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

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Mad for Motherwort

previously published in Sept/Oct '18 The Essential Herbal, shared from Herbalrootszine!

NOTE:  If you have young ones at home with school a big question mark, take a good look at Kristine's website for some great ideas to keep their minds engaged and learning.

by Kristine Brown, RH (AHG)

Motherwort is commonly known as “Mother’s Little Helper” because of her ability to help ease stress and tension for weary moms. While Motherwort is wonderful for this aspect, she is also useful for many other ailments as well.

A member of the Lamiaceae family, Motherwort’s botanical name is Leonurus cardiaca, “leonurus” referring to lion and “cardiaca” to the heart, giving another indication for her use. 

Do you have Motherwort growing in your garden? If so, pick a leaf and try this experiment: chew the leaf and notice the flavors of Motherwort. What do you notice? Bitter? Yes, pungent too? Yes. How does the leaf make your mouth feel? Does it seem a bit dry? Cooler? We describe Motherwort’s energetics as bitter, pungent, drying and cooling. 

Nutritionally, sources indicate Motherwort contains beta carotene, calcium, choline, cobalt, copper, iodine, manganese and potassium. 

Motherwort contains many constituents that give her healing power: alkaloids such as leonurine, stachydrin, betonin and turicin, flavonoids such as rutin, apigenin, and quercetin, bitter glycosides, volatile oils, resins, tannins, and acids such as magic, citric and vinitic. 

Motherwort has an affinity for the reproductive system and the heart. Medicinally, Motherwort is considered to be analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, astringent, bitter, cardiotonic, circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, hemostatic, hypotensive, immune stimulant, laxative, nervine, parturient, sedative, stomachic, tonic, uterine tonic and vasodilator. Let’s talk about these actions in greater depth…

Motherwort is one of the first medicinal plants that I used after I started seriously studying herbs for the medicinal uses. My first plants were patiently grown from seed and I have happily grown her ever since. Focusing on the common name, indicating her use for mothers (wort means ‘herb or plant’ indicating her common name to be mother’s herb or plant), I found this herb to be very helpful as a new mother, as well as mama’s little helper during my cycle. Motherwort has an uncanny way of making everything seem alright for mothers and women who become tense and irritated due to hormonal changes. 

Motherwort is wonderful for women of all ages. Young women, coming into womanhood, will find Motherwort to be a powerful ally while they adjust to the extra hormones that are flooding their bodies. Menopausal women will find Motherwort to be just as supportive when their hormones once again wildly fluctuate, by helping to moderate hormone levels, calm hot flashes and night sweats and emotional mood swings as well as easing heart palpitations, insomnia and depression, which are often a common part of the menopausal journey. Mothers laboring in childbirth may find Motherwort beneficial for a smooth birthing process. 

At the same time, Motherwort is also a uterine tonic, supporting the uterus and toning it. Menstrual cramps are often eased with doses of Motherwort. Motherwort can also help to bring on delayed menses, especially when the delay is caused by clots in the uterus, or when menses is scanty.

For those stuck in extreme emotional upset, whether due to hormones, grief or even unexplainable reasons, Motherwort will gently bring you back to a more calm emotional point of wellbeing. 

Motherwort is not just for women though. Men can also benefit from her hormone balancing actions. As a reproductive tonic, Motherwort not only tones the female reproductive system but also the male reproductive system. 

Motherwort is also very supportive to our hearts. Her botanical name Leonurus cardiaca, lionhearted, refers to her support of the cardiac system. Motherwort strengthens the heart muscle, calms palpitations, relaxes the heart, can slow a rapid heartbeat and improves circulation. As a mild hypotensive, Motherwort combines well with Hawthorn, Linden and Black Haw. 

Emotionally, the name infers courage and Motherwort is wonderful for helping those navigate through dark times and periods of intense grief. 

David Winston recommends the combination of Motherwort, Bugleweed (Lycopus americanus) and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) to help with hyperthyroidism, especially when nervousness and palpitations are present. 

Lesser known and utilized uses of Motherwort include her effectiveness as an analgesic, especially for post partum pain. Motherwort is also good for treating digestive system upsets, especially when tied into the nervous system such as nervous dyspepsia, as well as indigestion and liver/gallbladder stagnation due to her bitter and digestive actions. 

Some may also find relief from chronic skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. 

As an antispasmodic, Motherwort is also great for working with spasmodic conditions in the respiratory system, including asthma. I like to combine her with New England Aster for this. 

Motherwort should not be used by pregnant women as Motherwort is a uterine stimulant but is safe during lactation.

Harvest Motherwort when she begins to bloom. The flowering tops, leaves and stalks can all be used. 

Motherwort Extract
You can make Motherwort with fresh or dried herb. Both are equally powerful. This is often the preferred method of taking Motherwort as the tea alone is quite bitter. 

Fresh or dried flowering tops
Grain alcohol
Water (if using dried)

Fresh: Chop and fill your jar halfway with fresh plant material. Fill the jar with grain alcohol. Have an adult help you chop this plant as it can be hard to chop up. Watch out for the spiny bracts. 

Dried: Fill your jar about 1/4 with the dried plant material. Add enough grain alcohol to fill the jar slightly over half. Top off with water. 

Screw the lid on tightly and label your jar. You should include: the name of the plant you are extracting, if it was fresh or dried, how much alcohol vs. water and the date it was started. 

Let steep for 4 weeks, shaking daily. After 4 weeks, you can strain off or leave the herbs in and the extract will continue to get stronger with time.

Dosage: Adults 15-30 drops 3-4 times daily. Children 7-12 10-20 drops 3-4 times daily.

Happy Heart Tea
A daily cup of tea nourished the heart. 

Dried Motherwort
Dried Tilia (Linden)
Dried Hawthorn leaves and flowers

Mix equal parts of each herb in a jar and mix well. Label the jar. 
To make tea, add 2 teaspoons tea to a tea ball and steep in boiling water for 10 - 20 minutes. 

 Motherwort Infused Oil
This oil can be used on cramps, muscle spasms, and on achy rheumatic joints. 

1/2 cup freshly dried Motherwort flowers and leaves
2 cups olive oil

Place the Motherwort in the bottom of the crockpot and pour enough oil to completely cover the plant material.

Plug the crockpot in for an hour or two then unplug and let cool. Repeat this step several times until the oil has taken on the properties of the Motherwort. It should be a lot greener than when you started.

Strain off the plant material from the oil and pour the oil into a jar. Let it sit for 24 hours then check for any moisture that may have settled to the bottom. If you do not see any, your oil is ready to use and you can label and store it in the refrigerator until you need it. 

If there is a layer of moisture at the bottom, pour off the oil into a new jar and discard the moisture layer. Label the jar and store it in the refrigerator until you need it.

Motherwort Pendant
Make this pendant to wear near to your heart for protection. These make thoughtful gifts for someone who needs heart protection.

Air dry clay
Fresh Motherwort leaves
Small eye screw
Acrylic paint: green, metallic gold or copper, tan, brown
Waxed paper
Paint brush with thin tip
Stiff brush such as an old toothbrush or stencil brush
Small jar of water
Mod podge
Cord such as hemp, leather or silk

Begin by pinching off a piece of clay about the size of a cherry. Depending on the size of your leaf, you may want it bigger or smaller. 

Roll the clay into a ball, place it on the waxed paper then gently press flat with your hand until the clay is about 1/4 inch thick.

Place the Motherwort leaf vein side down onto the clay and gently press with your hand or the bottom of a glass. Using the end of the stem, remove the leaf from the clay. You should have an imprint of the leaf on your clay.

Repeat as many times as you’d like. 

Decide which way is up then insert an eye screw in the top, turning it so the hole of the eye screw is not visible when you look at it. Repeat with all the pendants you are making.

Let the clay dry. 

Once the clay is dry, squeeze out a dot of paint onto the waxed paper, one for each color.  Use some water from the jar to thin the tan paint and create a wash for the pendant’s background. Let dry.

Do the same with the green then fill in the leaf with the green. Let dry. 

Use a touch of the metallic paint to make details. You may wish to highlight the veins, or create a wash to coat the entire leaf. 

If you would like your pendant to be a bit more stone-like in appearance, use a bigger brush to flick paint over the top of the pendant. Practice on the waxed paper first. To flick paint, dip the brush into the paint then use your finger to flick the paint. There is a quick tutorial on how to do this on the resource page. 

After the paint dries, paint a coat or two of mod podge to seal the paint. 

Measure out a piece of cord long enough to hang your pendant from. Make sure it will fit over your head after you tie a knot in the end. Slip the cord through the eye screw then tie the ends in a knot.