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)