Sunday, November 22, 2020

Stock Up and Avoid Hoarding

   Since we've gone digital, we've been sending out a small EXTRA on the in-between months.  We never know what it's going to be.  For this EXTRA, we decided to ask around on social media, and try to come up with a list for grocery shopping, and also a list of herbs to have on hand.  Having what is needed takes one thing off the list of stressors.

    Although we've been getting groceries once a week or less, and being pretty strict about doing without if we don't have it, we were pretty pleased with some of the ideas that came in and realized there were things we hadn't considered that would make our lives easier.

   Because it seems like something that might help folks who aren't accustomed to not being able to stop at the store every day or so on the way home from work, we are sharing it here and on social media.   Here they are.  We hope you will find them helpful.

Contributors for the grocery list:  *Thanks to the following contributors: Gin Dugan, Tracy Aiello, Christine Tolf, Nana Frazier, Virginia Lee Adi, Samantha Cor-win, Jodi Reinhart, Heather Níc An Fhleisdeir, Camille Cook Lee, Frances Malone, Holly O'Brien, Angela Bowman, Gail Faith Edwards, Sylett Strickland, Iris P. Weaver, Sarah Preston, Susan Hess, Marci Tsohonis, Gale LaScala, Nanette Blank, Barbara Steele

Thanks all!

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

November December 2020 - The Essential Herbal Magazine

This is the third digital-only issue, and we've been very gratified to have so many of our readers stick with us and try to get accustomed to the new format.  Some of you have let us know that it is just fine.  Some like it better!  And of course, some of you would like us to get back to print.  That's unlikely, I'm afraid.  Instead, we'll just try to make it so good you don't notice :-) 
The "EXTRA" that we put out every other month has been very well received.  We know that there will be times when it is something small, like a puzzle or recipe/remedy, but for the time being we've got some great content to send along.



Cover, Kristine Brown

Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams

Spice & Herb Holiday Treats, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
     Is this the year to try interesting dishes without the pressure of large gatherings?

Herbal Foods for Gifts & Entertaining, Alicia Allen 
     Herbal delights for entertaining and gifting

Herbal Tools, Rebekah Bailey 
     There’s time to let Santa know about these favorites

FAQ @ the Herb Farm - Pt. 2, Kathy Musser 
     Kathy shares the answers to her most commonly asked questions.

What are Bitters & Recipe, Elise Stillwell
     Information and a great recipe to give making your own bitters a whirl 

Fighting the Winter Blues with Pine, Bri Martinez 
     Health benefits of pine

Cranberry Condiments, Marci Tsohonis 
     Cranberry perfection AND you’re going to need a steam canner.  I’ve got mine!

Moringa “The Miracle Tree,” Sandy Michelsen 
     The goods on Moringa

Holly, Herb of the Holidays, Tina Sams 
     Why do we bring holly inside over the holidays?

The Gift of Solomon’s Seal, Tina Sams 
     My new favorite herb (don’t tell holy basil or elderberry), there are a lot of reasons to grow SS

Holiday Crafting, Group Article 
     Several contributors share crafts

Lichgate - Through the Lens, Jennifer Sheffield 
     How the grounds of a secluded cottage harbor space to learn to live by the seasons

Meet Our Contributors

Scents of the Season - Frankincense & Myrrh, Tina Sams 
     Precious resins remembered at Christmas

Thursday, September 24, 2020

... and she had all these odd bottles and jars.

There's something I think about every autumn when there are piles of drying plants on most surfaces, jars of roots and seeds, and the dehydrator is running pretty regularly. I'll show you, but you have to pretend you don't see the dust. 

Many years ago my sister and I set out to begin our business, and a friend who had worked for a fairly well known TX potpourri maker agreed to teach us the basics of potpourri. 

Arriving at her home, talk turned to how she'd just moved in recently.  There were some rumors about the old woman who'd lived there before, and when they looked at the house there were odd bottles and jars full of roots and plants floating in liquid.  Plants hung from the rafters.  My sister and I were hanging on her words eager to hear more, but we found it way more interesting than our friend.  She dismissed the old woman as "a witch" and didn't want to talk of the rumors.

Now, I think I might be that old woman.  My house is like the inside of a 7 year old's pocket, except for the live frogs.  Beside me at this very moment is a small jar full of lavender buds from some of this year's crop and a Mason jar of mint tea. Also, the neighbor kids seem a little scared of me.

Beginning with this picture up near the ceiling - a foot long pine cone, a couple gourds, feathers and dried plants, and a twisted piece of vine.  But this is nothing.

Downstairs, many of the tinctures are lined up on this shelving that takes up one wall.

Out in the sun room off the kitchen, there are jars of seeds, dried lemons, dried berries, and random herb equipment.
jars of seeds
On the counter, a large, dried Solomon's seal root waits to find out where it will wind up.

solomons seal root
One of the cabinets holds the collection of old herb stuff (and other random or dear things).
antique herb packages and bottles
The table in the kitchen catches the bunches of herbs that come in to be dried.  Goldenrod, mint flower spikes, hyssop, jewelweed seeds, holy basil, and white sage dry perfectly on this surface as long as the piles are small.
kitchen table with dried herbs
The kitchen counter is never clear of stuff.  Medicine, experiments (that jar of candied kumquat rinds, for instance), and seasonings land here and stay way too long.
concoctions on kitchen counter
The dining room hutch catches slightly different items when she's lucky.  Usually the loose plant matter either stays in the kitchen or goes all the way down to the work room. So here are shells, stones, and pressed botanicals.
seashell, crystals oils and art
This is another shelving unit downstairs.  I need one more for the sake of organization.  Rows and rows of jars and bottles of all sizes from 3 oz to 1 gallon.
dried herbs in jars

This is only scratching the surface.  There isn't a drawer or shelf without some remnant of nature or some herbal project I'm working on.  A bottle cap holding a dozen beans, acorns, feathers, and rocks. a jar of fragrant salve - it all infuses my life.

Sometimes I wonder if someone was looking around my house without knowing me, what they'd think when they saw this wonderful cache of every herb, oil, or preparation I could ever want.  They'd probably be looking for my broom.

Friday, August 28, 2020

September - October 2020 Essential Herbal

 The latest issue went out on the 20th and here's an idea of what you'll find inside.  In the meantime, we're working away on the extra content for Sept 20th, and the deadline for November/December (TWENTY YEARS!!!) is Sept 1.  
This issue is so full - you'll love it!

OR Single Issue Only


Ana ‘Vee’ Valdez
   Stunning depiction of the harvest and preparation for winter in the world of the fae.
Field Notes from the Editor                                                                               
Herbal Sugars, Alicia Allen
  Tons of ideas for herbs to use AND recipes that incorporate the finished sugars. 

Last Year’s Herbs, Maryanne Schwartz
  There might be ways to utilize instead of tossing older herbs.                    
Herbal Energetics, Daniel Cashman
   How does taste affect the properties of herbs?     

Classic Rosehip Jam Recipe, Jessicka Nobesni
   Delicious, spicy, and wholesome jam 

White Horehound, Jackie Johnson
   Folklore, usefulness, remedies, and a recipe 

FAQ @ the Herb Farm, Kathy Musser
   What do you want to ask the herb farmer?  Maybe it’s already answered!           
Flu Fighter Tea, Kristine Brown
   From Kristine’s newest book, The Homesteader’s Guide to Growing Herbs  

Facebook Group Question
   What new herb did you grow or use this year?  Why?                                
Calendula officianalis, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
   All about Calendula, along with a recipe for cookies as well as salve instructions   

Foot Soaks, Rebekah Bailey
   Deep cleaning and healing soaks

It’s Bacopa, Bacopa Cabana, Tina Sams
   Bacopa appears to be a premier brain protecting herb!                               
A Talk with an Herbalist, Susan Hess
   Susan talks about the effects of moving a business a few hundred miles, and keeping up with the changes that accompanied the virus.     

More Last Year’s Herbs, Maryanne Schwartz
   … and then she thought of more!                                                                    
Gatherings, Tina Sams
   I can’t resist flowers and petals and bits of leaves or twigs.  
Meet Our Contributors
Who are these people?
Comforting Immunity Stew, Tina Sams 
   Warming, and delicious meal to welcome the cooler weather             

Get your copy today :-)

SUBSCRIBE! or Single Issue Only

Friday, August 21, 2020

We Are Now 100% Digital

 We sent out our second digital-only issue yesterday, and since I've gotten a few questions, I'm writing this and will send it out to subscribers.

In the Mar/Apr '20 issue, I wrote that I was hopeful that we would be able to finish the year out as a print magazine, but would be transitioning to digital from there.  I explained in (probably too much) detail the finances involved with print, and that other projects and work were subsidizing the magazine.  We'd lost a couple important advertisers, but we wanted to make it a full 20 years. 

In March, the virus hit and we knew it was not going to happen.  In the last 20 years, the magazine has weathered some severe conditions, and when the chips are down, people drop magazines and non-essential entertainment.  We do not have the financial resources to weather another period like that.  Right now, I'm looking at the mail situation, and considering that it was always expected that missing magazines would be replaced, shuddering at the thought of entire issues going missing.  They'd need to be reprinted and remailed First Class at my expense.  It would be a nightmare.

In the May/June issue Field Notes, I wrote:

"Well, I didn’t see this coming.  In the Mar/Apr issue I explained that we would try to print until next year, depending entirely on income, and clearly that is not going to happen.  I realize that there’s no way to do this without some of you who really love the print magazine feeling cheated, but this is beyond my control.  I’m fairly certain this is the last printed magazine.  Lots of you renewed directly to the pdf, and that was much appreciated.
As mentioned in the last issue, we will be coming up with content of different types to send out the in months that aren’t issue months.  I hope that will lessen the sting.  It was my intent to slowly, with clear information and options offered, shift over to pdf.  COVID-19 had other ideas.
PLEASE SEND US THE EMAIL THAT YOU’D LIKE US TO USE.  Send it to please.  If you receive our renewal reminder emails, we’ve got your email.
On the other hand, I feel very fortunate that we can continue to come into your homes and share together in spite of this pandemic.  We can help each other through this."

I hope this helps to clear up the confusion. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020


This soup never turned my head until our days at the Renn Faire.  90+ degrees in costume called for lunch that was not just "not hot," but COLD.  The soup and bread booth brought gazpacho one day, and that was it.  I was in love.

I'm seeing lots of people with an overflow of tomatoes and cucumbers, so here's a great idea to help use them up!  We're in the middle of a l-o-o-o-o-ong heat wave here, so this looks delicious.

From the Jul/Aug 2008 issue of The Essential Herbal

Louisiana Lagniappe
from Sarah Liberta


Spain’s famous salad-soup is a delicious go-to dish for hot summer days.  Made in the blender or food processor, it’s ready to chill in minutes.  Instead of the usual tomato juice base, I prefer using vegetable juice cocktail, which enhances the complex flavor blend of the fresh veggies and herbs.


2 large ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 green onions
1 small sweet onion
2 ribs celery
3 cloves garlic
6 cups vegetable juice cocktail (1 48-ounce can)
2 Tblsp wine vinegar
2 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil
Tabasco sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste


Cut vegetables into large chunks and add to blender or food processor with all other ingredients.  Blend or pulse a few seconds, leaving small bits of vegetable for texture.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Chill in the refrigerator several hours, allowing the flavors to marry.  Serve in chilled bowls, and garnish with thin cucumber slices or finely chopped fresh herbs.  If you prefer the texture of hand-cut vegetables, use 1/4-inch dice and skip the blending/processing.
Baton Rouge, LA

Saturday, July 25, 2020


From the Jul/Aug 2016 issue of The Essential Herbal
By Joe Smulevitz

One of the most popular medicinal plants in North America for stimulating the immune system is Echinacea.  Its history can be traced to 1753, when a Swedish botanist, Linnaeus gave the plant its scientific name Rudbeckia purpurea. The name Echinacea came from the German botanist, Conrad Moench in 1794.  He named the genus Echinacea, which is derived from the Greek word echinos (denoting sea urchin or hedgehog), referring to the plant’s sea urchin like cone-shaped seed head.

Echinacea is native to North America and is a genus of the aster family.  The plant grows in mid-western North America from southern Saskatchewan, westward to Texas, eastward to Georgia, northward to southern Canada and the areas in between.  Its most common name coneflower comes from the unique large cone shaped beam in the center portion of the flower head (the disk).  It is known by different names in various parts of the United States, including snakeroot, black Sampson, red sunflower and Indian head.  In North America there are nine species of the drought and frost tolerant perennial with stunning, daisy like flower heads.  The colors of the flower heads vary from deep purplish-pink to white.

Only three of the species have a history of use and clinical testing, including E. angustifolia, E. pallida and E. purpurea.  The species differ in appearance. The angustifolia is narrow-leaved with short ray petals that do not droop.  The pallida is taller and sturdier than angustifolia with pale purple flowers that droop and curve towards the stem.  Echinacea purpurea is the tallest.   The flower heads are large and colorful.  The flowers are rose to deep purple.  Purpurea’s lowermost leaves are coarsely toothed with irregular teeth, distinguishing this species form the other common Echinaceas. There are two species that are listed as federally endangered in the United States.  They include E. tennesseensis from Tennessee and E. laevigata from the Appalachians.  The other four species include E. paradoxa that is yellow-flowered, E.simulata similar to the pallida, E. sanguinea and E. atrorubens. 

Echinacea was traditionally used as a blood purifier for fever and skin conditions.  Since the 1990s, Echinacea has been one of the most popular herbal remedies, primarily used as a short-term stimulant for the immune system to help fight colds and flus.  The roots and aerial parts are used medicinally.  Echinacea preparations are useful for a wide variety of other conditions:  These include general infection, poorly healing wounds, urinary tract infections, enlarged lymph glands, sore throat, bites, stings, allergies, skin regeneration, psoriasis, and other inflammatory conditions.  Echinacea helps increase non-specific activity of the immune system, enabling immune cells to effectively attack viruses, bacteria, and abnormal cells as opposed to specific immunity such as antibiotics which are directly lethal to bacteria.

At the first sign of cold or flu, take Echinacea every 1 to 2 hours. The acute dose consists of 10 to 20 drops of Echinacea as a tincture, or 3 to 4 capsules every 2 hours, or 1-2 tablets every couple of hours.  Slowly reduce dosage frequency as symptoms subside, lowering to 3 times per day after condition has cleared.  It has been my personal experience that maximum stimulation occurs with frequent initial doses, when I feel a cold or flu coming on.  For prevention purposes, take 3 times daily for one or two weeks, than stop for a rest.  In cases of chronic immune imbalances take up to 3 or 4 times daily one week on and one week off.  Use for longer than 10 consecutive days is not recommended even though some herbalists suggest using Echinacea on an ongoing basis.  German researches have found that activation of phagocytosis (a process in which phagocytes destroy circulating bacteria, viruses or foreign bodies) lasts only 10 days and afterwards the immune system becomes accustomed to the dosage and no longer responds.

E. purpurea or/and angustifolia are the preferred species used medicinally.  There are many kinds of commercial products available such as: Liquid extract or tincture of the root, capsules from the dried, powdered root of the herb, teas from the leaves or flowers and preparations made from the fresh juice of E. purpurea aerial parts, the best studied Echinacea preparation.  This form of Echinacea is approved by the German Commission E, a group of experts that evaluates herbal medicines in Germany and serves as a guideline in Europe for regulation and supervision of herbal supplements.
Unfortunately, adulteration in the Echinacea trade has existed since 1909.  The roots of Parthenium integrifolium has been used in some commercial products. Its root when cut and sifted looks like E. angustifolia root, but not E. purpurea. It is important to purchase products from reputable companies that identify or grow their own Echinacea, preferably “certified organically grown.”  Purchase preparations as fresh as possible since the roots lose their effectiveness once exposed to air, warmth or moisture for more than a few months.  Capsules in glass bottles last longer than if they are packed in plastic.  Liquid preparation or tinctures retain their potency the longest.  The alcohol in tinctures is irritating to some people but can be diluted by boiling.

Echinacea is a safe herbal medicine with no overdosed, contraindication, drug interactions of note, and few adverse effects having been reported.  This is in sharp contrast to over the counter medications. The only unfavorable reports with Echinacea have been skin rashes, unpleasant taste in the mouth, and rare cases of nausea and vomiting.  Echinacea should not be used by people who have tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, or autoimmune disorders (diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis), according to the Commission E.  The concern arises of the possibility of the antibodies formed by the immune system attacking the body’s own tissue.

Joe Smulevitz is a Chartered Herbalist, a Master Herbalist, and author of numerous health articles.  He can be reached at