[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 27 – 10 Favorite Herb Books for Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13th, 2014 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

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Our children no longer learn how to read the great Book of Nature from their own direct experience or how to interact creatively with the seasonal transformations of the planet. They seldom learn where their water comes from or where it goes. We no longer coordinate our human celebration with the great liturgy of the heavens.

– Wendell Berry

Brrr! Days like this I am envious of those living in warmer climates! Snow is fluttering outside my window and the fire has not yet reached my office to warm it. It’s hard to push the kids outside when it’s cold and gloomy; the sun hasn’t been able to make an appearance from behind the thick layer of clouds in the sky.

This is the time to crack open the herb books for a snuggle by the fire! Here is a list of some of my kids’ favorite herb stories.

My younger kids like to listen to these stories and practice their reading skills with them:


Wildflower Tea by Ethel Pochocki and Roger Essley
“He brewed his tea in a blue china pot, poured it into a chipped white cup with forget-me-nots on the handle, and dropped in a dollop of honey and cream. He sat by the window, cup in hand, watching the first snow fall. “I am,” he sighed deeply, “contented as a clam. I am a most happy man.”

A sweet tale of a man gathering his herbs by summer and making teas from them by winter.


The Herbalist of Yarrow: A Fairy Tale of Plant Wisdom by Shatoiya de la Tour
The story of a little girl who listens to the plants and learns their healing powers. When the king’s evil wizards try to bring in more powerful medicine, the people learn the plants are still the best answer.


Song of the Seven Herbs by Walking Night Bear and Stan Padilla
This book has seven stories about seven common herbs using spiritual allegories to teach us to be caretakers of Mother Earth.


I’m a Medicine Woman Too! by Jesse Wolf Hardin
A great book about empowerment and not letting your age get in the way of your dreams.


Little Green Hiking Hood by Nina Judith Katz
This book is currently available as an ebook only but is a sweet little gem. We are waiting on the arrival of her other book, Yana Listens to arrive in the mail.


The Dandelion’s Cousin by Gertrude Teutsch  
This sweet book is all about Sow Thistle. This book is beautifully written and illustrated.

I have always loved plants. Seeing this despised weed develop so many different forms intrigued me as an artist. Nature is a wonderful teacher!” -Gertrude Teutsch


Isabella’s Peppermint Flowers by Susan Leopold
This is a brand new book that we haven’t gotten to read yet but I just saw it at the AHG Symposium last weekend and it’s going to be a hit when we get a copy of it!


My kids who are strong readers enjoy these books for their own reading pleasure but they also make great read alouds to the younger crowd:


Juniper and Wise Child by Monica Furlong
While there is a third book in this series (Colman) we found the first two to be the most enjoyable.


Falling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Isabelle Bean gets sent to the principal’s office for not paying attention in class due to a buzzing sound that only she can hear. She tumbles into another world that is very different than her own and finds herself drawn to the healing plants while being accused of being a witch due to the way she’s dressed.

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Janna Mysteries Series by Felicity Pulman
There are 6 books in this series: Rosemary for Remembrance, Rue for Repentance, Lilies for Love, Willows for Weeping, Sage for Sanctuary and Thyme for Trust. This series will have any book loving kid on the edge of their seat as they read about young Janna living in a tiny cottage on the edge of the forest with her mother Eadgyth, the village herbwife.

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And of course, I always manage to squeeze in a few of my own stories from past issues of Herbal Roots zine! This is the perfect time to dust off those past issues, read the stories and sing the songs that are in each issue to have a quick refresher of all the herbs they’ve learned about in the past.


What are your favorite herbal stories for reading by the fire? Do your kids have favorites that they return to over and over again?

Herbal Roots zine Conference Poster

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10th, 2014 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments


I am delighted to announce that my poster won two awards at the AHG Symposium this year!

The Best Contribution to the Future of Herbalism

The People’s Choice Award

A huge thanks goes out to Leslie Alexander for urging me to submit an abstract, to my partner for helping me with the layout, the judges for selecting me and most of all, the people who selected me out of all the amazing posters that were presented! Herbal blessings to all.

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 26 – Fall time Fun: Dyeing with Black Walnuts

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5th, 2014 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

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

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

One of the funnest activities for us around here is dyeing with plants. We tried using St. John’s Wort, Pokeberries, Goldenrod, Prunella, Dandelion, Wild Cherry, Turmeric, Black Walnut and many more but hands down, Black Walnut is our favorite plant dye!

The great thing about Black Walnuts is how easy it is to use as a dye. Black Walnut dye is colorfast and needs no mordanting to become colorfast. Simply add water and heat. Over the years we’ve tried different methods with great results each time.

We often gather white clothes from thrift shops throughout the year for dyeing when the Black Walnut hulls start falling from the trees. Any natural fabric works such cotton, wool, silk, hemp or linen. Off white or light colored natural materials will dye well too.

The first method for making a dye is to put Black Walnut hulls (green or black) or leaves into a half gallon or gallon jar and fill with water. Screw the lid on and let it sit in the sun for 5 – 7 days. Green hulls give different colors than black ones, the green giving a more golden appearance while the black is a more taupe-ish brown. Leaves often give a more olive drab color.

The second method is quicker, simply fill a stockpot about half full of the hulls or leaves add water to completely cover and simmer on the stove for an hour. The longer you let it steep, the darker it will get.

To prepare your items for dyeing, wash them through a normal wash cycle if they are brand new. If they are used, pre-washing is not necessary.

Decide how you want your items to look. If you bind them tightly with twine or rubber bands, the results will be lines and streaks or various tie dye effects depending on how you bind them. I love to carefully fold up the fabric then tightly bind it with thin cotton or hemp twine. The result is streaks with lines through them, reminiscent of trees.

If you don’t prefer special effects, you can place your fabric directly in to the pot and get a solid dye. Be sure to remove the hulls first or you may get some mottling (which is also another nice effect).

Once your dye baths are ready, strain off the liquid and set it aside. Compost the hulls. If there’s enough room, you may wish to leave the hulls in for a mottled effect.


Return the dye bath back to the pot or jar and add your fabrics. For the sun dyeing method, place the sealed jar back into the sun for an additional 5 – 7 days. For the stove top method, return the pot to the stove and bring it back to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let the dye bath sit for 30 minutes – 2 hours. The longer it sits, the darker it gets.


Once you are done dyeing, use tongs to remove the article from the stock pot if you want to save the dye bath for a second round. If not, dump the entire pot into the sink. Run cool water over the items until they are cool enough to touch then start squeezing out the dye and water until the water runs clear. If you are using the sun method, follow the same procedure but there’s no need to worry about the hot dye bath.


When your items are clear of any leftover dye, hang them on the line or dry in a dryer. The color is set and can be washed with like colored items.



Have you ever used Walnut hulls or other plants to dye with? We’d love to see pictures of your dyed items, post them on our Facebook page! And if you try this for the first time, let us know how you like the outcome (and share your pictures with us)!


[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 25 – Learning to ID Toxic Plants Part 1: 4 Toxic Plants to Teach Your Child to Identify

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29th, 2014 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far


An indoor (or backseat) childhood does reduce some dangers to children; but other risks are heightened, including risks to physical and psychological health, risk to children’s concept and perception of community, risk to self-confidence and the ability to discern true danger.

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

It often can be intimidating to get started learning about plants. What’s safe? What’s not? Which are foolproof? Which are most versatile? One of the biggest worries I see is the fear of their kids getting ahold of a toxic plant. The best way to avoid this from happening is to give them knowledge.

You are going to know your child better than anyone else so always use your own judgement when introducing plants to them. If they are the type of child who wants to put everything in their mouth, even when they are old enough to understand the dangers then you will want to be very strict about not letting them handle plants without your presence.

Teach your children all the toxic plants that exist in your backyard. While this may take a bit of research on your part, being able to point out the toxic plants will empower children to know the difference between safe and unsafe plants. Teach them awareness and how to identify toxic plants and they will learn to proceed with caution before exploring plants.

Start by making a list of all known plants in your backyard. By doing so, you will be able to separate safe from toxic plants. If you’re unable to identify a plant, photograph it extensively: pictures of leaves, berries, flowers, leaf patterns, growing habits, etc. This will help you be able to identify it when you get back inside. You can also use a gallon or 2 gallon ziplock bag to contain a plant you are unsure of to bring a live specimen in the house to examine further without actually touching it.

The following are 4 commonly found toxic plants. Please note, this list will vary greatly with your region so check out your state/county/local resources for information on commonly found poisonous plants. These are plants that are common to my area (southern Illinois) and could vary greatly for you.

Poison Ivy - Leaves of Three

Poison Ivy – Leaves of Three

Poison Ivy / Oak / Sumac (Toxicodendron radicans, T. rydbergii, T. diversilobum, T. quercifolium, T. vernix)
Leaves of three, let them be. Berries of white, take flight.” While this is a great rhyme to remember Poison Ivy, there are many plants that have leaves of three that are not harmful: Box Elder trees (the number one lookalike on our farm), Blackberry plants, and more. So what are some tips for identifying it?

Box Elder - Leaves of Three

Box Elder – Leaves of Three also exist and is often confused for Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy leaves can be red, green, yellow or a combination of those colors depending on the time of year. Leaves can sometimes have a blistered effect and have a glossy appearance though not always. The leaves are generally jagged and grow alternately on the stem. Stems can be red, yellow or green as well. Poison Ivy can grow as a vine, bush or in small tree looking form. They can be found growing in shade and in sunlight.

Poison Ivy - Alternate leaf stems

Poison Ivy – Alternate leaf stems

Berries appear in autumn, often after the leaves have died back. They grow in clusters, are small and green at first, turning cream white.

Box Elder - Opposite leaf stems

Box Elder – Opposite leaf stems. This is the easiest way to identify that this plant is NOT Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy vines are usually hairy, making them easy to spot in the winter when no leaf growth is available for identification. If you see a vine on a tree that is hairy, do not touch it as the poison oil is still present.

Poison Oak (T. diversilobum, T. quercifolium) is similar to Poison Ivy in appearance but is generally found on the West and East coasts.

Poison Sumac (T. vernix) is hard to find as it likes its roots in water. For a good description and pictures, go to the Poison Sumac website.

NEVER burn Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac to get rid of them. Bag them up (wearing gloves and long sleeves) in trash bags. If you burn them, the oil is carried in the smoke, allowing it to be spread over your entire body if you come into contact with it. Even worse, if you breathe in the smoke the oils can cause a rash in your throat, bronchial tubes and lungs which can be fatal.



Poison Hemlock - William & Wilma Follette @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS

Poison Hemlock – William & Wilma Follette @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
This plant is the plant that killed Socrates and is one of the most well known toxic plants. It has been confused with Queen Anne’s Lace but with a bit of awareness, is easy to spot the differences of.

Poison Hemlock stems and leaves are not hairy while Queen Anne’s Lace is (the Queen has hairy legs is an easy way to remember this). Though both stems may have red or purplish red on them, Hemlock’s stems have spots of purplish red and faint vertical lines. The stems are also coated with a white bloom which can be wiped off. Both plants have a white flowers on umbels though Hemlock’s umbels are smaller and sparser than Queen Anne’s Lace. Queen Anne’s Lace also has a dark purple flower in the center while Hemlock does not.


Samuel Thayer has a nice write-up in his book Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants on Hemlock and Nightshade (see the next plant). I highly recommend both this book and The Forager’s Harvest if you are interested in finding edible wild plants.



Atropa belladonna flower and unripe berry - Photo by Don Macauley

Atropa belladonna flower and unripe berry – Photo by Don Macauley

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
Also known as Belladonna, this Solanaceae family plant is highly toxic. This plant is native to Europe, North Africa, Western Asia ,and some parts of Canada and the United States. It is not as easily found but is good to be aware of. Belladonna has flowers that are bell-like with 5 points that are purple or purple-brown. The flowers and berries grow singly in leaf axils and the berries are deep black and cherry sized. 

Solanum nigrum, Black Nightshade, which is often confused for Atropa belladonna. Photo by Juni from Kyoto, Japan

Solanum nigrum, Black Nightshade, which is often confused for Atropa belladonna. Photo by Juni from Kyoto, Japan

Belladonna is often confused with Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) which is an edible plant. The flowers of Black Nightshade are white, smaller and grow in axillary clusters. The fruits, while also black, are smaller than Belladonna, usually pea-sized and duller in appearance.



Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Poke (Phytolacca spp.)
Poke berries are often confused for Elderberries even though they are not very similar in reality. For a full description on Pokeberry identification, see my thorough post that I wrote a few years ago.

What toxic plants do you have growing in your backyard? Have you taught your children to be aware of them and how to identify them? Tell us your experiences with bringing awareness to toxic plants in the comments!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 24 – Five easy to identify herbs that are in your backyard

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22nd, 2014 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

One of the biggest concerns (understandably so) I hear when embarking on the herbal journey with children is the fear of them eating a poisonous plant. I am working on a post on how to ease those fears and wildcraft safely but for today, I wanted to touch on something a bit simpler, starting identification with 5 plants that grow just about everywhere. There is a lot to be learned with just these 5 plants, they are versatile and offer many healing actions while building plant identification confidence.



Plant #1 – Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
The most cursed weed of the manicured lawn, Dandelion grows all around the world! He is one of the most nutritious plants found, offering more vitamins and minerals than just about any plant on this great planet of ours. 1 cup of dandelion leaves contains 1 1 / 2 times the recommended USDA daily requirements for vitamin A alone! It also contains vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D plus biotin, inositol, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. It’s like taking a multi-vitamin every time you eat a salad full of dandelion greens! This alone is enough for anyone to love Dandelion but his virtues don’t stop there.

All parts of Dandelion can be used medicinally. The leaves are an alterative, anodyne, antacid, antioxidant, aperient, astringent, bitter, decongestant, depurative, digestive, diuretic, febrifuge, galactagogue, hypotensive, immune stimulant, laxative, lithotriptic, nutritive, restorative, stomachic, tonic, and vulnerary. Roots are alterative, anodyne, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, aperient, astringent, bitter, cholagogue, choleretic, decongestant, depurative, digestive, diuretic, galactagogue, hepatic, hypnotic, immune stimulant, laxative, lithotriptic, nutritive, purgative, sedative, stomachic, and tonic. The flowers are anodyne, cardiotonic, emollient, hepatic and vulnerary. Even the sap of the flower stem is used, being an anodyne, antifungal and discutient.

Learn more about Dandelion in the May 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.



Plant #2 – Plantain (Plantago spp.)
Though Plantain is native to Europe, this plant has popped up just about everywhere on the planet. In my back yard I have 3 species: Plantago major, P. lanceolata and P. rugelii. They can all be used interchangeably. This is the first plant most my children learned to identify because of it’s great uses for all things first aid: bee stings, bleeding, inflammation, allergies, bruises and more. Plantain is easy to identify by his “ribs”, the many veins that run through each leaf, giving him the nickname of Ribwort. When you harvest a leaf, you will see “strings” hanging from the end of the stem.

Plantain can also be eaten and contains calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous, zinc, copper and cobalt and vitamins A, C, and K. Medicinally, Plantain is alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anthelmintic, antivenomous, astringent, expectorant, decongestant, demulcent, deobstruent, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, hemostatic, kidney tonic, ophthalmic, mucilaginous, refrigerant, restorative and vulnerary.

Learn more about Plantain in the June 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.



Plant #3 – Violet (Viola spp.)
This harbinger of spring grows abundantly throughout the world. The best time to spot her is in the spring when a carpet of deep purple covers the yard. Her heart shaped leaves are easy to find as well.

Violet is very nutritious. She has lots of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin A, rutin and iron. In fact, 1 oz. of Violet contains almost double the amount of the RDA for vitamin A and C. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and can be added to salads. Medicinally, Violet is alterative, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiscorbutic, astringent, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, laxative, nutritive, pectoral, restorative and vulnerary.

Learn more about Violet in the April 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.



Plant #4 – Chickweed (Stellaria spp.)
Chickweed is a cool weather plant. She prefers to make her appearance during the fall, winter and spring months, disappearing back into the ground during the heat of summer. It’s not uncommon to find a lush patch of Chickweed growing under leaf cover with a blanket of snow overhead. Find your Chickweed patches before the snow flies and mark them for easy location during the winter months.

Chickweed is another salad favorite, giving a mild spinach flavor to them. Chickweed can also be added in place of lettuce on sandwiches. Chickweed contains vitamins A, C, thiamine (B1), riboflavine (B2), niacin (B3), aluminum, calcium, chlorophyll, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum (an essential element), phosphorus, potassium, protein, silicon, sodium and zinc. Medicinally, Chickweed is alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, laxative, liver cleansing, mucolytic, nutritive, pectoral, refrigerant and vulnerary.

Learn more about Chickweed in the March 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.



Plant #5 – Pine (Pinus spp.)
One cup of Pine needle tea contains as much vitamin C as 5 – 6 lemons. That’s a lot of vitamin C! Pine trees grow all around the world and are often a popular landscaping tree due to being evergreen and making a great natural privacy shield. Spruce and Fir trees all have similar properties to Pine and can be used interchangeably.

Besides being high in vitamin C, Pine is used medicinally as well. Generally the needles and pitch are used though the inner bark can be used as well. Pine is analgesic, anticatarrhal, antiseptic, antiviral, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, rubefacient, stimulant and tonic. The bark can be powdered and used in a tea and is antioxidant, demulcent, diuretic and expectorant.

Learn more about Pine in the December 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.

All 5 of these plants are in the 2009 archive, which is given free when you purchase an annual subscription to Herbal Roots zine!

How many of these plants do you have growing in your back yard?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 23 – Natural Outdoor Play is a Gateway to Herbal Learning

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8th, 2014 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

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Our Children no longer learn how to read the great book of Nature from their own direct experience, or how to interact creatively with the seasonal transformations of the planet. They seldom learn where their water come from or where it goes. We no longer coordinate our human celebration with the great liturgy of the heavens.” – Wendell Barry

There’s a rule in our house. No electronics until several things are done for the day. They include daily schoolwork finished, chores finished, any practices finished (dance, instrument, sport) and I’ve recently added one more item: until you’ve played outside for 1 hour.

This subtle change to the rule has been magic. There are days they don’t play on the computer at all. They get so absorbed in their outdoor play that they don’t want to come in except to refuel. This is wonderful except for the days that they decide to do this first before all their other required daily activities but that’s the beauty of homeschooling, our days are flexible. I’d rather they miss a day of reading and writing and arithmetic if it means they spend the day breathing fresh air and getting dirty. The benefits far outweigh the consequences: healthier immune systems, healthier appetites (less eating from boredom and more eating to nourish), deeper sleep and quieter minds. Plus, there’s great learning to be had in play, kids just don’t get enough natural play in our modern world.


While this doesn’t directly tie into learning about the medicinal uses of herbs, it teaches children to enjoy the outdoors, to the point that they prefer it to being indoors, and they are fully immersed in the plants themselves. Poke berries become pretend food for their dolls, or paint for them or juice in their cups. From previous uses, my kids know to respect Poke berries and know that Poke is a powerful healing plant that is not to be taken lightly so they respect the plant and never try to ingest it. They use Plantain for blankets and Oak bark for building furniture. And though they may not consciously know what each plant is used for medicinally, the plants are imprinting on their subconscious in many ways that will retain awareness in the years to come. Through sensory play, touch, sight, smell, sound and sometimes taste (who can resist when those Mulberries are juicy and ripe?) they are learning about the plants and becoming familiar with them.

Natural Play as a Gateway to Herbal Learning

As my children grow and learn, their play becomes more sophisticated. They play “doctor” and use a Plantain leaf as a band-aid for a wound or a Burdock leaf to cover and bandage a burn. They mix up concoctions of herbs to feed to their “patients” as they work to heal their imaginary wounds. They make quick spit poultices to apply to wounds and mix imaginary salves from their plants to spread on the wounds. A natural role playing game automatically starts to summon their sense of herbal knowledge and awareness the more they play.

Natural Play as a Gateway to Herbal Learning

I am currently putting together a unit study for our school work based on My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George as I have found the currently available lesson plans a bit lacking in the nature department (and more heavily on the 3 ‘r’s of learning). A favorite book of mine from my youth, I hope to engage their senses of wonder even more with this book. One of their chosen subjects this year was survival skills and what better book to raise awareness than this gem? Though the book doesn’t touch on the medicinal uses of plants, Sam uses many in the book for food such as Solomon’s Seal which is a wonderful medicinal plant. A companion book, Pocket Guide to the Outdoors that she published many, many years later does provide about 30 pages of information on edible, poisonous and medicinal plants, making it a great supplement to her trilogy. I’m afraid my version of this “unit” will turn into a year long (or better yet, lifetime,) study! My kids love to build their own survival shelters and try to start fires with only flint, steel and found tinder. I visualize many hours of outdoor play re-enacting Sam and Alice (his younger sister who appears in the sequel) along with some herbal remedies thrown in for good measure.

Sometimes, the best way to get kids interested in the medicinal uses of herbs is by encouraging their love of the outdoors. By creating electronic free time (or even days), kids soon discover just how wonderful it is to be outdoors and will soon be choosing it over electronic play on a daily basis.

Natural Play as a Gateway to Herbal Learning

How do you get your kids outside to play? Do you plant ideas to get them started? What games have you seen your children entwining with their herbal and natural plant knowledge? Please share with us in the comments!

Herbal Blessings,

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 22 – Autumn Herbal Activities

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1st, 2014 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

As I write this, there is a chill in the air and the leaves are falling from the trees. As the season starts to wind down, it can start to get harder to get kids outside and exploring herbs. Though most plants are dying back for the winter, there is plenty to do!


Paint with Pokeberries. In the herbal world, Poke is a low dose botanical, not one to mess around with internally. But externally, the berries can be a lot of fun! Mash them up, strain out the seeds (which are the toxic part of the berry) and go to town with it. Use them to dye your hair magenta, paint your body or use as ink for writing notes and painting pictures. The dye is not color fast, it will wash out with the slightest bit of water so it’s a fun temporary way to play. Traditionally, Appalachian herbalists have used Poke berries to make Pink Water, a remedy for flushing out the body after a drawn out illness.


Dye with Walnut hulls. Walnut hulls make a gorgeous color fast dye that ranges from army green to golden bronze. They are one of the easiest plants to dye with. Simply chop up those green hulls (wear gloves or you’ll see just how easy of a dye it is), fill a half gallon or gallon jar with them then fill the jar with water. Cover and let that sit out for several days then strain off the liquid, compost the hulls and return the liquid to the jar. This time, add play silks, handkerchiefs, cotton or wool socks or other natural fiber and completely immerse it in the dye bath. Cover and let it sit in the sun for a few days up to a week. Rinse a portion and see if it’s as dark as you want it.  When you’ve reached the desired color, rinse in cold water then hang on the line to dry. The dye water can also be used as an ink, put it in a stock pot and cook the liquid down until it is thick. Store in a jar. Medicinally, Black Walnut is used for a variety of issues including ringworm, hypothyroidism and worms. Learn more about Black Walnut.


Harvest Cherry bark and twigs for making syrup. This is the time of year to harvest bark since all the sap is running back down the tree. I like to prune my Wild Cherry trees for twigs that I chop up and simmer in water for a bit. I then let it steep for an hour, strain off the liquid, return it to the saucepan and add an equal amount of honey. I reheat gently to slightly thin the honey, stir and pour into a bottle. For extra preservation, add about 1/4 of the volume in brandy. Store in the refrigerator. Wild Cherry is excellent for coughs, congestion, sore throats, anxiety and lots more. Learn more about Wild Cherry.


Go mushroom hunting. Look for Reishi, Maitake and Chicken of the Woods. All are easy to identify and have lots of medicinal benefits. Though Reishi cannot be cooked up, they can be added to broths and soups to extract their benefits while the liquid is simmering. Just remove them before serving. Maitake and Chicken of the Woods can be sautéed, added to casseroles, or dried for using throughout the winter. Medicinal mushrooms all have immunity benefits, anticancer properties and are nourishing to the body. Learn more about Reishi.

What other Autumn Herbal Activities can you think of? Which ones are your children attracted to? Please share with us on our Facebook page!

Herbal Blessings,

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 21 – Learning to Identify Plants

Posted in Uncategorized on September 11th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

I’d like to welcome all the new subscribers in the past few weeks and to those who were able to take a moment and respond to my questions, I’d like to say thank you! I know your time is valuable and I appreciated every response I get. I am sorry I have not been able to answer each one personally but I am taking note of what you are asking for and I hope to be able to offer up suggestions and tips in upcoming newsletters.

One of the reoccurring themes in your responses is “how can I learn and/or teach my child to identify plants, both for medicine and food? What kid-friendly sources are available?”

There are some really great books on the subject, both geared to children and more adult oriented. Having a variety available will help your child to learn and a few more in depth options will be her go to resource once she’s found a plant she really wants to learn about.

I have quite an extensive book list on my website that is growing every day. If you have any suggestions for books to add, please email me!

Today I’d like to highlight a few that kids will particularly enjoy.


One of the first books I can recommend is Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure For Kids Ages 9 to 99 (book and card deck) by Thomas J. ElpelI just adore this story and card set! The set teaches children how to learn to identify plant families in a fun way. There are 8 plant families taught in this book: Mint, Parsley, Mustard, Pea, Lily, Grass, Rose and Aster. Once the key patterns are learned, children can identify 45,000 species of plants. With this knowledge also comes basic knowledge of the plant’s healing capabilities. For instance, the majority of the Mint family plants are carminatives. The card deck is a fun way to reinforce the patterns learned in the book. It’s truly a story your children will ask to read again and again.


Tom does a great job of following this set up with his ‘adult’ version, Botany in a DayThis is a wonderful book for learning plant families in more depth than Shanleya’s Quest teaches. His newest edition is in color and is absolutely gorgeous to look at, drawing children into the book with their colorful renderings.


Keying out plants can become a fun game using guides. For flowers, I love using Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb. Kids love learning the ‘code’ of the flowers through this book. The only downside to keying out plants this way is they have to be in flower.


Try to search out a tree guide book for your region or state. In Illinois, we are lucky to have the Forest Trees of Illinois book which is put out by Illinois Department of Natural Resources. I believe a lot of states publish these books and they can be used in the same manner as the Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide for keying out trees in your neighborhood.


Peterson Field Guides are quite handy to have around as well. They are based on region such as Western, Eastern/Central and Southwestern & Texas. There are wildflower and medicinal plants and herbs books available for the regions, with color photographs, descriptions and uses of plants.

My_Side_of_the_Mountain  pocket-guide-msotm

For children who enjoy story books, check out Jean Craighead George’s books, such as My Side of the Mountain. This story is my most read book from childhood and will spark children’s interests in learning about plants as they watch Sam learn about them for his survival in the woods. Though it’s not specifically a field identification book, it might spark the interest in learning more about plants.

As your child is learning to identify plants, have her create a herbarium for storing a pressing of each plant she learns to identify. She can write the plant family, the botanical name, any characteristics that stick out, the main uses of the plant along with the date and location found. Then, the next time she finds the same plant in another location, she can look it up in her own plant ID book. It won’t take long for that herbarium to fill up and her knowledge to grow.

What are your favorite herbal identification books? Which ones are your children attracted to? Please share with us on our Facebook page!

Herbal Blessings,

Free Printable from Ancient Amber

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9th, 2014 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

This week, we have a sweet little autumn coloring page to offer up to our readers! This darling coloring page is from The Sunchildren, a new seasonal story book by Ancient Amber. We’ll be sharing more about this book in the near future but today, click on the picture for a downloadable PDF of the picture.

Coloring Page

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 20 – What kids should put in their herbal journals

Posted in Uncategorized on August 20th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


So you’ve decided to have your kids start an herbal journal.

Now what?

What exactly should they “journal” about?

If they need help to get started, these ideas should help!

– Leaf rubbings. They can write the common and botanical name next to the leaves if they know them.

– Poems about plants. They can write their own or look up famous poems about their favorite herbs. Or both.

– Famous paintings of plants. Or their own painting of plants. Or both.

– Monthly drawings of the same plant. This is especially useful for showing growth and changes over the season.

– Photographs of plants. A snapshot of the same plant when it is drawn each month is a nice compliment to the monthly drawings.

– Plant life cycle cards or drawings.

– Venn diagrams comparing two different plants that are seemingly alike. Just how alike are they? Venn diagrams can help with that.

– Favorite recipes using herbs. Make up some recipes and write down the results. They can be recipes for foods, tea blends, or remedies.

– How a particular plant makes them feel when they sit with it.

– A song about the plants. Maybe a Herbal Roots zine song about their favorite one? Or one they’ve made up themselves.

– A chart showing the growth of plants. This works well with the monthly plant drawings and photographs.

– Pressed flowers or leaves. Seeds from the plant.

– Drawings of the various plant parts. The leaves, stems, roots, seeds, flowers, etc.

– Seed catalog collages.

– A list of favorite herbals or herb related story books. (Need a list to get you started? Check out our book list at our website).

– A labeled drawing of a plant flower. Drawings of several plants to compare. Can they see similarities?

– A list of all the plants that grow in the back yard.

– A list of all the plant families that those plants are in. Can they place all their plants under each plant family?

These are just a few suggestions of what to put in their herbal journals. What are some other ideas you might have come up with?
Herbal Blessings,

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 19 – Secrets to getting kids excited about herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on August 13th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


Everyone keeps asking, “What’s the secret to getting kids interested in herbs?”

It’s simple really.

Kids naturally want to learn. It doesn’t matter WHAT we teach them, they love to learn.

Kids are naturally curious. And, unless we squash that desire, they will do their darnedest to learn. Parents and teachers alike are nodding your heads at this, you know what I’m saying.

So, if you want them to learn about herbs, all you need to do is use them. Apply herbs to your everyday life. Whether you homeschool, public school, private school, unschool or any other type of school or non-school, just bring herbs into your every day life…..


FOOD: Hippocrates said: Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food. Has anyone ever said it better than that? Any time you can add herbs to your food, do. Garlic. Thyme. Sage. Rosemary. Onion. Parsley. Nettles. And so on.


TEA. Drink herb tea. Chamomile, Peppermint, Ginger for tummy aches. Nettles and Alfalfa for vitamins. Oats to relax…


MEDICINE. Start with easy things. Plantain for bug bites, stings, cuts. Simple poultices are easy and effective. Work your way up to salves, tinctures and other herbal remedies.


GAMES. John and Kimberly Gallagher created Wildcraft! several years back and it really is a fun game that kids love to play and naturally learn about herbs while they do it. On my website, I have a free downloadable Herbal Bingo game that you can print and play bingo with. It’s a great way to teach kids about herbs and get them curious about what those herbs can do. If you haven’t already, check out my website, it’s full of resources for games and activities for teaching kids about herbs.

story time

STORY TIME. There are lots of great story books that talk about the medicinal uses of herbs. Whether it’s coloring books, curriculums, fictional stories or non-fictional herbals, I’ve got them listed. And I’m adding to that list when I find new ones! I’ve also got herbal games, cards, posters, television shows, videos and cd’s on there. You can see the full list at .https://www.herbalrootszine.com/book-list/

Kids have a natural desire to learn. As long as your nurture that desire, they will continue to want to learn about the natural plant world around them. What do you do to teach your kids about herbs? What ‘secrets’ have you discovered in getting them excited about herbs? Let us know at our Facebook page, we’d love to hear from you!

Herbal Blessings,


[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 18 – Herbal fun during the summer

Posted in Uncategorized on August 6th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

It’s August now and summer is starting to wind down. But, there’s still plenty of time to have some herbal fun! Are the kids bored? Do you find that they are now spending more time playing video games than enjoying the beautiful outdoors? Try out a few of these ideas to get them outside and having fun learning about herbs!

HOST A HERBAL TEA PARTY. Check out my post from a few years back on having a Rosie Tea Party. While this particular tea party was all about Rose, you could easily tie in other edible herbs to personalize it to your own backyard. Kids love tea parties, and they love planning them even more! Make sure they participate in the planning, harvesting, and creating as well as the partying!

CREATE A SCAVENGER HUNT. Make a list of herbs that grow in your back yard and turn it into a scavenger hunt….Can they find leaves growing from the ground with ribs (Plantain)? How about heart shaped leaves (Violet)? Leaves with jagged teeth (Dandelion, Wild Lettuce, Sow Thistle, Thistle)? Bonus points if they can name the common name and even more if they know the botanical name and/or some medicinal uses of the plants.

COLLECT SOME LEAVES AND DO LEAF RUBBINGS. Leaf rubbings make great pictures for cards. Why not get started on some holiday gifts by doing some leaf rubbing card sets to give away to friends and family?

TRY YOUR HAND AT FORAGING. This is a really great time of the year to harvest wild edibles. Blackberries, Chokecherries, Lamb’s Quarters leaves, Yellow Dock seeds, and so on. Make sure that they are all positively identified before eating them, if you are new to foraging, always stick to safe plants that have no poisonous lookalikes.
START A NATURE JOURNAL. Nature journals area a great way to keep track of plants and learn about them. Spend 20 – 30 minutes at least once a week (try to do more if you can) going outside with pens, markers, colored pencils, watercolors or even crayons to sketch the plants that grow in your backyard. Bring a few identification and herbal books with you so that you can look up information to write next to the drawings about the plants. Often just drawing and writing about a plant will spark interest to do more such as make salves, tinctures, teas or vinegars. Explore ways to use that plant.
These are just a few ways to add to your summertime fun. Can you think of more ideas? I’d love to hear about them!  Let me know how you’re getting started in teaching your kids about herbs on my Facebook page.
Herbal Blessings,

Beautiful Herb Quilt Raffle

Posted in Uncategorized on August 6th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


Last winter, a friend of mine was looking for herb drawings to have a quilt made for a raffle to help raise money for the Trillium Center, a center for wilderness skills, self reliance and other folk arts. Leah, a community herbalist in Conneaut, Ohio, leads plant walks showing participants how to identify medicinal, edible, and poisonous plants; tell them stories, folklore, and traditional and current methods of preparing wild plants. The Trillium Center hosts a variety of educational programs, including a FREE children’s program to teach about wild edibles and medicinals.


I submitted several drawings of herbs for her to select from and the artist sewing the quilt decided to use 8 of my drawings: Dandelion, Wild Bergamot, Trillium, Chicory, Crampbark, New England Aster, Chickweed, and Marshmallow. The center of the quilt hosts the Trillium Center’s logo.









This beautiful quilt is being raffled off to raise money for the Trillium Center, which will go to worthwhile projects and programs such as the children’s program, which is open to all members of their community.

To keep updated on the raffle and the Trillium Center’s projects, like them on Facebook!