Friday, July 12, 2024

The Savorys - Winter and Summer

 From the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of The Essential Herbal 
The following article was written in response to the IHA Herb of the Year® as we try to do each year.  For instance, we're aiming to include something about yarrow in each issue this year for the same reason.  We find that we learn so much about these herbs when we really look at them individually!
Right now, Herb Society of America is honoring Savory as their herb of the month, and so I pulled this article out to share!

Seasonal Savorys

Savory Saturea ssp.


There are two types of Savory, Winter (Satureia montana) and Summer (Satureja hortensis).   They are from the Lamiaceae, or Mint family.  Winter Savory is a semi-evergreen perennial and blooms in winter.  Summer Savory is an annual.  Although Winter Savory has a sharp flavor and Summer Savory is more sweet, they are used interchangeably as a seasoning. The name itself has come to mean a specific type of food, full of flavor and depth.  The piney and peppery Winter Savory is (in my mind) more responsible for that.  Folklore has it that Winter Savory decreases the sex drive, while Summer Savory enhances it, so you may want to keep that in mind while flavoring those side dishes. 



Savory is known as "the bean herb."  In fact the German word for the herb is Bohenkraut - which means bean herb and that might be due to its ability to help with bloating, and flatulence.  It can be made into a tea as well as used as a seasoning, and helps with colic, stomach upsets, diarrhea, and indigestion, and because it contains tannins as well as possessing antibiotic properties, it helps with sore throats.  It is also mildly expectorant.  It can help relieve abdominal cramping.


On the west coast, varieties of Savory (as well as several other herbs) may go by the nickname Yerba Buena.  Satureja douglasii and Satureja viminea are two of these that are made into teas and sipped as "the good herb."  However, depending on location, there are several mints and quite a few other plants that also go by that moniker.


It can be made into a mild salve to help with insect stings and rashes.  To do that, one would simply steep the Savory in a fat or oil, strain, and combine with enough beeswax to make it the proper feel.



Winter Savory was used in knot gardens during the Tudor era in England, and often beehives were located near them so that the honey would be flavored with the herb.


Both Winter and Summer Savory grow easily and quickly from seed.  They aren't fussy, but Summer Savory might grow so quickly that it falls over, so be sure to cut it often and use it! 

If you don't get around to using it right away, Savory dries beautifully.


Savory contains essential oil  Commercially it is used in soaps and toothpastes. As with all essential oils, this one will cause skin irritation if used without proper dilution.  It should not be taken internally.


All in all, not a bad little herb to have around.


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Sunday, July 07, 2024

book review: A Shamanic Herbal by Matthew Wood

 This is one of those very rare books that I savor like fine chocolate.  I don't want to read a lot at one sitting, because each herb (for instance) description or tale requires some introspection.  To read too quickly, I couldn't absorb it properly.  It deserves the time.

Physically, the book feels good.  Nice size (over 400 pages), easy to hold at 9" x 6" - and print that I can easily read.  The paper is non-glare, which I also appreciate.

Very often when people are attempting to convey experiences that are mystical or beyond the mundane, they employ a sort of language that I find ambiguous and confusing. Although that can be good in works of fiction, it is less than helpful when sharing information.

The GOOD news is that Matthew's voice is very clear, leaving out innuendo.  By speaking this way, he makes it easy to read about faeries, spirit, clairvoyance, and the like and takes the reader along willingly.  He talks it through and I find that to be unusual and wonderful.

The first half of the book describes the things that got his attention along the way and led to learning from so many teachers himself (not all human) to have a confidence and familiarity in that information.  I need to reread it to really get all of it - and I wanted to get this post up since the book is out!

The second half of the book is different kinds of medicine and the animals that help share their magic.  The animals are described in their realm and how they interact with us, each other, their enemies, surroundings, or qualities specific to them. These clarify their role in medicine.  Each animal has a number of herbs that relate to them, and we are allowed a peek into the way Matthew considers how to choose a plant for a situation.  

It's fascinating and the book is generous, opening doors for us to wander through.  Eye-opening.  If you want to learn what shamanism means and how it relates to herbalism, you will learn it here.

Stay tuned, subscribers!  I will get a chance to talk with the author about this book at the upcoming Black Walnut Botanical Conference, and I'll share it in the Sept/Oct issue, along with an excerpt from the book.  

But don't wait for me - get this book!

Matthew Wood has been a practicing herbalist for more than 40 years. An internationally known author and lecturer in the field, he holds a master of science degree in herbal medicine from the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine and is the author of several books, including The Earthwise Herbal and The Book of Herbal Wisdom. He runs an online school, the Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism, and lives in Spring Valley, Wisconsin.


A Shamanic Herbal: Plant Teachers and Animal Medicines by Matthew Wood

ISBN: 9798888500200, July 2024 Also available as an ebook 

Paperback: $29.99, 416 pages, 6 x 9. Imprint: Healing Arts Press

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Mimosa Season!

 The little mimosa grove in the lot next to the house is flowering.  I can stand on the deck and see exactly when it's time to go out and pluck the blossoms.  It's easy to see when storms knock down branches, so that I can get out there and peel the bark before it gets too dry.

A lush St John's Wort plant popped up in the middle of the grove!

Several years ago while writing one of my books, there were a lot of remedies using mimosa tincture, and several tea blends using mimosa.  It's one of my top 10 favorite herbs  I talked to a representative of a large herb house about carrying mimosa, but it didn't seem likely. That's when I asked my brother in law about putting in a grove.  I went around the property with some hot pink marking tape, and chose a dozen young trees.  He cleared the spot for them and put them in.  The following spring they took off and even gave me lots of flowers and bark.  At a certain point they'll get too big to ensure that I can manage the flowers and keep them from becoming seeds. I'll cut them down and let them start over. 

First little crop of this year.

 Mimosa is a very good friend of mine.

Latin Name: Albizia julibrissin
Nicknames: Tree of Happiness, silk tree, albizzia
Family: Leguminosae

Qualities: cooling, moistening
Therapeutic Actions:
Flowers: carminative, digestive, sedative and tonic, cheering and lightening.
Bark: anodyne, carminative, diuretic, grounding, sedative, stimulant, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary

The flowers are heady and their effect is a little spacey for me.  Perhaps because that's where I tend to "live" anyway?  The bark keeps me anchored while still helping to chase the blues away. 
Mimosa is good medicine for anxiety, depression, grief, sleep problems (insomnia), sore throat, blue or unstable moods, SAD, and nervous stomachs (flatulence).

This was probably one of the first batches of the flowers and bark together - for me.

One of my very favorite preparations is what I call the Holy Grail.  It is a blended tincture with half of a bark/flower tincture and half holy basil.  Both can be purchased separately.  The blend takes whatever I'm struggling to deal with and sets it off to the side.  Instead of my head being buried in a dark cloud, the cloud moves off and I can look at it objectively,
While picking flowers the other day, a branch broke off.  I immediately stripped the bark and added it to the basket.  The branch looks like a bone, and the bark is fresh and cooling with light sap.

without feeling it so intensely.  The holy basil helps, and supports my body as it deals with the stress of the situation. Many people include rose in a formula if dealing specifically with grief or heartbreak.

Mimosa bark can be chopped fine and included in tea blends.  It has a mild, pleasant taste that blends well with almost anything.  I use young bark that hasn't gotten a hard outer bark yet, so it's basically all inner bark.  The outer paper bark falls away.  This makes it more easily steeped along with more fragile herbs.

The bark was torn into thin strips while wet.  I later broke them into 2" pieces.

If you have this tree growing around you, I hope you get the opportunity to try some of the fresh flowers in tea, and experience the intoxicating fragrance.  If you find a fallen branch (or since everyone seems to consider them invasive, cut one) peel the bark.  Feel the silky, smooth, moist inner bark.  It will dry pretty quickly, and you can chop it into the size you'd like.  You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Essential Herbal July/Aug 2024

 This summer issue is a delight filled with all sorts of herbal wonders.  Take a break from the weather where you are and grab a copy!
Single Issue


Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
Discovering the absolute joy of perennials after decades of planting them.

About the Cover  - Where is this magical place?

Calendula, My Go-To Summer Flower, Marcy Lautanen Raleigh
Growing, harvesting, and enjoying calendula in skin soothers, food, and tea!

Surprising Summer Sides, Alicia Allen
Tired of the same-old, same-old at potlucks?  These will become classics.

10 Healing Weeds of Late Summer, Carly Wall
There is so much food and medicine around us.  Learning even a few can make a big difference.

3 Magic Moon Milk Recipes, Jessicka Nebesni
Delightful, creative, and healing beverages to enjoy.

A Year of Foraging - June, Rebekah Bailey
Becky continues to find interesting plants.  This project is fun for all of us!

Meet Milk Thistle, Kristine Brown RH(AHG)
All about this medicinal wonder.  Instructions for  harvesting, storing, and making extract included.

Adding Interest to the Garden with Perennials, Kathy Musser
A quartet of stunners you might want to try.

Word Search  - Summertime!

Crossword Puzzle  - Inside this Issue and Beyond!

Long Live the Tamal! Marci Tsohonis
I needed this article, having shied away from tamales all my life because I didn’t know how to eat them!  Now I even know how to make them.

Valerian, Jackie Johnson ND
Valerian came back to disturbed land and said, “HEY!  Notice me!”  Jackie does a deep dive to find out why, and shares her findings along with lore, and ways to include valerian in the apothecary.

Yarrow Tea, Jamie Jackson, excerpt from Healing Herbs,  byTina Sams

Meet Our Contributors

Puzzle Solutions


Saturday, June 08, 2024

Extra! May/June 2024

 Our little Extras became more than we expected.  Originally they were going to be a single recipe with a note, or perhaps a puzzle and a tea blend to try. Maybe a short video showing how to do something... It was never quite that simple though, Not a one was ever that small. 

 In this issue, we had a great discussion of what wild food and medicine plants are available right now, in Rebekah Bailey's ongoing series  "A Year in Foraging."
I wrote about how wet it's been here and how it has effected the garden. 
We included our favorite recipe and instructions for elderflower fritters.
AND we had a crossword puzzle and a word find puzzle.
Not a bad little tidbit.  

The Extras are only available to subscribers. 
We put the first 2 years together in (and we'll be needing to change this title) ALL THE EXTRAS,
and after the new year we'll be putting together another 2 years. 

  That's the only way you can read them if you aren't a subscriber. 

Subscribe today!

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Generational Herbal Education

People often ask how I got into herbs.  I often wonder how one could NOT be into herbs, to be honest.  I played under pine trees, using the dropped needles to stuff between the sticks that formed the walls of our forts.  We wandered the woods with our grandfather, where he found wild fruit and shared information about plants he knew.  We gardened, grew food and flowers, and my sister and I went through the succulent craze in the 1970s together.  Let's face it.  If you think about it, plants are in every aspect of life if we notice them. 
Fast forward to the early 1990s when we opened our herb shop at the renaissance festival. 

At the time, there were very few options for learning about herbs.  There weren't even many books, but like just about anyone who starts really diving into the many wonders of herbs, we picked up Rosemary Gladstar's books.  She taught us the basic how-tos of creating herbal products, and we loved jumping off from her recipes to produce wondrous things for our shop. 
Over the years, available learning options improved.  We read at least 100 books and took every class that came available to us locally. Eventually I started The Essential Herbal magazine, and my sister (now retired) started a wholesale soap company, Lancaster County Soapworks, Etc.  I've even written (or edited) quite a few books myself.

I always wished that I had some kind of certificate.  Over the past 30 years, I just felt unfinished.
My daughter Molly grew up as an herbie kid.  She could be found in the meadow with onion grass hanging from her little lips.  She found relief in chamomile and licorice root.  She learned how to look for things like plantain for stings and aloe for burns.
When she graduated from college, the plan was to come to work on the magazine with me.  The very first thing I did was sign her up for Rosemary's "The Science & Art of Herbalism"course.  She set to work on the course and enjoyed all the projects that were a part of the homework for each section.  She loved it, and it gave her solid footing.  Here is her review of the course.  Mama's wisdom only goes so far when you're in your 20's and 30's...  Later she went on to take another 9 month course with Susan Hess, and then apprenticed with Susanna Reppert for 2 years.  Can I just say that I envy this kid???
As it turned out, the big wide world beckoned, and Molly heeded the call.  She's done some traveling, and I can't blame her one bit.  Some day the herbs will call her back to them.  

After her first "14er" mountain hike in Colorado.  A 14er is 14K feet in elevation.

I decided it was time for me to have an herbal diploma/certificate and also enrolled in "The Science & Art of Herbalism"course.  There were still things that were new to me after all these years.  My sister took it at the same time and it was really fun to work on the homework projects together. 
I am very proud to have my certificate!

Herbs will never not be my focus in life, and I'll never be done learning. 

Monday, April 22, 2024

Essential Herbal May/June 2024

 The latest issue:
Click here for single issue or subscription.

Table of Contents

Crossword Puzzle

How does your garden grow?  Tidbits about your favorite herbs will help solve this one.

Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams  
Has your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone changed lately?  I can barely keep track!

About the Cover
The Lunaria shines like jewels in the garden, beckoned on by the recent eclipse no doubt!

Introducing Children to Culinary Herbs, Alicia Allen
A delicious and easy array of recipes to help kids discover the flavors of different herbs.

A Year of Foraging - May, Rebekah Bailey
This month Rebekah discusses ramps (and the proper harvesting techniques), garlic mustard, toothwort, and waterleaf varieties.  What a fun neighbor she would be!

DIY Instant Herbal Tea, Jessicka Nebesni
Convenient ice cubes that can go into a glass of water and magically turn it into tea!

12 Edible Flowers for Your Garden, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh  
Lots of choices for eating your way through the flower garden, and a lovely Goat Cheese Spread to enjoy with Honeysuckle Vodka Lemoonade.

May Day Traditional Celebrations, Jackie Johnson ND
Learn about the ancient lore and celebrations of the First of May.  From bonfires to feasts, kings and queens, Maypoles, and baskets to the green man, there are many ways and reasons to welcome May.

Virgin Mojito - Hot Process Soap, Marci Tsohonis
Luscious soap that was formulated to be reminiscent of the renowned beverage.  There’s even a recipe to make your own mojitos (with rum) by the glass or by the pitcher!

Plants to Try This Year, Kathy Musser
A quartet of plants to try in the garden for beauty, flavor, or medicine.

Word Find, What’s in this Issue?

The Many Uses of Red Clover, Kristine Brown, RH(AHG)
Full Monograph, including instructions for an infusion.  Kristine includes the tale of how Red Clover Came to Be.

Herbal Wood Sealant for Garden Tools, Amy Jeanroy
Gardeners take their tools seriously, and caring for the wooden handles is an important part of that care.

Yarrow, Tina Sams
Continuing with our attempt to include interesting information on yarrow in every issue of  yarrow’s reign as Herb of the Year™.

Meet Our Contributors 

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