In this photo, Black Herbalist Emma is picking some Goldenrod flowers.
This North Carolina Herbalist was nicknamed “little medicine thing” and “woods gal” because as a kid she was always roaming outside looking for, and learning about, medical herbs. In her later years she was also know as “granny woman,” which is a title given to folk healer elders in Appalachia.
Emma lived a long life (from 1897 to 1996) and helped countless people, who at times would line up outside her porch to gain her help and receive her tonics. Her home herb garden overflowed with healing herbs such as pokeweed, rabbit tobacco, silkweed, sage, sassafras, tansy, jimson weed and a tree she called her “healing berry tree”. She was truly a community healer and it was said that there was always something brewing in her house.
Of Emma, another Black Herbalist Safiyyah Bazemore writes “As I continue to grow and spread my branches ever outward as a Black herbalist, I can’t help but think of the roots that have led me to this moment. Roots like Emma. Roots that span centuries, cross continents, and roots that are intimately aware of the resiliency required amidst modern erasure and oppression. While Western herbalism still often lacks discussion and recognition of the contributions from Black herbalists, it is my hope that learning Emma Dupree’s story encourages you in more ways than one.”
Emma’s parents were actually born as enslaved people (which means that I was alive while Emma was a 1st generation free person, for perspective on how resent the extreme oppression of black Americans was). As an elder, Emma shared her knowledge with physicians and medical anthropologists, and received the Brown-Hudson and North Carolina Heritage Awards for her contributions.
While I couldn’t find a published book from her (her knowledge was more shared via storytelling and word of mouth), there is a movie about her, called Little Medicine Thing. There are also interviews (like this one) if you want to check out more!
You are probably lucky enough to have encountered a gorgeous, heavenly scented rose before. This iconic flower has another side to her, a lesser known side, like many of us do.
The rose we know today it is a hybridized version of the delicate, humble Wild Rose. From this dainty cutie, humans bred Rosa to be bigger, have many more petal and come in a rainbow of colors, sizes and scents. (Someone even had the audacity to selectively breed some varieties without even preserving a subtle scent! Maybe the allergy sufferers can appreciate it, but I digress.)
One way to learn to understand a plant is to learn about the family it belongs to. For rose it’s an easy one to remember; it’s part of the Rose family. This family includes our apples, pears, peaches, raspberries and many other well known and edible plants. Though not all rose family plants produce edible fruit, many do.
Give the gift of Clear, Soft & Radiant Skin this Valentines
Simply being in the presence of roses can help to uplift and inspire a gloomy perspective. In addition, they are also a wild or foraged food, a gentle food-as-medicine herb and beneficial for skin health.
A Wild Food | After the showy flowers die back in Autumn, green fruits start to mature. They grow in to bright red edible fruits (the “hips”) that are often plump and juicy. The size and shape varies a bit. They’re no sweet peach, but the flesh is edible, and the bright red hue high in healthy antioxidants and vitamin C.
Health Benefits | The rose hips high antioxidant content make them a valuable ally in diseases related to capillary damage, such as diabetes and heart disease. They also contain a good amount of pectin, which can sooth an irritated digestive tract. (See the Simple Recipe below!)
Skin Care | Topically, rose hip seed oil and rose water (the rose infused water that’s separated from the aromatic oils when making rose essential oil) are both soothing and hydrating to the skin. Many skin conditions respond well to rose water, including acne, psoriasis and dry/sensitive skin.
How to harvest Rose Hips
You get very clear on your plant identification first! Getting multiple sources such as a reference books and the opinion of a nature expert is recommended. Learn about proper, sustainable harvesting and foraging practices and don’t harvest from sprayed bushes.
Once you are sure it’s an edible rose hip, you can nibble away on it as long as you steer clear of the fuzzy seeds in the center. These “hairy” seeds are not pleasant to ingest or digest so do be careful. You can nibble on these fruits like tiny apples, or remove the flesh and add to other food or beverages, or process and dry for later use. Bonus tip: Grind up dried rosehips to make a natural powder that’s high in Vitamin C.
Since the processing can take a bit of time, some opt to simply buy dried and deseeded rose hips from a reliable source or health food store.
Bonus recipe: Super Simple Rose Applesauce:
– Add 2 Tbsp dried rosehips to 1/2 cup of apple juice
– Wait 2+ hours for the hips to soften up
– Add this with with 1 cups of apples and blend
Refrigerate and enjoy your High Vitamin C Rose Applesauce in the next 3 days.
This beautiful mushroom, also called Yamabushitake (Latin name Hericium erinaceus) is well deserving of it’s hype as a powerful nootropic.
While many supplements do exists, Lion’s Mane is also an edible mushroom and can be found at Asian supermarkets, farmers markets and sometimes I’ll find it at my local health food store (ex. New Season) here in Portland, OR.
What is a nootropic?
Nootropics are “smart drugs” or cognitive enhancers that are drugs, supplements and other substances that may improve cognitive function, memory, creativity, or motivation.
While all edible mushrooms do contain immune supportive beta glucans in varying concentrations, Lion’s Mane’s specialty is it’s affinity with the nervous system. Nervous system health (or lack thereof) is associated with age-related cognitive decline, memory, mood and feelings of mental sharpness. And these are the areas where Lion’s Mane shines.
Mood and Depression
So about this year so far…I think that we are all reevaluating out mental space and can hopefully give more time and energy to those areas of our life that bring true fulfillment while minimizing areas that do not. Suffice to say, safe and healthy methods to boost mood are needed.
A 2019 study (here) shows promising research for therapeutic use of Lions Mane for depression, stating “It has been used to treat cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Bioactive compounds extracted from the mycelia and fruiting bodies of H. erinaceus have been found to promote the expression of neurotrophic factors that are associated with cell proliferation such as nerve growth factors. … H. erinaceus may be a potential alternative medicine for the treatment of depression.”
Another study (here) also shows a reduction in both depression and anxiety in people taking Lion’s Mane for four weeks (compared to a placebo).
These uses correlate well with traditional uses of this mushroom, especially in Traditional Chinese Medicine. They are also used frequently in Japan and Korea as both a food and as medicine for a wide range of complaints.
Mental Clarity, Focus and Memory
We all want to be sharp. One way that Lion’s Mane may promote mental acuity is by stimulating nerve growth factor. There are promising animal trials (here) as well as human studies. This study shows promising results for age-related cognitive impairment and memory in older adults. Another recent pilot study shows encouraging data with possible prevention of Early Alzheimer’s.
One area of interest that I think that will be explored more is if the combination of nerve-supportive properties of Lion’s Mane is further enhanced because of it’s immune balancing properties, since calming an overactive immune system may lower general inflammation (along with it’s high antioxidants content). This is more of my own Herbalist brain trying to connect dots, but there is a lot of exciting research on the horizon!
Lion’s Mane is native to North America, Europe and Asia, though I’d suggest finding a sustainable source or growing them at home to use. When eating mushrooms, don’t forget to cook them or process to get past their sturdy cell walls and access all their healthy goodness!
There is a solid body of evidence in the scientific literature to support the notion of Vitamin D supplementation positively affecting health outcomes from respiratory infections.
This study in the British Journal of Medicine, states that “Supplementation with vitamin D3 may reduce disease burden in patients with frequent RTIs.” Read the full article HERE.
As a supporter of holistic health, we here at Mossy Tonic tend to highlight a whole herb, whole food approach to well being over supplementation. That being said, Vitamin D is a nutrient that is hard to come by in our modern diet at sufficient amounts (see below), and the benefits from sunshine have real limitation.
Note the discrepancy of the RDA (recommended daily amount) of Vitamin D, at 600 IU (international units) and the much higher therapeutic daily dose of Vitamin D in the study, at 4,000 IU/day.
Natural sources of Vitamin D include beef liver, fish and egg yolk. While some traditional foods (like organ meet) contain higher amounts of Vitamin D, more modern diets can be lacking in vitamins and do not get anywhere close to the therapeutic doses of Vitamin D seen in these studies.
Sunlight also helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, however variations in latitude, season and skin color affect how much we make. People living in middle and high latitudes (farther from the equator) have less sunlight and it’s limited even more during the winter months. Those will darker skin need more sunlight to produce Vitamin D because of the sun-protective quality of melanin. Because of these factors, sunlight cannot always be relied on to supply adequate amounts of Vitamin D.
That being said, I want to stress that is IS good to “soak up the sun” when you can and in healthy moderation as it still can be a good source of Vitamin D.
Wishing anyone reading this health, happiness and support during this difficult time. Please reach out with more questions or if you cannot access herbs that you are looking for.
So, you probably already know about how the “Rona” spreads and how to use good hygeine and social distancing to reduce spread. If not, please read about it via the CDC here .
What I would like to share is a Western Herbal perspective on at-home tools for those interested in this holistic approach including herbs and daily habits.
First and foremost: Herbs for a cough when a cough is not just a cough. There are wet coughs, dry ones, productive, spastic and more, and a they can change with time. An herbal tactic is to balance out the system. Since the virus is commonly seen with a cold, dry cough, the aim is to employ herbs which warm up, disperse, moisten and expectorate the congested lung cough.
Adding herbs that also posses antimicrobial and anti-viral properties is also helpful. While this is a virus, it’s not uncommon for bacterial infections to also occur or intensify when the immune system is busy fighting off a viral infection.
Next, we need moisture, because the cough is dry, even if there is phlegm that comes up occasionally. And we need warmth, to thin and allow expulsion of the stuck phlegm. To aid in the breaking up and expulsion of phlegm are the expectorants. This is a property that an herb has, and can be found in many different herbs, some cooling and some warming. And lastly, it would be great to add an herb with anti-microbial properties in support of our own hard working white blood cell defense.
OK, so may be asking “Well then which herb should I use for this?” This question is well suited to an allopathic approach, but is not as objective within the broad paradigm of traditional healing systems such as Western Herbalism. Often, answer is usually “Well, there are many options, but it depends.” What is depends on is the issue a person is having, what other imbalances and health qualities that person possesses. This includes their organ system or immune weaknesses or excesses (for example, does this person have respiratory allergies?), their history, mental state, lifestyle and what medications they may be taking. And also important, is the fact that many herbs do so many things that if I looked up “Lung Herbs”, I could find a list of 100’s, in not more, different herbs that help the lungs in one way or another. They are very different and can have very different affects on the lungs. One can be perfect for one person and cause more issues for another. This is often a mismatch of “this good herb” for an specific issue, but sometimes it’s also just a mysteriously bad match for someone.
OK are you still with me? Good. Now let’s get into the Herbs and healthy habit.
Garlic – A classic, raw garlic is warming, stimulation (easily penetrates through the body), is potently anti-microbial against both bacteria and viruses. It is warming and drying, though it does contain a bit of oil for lubrication. Great teammate to have and benefits greatly with other complimentary herbs.
Elecampane– This pungent herb is not as common, but posses strong moving, warming and expectorant properties.
Coltsfoot – A little goes a long way to help and unproductive cough to ramp up for a bit, effectively expel annoying phlegm so that a cough can then settle back down.
Licorice – While licorice root is often underrated, it is mildly helpful in so many ways that it almost seems unlikely. It is moistening to the respiratory tract and is an expectorant. It is mildly anti-viral, it soothes digestive issues in a wide range (from constipation, indigestion and loose bowels notably). It is naturally sweet and little bit in a formula compliments both the flavor and action.
Marshmallow Root – This soothing herb is very different than the above ones in flavor, feel and effect. Instead of being spicy or stimulating, this herb is neutral to almost sweetish in flavor, and becomes slimy in texture. When is comes to dry, irritated tissues and mucus membranes, slime can be your friend. The slick quality of Marshmallow soothes and protects the respiratory and digestive systems. This can help soften up stuck mucus so that it can more easily dislodge from the lungs. It also soothes an irritated throat. For irritation in the stomach, with for example acid reflex (possibly exacerbated for some with garlic or tomatoes consumption), this herb helps to coat and neutralize the burning.
With the above herbs, which together are a great team, you could make a strong, simmered tea with the Elecampane, Coltfoot and Licorice, eat a bit of raw garlic with a meal and between meals add some Marshmallow to water and drink it down. This would ideally be done 3 times a day if mild symptoms were present. For strong tea, use at least a tablespoon of each herb per cup of water (use a tsp for Coltsfoot).
Note: I am not a doctor and this information is for educational purposes only. For specifics in doses and measurements, please see the resources below.
So now that you may feel excited to try these herbs, you may not have access to them. That’s OK. These are great examples of useful herbs, but they are not the only, or “best” ones. So, here are some great substitutes.
Instead of Garlic, Ginger, both fresh and dried, also posses strong antimicrobial, warming and diffusive properties. Other spicy herbs such as Cayenne also help to loosen phlegm and warm up the body with enhanced circulation.
Instead of Marshmallow, Slippery Elm is used in a similar way and for similar purposes. In you can’t find that, then Linden is good, and if you’re thinking “I’ve never heard of these!” then just know that if you have flaxseeds or chia seeds, then the slime of them can suffice (if prepared as to access their slime, ex. making and consuming flax “gel” instead of just eating dries flax).
Cinnamon – Another underrated herb, classic cinnamon possesses warming, moistening and mild anti-microbial properties. Personally I find this herb to be delicious and relish adding the powder onto fruits (especially apple), in desserts, over coffee or into Chai tea (yes, even though Chai often already has Cinnamon). It can also help to sweeten up an herbal formulas with some of the more bitter tasting herbs listed above
If you can’t find Coltsfoot or Elecampane, then Yerba Santa is a great option for dispelling lung phlegm. It is a resinous leaf that is common in the Southwest portions of North America and especially the drier areas in California. Thyme is also a nice substitute.
Bonus for those with Asthma and Allergies: Nettle is a nourishing herb that slowly, with consistent use, can help to build the strength of the respiratory tract and lower the allergic response. Also known as Stinging Nettles, this herb is also a great food herb and it’s high nutrient and mineral content supports general health and more specifically hair, nails and bone health.
Preventative Immune Support
These herbs are taken consistently and ideally taken at least a few weeks before an infection arises. At least one dose per day is great.
Mushrooms – There are mushrooms that are more intense in their support of immune strength, but all mushrooms are at least a little bit helpful due to their Beta-glucan content. The heavy hitter for now though is Reishi, though Chaga and Shitake are also great. What’s great about mushrooms is that even the heavy hitters with many impressive studies under their belts, they are still very safe and can often be consumed in large and consistent doses. Soup, tea, extract and double-extracted tincture are all great. They just must be proceeded in a way that makes them bio-available, such as heat (boiling) or as with powdered mycelium. Top or bottom (fruiting body or mycelium), it’s all good!
Astragalus – A great, moistening and immune building herbs with a particular liking for chronically inflamed or past-injured lungs. A daily tea is great or it can be added into soup stock.
Dandelion Root – This herb stimulates digestion and supports liver function. If you are someone who deals with constipation, uses substances that are hard on the liver (alcohol, for example), eats processed or hard-to-digest food often, eat excessively or has an excessive hormonal load (ex. acne associated with the menstrual cycle), then your body and immune system may be more distracted by “cleaning up” extra metabolic waste and associated inflammation. This strains the eliminating organs (the liver and skin in particular), and in their excessive maintenance, they may not have as a robust response to an infection and the extra toxic load of spent white blood cells piling up. The metaphor is that when the body has extra support in decluttering and thus quelling excess inflammation, it can focus more efficiently at supporting a strong immune battle.
I can’t help myself, I have to mention sleep, nourishing food and mental and emotional hygiene– you need them if you want to support your immune system. Journaling, meditating, stretches, breath work and other self care practices go a long way to ease the mind so that your immune system can stay focused and strong. Relaxation supporting herbs include Passionflower, Skullcap and Chamomile.
Other Supportive habits
This virus thrives in cold. Keeping warm by eating hot tea and food, dressing warmly and yes, refriening from galavanting in the cold rain, are helpful. The idea of choosing to support a mild fever can be important to note even if it’s a controversial idea. While rarely a fever can increase to a harmful excess, a mild fever is a natural response by the body to kill invading pathogens. Personally, I like to encourage a fever until it breaks with some hot, spicy tea, a hot bath and a nap wrapped in two blankets.
Fasting. Intermittent fasting seems to benefit a healthy immune response, and is a way to reduce the work load of the whole body from digestion (an energy heavy process) to general body maintenance (healing inflammation) and active immune defense. (See sources below for studies on fasting).
Vitamin D supplementation. Because of the lack of strong sunlight in winter months (in much of the world outside of the equatorial zone), and rarity of eating traditional foods high in Vit. D such as liver, many are deficient. Vitamin D assists the immune system (and well as many other bodily systems) and there are various studies linking supplementation with better viral outcomes (here is one). Note that the RDA may be higher than previously thought, so ask a doctor or natural practitioner about dosing.
Bonus! Herbal steam. Inhaling warm, herbally aromatic vapor can help to calm a cough, loosen phlegm and enhance relaxation (especially with Lavender). You can use fresh or dried herbs such as Eucalyptus, Thyme or Lavender. You can also use the essential oils of these herbs, though use caution with both the doses (a little goes a long way) and make sure the steam isn’t too hot. (While I don’t endorse any particular essential oil brand, just try to find a local, Organic source ideally and one that’s not part of a MLM scheme).
Note: some herbs can be wildharvested in a way that threatens their endangered status. Please be aware of your sourcing. If you are a local in Portland, Home Grown Apothecary sources Organic and Ethically wild-harvested herbs.
Sources and Additional Links
I want to express gratitude for work many nationally recognized Herbalists and holistic medical professional are doing. They are spending their time researching, testing and compiling information to give out free for the benefit of the people. Special thank you to Dr. Aviva Romm, Jim McDonald, Yarrow Willard, 7Song, Paul Bergner and many more! Your insights are so valuable.
More info in Fasting by Dr. Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo. A video here and compilation of studies here (Note, this doctor works with short (ex. intermittent) and long fasts (3+ Days). Longer fasts should only be done with medical supervision and ideally as prevention.)
Written by Herbalist and Foodie, Tania Oceana | Updated 1/5/21
It’s a new, fresh year and about time to kick our sweet toothed habit. I know, I really do love all kinds of chocolately, whipped, sprinkled and gooey baked good, treats and super sugary coffee drinks. And I am not turning my back on them yet.
Treats, in moderation, as treats and not everyday nourishment, are as natural as the seasons. But we have to be upfront about the excessive and refined sugar lurking in pretty much all packaged and prepared foods.
Before introducing Stevia, and clearing up how it is NOT an artificial sweetener, I want to first assure you of a few comforting truths;
Your tastes can change. With time, you can increase or decrease your “sweet spot” for saltiness and sweetness. Yes the first couple weeks will be the hardest but there will come a time when you think “Eww, this is way to sweet!” to something that you used to love that sweet.
Progress not perfection. Take a lesson from the old tortoise that beat the hare because they were slow and steady. Say it with me, we are done with whirl wind romances when it comes to our health. Fads can go to hell and patience shall be embraced.
Incorporate one new habit at a time. You have the whole year. If you only cemented one new habit per month, you will be 12 healthier habits stronger by the end of this year. Sugar is addictive, certain foods are comforting meal habits can affect social bonding. Instead of cutting all sweet food out cold turkey, try to reduce and adjust. You don’t like donuts THAT much but usually take one from your coworker when they share every day? Say no thank you a couple of times next week. But you do love your homemade vanilla latte made with your fun new cream frother? Keep it, but change out your sugar-laden creamer with a sugar free option and add stevia.
OK so what is Stevia and why you should use it.
Stevia, or Stevia rebaudiana, is a green little plant in the Sunflower family (AKA the Aster family). Contrary to popular belief, it is not a white powder. But we’ll get there in a minute.
Stevia is a super sweet tasting herb, and the leaves are the part used. It is a perennial that is native to parts of Brazil and Paraguay. It’s used by locals to sweeten their energizing Yerba Mate tea, as well as in creating other sweet treats. It can be grown almost anywhere with a greenhouse and some love.
Stevia contains no calories, carbohydrates and it’s active compounds are steviol glycoside. The lack of carbohydrates and other blood-sugar spiking compounds like glucose have brought Stevia into interest in terms of its possible positive effect on cavities, diabetes, obesity and other metabolic diseases. (See the references at the bottom for some scientific studies on Stevia.)
Are all Stevia products created equal?
Stevia the plant is one thing, and “stevia” sweetners another. There are many artificial sweeteners that seem like they are Stevia, but are mostly a base of maltodextrin or another base or artificial sweetener, that has a tiny bit of Stevia in the mix. One reason is that Stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, that cutting it with something else helps the serving size to remain the same (Ex. substitute 1 tsp of sugar with 1 tsp of “stevia” powder). So be careful and read the label, because there are health and digestive concerns for many of the artificial sweeteners used today. The common form are powder and tincture (a liquid extract usually of a combination of water, alcohol and/or glycerin.)
OK, so how does it taste?
Some people report a slight bitter aftertaste from some products, but others do not and just taste a generic sweetness. So try experimenting with doses and products to see what works best for you. You can even substitute half of your sugar (in that morning joe, for example) for Stevia to dip your toes in before jumping in the deep end. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to tell a difference but take your time anyways, because why not?
A hotly debated topic; can Stevia help people start and stick to intermittent diet or a Ketogenic diet?
Both diets include times that exclude carbs/sugar, but many people still drink beverages such as tea and coffee. For some, that bit of warm, Stevia sweetened beverage can be the make or break in their dietary goals. Since it doesn’t contain sugar or carbs, many feel comfortable adding it in. For the dietary purist, simply the taste of sweetness brings up fears of stimulating a metabolic process that they are trying to avoid. And again, the science on this subject is still new, so there’s not one conclusive answer yet. So take it with a grain of salt!
The bottom line is that the only way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than your body burns for energy.
There are many ways to accomplish this, and targeting added sugars and replacing them with stevia is an easy and tasty fix.
Research has shown that subjects given stevia-containing foods or beverages consumed fewer calories throughout the day. (2,3)
The Truth About Added Sugars
It seems like everything we read talks about avoiding carbs and sugar.
In the U.S., the average intake of added sugars reaches up to 270 calories or more than 13 percent of calories per day based on an average 2000 calorie diet.
Not surprisingly, the largest source of added sugars in the typical diet is beverages, including soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and flavored waters. They account for almost half (47%) of all added sugars consumed by the U.S. population.
The other major source of added sugars is snacks and sweets.(1) Most people don’t realize how much sugar they consume from other sources like marinades, sauces, salad dressings, yogurt, crackers and other items that don’t “seem sweet.”
The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calories or about 50 grams per day based on 2000 calories.
If your body needs fewer calories based on size, age, and activity level, the gram limits are even lower.
To take it a step further, the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 24g grams per day (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams per day (9 teaspoons) for men.
It’s obviously an area of concern in our standard American diet as the term “added sugars” appeared 138 times in the dietary guidelines report!
Knowing Your Limit for Added Sugars
Simply put, consumption of added sugars can make it difficult for people desiring to lose weight to meet their nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits.
Whenever anyone restricts total calories, everything eaten needs to contain more nutrients to make sure you get what you need for proper fueling while limiting total calories.
One of the simplest strategies is to limit added sugars.
Why? Because they are more often found in foods that do not provide quality vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that we look for to help prevent lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancers.
That’s where products like stevia fit in.
Can Stevia Help with Weight Loss?
Since stevia is a plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener with a taste 50-350 times sweeter than sugar, a little goes a long way. By substituting stevia for sugar in your daily routine, there are many ways to cut total calories and sugar grams.
Using stevia to sweeten your coffee or tea (hot or iced), saves 16 calories per teaspoon over sugar. A few cups per day with a few teaspoons each can really add up quickly. Each stevia packet is formulated to equal the sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar. Take some with you to your favorite coffeehouse or restaurant and add your own.
Instead of eating pre-sweetened Greek yogurt with up to 20 grams of sugar, start with the plain variety and add your own stevia, vanilla extract, cinnamon and fruit.
Swap stevia for sugar, honey or maple syrup in your oatmeal, homemade salad dressings, baked goods and other recipes that call for sugar. Even subbing in ½ the amount in a recipe can make a big difference.
Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, Coulon S, Cefalu WT, Geiselman P, Williamson DA. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite 2010;55:37–43.
Tey SL, Salleh NB, Henry J, Forde CG. Effects of aspartame-, monk fruit-, stevia- and sucrose-sweetened beverages on postprandial glucose, insulin and energy intake. Int J Obes (Lond) 2017;41:450–7. “
One of my first lessons in wild edibles as a kid. Years later and I have thankfully befriended at at least a few random red berries and confidently enjoyed their fruit.
Hawthorn grows abundantly in Europe, Asian and North America. There are many varieties found just in the Pacific NW region that I call home, and I use most interchangeably. This rose family, shrubby tree often has lobed leaves, serious thorns and flowers that range from deep pink to white.
The leaves and flowers, picked in the spring, make a delicious tea. Come fall is when the fruit ripens. The bright red berries have a very subtle apple flavor, and the variety pictured here has one large center seed inside the fruit. Like many common foods, I think Hawthorn is best enjoyed mixed in with other ingredients and cooked; jams, pies, in apple sauce, tea and more! Unless it’s a survival situation, it can’t hurt to get creative!
BENEFITS OF HAWTHORN
Besides being a fun wild or urban foraged food, Hawthorn is high in antioxidants and may support a healthy cardiovascular system. Like most brightly colored fruit, Hawthorn contains flavonoids and antioxidants which help to fight off free radicals and ease overall inflammation.
Hawthorns affinity for the heart and circulatory system is pretty extraordinary. From known (see citations below) and unknown mechanisms, this herb may benefit and balance high blood pressure, blood sugar and is often used in a long term preventative and/or strengthening herb for the heart and vascular system.
In additional to the anatomical heart, the metaphorical heart can also be deeply nourished by this herb. Hawthorn is subtly relaxing, and has been a gentle herbal ally during grieving and heartbreak. For those experiencing a “heavy” or “tender” heart, try taking Hawthorn (leaf/flower/berry) tea, tincture or syrup daily for at least a week and see if that doesn’t help uplift, relax and brighten your mood a bit. Highly sensitive individuals may be able to feel an affect with smaller doses or even simply sitting with the tree.
HAWTHORN BERRY SYRUP
One of my favorite ways to enjoy Hawthorn is to make it into a syrup that I can use on pancakes and to sweeten tea with.
Water, Hawthorn Berries, Sugar, Honey or Maple Syrup, a pot and a measuring cup
Step 1. *Responsibly gather or purchase your Hawthorn Berries
Step 2. Place your fresh or dried berries into a pot of boiling water. For fresh berries use 1 cup of water per 1 cup of berries, and for dried berries use 2 cups of water per cup of berries
Step 3. Simmer the water and berries uncovered for 10 minutes. Gently crush the berries with a fork in the pot as they soften
Step 4. Let this cool slightly and finish crushing the berries in the pot
Step 5. Strain this mix through cheese cloth or a metal strainer. Use a spoon to help get out as much of the pulp as you can
Step 6. To this warm berry liquid, add equal parts sugar, honey or maple syrup and stir. Voila!
Pour into a clean jar, label with the date and refrigerate.
This Hawthorn Syrup should last about three weeks. Add to your favorite foods and beverages and enjoy!
*Responsible foraging means that you learn to accurately identify the plant, the correct plant parts, in the correct season, and use ethical wild crafting practices. If you are in the Portland, OR area we do offer Herb Walks and if not then there may be other herbal and wilderness hands on educational classes in your area!
The abundance and variety of properties in a single herb never fails to impress me. The idea that one little plant can wear so many different hats also helps reminds me how odd it is to try to pack any living being in to too few, and separate, boxes.
Lobelia Inflata is a small plant who often sports little purple flowers, and who wears the following hats; Muscle relaxant, expectorant, antispasmodic, eases asthma, supports tobacco cessation, tastes kind of like poison and in large doses it is toxic. And of course in additional to those there are always other secrets to wonder about.
Lobelia is so nasty in flavor that it can literally cause one to gag. The lesson in this, I believe, is to work with this herb conservatively. To save your taste buds, a tincture is a better way to go over tea. A bit of loose Lobelia herb could be hidden in say, some strong peppermint tea, but to understand the individual affect, a tincture in a bit of water is a good bet. Due to the strong nature of this herb, a little goes a long way. Instead of the usual 30 drop dose for most herbal tinctures, Lobelia is more of a “drop dose” herb, meaning that 1-10 drops is usually sufficient to feel the effects. If you are sensitive, then you can start on the lower end.
And now the age old question, “so what do you use this herb for?”
A valid question, and I understand the enthusiasm! I do also want to spread the idea though that a more holistic way to approach herbalism is with a bit more open curiosity to what properties this plant has. These properties are all of those different hats, and they can change based on the the weather (your desired application for example) and the plants mood (those random factors affecting the plant, the sourcing and various factors within yourself, that limit homogeny and make life interesting). Ok so let’s start with the muscle relaxation aspect. Lobelia has the lovely ability to loosen muscle tension throughout our body in both our smooth and skeletal muscles. Just that alone means that this herb can greatly aid in tense, knotted shoulder or neck muscles, uterine cramps, leg cramps, restless leg, and even our tiny lung muscles if they happen to be constricted or spazzy from allergies, asthma or illness. Whether the muscle tension is from stress, injury or an inherited condition doesn’t change the effect, which is a deep sigh of relief and physical relaxation. The muscles calm, lose their stiffness and lessen in tone and spasms.
This physical relaxation often promotes emotional relaxation because when your neck loosens up, your cramps subside and pain looses some of it’s sharpness, it’s so much easier to feel comfortable and remember to see all the beauty around us.
As for Lobelia’s relationship with the lungs, the affect is twofold. You have the muscle relaxation aspect, which can calm a spastic cough, tense lungs and the emotional trigger aspect that can exacerbate constriction and breathlessness. The lungs open and relax. The second aspect it Lobelia’s expectorant property. Expectorant means that it helps to loosen, break up and expel excess phlegm from the lungs. So essentially it can help you hack up phlegm which can ease respiratory congestion. This could be beneficial in many ongoing or acute issues in the lungs, such as a chest cold or chronic bronchitis. I do want to mention to please consult a medical professional before attempting to substitute any conventional asthma protocols for Lobelia!
In addition to those with asthma, anyone in forest fire prones areas can often benefit from additional lung support. Here in Oregon, these last few years have been the worst I’ve ever seen in terms of unhealthy air quality from wildfire smoke. That mixed with the heat and excessive city emissions, August and September can be a tricky time for those with sensitive lungs and to a lesser degree everyone else as well. Thankfully this year we got a bit more rain than last year, and more of us are aware and becoming aware of small changes we can make to keep our environments, ourselves and each other healthier. Good news is that when we support any one of them, we support them all.
And lastly, for those who want to transition off of tobacco cigarettes, Lobelia can help with both the tobacco cravings and the inevitable cleaning out of the lungs from accumulated cigarette tar (even when smoked). While Lobelia does not contain any nicotine, it has been called “Indian Tobacco” due to it’s use among North American Natives, as well as it’s use as a tobacco alternative. The physical and mental relaxation properties can be of benefit when transitioning from nicotine, and Lobelia is often blended with other smoking herbs for flavor and effect. Surprisingly, the flavor of the smoke is not gross and can even be pleasant.
In case you are curious how to experiment with this interesting plant, I’d love to share a simple and balanced herbal blend to help support your hardworking lungs this season:
BREATH SUPPORT BLEND | Loose Leaf Herbal Tea or Tincture
1 Part = 1 TBsp Loose Herb OR 1 Dropperful of Liquid Tincture
5 Part Mullein Leaf
2 Part Marshmallow Root (Or substitute Licorice Root)
1 Part Lobelia Herb
Making a Tea: Combine your herbs. Pour 1 quart of freshly boiled water over your blend and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy! You can add honey or a sweetener if desires, and you can enjoy this blend hot or cold, one cup at a time. This blend should last about a day in the refrigerator. 1-3 cups per day is a great way to support your lungs during fire season.
Using Tinctures: Combine in a dropper bottle. Take 1 Droppersful in a bit of water or into tea 1-3x/day during fire season.
Thank you for ready and stay green!
If you are on the journey to quitting tobacco cigarettes, we have five different flavorful herbal smoking blends. All organic, no fillers, no nicotine, and made with love in Oregon!
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
― Martin Luther
GOING PLASTIC FREE
Our values to nurture people and the planet mean that we are dedicated to preventing waste as much as possible. ALL of our packaging will be reusable (glass jars, metal tins), recyclable and/or compostable. We have been working towards this goal and are almost there!
ONE TREE EVERY MONTH
We are planting one tree every single month, period. We know we are interconnected, and that the shade of a tree that we may not enjoy ourselves is a gift of love. Giving back is natural and paying it forward feels good. And honestly we are happy for any excuse to plant a tree!
We are particularly inspired by increasing greeness in areas with the worst air quality. We are aiming to work with urban rental homes, apartments and communities near large roads. We think everyone deserves to enjoy the many physical and mental health benefits of trees!
If you are interested volunteering your time to local tree planting, or know of an area that could benefit from greeness, please contact us here
June 2020 Update
UPDATE ON OUR 2020 Sustainability Goal to 100% Plastic Free:
A food-as-medicine ally, Chaga Tea is a comforting, neutral flavored and deep dark brew.
This unique mushroom looks like knotted bark, and is a blessing for those who do not enjoy the common texture and flavor or mushrooms.
Chaga is found in Northern Forests, usually on birch trees, in most of the Northern Hemisphere. Chaga colonizes tree wounds, and while it slowly draws nutrients from the tree, it also offers its antimicrobial properties to protect the wound from invasion of other harmful organisms.
Chaga is most well known for it’s adaptogenic properties. An adaptogen is an herb which helps to slowly strengthen and balance our immune response, stress response and hormone system (which is affected by an excessive stress response). Instead of overstimulating the immune system, which may aggravate autoimmune issues, an adaptogen helps to slowly build up a more proportionate response – one that can better target actual threats such as viral infections. This makes is a great daily tea to drink before the cold and flu season.
Bonus Health Benefit: Chaga has one of the highest antioxidant content of any food!
HOW TO BREW
Find a good, Organic or Ethically Wild Harvested source of Chaga
Use 1tsp of small chunks (or 1Tbsp of larger chunks) of Chaga per 1 cup of boiling water
Combine water and Chaga into a pot, cover with a lid and simmer on low for 20+ minutes (if they are larger chunks you can simmer for 40 minutes)
Strain into a mug or jar. Keep the Chaga bits! They can be re-brewed until the brown color fades
Let cool until warm. Enjoy alone, added into Chai tea, coffee, or other teas. Add milk of choice and sweetener as desired
Refrigerate strained bit and use within the month. Freshly brewed, plain chaga tea can last a couple of days when refrigerated.
Interested in learning more? Check out these sources!