Herbalism, Community, and Well Being at The Herb Shoppe

by Michelle Lundquist of Sea Goat Herbs

My study of herbalism began around 4 years ago after a trip to The Herb Shoppe, a local herbal apothecary. Intrigued by the herbs, plant medicines and energy of the shop I felt there was a deeper significance for my visit. It turned out there was. Within a month of my initial journey to the shop, I had enrolled in their 12 week internship program and began to immerse myself in the herbs. This immersion inspired me to further my herbal studies and understand the healing abilities of plants. Presently known as The Herb Shoppe Pharmacy, the essence of the original location remains with it's supply of organic herbs, potent herbal preparations, classes and access to holistic practitioners. Located on the contemporary street of Mississippi Avenue in Portland Oregon, owner Amanda Furbee and her knowledgable staff offer plant based modalities of healing to the Boise-Elliot neighborhood. 

Amanda grew up in the desert surrounded by plants like Chaparral, Devils Claw and Ocotillo but it wasn't until she became an adult did she understand the significance of these plants. From a young age she was disheartened by the over use of prescription medications and allopathic approaches to health. She moved to Portland in 2010 and soon after began to work at The Herb Shoppe. The first all organic herbal supplier in town, The Herb Shoppe was founded by naturopath JJ Pursell in 2005. Amanda worked along side Dr. JJ and learned about medicinal herbs, how to prepare them into medicine, and the skills to run a successful herbal business. Amanda saw great potential in the shop and knew she could help it grow and expand. She enrolled herself in business courses and completed Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Certification course. In 2014 Amanda and JJ opened The Herb Shoppe Pharmacy on Mississippi Ave. The Pharmacy became the main production facility of the medicine for all of their locations. The shop was a lovely addition to the Mississippi district providing the community with high quality herbs and herbal medicine, classes and access to holistic practitioners. In 2016, JJ sold her portion of the business to Amanda giving her the opportunity to mold the shop into what it is today.

From Agrimony to Yohimbe Bark the shop supplies customers with a diverse selection of high quality, organic whole and powdered medicinal herbs. Organic culinary herbs, spice blends and specialty salts are also available. 24 custom herbal teas plus a rotating Tea of the Month are blended by hand and available by the ounce. Soul Shine, a tea for adrenal and immune support along with their Respiratory Relief tea are two of their most popular blends. Brewed tea by the cup can also be purchased and enjoyed while you shop. Kombucha is available on tap courtesy of Eva's Herbucha, it can be purchased by the glass or you can bring your own vessel for larger quantities. Supplies to make herbal salves, infused oils, herbal capsules and household cleaning products are available for DIY enthusiasts. Crystals, smudge sticks and candles are also for sale and bring a touch of magic along with them.

70-75% of the products sold at the shop are made in-house and exclusive to The Herb Shoppe. Their expansive line of tinctures, infused oils, salves, elixirs, and skin care is a collaborative effort between Amanda and her employees. "We have worked very hard to refine and make changes to the entire Herb Shoppe product line" said Amanda. They strive to create palatable medicines that appease the flavor profiles of many, especially those new to using herbal medicines. One of my favorite features of the shop is their Blending Bar. Custom tinctures and essential oil blends can be created right before your eyes. Have a prescription for a tincture? The Herb Shop can mix and fill it for you in 1 & 2 oz sizes. 

Herbal consultations, massage, and energy work are a few of the holistic services offered at the shop by Amanda and other practitioners. On Saturdays Natropathic Dr. Ose Okojie is available to see patients from 2pm-6pm. Unlike the "quick-fix" of prescription drugs, plants and herbs gently nourish and heal a person while improving their overall health. Before treatment your practitioner will address your health concerns, discuss a realistic time line of healing and the steps needed to achieve your goals. Although I have never been a patient at The Herb Shoppe I appreciate the holistic services they provide. 

An abundance of classes are offered at the shop to educate and inspire the masses. Local herbalists and others from around the country have taught classes on facial diagnosis, healing trauma naturally and cooking with herbs in the shop's classroom. Guided herbal meditation classes hosted at the shop have become increasingly popular. These meditations focus on breath work and the healing qualities of a specific herb. A 12 week internship program offered at the shop can help cultivate a stronger relationship with herbs and plant medicine. The internship is an opportunity for aspiring herbalists to deepen their understanding of herbs through hands on experience and customer interaction. My time as an intern at The Herb Shoppe was fulfilling and life changing. It allowed me to discover a passion for the plants and herbal medicine I never knew I had. 

Once a month Amanda is featured on local news channel KGW to share how to make an herbal remedy. Lib balm, toothpowder and Elderberry syrup are a few of the items she has demonstrated. When asked how she blends her love for the plants with the responsibilities of running a business she had this to say. "It's an ebb n flow flow. 90% of the time you're a business owner and 10 % of the time you're an herbalist. Even though your heart and soul may be 90% herbalist and 10% business owner, in order to be successful in the beginning it must be the other way around." Amanda's entrepreneurial spirit along with her love for the plants makes the The Herb Shoppe Pharmacy a wonderful resource for herbal supplies, services and education.

Trips to a local market or retail shop rarely inspire us to change our life path. The Herb Shoppe served as a catalyst for me to pursue the study of herbalism which changed my life for the better. Community oriented and collaboratively run The Herb Shoppe Pharmacy is one of Portland's premiere herbal apothecaries. For a listing of products, up coming classes or to schedule an appointment for one of their many services head to www.theherbshoppepdx.com.

The Herb Shoppe Pharmacy

3912 N. Mississippi Ave

Portland, OR 97227

Current Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am-7pm; Sat & Sun: 11am-6pm

Email: info@theherbshoppepharmacy.com

Phone: 971.703.4347


By Public Transportation:

MAX Light Rail - Yellow Line 

Bus Line - 4

www.trimet.org for schedules and stop locations

Main Ways by Bike:

Eastbank Esplanade 

Waterfront Bike Path

Tillikum Crossing

www.traillink.com for trail maps and descriptions

The Evolution and Offerings of Molly Muriel Apothecary

by Michelle Lundquist of Sea Goat Herbs

Editors Note - Starting March 1st 2018 Molly Muriel Apothecary will be known as Milwaukie Apothecary: Home of Molly Muriel Wholesale. The name change is an attempt to separate the retail and wholesale portions of the business.  

During the summer I harvest Calendula flowers from my garden. Known for it's skin healing properties and warming qualities of the sun it's one of my favorite herbs to use in creams and salves. When my supply is low I make a special trip to Molly Muriel Apothecary. Located in charming downtown Milwaukie (7 miles south of Portland, OR), Molly Muriel Apothecary has been owned and operated by Branda Tiffany since 2002. What began as a production facility for her Molly Muriel product line has developed into a valubal resource for herbalists, product makers and the local community. Her dried Calendula is wildcrafted when possible and is some of the highest quality around. 

Making products is how it all began for Branda. A candle making class she attended in 1994 was the catalyst for her to learn how to create handmade goods. Inspired, she taught herself how to make soap. Through trial and error, she learned the best oils and ratios of lye to produce a soap to her liking. As her interests grew and senses matured, she realized that many of the popular fragrance oils used in commercial candle and soap making are synthetic and laced with chemicals. "Smelling the difference between natural and synthetic scents was the turning point", said Branda. Encouraged to find a natural way to scent her candles and soaps, she made the switch to pure essential oils and learned the art of aromatherapy.

Upon entering the shop your senses are taken over by the calming fragrance of dried herbs and handmade products. Tidy and well lit, the shop has a distinctly warm and welcoming atmosphere making it easy to spend quality time there. Not only is Branda the woman who creates the entire Molly Muriel product line, she will also be there to greet you when you visit. Small batch soaps, body oils, and candles are just a few of the items she skillfully makes from scratch. 

Therapeutic base oils such as olive, sunflower, jojoba, and rose hip seed along with rose water and witch hazel can be acquired in small to large quantities. Items such as clays, powdered herbs, shea butter, beeswax, carnauba wax, salts and seaweed powders can be purchased by the ounce. Also readily available are candle making supplies along with empty glass bottles, lip balm tubes and tins. One of the shops more popular offerings is an extensive line of pure essential oils. From easy to find scents like lavender, rosemary, and peppermint to the more rare helichrysum, hyssop and coffee bean, chances are you will find the ones you need. If you are interested in learning a new skill, monthly candle making classes are offered at the apothecary and are open to the public. Each class includes guidance from Branda and all the needed supplies to make and take home two candles. 

A large selection of organic, dried medicinal and culinary herbs can be obtained by the ounce. When asked what her favorite herb to work with is and why, she quickly responded, "Tulsi", also known as Holy Basil. "It is an important plant ally for me. Its nervine properties help to keep me calm and stay grounded. It is so diverse and has many anti-microbial properties which makes it a great herb to have on hand". Branda has completed a handful of herbal courses including Rosemary Gladstar's Correspondence class and The Immersion Program with the Arctos School of Herbal and Botanical Studies. Her dedication to herbal inquiry carries over into her business as well. "Herbalism and business force you to use both sides of your brain, I find their differences can actually help to balance one another." said Branda.  

The shop is adorned with beautiful and healthy house plants throughout. The open design and wood dressed interior of the apothecary helps to showcase the plants and their positive energy. All of the plants are for sale and are showered with light thanks to the shops pleasantly large windows. There is an array of succulents, air plants, and terrarium supplies along with house plant starts and a DIY planting station, stocked with dirt and ceramic pots. 

Throughout history medicinal plants have been used to heal and provide nourishment to communities near and far. With plant based medicine falling out of favor in the modern world we should cherish the businesses that allow herbalists to continue practicing their craft. Molly Muriel supports our niche community with the fine offerings they have available year round. It's one of my preferred herb shops located in the Portland area which I encourage anyone reading to visit. For a full listing of products, supplies, herbs, recipes and classes head on over to www.mollymuriel.com.

Molly Muriel Apothecary soon to be Milwaukie Apothecary: Home of Molly Muriel Wholesale

Located in Downtown Milwaukie

11049 SE 21st Ave

Milwaukie, OR 97222

Current Hours: Wed-Sat 12p-6p; Sun-Tue CLOSED

Milwaukie Apothecary Hours *effective March 1st*: Thursday, Friday, & Saturday 12p-6p

Email: info@mollymuriel.com

Retail Phone: 503.305.7549

Wholesale Phone: 503.888.1567

Website: www.mollymurielapothecary.com

Website (effective March 1st): www.milwaukieapothecary.com


By Public Transportation

MAX Light Rail - Orange Line 

Bus Line - 33

www.trimet.org for schedules and stop locations

Main ways By Bike:

Springwater Corrador

Eastbank Esplanade 

Waterfront Bike Path

Tilikum Crossing Pedestrian Bridge

www.traillink.com for trail maps and descriptions


Michelle Lundquist is a self taught folk herbalist, aspiring herbal educator and homesteader with a passion for plants and their healing abilities. Inspired by the self reliant and nourishing practices of the Wise Woman Tradition, she enjoys utilizing plants of the Pacific Northwest and those that grow around her. Cooking, crafting kombucha and spending time in nature are a few of her favorite things. She is the content creator and medicine maker for her business Sea Goat Herbs that she runs out of her home in Portland, OR.

Simple Summer Sippers: Iced Herbal Drinks

By Maria Noel Groves
Clinical Herbalist & Author of Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self Care

On a hot, summer day, look no further than your herb garden for a refreshing drink. This time of year, I head to the garden at least a few times a day for a sprig or two to add to my glass.

Herbal Soda

Delicious, inexpensive, and calorie-free soda is as simple as a bottle of cold seltzer water. My husband and I drink seltzer so much that we use a soda maker from the local kitchen store, but you can start with a bottle plain seltzer or effervescent mineral water the grocery store. Pour off a little from the top of the bottle and slowly add about three sprigs of fresh herbs, rubbing each with your fingertips before you add them to release their flavor. (It will fizz as you add them.) Cover and let it sit for about 20 minutes in the fridge or cooler before serving. My favorite simple herb sodas include fennel fronds, apple mint, spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon balm, or fragrant heirloom rosebuds. Roses taste best after several hours of steeping. I store fresh lemongrass stalks in my freezer for year-round use – they actually infuse better post-freeze. Some of my favorite combos include fresh lime with spearmint, lemon balm with lemon verbena, holy basil and rose, or Korean licorice mint (or its close relative anise hyssop) with a squirt of vanilla extract.

If you don’t like bubbles, feel free to skip them! These all taste great in plain, still water, too. You’ll feel like you’re sitting poolside at a fancy hotel or spa. I love to add edible flowers when using clear containers, such as rose, calendula, violets, or Johnny jump ups. Anything that’s safe to consume and fits your flavor profile works great.

Experiment with the herbs you have on hand and the flavors that you like. I prefer mine unsweetened. For a little sweetness, add one leaf of fresh stevia or a couple drops of stevia extract or use liquid sweeteners like simple syrup, maple syrup, agave, or honey. Perfect for a day of gardening in the hot sun!

Iced Tea

Iced tea is a classic for summertime. You can make iced tea in a variety of ways depending on what’s most convenient for you. One easy way is to make a cup of regular tea (steep one teaspoon to a tablespoon dry or handful fresh herbs in two cups boiling water for five to 15 minutes, then strain), and then refrigerate it for a few hours. For faster iced tea, make a double-strength hot tea and then pour it over ice cubes. If you want to add sweetener, it will dissolve better when added to the hot tea before it’s chilled, or use a liquid sweetener.

You can’t get any better than green or black tea with lemon wedges and perhaps some sugar. However, you can also raid your herb garden or produce department for delicious combinations. I love to combine all the licorice-y, lemon-y, or mint-y herbs I have in my garden. Use about one fistful of fresh herb sprigs per 16 ounces of water. You may have to try a few batches to find the concentration of flavor and sweetness that you like.

Sun Teas

Sun teas rely on the heat of the sun rather than boiling water to pull the flavor out of tea bags or fresh or dried herbs. Combine the herbs, tea bags, sweetener, and/or sliced fruit with water in a big jug and let it sit for a few hours in the sun at the height of day. When it’s ready, pour it off into a glass of ice. Fresh produce and herbs combine well here: green or black tea with lemons, mint and limes, strawberries and mint or parsley, cucumbers and mint, blackberries and basil. Dried hibiscus flowers make an amazing tart red tea that Mexicans and Jamaicans drink cold to help cool off the body. (If it’s too sour for you, sugar perks up the flavor.) Depending on how strong of a brew you make, your drink will be light pink to fruit punch red.

Herbal Cocktails

I reserve herbal cocktails for special dinners and celebrations. The best-known herbal summer cocktail is a mojito: muddle fresh spearmint or apple mint with sugar and ice, add seltzer and light mojito rum or vodka and fresh lime juice to taste. However, you can use other flavorful herbs to bring new light to classic cocktails. For example, lemon verbena or rosemary in a martini, tarragon in a cosmo, basil in your bloody Mary, lovage stems as a bloody Mary straw. Herbs are generally added to cocktails in one of two ways. Either muddle or shake the fresh leaves with ice before adding the rest of the ingredients, or make an herb-infused simple syrup. Simmer two cups of sugar with one cup of water until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add one tablespoon of dry herbs or a small handful of fresh herbs. Cover and let sit until the syrup is cool, strain. Add simple syrup to sweeten and flavor cocktails. They can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen as ice cubes for up to one month.

Keeping It Chill

One of the best ways to keep a cold beverage handy throughout the day is to put it in a thermos with an ice cube or two. It stays cold all day and won’t sweat all over your desk or travel bag. Double-walled glass tea infusers allow you to see your work of art as you sip. If you’ve got a drink with bubbles, make sure your container can handle the pressure... before you pop it in the beach bag next to your iPad!

Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), clinical herbalist, runs Wintergreen Botanicals, nestled in the pine forests of New Hampshire. Her business is devoted to education and empowerment via classes, health consultations, and writing with the foundational belief that good health grows in nature. She is the author of  Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self Care . Learn more about Maria and herbs at  www.WintergreenBotanicals.com .

Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), clinical herbalist, runs Wintergreen Botanicals, nestled in the pine forests of New Hampshire. Her business is devoted to education and empowerment via classes, health consultations, and writing with the foundational belief that good health grows in nature. She is the author of Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self Care. Learn more about Maria and herbs at www.WintergreenBotanicals.com.

Why Herbalism Matters

by Gabby Allen

Once upon a time, for a long time, herbal medicine was the only medicine. We as a species quite literally wouldn’t exist without it. I think that collectively, we are disassociated from this important fact, and thusly disassociated from the vital role that herbalism plays into our past and present existence.

At first glance, it seems a far off time when we were relying solely on plant medicine to keep our species on its feet. However, when looking at how long we have been here, and most especially how long plants have been here (oh hey, horsetail), it’s really less than an eye blink. In comparison to how long herbalism has been practiced, modern medicine is very....modern. I’d make clear right away that I am not attempting to invalidate modern medicines obvious efficiency and crucial roll in our current existence, but rather illustrate that herbalism has gained a lot of wisdom in the passing centuries and millennia.

Survival of the fittest, as it were, and of course when considering bruteness, we are of lesser strength than some of our more fearsome and outright tenacious neighbors. I don't doubt that history would be missing were it not for some major plant allies supporting us a long the way. The generations long process of learning plant medicine, and evolving along side them, not only kept our species alive, but enabled the nearly endless luxuries we partake in today.

If we could consider for a moment all of the various ailments, diseases, and dealings that are addressed by modern medicine, then consider the stark difference in physicality in the lives of our lineage bearers, how far would we have gotten with no way to treat an out of control fever, or pull an infection from a wound? Our big brains are wrapped up in fairly fragile packaging and I really just don’t think we would have made it very long if ailments and injuries were completely untreatable.

Without herbalism, we wouldn’t have made it far enough to have the millennia required to come to a point where we can develop such sophisticated technologies that make up modern medicine. Obviously there are a lot of factors to the here and now-ness in which we find ourselves, but its been my conclusion that we quite literally, and very directly own our sustained existence to the plants.

What a gift it would be to peek into the past and witness the undoubtedly reverent process of an individual who’s life had depended upon botanicals. That is, one who would not have survived and thrived nutritionally and medicinally without herbs and edible plants. I’d like to comprehend even a fraction of the depth of understanding, and the depth of plant knowledge of those that are in large part responsible for getting us this far. The reverence and treatments of plants by those who’s lives truly depended on them, without any hope of modern intervention, must have run unfathomably deep. I know one such man who can give us this peek.

Rewilder, hunter, and all around wild man, Jordan Manley, spent a grand total of seventy seven days in the wilderness, and gained a peek into what life was like for nomadic cultures, spending those days being reliant upon the land for sustenance. During his journey his diet was mostly wild plants.

"My diet during that particular trip was comprised almost entirely of plants. Somewhere of about ninety five percent or more. I harvested a bear during the trip, which was made into jerky, and I caught fish during a week that I spent camped along a river. The majority of my diet was Native American First foods, such as biscuit root, onions, fireweed, raspberries, serviceberries, lilies, and grasses. I also ate some introduced European plants, such as burdock and plantains. I usually ate one meal a day, comprised of a large salad, a dish of fried or boiled roots, and a large pot of stewy broth."

Mr. Manley was consuming herbal medicine everyday, and it had a very direct effect. While he does account low energy, he also reports that his mind was clearer, and sharper than it had been in all his prior days. His vision was better, along with a heightened sensitivity to all of his senses. There was a notable positive change in his thought patterns, and a lack of stress. That last bit is significant to our hyper stressed society. Imagine, over two months of mostly stress free days. That's the kind of thing that people pay big bucks (often earned through four lifetimes worth of stress) to achieve. It seems a dream, and Jordan, along with the original herbalists and wildcrafters lived it. From his account, it's easy to conclude that our ancestors lived a life of nearly infinite more vitality, strength, and stamina.

In the passing weeks, the relationship he had with the plants that were nourishing him evolved.

"Over time, I began to think of the plants I was interacting with more as relatives than resources. Once I became aware of the abundance of wild food, I noticed that it is hard to take a step out in the wild without stepping on something you can eat. I began to walk more softly on the earth, and interact with plants in a more gentle manner."

No one walks through a grocery store with such reverence and respect. The life giving and sustaining nutrients are trampled upon by generations of ignorance and greed (agricultural and industrial revolutions, respectively), so yes, herbalism matters very much.

Our ancestors were nomadic. Follow the seasons, follow the food, both flesh and plant based. Our existence literally revolved around the plants (and the animals, who also followed the food or were pushed by predators; predators who were following their food) we followed them, making a great circle on the land, over and over, season after season, century after century, again and again. Until of course, we didn't and disease, and malnutrition became a common companions, the penance for the boom in population allowed to us through our own domestication. (1)

It seems to me that we should stay in connection with something that was so important to our existence. If we couldn’t survive without it in the beginning, how long will we survive without it now, even with our new, very clever discoveries? The signs are clear, depending on who you ask- not that long.

Something that was such a vital foundation to our sustained existence is something that we probably shouldn’t lose touch with. One, me for example, could justly argue that our departure from the wild way of things is integral to many of the issues that we are facing globally and culturally. Herbalism matters because life matters and there wouldn’t be any of it without the plants. Without botanicals, there would have been nothing to isolate and concentrate, starting the decades long process that has lead us to modern medicine today.

There is independence in the addressing of ailment that is achieved thorough herbalism when modern medicine fails. Cottonwood and mullein cleared my son’s wee lungs when they were bombarded by virus. Herbalism can offer our children relief from unpleasant symptoms of viral infections that a doctor can give no prescription for but time.

My husband had a yearly spring cycle of sinus infections. It went allergies, cold, sinus infection, antibiotics. If luck was on his side, he’d do this once, then rinse and repeat next season. I came across a really great write about sinus infections by jim mcdonald, (3) and the resulting plantain and yarrow saline rinse that came of it worked famously. A simple tea of ginger, cayenne, lemon juice, and honey, also assisted this true healing process in a great way. (4)

The previous solution offered to my husband by modern medicine isn’t even what I would call a solution. A yearly cycle of wrecking absolute havoc on his gut flora, only to do so again a short while later, does not seem to me a path of true healing and vitality. I am grateful that we had access to the antibiotics for stopping the issue before we had knowledge to address it otherwise, but it was a bandage over a broken bone. Not only a bandage, but it left no opportunity for his body to heal itself. There’s a potential too, for a very lengthy discussion on the long term effects of too many antibiotics. It’s been four springs since he had to take them.

My goal here is not to say that modern medicine is inherently useless, or evil, or that we should just be rid of it. My point is that herbalism fills the undeniable gaps that heroic medicine leaves, and then some, because it has to power to truly support us through of various life phases and transitions.

The really great thing about it is that often no harm is done by trying to cure your ailments with plants. If your energy is low, the worse thing that will happen by adding herbal infusions to your life is that they won’t work. If you are prone to panic attacks, the worse thing that will happen by keeping skullcap tincture handy, is you will have the panic attack anyway. And in both cases, a complete lack of result is fairly unlikely. When a lack of result does happen, you've effectively ruled out a few of things that your ailment is not, and are closer to narrowing down what could help you.

The thing about modern medicine is often times it comes with consequences. Ugly side effects and sometimes (often?) irreversible damage. Side effects that pretty soon have you taking a whole cascade of medicines. Under the right circumstances, and with a few precautions (5) we can attempt to address many of today's aliments and life transitions with plants.      

The way that a pregnant or birthing woman is treated in the conventional birthing realm, and the less than conventional birthing realm is one of the biggest examples of the nourishment and healing that is offered through a more holistic or herbal approach. Nothing I’ve experienced cures the bone deep weariness of anemia like nettle infusion. Calendula soothes growing, tired skin. Ginger offers nausea relief, and hawthorn eases the ache of loss, when it happens, because it happens. How common is it for a bereaved mother to received genuine comfort, or tools for seeking comfort from a doctor? They’ll stitch you up, but steady vitals are not equal to heath and vitality.

Aileen Peterson of Lady Moon: Bodywork & Birthwork, offers enlightening information regarding the topic of modern pregnancy and the roll herbs play.

“I believe that traditional herbalism most definitely has its place in the modern birth world. Because, though we are ‘modern’ humans, we are also very ancient creatures, who have had a relationship with plants and the plant kingdom since the beginning of our time on this planet. Plants have provided us with shelter, clothing, food, and medicine (and yes, even poison) for time immemorial. I believe that plants and specifically medicinal herbs hold a key position in our repertoire of providing nourishment, preventative care, and treatment for menstrual health, fertility management (both contraception and conception), pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum. I believe that herbs in many cases can and should be utilized in some way by all childbearing persons and the birthworkers who serve them, whether they are on a more ‘conventional’ or ‘non-conventional’ birth journey. Though specific herbs can be utilized for treating acute or chronic conditions associated with menstruation, infertility, pregnancy, and birth, I believe that they can best be utilized by all peoples for their nutritive properties— which is the ultimate preventative medicine for pregnancy and birth-related complications.

The birthkeepers and midwives of old were knowledgeable in many things, and in all things related to womb health and childbearing. They were gone to for simple herbal remedies for colic and coughs, they were gone to when a woman wanted to get pregnant, or who did not want to be pregnant, they were gone to when a woman was with child and cared for her through the birth and beyond. And her most valuable tool, I believe, was her knowledge of and partnership with the plant medicines, both spiritual and mundane. This is true and can be said for wise women and midwives the world-over, from the First Nations of the Americas to Europe and Africa. Different herbs were sought for their different properties—such as nutritive, uterine tonic, abortifacient, to stop a miscarriage or early labor, to bring on labor, to relieve or treat different complaints such as nausea, to bring out a retained placenta, to prevent or treat a postpartum hemorrhage, etc. –  and depending on the area where they could be found growing. Some herbs commonly used in North America for womb care and birth were Queen Anne’s Lace, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, and Nettle. A few examples of herbs commonly turned to in Old Europe were Pennyroyal, Rue, Nettle, Oatstraw, Mugwort, and Raspberry Leaf. [Note: I have included some infamous “abortifacient” herbs in these short lists because the releasing of unwanted pregnancies has always been an area of expertise belonging to the midwife, from thousands of years ago all the way through the 19th century when the war on midwives began in earnest in North America. I believe it is very important to acknowledge this and to not hide away this part of our history as birthworkers and as women, nor to ignore this knowledge which is still applicable today]. All of these herbs and more are still in use today. My personal favorite herbs for pregnancy and preparing for birth are nettle, red raspberry leaf, oatstraw, and alfalfa, which are nutritive, good for the womb and the nervous system, help build the blood, and are generally considered safe for most people to consume regularly [Note: alfalfa should only be used in medicinal quantities in the last trimester]."

All this to say, in a round about way, is that herbalism supports us and walks along side us through many twists and transitions, and has done so for a long time. This is not to say that all of ancient herbal knowings can be classified as applicable wisdom. Some texts of old contain information that is simply inaccurate, but there’s a lot that is accurate, and it has combined and meshed with what we have learned and discovered in recent years. Herbs can and will support us through our various transitions in life; Baby to child, child to maiden, maiden to mother, mother to crone, an on. (Insert whichever titles and transitory process that suits you. I simply have chosen the one that applies to me.)

If you walked into a doctors office and asked the doctor to give you something to help with your broken heart (a very legitimate ailment) you’d likely be laughed out and add a healthy dose of embarrassment to your plateful of pain. Ask and herbalist and they will lovingly supply you with their condolences and perhaps an extract of hawthorn, and perhaps go so far as to recommend you wear the berries on your person. (6)

Herbalism matters because despite growing and waning trends throughout the centuries, we have, undoubtedly through guidance of the plants, have found our way back to them, and have come at a new influx of energy in the ever growing movement of modern herbalism. It’s a continuation of ancient wisdom that is still more than applicable today, and we herbalists may not be able to replace a hip with the beloved botanicals we work alongside, but again, steady vitals isn’t the end of the story.

"Herbal medicine is the people’s medicine" - Susun S Weed. The people’s, all of them. Plantain won't turn you away because you can’t pay, or because of a culture influenced by "isims,” and I doubt it will ever be successfully regulated.

Down to the DNA in our bones, the same plants that were part of our ancestors, are part of us. They've been supporting, healing, and killing us for generations. Perhaps a balance between the world we created, and the world of old can be achieved in part, or perhaps in whole, through the guidance of our plant allies.

Herbalism matters a very great deal.

Gabby Allen is a student herbalist, writer, artist, and work-at-home mother currently residing in Roseburg, Oregon. She has spent the last four or so years on mostly self-study, and aspires towards higher education, and a career focused on holistic support of women's health. As a mother of two adventurous boys, she frequently finds uses for the plethora of medicine and nourishment around her, and continually seeks out methods and wisdom she may apply to her family's wellness, as well as ways to aid in the support of plant allies. She attempts steps everyday towards balance and integration between and among her passions. Gabby is also completely enamored with fermentation, is an organic gardening enthusiast, and budding seeker of wild foods. For more from Gabby you can visit her at  GabbyLynnAllen.com .

Gabby Allen is a student herbalist, writer, artist, and work-at-home mother currently residing in Roseburg, Oregon. She has spent the last four or so years on mostly self-study, and aspires towards higher education, and a career focused on holistic support of women's health. As a mother of two adventurous boys, she frequently finds uses for the plethora of medicine and nourishment around her, and continually seeks out methods and wisdom she may apply to her family's wellness, as well as ways to aid in the support of plant allies. She attempts steps everyday towards balance and integration between and among her passions. Gabby is also completely enamored with fermentation, is an organic gardening enthusiast, and budding seeker of wild foods. For more from Gabby you can visit her at GabbyLynnAllen.com.


1) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari- Part Two The Agricultural Revolution *final

2) http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/June07/healingwise.htm  

3)  www.herbcraft.org/sinusitis.html

4) https://learningherbs.com/herbs-made-simple/ginger-lemon-honey-tea

5) http://www.susunweed.com/Article_Simple_Safe_Herbal_Medicine.htm

6) https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/energetics-of-aphrodisiacs-pt-2/id976377038?i=1000379615116&mt=2-Questions portion

Saving the Lobelia plant: When wildcrafting’s joy becomes too much

by Sharon McCamy

Last year, outside my small greenhouse, I was gifted with a beautiful Lobelia plant. It emerged ten feet away, where I had let the meadow grow—a mixture of naturalized clovers and, delightfully, Bluestem native grasses.  Its brilliant red showed through the waving grasses; I was astonished to see Lobelia so far away from the pond where it more frequently, though still rarely, appears.

I have a small herbal tea business and for it both cultivate and wildcraft herbs on my farm in Virginia. 

Did I harvest the Lobelia? No.  There was only one plant.  To have taken the one would have been wrong.  To see its joyous red while I worked in the greenhouse was gift enough.

Later, one of my regulars at the farmer’s market asked if I had Lobelia.  I said yes, but then explained that Lobelia was being overharvested in the wild and that I didn’t take plants when there weren’t very many.  She understood. 

As a landowner, I make these choices on my own land, and am fortunate enough to have enough space kept clean that I don’t have to go elsewhere to wildcraft.  But I understand very well the herbalist tradition of wildcraft.  The path into nature, the exploration, the joy in finding plant treasures are time honored, revered processes in the herbalist’s journey.

But, as occurs too frequently in human interaction with nature, herbalism’s new popularity means too many who may not fully understand a plant’s rarity take too much, compounding the problems of habitat loss through development and industrial farming.

Ginseng is the poster child for endangerment from overharvesting. With roots selling around $500 a pound, its monetary appeal is clear.  Yet Ginseng takes 8 years to grow to reproductive maturity.   There are many other endangered plants:  Goldenseal, Black Cohosh, and Slippery Elm are just three.  With Slippery Elm, the bark is harvested--how many herbalists know how much bark is too much? How many fully understand the reproductive cycle of Goldenseal or Black Cohosh?

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has a listing of 945 endangered plants (EOCS) but this doesn’t capture all plants in danger nor does it forecast what next species will become popular and overharvested.

Most herbalist schools provide strong ethical guidelines to herbalists for wildcrafting, but as herbs grow in popularity, wildcrafting for resale is increasing and guidelines can get ignored.  Like my customer at the market who asked about the Lobelia, consumers need to be educated.  Maybe it’s time for adoption of a sustainable wildcraft certification on a national scale. Just as with organic food, consumers could buy wildcrafted herbs that are certified sustainably wildcrafted.   

Organizations like United Plant Savers are working diligently to educate regarding the dangers to medicinal plants, but they and others are working against a tide. Much more focus on this problem is needed or many valuable plants will be lost to their own popularity.

Domestically producing medicinal herbs such as ginseng through sustainable management is another option to protect the wild plants that give us so much joy and health benefit.  Cultivation of these plants is often challenging—but the potential for saving a species of a valuable medicinal plant makes this a worthy goal for those who tend the land.

For my part, I’ve ordered some Lobelia seeds.  If a bed of Lobelia is successfully established, permission will be asked for harvest of just enough.  Until that happens, these beauties will be left alone. 

Sharon McCamy writes, teaches and farms in Virginia.  Her farm,  Terembry , is a Certified Naturally Grown farm. where she produces cultivated and wildcrafted herbs and manages a small free-range, non-GMO poultry flock.

Sharon McCamy writes, teaches and farms in Virginia.  Her farm, Terembry, is a Certified Naturally Grown farm. where she produces cultivated and wildcrafted herbs and manages a small free-range, non-GMO poultry flock.


by Rosalee de la Forêt

Chocolate lovers can celebrate this exceptionally dark chocolate mousse cake. Each bite slowly melts in your mouth while the cardamom spice enlivens the senses. This is my family’s go-to dessert recipe for potlucks, and we’ve been asked for the recipe countless times. If you don’t have a double boiler, fill a pot with 1 to 2 inches of water and place a tight-fitting bowl over the top.

Yield: 1 9-inch cake, approximately 16 small servings (or 8 large servings)

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup cocoa powder (plus extra, for garnish)
1 (13.5-oz.) can coconut milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cardamom powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
sliced almonds, for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

2. Put 1 to 2 inches of water in the bottom pan of a double boiler. Melt the bittersweet chocolate and coconut oil in the top.

3. When they are melted, remove from the heat. Add the honey and cocoa powder and mix well.

4. Add the coconut milk and mix well.

5. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Add the whisked eggs, cardamom, and vanilla extract to the chocolate mixture and combine well.

6. Pour the mixture into a slightly oiled 9-inch pie pan.

7. Bake in oven for 30 minutes.

8. When the cake is done, the top should be cracked but the middle should still be soft and wiggly.

9. Cool overnight to allow it to set. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired.

10. Sprinkle some cocoa powder on top before serving.

Recipe from Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal by Rosalee de la Forêt (Hay House, 2017)

Rosalee de la Forêt, RH, is passionate about helping people discover the world of herbalism and natural health. She is a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and the Education Director at LearningHerbs. She is also the author of the online courses, The Taste of Herbs and Herbal Cold Care. When she is not immersed in herbs, you can find her taking photos of nature, kayaking with her husband, or curled up in a hammock with a good book.

The Heart of the Matter: Cardio Tonic Herbs

By Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), Registered Clinical Herbalist

Think of the cardiovascular system as the highways and byways in the road map of our body. Nutrients, hormones, oxygen, immune cells, and other important compounds speed their way through your body through this intricate system of vessels. These vessels need to be smooth, flexible, and resilient to handle the day-to-day stress of traffic flow. At the center of this universe lies your heart, a literal symbol of vitality and life for your entire body, pumping blood to the rest of your body. The heart also plays a psycho-spiritual role; almost every culture sees it as the seat of emotions. Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States, and it can be difficult to catch in the early stages.

Risk factors for heart disease and cardio-related death include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and insulin resistance, smoking, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, inflammation, oxidation, stress, obesity, and family history. But keying in on just one of these risk factors can give us a false sense of security. For example, approximately half of first-time heart attack patients have normal cholesterol levels, and the jury is still out on whether artificially lowering high cholesterol with statins actually reduces your overall morbidity and mortality risk. While nothing is a guarantee, keeping a wide range of our risk factors at bay certainly improves our odds, as do a slew of wonderful herbs and delicious foods.

Hawthorn Berries, Leaves & Flowers (Crataegus spp), the research amazes me. How can one herb – growing happily at the forest’s edge – have such affinity for the human heart? The berries, leaves, and flowers of this thorny tree strengthen the pumping ability of the heart muscle, enhance blood flow and supply to the heart, dilate and relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and protect the cardiovascular system from oxidative stress. Antioxidant pigments called procyanidins in hawthorn also appear to inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme, an enzyme that catalyzes blood vessel constriction and the target of ACE-inhibitor hypertension drugs. Over time, hawthorn improves oxygen supply to the heart and strengthens the muscles of the cardiovascular system. The red rosehip-like berry tastes good, is rich in antioxidants, and has traditionally been used. Modern phytopharmacology focuses on the leaves and flowers, and many herbalists combine all three parts into their preparations. I’m particularly fond of the solid extract, but homemade teas and tinctures – while less concentrated – still offer benefits. Hawthorn is a gentle, slow-acting tonic, so it may take a couple months of steady use to notice the effects. Blood pressure numbers may only improve a bit, but overall benefit throughout the cardiovascular system is impressive. Hawthorn shows promise for mild, chronic congestive heart failure, cardiac insufficiency, post-heart attack care, an aging heart, arrhythmia, angina, cardiomyopathy, and overall heart health. It’s very safe with few side effects or contraindications. However, hawthorn has a potentially dangerous synergistic effect when combined with digitalis/ digoxin and blood pressure meds. Practitioners in Europe purposely combine hawthorn with digoxin to lessen the drug dose and side effects while maintaining efficacy, but this requires the skill of a trained practitioner.  If you take blood pressure medication, work with your doctor to determine whether or not your medication doses should be reduced.

Hibiscus Flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), are two tasty red teas that have been making headlines for their cardiovascular benefits. Popular in Central America, hibiscus offers similar plant chemicals and antioxidants as berries: blue-red pigments called anthocyanins, citric acid, malic acid, polyphenols, bioflavonoids, and as small amount of vitamin C. The plain, strong tea tastes like unsweetened cranberry juice. A handful of recent preliminary studies have found that drinking just a few cups of hibiscus tea lowers hypertension. In one study, four weeks of hibiscus outperformed the blood pressure drug lisinopril while also lowering sodium (but not potassium) levels and inhibiting ACE. Hibiscus also appears to have a positive effect on cholesterol and triglycerides and may have protective effects for the capillaries, blood sugar/diabetes, insulin resistance, and the liver. South Africans sip on rooibos, an antioxidant-rich fermented caffeine-free tea that tastes like a mild black tea with fruity, plum-y undertones. Preliminary research shows that rooibos protects the liver and reduces cholesterol and blood pressure. In one study, participants who drank six cups of rooibos tea daily for six weeks (as opposed to just water), increased blood levels of polyphenols and nutrients, decreased cholesterol oxidants, increased function of the body’s natural antioxidant systems, decreased LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and increased HDL cholesterol. Another study found that it reduced hypertension and inhibited ACE. Even though the research on both plants is still preliminary, they have such a high degree of safety, they’re worth adding to your daily routine.

Pomegranate frequently makes headlines for its antioxidant and health-promoting properties. Research suggests the puckery, sweet seeds reduce atherosclerosis, enhance nitric oxide, improve endothelial function, reverse plaque buildup, and reduce heart disease risk. Pomegranates are in season sporadically throughout the winter months but are available year-round as juice. Look for products made with 100 percent pomegranate. Drink it straight and add it to seltzer water, smoothies, salad dressings, and sauces.

Berries pack a healthy punch in a tasty, little package. In a Finnish study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating about five ounces daily of mixed berries reduced blood pressure and increased good cholesterol. Cranberries and cherries also appear to reduce bad cholesterol, total cholesterol, and blood pressure while enhancing endothelial health. Dark purple grapes contain antioxidant resveratrol, noted for cardioprotective actions including the ability to tighten and tone the vascular lining. Though it’s most famous in the form of red wine, drinking 100 percent dark purple grape juice offers similar benefits. Check out the juice section as well as frozen concentrates. Aim for at least a 1/2 cup of berries fresh, frozen, pureed, juiced daily.

Linden Leaves and Flowers (Tilia spp) are abuzz with bees when in bloom. The ornamental trees, also called lime (no relation to citrus) and basswood, line the streets in cities throughout Europe and America. The leaves are shaped like hearts and are almost always enjoyed as a pleasant tasting, honey scented tea. Europeans enjoy the calming, flavonoid-rich tea after dinner. Although research is slim, European herbalists have long relied on linden to calm and strengthen the heart, reduce blood pressure, decrease inflammation, relax spasms, and soothe the nerves. It’s specific for stress that manifests in the heart and heart issues aggravated by stress, as is the less pleasant tasting motherwort (Leonorus cardiaca).

Cocoa & Dark Chocolate (Theobroma cacao) may be our most delicious heart tonics. Native people who consume cocoa beverages have reduced hypertension, and researchers back that up with clinical studies on more than 66,000 people showing that cocoa consumption reduces the risk of death due to heart disease. Chocolate is made from cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, and often milk. Beneficial compounds including antioxidant flavanols and magnesium seem to work together to have broad-reaching benefits on the cardiovascular system. Preliminary studies show that chocolate reduces the oxidative stress that aggravates atherosclerosis and plaque formation, decreases the inflammation known to aggravate cardiovascular disease, increases circulation, decreases blood pressure, improves the integrity of the walls of our blood vessels, and may also improve cholesterol and glucose levels. The higher the cocoa content, the better the effects. Dark chocolate has 120 to 150 mg of beneficial polyphenols while pure cocoa has almost five times that amount and milk chocolate has almost none. And, it boosts your mood! Enjoy a few squares of dark chocolate and incorporate cocoa nibs and cocoa powder into smoothies, hot beverages, and recipes.

Heart-Healthy Diet & Lifestyle

Dean Ornish proved that we can slow, stop, and even reverse heart disease with diet and lifestyle, and these tactics remain our most heavy-hitting heart remedies. Here are the basics:

Eat Well: Opt for low-glycemic, high-fiber whole foods (whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds), foods rich in omega 3s (fatty fish, flax oil, chia, hemp, walnuts, purslane), olive oil, ideally nine servings of vegetables and fruit daily in a rainbow of colors, garlic, onions, plenty of antioxidant and inflammatory herbs and spices, green tea, and red wine and dark chocolate in moderation. Vegetarian and vegan diets are most promising; if you opt to eat meat, choose grass-fed or wild sources (which will provide some heart-healthy omega 3s), and keep them in moderation.

About those spices… a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers gave study participants highly spiced meals (about a half ounce of high-antioxidant spices added) or the same meal without spices. The spices meals demonstrated 20 to 30 percent less of an insulin and triglyceride response as well as 13 percent higher ORAC (antioxidant) levels. The spice blend included rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, garlic powder, cloves, and paprika. The researchers estimated that the spices provided similar antioxidant levels as a glass of wine or one and a half ounces of dark chocolate. Take a cue from some of the heart-healthiest, most heavily seasoned, plant-based diets in the world: Mediterranean, Indian, and Asian.

Exercise: We call it “cardio” for a reason! All forms of exercise have merit, but mild to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercises like walking, dancing, and biking strengthen the heart and lung muscles, improve circulation, and decrease blood pressure. If you currently have heart disease or are completely sedentary, work with a trainer or qualified expert to slowly work your way into a regimen.

Calm Mind: Stress has an incredible effect on heart disease and is actually a better predictor for heart disease than cholesterol, cigarette smoking, or obesity! Work-related stress doubles your risk of dying from heart disease. On the flip side, regular meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and other forms of stress management and mind-body balance have a direct beneficial effect on the heart.

Safety Note

If you have heart disease or are currently taking medication, it is particularly important that you work with your doctor, naturopath, and/or herbalist before adding herbs to your regimen. Though herbs can have a profound benefit even in serious heart disease, they may not be sufficient to replace conventional care and may also interact with medications. Many cardiovascular medications pose serious herb/food-drug interaction risks, particularly blood-thinning medications.

The statements made on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, prescribe, recommend, or offer medical advice. Please see your health care practitioner for help regarding choices and to avoid herb-drug interactions.

Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), registered clinical herbalist, runs Wintergreen Botanicals, LLC, an herbal clinic and education center nestled in the pine forests of Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, NH. She is certified by Michael Moore’s Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, a registered professional herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild, and has also completed Rosemary Gladstar’s advanced training program and Lichenwood Herbals’ flower essence practitioner training. Her business is devoted to education and empowerment via classes, health consultations, and writing with the foundational belief that good health grows in nature. She is the author of Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self Care. Learn more about Maria and herbs at www.WintergreenBotanicals.com

Flower Essences for Empathic Souls

by Sara Seitzman of Finding Quintessence and Batiah Botanicals

I first started my friendship with flower essences when working at a metaphysical bookstore in Portland. At the time I was just discovering what being a highly sensitive person truly meant, and that unlike what society leads you to believe, being sensitive is a gift. Ever since I can remember, I have been a sensitive person. I could feel when someone was upset, hurt, embarrassed, angry, left out or nervous. I could feel their emotions as if they were my own and would obsess over it until it went away. As a child, I had developed creative ways to sort of “tune out” when emotions were too hard or confusing to digest.  As I grew older I wasn’t able to tune it out as much and as a result, anxiety and worry became a very normal part of my life.

When you’re an empath and you’re absorbing a lot of emotion from those around you, it can become confusing, overwhelming and exhausting. It’s hard to differentiate your own emotions from the ones you’re picking up on. After much research, trial and error, I have found that flower essences can be very helpful for empathic souls. Red Chestnut, White Chestnut and Pink Yarrow are my go to essences whenever things get a little too overwhelming.

Red Chestnut

Red Chestnut is wonderful for those who feel fear or worry for the well-being of others, especially those you love. When I am around loved ones who are struggling with chronic pain or depression, my heart feels heavy and I worry constantly about their well-being. It often zaps my energy and makes it hard to get through the day.

White Chestnut

White Chestnut works for repetitive thoughts or mental arguments that distract us from concentrating on the present moment. It’s great for people who worry often and feel that their thoughts circle round and round in their head. Chronic worry is exhausting and can make you feel a bit crazy too. I find this happens with empaths when they are trying to digest a lot or their boundaries are weak.

Pink Yarrow

Pink Yarrow is perfect for empaths because it helps to support appropriate emotional boundaries. Empaths who are struggling with establishing boundaries or find themselves too involved in someone else’s energy field, will find Pink Yarrow to be a beautiful ally. It creates a loving awareness of others within a field of self-contained consciousness.  This allows the empath to still give their love and support without sacrificing their energetic boundaries.

What I love about flower essences is that they work solely on an emotional level. If a flower essence is not right for you in that moment, it may not have an effect. If it is right for you the results may be sudden and obvious, or they may occur subtly over a period of a few weeks. 

Sometimes a flower essence will bring light to things that you didn’t notice before, or create life experiences to help you process your emotions deeper. They teach us to be self aware and to truly listen to what our emotions are telling us. Flower essences allow us to invite plant spirits into our everyday lives and truly connect with them on an energetic level.  I feel plant and nature spirits can offer so much support and guidance to us as human beings.

For more information about Flower Essence Therapy, I recommend checking out www.fesflowers.com or check out the Flower Essence Repertory book which is a great comprehensive guide to flower essences. 

Sara is an aspiring healer, with a deep interest in holistic therapy and plant medicine. She is the creator of Finding Quintessence, a blog dedicated to offering insight and resources to those who are interested in bringing balance to their mind, body and soul. She is currently studying clinical aromatherapy and enjoys creating natural body care products for her etsy shop Batiah Botanicals. In her free time she loves live music, road trips and movie nights.

Favorite Herbalism Books for Beginners

by Missy Rohs of the Arctos School of Herbal and Botanical Studies

I’m an herbalist, mushroom lover, gardener, and wildcrafter, and my shelves are piled with books about plants and the outdoors.  I run an herbalism school in Portland, Oregon – the Arctos School of Herbal and Botanical Studies (http://arctosschool.org).  As you may imagine, I’ve fielded the question “What’s your favorite herbal for someone who’s just learning?” more than once.  There’s no one answer to that question that is right for everyone, but plant medicine enthusiasts are lucky these days to have a bevy of books to choose from.

My favorite herbalism books are engaging, practical, and never lose their pertinence to my practice.  While the books below are useful to beginners, they stand the test of time.  I often pick them up off my shelf to find information and inspiration.

Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health

Rosemary Gladstar

This book is amazing.  Gladstar writes about herbs accessibly, but without oversimplifying, making this a perfect go-to book for the beginning and intermediate herbalist.  She relies primarily on easily-grown or easy-to-find classics of Western herbalism:  Calendula, yarrow, lemon balm, and peppermint all get their day in the sun.  Not a purist, Gladstar also includes some not-to-be-missed herbs from afar, like damiana and ginseng.

But the genius of Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health hides right under your nose:  It’s the recipes!  Recipes for radiant beauty, like Queen of Hungary’s water or Make-it-Yourself Herbal Shampoo; recipes for kids, like Bottoms-Up Salve or Ear Infection Tincture; recipes for sensuality, like Good-Life Wine or Energy Balls; recipes, recipes, recipes!  Even the most experienced herbalist can find inspiration in her simple and fun style.  If you want to get your hands dirty in the kitchen, start here!  You’ll find that you can concoct remedies for menstrual cramps, cold sores, and headaches right in your own kitchen.

A note to the savvy:  This book was formerly published as Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal, and the contents are the same.  If you find it used, snag it!

The Herbal Home Remedy Book

Joyce Wardell

I never knew how much I loved this understated book until I lived without it for a few years.  I re-discovered it recently and brought home a used copy.  Perusing it after our time apart, I was struck by Wardell’s desire to empower people to care for their own health.  Equally important is her respect for plants and “start with what you know” approach.  On top of that, the book is sprinkled with entertaining and educational medicine stories influenced by her Native American background.  The combination is enjoyable and magical.

Wardell covers the basics of herbal preparations: teas, tinctures, salves, and more.  But her d.i.y. ethic shows through when she includes a chapter on how to brew your own herbal wines and vinegars.  That’s right, I said brew, not infuse.  If you want to show your kombucha-brewing neighbor how much more self-sufficient you are, pick this book up and get started.  Wardell covers twenty-five herbs that you should know, most of which are probably growing on your block.

Backyard Medicine

Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal

The astute reader will start to notice that there’s a theme here, and it belies my motivation as an herbalist:  Call it self-care, personal empowerment, sustainability, using what grows near you, d.i.y.... all of those are right on.  (Well, I prefer “do-it-ourselves” over “do-it-yourself” as an ethic, but that’s as slightly different topic.)  Anyway, whatever words you want to put to it, Backyard Medicine is a great example of it.  Bruton-Seal, with the help of her writer husband, makes a compelling case for using weeds and other abundant plants as medicine.  Even though the authors are British, an astounding number of weedy friends grow on both sides of the Atlantic, and in Oregon, I find that most of the plants covered are familiar.  Mallow?  We got it.  Chickweed?  Check.  Nettles?  You betcha.  Dandelion?  Oh, boy.

Backyard Medicine covers medicinal uses for each of the covered plants, notes when and what you should harvest, and gives many intriguing recipes for you to play with.  Three ways to use horse chestnut for varicose veins!  Delicious preparations for heart-healthy hawthorn!  Make your own oak twig toothbrush!  You get the idea.  It’s rad.

In, I assume, an effort to keep the book affordable, the typeface of Backyard Medicine is minute at best.  If you’re in denial about the fact that you need reading glasses, you may want to avoid this book.  But, then again, you may just want to get those glasses, since you’re clearly avoiding romantically-lit restaurants and any dictionary that’s worth a damn, too.

Healing Wise

Susun Weed

This book never gets old.  Weed gives a useful introduction to the nourishing, female-centered herbalism that she has dubbed the Wise Woman tradition.  The practice is centered on healing with nourishing, mineral-rich herbs and working with those plants as allies.  When she has laid the groundwork for her approach, Weed dives into seven – yes, only seven – weedy and wonderful plants that heal.

Each chapter is a treasure trove of information.  Starting with the plant “speaking” for itself – which may grate on some, may entertain others – Weed covers medicinal uses of various plant parts as well as nutritional content, harvesting tips, and ample recipes for soups, stir-frys, lotions, compost teas, and homebrews.  While the content of the book is useful, perhaps the best lesson to take from it is that each of us has so much that we can learn about just one plant.  Does it blow your mind that she spends 34 pages on dandelion’s healing powers?

From Earth to Herbalist

Gregory Tilford

While I think that weeds and easily-cultivated plants should comprise the core of the beginning herbalist’s repertoire, I greatly appreciate the sense of place and the expanded materia medica that comes with gathering plants from the wild.  Wildcrafting, as this practice is called, involves not only careful attention to plant identification, but also familiarity with a plant’s ecosystem and rigorous ethical practices.  Tilford does an outstanding job of cuing the reader into some of the basics:  where a plant is found, when and how to ethically harvest it (with minimal impact on the health of the stand of plants, the other species that rely on that plant, and the ecosystem as a whole), and how to best process the herb for medicinal use.

The fantastic thing about this guide is that Tilford goes to great lengths to help the herbalist minimize her/his/their impact, with headings under each plant on how to “tread lightly,” from growing your own to substituting more readily-available herbs.  He discusses plant-animal interdependence, so you’ll take into account whether your plant is an attractor of pollinators or critical forage for wild mammals.  He’s also marked plants that are on the United Plant Savers’ watch list.  All in all, this is one of the best (published) how-to guides to wildcrafting that I’ve found.

Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West

Michael Moore

If only there were a book like this for every single bioregion on the planet!  I don’t really consider MPPW a beginner’s book per se, but it’s impossible to talk about herbalism – especially wildcrafting – in the West without including Michael Moore’s work.  His other well-known books – Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West and Medicinal Plants of the Desert West – are also exceptional, whether you live in the regions covered or not.  (Okay, I’ll expand that statement: Pretty much anything that Michael wrote on the topic of plant medicine is worthwhile, perhaps even genius.)

MPPW focuses on wild plants, both native and naturalized, with unusual attention to obscure medicinals and an in-depth discussion of harvesting and preparation.  Michael was one of my teachers, and he was a true pioneer of using local plants in a sustainable fashion.  His passion for the plants and his astute observations about humans come shining through in his vivid, chatty writing style.  What other herbal gives a loving description of “sleazy” fats and the people that crave them?  MPPW is a must-have for the bookshelf of every intermediate and advanced Pacific Northwest herbalist; beginning students or those in other bioregions may also fall in love with it, too.

Missy Rohs is a community herbalist and dandelion lover, a feminist and a rabble-rouser. Her practice and her teaching focus on sustainable herbal remedies: those that grow easily in populated habitats, and those that can be harvested in the wild with minimal impact. She loves to foster the connections between people and plants, people and their bodies, and people and each other. You can learn more about her at http://arctosschool.org.

Chaga-Spiced Nuts and Why We Should Talk About Mushrooms

By Krystal Thompson of Hotel Wilderness

Mushrooms are magic. And I am not talking the "I'm floating on a triple-rainbow made of stardust" kind of mushroom magic. I'm talking deep medicine, co-evolution, physiological alignment magic. Did you know that humans are more closely related to fungi than any other kingdom? Read that again. Once more, please. Now turn to the person next to you and let them know. Write it down to remind yourself to tell your partner when he or she gets home tonight, and tell your friends at the pub this weekend. There is a stigma that precedes most conversations about mushrooms because people immediately think of psychedelics- an idea that carries all kinds of cultural weight and biases. But the conversation about medicinal mushrooms needs to shift, because what is happening in the face of the unknown, of the unsure, of the "mysticism" that has understandably billowed around mushrooms, is that we are ignoring unprecedented medicine (and ecological solutions!) that is available in bounty all around us. This is not about the doors of perception; when we're talking about medicinal mushrooms we're talking about the path to cellular longevity. Real deep medicine, people. So today we're going to talk about Chaga. And then, obviously, in true Hotel Wilderness style- we're going to cook it and eat it.

Chaga is a birch-loving parasitic mushroom in the polypore family. In the wild it looks like a charcoal-burnt growth, but dries and powders into a beautiful cacao-colored dust.

+ Organs/systems: blood, liver, immune system
+ Nature: bitter, sweet
+ Medicinal uses and benefits: supports healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, supports regular metabolic function. Also provides significant amounts of antioxidants via melanin, which supports a healthy inflammatory response and boosts cellular regeneration. And finally, as if these aren't enough, the polysaccharides found in all medicinal mushrooms are potent immune system modulators. Research suggests that Chaga stimulates the immune response in both acute and long-term cases.
-notes from The Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell

It's important to note that mushrooms contain both water-soluble (beta-glucans) and alcohol-soluble (triterpenes) constituents. These together are the building blocks of mushrooms' powerhouse of benefits, which is why you'll often see mushrooms prepared in the "double extraction" method. This ensures that you're getting these constituents in their entirety via one preparation and final product. But for this recipe it made sense to only pursue the water-soluble beta-glucans. Any medicinal boost to a snack is a great boost to a snack. Let's make some Chaga roasted nuts!

4 cups raw (unsalted, unsweetened) mixed nuts
1/2 cup Chaga simple syrup (1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup organic cane sugar, 3 tablespoons Chaga mushroom powder- see directions below)
2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
1 Tablespoon each of Ginger and Cinnamon powders
1 teaspoon Clove powder
1 teaspoon sea salt (divided in half)

Our first step today is to make the Chaga simple syrup. Simple syrup is always 1 part sugar to 1 part water, so here we'll use 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup organic cane sugar. Bring the water to a simmer on the stovetop and add your 3 tablespoons of Chaga powder. Stir well and allow to infuse on low heat for about twenty minutes. Bring the heat back up just below simmering, add the sugar, and stir until it dissolves. While your syrup is infusing, melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a double boiler. Measure out two liquid tablespoons from this and set aside, and use the rest to coat the inside of a large crockpot. Pour the mixed nuts into the crockpot. In a small bowl combine coconut oil, Chaga simple syrup, Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. You should get some beautiful marbling here from the dark chaga syrup, bright spices, and silky coconut oil.

Pour the mixture over nuts, and stir well until everything is coated. This next step was a first for me and it feels weird, I know, but trust me. Cook the nut mixture uncovered on high for two hours, stirring about every fifteen minutes. Leaving the lid off like this allows the sugar and spices to crystallize while keeping the moisture controlled so that your nuts still turn out crisp. Bonus: it will also make your kitchen (or entire tiny house, in my case) smell fantastic. After two hours, turn off the crockpot and transfer your new glistening snacks to a large bowl. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the nuts, and enjoy!

These can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge or at room temperature (away from heat and sunlight) for 2-3 weeks.

If you're interested in learning more about medicinal mushrooms, I encourage you to check out Paul Stamets. He is the current leader of US-based growth, advocacy, and research on medicinal mushroom constituents and uses. Click here to watch an excellent TED talk that he gave in 2008. Christopher Hobbs is another great source for mycological information.

Krystal is the woman behind Hotel Wilderness, a food and project blog focused on bringing healing herbs into the nooks and crannies of our daily lives. She is a photographer with a deep-seated love for food and plant medicine, and can usually be found happily crafting between the three.