Thursday, December 26, 2013

ROSEROOT! Not The Rose You Think

                         ROSEROOT! NOT THE ROSE YOU THINK
                           The Essential Herbal Magazine Jan/Feb ‘10

We’re all familiar with roses that love sunny, warm weather.  But have you heard of Rhodiola rosea, also known as roseroot, Arctic root, and golden root as it is often referred to in ancient legends.  Not related to the common rose, the freshly cut root has a similar rose-like fragrance, thus the name roseroot.  Unlike the rose, it is extremely resistant to cold.  Rhodiola rosea is sometimes called Arctic root because it grows primarily at high altitudes in the arctic regions of Europe and Asia.
photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Preparations from the plant’s root have long been used as a tonic to increase physical endurance, mental performance, longevity, and strength throughout Eastern Europe and Asia.  Chinese emperors ordered expeditions to Siberia for the purpose of obtaining the plant for medicinal benefits.  In Siberia and Middle Asia it was used for colds, flu’s, and to prevent sickness during the harsh winters.  Mongolian doctors prescribed the highly prized herb for cancer and tuberculosis. Various medicinal uses for Rhodiola rosea appeared in the scientific literature of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, and the Soviet Union between 1725 and l960. The beginning of modern scientific investigation into Rhodiola rosea and its use began in the 1960s.  By 1968 Russian pharmacologists classified Rhodiola rosea as an adaptogen, an herb that increases the body’s ability to adapt to stress with few side effects.  The Russian Ministry of Health recognized Rhodiola rosea extract in 1975 as a medicine and tonic for increased attention span, improving memory, to combat fatigue, and a number of neurological conditions. Ten years later, Sweden approved the herb as an agent to fight fatigue and as a stimulant.

In the west, Rhodiola rosea is still not well known.  It has not made significant inroads in the North American natural products market.  This may be due to the fact that most of the research comes from Russia and Scandinavia.  Nearly 200 studies have been published mainly in Slavic and Scandinavian languages since 1960, rarely translated into English.   

Research has shown the following health-promoting applications of Rhodiola rosea:

  • Stimulating effect on the central nervous system in small or medium doses.
  • Sedative effects in larger doses.
  • Builds physical endurance, and curtails recovery time after exercise.
  • Improves function of thyroid without causing hyperthyroidism.
  • Better functioning of thymus gland and protection from the involution that occurs with aging.
  • Anti-depressive activity in persons with mild to moderate depression.
  • Appears to increase learning, thinking, and memory.
  • Improves physical fitness, mental fatigue under stressful conditions, coordination, and general well being.
  • Increases intellectual capacity by improving perception and processing of information.
  • Reduces stress-induced cardiac damage.
  • As an antioxidant may protect the nervous system from oxidative damage by free radicals.

Rhodiola rosea is generally taken as a root extract in pill form or as a tea.  Standardized root extracts are available as capsules or tablets that provide precise dosages of rosavins and salidrosides, the main active components in Rhodiola rosea.  The recommended daily dose is approximately 75-150 mg taken twice daily containing 3% rosavins and 1% salidrosides.  As a tea, drink 1-2 cups a day.  The supplement is best absorbed half an hour prior to breakfast or lunch on an empty stomach.  If taken later in the day, it can interfere with sleep or cause vivid dreams, especially during the first few weeks. 

There are many species of Rhodiola. Only Rhodiola rosea has been the predominant subject of animal, human, and phytochemical studies, and is certified safe for humans.  Avoid products that do not clearly state Rhodiola rosea in the ingredient listing on the product’s label.

Most individuals will find that Rhodiola rosea will benefit their mental clarity, mood, and energy level.  Persons suffering from anxiety may find themselves becoming overly jittery or agitated when first using the herb. In this case, a smaller dose with gradual increase is suggested.  Avoid use if suffering from bipolar disorder. Rhodiola rosea has an activating antidepressant effect in persons who are susceptible to becoming manic when given stimulants or antidepressants.  Consult your healthcare provider before using  if pregnant, nursing or taking medication.

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Essential Herbal - Jan/Feb '14 Issue

It's never too late to share this post with a loved one to let them know what you really wish for!  Gift Subscriptions are a breeze!  Visit  Let your herbie friends know about us too - THANKS!!!
We've gotten the issue out in the mail.  It's a beauty.  The magazine has a magical quality that amazes me on a regular basis.  That quality is that themes spontaneously occur with almost no influence on our part.  Once it becomes clear, we'll sometimes nudge or find ourselves going with it to clarify that theme, but it always happens without our knowing it.
In this issue, there is a dreaming, wishing, growing, stretching theme with our writers talking about what they're reaching for, or in some cases shared what has or hasn't worked on the way to their dreams.  Everyone will find something that speaks specifically to what they are working with right now!  I know you're going to love it.

Field Notes
Thoughts on exactly what TEH has been doing for the past 12 years.
Costmary/Bible Leaf, Sandy Michelsen
There are many uses for costmary that don’t involve being a bookmark!
My Herbalism, April Coburn
Herbalism is something different and very personal to each of us.
Herbs Everyday, Daphna Amar Romanoff
An herbal bouquet of different ways to use herbs all around the house.
Herbs for Winter, Heddy Johannsen
Got garlic, cinnamon, lemon and ginger? These handy household herbs plus a few others to stay healthy through the winter.
Opening Our Home to Strangers—WWOOFING, Kristine Brown
Ever wonder how it would be to have a little help around the farm?
The History of Tea (Camellia Sinensis), Jackie Johnson
We take tea for granted, but there’s lots to know about it.
Longevity Means Living Well, Suzan T Scholl
Here’s to a long, healthy life!
Squash—The Seasonal Winter Meal, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
A delicious, nutritious, versatile vegetable that “keeps” until you need it.
SouthRidge Treasures, Nutmeg, Mary Ellen Wilcox
Did you know that early American cookbooks contained more recipes using nutmeg than any other spice? Find out why.
In a Lather for Spring, Marci Tsohonis
Dress up your soaps for spring—colorants and techniques to get your imagination soaring.
Roots & Bliss, Jamie Jackson
What happens when reality and idealism collide? We evolve.
The Queen Bean, Rita Richardson
Have you eaten flageolet beans? Might be a good one to grow this year!
Soup Pot, Janice Masters
Hearty soups can get us through the most miserable weather.
Cowboy Cookies, adapted from
The cookies we made to share at the Autumn Roots & Wings Fest.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Memories

As things wind down around here, I'm feeling a little nostalgic thinking about how Christmas was when I was little.  Looking back, it's clear that although the morning after St Nick visited was pretty exciting, the real memories are about the lead up.
Things have really changed.
My siblings and I used to go caroling at the neighbors every year.  Our scouting troups did it every year too.  It was cold and thrilling and people actually opened their doors and stepped out to listen.  Does anyone do that anymore?
My grandmother, with whom we lived, was a teacher.  She got tons of gifts every year and saved every scrap of wrapping.  At some point, she'd drag out boxes (fancy ones) of the wrappings, and we'd get to help her straighten it out and figure out how to wrap all the gifts she had for colleagues and friends.  Our family was enormous back then.  She was one of 17 children, married to one of 12.  That night in her bedroom, with the king-sized bed completely covered with sparkly paper and ribbons and boxes and bows was probably the epitome of the season for me.  We had so much fun and everything was so festive.
She was a pianist, so there were always evenings gathered around the piano singing holiday songs.  We really did that.  Those pictures you see that look impossibly trite and contrived?  That was us.  There weren't bakers in our household, but there were always cookies that magically appeared along with nuts and citrus fruits, smoked meats and cheeses.
Our grandfather outlined the house with those big old colored lights.  On Christmas Eve, he'd actually go out on the roof with jingle bells and stomp around.  We'd be rushed off to bed quickly so the adults could get to their Santa work.  The tree was always delivered by Santa (because trees are dirt cheap if you go to the lot at the last minute).

Somewhere along the line, many years ago, things changed.  If people caroled at my house now, I don't know what I'd do - it would seem so strange. 

It is a different time, and my grandmother and her siblings and generation were really the keepers of so many of the old ways that we attempt to recreate with buying more.  It was never about the gifts.  As much as I hate to say it, it really wasn't about any one religion, either.  It was just that for a month out of the year, everyone really pulled together to attempt to bring a smile to each others' faces.  All were welcome.  We spent time thinking of ways to make people happy, not out of obligation or duty, but because it was an ever expanding spiral of giving that generated good will and happiness.

Little by little, we've insulated ourselves and shrunken our families and loving circles.  We don't greet strangers with cheer.  We don't sing in public.  We've made the season small, exclusionary, tense and difficult.  That's a shame.

Just musing and being nostalgic.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Time Tumbling in the Snowstorm

One minute I'm standing in my kitchen handing my daughter warm, just out of the oven Snickerdoodles, and then next thing I know, 20+ years of snowy winter weather and happy memories flood my brain.  In that second, the spirit of giving smacked me square on the forehead.
Ever since her first snowstorm, my daughter has associated hot cocoa with snow fall.  Forget bread, milk, and toilet paper!  Around here, there must be cocoa.  It can be painstakingly made from scratch, or from a packet.  It doesn't matter - only that there is cocoa.  Marshmallows are a must, whipped cream a bonus.  Sometimes we've swirled a candy cane in there, and she's tried just about every kind of addition you can imagine.  It always comes back to cocoa and marshmallow.   A snowstorm without cocoa is just unthinkable.

Yesterday she was stuck working at the mall while the snow started falling.  We live on the far side of two very steep S-turns several miles back a country road.  I fretted during the day (will this ever end?) and made some soup to have ready when she got home.  The relief when she made it home was great.  All was well, cozy and safe.  After dinner she went to her room to work on a project, and I headed to the kitchen to whip up some of her favorite cookies. 

As they came out of the oven, I called to her to hurry and get herself some cocoa.  That moment... when she walked into the kitchen and saw the cookies (I'm no Betty Crocker - this is a rarity) was when it hit me.  In a flash, I saw her at 2 years old, standing at the door in her little snowsuit covered with icy snow... at 3, when on her birthday, her gifts and goodies were in the trunk of the car encased in 2" of ice (and she insisted that we make party hats from newspaper)...
at 5 years old sitting at the table red-faced from the cold... at 7 on the floor with her friends just in from sledding... at 13 bundled up in sweats and blankets watching cartoons... all of the years rolled in together as she got her cocoa and cookies with that same gleeful gratitude.  I almost started to cry.  Not at the passing of time, but from the fullness.  Nothing I could give to her on Christmas morning would hold the same weight as that reward of cocoa and her favorite cookies, year after year, storm after storm.

Sometimes I think about all the mistakes I made along the way.  Just for that one moment, I felt like maybe I got something perfectly, beautifully right.  Funny how the little things can sneak up on you and feel like a tsunami.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Post Removed

Author requested removal due to the fact that a smoke shop has grabbed our feed to populate their website, and she didn't wish to be a part of that.  I fully understand.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

An Herbal December

 From our Nov/Dec '10 issue:

The holiday blitz is upon us and the mantle of winter is about to descend.
Here’s a monthly reminder to help you choose/use herbs and spices each day of this busy month. Happy Herby Holidays.

Dec. 1- Make a big batch of onion soup for busy weekday nights. Stick a few cloves into an onion and brown it thoroughly in an oil butter combo to add to the stock/soup. Remove to serve.

Dec. 2- Saute red and green pepper slices in olive oil with a pinch of marjoram. Serve with burgers.

Dec. 3-For a quick snack or dessert serve apple wedges with bleu cheese and savory biscuits or crackers.

Dec. 4- Bring aromatic greens into the house and as many fresh herbs as you can find at the market.

Dec. 5- Make orange or apple pomanders. Use a turkey skewer to start the holes and tuck whole cloves all over the apple/orange surface. Roll in powdered cinnamon.

Dec. 6- St. Nicholas Day. Hide a mint chocolate and some shiny coins in your child’s shoe in honor of St. Nick.

Dec. 7- When arranging greens you can easily remove the pine sap from your hands with canola or vegetable oil.

Dec. 8- Mince parsley and chives and add to your waffle recipe for chicken and waffle supper.

Dec. 9-In this season of early darkness, lore tell us that garlands of winter savory were worn to ward off drowsiness.

Dec. 10- Air-dry a cup of cranberries on a rack or alternatively dry in a low oven. Use in a winter potpourri with some bay leaves.

Dec. 11- The feast of the Escalade is celebrated in Switzerland. The Swiss defeated the enemy and protected their walled city by throwing vats of hot vegetable soup on the marauders. Make some vegetable soup and top it with grated cheese and chopped chives.

Dec. 12- Roast some onions with plenty of dried thyme. Serve with beef.(ps-don’t throw it on the table!)

Dec. 13-St. Lucy’s Day- Make a tea with a pod of the spice cardamom.Or if ambitious make a cardamom cake or buns to celebrate the Festival of Lights and Lucy on this day.

Dec. 14- Bay leaf, or laurel, protects and purifies. If you have a bay plant treasure it- place it near your manger.

Dec. 15- The herb rosemary makes a pretty tiny spiky wreath. Tie with thin red ribbons for each place setting.

Dec. 16- Today marks the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Take an herbaltea break this afternoon.

Dec. 17- Add a cinnamon stick for stirring to a cup of hot chocolate.

Dec. 18- Simmer whole cloves, orange peel, powdered cloves and allspice berries for a room refresher.

Dec. 19- Seeded biscuits: Before baking the rounds, paint top with melted butter and sprinkle on poppy seed, celery seed and fennel seed.

Dec. 20- Make mulled wine for an open house. Warm red wine with 1-2 Tbsp. sugar, some cinnamon sticks, and orange/lemon segments.

Dec. 21- Serve your next steak with a generous pat of rosemary butter. To soft butter add minced rosemary, ground pepper and a splash of lemon juice.

Dec. 22- Make some cranberry/mint ice cubes. Add 1 berry and 1 small mint leaf to ice cube compartments. Cover with a little water.Freeze. When frozen add more water to encase the berry.

Dec. 23-Defrost last summer’s pesto and serve on pasta tonight.

Dec. 24- In many homes fish is the tradition on Christmas eve. Fennel fronds go well with all fish and lend a clean anise flavor to a fish soup.

Dec. 25- Serve your Christmas roast on a bed of curly parsley and surround with cherry tomatoes.

Dec. 26- Traditional “Boxing Day” in England. Collect, recycle any boxes, paper and ribbons today and enjoy a plate cinnamon topped snickerdoodles.

Dec. 27- Revisit your tins of spices today and toss any that have lost their punch. Restock with fresh spices for the coming new year.

Dec. 28- Have omelets for dinner tonight. Top each with a shower of chopped chives, marjoram and Italian parsley.

Dec. 29- Place lavender sachets in coat closets.

Dec. 30- Resolve to have an herb garden in the coming year. Concentrate on just few herbs that you always use like dill, lemon thyme, garlic chives. Send for garden catalogues to inspire.

Dec. 31- If t home for New Year’s Eve plan on a cheese fondue or raclette- a sprig of thyme on the cheese tray will neutralize odors.

Submitted by Rita Richardson

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Holiday Gift Basket with Essential Oil Blends

Holiday Gift Basket
Nov/Dec '11 issue TEH
Kelli Scott

I love nothing more then to put together a basket of homemade goodies for family and friends.
When most people think of a basket of goodies they think of cookies and breads, I think of essential oil blends and such.  The items in my baskets are full of comforting smells just like the cookie baskets, but instead of adding inches to your hips they will bring calorie free comfort to your soul.

Some of the things I like to make for the gift baskets are:
holiday spice room spray
chest cold rub
sanitizer spray
muscle aches and pains oil rub

Along with these I will usually include a bar of homemade soap, and a spray bottle customized to the fragrance that the recipient loves.  For example, my mom loves peppermint, so I may make up a spray bottle for her pillow full of peppermint.  With having just that small item in there, they know that basket was made just for them with thoughts and love.

I have included recipes for the above mentioned blends, I hope you enjoy them.  Most of all I hope those that receive your baskets enjoy them.

muscles aches and pains
1.5 ounces oil
10 drops rosemary
6 drops juniper berry
5 drops wintergreen
10 drops clove
5 drops black pepper
5 drops cajuput

Holiday spray
3 drops Clove
2 drops Cinnamon
3 drops Ginger
3 drops Nutmeg
3 drops Orange
3 drops Frankincense
2 ounces distilled water
5 drops emulsifier

Sanitizer spray (thieves blend)
10 drops cloves
10 drops lemon
5 drops cinnamon
10 drops eucalyptus
10 drops rosemary
2 ounces distilled water
15 drops emulsifier

Chest Rub
6 drops eucalyptus
6 drops rosemary
4 drops peppermint
3 drops pine
3 drops thyme
5 drops camphor

(editor's note:  one can use a small teaspoon or two of alcohol - like vodka - as an emulsifier, or a few drops of liquid lecithin)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday in Tinytown

Anyone with a television, a radio, or an internet connection has realized by now that Black Friday (or is that Black Thufriday?) is now the biggest day of over-consumption in all the world, nay Universe!  It is practically our patriotic duty to get up from the dinner table, grab our credit cards, and head out to the mall, where we can battle our way to heroic, epic shopping extravaganzas.  Retail giants across the land offer cherished electronics and gift items at bargain basement prices, hoping that we'll stray from our battle plan and accidentally buy something for full price.  It's the kind of occasion that defines Americans.  Not in a good way, but it does define us.

Years ago, I can still remember the excitement my sister and I felt going into our first Black Friday in our little herb shop along Main Street, a street that led directly to the mall in the neighboring town.  All day we watched the traffic streaming by.  Cars flying past with their trunks tied around packages, while the cabins were filled to the brim with bags and cramped people.  That was the day that we found out that Black Friday is for large businesses.  A few exhausted stragglers stumbled in just before we closed and made our day worthwhile, but that was just a freak occurrence.

ghost town

Here's the problem... micro-businesses, of which there are thousands and thousands, can't provide the kind of discounts and come-ons that the big boys do.  We struggle with price increases from our suppliers, and usually wind up eating them for years before we decide we must pass them along to our customers.  We juggle and scrimp, trying to keep our prices reasonable every single day of the year.  There is absolutely nothing that we can do to compete.  We give the customers the best price we've got all year long.  Doesn't it make you wonder how much those big guys with the big discounts are making the other 364 (now 363) days of the year when these things aren't on sale?  It does me!

Now with just an on-line business, I used to try to come up with something to garner a little attention on the big day.  The shipping policy that was implemented at that time ($7 maximum shipping, or free shipping on US orders over $100) worked pretty well - so I've kept it as an everyday thing since then.  That's how it works for us tiny businesses.  We just do our best every day.

Then there's Small Business Saturday and Cyber-Monday.  I'm sure they're helpful for some people, but nobody *I* know in business.

So here's the thing... when you purchase from the shops of tiny businesses like mine, you know a few things.  You know you're getting the best deal we can give you.  You know that the price isn't going to change next week, making you feel cheated.  More than anything, you know that you've supported the work of someone who is putting their heart and soul into their work.

Stop by sometime - we'll be here every day, all year :-)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Crazy Kelp Berries

I talked about the general malaise a little while ago, and since then have talked to more and more people all across the country who know exactly what I'm talking about.  At this time of year we are quite desperate to overcome this issue.  My sister and I each have our own businesses that bloom in the last few months of the year.  Between The Essential Herbal deadlines, Lancaster County Soapworks, regular everyday business, and some happy surprise projects, we're pushing it.  The tree farm gets busy, and we have to work around that schedule to get everything done - so it gets a little stressful in the best of times.

In a conversation last week, someone mentioned iodine for thyroid support, and it was as if I was in a V-8 commercial being bonked on the head.  Being of a certain age when women's thyroids can get wonky, and having mostly given up table salt through attrition, I decided the iodine rich powdered kelp that I got on a whim from Mountain Rose a couple months ago would be a great idea.  That evening, I mixed a teaspoon of kelp with a glass of water.  The taste was okay to me, but it took about an hour to clear the powdered kelp from my throat.  However, the next day it was clear to me that there was a slight shift.  I'd been taking B and D vitamins, and the kelp gave me the little shove over the hill.

This is where it gets a little crazy...
The drink was rough (smoothies would be great, but I do nothing regularly).  How to take a reasonable quantity daily without making everything taste vaguely like seafood?  Food as medicine is my favorite method, but one must be realistic and honest about it.  I knew I wouldn't do that.  So I decided to try making a thick paste with honey, and rolling it into balls. 

I used a couple of tablespoons of honey with 1/2 cup of kelp.  That wasn't quite dense enough, so I added perhaps a tablespoon each of dulse and bladderwrack that were purchased along with the kelp.  The balls are about the size of blueberries, and rolled in 10X sugar so they don't stick together, and rest on a bed of 10X and honey/ginger crystals. 

They aren't delicious, but they're not terrible either.  They're small enough to swallow whole, but I usually give them a chew or two before washing them down with water.  It solved a problem.  Capsules would work too - but that would be too easy - lol.

Next time, I'll probably try it with tahini and then roll them in sesame seeds.  Although the flavor of the seaweeds isn't as strange with "sweet" as one would think, it just might be good with sesame.  Coconut oil might be a good solution too, and kept in the fridge they will stay very firm. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wholesome Holiday Treats ('08 excerpt)

Wholesome Holiday Treats
Nov/Dec '08 Essential Herbal Magazine
Sue-Ryn Burns

My holiday gift list is going to be a lot more personalized this year. Everyone will probably get some of the herbal jellies I’ve become obsessed with making and something crocheted (another obsession). My husband is already planning to dig up and process major amounts of our killer Horse Radish to share. I will make sure everyone gets some Thyme herb with instructions for making some fast acting antispasmodic tea, and probably some Elecampane Root too, in case respiratory flu makes the rounds. And most likely we’ll be baking our traditional favorites, including European Yule Bread.
I’ll probably mix up some Yogi Tea for friends to try as well. Years ago a friend shared her recipe with me. We found it really warming and comforting on long wintry nights. With heating costs expected to be unpredictable, warming teas may be really helpful this winter. For a really decadent late evening treat, add some “half’n’half” and home made Kahlua or other liqueur. I have also substituted Coconut milk for regular dairy and found it quite pleasing.

European Yule Bread

1 Cup warm water
1 egg slightly beaten
1 ½ Tbsp butter or oil
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
3 cups bread machine flour
2 Tbsp powdered milk
1 tsp dry yeast
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup candied fruit
½ tsp ground fennel seed
½ tsp ground cardamom seed
½ tsp ground coriander seed
¼ cup chopped unsalted nuts pecans, walnuts, or almonds are good

Mix flour, spices, sugar, salt, powdered milk, and dried fruits in a 2 qt mixing bowl.
Cut in butter with a fork or pastry blending tool.
Add warm water to bread machine bucket. If using oil, beat it gently in with the egg and add to warm water.
Scoop in mixed dry ingredients.
Bake on medium setting.
Let the bread machine make the dough, shape it into three smaller loaves and place them into greased pans. Allow them to rise, covered, in a warm place for about an hour. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.
You can also make your dough in the traditional manner by hand in a large bowl. I usually add the dried fruit when I knead the dough if I do it by hand. Let it rise once, knead it, and let it rise again shaped into the form of your choice on a large flat sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 ½ hours or until golden brown and hollow sounding.

Cool on racks, then wrap in foil until you a ready to serve it or give it away. It makes morning toast seem like cake for breakfast!

Linda’s Yogi Tea

Equal parts by volume; Whole Cardamom Pods ( half part if you are using Decorticated Whole Seeds), Cloves, Peppercorns ( in a pinch you can substitute Allspice Berries), Ginger Root pieces, Coriander Seeds, and Cinnamon chips or Cassia Buds (if you can find them). Add or subtract spices you’re not fond of.

Simmer a 1/2 cup of the mixed spices in 6 cups of water gently in a non-reactive pot for thirty minutes, or to desired strength. Strain and add 2 cups of milk. Rewarm gently, sweeten with honey, and serve.

Kahlua (I’m not sure if that is correct) 3 Cups Water 3 Cups Granulated Sugar 10 Teaspoons Instant Coffee 4 Teaspoons Vanilla 1 Quart Vodka (Cheapest you can get) Bring water, sugar and coffee to boil. Simmer 1 hour. Cool to room temperatur...

Kahlua (I’m not sure if that is correct) 3 Cups Water 3 Cups Granulated Sugar 10 Teaspoons Instant Coffee 4 Teaspoons Vanilla 1 Quart Vodka (Cheapest you can get) Bring water, sugar and coffee to boil. Simmer 1 hour. Cool to room temperatur...

Kahlua (I’m not sure if that is correct) 3 Cups Water 3 Cups Granulated Sugar 10 Teaspoons Instant Coffee 4 Teaspoons Vanilla 1 Quart Vodka (Cheapest you can get) Bring water, sugar and coffee to boil. Simmer 1 hour. Cool to room temperatur...


Wednesday, November 13, 2013


We usually make tinctures with single herbs for ease of use and blending later.  The reasoning behind that is so that you have the single ingredients to blend into any kind of formula or to use them alone, depending on the situation.  Sometimes though, there's really no reason that you can't make a blend from the get-go.

One of my favorite experiments was over a decade ago, using an ounce of a relaxing tea blend to make a tincture for a friend who had trouble sleeping AND avoids fluids at night.  At the time, I was low on funds, and purchasing one ounce of a tea blend from a reliable herbalist friend was way less expensive than purchasing the individual ingredients.  Blends are quite common in vinegars and elixirs (where a blend of honey and alcohol is used), but for some reason, we tend to shy away from doing this with extracts.  We are always happy to encourage people to do things in ways that work for them, no matter what the conventional wisdom of the moment might be.

In the Jan/Feb '11 issue of The Essential Herbal, Mary Graber of Mountain Mary's in Eagle River, Alaska sent in an article with great ideas for some formulas to try.  In each of them, the herbs are steeped for several weeks in the solvent (aka menstruum) and strained prior to use.  This seemed like a good time to share them.


Super Support
Take 1/4- 1/2 tsp. per hour at symptom onset.
Solvent: 100-proof vodka/brandy
2 parts echinacea root, flower and leaf
2 1/2 parts turmeric
1 cultivated goldenseal root (Use cultivated goldenseal; this herb has been over-harvested.)

Cold & Fever Buster
Take 1/4-1/2 tsp. per hour at the onset of symptoms.
Solvent: 100-proof vodka/brandy
1 part elder flower and elder berry
1 part peppermint leaf
1 part yarrow flower and leaf

Cough & Throat Relief
Take 1/4- 1/2 tsp. per hour at the onset of symptoms.
Solvent: 100-proof vodka/brandy
2 parts mullein leaf
1 part licorice root
1 part wild cherry bark
1/2 part ginger root

Fire Tonic
Take 1/4- 1/2 tsp. per hour at the onset of a cold, or as a daily warming tonic. Makes a great salad dressing.
Solvent: apple-cider vinegar
1 part garlic
1 part onion
1/2-1 part freshly grated horseradish
1/2 part ginger small pinch cayenne
honey to taste (add to finished product)

Mood Lifter
To prevent or ease the winter blues, take 1/2 -1 tsp. three times daily.
Solvent: 100-proof vodka/brandy
2 parts hawthorn berry, plus flower and leaf if available
2 parts lemon balm
1 part St. John's wort
1 part milky green oat tops

Try your hand at a favorite blend soon!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013


Sandy Michelsen, The Frugal Herbalist   Kalispell, MT
Nov/Dec '12 issue,  Essential Herbal Magazine


It all starts around the end of November, it can sneak up on you if you are not careful.  It can happen at home, at a neighbor’s, at a friend's or even with close relatives.  It starts like this: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and other vegetables, home made dinner rolls, butter, jelly, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie, apple pie, cherry pie, ice cream, cookies, candy and last put not least, fruitcake. Then add the toddies, eggnogs, grogs and hot wassail punch along with other favorite holiday drinks.  You have now entered the “Eating Season” which usually continues until after the first of January.

But there is help  …you can find relief and comfort during this time by including some friendly herbs.

Bitters.  In some European countries they drink a bitter aperitif – bitter herbal beverage – before the first bite of a meal to stimulate digestion and keep food moving through the system.  Bitters reduce gas and bloating.
Gentian is the most powerful digestive bitter in Western herbalism.  Its bitter taste stimulates the secretion of saliva, stomach enzymes, and gastric juices and helps relieve symptoms of indigestion.  It is the gentian roots that are used in very small quantities to stimulate the appetite and act as a tonic for digestion.

You can buy bitters at the store or make your own.   Maybe you have an old family recipe.  Here is a recipe I found (by Amy Wisniewski of
Orange Bitters Recipe
1 750 ml bottle grain alcohol (such as Everclear)
1/2 lb. orange peel pieces (no pith)
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
4 cardamom pods
20 drops gentian extract
Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Close and store at room temperature. Let steep 14 days, shaking jar every other day.  Then strain the spices from the alcohol and keep the liquid stored in a dark place.

Barberry Root Bark has been called one of the best medicinal plants in North America.  The flavor is a light bitterness mixed with sweet and spicy notes. The bark of the trunk and root is known for its medicinal uses as it contains alkaloids that assist in a number of bodily functions, especially of the digestive tract. Barberry is noted in folk medicine as a cure for nearly every gastrointestinal ailment.

Anise is one of the most effective remedies in combating indigestion. The seeds - and seed oil - of the anise plant are used in herbal preparations. Anise has been used for hundreds of years by European herbalists to treat coughs and indigestion.

Peppermint relaxes the stomach walls.  Peppermint has an eons-old reputation for relieving indigestion and gas.  You can make a tea from the leaves or ingest a few drops of peppermint oil in water.  It is good for digestive distress such as gas, pain and bloating.   Drink peppermint tea, which is an excellent stomach soother, if you've eaten too much.  Warning: pregnant women should not use Peppermint oil.

Ginger relieves that over stuffed uncomfortable-ness.  Ginger contains components that soothe the gut by reducing spasms and increasing secretion of digestive juices.  Ginger is also an aid for motion sickness and nausea.  Drink ginger tea, eat candied ginger or take a capsule of ginger root extract.

Black Licorice is used as an alternative herbal treatment for acid reflux. Acid reflux is a condition in which the esophageal sphincter (the flap that separates the stomach from the esophagus) does not remain closed and acid from the stomach splashes into the esophagus. This disorder causes heartburn and discomfort.

Slippery Elm is good for both diarrhea and constipation.  It contains antioxidants that help relieve inflammatory bowel conditions.  Slippery elm contains mucilage which gently coats the lining of the intestinal system. The increased mucus production protects the gastrointestinal tract against heartburn and acid reflux.

Papaya and Pineapple.  Though not herbs, both of these fruits contain enzymes that break down protein and are good for relieving indigestion.

Red Pepper (Capsicum, various species). Americans often believe that hot spices upset the stomach. But, much of the rest of the world knows better—that hot spices like red pepper help soothe it. Red pepper also stimulates digestion.

Carminative Herbs prevent the formation of gas in the digestive tract which is the musculomembranous digestive tube extending from the mouth all the way through the body.

Here is a list of assorted carminative herbs:  agrimony, allspice, apples, basil, bay, bee balm, buckwheat, burdock, caraway, calendula, cardamom, catnip, celery, chervil, chives, cloves, coriander, cumin, dandlion root, dill, fennel, garlic, horehound, hyssop, lemon balm, lemon-grass, lovage, nutmeg, onions, oregano, parsley, parsnips, rosemary, sage, savory, St.John’s Wort, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, vanilla and yarrow.

You can use any of these herbs or a mixture of them to relieve indigestion. They can all easily be made into tea.

Turmeric root helps keep digestive inflammation under control. Turmeric contains curcumin which has an anti-inflammatory effect. It is used for dyspepsia, which is that “Oh, I ate way too much Thanksgiving dinner feeling”.  Turmeric is best taken in capsule form because it will stain anything it touches.

Cinnamon.   Cinnamon is also a carminative   Some studies have shown that Cinnamon helps people with diabetes metabolize sugar better. It is used for flatulence, nausea and to soothe an upset stomach.  In addition, did you know that if you chew cinnamon or cinnamon gum, it curbs your appetite!

Chamomile is for Digestive Problems. Over the centuries, chamomile has proven it works time and again.  As an antispasmodic, it soothes inflammation in the digestive system.  Chamomile is also a carminative, that is, a stomach soother, and it's especially good for indigestion.

So with this information at hand, pick a remedy, sit back, have a cup of herbal tea…..and enjoy the Eating Season.

                               Happy holidays !!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Memory Lapses of Convenience

Apparently the things that come across the screen often rumble around in my brain, waiting for just the right moment to come together.  This morning was such a moment.  For some reason, in the middle of making a pot of coffee, the thought of the new "pods" for laundry and dishwasher popped up, and the idea that the heavy plastic bottles the detergent came in (and the added water content to make the bottles even bigger) would soon be a thing of the past. 
Next thought was of the bags that hold the pods, followed by a vague idea of shops where you could take your own containers to scoop them from bins...
And that led me to start thinking about a headline of an article I saw earlier in the week, stating that the first supermarket had opened as recently as 1946.

Think about that!  Less than 70 years ago, we ate real food.

That (of course) took me down memory lane to my childhood, of milk men, bakery deliveries, the Jewel Tea man, and locals might remember, the Charles Chips man.  There were other sales people who came calling too - Fuller Brush, encyclopedia salesmen, and on and on.  I'm old enough to remember butcher shops, bakeries, the fish market, and the store that only sold fruit.  I can remember wrapping the day's trash in sturdy paper before putting it into the trash barrel because there was no such thing as a plastic garbage bag.  There really was very little trash, especially if there was a compost pile.  Groceries came home in brown paper bags that stood up all by themselves.

A trip to the grocery store with these things swirling in my head the other day, had me looking at all the packaging and marketing that we've come to accept and expect, all of these changes mostly happening within my lifetime.  All the convenient single-servings that are then packaged again in a larger container so that we don't have to take out a spoon and portion it out ourselves.  All the single-use, disposable, plastic, plastic, plastic everything, everywhere.

And I had forgotten.

You might wonder how I can continue to print a magazine while pondering these things, and I admit to sometimes feeling guilt about that.  At least paper is a somewhat renewable, compostable item - even if our readers didn't tell us that they keep every single issue they ever get, forever.  Since the computer has become so much a part of our every day life, printing has fallen off dramatically, with many printing companies going under as magazines and newspapers go on-line (or die).  Our own customer base, when given the choice, chooses paper 20-1 over the virtual magazine, so that's what we do.

But back to the grocery store...
As our food prices soar and our incomes decrease, will we start to realize how much we're paying for those convenient little pre-measured portions?  Will we opt for the pot of coffee over a K-cup, choose the large bag of rice over the boil-in bags?  Might we decide to use a dusting cloth instead of a disposable piece of fluff?  Make our own soups instead of canned?  Buy a quart of applesauce and use a bowl and spoon?  Perhaps we might just be able to separate a slice of cheese on our own? Could this be the time when we start to throw away the throw-aways that destroy the environment and deplete our wallets? 

Something's got to give.  If there is any silver lining to the currently ridiculous state of economics in the country, wouldn't it be great if we suddenly realized what we were doing - and stopped?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Beads from Woody Herb Stems

I've been talking and thinking about it for years, so it seemed like time to give it a whirl.  Working with holy basil for many years, I've seen mention of using the woody stems to make beads that are used in meditation.  There are malas available made from holy basil stems.  Since I grow many plants each year, it seemed like a project to make time for.  Our goal was to just try making a few.  108 beads is far more than we have in mind. 
While considering this project, the woody stems of lavender, rosemary, and sage also came to mind.  Although some of each were cut, only the lavender held a fragrance.  So those were the ones we used along with the holy basil.  After today's adventure, I will stick to making the beads with herbal powders, but it was fun.

First we cut the woody stems into the desired size.  They were held firmly with a wrench and drilled.

The large ones are lavender, the small ones holy basil.  The holy basil stems were really too narrow to get much shape from them, while the lavender gave us a lot more to play with.

We shaped them with the Dremel tool, although I personally found regular flat sand paper to be just as easy.  My arm is pretty sore now, though...

The finished beads (at the bottom of the picture) are fairly rustic.  We could add essential oil to them, paint, stain, or any kind of decoration we like.  I think they'd look nice with some glass beads.
That was fun.  I don't think we need to do it again, but it was one of those things that's been nagging at me for years, so we had to try it once. 
Now back to the workings of herbs and soaps and all the other things that have been piling up for the past couple of weeks!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Roots & Wings Fall Fest - WE DID IT!

Mid-August, in discussions with Susan Hess and Maryanne Schwartz about the upcoming fest, it seemed like it was forever away.
If I told you how quickly and smoothly it fell together, you probably wouldn't believe me.  Fact is, both my sister (Maryanne) and I AND Susan had in the past planned something similar, but both of those plans had been tabled for various reasons.  The moment we started talking, it was as if a fire was ignited.  Within 3 days we had a full roster, a site, and were up and running, ready to accept registrations!  We worked away over the next couple of months as they zoomed by, and last Friday night we found ourselves in a hotel room with all the supplies in the back of the car, our friend and speaker Betty Pillsbury ensconced, and some other friends in the room down the hall, all waiting to see how the day ahead would unfold.
And unfold it did!
With nary an unsolvable glitch, Roots & Wings took place on a glorious Autumn day.
Every session was attended by excited, happy learners.  People made friends, laughed together, and were inspired and jazzed to find new things to try.
Throughout the day, when I talked to attendees, the feedback was invariably wonderful.  We heard over and over how glad people were to find this in their own backyard.
It was so much more rewarding than we ever expected when we set out to organize it.  Now to get together, talk about it, and start planning for spring!  Here are some scenes from the day:

Betty Pillsbury's workshop on dream pouches.

Composting with Erica Lavdanski

Happy partakers at Susanna Reppert Brill's cordial class.

Everyone taking Tamara Sheen's workshop on live cultured foods got into the sauerkraut!

2 of the first 3 sessions - Barb Steele and Susan Hess took opposite ends of the large pavilion.

It was great watching people getting to know each other over lunch!

Maryanne Schwartz did a cold-processed soap demonstration using the sage hydrosol and essential oil from my distillation earlier in the day.

Susanna speaking.
There were so many other great talks that I just didn't get to with the camera.  Wonderful speakers, wonderful attendees - a wonderful day!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Essential Herbal, Nov/Dec '13 Issue

Here it is folks!  The newest issue of The Essential Herbal Magazine.  Subscribe now to get it!
So much good folk herbalism, lore, herbal holiday tradition and gift-making came our way for this issue that we took the rare step of adding 4 pages (I can't remember the last time we did that).  It's a beauty and it has enough to keep us all busy right up until the new year!  A subscription makes an ideal holiday gift for an herbie friend.  It may seem early, but we'll hold it to send shortly after Dec. 15th.
And for an idea of what's inside, here is the Table of Contents...
Field Notes from the Editor
Tina talks about the fun she had with this year’s experiments.
About the Cover, a little discussion of the barn star. The cover is from Susan Hess.
Balsam Fir, Sandy Michelsen
We know them as Christmas trees, but what of the essential oil, the pitch, the needles? What can we do with them?
Flavors of the Season, Jackie Johnson
The spices that warm us in winter, included in recipes for Spiced Seafoam, Gingerbread, Rum Punch, and more.
Fun, Sillies & Puns for the Happy Herbalist, Jessica Morgan
A few more jokes and puns from Jessica, to lighten the quickly shortening days.
Recipes for Making Kale a Regular Part of Your Diet, Carey Jung
Carey eats kale every day, and has done so for years. How does she do it?
Roots of Herbal Medicine, Joe Smulevitz
There have been many steps along the way in the evolution of herbal medicine. Many traditions have borrowed from and built upon each other.
Herbal Gifts, Jean Smith
Vinegars and oils to make using herbs and spices.
Beyond the Winter Blues, Marita Orr
Many terrific ideas, recipes, and suggestions for staying ahead of the winter blues. If you’re one who dearly misses the sun, be sure to take note.
Winter Craft Ideas, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Even more fun, exciting, and welcome gifts to make (maybe just for yourself). Something for everyone.
Der Butzemann, Susan Hess
Bridging the Sacred Connection Between Plants and Humans. A fascinating look into some PA German folk tradition.
Weaving the Yule Wreath, Heddy Johannesen
Learn to make a wreath with found, natural items like cones, pods, leaves and pine boughs.
Holiday Lathers, Marci Tsohonis
Oh my… Mint Chocolate Truffle Soap? Need we say more? Like Chocolate Almond Truffle Soap?
Five Seasons Teas, Suzan T Scholl
How to blend medicinal remedy teas. Suzan provides a chart showing different notes and the types of herbs that fall into those categories.
SouthRidge Treasures, Kitchen Spice Rope, Mary Ellen Wilcox
A great fall project that will bring the fragrances of spices into the kitchen and get you right into the mood for celebrating.
Buttery Spa Scrubs, Marci Tsohonis
Keep that skin supple and smooth all winter long!
Grocery Store Preparedness, Tina Sams
Sometimes it’s all you can do to drag yourself to the kitchen. Get prepared now and you’ll thank yourself later!
Retail or Wholesale, Maryanne Schwartz
Do you know the difference? If you’re starting a business, you should.
Old Country Store Percolator Punch
A favorite to serve in the store for many years, now shared with us!
Corn Chowder, Susan Hess
Something easy and inexpensive to warm you up and stick to your ribs.
Why Not Make Your Own? Rita Richardson
Some condiments you might not have considered making yourself.
Pumpkin Butter, Karen Hegre
Oh delicious concentrated spicy pumpkin spread, how we love you!
Persimmon Cake, Tina Sams
I always keep persimmon pulp in the freezer over the winter, just to use to bake moist, dense cakes and cookies.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Everyone does something...

We've been at this for 13 years now, putting The Essential Herbal Magazine together.  It's been interesting to watch the content evolve since it is driven by our readers who are also most often our writers.  The shift has been gradual and heartening to see, as we, as a community, continually find ways to more consciously tred upon the earth. 
One of our goals from the beginning was to gently lead people to find ways that bring them back in touch with the plant world, to look up at the sky, to remember.

I am of a generation that first partook of the "miracles" that are now destroying the earth.  We were amazed at the availability of woody winter strawberries from 1000's of miles away.  We were impressed with MORE of everything.  We were indoctrinated to believe that in a lot of ways just because we could do something, we should do it.  Might equaled right.  A person was judged by the size of their bank account.  The earth had unlimited resources, and we'd earned them.  That's what we were taught.

I'm not defending this - only explaining.  Even in my early teens, this was turning out to be an uncomfortable thought process as our chemicals killed off the raptors from the skies and the teeming life within our waters.  We were being taught about the undeniable value of the rainforests in class while they were being cleared in the name of progress.  But even then, when faced with the undeniable truth, we tried to make changes.  We stopped the use of DDT, took lead out of gasoline, and reformulated detergent.  All of those changes were met with resistance, but they were the right thing to do, and so they happened.  Unfortunately the backlash meant that those who felt we deserved everything (or really, nothing) came into power.

Now you'd think that you could just say, "Stop doing that!  You're hurting the earth!  We'll have nothing left!"  But how do you tell someone whose whole life has been infused with McDonalds and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that they have to stop that immediately and start cooking from scratch?  Do they even know how?  This is not due to callous disregard for the earth as much as it is asking people to look at everything they were taught from birth, and change.  How do you convince people who have been raised believing that convenience is paramount (while work-weeks get longer and longer), that there is meaning in doing something by hand?  How do we learn to see the world differently?

And so for us, that has meant trying very hard to lead without judgement.  We recognize that it is possible to be a person whose lifestyle and beliefs clash with the necessity of making a living.  We know that many of our readers live in apartments with no land, work at jobs that go against their own grain, and feel like they can't live the life they dream.  Reality can be brutal, but we all want to learn how we can do better.  For us, it means trying to keep a foot in both worlds, remembering that our earthy, wild friends who seek to learn the old ways are not as typical as it may seem just because they surround us.

It has been immensely rewarding to get letters and notes from people who want to share that the things they're learning in the magazine are making a difference in their lives.  Their first hand-blended tea, or plantain poultice, or homemade nourishing soup.  With each issue, we hear from those who have taken a step on the way back.  Every step is powerful and meaningful and leads to the next step and a deeper appreciation of the natural world.

Now we have put together the Roots & Wings Fall Fest, another piece of the puzzle, another way to show that a different way is possible.  I'm so excited to be getting ready for that next Saturday (and there is still time to sign up).  We hope to have a Spring Fling as well :-)

Yesterday, there was an anti-GMO march locally.  I could not attend, but a friend ended the march with a beautiful speech.  It is posted on her blog HERE  I know that she is making a difference.  We can each make a difference - one step at a time. 
Even better - watch her here - Natasha's Speech