you to learn first aid first hand. I’ve listed some books at the end of this article for further information on first aid and herbs.

A Carrying Case

The first thing you’ll need is a sturdy carrying case for your kit. Either a shoebox sized plastic tub or a small kid’s back pack will do the trick. If you are using a tub, you can write on it with a sharpie “First Aid Kit” or buy a vinyl sticker to place on top of it. I prefer the universal green background with white cross. You can also purchase a sew on patch for your backpack. Anyone needing to find your kit should be able to see the decal or patch.

Basic First Aid Supplies

Next you’ll want to assemble the basic first aid needs. This may vary a bit depending on your family’s needs but this is a good starting point. Add or subtract as needed:

Assorted sizes band-aids, including some butterfly or wound closure strips
Travel sewing kit which contains needle, thread, safety pins
Fingernail clippers
Plastic eye cup
Extra safety pins
Small Ace bandage
Disposable lighter
Small tube super glue – for gluing together gaping cuts
Alcohol swab pads
Blister pads
Various tape – I like to use a piece of plastic to wrap duck tape and bandage tape around
Small bottle hydrogen peroxide
Small bottle saline – good for cleaning wounds and the focused stream can be used to flush out a dirty wound
Cotton swabs
Cotton balls
Gauze pads
Contact lens case and spare contacts – if there is a wearer of them, especially the driver, it’s not fun to lose a contact and try to drive without it!
Instant Hand warmers – for applying heat to an injury
A piece of flannel fabric or a wash cloth – Use to soak tea in for a compress or to wash wounds
A bottle of water – for washing wounds, using to make tea, etc.
A sliver of soap in a ziplock bag

Herbal Additions

Now it’s time to assemble some herbs to go along with your kit!


Herbal salve – see the previous tutorial for making your own individual salve packs.

-All purpose salve – A good all purpose green salve with Chickweed, Comfrey, and/or Plantain is perfect for all sorts of cuts and scrapes.

-Antibacterial salve – A more antibacterial based salve using herbs such as Goldenseal, Usnea or Echinacea.


Lip balm – this can be used for chapped lips and in a pinch, as a salve substitute if you are out of salve. It can also be rubbed onto cracked heels and other dry skin patches.

Natural Peppermint candies – These are good for nausea, motion sickness and upset stomachs

Ginger chew candies – Same as the Peppermint candies, offers a variety in case Peppermint isn’t liked or doesn’t work


Herbal extracts 1/2 or 1 ounce plastic bottles are best so the bottles won’t break.

Peach Extract – Bee stings, coughs

Plantain Extract – Bee stings, bleeding, allergies, to help draw out splinters

-Osha Extract – Allergic reactions (pet dander, stings, pollen)

Crampbark Extract – Cramping of any kind, muscle spasms, tension

Wild Cherry Extract – Stress, anxiety, coughs

Willow or Meadowsweet Extract – Headaches, inflammation

St. John’s Wort Extract – nerve pain, nervous tension

Dandelion Extract – Digestive issues

Echinacea Extract – Boosts the immune system, good for venomous stings and bites

-YET Blend (2 oz)Yarrow, Echinacea and Thyme extract combination for use with food poisoning; Use 1 dropperful every 30 minutes until symptoms subside then continue hourly


Homeopathic tabs – There are many homeopathic tabs available, I find these to be most useful with kids.

  -Arnica – anytime anyone gets a cut, bump, bruise, scrape, etc. 4 of these tabs go under the tongue
  -Rhus toxicodendron – this is a great defense against poison ivy
  -Apis mellifica – for bee stings

Flower essences – I like to keep Bach’s Rescue Remedy on hand for emergency situations when trauma happens. I find it good for soothing and calming kids who are hysterical and uncontrollable with fright, trauma and/or pain. It works great on animals too (rub a few drops on the inside of their ear.


Powdered herbs – Though extracts are handy, sometimes powdered are good to have on hand too.

Cayenne – Packaged in tiny baggies in 1 teaspoon measurements. Useful for pouring onto a wound that won’t stop bleeding and can also be used to save someone’s life during a heart attack (mix 1 teaspoon with 1 cup water, preferrably warm) and have them drink it. If they are unconscious, rub directly on their gums. CAUTION: This will sting (obviously) so use with caution on children. It’s a good last resort, gotta stop the bleeding, kind of herb.

-Wound blend – a combination of powdered herbs such as Goldenseal, Echinacea, Usnea, Plantain, Comfrey and Yarrow blended together to pour onto wounds to stop bleeding, protect from infection and encourage healing.

-Activated charcoal – though this is not an actual herb, no first aid kit should be without this. Activated charcoal can be used for a myriad of things from making into a poultice (I like to use Plantain and Echinacea for applying to venomous bites or Plantain to help draw out splinters), applied to weepy wounds to help dry up and heal, or taken internally for intestinal distress including diarrhea, vomiting, food poisoning and other toxins

Essential oils – Be careful with essential oils, they are extremely potent. Most essential oils should be diluted in an oil before using, the ones listed below are okay to use full strength as listed.

Rosemary – the traveller’s friend. I sniff the bottle if I’m driving and get weary, it’s a great pick me up. It’s also great for calming down cranky kids, they can sniff the bottle too or a few drops can be added to a cotton ball and stuck in an air vent. It’s also great for opening stuffy sinuses.

-Tea Tree – a drop can be applied to a mosquito bite for instant relief

Lavender – Calming for most people, can be sniffed or placed on a cotton ball in the vent. Soothing for burns, bug bites


Tea bags – Tea bags are a handy way to bring along dried herbs in pre-packaged dispensers.

Chamomile – great for upset stomachs, nausea, sleepy kids who are wired (as a tea) and great for applying to sore, tired inflamed eyes (soak the bags in hot water, gently squeeze out excess liquid and apply to the eyes after it has cooled a bit). The tea can also be used in an eye cup to wash an irritated, inflamed eye.

Peppermint – great for indigestion, nausea, digestive headaches and for a pick me up. Peppermint is cooling so drinking Peppermint tea can help to cool down someone who is overheated.

Herbal First Aid Books

Having a reference guide can be helpful but only if you have read it a few times to become familiar with it.

first-aid1The Herbal Medic: Practical, clinical herbalism & first aid: for home, remote and post-disaster environments by Sam Coffman – Sam has a bit of everything in his book, including beautiful color photographs to help with plant identification.

Pocket Guide to Herbal First Aid by Nancy Evelyn – this tiny pocket manual has a soft spot in my heart as it is one of the first herbal books I purchased.

First Aid with Herbs by John Heinemann – This is a nice thin booklet that tucks nicely into a car first aid kit.

Herbal First Aid and Health Care: Medicine for a New Millennium by Kyle D. Christensen

Herbs to the Rescue: Herbal First Aid Handbook by Kurt King – I love this book as a quick reference. It is easy to read and section three contains lists of herbal sources for vitamins and minerals.

Kid’s First Aid Books

Most are not herbally oriented but they are good for starting conversations on what to do in an emergency. They are a great learning tool for asking “what type of herbs would we use for this scenario?”

The Mary Frances First Aid Book 100th Anniversary Edition: A Children’s Story-Instruction First Aid Book with Home Remedies plus Bonus Patterns for Child’s Nurse Cap and Apron by Jane Eayre Fryer – This is a delightful book written in the early 1900’s that was republished in 2011. Though some of the first aid techniques are outdated, it’s a great starter book for kids and even lists herbal remedies for use.

The Kids’ Guide to First Aid: All about Bruises, Burns, Stings, Sprains & Other Ouches  by Karen Buhler Gale

The Safety Book for Active Kids: Teaching Your Child How to Avoid Everyday Dangers by Linda Schwartz

Kids to the Rescue!: First Aid Techniques for Kids by Marybeth Boelts

Herbal Games to Reinforce First Aid Skills

Games are a great way to help reinforce first aid skills while having fun. Kids learn best through play, so follow up some herbal first aid learning sessions with some games.


Wildcraft! by LearningHerbs.com is a great game to help reinforce how to use herbs for first aid.

Do you have a herbal first aid kit? What is in your herbal first aid kit?

Free Printable – Herbal Bloom Chart

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2nd, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Herbal Bloom Wheel Spring

Print off this seasonal bloom chart to keep track of when your herbs bloom each year. Includes a section to log the season weather. It’s located in the freebies section of Herbal Roots zine!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 45 – Honeysuckle is a Great Healing Herb! (Part of the Plants-to-Teach-Your-Kids-to-Identify Series)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments


Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.

-John Muir

Honeysuckle is a plant that has divided opinions about her. Though North America has many native species, there is an invasive, Lonicera japonica, that grows rampant, especially here in the midwest, choking out everything in her reach.

Friend and herbalist Rebekah Dawn has observed that Honeysuckle seems to come to areas that have been disturbed, rooting firmly in the poor soil, almost impossible to pull up. However, when that area has been healed, and balance restored, Honeysuckle freely gives up her hold and can be easily removed from her stronghold.

Indeed, Honeysuckle, in my own observation, is an edge dweller, often hovering between the tree line and farm field, generally farm fields that are over worked and under nourished, offering a protective barrier between the earth that is being depleted of all its value and the woods which hold onto their nourishment until the last tree is removed. In the small wooded lots behind my farm, Honeysuckle is thick, forcing us to crawl to reach the wood’s interior, giving away finally to the shaded vegetation that grows untouched.

When we first moved to our property back in early 2005, Honeysuckle was everywhere. We had both L. japonica and L. maackii to contend with, she had taken over the edges of the yard, the pasture and into the woods. We fought diligently to remove her before we began to understand the lessons and medicine she offered. Now, we live a lively dance with her, as she provides nourishment for our goats, medicine for ourselves and healing for our land.


There are 4 species which are considered invasive to North America and New Zealand: Lonicera japonica, L. maackii, L. morrowii, and L. tatarica. We have both L. japonica and L. maackii growing in our area. Ironically, L. maackii is an endangered species in her native land (Japan).

Generally, the flowers are used for medicine though some herbalists use the leaves and/or the stems as medicine as well. The leaves make a nice beverage tea and have some actions which are stronger than the flowers. The flowers should be picked before or right as they open. Though some species of Honeysuckle have pretty pink or orange blossoms, L. japonica, L. maackii and L. morrowii all have white flowers which turn yellow as they age. Skip over the yellowed flowers, they have been open too long and won’t offer much medicine. If you harvest right as the flowers start to open for the first time in the spring, it is easy to simply pinch off the bunches on each stem, collecting the flower buds and leaves together to make a nice blend. If you have bush Honeysuckle, it is easy to break off a branch and strip the leaves and flower buds off by closing your fingers around the branch and running it down the length of the branch.

Some of the berries are edible but do not eat any of the berries unless you receive verification that the species that grows in your backyard is a non-toxic species. Most of the invasive species are toxic to some degree so it’s best to remain on the side of caution with them.


Have you ever picked a Honeysuckle flower and sucked the nectar from the stem? The next time you have a chance, pick a flower and nibble on it to see if you can notice her energetics. When you do so, you will notice that she is sweet and bitter, cooling and drying. We use Honeysuckle especially for hot, damp conditions. I’ll talk about this a bit later.

Nutritionally, Honeysuckle contains calcium, phosphorus and protein.

Medicinally, those fragrant and delicious flowers and leaves have a lot to offer us. Honeysuckle is alterative, antibacterial, antibiotic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, antiviral, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, febrifuge, hypotensive, laxative, nervine, refrigerant, and vulnerary in action. Let’s take a closer look…

Honeysuckle has an affinity for the lungs, stomach and large intestine with the stem also having an affinity for the limbs and joints of the body.

Honeysuckle is most often known for her medicinal use in treating colds and the flu, especially when there is a lot of heat and moistness involved. Respiratory conditions with fever, lots of phlegm are Honeysuckle’s calling card. This is because Honeysuckle is antiviral, antibacterial, diaphoretic, expectorant, febrifuge and astringent. She combines these actions to help wipe out illness quickly. In China, Honeysuckle is used extensively for treating pneumonia, influenza, colds and asthma.

As an antimicrobial, Honeysuckle can be useful to help treat salmonella, staphylococcus and streptococcus as well as urinary tract infections, ulcers and acute hepatitis. Honeysuckle helps to flush toxins from the body with her depurative actions.

Her pleasant taste makes her an easy medicine to swallow, making her a favorite for kids everywhere. She is also very gentle for kids but also tough enough to work on big illnesses without batting a stamen. In fact, she is often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (flowers, leaves and stems) for the treatment of lung and breast cancer.

Honeysuckle is often combined with Forsythia for inflammatory issues and cancer or Elderflower for fevers, influenza and respiratory infections.

As a refrigerant, Honeysuckle is a great cooling herb, making her a perfect sipping tea for summertime when you’re overheated. You’ll find the taste to be pleasant and mild.


Katherine Weber-Turcotte uses the flower essence for helping to gain perspective on the past. Edward Bach, the person who made flower essences popular, states that a person in a negative Honeysuckle state is physically in the present but mentally stuck in the past.

As a nervine, Honeysuckle is relaxing to the nervous system. Herbalist Emily Allen CH & LMT of Gypsy Garden Herbs has found it to be effective for a client suffering from homesickness (being lost in the past), panic attacks and anxiety, combining both leaves and flowers in her elixir.

Over and over I see Honeysuckle working similarly to Elderflower in her actions. She is not only wonderful for feverish conditions but also for soothing and healing skin afflictions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. In fact, Honeysuckle works wonders for all types of skin afflictions, including rashes, poison ivy and oak, abscesses, swelling (especially where heat is involved), wounds and boils. Honeysuckle poultices sooth burns, helping to draw out the heat while using her vulnerary action to help heal.

The Native Americans traditionally used Honeysuckle flowers, leaves, bark and roots. Though the root is not commonly used today (probably because of the difficulty in digging the plant combined with the abundance of plant material above the ground), the root was used often as a tea to be a cure for senility, lung problems, worms in pregnant women, and urinary problems.

While I do not recommend anyone plant Honeysuckle in their garden (unless it is a native species), I do recommend harvesting the plant as much as possible in the wild to use her benefits. The leaves and flowers can be used in large quantities for some many ailments, they should be a part of every herbalist’s (and budding herbalist’s) apothecary.


Honeysuckle Infused honey is one of my favorite Honeysuckle remedies. Here is my recipe for it. This honey is good for soothing burning, sore throats and moist, hot coughs.

You will need:

Fresh Honeysuckle flowers
Raw honey

Jar with lid

Butter knife or chopstick


Fill your jar loosely with flowers. Fill with honey and stir with the knife or chopstick. Add more honey and stir again. Repeat until the jar is full.

After 2 – 3 weeks, your honey is ready to use. Add a spoonful to tea or hot lemonade or eat as is for easing sore throats and coughs.

This is an excerpt from this month’s issue of Herbal Roots zine, titled “Heady Honeysuckle“. You can grab this issue for only $3.99 through the end of this month. We are also giving away this issue to 3 lucky winners on Monday, March 30, 2015, see our blog for details!


[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 44 – Herbs for Spring

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments


In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.  

– John Milton

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Friday, March 20 is the first day of spring according to the cycle of the year. Have you and your family noticed the subtle shifts that brings the rebirth of life in the natural world? If you have a pond nearby, you’ve probably heard the sound of the spring peepers, singing their joyful songs. Even a cold day or snowfall does not deter them once they get going! Perhaps in your backyard you saw a robin red breast, tugging at a worm from the ground. If you have tulips or daffodils in your landscaping, there’s no doubt that their leaves have emerged from the ground. Has your grass started to green up? Chances are, there is more than just grass poking  up from the ground. Why not get dressed up and go outside for a spring herbal scavenger hunt?! Print off a copy of my free printable (found in the freebies section) and head outside to see if you can find 6 common “weed” herbs that are most likely in your yard or a nearby park. I’ve detailed each of the herbs here along with photographs to help with identification.



This plant is probably the easiest to identify and most well known. But while many curse this plant for appearing in their yard, he really is a blessing to have around. First of all, who can hate those beautiful yellow flowers? When I see a yard full of them, it makes me happy! And my kids too! We love to pick those blossoms to make Dandelion jelly and Dandelion fritters. They are so delicious and emollient too. The leaves are a powerhouse of vitamins. While they are mildly to strongly bitter, they are one of the world’s most nutritious plants and definitely worth eating! Add a few leaves to your salads, or dry them to sprinkle on all your foods. Eating 1 leaf after your meal can help aid in digestion; our body needs bitters to help stimulate bile production and to keep our digestive system running smoothly. The roots are great too; dried and roasted they made a great decoction (with or without chai blend herbs) for drinking. Strong, bitter and delicious, Dandelion root is diuretic and has a direct action on the liver and kidneys. At the same time, since he is full of potassium, he does not delete potassium as many diuretics do.

Want to learn more about Dandelion? Check out the issue on Dandelion.



Chickweed is a cool weather plant so this is her time to shine! Chickweed is another nutritious medicinal plant that is delicious added to salads (tastes a bit like spinach) or on sandwiches in place of lettuce. Chickweed loves to help our skin out and works well as an oil or salve on skin issues. I like to add him to my green salve blend. Chickweed is also soothing to our eyes, making a great eye wash for treating itchy, dry eyes, conjunctivitis and pink eye. A poultice can be applied on skin issues such as cuts, scratches, burns and so on for soothing relief.

Want to learn more about Chickweed? Check out the newly revised and expanded issue on Chickweed.



This plant you may not recognize by name, but you’ll probably recognize by his tendency to grab onto your clothing! Cleavers is a fun herb to play with, he can be easily molded into crowns for decorating with flowers because of his sticky hairs that ‘cleave’ onto anything, including himself. This wonderful spring herb is great for the urinary system and one I generally add to a urinary formula. Cleavers is also great for taking care of lymphatic problems. Feeling irritated by the ‘little things’ in life? Try taking Cleavers, you might be surprised how much he can help!

Want to learn more about Cleavers? Check out the issue on Cleavers.



Clover, especially Red Clover, is a wonderful nutritive herb. Red Clover helps to remove ‘stuck’ phlegm from the lungs, breaking up the mucus and moving it out of the lungs. Drinking infusions is helpful for regulating hormones for women, especially during menopause. As a diuretic, Red Clover can also help to flush out toxins. Clover is also a great herb for the bees, many rely on the nectar for making honey, making Clover a great herb to have in your yard – just be careful going barefoot so that no bees’ lives are sacrificed by being stepped on, causing them to sting you, in which case you might want to make sure you have the next herb growing in your yard as well (Plantain)!

Want to learn more about Clover? Check out the issue on Red Clover.



Plantain is one of the first plants my youngest child learned to identify. It was cute to see him running around the yard, searching for Plantain any time someone got a scratch, cut or bee sting! He would chew it up and stick it on their ‘boo-boo’ to help them heal up. He learned early that Plantain is great for just about anything skin related. This amazing herb grows all over the yard and helps to stop bleeding, soothes burns, heals cuts and is wonderful when combined with Chickweed and Violet. Plantain’s drawing power helps to pull out the venom of a bee sting, a splinter and even infection, especially when combined with activated charcoal. Plantain is also great for the digestive system; really there’s almost nothing Plantain cannot do.

Want to learn more about Plantain? Check out the newly revised and expanded issue on Plantain.



This spring beauty is especially easy to recognize when she blossoms in mid-spring. We have a yard that is almost exclusively Violet and in April, the yard is a blanket of purple. Kids love to pick the flowers and make Violet jelly; the purple jelly is mild tasting and pretty. Violet is very mucilaginous, soothing to the membranes of the body. Violet is great for those dry coughs that give you a tickle in your throat. Her mucilaginous leaves are also soothing for sore throats. Violet has an affinity for women, especially the breasts and can be helpful for painful breast lumps, mastitis and has also shown to be effective against some breast cancer. Violet is soothing to hot, dry skin irritations, dry eyes and dried out sinuses.

Want to learn more about Violet? Check out the newly revised and expanded issue on Violet.

Have the plants started sprouting in your region? What have you discovered growing in your yard?

[Herbal Rootslets]: No. 43 – Preparing Your Garden for Spring Planting

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

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All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.  – Helen Hayes

It’s never too soon to prepare your garden beds for planting! This can become a fun activity to actively involve your kids in learning about herbs.

There are many styles of gardening from conventional plowing/tilling of the space to more permaculture methods of building up the soil while suffocating weeds. Permaculture methods include raised beds, lasagna gardening and no-till methods.

Lasagna gardening is a method of layering materials such as compost, leaves, straw and cardboard, that will eventually decompose to make a wonderful nutrient rich soil that your plants will thrive in.

After clearing the debris, the garden is ready for cardboard, compost and straw, also known as the lasagna method of gardening.

After clearing the debris, the garden is ready for cardboard, compost and straw, also known as the lasagna method of gardening.

I prefer the lasagna method for several reasons:

-my garden beds are sometimes small, making it hard to get a tiller in to effectively till the space

-many of my plants are perennials, returning year after year, not making tilling a good choice

-not tilling the soil helps to build important microbes in the soil

-tilling helps to churn roots which can often spread some ‘weeds’

-raised beds created from the lasagna method builds beds off the ground with nutrient rich soil

-it’s a great way to recycle card board boxes and yard waste

-it’s one of the easiest and healthiest ways to suppress weeds while building a healthy soil base

-this style of heavy mulching helps to lock in moisture in the ground, even during droughts


Lots of debris that needs clearing out! Time to get busy…

To prepare a lasagna garden, first you will want to clear out the big debris. Every year I have 3 main garden beds that need clearing out. I generally wait until spring to do this but with lasagna beds, it’s even better to start in the fall so the beds can settle over winter. Either way, it’s easiest to wait until after the first frost so that the weeds have died back, making them easier to cover.

Use a marker to mark off any perennial plants that you want to return. Lasagna bed gardening will suffocate anything trying to come back up, including those you want to return.

Break down card board boxes, removing any plastic on them including packing tape and packing list envelopes.

Lay the card board down where you want it. I often ‘season’ it first by laying it down in a general area and letting it get rained/snowed on. This helps the card board to start to break down.


Laying down cardboard…

Once the cardboard is in place, add a layer of yard clippings, such as grass, or leaves, depending on the time of year.

After the yard waste, it’s time to add a layer of compost. This is about the time we clean out our stalls and add a layer of goat manure. You can also add aged horse or cow manure or use regular compost.

The final layer is a thick layer of straw. It’s best if it’s been aged a bit, we let our straw bales sit out in the elements for a year, helping to start the breakdown process. Ideally, you will have 6 – 8” of layering above the ground, or more if you are starting in the fall. The thicker you layer it, the less likely the grass and other weeds will be able to grow back through it.

Everything in full bloom

Everything in full bloom

As time goes on, these top layers will suffocate existing weeds and grass (the biggest weed in my garden) and bury their seeds deeply so that they cannot sprout. The top layers wills start to break down, creating a thick layer of mulch and compost that will nourish and strengthen the plants you plant. Worms will also start to crawl through the lasagna layers, helping to decompose the layers and build the soil..

If I am building this in the spring, I often lay down a few layers of seasoned cardboard, top it with thick sheets of straw and start planting. Later I will go through and add in compost and yard waste as it becomes available.

To plant in this style garden, move the straw away from the section you are planting and use a hori knife (my favorite garden tool) to punch an X into the cardboard. I peel back the X to form a square, dig directly through the grass and weeds to plant the new plant.

Happily planted plant, nestled into the straw.

Happily planted plant, nestled into the straw.

Once it is planted, gently fold back down the corners of the X and tuck straw around the plant to keep it snugly in place.

When watering, water directly into the X so the water can go under the card board.

Kids love to help build these gardens and appreciate not having to have the task of weeding added to their chore list! My son’s favorite part is creating the X’s and planting the plants.

Happily tucked into their straw beds.

Happily tucked into their straw beds.

How do you prepare your garden beds for planting? Do you mulch your plants to help choke out weeds and retain moisture?

[Herbal Rootslets]: No. 42 – Make Your Own Single Use Herbal Salve Packets

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


Only as a child’s awareness and reverence for the wholeness of life are developed can his humanity to his own kind reach its full development. 

 – Rachel Carson

So, now your kids are excited about making their own herbal remedies. Perhaps you’ve even made a nice all purpose salve that they love to put on their cuts and scratches that you’ve stashed away in the bathroom cabinet and use all the time when you’re home. But, what about when you’re on the go? Is your car’s first aid kit herbalized yet? I have a post coming up about putting together an all purposed car first aid kit but today, I wanted to share with you how to make your salve portable.

I adapted this idea from a tutorial I saw online several years ago (the original idea included using Neosporin type ointments, something we do not use) . I wrote about it on my other website but since many people don’t know about my other website, I thought it would be something fun to share with my readers at Herbal Roots zine. It’s a great late winter day project to do when it’s still too cold and icy to enjoy too much time outside but gets kids busy making something useful that’s a lot of fun to make. My kids love to help me put these together and when the need arises to use them, they share with pride how they helped making them.


To make them you will need:

-drinking straws (clear are best so you can see inside, though colored or striped work if you are creating several different kinds of salve packets)
-tea light
-needle nosed pliers
-scissors (forgot to photograph but you know what those are!)
-your choice of salves
-optional: sharpie marker (if making more than 1 kind and you don’t have colored straws to color code)


Begin by poking your straw into your salve. Imagine how much is usually needed for a typical wound and fill it to that point. Typically a section about 1/2” – 3/4” is enough.


Pinch the end of the straw with your finger to push the salve further into the straw and create an empty space. Using the pliers, grip that space, leaving a tiny bit of straw sticking out of the side.


Hold the straw over the tea light to melt the end. Slide your pliers to the end and pinch it shut.


Gently squeeze the salve towards the sealed edge to verify your seal.


Turn the straw around and pinch the other edge as close to the salve as you can without squeezing the salve out the other side. Use your scissors to cut off the edge and seal as you did the other side, being sure to squeeze and check for leaks.


All finished! The straws I used gave me 5 individual packs per straw. These are perfect for storing in the first aid kit and will also be great for building a mini first aid kit to put in the kids’ back packs for when they go hiking in the woods. To open, simply use a knife or scissors. Alternatively, you could heat an exacto blade with the flame and melt a score mark in the end for an ‘easy tear’ opening.

Optionally, you can use a sharpie marker to write what type of salve is in the tube. Since I used 3 different types, I wrote down their names on each. Be sure to wash the tubes in soapy water first to remove any salve residue so the marker writing will be permanent.

[Herbal Rootslets]: No. 41 – 7 of our favorite sources for herbal coloring and activity books

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 3 Comments

our favorite coloring and activities books

Whenever I have found myself stuck in the ways I relate to things, I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I try to open my whole being to what it has to say.”

– Wynn Bullock

Brrr! It’s cold outside and now that the novelty of snow has worn off and temperatures are plummeting into the negative numbers, my kids do not want to be outside right now. Days like these, I brew up a batch of Spicy Cocoa and break out the coloring books and crayons. It’s great fun to color and they get to learn a bit about herbs while they are doing it! There are some great coloring books available and these are a few of my favorites:


Medicinal Plants of North America: A Flora Delaterre Coloring Book by Beth Judy
We just love Flora Delaterre! Created by Beth Judy, her website is a wealth of herbal information in bite sized pieces. She extended that to this her coloring book which features 14 herbs found in North America.


A Kid’s EcoJournal with Nature Activities for Exploring the Season by Toni Albert
This series includes winter, spring, summer and fall. While they are not coloring books, they are a great way to introduce nature into your life with seasonally appropriate activities and journaling exercises. There is also an accompanying EcoPrints: A Complete Kit for Writing About Nature package that can be purchased and has some great writing prompts for those wanting to incorporate more nature into their other activities.


Dover Coloring Books
I just love the variety Dover Coloring Books offers! There are so many to choose from, they make a great addition to our herbal learning resources.

Our favorites include:

Common Weeds Coloring Book

Trees of the Northeast Coloring Book

Medicinal Plants Coloring Book

Favorite Wildflowers Coloring Book

Herbs Coloring Book

Mushrooms of the World Coloring Book

Young botanists might also enjoy the Botany Coloring Book.

Check out the complete plant related coloring book list on our website.


Wild Foods and Animals Coloring Book by Linda Runyon
Linda Runyon has created many delightful books on the foraging aspect of plants. Her coloring book is great fun, pairing up animals with the plants.


Children’s Permaculture Guild A B C’s Coloring Book
Annual subscribers get a revised edition (created with Roman’s permission) but the pages are available on the Children’s Permaculture website for free. The revised edition is bigger, with one picture per page instead of four.


USDA Wildflower and Noxious Weeds Coloring Pages
Free online coloring pages of wild plants. Lots to choose from! You can print off single pictures or entire coloring books, they have 7 coloring books to choose from and over 60 single pages available.

5 year

Herbal Roots zine
And of course, Herbal Roots zine always has lots of coloring and activity pages in every issue! There are typically 10 pages of activities including a maze, crossword puzzle, word search, word scramble, botany matching, coloring page and more, plus 2 journaling pages and a page to add a plant pressing in each issue.

What are your kids’ favorite herbal coloring and activity books?

The Sustainable Herbs Project

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 5 Comments


Has your subscription to Herbal Roots zine lapsed? Have you wanted to subscribe but just haven’t gotten around to it? Well, now’s the time to renew or get that subscription you’ve wanted while helping out a great cause. I’ll explain more about that in a minute but first, I want to talk to you about something that is very important in the herbal world, sustainability of our plants.

Many people have started seeing the importance of the food they feed their families. They are learning about the dangers of GMOs, herbicides and pesticides and do their best to keep the exposure to these poisons away from their children and loved ones. Because of consumer demand, farmer’s markets are cropping up in towns all across the country (yay!) and the commercial food industry’s jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak, offering more natural ingredients in their products.

independence days

But what about our supplements and medicinal herbs?

While we can attend farmer’s markets, get to know the farmers who grow the produce and raise the animals, often there are not local herb growers to supply us with our herbs for medicinal use. Where do our herbs come from? Are they sustainably grown? Are they free from pesticides and other toxic substances that shouldn’t be there?

As an advocate for the plants, I have always encouraged folks to grow their own herbs or harvest them from the wild in locations that have not been sprayed. But the reality is, not everyone can do that. And there are times that I can’t do that either. So where do we turn?


The commercial herb industry has some wonderful companies who care about this but unfortunately, there aren’t enough to go around. You may have noticed this too when trying to order your herbs from reputable herb companies, the herb you need is sold out. So then what? If we cannot buy it within the herbal community, we are forced to try to find herbs that may not be as sustainably sourced. This has bothered many of us herbalists for a long time and now, herbalist Ann Armbrecht (co-producer of Numen) has decided to do something about it and has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the sustainability of herbs.

This is important for anyone who is interested in herbal medicine, whether you choose to become an herbalist or simply have a working knowledge to help your family and friends when they are ill. As herbs become more popular and the demand increases, the supply needs to keep up but it also needs to remain sustainable.


And because it’s SO important, I have offered up TEN annual subscriptions of Herbal Roots zine to help support the campaign!

That’s right, 10 lucky people will be able to kill 2 birds with one stone! By supporting the campaign, they will also receive a subscription to Herbal Roots zine. And, if you’re already a subscriber, they have many other wonderful gifts from folks such as Paul Bergner, jim mcdonald, Henriette Kress, Rosemary Gladstar, United Plant Savers, The Essential Herbal and many more.

EDITED TO ADD: You will still receive the bonuses that you would receive if you subscribed directly from my website.

You can be a part of this sustainability by helping to support Ann in her campaign. Please take a moment to check out her campaign and read more about why this project is so important to the herbal community. Once you’ve done so, consider sharing her kickstarter page with all your friends and contributing a few dollars to her kickstarter project if you can. Sharing her page will only take a few moments and will help to show your support of herbal sustainability, regardless of your ability to contribute financially.


At this point, Ann only has 6 days left to get the funds needed to move forward with this project. It would only take everyone who’s reading this to contribute only $5 each for this project to be fully funded! Please help as much as you can, as jim mcdonald said so well: “Ann Armbrecht’s Sustainable Herbs Project can add a whole new layer of understanding and empowerment to this endeavor (of knowing where our herbs come from). Yes, it’s supporting Ann and it’s supporting her project, but it’s also, to an even larger degree, supporting the *plants* that are so dear to us, and work so much healing in our worlds. And that return of support is a part of a pledge that we, as herbalists, take in practicing our art. Please, consider what you can offer, and give what feels good in your heart.”


[Herbal Rootslets]: No. 40 – Just What is Usnea, Anyway? (part of the Plants-to-Teach-Your-Kids-to-Identify Series)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 5 Comments

Just What is Usnea?

I love being asked to identify plants, and I don’t know which gives me more pleasure: to know what they are or not to know what they are.

-Elizabeth Lawrence, Through the Garden Gates, 1990

This month’s herb is Usnea here at Herbal Roots zine. I’ve gotten a lot of curious people wondering, just what IS Usnea? To answer that question, I am sharing the “All About” section of this month’s issue of Herbal Roots zine.


Known as old man’s beard, Usnea is found growing throughout the northern hemisphere. Though he is slow growing, he is long lived and extremely prolific. He is often found growing high up in various trees such as pine, fir, larch, fruit trees, oaks and other trees and can be easily harvested from the ground after a storm.

A member of the Parmeliaceae family, there are around 86 species in the genus Usnea. In North America, many commonly found are Usnea californica, U. florida, U. ceratina, U. hirta, U. barbara, U. longtime, U. dasypoga, and U. arizonica. All species of Usnea can be used interchangeably though some variations in constituents exist. Species of Usnea are used in Chinese medicine, contemporary homeopathic medicine, and traditional medicine in the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, and every continent except Australia.

Usnea is a lichen. Lichens are fascinating in the fact that they are a combination of a symbiotic relationship between a fungi and an algae. The easiest way to identify Usnea is by taking a moistened strand and gently pulling it apart. If it is usnea you’ll see an inner white strand that is very elastic. This inner white strand is the fungus while the green outer covering is the algae. Chewing on Usnea is not a pleasant task but if you were to do that, you would notice a bitter taste. You would also find Usnea to be drying in your mouth and cooling. These energetics tell us that Usnea is good for clearing up damp, hot conditions.

Not much research has been done on the nutritional value of Usnea. U. barbara has been found to have vitamin C. The most studied constituent is usnic acid though Usnea also contains many other constituents such as hirtusneanoside and vulpinic acid.

Medicinally, Usnea is considered to be analgesic, antibacterial, antibiotic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antineoplastic, antioxidant, antiparasitic, antiprotozoal, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, antiviral, astringent, bronchodilator, drug synergist, expectorant, immunostimulant, vasodilator and vulnerary. The inner core of Usnea contains immune-stimulating polysaccharides while the outer cortex contains antibiotic substances. Usnea has an affinity for the gastrointestinal system and the skin.

There have been many studies on Usnea, finding him to be extremely effective against gram-positive bacteria [see the bar below], often more so than penicillin, but not so much against gram-negative bacteria. A few individual studies have disputed this, however, finding him to be effective against Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli and Bordetella pertussis. Usnea has also been found useful in treating urinary tract infections. As a drug synergist, Usnea has found to increase the effectiveness of the antibiotic clarithromycin against Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria that causes ulcers. As an antibiotic, Usnea is a nonsystemic herbal antibiotic.

Untitled 2

Being nonsystemic means they do not easily absorb into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract, therefore they are best used as a localized herbal antibiotic.

Usnea is great for treating upper respiratory infections and lung infections with his antispasmodic, a bronchial dilator, expectorant, antibacterial and antiviral actions. For those who have hot conditions, with ‘stuck’ phlegm and unproductive coughs, Usnea can help to break the phlegm and help work it out of the lungs.

Usnea’s antiviral actions have been proven to be effective against Epstein-Barr, herpes simplex, Junin virus, polyomavirus, and Tacaribe virus.


As an antifungal, Usnea is effective against Candida spp. and other fungal strains such as Malassezia yeasts, Microsporum gypseum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes (ringworm), and T. rubrum (athlete’s foot, fungal infection of nail, jock itch, and ringworm).

Parasitical disease organisms such as Trypanosoma cruzi, Echinococcus granulosus and its cysts, and Toxoplasma gondii have also been treated effectively with Usnea and his antiparasitical/antiprotozoal actions.

M Herbal Recipes

Historically, Usnea was used as a wound dressing. It was packed directly into a wound or applied on top. When a wound was packed with the Usnea, the Usnea absorbed the blood, helped to astringe (pull together) the tissue, eased pain and killed germs. Today, dried and powdered Usnea (sifted to remove the fine white cords), makes a great wound powder to help fight off and/or prevent infection and ease pain while helping the wound to heal. In Canada, veterinarians use Usnea to treat abscesses. Other veterinary practices have used usnic acid treat conjunctivitis, endometritis, mastitis and oozing, pussy wounds.

M Herbal Recipes

Research has also found Usnea and usnic acid inhibits cancer cell formation and proliferation for breast, pancreatic and colorectal cancer as well as sarcomas.

Harvesting Usnea can be tricky as he likes to grow in high branches. I find harvest is easiest after a windy day or storm as the ground will be littered with branches covered in Usnea as well as individual lichens that have fallen to the ground. Usnea dries and stores easily and can be powdered as needed.

Use Usnea in sprays, washes, powders, oils, salves, extracts, and teas.

Want to learn more? The Usnea issue is on sale for $3.99 until the end of February 2015.

Do you use Usnea in your home or is this first time you’ve heard of it? Tell us your experiences with Usnea on our website!

Next week I’ll be sharing some of our favorite coloring and activity books.

Silly Valentine’s Day Cards Your Budding Herbalists Will Love

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

Herbal Valentines 2015 Herbal Valentines 2015

Driving my family nuts, I went on and on telling them herbal jokes I found online and made up myself. Lots of eye rolling ensued! And then I thought, Hey! Valentine’s Day is coming up, what better time to put some of those corny jokes and phrases to use? So, I created 9 silly herbal related Valentine’s Day cards. They go great with those herbal treats for the heart.

Herbal Valentines 2015

Aren’t they corny? Maybe so but it’s a great way to show your love of herbs and teach people about a few herbs in the process.

Herbal Valentines 2015

If nothing else, they make great conversation starters, right?

Herbal Valentines 2015

I think this one is my favorite:

Herbal Valentines 2015

Hmmmm, or maybe this one:

Herbal Valentines 2015

There are just too many to choose from!

Herbal Valentines 2015

Regardless, kids can have lots of fun at their Valentine’s Day celebration.

Herbal Valentines 2015

The complete download with directions for printing is free! Just click here to grab it:

herbal valentines cover

Happy Herbally Valentine’s Day!

[Herbal Rootslets]: No. 39 – Herbal Treats for the Heart

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

herbs for the heart

We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.

― Desmond Tutu

This week is all about love and the heart in celebration of Valentine’s day! It’s the perfect time to introduce heart herbs to your kids by making some herbal treats that are good for the heart.

First, let’s look at some herbs that are good for our hearts.  These herbs are all wonderful for the heart on all levels.

Cacao – We will be exploring this herb fully this upcoming December. Cacao, in its pure form, is nourishing and protective to the cardiovascular system.


Cayenne – Stimulating to the circulation, Cayenne is also a vasodilator, helping to lower blood pressure and increasing cardiovascular health.


Cinnamon – Another circulatory stimulant and vasodilator, Cinnamon not only works on cardiovascular health but also is helpful for lowering blood glucose levels


Hawthorn – Hawthorn, a member of the Rose family, is one of my favorites for protecting both the physical and emotional heart.


Rose – Rose protects the heart and is supportive of the heart during times of grief.

All of these herbs have one thing in common, they love our hearts! Make some heart friendly candy with your kids this week with this deliciously easy candy. I like to pour ours into heart shaped molds.

Heart Candy

3 oz cacao**, broken into pieces
1/2 cup cacao butter*
1/2 cup coconut oil*
1/2 – 3/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup dried rose petals*, broken up
2 tablespoons hawthorn berries*, ground
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt*
1 teaspoon cinnamon*
1 pinch cayenne* powder

Place the cacao butter and coconut oil in a saucepan and gently heat until they melt.

Add the broken up pieces of cacao and stir until they are melted.

Add the honey and stir  until it is mixed together.

Combine the rest of the ingredients and stir to mix well. I like to mix the powdered ingredients together first then stir in the remaining ingredients.

Pour into your heart shaped molds. If you don’t have heart shaped molds, butter or line the bottom of a glass baking dish with waxed paper and pour into the dish.

Refrigerate until hardened then remove from the molds. 

herbal valentines cover

Having a Valentine get together? Print off our free silly herbal valentines (my Valentine’s Day gift to you and your children) and attach them to little cellophane packages of heart candy to give to your friends!

Do you incorporate herbs into your valentine treats? What other treats do you like to make for showing your love to your family?

*Need a source for vibrantly dried herbs? Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite source.
**Herbalist and friend Darcey Blue recommends Heartblood Cacao for all your cacao needs.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 38 – 5 Ways to Get Ready for Spring with Herbs

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

5 Ways to Get Ready for Spring with Herbs

Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence…The voice of nature is always encouraging.” 

– Henry David Thoreau

We are halfway to spring! And none too soon, the kids are tired of cold, damp weather, lack of sunshine and warm sunny days to spend long periods of time outside. I have to admit, I am too. Winter is not my favorite season though I do like the down time to get caught up on things, I’d much prefer to be sitting barefoot out in my garden.

The cycle of the year is always shifting and at this time of year, the most evident shift is in the amount of light we get each day. We still eat dinner in the dark, though now, there is a bit of orange on the western horizon as we do so, reminding us that warmth and sunlight are returning.

During the winter especially, we love to celebrate anything we can to take our minds off of winter! This time of the year, we celebrate the halfway mark to spring with a few herbal activities. Today’s newsletter is all about those activities.


Start your herb seeds.
Last week’s newsletter talked about planning out your herb garden. If your seeds have arrived, go ahead and start them in an indoor planting bed. Kids love to plant seeds and an indoor planting bed can be made easily with a cardboard egg carton, some organic soil and a ziplock bag large enough for the carton to fit inside. Tear the top off the cartons (use them as trays for the bottom), fill each egg hole with moist organic soil, add the seeds and place them in the ziplock bag. You might want to write on the outside of the egg carton what seed is in each egg hole with a sharpie marker. The ziplock bag makes a nice mini greenhouse and helps to keep the soil moist longer. Set it in front of a sunny window and watch for the seeds to sprout.

Kids may enjoy keeping a journal about the daily activity, making notes on how long the seeds take to germinate, grow true leaves and get big enough to be planted into larger containers. The can also sketch the growth stages, this is great for them to do if they are choosing to work with 1 special herb for the year.


Make herbal candles.
We always burn a candle at dinner time, even if it’s light outside. It’s a nice representation of meal time and if I forget to light it, the kids always let me know. It signals our time together as a family without any outside electronic distractions and as long as the candle is burning, no one is allowed to use their phones, iPads or computer.

Beeswax candles are wonderful. The natural smell of the wax is soothing and they are long lasting. Try your hand at making your own beeswax candles. You can either dip them by using melted wax and wicking or if you prefer a simpler version, order some beeswax sheets and hand roll them.

Once they have been made, decorate the outside of your candles with herbs. To do so, choose the herbs you’d like to use. If you have access to all the herbs that you’ll be learning about for the year, use different leaves or flowers for each candle to burn for each month or try doing  a collage with a few herbs. Brush a bit of melted wax onto the back of the leaf or flower and stick it on the candle then dip the entire candle into the melted wax to completely coat the herbs.

For seeds, once the candles have been dipped, they can be stuck directly into the candle. Try doing a border of Coriander or Black Peppercorns, or alternate them on the same candle.


Update your nature table.
If you have a nature table, this is a great time to clean it off and get it ready for spring. We like to color coordinate our silk play cloths that we use for the table cloth with the season. This time of year, pale colors are nice or even pure white to represent the (hopefully) last of the snow. Our nature table is a collection of found treasures on our walks such as features, leaves, rocks, pods, seeds and so forth. Soon we’ll be finding remnants of egg shells as baby birds start hatching. Occasionally, an old nest that was blown out of a tree is added as well.


But for now, we add things that represent halfway between winter and spring. Animals who come out of hibernation, our friend the groundhog, seeds and so forth. Forced bulbs can add a touch of color, bright red tulips or deep purple hyacinths are lovely. A plate of herb seeds or a drawing of our herbal ally can be added as we anticipate their return in our garden. Even a bouquet of dried herbs and herbal flowers can be inspiring. Some of you are lucky enough to have Chickweed and other early risers showing up. If so, add a bouquet of it to your nature table.


Have a “Think Spring” mealtime celebration.
Dinner time is a special time for us. Everyone is home and gathered together, an occurrence that is more rare as the kids are getting older and involved with activities, work and so on. So when we can all gather together at dinner to celebrate, we love to do so!

Make some delicious herbal foods. If you’ve got that Chickweed or other early spring greens, add it to your salad along with some sprouts, many herb seeds are delicious sprouted. Red Clover, Alfalfa, Fenugreek, Fennel, Parsley, Milk Thistle, Burdock (one of my favorites!), Violets, Dandelion. You may be lucky enough to find some of your weeds sprouting in your garden already, just be sure to positively ID them before eating them. I often make sure to have lots of Burdock seeds in an area that I can harvest as they sprout. They are a delicious spring treat. Violets are also very prolific with their sprouts. If you would prefer to sprout your own, buy your seeds from the health food store. Use some herbal vinegars ind infused oils for your salad dressing.

Make some savory herbal muffins. Cornbread is a nice base and the yellow is a nice sunshiny touch.

Make some delicious Raspberry Lemonade or an herbal soda (see recipe below).

Herbal soda recipe

2 oz. herbal syrup of choice (Elderberry, Peppermint, Ginger, Basil, Lemon Balm, etc)

8 oz. seltzer water

This is the basic combination to make 1 cup of soda. Increase it to the amount you need for everyone.

Be sure to finish off your meal with a tasty herbal dessert! The Chipotle Flourless Cake is a great choice, perhaps topped with your favorite herbal ice cream. My current favorite is the Bay Laurel ice cream that was in last month’s issue.

Bay Laurel ice cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup Demerara sugar
6 Bay leaves
6 egg yolks
Pinch sea salt

Combine the cream, milk, sugar and Bay leaves in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Let the mixture infuse for up to 8 hours in the refrigerator. You may choose to chill overnight in the refrigerator.

Warm the mixture back up to just below a boil.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl with the sea salt until smooth. Gradually pour about one-third of the hot milk mixture into the eggs to temper them. Then stir the egg mixture into the cream mixture over medium-low heat, stirring the entire time.

Cook until the custard mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil or you will get scrambled eggs.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Refrigerate, covered, 4 – 8 hours.

Freeze the mixture in an ice-cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve with Bay Laurel syrup.


Start your spring cleaning!
This is my sneaky way of getting kids to help out with cleaning. We select old herbal vinegars that we’ve made over the past year that we have an excess of and use them diluted in water to make a natural cleaner that we use to start cleaning our windows (on nice springlike days), the kitchen and the bathroom. This is especially fun to do on a cold snowy day, using our cleaning tools and herbs to banish winter from our house and welcome the return of spring. We get into the nooks and crannies, cleaning out the wood stove dust and purging out old clothes that no longer fit us.

This is also a great time to go through any dried herbs you might have stashed away. If the herbs have lost their potency, compost them. We do a simple check: does the herb still look freshly dried or has it turned brown and dead looking? Does it still smell fragrant? Do they still taste as they should? While organizing your dried herb stash, you can make a list of what you’ve used for the past year and what you need to collect in the upcoming year. My kids love to crush and smell a bit of the dried herbs, especially the aromatic ones such as Peppermint. It can be an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon.

Don’t limit the spring cleaning to your house. If the weather permits, head outside and start clearing away the plant debris. This is a great time to review what was in the garden last year and challenge the kids to identify the plant skeletons. It’s also a great time to observe the trees before they begin to leaf out.


How do you like to get ready for spring? Do your kids enjoy participating in clearing out the garden and doing the spring cleaning? How do you bring herbs and spring together in your house?