Monday, March 31, 2014

A Short Take On My Personal Experience With Burdock


One herb comes immediately to mind, where the getting of the herb was very much part of my experience with using the herb. For what could possibly bring one closer to getting to know and “using” anything intimately, if one does not make an encounter with that desirable wild thing – whatever it is- in its own element, first. We’ve about all lost those experiences of encountering wild things, including plants in their element. Without those intimate experiences, I believe, we have lost our appreciation of the full meaning and value of what we have in our hands before us, because we haven’t experienced simply, getting it. For example, compare the experience of opening a 1 pound plastic bag of cut and sifted Lemon Balm, to cutting handfuls of fresh Lemon Balm growing in the filtered sunlight of a border garden in late spring. Then, you know what I’m talking about.

So, it was true with Burdock. Large fuzzy-leaved and intrusive in my garden scape surrounding my impressive deck, one spring I decided it needed to go and I was going to get it. Get it all. Besides, what a better time is there to dig it out, root and all, than spring? I had dug Dandelion roots before, and I knew they were no small ticket for getting an earth-bonding experience.  I knew I could handle this Burdock, or so I thought. I was ready. I grabbed my shovel and off I started.  Spadesful after spadesful I worked around the thick-necked central tap root. Down, down I went into the earth as I had to enlarge the circle as I went to loosen the hold that the soil had on this massive root. Deeper and deeper down into the earth I carefully shoveled to reach the narrowing end of the now branching taproot.  Challenged not to prematurely break off the tap root I carefully continued on and on into the afternoon of that bright spring day.

Is there something about getting down to the “root of the matter”, or finding the “root cause”, or the “root of the problem”? Is it no wonder that roots are our source for solving problems? And, so it is true with Burdock.  “Burdock is truly a superior tonic herb, both as a preventative and as a medicinal plant”, says Rosemary Gladstar (1). Historically, Burdock has been traditionally used as a “blood purifier”, and liver tonic. In fact, Burdock carries more antioxidant activity than most vegetables and has demonstrated prebiotic properties that may improve health (2). David Hoffman writes (3) and many herbalists agree that Burdock is a valuable remedy for the treatment of skin conditions that result in dry and scaly patches mostly effective for psoriasis if used over a long period of time. Dr. Bove (4) includes Burdock in her herbal remedies for cradle cap, cold sores and eczema for children. Deb Soule, a beloved herbalist of mine, from Maine, writes that Burdock tea or tincture is nourishing for the liver and kidneys and promotes digestion and appetite through the bitter stimulation of digestive juices and the secretion of bile while it helps eliminate ingested chemicals and waste materials (5).  It seems plain and simple: Roots are our roots for health maintenance and well-being. So, how did I use that wild Burdock root that I spent all day spading the soil for? I grated it fresh, and then, dried it, and, then put it in a jar next to my stove in the kitchen. Over this past winter, I took a handful, and would throw it into my stews in which I made many. I did it over and over again. Its nutty earthy flavor penetrated the broth. No one complained. Everyone heartily ate. The little grated roots tasted like ground meat, frankly. No one knew. And, I didn’t tell. They didn’t need to know. And, that was ok. Yes, experience it, to know, first.



1.       Gladstar, Rosemary. 2008. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Bibrant Health. Storey Publishing.

3.       Hoffman, David. 2003. Medicinal Herbalism. Healing Arts Press.

4.       Bove, Mary N. D. 2001. An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants. Mc Graw Hill.

5.       Soule, Deb. 1995. A Woman’s Book of Herbs: The healing Power of Natural Remedies. Citadel Press.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Immune Support Soup

Winter Health is about building your immune system so that your body can do what it needs to do to keep you strong, vibrate and healthy. There are many herbs that have the power to support, build and heal us in this way. How can we do this that is realistic and do-able? Often, there is "information-overload". Where can we begin?

  I have found that people can best incorporate the healing herbs, much like we can of our culinary herbs, when we include them in our everyday diets and cooking.

My thinking is that herbs shouldn't be thought of as a supplement  but a rather a compliment. Just  step back and take a look at how far we Americans have come, pertinent to using herbs in cooking. "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" may have first become popular through a Paul Simon song, but we are familiar with them and enjoy these herbs, particularly, through the winter months. More recently, we have come to love Basil as a Pesto, over fresh Tomatoes, and in sauces, and Cilantro the distinct aromatic herb that we savor in fresh Salsas. There are many more as we have become exposed to culinary delights of other cultures and nations.

Fresh Picked Dandelion Root
So, now it has come time to celebrate the roots! As the herbs have made their way into our cooking, let's use the roots as compliments in our sauces, soups and stews,  instead of something that we find in the dreaded medicine cabinet. (i.e. How many of us really like taking a cupful of pills every day?)

There are many "immune soup" recipes out there. In common, these immune soup recipes use roots and often mushrooms as their ingredients. Any of them can cook up into dense broths that are either frozen in cubes to be added later, or used that same day.  A very hearty soup can result by adding vegetables, beans, potatoes or whatever is available. It's really truly hearty!

The roots come from near and far. Much more has been researched in the East so they are better known. I trust with time we will discover that there are western herbs with equal power and strength.
Right now our best known roots for immune support are Burdock and Dandelion,  particularly.

Anyway, here is a list of the roots and mushrooms that have been used in various recipes that I have found:

Dandelion , Burdock, Astragalus, Ginseng, Ginger, Fo-ti, Chinese Bellflower and Ashwaganda. Popular mushrooms are Reishi, Red Reishi, Chaga, and Shitake.
Fresh garlic is often added as part of the base.

Burdock leaf and flowers.

The ratio of roots to water can vary. For a dense broth use 1-2 cups of roots/mushrooms/garlic for every quart of liquid. Simmer the roots in the water very slowly for a minimum of 1 hour. Preferable longer.
Strain, and either create your hearty soup or place in ice cube trays and freeze to make immune-cubes to put in future soups, stews and sauces.

This is my favorite recipe:

Immune Support Soup

1 cup Astragalus Root, dried
1/2 cup Ashwagandha Root, dried
1/2 cup Reishi Mushroom, dried
1/2 cup Burdock Root, dried
half bulb garlic, chopped. (4-5 cloves)

Take the above ingredients and simmer them covered in a  pot with 2 quarts of water. Simmer slowly on low heat for at least 1 hour and strain. Make into a hearty soup, freeze in cubes or drink 1 cup daily as a tonic.

(This recipe is from a wonderful book filled with herbal wisdom and science: The Wild Medicine Solution; Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic Plants by Guido Mase (2013, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vt.)

Wild-Harvesting your own Dandelion and Burdock roots are do-able here in the Northeast US. This is best done in the very early spring or later fall. Their roots are can be very long (+12") and thick when over 1 year old. They often need a good heavy spade and lots of patience. Once dug they need to be scrubbed clean. I grate the root fresh and then dry the grated root in a very low oven. I find this easier than trying to cut into a whole dried root.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall Workshop - Simple Cold and Flu Remedies

What do you do when you feel a cold coming on?
 How can we move through this coming  cold and flu season with what nature has given us?
Join me for Cold and Flu Remedies Workshop OCTOBER 26 from 2p-4p.
$20. includes all materials and supplies.            Email to sign up             

Take come a flask of Elderberry Syrup and more!  

See you soon!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Farmer's Market

Our opening day was beautiful. People were so happy to come out and feel sunshine. New England gave us a long winter this year. Despite global warming, there was a bit of  lingering chill and snow on the ground. I had snow on our fields the beginning of April. Now, spring is beautifully here.

Our Farmer's Market opened this Tuesday. There were many folks with herbs and plants to sell from their greenhouses and gardens. The Goat Cheese lady brought her baby goats for the children to pet. The bread lady, that everyone loves, sold out, as she usually does, before closing. The meat lady has added fruit trees to her inventory of offerings. The homemade ice cream man found his same spot that he had last year.

What is a Farmer's Market? Here, people chat with one another and meet the producers and chat some more. They chat about their problems, and their interests. The Farmer's Market is a place to get to know the people that make and grow the food we eat. I wish there was a measure for this part, for it should be included on the ingredient list. If it's not on the list, then the food isn't as potent or charged with a human-interaction factor.

My most popular medicinal teas were "Sleep Without Sheep" and my Migraine Reliever tea: "Get-it-out-of-your-Mind". Who would know? It seems like there is a lot of anxiety, restlessness and extreme distress from migraines. Such a challenging time. Our lives shouldn't do this to ourselves.

The Holden Farmer's Market is a very small market. There are regulars, though. They show up on the first day and every day until it closes; about 26 weeks from now. There are newcomers, of course, too.
I'll be there every Tuesday until the end of October when it closes. I'll be chatting with the regulars and the newcomers. I'll be getting to know the people that stroll by. I know my conversation and my well-intended smile will become an ingredient in the products they buy. I believe, it changes the potency.

It works- that is, when it includes the human-interaction factor. It works when you know who has made it, who has crafted it, when, how and why it was made. This variable in the research hasn't been tested. I believe we need to have a relationship with the people that feed us and nourish us in order for the foods and herbs that we use will work for us at their optimal best.
While it may be trendy to "buy local", I believe, there is something more happening when we do buy local,  because we're doing it. We are making an effort to do so. We join CSA's. We aren't stupid. And, enough is enough. We don't want chemicalized food. If big business isn't going to look out for us (and they never have and never will) then WE must. We must.
Message here?
Get to know your local producers. Get to know your local Farmer's Market vendors. Buy local. Eat local foods. Know your ingredients. Know that they hidden ingredient in all great food is knowing the farmer that grew it for you.
Our lives depend on it.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Herbal Cold Care Kit; What's in it?

Do you have the "Common Cold"? Or, do you believe you have the Flu? Did you get your flu vaccine injection and did you get sick anyway? Yes, it does happen to the best of us.

What's next?  Pull out your "Cold Care Kit". What's in it? Below are my favorites.
1. A Decongestant Steam
2. Elderberry Syrup
3. Herbal High C Tea (an ideal children's tea)
4. Tea for Cold and Flu (idea for those that can tolerate ginger and cayenne)
What? No Motrin?

The herbs that have served us for healing from congestion, excess fluids and coughs are well known particularly Coltsfoot, Mullein and Eucalyptus. Grieve writes that Coltsfoot  used to be painted as a sign on the doorpost of an apothecary's shop. Doesn't this communicate confidence in this herb's reliability?  (Pharmacies have lost their symbol for healing and care. The mortar and pestle is gone too. What does CVS, Walgreen's and Rite Aid have in common? They have a full length candy aisle and the pills are in the back.)
We have almost completely forgotten about these wonderful herbs that sooth, relieve, decongest and heal us from our sicknesses. It's time to get to know them before we have completely forgotten.

 I am limited with graphic ability. Please trust that these recipes have been tried and are true. They are also very beautiful to look at. Don't rely on a picture, anyway. Just get them and experience their beauty as you sift them through your hands!

I share these recipes to encourage you to experience the healing power of herbs.
I do sell these wonderful herbs and mixes, too.
Email your requests:
Take care!

A Decongestant Steam
3 parts Peppermint
2 parts Eucalyptus
1 part Elder Flower
1 part Comfrey
1 part Lobelia
1 part Chamomile
Place a couple of tablespoons of herbs into a large wide bowl of steaming hot water.
Add a couple of drops of Eucalyptus or Peppermint essential oil.
Lean over the bowl and breath in the aromatic steam. If you can tolerate a towel over your head, try this. You'll get quite sweaty and hot. Stay no longer than 5 to 10 minutes.

Elderberry Syrup
1/2 cup dried Elderberries
1 tablespoon dried Rosehips
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon grated Ginger
5 Whole Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
Bring to a boil 20-30 minutes. Strain the herbs and spices from the water. Then add 1 cup of honey to the strained water.
Take 1 table spoon of syrup 3 times per day or as needed for cough and cold relief.

Herbal High C Tea
1 part Calendula
1 part Cinnamon Chips
2 parts Lemon Grass
1 part Hibiscus flowers
1 part Nettle
4 parts Rosehips
1/2 part Orange Peel
1 part Spearmint
2 parts Wiintergreen

Tea for Decongestion
1 part Calendula
1 part Mullein
2 parts Peppermint
1 part Coltsfoot
1 part Eucalyptus
1/4 tsp Ginger
A pinch to an 1/8th tsp of Cayenne
Steep 1 tsp per cup for 10 minutes and drink as often as desired.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Spices with a Summer Flare

Spices are warming but they are also supportive to our overall health and well-being.  And, winter is our time to realish the warming and healthful spices and herbs of Cayenne, Ginger, Horseradish and Garlic. Herbs can soften the bite while adding vitamins and minerals with every shake. It's fun to use them and invent mixes through the seasons.

So how can we use them in winter that reminds us of our summer fun with food? We think of grilling as something we do in the summer, so why not use the wonderful spices that make up a blackened Chicken or Tuna for a winter meal? The heat is welcoming while the herbs nourish us and remind us of when we have had our fresh garden grown vegetables at hand.

Here's a little Herbal Rub with a little Heat that would enliven any meal. Sprinkle on fish, chicken or roasted root vegetables.
We used it on Tuna Steaks.

1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Cilantro
1 tsp Dried Mustard
1 tsp Basil
1/2 tsp Garlic Granules
1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix in a small bowl. Store in a closed glass jar.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What about Kava?

(This is a reproduction of an article from
Please forgive the misalignment.
Visit for the best updated information on Kava.
This is a fabulous website with great information!!)

Laura Bystrom, PhD Mariann Garner-Wizard Shari Henson
Amy Keller, PhD Heather S Oliff, PhD Risa Schulman, PhD

Executive Editor Mark Blumenthal Managing Editor Lori Glenn
Consulting Editors Dennis Awang, PhD, Thomas Brendler, Francis Brinker, ND, Allison McCutcheon, PhD, Risa Schulman, PhD
Assistant Editor Tamarind Reaves

PDF[?] (Download)
  • Anxiety
  • Kava (Piper methysiticum)

  • Date: February 15, 2004 HC# 042115-OLO
    Re:Kava - A Brief Review
    Pepping J. Kava: Piper methysticum American Journal of Health-Systems Pharmacy. 1996;56:957-960.
    Use of kava kava (Piper methysticum) predates written history in the islands of the South Pacific. Offered as a beverage during social occasions or ceremonies, the pulverized underground portions of the kava plant are often mixed with coconut milk. The beverage has played a role in greeting visitors, securing marriages, and settling disputes. For at least the past twelve years, scientific investigation into the warm and sociable effects this plant induces has led to medicinal use for modern day anxiety.

    Today, extracts standardized to 30-70% kavalactones are used for reducing daily stress and anxiety in general populations, as well as for treating patients with anxiety of psychosomatic, neurotic, or nonpsychotic origins. Research also shows that kava's anxiolytic effects may extend to women entering into their menopausal years.

    In this article, Pepping states that only a few small studies have assessed kava for anxiety; however, there have been at least six double-blind placebo-controlled randomized (DBPCR) studies on 335 participants which have found significant anxiolytic activity, with a meta-analysis confirming those results. In addition to these, at least half a dozen clinical trials have examined kava.

    Many pharmaceutical sedative-hypnotics act by binding to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. The author writes that kavalactones may have a unique mechanism, as binding studies to these receptors in vivo are conflicting. Kava appears to act on the amygdala complex within the limbic system, the emotional center, of the brain.

    Studies have shown that kava decreases levels of the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, increases daydreaming waves, and decreases concentrating brain wave activity. Kavalactones relax skeletal muscle, and have mild anticonvulsant properties. Sleep quality is enhanced, with an increase in deep sleep without affect on rapid-eye-movement.

    Kava should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, however, or consumed with alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, other anxiolytics, or psychopharmacological drugs. Case reports suggest that kava may reduce the effectiveness of levodopa therapy in patients with Parkinson's disease.

    Kava offers an alternative to pharmaceutical anxiolytics. The author advises people to proceed with caution. 'Higher doses can affect motor function, and long-term use could lead to psychological dependence,' he states. However, Pepping fails to cite any reference for this last statement; and there is no strong evidence linking continual kava use with dependence according to ethnobotanical data citing traditional use or modern case reports where kava is frequently used in modern European clinical medicine. In fact, one 25-week long study showed no signs of withdrawal.

    It is not recommended to use kava for more than three months without medical supervision, a caution based on the relatively conservative safety assessments of the German Commission E. Reports of liver toxicity associated with prolonged use of kava at very high doses have been cited (Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 2nd Ed.) as well as the exacerbation of hepatitis in patients with a history of recurrent hepatitis, even with short-term use.

    -Carolyn Williams Orlando, MA