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Herbal Guide



Elecampane has become one of my personal favorite respiratory remedies over the years, not just for its medicinal benefits for many of the common respiratory woes people face today, but as a choice restorative agent. Whether you make it into a tincture or enjoy the syrup, Elecampane is a remedy every herbalist should know. 

In today’s blog post, you’ll learn:

  • Elecampane’s pungent and aromatic taste and how it corresponds to its core respiratory properties
  • Why this herb is a primo respiratory remedy
  • The connection between Elecampane and homesickness 
  • Elecampane’s correspondence to the Sun and Air Element 
  • How to prepare medicinal remedies with Elecampane 
Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Elecampane grows radiant and tall in the garden, flaunting bright yellow flowers and a deeply aromatic root. This is one of the best herbs you can use for a damp and cold respiratory condition or cough. With the winter upon us and the cold creeping up, Elecampane provides an innate warmth to the body and mind, revitalizing it from the inside out like the sun. 

Taste

Elecampane is a pungent plant with a hot, spicy, and aromatic taste. The roots are rich in volatile essential oils and give Elecampane its distinct flavor. This herb also has some bitterness and acridity present. However, its pungency tends to override the other flavors because of its potency. While the bitter taste indicates a draining and drying effect, the acridity reveals antispasmodic and relaxant properties- all of which are exemplified in this herb’s herbal actions and organ affinities. 

Affinities

Elecampane is a primo respiratory remedy, and I consider this its core organ affinity. This herb is unique in that it alleviates acute respiratory conditions and at the same time restores the innate functionality and health of the lungs when they have become worn down and weakened after chronic, prolonged, or frequent respiratory conditions. 

The other main affinity I correspond with Elecampane is the digestive system. Elecampane supports digestive health with its aromatic and stimulant volatile oils and resins. These drive circulation to the GI, dispel gas, and help your body break down food and prepare it for elimination. The warming and drying effects of Elecampane are particularly helpful for damp, mucoid, and stagnant digestive conditions characterized by slow digestion and a chronic feeling of heaviness in the belly after eating. 

Lastly, it will impact the cardiovascular system and circulation through its pungency, which drives the blood and warms the body. Although this isn’t a cardiovascular remedy per se, there’s no doubt that it positively impacts circulation with its stimulating properties. 

Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Actions

The main herbal action that comes to mind when I think of Elecampane is its stimulant expectorant property. As the name suggests, expectorants expel mucus from the lungs. However, not all expectorants are created equal. If you opened an herbalism book and looked up ‘expectorant,’ you may find numerous herbs listed, such as Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and Elecampane. However, there are many kinds of expectorants, each indicated for respiratory conditions with different underlying energetics. 

Elecampane irritates the respiratory mucosa through its volatile oils and resins, resulting in a pungent, warming, and stimulating expectorant. By stimulating these tissues, it encourages a productive cough. Use Elecampane when there is a cold, damp, phlegmatic cough with mucus that is difficult to expel. We might refer to that as an “unproductive cough.” Another specific indication is when your cough won’t go deep enough to get all the stagnant mucus out from your lungs. This can lead to excessive coughing with little to no relief. Elecampane breaks up the mucus with its aromatic compounds and stimulates the tissues to a deeper cough to clear the lungs. 

Because Elecampane is so stimulating and warming, you can see it having a stimulant diaphoretic effect. This herb works well to break a fever, especially when there is a cough present and the person is cold and shivering. Elecampane brings the blood to the surface of the skin, opens the capillary beds, and warms the person so they can produce sweat and break the fever. 

Elecampane is a respiratory trophorestorative, an uncommon herbal action in the Western Materia Medica. This action refers to the ability to restore functionality and health to an organ or organ system. In the case of Elecampane, it helps to clear chronic pectoral states, re-establishes proper mucosal secretions, and strengthens the lungs. These effects make Elecampane a powerful remedy to consider when there are long-standing respiratory conditions, a lingering cough after infection, or dyspnea. 

Matthew Wood speaks about Elecampane as being great for people who develop asthma as a result of long-standing respiratory conditions. The acridity of this herb relaxes muscle spasms and tension, helping you take deeper and fuller breaths.

Elecampane affects the immune system with its antiseptic resins and volatile oils. It is great for bacterial infections, especially when the mucus is yellow to green. It is said that if you take Elecampane, the mucus will start to thin and become clear in color- all signs that the infection is clearing. 

Because Elecampane is so effective at expectorating mucus and absolves the cause at its root, it is indicated for mucoid digestion that leads to nausea. When you have a lot of mucus in the lungs, this can make its way into the stomach and lead to indigestion and nausea. Alternatively, excess phlegm in the stomach can make its way into the lungs. In either case, there is a pattern of excess kapha, or dampness, which Elecampane drains away with its mild bitter tonic action. Coupled with its antiseptic properties, Elecampane is good for clearing out infection and moving the lymph when there is stagnation in the gut.

Lastly, Elecampane is a prebiotic plant. Prebiotics are plants that contain fiber that acts as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. It stimulates the repopulation of your gut with healthy and beneficial bacteria and can be used to strengthen and heal the digestive system. Inulin is the specific prebiotic polysaccharide present in Elecampane, which derived its name from the latin genus of Elecampane, Inula. Other herbs that contain high amounts of inulin include Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) and Burdock (Arctium lappa). 

Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Energetics

Elecampane is distinctly pungent and warming. In the Greek tradition, Elecampane is warming in the 3rd degree, which means it thins fluids and pushes heat to the surface to produce a sweat. You can see this illustrated with its stimulant diaphoretic quality, circulatory property, and warming effects on the lungs and stomach. 

Although this herb slightly increases mucilage in the lungs, Elecampane is considered a net-drying plant. This is because when you sweat and cough up mucus, you’re losing fluids. Elecampane is also drying due to its warming volatile oils and resins. Elecampane has a mild relaxant effect on tissue tone. You can trace this back to its acrid taste, which relaxes muscle tension and spasm. Lastly, Elecampane is stimulating, which you see through its stimulant diaphoretic, expectorant, and circulatory effects. 

In terms of Elecampane’s influence on the Ayurvedic doshas, it is a specific remedy for reducing excess kapha dosha. Elecampane balances the coldness, dampness, and heaviness of kapha with its warming, drying, and stimulating properties. 

Because of its pungency, warmth, and oiliness, Elecampane aggravates pitta. This herb can be beneficial to vata, especially because of its circulatory warming and relaxant effects. However, it can also exacerbate the dryness of vata and may work best when combined with moistening plants. 

According to the Physiomedicalists, Elecampane is indicated for cold/depression and damp/stagnation tissue states. With its stimulant, pungent, and warming properties, Elecampanes restores vitality and functioning to the organs when there is a pattern of cold/depression. Its drying and expectorant qualities make it an excellent remedy for damp/stagnation conditions characterized by excess mucus and thickened fluids that become difficult to drain.

Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Psychological and emotional aspects 

Similar to Elecampane’s warming and uplifting effect on the body, it brings these qualities to the mind. Elecampane is indicated for loneliness and grief, particularly when related to homesickness or a sense of loss of home. It has an uplifting effect on the depressive weight that can ensue and brightens the mind with its revitalizing and optimistic sun-like energy.

Alchemical Correspondences

I consider Elecampane to be governed by the Sun. With its bright yellow sun-looking flowers and pungent and aromatic root, Elecampane brings warmth and vitality to the entire body and mind. This herb drives the blood flow to the lungs, gut, skin surface, and increases the vitality and functionality of the organ systems. Within the mind, it uplifts depression associated with homesickness and loss of home, whether literal or metaphorical. In this way, it balances an excess of the Moon since the Moon rules the fourth house, which influences your relationship with family and home. Lastly, Elecampane’s stimulant, warming, and drying sun-like qualities counter the damp cold energetics associated with the Moon.

In medical astrology, the Sun represents your core vitality, often associated with warmth. While Elecampane doesn’t necessarily work like a chi tonic or rasayana or adaptogen, it does have a restorative quality to the digestion and the respiratory system, along with bringing in an overall radiant heat and energy to the system that supports in overall vitality. 

Elementally speaking, Elecampane is associated with the Air Element. This is seen through its entire respiratory system affinity and its ability to uplift the heart in times of separation from home, or your ‘root.’ 

Alchemically I would correlate it to the Salt Principle, which relates to the Earth and Water Elements. We see this relationship in how it influences and restores and rejuvenates the body, notably the digestive system here. We also see this relationship in its overall stout and robust appearance, and that the root is the primary part of the plant used as medicine. 

Elecampane (Inula helenium) growing in our garden

Growing

Elecampane has glorious yellow flowers with big broad leaves. This herb grows to be super tall and sometimes gets so heavy that it falls over (a good signature for plants high in the Earth/Water/Salt principles). If you’re looking for a plant with a presence, Elecampane will certainly bring it to your garden!

This herb is a perennial native to Europe and parts of Asia. It grows well in sunny conditions and well-drained soils, although it is rather forgiving if the conditions aren’t perfect. Elecampane is a light-dependent germinator, so place the seeds on top of your soil and sprinkle a fine layer of vermiculite on top so they’re still exposed to light and can grow. 

Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Preparation 

The medicinal parts of Elecampane are the roots, which you want to leave to grow for a full two years before you dig them up and use them. This allows them to grow and develop to full maturity. The best time to harvest them is in the fall after the plant has become dormant. Alternatively, you can harvest them in early springtime before the plant starts to flower. During that time, you can divide the roots and propagate them further so the herb can flourish without becoming too compact in the soil. 

After you harvest the roots, clean them well and use them fresh to make a tincture. Because the roots are so high in volatile oils and resins, they do well in a high percentage of alcohol when making a tincture. This can range between 80, 90, and 95% alcohol. 

You can also make a cough syrup with Elecampane for a bronchial infection, and it pairs well with other aromatic warming herbs, such as Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale). A syrup is a strong decoction preserved with honey and brandy, though many just contain a sweetener and no alcohol. Lastly, you can cut the harvested and clean roots and dry them out to use later on for a decoction or other medicine making projects. 

The aromatic, spicy, and warming flavor of Elecampane cuts through the frigid wintertime, and its revitalizing stimulating property wakes up the body and mind. With its affinity for the respiratory system and its deep trophorestorative and replenishing effects, I can’t think of a better plant to work with during winter than sun-like Elecampane. 

Prebiotic Decoction

2 parts Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale

2 parts Burdock root (Arctium lappa

1 part Elecampane root (Inula helenium

½ part Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis

This formula combines 3 prebiotic rich plants alongside moistening Marshmallow root to prevent it from being too drying. Add each herb to a pot, and for every 1 tablespoon of herb, add 1 cup of water. Cover and bring the combination to a gentle simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half and is strong in flavor and scent. Strain, pour, and enjoy.

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The post Elecampane: The Deep Breather appeared first on The School of Evolutionary Herbalism.

 

Hyssop is an ancient herb that is an important part of the Western Materia Medica. This combination of information from ancient sources and the modern scientific model lends a unique perspective on this plant and how you can use it in your herbalism practice.

In today’s blog post, you’ll learn:

  • The medicinal properties of Hyssop’s aromatic bitter taste
  • Hyssop’s unique application as a cough medicine
  • The psychological and emotional indications for Hyssop 
  • Its relationship to Jupiter and Mercury 
  • How to harvest and make medicine using Hyssop 
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

I find it really exciting when you discover that an herb has Biblical and spiritual traditional uses because when this happens, you can glean insight into the plant in a way that modern science doesn’t speak to. 

Hyssop is mentioned in Psalm 51:7, where King David writes “Purge me with Hyssop, so that I shall be clean. Wash me so I may be as white as snow.” This quote illustrates Hyssop’s seemingly cleansing effects on the body, mind, and soul.

Hyssop is an interesting herb with an affinity for nearly every part of the body, granting it a protective-like quality. Beginner friendly and with many medicinal indications, Hyssop is the perfect herb for you to get to know. 

Common name: Hyssop 

Latin name: Hyssopus officinalis

Family: Lamiaceae

Tastes: Pungent, Aromatic, Bitter

Affinities: Digestive, Respiratory, Liver, Kidneys and Urinary Tract, Cardiovascular/Circulation, Immunity/Febrile Mechanism, Female Reproductive 

Actions: Carminative, Bitter Tonic, Expectorant (main action, primarily stimulant expectorant), Spasmolytic, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Antiseptic

Energetics: Warming, Drying (long term), Moistening (short term), Stimulant

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Taste

Hyssop is a unique plant in that it is both bitter and aromatic. Some plants in the Mint family, like Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and Peppermint (Mentha × piperita), are strictly aromatic. Others, like Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), are straight bitter. Hyssop has both tastes, making it an aromatic bitter. You may find that your Hyssop tastes more bitter or aromatic depending on the individual crop yield, and this can change from season to season. Hyssop’s pungency is what grants it its “hot” feel and indicates its circulatory and warming effects on the body.

“Hyssop is stimulant, aromatic, carminative, and tonic. Principally used in quincy and other sore throats, as a gargle, combined with Sage and alum, in infusion sweetened with honey. Also recommended in asthma, coughs, and other affections of the chest, as an expectorant. The leaves apply to bruises, speedily relieve the pain, and disperse every spot or mark from the effect of parts.” ~ King’s Dispensatory

Affinities

Aromatic bitters, like Hyssop, pretty much always have an affinity for the digestive system. Hyssop supports healthy digestion by stimulating secretions from the gastrointestinal tract (bitter), increasing blood flow to the gut (aromatic), and enhancing digestion and nutrient absorption. 

Another core affinity of Hyssop is the respiratory system. It soothes the throat and opens the bronchial passages and lungs to support respiratory health. As a pungent herb, Hyssop increases circulation and impacts the cardiovascular, immune system, and febrile mechanism, which refers to the entire physiological process of how herbs work with a fever. 

Hyssop has been used for liver stagnation patterns and jaundice and is known to promote diuresis. In this way, it influences the kidneys and urinary tract. Hyssop also has a slight affinity for the female reproductive system. Because of its circulatory stimulant properties and warming effect, it can be helpful for amenorrhea. 

Hyssop has historical accounts of being used for nearly every organ system in the body, but the core organ affinities are digestion and respiration, and this is where you will see its actions really shine.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Actions

With its volatile oil compounds, Hyssop acts as a carminative by dispelling gas, wind, and bloating from the GI while driving blood flow to the gut. As a bitter tonic, it stimulates pancreatic enzymes, stomach acids, and the stimulation of bile through the liver and gallbladder. These digestive secretions help your body to digest your food better, absorb the nutrients, and prepare it for healthy elimination. 

Hyssop is a choice stimulant expectorant herb because its warming property stimulates the lungs and the cough reflex to remove stagnant mucus. This herb is specifically indicated for when excess heat in the tissues has caused the mucus to “bake down,” causing it to adhere to the respiratory tissues and making it difficult to cough out. 

It provides relief for this type of cough in two ways. First, its volatile oils penetrate the mucus, break it up, and make it easier to expel. Secondly, it increases secretions in the lungs through its bitter action, which helps moisten overly dry tissues. These fresh secretions introduce antibodies and immunological factors to the local area, which ultimately helps your body fight infection. 

Although Hyssop is drying when used long-term, it has a short term moistening effect. For this reason, it is indicated for a hoarse voice, dry cough or throat, and lung conditions where mucus has lost moisture, sticks to the respiratory tissues, and is difficult to cough out. On top of this, it’s an excellent spasmolytic, relaxing tension in the bronchioles in asthmatic coughs, wheezing, and irritable spasmodic coughs.

Hyssop is a classic fever remedy, especially when accompanied by respiratory conditions. Hyssop stimulates diaphoresis, which makes the body sweat and drives heat from the core out to the periphery. It has long-traditional uses for febrile conditions like scarlet fever, measles, and typhoid fever. Although these are less prevalent today, you can think about how this may apply to modern-day conditions like COVID. While new variants display different symptoms than the original, Hyssop would have been indicated for that lingering dry cough so many people experienced after the infection had passed. 

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Energetics

Hyssop is a net-warming plant with a slightly moistening effect in the short-term and drying effect in the long term. Bitter herbs like Hyssop induce secretions that temporarily offer moisture to the tissues. However, they also drain fluids, which dries you out over time. You can see this dynamic in how Hyssop is indicated for a dry cough because of its moistening effects but is drying if you take this herb daily. This herb is not notably astringent or tonic in its influence on tissue tone and structure. In a different category altogether, Hyssop has a stimulant effect on the body energetically and drives circulation and activity. 

According to Ayurveda, Hyssop decreases vata and kapha while elevating pitta. The warming and drying attributes make it particularly helpful for kapha, which is prone to patterns of excess cold. Since pitta runs hot and is prone to excess heat and Hyssop is a warming herb, it is not recommended for them. It helps warm the coldness and relaxes the tension of excess vata.

Because Hyssop is so warming and stimulating, it balances the cold/depression tissue state. This is characterized by patterns of hypoactivity, low-functioning organ systems, and decreased vitality. It may seem counterintuitive to use Hyssop in cases of fever since it is so warming, but consider many diaphoretic herbs are warming, such as Ginger (Zingiber officinale). In that way, you can see that Hyssop is used for symptoms of heat or inflammation that arise from deeper patterns of cold/depression. As it stimulates the depressed tissue state beneath, it alleviates heat-like symptoms that surface as a vital response to cold. It’s also quite useful for the wind/tension tissue state, particularly in the respiratory tract. 

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Psychological and Emotional Aspects

David Dalton, a flower essence practitioner, shares that Hyssop is for people who struggle with internalized feelings of shame and punish themselves for feeling “unclean.” They feel like they don’t deserve good things in life and may fear punishment– whether from a person or God. 

With references to Hyssop’s spiritual and cleansing uses in the bible and psalms combined with its whole-body support, it seems to have an overall cleaning effect on the body, mind, and soul. 

Alchemical Correspondences

Culpeper placed Hyssop under the rulership of Jupiter, which isn’t a very obvious correspondence to me. Perhaps he drew this conclusion because Jupiter is known as the great benefic, and confers an innate protection wherever it resides in your natal chart. With Hyssop’s effect on nearly the entire body and working as a constitutional slightly purifying herb, you can see how it has an overall Jupiter-like protective effect on your health. 

That said, I tend to think of Hyssop as a mercurial plant. Its slender and thin morphology combined with its upward growing pattern alludes to a Mercury, and its aromatic property and actions attributed to its volatile oils are distinctly mercurial too, especially when coupled with its bitterness. Its primary affinity for the respiratory tract is clearly a Mercury correspondence as well, being the primary organ system governed by this planet, as well as its usefulness as a spasmolytic and easing the wind/tension tissue state. 

Hyssop has several indications that place it under the Fire Element. Morphologically, the leaves are lance-shaped and come to a nice pointed tip. You can see further correspondences with Hyssop’s dispersive and stimulant actions. It also has the warming property indicated for patterns of cold, which is a natural Fire Element attribute. 

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Growing Hyssop 

Hyssop is a vibrant plant that is easy to grow and flourishes with minimal effort. Like many plants in the Mint family, this herb tends to take up on its own once you plant it. If you doubt your green thumb capabilities, this is a good plant to begin with as are many of its mint family relatives. 

You can germinate Hyssop by seed, sow it in flats, and plant them in the springtime. Hyssop is a wonderful plant for pollinators, and you can expect it to attract the butterflies and honeybees enjoying the pollen of the vibrant purple flowers. Hyssop is a straightforward plant and a good one to have in your garden.

Preparation

Harvest Hyssop fresh and strip the aerial leaves from the stems while in flower to make medicine. It tinctures well, fresh, with 60% alcohol. You can use the tincture by itself, in a larger formula, or as the base for a cough syrup. If you prefer to use the dried plant, harvest the aerial parts, dry them, and use them in teas later on throughout the year. The dried leaves are best tinctured at 40-50% alcohol. 

It’s exciting to find biblical references to herbs used in today’s Materia Medica. As much as you can learn about herbs from a biomedical perspective and study their chemical constituents, these ancient references offer you insight into the spiritual and traditional uses of a plant that science can’t speak to. With a holistic understanding of Hyssop, you can now use it in your practice to benefit your heart, mind, body, and soul. 

Formula

Stimulant Expectorant Tincture Formula

25% Osha (Ligusticum spp.)

25% Elecampane (Inula helenium)

20% California Spikenard (Aralia californica

20% Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

10% Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

This formula combines 4 pungent, hot, and aromatic stimulant expectorants that are excellent for wet, boggy, mucus laden coughs. The oils and resins of Elecampane, Osha, California Spikenard and Hyssop will help disperse stagnant phlegm, lift it up from the mucosal membrane, and stimulate a more productive cough. These stimulant expectorants are balanced with the soothing and demulcent Licorice, which prevents the formula from being too dry on the respiratory tissues, especially as moisture energetics tend to change rapidly in acute respiratory conditions.

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The post Hyssop: A Biblical Remedy appeared first on The School of Evolutionary Herbalism.

 

I know the beginning of the year is when a lot of us take a step back and look at our lives from a greater perspective.  Perhaps we’re looking back on the past year and thinking about what we’d like to change or do differently…

… Or we’re looking forward and planning out how we want our lives to look and resolving to make it that way.

Hopefully as an herbalist, you’re thinking about your plant path as well, and considering how you plan on taking your understanding of herbalism, people and plants to the next level so you can be a better practitioner.

The way I see it, there’s so much to learn as an herbalist that it never really ends. The pathway to herbal mastery is to always be a lifelong student. But sometimes it can be hard to know how to get there or where we need to focus our studies and practice.

This very special blog post was an issue of Materia Medica Monthly from a few years ago. But I think it’s so relevant to herbalists around this time of year I wanted to share it with you too.

I remember being at an herbal conference and listening to a lecture given by one of my personal herbal heroes, Paul Bergner. The title of his class was “How to Become a Master Herbalist in 30 years or more.”

That really struck me.

It made me think about how to have an overall strategy to become a truly successful and effective herbal practitioner (Not to mention the amount of time we have to really put in to get there!). Oftentimes, it’s important to take a step back and look at our lives as a whole. As herbalists, we need to reflect upon our plant path to assess where we have been, where we currently stand, and most importantly, what our next steps will be. 

I heard once that there’s a saying in Montana that goes, “the best time to have the map is before you enter the woods.” I think that can translate into a lot of areas of life. As herbalists, it’s critically important to have some sort of map— a framework— that will guide you towards learning the essential skills, strategies, principles, and practices that will make you an incredible herbal practitioner.

And there are a wide variety of ways to be an herbal practitioner. Perhaps you want to focus on wildcrafting, plant ID, and learning your local flora, or maybe you want to become an amazing medicine maker. Whether you want to reach a new level of health and vitality for yourself or you want to start seeing clients and being of service to your family, friends, and community, there are many ways you can be an herbalist. 

Regardless of the scale of your herbalism practice, clarity is of the utmost importance. To me, clarity is knowing where you are, where you are trying to go, and what specific steps you need to take to get there. As herbalists, we all need to be clear within ourselves in regards to where our “weak spots” are, where we can improve our knowledge and skills, and what specific things we need to do to become stronger in our healing art.

As we straddle the ending of a new year and the beginning of a new one, this article will prove to be helpful at any point in time. My goal with this blog post is to provide you with tips that will assist you in moving forward on your plant path and enhance your skills as an herbalist.

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Pick 12 Herbs to Study for the Next 12 Months

I always say that one of the best ways to become a better herbalist is simply through consistency of not only study, but of your personal experience with plants as well. A good way to go about this is by setting up some structures and boundaries around your research and experiential learning.

A simple way to do this is to select twelve remedies that you feel deeply called to, resonate with, or simply feel interested in learning more about. I encourage you to sit down and reflect upon them, write out the names of these twelve plants, and assign them a specific month of the year where you will focus on that one individual plant.

Preferably, you would select plants to work with that you have direct access to- meaning, that they grow in your garden, front lawn, or in the wild ecosystem where you live. Although this isn’t necessary, it’s certainly preferable. By choosing local plants that grow in their natural habitat, you can engage with them through your senses, sit with them, and harvest them by hand. However, if this isn’t possible, the next best option is to choose a remedy you really want to study.

During the month of working with that plant, here’s what I would suggest you do:

1. Daily Tasting: 

I cannot stress the importance of this enough. You do not want to collect knowledge and data about plants alone. You want to understand them. And the only way to move beyond knowledge and into understanding is by sharing a direct experience with the plant itself. By experiencing the herb and feeling it in your body, organ systems, and tissues, you draw the knowledge down from your mind and integrate it into your heart. Although this process takes longer than reading a simple chart, this is far better than opening a book and memorizing their properties. 

When you taste the plant, sit with it for a moment. Perhaps you can create some sort of altar or special place in your home where you are free from distraction, can journey inward, and focus on the medicine you are taking. This practice is preferably done twice a day- once in the morning upon rising, and once at night before bed. Simply take ten to fifteen minutes to sit down, take some breaths, decompress a bit, relax, and take one to three drops of the tincture on your tongue.

Allow the flavor to suffuse your senses and to permeate your body. Become highly attuned to the intelligence of the plant as it touches your organ systems and tissues. Your mind will certainly wander and you will likely get distracted- but practice returning to the plant, return to the plant, return to the plant…

Sensitize yourself to what is happening in your body and acutely feel how your organ systems are responding to the herb. Simply become aware of how you are feeling. Although it might be easy to engage cerebrally with this experience, do not get lost in your mind and try to think about what is going on- just feel it. You can also attune yourself to any emotional or feeling tones that arise within your heart, memories that surface, or any insight and inspirations you receive. 

The trick here is to discern what is coming from your mind and what is coming from the plant. Whenever you think you received something from the plant, you probably didn’t (because you were thinking)… you have to feel it, because that is how plants communicate. You must be authentically connected to the plant itself in order for the communication to occur, otherwise, you are in conversation with your mind and thoughts.

After ten to fifteen minutes, it’s good practice to take some time to reflect and journal about your experience. I suggest choosing a notebook that you will dedicate specifically towards your experience with plants and keeping it with you at all times – for you never know when a plant might reach out and speak to you.

Throughout the month, I suggest you also experiment with adjusting the dosage. You can begin with a low 1-3 drop dose, and perhaps by the end of the work up to 5 mL (of course making sure the remedy you’re working with is safe to consume in that larger amount). That way you experience the full spectrum of action of the plant in micro-low doses and significantly larger doses. 

2. Prepare Medicine:  

Harvesting a plant yourself is best. However, if this isn’t possible, you can do your best to obtain high-quality wildcrafted or organic dried plants from a reputable supplier. A few places we get herbs from include: Pacific Botanicals, Oshala Farm, NatureSpirit Herbs, and Michael Pilarski (Friends of the Trees).

In this step, you want to practice preparing your specific plant as a medicine. I suggest preparing a tincture of the herb via a simple maceration. I also encourage you to make both infusions and decoctions of the plant to compare the difference in potency. 

Experiment with small and large amounts. How do the results differ when you combine one teaspoon of an herb with eight ounces of water versus adding one tablespoon or five tablespoons? What’s the difference when you simply pour hot water over the herb to infuse it versus decocting it for fifteen minutes? What’s the difference between decocting it for thirty minutes versus eight hours?

The only way to know is to try it out for yourself. I encourage you to journal and reflect upon these different preparations and determine what you feel yields the strongest preparation.

​​This part goes in conjunction with step one: Tasting the herbs daily. Don’t just taste the tincture, taste all forms of the medicine. When you ingest the medicines that you’ve prepared, do so in a meditative fashion so that you connect with the plant directly through your experience rather than through your mind. 

3. Plant Sits: 

If you’ve chosen a plant that grows in your local bioregion, take the time to go out and sit with it. Observe the plant in its natural ecosystem, attune your senses to the plant, trace the outline of the plant with your heart field, and sensitize yourself to its unique diction and syntax. Pray to it, talk to it, and make offerings. Remember that these plants are alive, sentient, and intelligent and that the true herbalist knows not only their remedies, but has a deep connection and relationship with them as well. This is by far one of the best ways to establish and deepen vital relationships with your medicines.

Another way that you can powerfully and spiritually connect with plants is by consciously dreaming with them. You can practice this by placing some of the plant beneath your pillow at night before sleep and speaking with the spirit of the plant that you’d like to dream with. Talk to it like you would a person and set a clear intention to dream with the plant and to remember those dreams upon waking. This process takes time, but with patience, discipline, and diligence, you can experience otherworldly results.

An important note here is that when you dream with a plant, it won’t necessarily appear in its spiritual form saying, “ I am the spirit of Holy Basil, let me teach you all of my secrets!” Unfortunately, it’s not always this clear. A helpful way to view this process is that the plant will “bring you a dream.” This means that the nature of your dreams may reflect the qualities, characteristics, and properties of that plant. 

Dreams communicate meaning through symbols and signatures that often require deciphering. The most important thing is to ensure that you are authentically connecting with the plant via prayer or communication to establish this relationship. Otherwise, you might have dreams that are processing your day and project that onto the plant… not good. This is a slight risk of working with plants in this way; you have to learn how to discern what is coming from the plant and what might be your own projections.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)

4. Study Study Study!! 

As you focus on one plant each month, I encourage you to read everything you can about the plant. Study its botany, chemistry, actions, energetics, organ system affinities, its relationship to the Chinese organ systems, the doshas of Ayurveda, and the tissue states of the Physiomedicalists. Learn about how the plant is used medicinally, what types of symptoms and diseases it benefits— BUT always relate this information back to its fundamental actions, tastes, energetics, and affinities.

At the end of the month, take EVERYTHING you have learned about the plant, both from your studies and your experience, and try your best to determine what the primary ruling Element, Planet, or Principle (or all three) would best relate to the plant.

I encourage you to use the Materia Medica Monthly monograph template (in the downloads section of this issue) as a guide as you conduct your studies and research on the plant.

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

5. Diet:  

No, I don’t want you to go on the Atkins diet or something like that! 

What I am referring to here is “la dieta,” which is a traditional practice done in the Amazon to learn from the plants directly from the plants themselves. While la dieta is commonly associated with the use of Ayahuasca, this practice is suitable for anyone who wants to learn the medicinal properties of herbs and cultivate healing virtue. The practice is quite simple. During a plant diet, you are advised to restrict your intake of certain foods, specifically: salt, sugar, spices, and sour flavors, as well as excessively oily foods. 

The way I see it, you are restricting the Elemental forces from your diet and reducing it to simple and bland foods. Traditionally, rice, boiled plantains, and river fish were consumed during la dieta. Today, many people include potatoes, quinoa, chicken, eggs, and simple vegetable soups. I recommend steaming or boiling these foods rather than cooking them in oils or fats and avoiding salt or spices of any kind. 

During this period, the apprentice will take time to sit with the plant, make offerings and prayers, and consciously attune themselves to the plant in order to learn its medicinal properties and applications. The diet returns you to baseline, limiting stimulation of the elemental forces so that you can become highly sensitized to the medicinal influence of the plant.

Perhaps during your month of working with your plant, you can take a week or so to hold a diet with it, as this is an incredibly powerful method for building and strengthening relationships with the plants. This process blends nicely with sitting with the plant and ingesting it, as  your body tends to become more sensitive to their influences. 

Find a Sit Spot in Nature

I always say that the herbalist is first, foremost, and forever a student of nature and an apprentice to life itself. Our healing work is solely focused on working with life; the life of the plants, the person, the mind, organ systems, tissues, heart, and soul. Thus, to become an effective herbalist, it is critically important to study nature, and the only way to do that is to go out into nature.

So, find yourself a good spot to sit in where you can meld and relax into the natural world. This doesn’t mean you need to travel to the top of a mountain and set up camp. Actually, selecting a place near home is ideal. This way, you can visit there often, once a week at the very least. This place may be your backyard, a local park, a hiking trail, or another natural area. The defining characteristic of this place is that it’s somewhere you can sit and simply pay attention to the nature that is there. What birds do you notice flying? Where is the water flowing? How does the sun traverse the sky? What animal footprints do you see? When does the flora around you sprout, leaf, flower, and fruit?

Connecting yourself to the qualities of the seasons, the Elements, and the life of that place will become the greatest textbook in your repertoire. This is because you are not training your mind, but your heart. By becoming familiar with the ecological intelligence of the Earth, you learn to see this reflection within yourself, your remedies, and within the people you work with. 

I recommend visiting your sit spot at least once a week and ideally once a day if possible. You should set aside a minimum of fifteen minutes, although an hour or so is best. While there, do absolutely nothing. This is an exercise not of the mind, but of the senses and the heart. While sitting there, become acutely aware of your surroundings. Study the nature around you with your eyes, ears, and most importantly, your feelings. 

Allow the intelligence of the ecosystem to reach out and touch you while consciously reaching out from your heart and touching the Earth as well. Consciously connect yourself to it. Become a nothingness. A passive observer. An empty vessel so that nature can fill you. 

ID Your Local Medicinals

It’s always good to know your local plants, but with our modern global culture and materia medica, it’s easy to get sucked into the latest herbal fads and “must-have” plants from a distant land. In this process, we overlook and forget the medicine that grows right outside our front doors!

Schedule at least one day a month to get out into the woods and take a hike. Find yourself a good local plant ID book that is specific to your area and start determining the plants around you. This can expand beyond medicinal plants and into edible and wild foods or other plants with useful properties. The more you learn about your local ecosystem, the more you will feel connected with it. After all, if the proverbial sh*t hits the fan in the world, these are the plants you will have access to; it’s best to learn them now.

If you don’t feel confident in your ability to properly ID plants, consider finding a local herbalist to study with, take a local botany course, or plant ID class. Find some way to learn your local medicines. This step is critically important for all herbalists!!

See One Client a Month

If you have a calling to work with people, the only way to learn how to do this is by doing it! We all have family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances that we can practice herbalism with. I recommend putting yourself out there to people you know and telling them you’d like to start practicing your herbalism skills with them. 

Every client you see is the best learning experience you can gain, far beyond anything you can learn in a book. I can’t begin to tell you how many herbalists I know who are completely overqualified to begin working with people, yet always feel that they need another training program, workshop, book, or apprenticeship before they can begin.

An inner blockage can develop when you postpone your practice for too long, a feeling of not being a good or competent enough herbalist. However, the issue is often a lack of confidence rather than competence. The only way to get over this block and increase your confidence is by taking the leap and working with people. The only way to learn how to heal others with plants is to simply get started. 

Don’t hold yourself back! If you have a calling to heal people, put yourself out there to your friends, family, and community to support them in their healing.

Each person you see is an opportunity to learn about your plants, specific conditions and diseases, organ systems, tissue states, and constitutions more deeply. Essentially, it’s where all of the information you’ve learned comes together. This is where you put everything into action. 

After all, what’s the point of learning all this stuff if you aren’t going to help someone with it?

Elimination Diet

Okay, this is where I’m going to put you on a diet… Let’s face it, a lot of people out there in the modern world are not eating in a way that is healthy or supports optimal physiological functioning of the body. In fact, a lot of the modern diet can lead to pathology.

Over the last ten years of helping people, I’ve found that one of the most important therapeutic strategies to have in your toolbox is the Elimination Diet. More and more people out there are developing intolerances to certain foods they eat every day that contribute to their health conditions. From chronic digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, reflux, etc.), joint pain, musculoskeletal pain, and headaches, to stress, anxiety, tension, nervousness, depression, and chronic skin conditions like eczema or acne… what people put in their mouth every day can have broad-reaching adverse effects upon the body.

I learned about “the food intolerance triangle” from Paul Bergner, who teaches this system at his school. This triangle refers to a constellation of symptoms that often points to a potential food intolerance in the diet. These three points include digestive symptoms (any), musculoskeletal or skin symptoms (muscle pain, joint pain, rashes, eczema, etc.), and mood or energy symptoms (stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, etc.) Keeping this on your mental dashboard can be a critically important guide in your work with people. 

If you notice this constellation of symptoms, the best thing to do is run them through a six-week elimination diet. During this period, they will eliminate specific foods from their diet and gradually reintroduce them one at a time to screen for which ones are causing the problem. This is considered the gold standard of food intolerance and allergy testing and FAR surpasses any blood work. In fact, it is scientifically proven that food allergen blood tests are inaccurate.

While I was studying at Bastyr, they completed a study where they took the same person’s blood and sent it to multiple different labs for food allergen testing, and they all turned up with different results. But where it got really interesting was when they took the same person’s blood, sent it to the same lab under different names, and still got TOTALLY different results— tons of false positives and negatives. The only way to really know what foods someone is intolerant to is through an elimination diet and to see how the body responds based on symptomatic presentations, not what a lab test says. 

The two primary foods to eliminate are dairy and gluten. If after six weeks things don’t clear up, check for soy, corn, or eggs. Eggs are a common source of skin conditions like eczema, while soy is for thyroid issues and headaches. Always make sure to screen for covert sources of these foods too. Some people don’t know that casein is a milk product and overlook that on ingredient lists. I always tell people on an elimination diet to eat veggies, fruit, and meat along with some rice and quinoa. Simplicity is key.

If you are going to have people complete this process, you need to experience it yourself first. I always encourage those who want to practice herbalism to study nutrition as well. You don’t need to obtain a degree, but you should always view food as medicine and incorporate this concept into the work you do.

So, six weeks… are you up for the challenge?

Expand Your Library

When researching medicinal plants, it’s critically important for you to have a broad spectrum of resources to draw upon. Different herbal texts often have different focuses and strengths, and as a result, specific weaknesses as well. 

Hence, I believe it’s good to have a broad range of herbals on your shelf that possess these different approaches and perspectives. This way, when you study your twelve plants and write your monographs, you can integrate as much different information as possible together for a holistic and synergistic understanding of the plants.

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for book recommendations, so be sure to download this booklist PDF to get some specific book recommendations that cover different aspects of herbalism. I divided it into different sections so you can broaden your library in a way that will give you the tools and resources you need to learn what you want and need to learn.

Community Learning

While I’ve been putting a lot of focus on developing your own personal experiences with the herbs here, it’s also important to realize that other people have their experiences as well that we can learn from. This is where community comes into the equation. 

A great way to get other people’s insights and knowledge of plants is by starting a local herbal study group. Using the questions listed below, you can form a small group of plant-inclined friends to nerd out together about herbs. Perhaps you can do the tasting exercise together and share your experiences, or you can all study the same herb each month and compare your notes at the end of it.  

I encourage you to start building local community around herbs as an opportunity to grow together. (And hopefully make some new friends in the process.)

Determine Your Gaps

The above points lend some insights on how you can optimize the next twelve months of your herbal studies to take your work with herbs to the next level of precision, accuracy, and efficacy, thereby building your confidence and competence as an herbalist.

But we are all at different chapters on the plant path. Some of us are just getting started, some have been doing this for a long time, and others are still somewhere in between. So I want to close this lesson by providing you with some insightful questions that will help you reflect on your plant path and determine what you need to focus on in your studies to move forward in the best way possible.

I encourage you to take the time necessary to reflect and journal about these questions so they can best help you identify which gaps you have in herbalism. This is a bit of a test, but it will help you know where you need to focus with your studies for the next twelve months. 

  • How would you define your current skill level in herbalism? Are you a total beginner? Intermediate? Advanced?


  • What is your vision for your practice of herbalism, and how do you foresee yourself applying your knowledge and understanding of medicinal plants? Do you want to see clients? Wildcraft plants? Make medicine? 


  • Can you adequately identify the six different primary tastes of medicinal plants, their general properties, organ affinities, and actions? Can you list at least three plants that embody each taste? If not, then focus on refining your understanding of the tastes and their associated properties. 


  • Are you confident in your understanding of herbal actions? If you were to see a list of actions associated with a plant, could you decipher its properties and how it would primarily be used medicinally? For example, if a plant is: carminative, circulatory stimulant, spasmolytic, diuretic, and expectorant, could you understand what that plant is doing? If not, focus on really learning your herbal actions in more depth.

 

  • Do you understand what herbal energetics means, the three primary qualities, and how they each have a polarity that is critical to understanding a plant holistically? If you were to take an herb for a period of time, could you decipher its energetic patterns? Can you list at least three herbs that have one of the six energetic dynamics? If not, focus on understanding the three primary qualities, their polarities, and which herbs embody those energetic dynamics.

 

  • Have you ever prepared an herbal medicine before? This could be infusions, decoctions, oils, tinctures, spagyrics, etc. Do you feel like you could look up a plant’s biochemical profile and know either directly, or have resources to reference, how to best extract that plant? If not, then focus on your medicine making skills (see book recommendations for resources)

 

  • Can you identify at least ten medicinal plants that grow in your immediate bioregion? If not, focus on learning some more of your local herbs and how to properly identify them.

 

  • Do you feel confident in your ability to work with a client? Do you feel like you understand how to ask them the right questions that point you in the direction of knowing what types of remedies and suggestions you can make to improve their overall health and wellbeing? Do you have any knowledge of holistic evaluation skills such as pulse, tongue, facial lines, medical astrology, iridology, etc.? If not, focus on developing intake, interview, and assessment skills.

 

  • Do you know how to put together an intelligently designed herbal formula? When you formulate, do you feel like you are throwing herbs in the bottle at random, or is each plant selected for a very specific and intentional reason? When formulating, are you considering the net actions, energetics, and affinities of the individual herbs, as well as the wholeness of the formula? If not, focus on refining your formulation skills.


  • Do you feel like you have a decent grasp on the physical body, its anatomy and physiology, location of organ systems and tissues, and their general functions? Do you feel like you can discern underlying tissue states based on symptomatic presentations? If not, focus on learning some anatomy, physiology, and refining your understanding of tissue states.

 

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

If you take the time to really reflect upon these questions, you should receive immediate insight on where you currently stand on your plant path and what skills you need to learn to advance more rapidly. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and assess where you are at so you know where you need to focus to move forward. Hopefully these simple questions provide some clarity for you on that. In conjunction with the book resources, you’ll have some additional study materials to help you along your way.

At The School of Evolutionary Herbalism we are here to support you in any way we can on your plant path. So please never hesitate to drop us a line at support@evolutionaryherbalism.com so we can hear your insights on how we can serve you better. Because in the end, I truly care about your learning process with the plants and want you to receive everything you need to go out into the world and be of service to humanity through the healing power of plants— something that is so needed during these rapidly changing and challenging times.

PS: We’re busy working hard over here on a brand new workshop that’s going to be hitting your inbox on January 24th. So be sure to save the date and join me in The Herbal Monograph Map workshop… more details to come =)

 

The post Pathways to Herbal Mastery appeared first on The School of Evolutionary Herbalism.

We’re in the slow quiet days of winter when the snow is deep and the plants are resting in the earth, the bees are clustered together staying warm in their hive, fed by the nectar and pollen that was gathered in the bright days of blooming flowers.

As we’re celebrating the longest night of the year and the returning light, this Winter Solstice we’re gathering around the hearth sharing stories, myths and lore about the honeybee and the magical work she does to sustain life and make the world continually more beautiful.

Honeybees are truly the first herbalists and alchemists, gathering sunlight in the form of golden sweet nectar and bright pollen from flowering plants and resins from trees to create some of the most healing, nourishing foods/medicines that exist in the world.

Come and listen to this special podcast episode with beekeeper, herbalist, and medicinal mead-maker Benjamin Pixie to follow the life of the honeybee and to unwrap the gifts she shares.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • The long history of relationship between humans and honeybees
  • The medicinal benefits of beeswax, honey, pollen, propolis, mead and royal jelly
  • The historical and traditional uses of honey 
  • What we have to learn from bees specifically as herbalists
  • Traditional myths, stories and poetry from around the world about honey, mead and honeybees
  • Lessons from the bees on how to create a culture in harmony with the Earth
  • How to be an ally to the bees, supporting flourishing hives and ecosystems during a time of environmental distress cause by extractive culture

The Living Tradition of Beekeeping

Humans and honeybees have a long history of relationship. The practice of beekeeping has origins of around 10,000 years old, with a recorded history of petroglyphs from Libya and the Middle East depicting bees. Many many cultures from around the world have myths, stories and traditions of working with bees and revering the divine gifts from the hive. 

 One of the oldest fermentation vessels found dates back to 8,000 years ago in China. In this clay pot, residue of honey, rice, and barley was found– indicating a ferment. There is also archeological evidence in Israel from 5,000-6,000 years ago of complex clay hives and mead vats where mead was made from honey. 

There is the ancient tradition of using honey to make alcohol and using this for libation– the pouring of a drink for a deity– in cultures around the world. You can find different aspects of bee medicine, whether that’s honey, propolis, or other parts in sacred ritual, found throughout the world. Beekeeping is a living tradition, and one of our vital connections to the plant world is through the bees themselves.

The Gifts of the Bees

“There’s an imperturbable grace that shines brightest through the darkest moments and makes sweet honey from the worst failures that truly makes a queen.” ~ Benjamin Pixie 

Honey is truly a substance of concentrated sunlight. This golden nectar gathered from blooming flowers

Honey bees work together to provide for the hive. They collect nectar, a brief part of a plant’s life, and take it back to the hive. Once there, they add enzymes and store it in hexagonal wax cells, transforming it into honey. This symbiosis allows the brief nectar to become a lasting, immortal substance. 

Honey, wax, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly are all powerful medicines unto themselves. These bee-made medicines can be taken for specific health benefits on their own, or they can be worked with synergistically with herbs in the preparation of herbal remedies.

Herbal honeys can be prepared by macerating an aromatic herb in a jar of honey and leaving it on a sunny windowsill for a few weeks before straining the mixture and using the honey. Honey can balance the energetics of some herbs, such as providing a demulcent action to hot and drying Osha (Ligusticum porteri).

Three kinds of herbal infused honeys

Beeswax has inflammatory-modulating effects and is used as the base for many herbal salves and topical healing medicines. 

Propolis is the quintessential bee medicine. It is a plant resin gathered from the bark that the bees use to medicate their host with and it serves as the vital ingredient in the wax cell walls of the beehive to prevent them from becoming too brittle and falling apart on itself. This substance prevents the spread of infection and stimulates the immune system. 

Some people believe civilizations like the Egyptians and Incas learned to use propolis in their medicine and mummification practices. Overall, propolis is a powerful ally for human health and well-being, and you can use it to maintain healthy boundaries and prevent the spread of illness. 

Pollen is the primary source of protein for honey bees, and freshly harvested pollen is superior to store-bought, dehydrated pollen, which has lost its nutritional value and vitality. You can consume this bee medicine in a myriad of ways, and most often it is used to support the immune system when adapting to local environmental allergens. 

Lastly, royal jelly is a milky substance produced by worker bees and fed to the queen bee during the larval stage of her development and to all bee larvae for the first three days of their lives. However, the queen continues to receive royal jelly throughout her life. Royal jelly is high in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other medicinal compounds.

The bees offer so much medicine, whether you favor working with honey, wax, pollen, propolis, or royal jelly, you can find ways to infuse this with your herbalism practice. 

Hive Mind

“One of the main roles of the herbalist is to learn to listen to nature, and one of the best teachers for that are the honey bees. There is no complicated or secret path to learning from them. All you need to do is observe them.” ~ Benjamin Pixie

When bees are flying, they swarm and change direction like they are a single collective being. Each bee carries not only its own life but that of all the bees that came before them. The larger the swarm, the higher the electricity is, and this energy is palpable when you work among them.

We can learn a lot from the bees. From the way they give back to their hosts to support the environment to how they work in unison for a greater goal, you can find bee medicine not only in the honey but in how they teach us to live in greater harmony with the living world around us. They are the original herbalists and alchemists, and by observing them, we can learn a lot about how to become better herbalists ourselves. 

 

About our guest: Benjamin Pixie

“I felt myself as this messenger of this golden, sweet, bubbling spirit of delight” 

~ Benjamin Pixie.

Benjamin caught his first swarm of bees in 2006, and that was the beginning of a lifelong marriage to those ladies who do the love work of the plants.  In 2007, he began the Pixie Honey Company, the same year Colony Collapse Disorder was first recognized in the United States.  Since then, he has developed beyond organic, treatment free, bee centered methods of tending bees that have enriched the health of the hives, and the medicines harvested from them. Benjamin has taken his background in botanical medicine and years of experience in potion crafting to offer truly unique and potent botanical meads that celebrate the plants and the bees, while returning reverence, magic, and medicine to the imbibing of alcohol.

Benjamin first crossed paths with Maeyoka Brightheart in a luscious meadow on a golden June afternoon in 2013. Over the years a love and eventually a partnership grew, fed by their mutual reverence for the honeybees and passion for the wild. Maeyoka brings to the table a decade of experience tending bees, working with herbal medicine, and deepening her embodiment of the lessons of reciprocity and interconnectedness imparted by the bees and plants. The Brightheart-Pixie family now calls that meadow where they first met home. Benjamin, Maeyoka, their four children, and a growing community are the stewards of a 160 acre honeybee sanctuary and retreat center, called Skalitude, a name that means “to live in harmony with nature”.

Benjamin is kindly offering a discount code for first time orders at www.spiritofthehive.buzz with the coupon code: evolution

Learn more about Benjamin below:

https://www.pixiemead.com/

https://spiritofthehive.buzz/

https://www.instagram.com/benjaminpixie/

In this podcast, we also reference the books The Global History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting” by Eva Crane
as well as Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on Bees, and beekeeper Jacqueline Freeman, “The Song of Increase”

The post An Ode to the Original Herbalists: Honeybees and Medicine from the Hive appeared first on The School of Evolutionary Herbalism.

 

Evergreen trees are revered around the world for their medicinal properties, rich folklore, and uplifting symbolism. Although you might be familiar with these trees from your walks through the forest or the holiday seasons, this year you can take your knowledge to the next level by learning how to use them medicinally at home and for your loved ones. 

In today’s plant profile, you’ll learn:

  • How the aromatic, pungent, and sour tastes correspond to Evergreens’ herbal actions 
  • The Evergreens’ affinity for the upper respiratory tract and other organ systems 
  • What Evergreens symbolize in traditions around the world
  • Different ways you can prepare Evergreen medicine, from simmer pots to tinctures and everything in between
  • How to make a delicious Spruce syrup – perfect for the holiday season!
Spruce (Picea spp.)

There’s nothing quite like walking through the forest during winter. If you’re lucky, you can traverse the dirt path of fallen leaves and deeply inhale the scent of winter – the Evergreens.

When you think about the Evergreens, you might have one or two specific trees coming to mind. However, this name refers to a broad range of medicinal trees, including Pines, Spruces, Firs, Cedars, and more! There are different types of Evergreen trees all around the world, and you can likely find one in your region if you look out for it. 

Although the trees differ from one another in specific indications, many of the Evergreens share similar medicinal virtues. In today’s plant profile, you’ll learn the main historical and modern uses and applications for the beloved Evergreens. 

Common and Latin names: Pine (Pinus spp.), Spruce (Picea spp.), Hemlock (Tsuga spp.), Fir (Abies spp.), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) Note: not a true Fir, Cedar (Cedrus spp.), Arborvitae (Thuja spp.) This genus includes Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), which is not a true Cedar, Juniper- (Juniperus spp.)

Family: Pinaceae, Cupressaceae, 

Tastes: Pungent, Aromatic, Sour (only for some fresh green tips, especially Fir)

Affinities: Upper Respiratory Tract (Throat, Bronchioles, Lungs), Kidneys & Urinary Tract (particularly the Junipers), Immune, Digestive, Circulatory

Actions: Antiseptic, Antibacterial, Carminative, Circulatory Stimulant, Stimulant Expectorant, Rubefacient 

Energetics: Warming, Drying, Stimulant 

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Taste

The invigorating scent you associate with the Evergreens is mainly due to their essential oil-rich needles, which protect the trees from bacteria, infection, and fungi. These terpene-rich volatile oil compounds give the Evergreens a richly aromatic and pungent flavor. Although these aromatic needles are the parts typically used medicinally, you can also consume the young Fir (Abies spp.) tree tips, which have a sour taste due to their high levels of vitamin C.

Affinities

The main organ affinity of the Evergreens is the upper respiratory system, which includes the throat and bronchioles, with some gettinig a bit lower into the lungs. With their pungent and warming volatile oils, Evergreens yield a stimulant expectorant effect, open the lungs, improve the breath capacity, and alleviate coughs, particularly when they’re cold and damp.  

With their antiseptic and broad-spectrum volatile oils and immune stimulant qualities, Evergreens have a secondary affinity for the immune system. I see this working together with their effect on the upper respiratory system. The fresh Fir tips (Abies spp.), in particular, are significantly high in vitamin C and have a stronger effect on the immune system than the older growth, which act more on respiration. 

Some trees, such as Juniper (Juniperus spp.), have additional organ affinities like the kidneys and urinary tract. However, you could say that all Evergreen trees impact the respiratory, immune, circulatory, and digestive systems through their volatile oils content which stimulates and drives blood flow.

Pine (Pinus spp.)

Actions

Evergreens are used most often for their stimulant expectorant property. When you enjoy Evergreen medicine as a tea or tincture and take a breath, you inhale the medicinal compounds deep into your lungs. Once there, they break up cold, damp, and stagnant mucus. Through this, they open your lungs and assist you in breathing deeper and clearer. 

Although Evergreens are not antispasmodic, in my experience them feel like the “open up” the lungs, easing intense coughs, and support the respiratory system through clearing mucus with their dispersive, drying, and diffusive aromatic compounds. If you think about it, cold and damp environments have a sinking quality. Because the volatile oils in Evergreens are so warming, drying, and stimulating, they drive circulation and help to alleviate the heaviness of damp/cold states by the up and out movement of an expectorant. 

Evergreens are rubefacient, which means they stimulate local circulation and drive the blood to the surface of the skin by opening the capillary beds. Through this mechanism, they mobilize and drain metabolic waste products that accumulate during patterns of excess cold and dampness. Over time, this build-up triggers the inflammatory response and leads to pain in the joints and musculoskeletal system. By improving circulation and driving blood to the local area, Evergreens drain the metabolic waste product accumulations, thereby lowering inflammation and pain. 

Another action Evergreens are well known for is their stimulant expectorant effects. Through their pungent and aromatic compounds, they thin mucus and make it easier to out, thereby clearing the upper respiratory system of cold and stagnant mucus.  

These same compounds grant Evergreens a slight carminative effect as they direct blood flow to the digestive system and improve digestive functioning. Lastly, Evergreens are immune stimulants and protect the body from infection with their broad-spectrum antiseptic and antibacterial oils. 

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

Energetics

Evergreens have a warming, drying, and stimulating effect on the body. Although there is variation between each type of Evergreen tree, these energetics are common between them. Ayurvedically, Evergreens decrease vata and kapha by warming the body and stimulating the tissues. For the same reasons, they may aggravate pitta.

These trees have a balancing effect on the cold/depression and damp/stagnation tissue states. They benefit cold/depression by warming the tissues, driving circulation, and improving organ functionality. Lastly, they balance damp/stagnation by drying excess moisture in the body when they’ve become congealed and thick due to poor circulation and mobilization of fluids in the body. 

Psychological and Emotional Aspects

Evergreens have become powerful symbols of everlasting life in many cultures around the world. While all the other plants have died back, returned to their roots, or dropped all their leaves, the Evergreens continue to flourish, representing life persevering. Although wintertime is typically thought of as the season of metaphorical and literal darkness, Evergreens remain a vibrant green and continue to grow despite the dark and cold. 

These trees are highly revered and brought into the home during winter because they represent rejuvenation, hope, and the knowledge that there will be light once again. They remind you on a personal level that no matter how dark the world feels, there will be light again. If you’re interested in learning more about the rich history and symbolism behind the Evergreens, you can read that blog post here. 

Spruce (Picea spp.)

Preparation

You can harness the medicinal benefits of Evergreens through internal and external applications. For internal use, Evergreens yield a strong and aromatic tincture that stimulates the immune system, circulation, and expectorates a damp, cold cough. Red Cedar (Thuja spp.)  in particular, is an excellent remedy for people exposed to black mold, fungi, or yeast in the home and have respiratory infections that are unresponsive to standard treatments.

I prefer fresh needles over dry ones since they produce a much more aromatic extraction. Because the fresh needles are terpene-rich, I use a higher percentage of alcohol of 70-80% at 1:2 so that it can extract these volatile compounds and produce a potent medicine. 

Evergreens have a rich tradition of topical usage and can be used in many different ways. In Finnish traditions, Evergreens are placed in the sauna to diffuse their medicinal and aromatic compounds. There is also the traditional practice of slapping the green aromatic parts against the skin to stimulate blood flow to the peripherals, similar to how Nettle leaves (Urtica dioica) are used. 

Another method for working with Evergreens is through diffusion. You can accomplish this in a few different ways. Firstly, you can add a few drops of essential oil to a diffuser. Secondly, you can place the fresh needles in a big pot of hot water and drape a towel over the back of your head for direct steam inhalation.

You can also use the folk method of preparing a simmer pot. For this, all you need to do is fill a pot with water, place it on your stove, add the fresh plant parts, and bring the water to a simmer. As the water rolls, your home will be filled with the scent of Evergreens. This adds moisture to the dry winter air and diffuses the fragrant aroma to make your home smell lovely, while also adding the medicinal properties of the volatile oils in the plants to help prevent respiratory illness. Most days throughout the winter we have a big pot of Evergreen steam going on our wood cookstove all day throughout cold & flu season.

Lastly, you can prepare an Evergreen herbal-infused oil which you can use as the base for anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving salves. This is an effective remedy for joint pain because of its rubefacient and analgesic (pain relieving) properties. Poplar buds (Populus balsamifera) are a great option because of their high levels of salicylates and combine well with Fir (Abies spp.), Spruce (Picea spp.), and Cedar (Cedrus spp.) oil. Many of the Evergreens also make a nice respiratory salve that can be rubbed on the chest and back during coughs.

The Evergreen trees, with their verdant boughs and healing properties, stand tall and strong. Their needles, bark, and sap have been used for centuries to treat a multitude of ailments. From boosting the immune system to reducing inflammation and improving respiratory health, the medicinal benefits of these majestic trees are vast and are a perfect winter medicine for the dark and cold months. 

Classic Spruce Tip Syrup 

This recipe comes from Alan Bergo of Forager Chef, and you can watch the full video on his website here

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz Spruce tips (Picea spp.)
  • 16 oz organic brown sugar

Instructions:

  1. Combine the spruce tips and sugar and pack the mixture into a quart mason jar. Leave the jar at room temperature or in a cool and dark place. As time goes by, the spruce tips will release their liquid and will be absorbed into the sugar, forming a slurry. Allow the mixture to macerate for one month.  
  2. After a month has passed, pour the contents of the jar into a pot and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Strain, discard the spent tips, and store the syrup in a glass bottle.
  3. Store the finished syrup in the fridge and take a spoonful for a cough straight or in tea or simply enjoy on toast with cheese, baked goods, yogurt, and whatever else you can think of! 

The post Medicine of the Evergreens appeared first on The School of Evolutionary Herbalism.



Mugwort is a plant famed for its effects on lucid dreaming, but its medicinal properties and actions do so much more than that. With a distinct effect on the nervous, digestive, hepatobiliary, and reproductive systems, Mugwort navigates, regulates, and balances the highways that connect them all.

In today’s plant profile, you’ll discover:

  • Mugwort’s unique flavor profile and how this leads to its complex actions
  • How Mugwort impacts the nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems 
  • The psychological and emotional indications of Mugwort
  • The many sides of Mugwort and its planetary correspondences 
  • Different ways you can use and prepare Mugwort
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Mugwort is the plant for dreamers. Its scientific name is Artemesia vulgaris, named after Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and hunt. As the name suggests, this herb ushers you into the lucid world and wakes up the parts of your subconscious mind that have been left to settle and collect dust. In this way, it helps you process wounds past so you can experience greater closure and healing in your life. 

This herb is one of the first plants I ever worked with when I began my plant path nearly two decades ago. There is something about those first plants that stick with you and become a touchpoint throughout your herbal journey. For me, Mugwort is just that, and in today’s plant profile you will all about this treasured remedy and how it is used in traditions around the world. 

Common name: Mugwort

Latin name: Artemesia vulgaris 

Family: Asteraceae

Tastes: Bitter, Pungent, Aromatic

Affinities: Digestive, Liver, Gallbladder, Nervous, Female reproductive

Actions: Bitter Tonic, Carminative, Cholagogue/Choleretic, Nervine Sedative, Nervine Stimulant, Emmenagogue, Mild Uterine Antispasmodic, Mild Anthelmintic 

Energetics: Warming, Drying, Relaxant, Stimulant 

Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana)

Taste

Mugwort tastes bitter, pungent, and aromatic. This trio of flavors lends it a particularly unique array of actions. While most bitters have a cooling action on the body, Mugwort’s pungent taste warms it up and categorizes it as an aromatic bitter. The bitter and aromatic qualities impact digestion, albeit in different ways. 

The pungent taste stimulates circulation and blood flow to the digestive system, which warms the region. Combined with Mugwort’s carminative and antispasmodic actions, it reduces tension in the entire digestive system. The bitter taste stimulates the production and secretion of bile through the liver and gallbladder, which acts as a natural laxative and aids your body in digesting and assimilating fats and oils. Mugwort’s cooling bitter and warming carminative actions make this plant a formula unto itself. 

Affinities

As you can see with its carminative and bitter tonic properties, Mugwort has an affinity for the digestive system. Likewise, with its choleretic and cholagogue actions, it supports the liver and gallbladder. Mugwort has an affinity for the nervous system and is a superb remedy for nervous digestion since it acts on the highway between the nervous and digestive systems. Lastly, Mugwort is a traditional remedy for female reproductive health. It is used for every season of life, from puberty to menopause and everything in between.  

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Actions

“A very slight infusion is excellent for all disorders of the stomach, prevents sickness after meals and creates an appetite, but if made too strong, it disgusts the taste. The tops with the flowers on them, dried and powdered, are good against agues, and have the same virtues with wormseed in killing worms.”  ~ Nicholas Culpeper 

Mugwort is a medicinally rich plant with many actions that tie back to its affinities. For example, as a bitter tonic, cholagogue, and choleretic, it increases bile production in the liver and gallbladder. It is also a mild antiparasitic and can help eliminate parasites. However, it is not nearly as strong in this aspect as Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua) are. 

As a nervine stimulant, Mugwort revitalizes the nervous system. Although the word “stimulant” might conjure images of coffee and other caffeine-containing plants, Mugwort does not energize the mind in that way. Rather, it stimulates nerve activity when it is not firing or responding as well as it should because of insufficient blood supply, poor nutrition, or trauma. Although it may seem contradictory, Mugwort is also a nervine sedative and soothes nervousness, anxiety, and tension. 

This plant has a profound effect on the subconscious mind, and although you can take it to help you fall asleep, it is known to induce vivid and sometimes lucid dreams. It can stimulate dreaming so much that it can leave you tired when you wake up, so experiment with this plant when you can afford to have a poor night’s sleep! 

Mugwort is an emmenagogue and stimulates menses in two distinct ways. First, it stimulates blood flow to the reproductive organs, relaxes a tense uterus, and encourages healthy blood flow with its pungent and aromatic compounds. Second, it has a draining and downward-bearing action that encourages menses through its bitter tonic properties. 

Not often talked about, a stagnant liver is often the culprit behind PMS symptoms because it is responsible for breaking down and metabolizing complex reproductive hormones. When it cannot do this efficiently, there are often hormonal side effects which can impact mood. Through Mugwort’s bitter and aromatic qualities, it disperses and and supports a stagnant liver. Combined with the plant’s nervine sedative actions and you have a formula in one for PMS complaints. 

Lastly, Mugwort is indicated for hyperandrogenism, which occurs when there is an excess of androgen hormones and heightened levels of testosterone in comparison to estrogen and progesterone. It likely impacts this through its effects on the higher regulatory parts of the brain that direct hormonal production as well as its effects on the liver. 

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Energetics

Mugwort is a complex plant energetically because it is both bitter and aromatic. While bitter plants are typically cooling, aromatics are warming. Although Mugwort is a bitter tonic, I think of its aromatic properties as more dominant, and therefore consider it to have a net warming effect. You can back this up further with its ability to warm the uterus and digestive system, stimulate circulation, and push stagnation up and out. Finally, it’s worth noting that the bitterness and aromatic nature will differ from region to region. Some Mugwort plants are more aromatic or bitter, and this influences its warming or cooling effects. Because Mugwort is warming and drains stagnation, I see it as a drying plant. Lastly, Mugwort is a relaxant. You can see this with its antispasmodic, nervine, and carminative actions.

Ayurvedically, Mugwort increases and aggravates pitta while decreasing and balancing vata and kapha. It raises pitta because of its warming and stimulating properties and lowers excess vata and kapha for these same reasons. In kapha it increases circulation and drains stagnation. In vata, it relaxes excess tension in the body and mind. However, it can lead to excess dryness over time, so keep an eye out for this. As with many herbs, Mugwort may need to be formulated with other herbs to prevent aggravating the dryness of vata.

Mugwort is primarily used for the cold/depression, damp/stagnation, and wind/tension tissue states. Mugwort balances coldness through its warming properties, stagnation with its drying energetics, and tension through its relaxant and antispasmodic actions.

Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana)

Psychological and Emotional Aspects

Mugwort is a specific remedy for sensitive and dreamy people who struggle with being present. They often have one foot in both words, maybe leaning into imagination more than reality. The Mugwort individual may have heightened sensitivity not just emotionally, but to sunlight, noise, and scent. It is almost as if their sensory channels are too open, leading them to experience everything more intensely. They can also be sensitive to the energies of people and spaces around them, leaving them susceptible to these influences. 

Mugwort is a traditional remedy for women and people with uteruses. It acts on a complex pathway that bridges the physical, emotional, and spiritual to provide healing after sexual trauma. Just as it pulls out and heals stagnated and stuck patterns from the mind, it cleanses and clears trauma and hurt from the entire pelvic and reproductive region. Preparing a womb cleansing bath using Mugwort can be healing and provide feelings of spiritual protection after trauma, especially when combined with herbs like Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Rose (Rosa spp.), and Calendula (Calendula officinalis).

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Alchemical Correspondences

“What is Venus, but the Artemisia that grows in your garden?” – Paracelsus

I’ve long thought of Mugwort as a lunar plant because of its influence on dreaming, sleep, and the subconscious. However, after considering its medicinal and energetic qualities, I think Mugwort is more accurately ruled by Venus. 

Known as “the great relaxant,” plants ruled by Venus are relaxant, antispasmodic, calm the nervous system, and have an affinity for the female reproductive system. Venus-ruled plants are often emmenagogues, not through stimulant action, but through their influence on the higher regulatory systems in the brain and the resulting hormonal cascades. All of these qualities are seen in Mugwort. 

Truthfully, there are also elements of the Moon, Venus, and Mercury in Mugwort. At the end of the day, you can dial in the energies you want most by planting, harvesting, and preparing your medicine through astrological timing. 

Mugwort is ruled by the Air Element, which you can see through its effects on the nervous system and its ability to relax wind, tension, and spasm. This herb mobilizes stuck energy, similar to how the wind moves and disperses things. Lastly, you can see the Air Element correspondence in the way Mugwort grows. It starts low and bushy on the ground and then reaches up and out, dispersing its volatile oil compounds in the air as it grows. 

Mugwort has a very cardinal quality, otherwise known as the Sulfur Principle in alchemy. It is very rich in volatile oils, which you can easily distill. In the alchemical tradition, Sulfur rules the essential oils in a plant. It is this quality that grants Mugwort its warming and pitta-like qualities. 

Growing Mugwort

Mugwort is a widespread herb native to North America, Europe, and Asia. Although Artemesia Vulgaris is the variety most often used in Western Materia Medica, you can use the coastal variety and others interchangeably. Mugwort’s ability to thrive in different ecosystems speaks to its resilience and versatility. 

It is best to plant Mugwort in the early spring after a period of cold stratification. The time to harvest it is right before it enters the flowering stage since that is when the energy will be strongest in the leaves. Although all aerial parts of Mugwort are medicinal, the leaves are used for medicine the most often. Mugwort is easy to plant and grows robustly, so find your local variety and get planting.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Preparation

Many people do not enjoy the taste of Mugwort as a tea because of its bitterness. That said, this plant is better prepared with alcohol anyway since water does not effectively extract the volatile oils, which are behind many of its medicinal properties. It is best to use fresh Mugwort leaves when preparing a tincture and to use a higher percentage of alcohol to produce a potent Mugwort medicine. 

Mugwort has a long traditional usage in Chinese medicine as moxibustion. In this practice, the leaves are harvested, dried, ground, sifted, and burned like incense over a specific acupuncture point to raise the chi and restore energy and vitality to that area. Mugwort moxibustion is often used over the reproductive organs to stimulate the system, remove stagnation, and encourage healthy menses. 

Another way you can use this herb medicinally is by hanging the dried leaves in a steam room or shower. As the steam rises, you inhale the volatile oils. Alternatively, you can add them to a ritual or sitz bath to stimulate menstruation. Robin Rose Bennet uses Mugwort with Ginger (Zingiber officinale) to make a topical oil, which you can apply to the pelvic area to increase warmth and circulation, alleviate menstrual cramps, relax the muscles, and disperse stagnation. 

Lastly, Mugwort has long been used to encourage lucid dreaming and to help you connect with the dreaming realm. To work with it in this way you can prepare a Mugwort sachet and place it beneath your pillow or burn the dried plants in your bedroom to stimulate dreaming. I recommend you proceed with caution here since sometimes those dreams can be so wild that you wake up tired in the morning. 

Mugwort is for the dreamers or for those who wish they were! If you tend to experience excess fantasy in your day to day, Mugwort can help you feel more grounded in your body. Alternatively, if the dreaming realm is one you want to get in touch with, Mugwort can help you explore this inner realm. 

Mugwort connects you with your subconscious and higher mind. It sweeps away the dust, shines the old and forgotten spots in your mind, and gives you a chance to heal those wounds further. Whether you smoke, drink, or bathe in it, this plant is ready to provide its medicine and be a part of your inner healing journey. 

Digestive Nervine Triplet

33% Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris

33% Chamomile (Matricaria recutita

33% Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

This deceptively simple triplet formula packs a punch. Each herb is nervine sedative and calms the mind, thereby soothing nervous digestion. Mugwort and Chamomile are bitter tonics and increase digestive secretions. Carminatives Catnip and Chamomile relax tension and spasms in the GI. Combined, you have a potent formula that combines nervine sedative, aromatic carminative, and bitter tonic actions in one. 

The post Mugwort: The Herb of Dreams appeared first on The School of Evolutionary Herbalism.

 

 

With the holiday season approaching, you may be wondering what kinds of gifts an herbalist would like. Whether you’re unfamiliar with the field or have been practicing for years, we’ve compiled a helpful list of items you can use as a guide for finding the perfect gift for the lucky herbalist in your life.

In today’s blog post, we share our top recommendations for:

  • Medicine making essentials
  • Wildcrafting tools that make harvesting and cultivation work a breeze
  • Processing tools to help you produce potent herbal medicine
  • Some of our favorite resources for ordering quality bulk herbs and seeds
  • A series of must-read books

With the holidays around the corner, many herbalists are dropping subtle, or not so subtle, hints about what they’d love to receive as gifts.

If you’re unfamiliar with herbalism, you might be wondering where to start and what tools are most essential for setting up a home apothecary. Whether you’re looking to treat yourself this season or surprise someone special, we’ve got you covered with this ultimate gift guide.

From wildcrafting gear to medicine-making equipment and must-read books, we’ve compiled a list of the items we use and love most. You can use it to decipher what items are worth buying and which will make for the perfect gift.

Medicine-Making Equipment

There’s something particularly exciting about applying what you’ve learned in herbalism to make your own herbal medicine. Whether you stock up on humble basics or invest in complex equipment, the items below will get you started with your home apothecary.

  1. Notebooks: The first step to making medicine is using notebooks to record your process. Use these to include pertinent information, such as the formula and percentages you’re using, the date, astrological placements, and any other information you want to remember.
  2. Jars: If this sounds too humble a gift to give an herbalist, try presenting them with a box of mason jars and watch their eyes light up. Mason jars are one of the most essential tools an herbalist can have. I suggest buying an assortment of different sizes. A quart jar is good for small projects, half-gallon for larger quantities, and a gallon jar for ambitious ordeals. These jars are perfect for preparing a myriad of herbal medicines, such as honeys, syrups, oils, tinctures, infusions, and more. Plus, you can store dried herbs in there to keep them fresh as well.
  3. Amber Bottles: The best way to keep your herbal solutions fresh is by storing them in glass amber bottles, which protect their contents from sun exposure and oxidation. Stock up on different size bottles and droppers, such as one-ounce and two-ounce bottles, as well as salve jars. Specialty bottles offer a large variety of options to choose from. 
  4. Bottlebrush: These are useful for cleaning out bottles with small, narrow necks.
  5. Labels: The last thing you want is to make a tincture, store it, and find it weeks later with zero recollection of what it is. Prevent this by labeling everything you make. If you’re feeling fancy, use a label maker for a more polished look. Onlinelabels.com has some cool kraft paper labels that have a bit more of an Earthy look than a blah white label. 
  6. Menstruums: A menstruum is a carrier that you use to produce herbal medicine. Although certainly not exhaustive, some common menstruums to stock up on include:
  7. Alcohol: Use a good quality 95% alcohol made from organic cane or grain alcohol. Using a high percentage of alcohol is advantageous as it allows you to dilute it as needed when preparing different herbal formulas that require different alcohol strengths. For easy purchase, you can open an account with the Organic Alcohol Company out of Ashland, Oregon, which produces excellent organic alcohol. 
  8. Olive Oil: Wonderful as a carrier oil in salves and medicinal oils, cold-pressed olive oil makes a versatile menstruum for many products. Sunflower, coconut, and castor oil are other options to explore, each containing a different viscosity and feel.
  9. Beeswax: Used when producing luxurious salves, creams, and lotions, beeswax is wonderful to have on hand (no pun intended). 
  10. Carnauba wax: A wax produced from the leaves of the carnauba palm, this makes a great vegan alternative for those who don’t use beeswax. Be sure to use sustainably sourced when looking for this.
  11. Apple cider vinegar: A large container of apple cider vinegar “with the mother” can be used to prepare delicious vinegar extracts.
  12. Honey: Using good-quality and unpasteurized raw honey, you can prepare herbal-infused syrups and honeys, which can be used alone or in combination with your vinegar extract to produce tangy oxymels.
  13. Glycerin: A fantastic alternative to alcohol, glycerine can be used to produce glycerite tinctures that yield a sweet flavor, making them compatible for children and for those who do not consume alcohol.
  14. Glass Cylinders or Beakers: Although you can technically use kitchen measuring cups, these tools offer precise measurements when measuring menstruums. Pallet lab is a good resource to find these.
  15. Funnels: These are handy for pouring your freshly pressed tinctures into bottles and preventing spillage. 
  16. Tincture press: If you’re serious about regularly making tinctures at home, you’ll want to ensure you squeeze out every drop. With a good quality tincture press, you can do just that. Available for purchase from Strictly Medicinals and Press Herbs (formerly known as the Longevity Herb Company), they are available in different sizes ranging from small to large. 
  17. Distiller: If you’re looking to advance your practice of medicine-making, a small distiller can be a great tool. You can use this to distill alcohol, water, oil, and in conjunction with your spagyric work. Often on the pricier side, close to $300, it’s an investment towards your home apothecary. Gary Stadler at Heart Magic sells good ones for affordable prices.
  18. Banne de Marie: This traditional double boiler by Mauviel is fantastic for making herbal oils at home.
  19. A Beginner’s Medicine Making Kit: If this list has you feeling overwhelmed, this kit is for you. This includes most of the materials you need to prepare some basic remedies at home. Consider it a great starting point for your herbal journey ahead. 

While I know some of these items don’t exactly seem like the most exciting gifts in the world (“Oh a new funnel?!?….. thaaaaaaanks”), you can make it a bit more exciting by presenting them in a festive medicine-maker’s basket. 

Wildcrafting Tools:

Whether you’re harvesting your herbs or purchasing fresh ones in bulk, you’ll need equipment to process them until they’re ready to be used. The following are indispensable tools to have in your belt.

  1. Clippers: Any sturdy pair of clippers will do, but ergonomically designed ones are ideal as they can help prevent blisters from forming. We like to use Felco’s. 
  2. Loppers: Used for pruning twigs and small branches, these can be used when working with trees or shrubs. 
  3. Baskets: Harvest bags, Garden tool belt and apple-picking bags: Strap these over your shoulders and you’ve got a big bag in front of you, which makes wildcrafting a breeze.
  4. Hori Hori knife: A Japanese gardening knife made out of solid steel, Hori Hori knives are used to remove weeds and roots from the ground. 
  5. Harvesting knife: Available in small or medium sizes, these sharp knives help you to efficiently harvest plants, peel barks, and… well a good knife is just a must-have! I personally really like anything from Cold Steel.
  6. Cobrahead Weeder/Cultivator: Designed to fit comfortably in your hand, this tool breaks tough soil and pulls out reluctant weeds. 
  7. Digging Rod: Okay this is where a lot of people usually use shovels, but when it comes to digging roots, the problem with a shovel is that they often aren’t that great at breaking up really dense soil, and oftentimes end up cutting your roots. A good digging rod will loosen up the soil and prevent you from damaging those precious root medicines.

Processing tools:

Once you finish cultivating, you’ll need to process your plants further before using in herbal preparations. With the tools below, you’ll have every step covered. 

  1. Mortar and pestle:  A traditional tool nearly synonymous with the image of a home apothecary, this is useful for manually grinding dry herbs to a powder. 
  2. Cuisinart or food processor: These are helpful for breaking down light plant parts, such as leaves and flowers, into smaller pieces. 
  3. Hammermill: Pricier than the standard food processor, the hammermill breaks down denser and tougher plant matter. If this is too expensive, a flour mill is often more affordable.
  4. Vitamix: By adding your menstruum and herbs into this high-power blender, you can drastically reduce its size and increase the plant’s surface area, yielding potent tinctures.
  5. Coffee grinder:  This is excellent for mechanically grinding small amounts of dried berries, roots, and other tough plant parts into a fine powder.
  6. Dehydrator: With this tool, you can efficiently dry large amounts of herbs so they don’t mold. 
  7. Stainless steel bowls: Easy to clean and disinfect, these bowls are a simple tool that can enhance your medicine-making process. 
  8. Cheesecloth, cotton pillowcases, or nut-milk bags: Use these to strain and squeeze every last drop out of your oils, cold infusions, and tinctures. These are especially helpful when straining mucilaginous herbs, such as marshmallow root. 
  9. Strainers: These are a must-have for straining oils, tinctures, and infusions that are too hot to touch using a cheesecloth.
  10. Kitchen scale: Although you can use kitchen measuring tools to ascertain the volume of an herb, the only accurate way to measure its weight is with a scale. This is an indispensable tool to use when tincture making if you’re following a precise formula you’d want to recreate in the future. For larger amounts, sometimes a shipping scale is better so you have more surface area to place your herbs on.

Herbs and Seeds:

The most obvious gift of them all: Plants! 

Presenting a gift certificate to a local herbal apothecary is a wonderful way to support an herbalist, and allows them to choose the herbs they’re most excited to use. 

 For bulk herbs, a few companies I trust and recommend are: 

Pacific Botanicals

Oshala Farm

Mountain Rose Herbs

Harmonic Arts

And specifically for seeds, I’d recommend: 

Strictly Medicinals

Ravensong Seeds & Herbals

Salt Spring Seeds 

For those particularly interested in mycology, an at-home mushroom starter kit  is a fun way to develop a deeper relationship with the fungi-world.  

Books

Medicine-making can feel intimidating at times. After all, each herb has a preference for different ratios and percentages of alcohol. With these books, you can reference their easy-to-follow charts and guides to confidently produce your own medicine

    1. The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green: This book is an indispensable guide for first-time medicine makers.
    2. Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth by Sharol Marie Tilgner: A fantastic resource for all herbalists, this book lists how to prepare teas, tinctures, herbal baths, glycerates, capsules, compresses, and fermentations, as well as how to collect and store herbs. Moreover, it includes a helpful chart that clarifies which percentage of alcohol to use with different herbs, along with a length set of monographs and an organ system based formulary. 
    3. Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech, 4th edition: This book is a down-to-earth and easy to follow guide for preparing plant medicine. 
    4. Evolutionary Herbalism by Sajah Popham: I may be a little biased, but I think every herbalist should have a copy of Evolutionary Herbalism on their bookshelf! Filled with thoughts and philosophy pertaining to the rich herbal tradition, it will serve as a reference and companion throughout your medicine-making journey. 
    5. Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman: This one’s a little more pricey, but definitely worth it for the serious herbalist, especially those that want to understand a bit more of the science of herbal medicine and therapeutics. This one is more textbook status and more for the serious student. 
    6. The Earthwise Herbal Volume 1 and 2 by Matthew Wood: This is a great dual book set that is all monographs, one of Olde World plants and one of New World plants. I think these are some of the best monographs around and from a very experienced clinician. 
    7. Weeds in the Heart written by Nathaniel Hughes and illustrated by Fiona Owen: This is just a beautiful book of gorgeous drawings of herbs. Although it’s not an educational one, it’s one that many herbalists will appreciate.
    8. Wild Remedies by Rosalee de la Forêt and Emily Han: This new release teaches you how to forage healing foods and craft herbal medicine with the local plants that grow around you. 
    9. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: An absolutely incredible read that weaves together Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
    10. Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger: This book presents one or two herbs per month and offers fun recipes and rituals appropriate for each season.

Fun Gifts for the Herb Nerd in Your Life

If you’re looking for something fun for the plant lover in your life, these herbal-inspired gifts are sure to delight:

Hoodies: A practical and sweet gift, we love this Dandelion inspired one and this Berry and Bloom design. 

  • Pressed flower wall hangings: These wall hangings imbue a sense of calm in any space you hang them in. 
  • Botanical inspired bandanas: These soft bandanas are perfect for wearing in your hair, tying around your neck, or hanging on your wall. 
  • The Herbal Tarot Deck: An herbal spin on the classic tarot, these cards feature illustrations of familiar plants. 

 

Calendars:

  • We love the whimsical calendars designed by Phoebe Wahl. Two favorites include the Little Witch Hazel and Gnomes inspired designs. 
  • A lunar calendar such as this gold art print lists the different phases of the moon- perfect for ritual work!
  • This three year garden planner filled with beautiful illustrations is perfect for avid gardeners. 

Art Prints + Posters:

  • A trio of prints, this botanical artwork features Yarrow, Comfrey, and Plantain.
  • This Forage screen print celebrates the plants of the Pacific Northwest.
  • This wondrous print features gnomes and mushrooms, need we say more?
  • Tote bags
  • This I Pledge Allegiance to the Land tote bag is perfect for reusing in a myriad of ways. 

Mugs: 

  • This autumnal inspired enamel mug is perfect for the changing seasons.
  • Another enamel mug, this one features a delightful fungi design.
  • An “In Your Neck of the Woods mug, this lightweight cup features a colorful illustration of flora. 
  • The famed mug of all mugs,” made by East Fork lives up to the hype. 
  • This bestselling mug by Heath Ceramics is perfect for cold nights. 

To-go Tea Tumblers:

  • This brushed metal tea tumbler conveniently infuses and strains your tea in one go.
  • If you prefer a tumbler in different colors, try this one which has been named the “Best Tea Infuser Travel Mug” by Epicurious. 

Kettle:

  • If you miss the coziness of a whistling kettle over a standard electric one, this classic staple will surely win you over. 

Teapots: 

  • This striking Japanese cast iron teapot from the Iwachu Casting Works is a Tetsubin style iron teapot that includes a fine mesh strainer basket inside. 
  • If you prefer a porcelain teapot, this set from the Botanic Garden collection makes a great alternative.

 French Press:

  • For those looking for something with a more modern aesthetic, this polished French press by Le Creuset is a great option and is available in numerous colors.

Thermos:

  • A Stanley classic, this vacuum insulated thermos will keep your infusions hot for hours.

 

Handmade small batch pottery: 

  • This one of a kind botanically inspired plate is perfect for those who love pottery. 
  • This handmade wheel thrown stoneware mug can’t wait to hold your favorite tea.

 

Gifts for kids:

  • Wildcraft Board Game: This nature-based educational game teaches you about 27 important healing and edible plants, perfect for kids and adults!
  • Herb Fairies books are a learning system that empowers children to learn more about herbs. 
  • These delightful felt flower fairies are beautiful and carry a charming sense of whimsy.

There you have it; an herbalism gift-giving guide that ranges from a roll of labels to an at-home distiller and everything in between. I hope this provided some inspiration for your holiday gift-giving and that it lights up the lucky recipient’s day. 

We are not affiliated or associated with any of the links we’ve provided, and we are just sharing some of our most loved and used items. Did we forget something? Let me know if you’ve thought of something else, and I’ll add it to the list! 

Have a happy and healthy holiday, 

Sajah

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