Wolf Moon’s Winter Woodland Plant Medicines


The light of the shining January Wolf Moon falls onto the crisp, glimmering snow crystals of the Michigan Winter Woods.  Winter is at its peak — the smell of cold, crisp, harsh air reminds us of the scarcity of the dark months.

But even in the depths of winter’s darkness, nature offers us healing winter remedies for the season’s ailments. Up above in the canopy of the woods, the boughs of White Pine sends songs of its healing for the respiratory system into the breeze through the trees. Down below on the forest floor, the garlicky wild chives poke through even the most frozen ground, cold but still carrying that flavorful aromatic of onion.


With the drying, resinous aromatic of the pine and the stimulating flavors of the wild chives, together both can be brewed as teas to help dispel the damp and stagnant lung mucous of winter’s respiratory distresses. It can also help release stuck mucous in the sinus cavities. And the Pine adds in a bit of Vitamin C for an extra boost of this needed winter vitamin. Because of this tea’s drying nature, juice of lemon and the addition of honey are nice to add a soothing, coating element to the tea. Also from the woods, wild cherry bark (Prunus, sp) can be added to help quell an  unproductive spasmodic cough and support it to be more productive in eliminating congestion.

For sustainable gathering, collect fallen boughs and branches of White Pine after strong winds have passed through the woods and clip the tops of the chives as they are perennial (at least here in the Great Lakes) and will regrow as the sunlight returns to the forest.  Brew handfuls of both pine needles & tips along with handfuls of chives in equal parts hot water for 10 minutes. Sip hot.


For steam inhalations, put a few handfuls of the plants into a steaming pot. Remove from the stove and cover your head with a towel to help open the most stuck of sinuses. This trick below — particularly the use of the child’s towel – was handed down to me from teacher and friend herbalist Jim McDonald (photo credit: T. Beel, 2013).


The aroma of the simmering pine also helps clear the air of stagnant winter ick that can collect inside the home. Simmer pine tips and needles on the stove, releasing the aromatic oils into the air.


“Chestnuts Roasting on a Open Fire”


… A holiday mantra that hits the airwaves at Thanksgiving and then repeats on loop through the December holiday madness. We hum the tune, but have you ever added chestnuts to your table during the holiday?

The chestnut is a pretty amazing food, filled with protein, minerals and vitamins and energy in fact, if ever needed to rely on a nut (Hunger Games, anyone?).  And it’s pretty versatile too. Chestnuts can be roasted, boiled into soups and ground into flours.

For an easy holiday appetizer that kids will enjoy, I suggest roasting chestnuts stovetop for snacking while that Christmas turkey or ham is in the oven.  They can be peeled and enjoyed warm from the shell. They have a very neutral, almost buttery flavor making them an easy food for children to appreciate.

We first introduced our own children to the chestnut several years ago on a fall foraging jaunt. One Sunday afternoon, the husband and I loaded the kids into the car for a Sunday drive west from Grand Rapids to Winkel Chestnut Farms to learn more about the chestnut. The Winkel Farm grows about 20 acres of chestnuts and have been doing it for over 20 years.  While we had missed their regular UPick season; the owners, Leslie and Dick, were super cool to let us bring the family out to forage for fallen nuts on the ground.


My children listened to the farmers tell us the story of the American Chestnut — how it was once prolific throughout the eastern United States until the Chinese Chestnut tree was introduced in the late 1880s, when a virus it carried affected greatly the American Chestnut and nearly wiped out its population completely.

After about an hour of searching through the grass, we’d gathered several quarts of chestnuts. The children took it upon themselves to turn the ground foraging into a competition.  We wished we’d brought leather gloves — not realizing how spiky the spines of the chestnut were!


We giggled and laughed in the sunshine, trying not to puncture our fingers with their spines.  Farmer Leslie fired up the roaster and showed the children how the nuts should be scored on the bottom before roasting. The kids loved the taste of the warm nuts and were excited about adding chestnuts to our Thanksgiving menu. And while my children would have tried the warm nuts straight out of the cast iron pan during the holiday, making that venture out to the chestnut farm gave us a bit of family time together outdoors and taught the kids a little about the food’s history and ecology.


So now, each fall my kids see chestnuts at the farmers market or hear “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” they will know more about the chestnut than it being just a healthy food. They will have memories of our family heading out and foraging for them underneath the chestnut trees.

And to me that’s what creating a culture of food around the table is all about — creating lasting memories and new holiday traditions with loved ones.

***To find a chestnut farm or farmers market near you, check out LocalHarvest.org. And for ways to prepare chestnuts, check out the many ways you can prepare chestnuts on FoodIly.com.


Raw Herbal Truffles

Life sometimes can be hard to swallow.

That’s why the universe invented aromatic herbs & raw honey. And truffles.


A quick fix for an achy-heart, these herbal truffles use raw cacao, raw coconut, raw honey — are rich in antioxidants and are filled with wonderful aromatic herbs that lighten the spirit. For extra magic, I like to add in my wildcrafted Chaga mushroom {cuz you know, all the cool kids are cooking with Chaga — read my earlier post on Chaga Chai}.

And for medicinal love, the honey can soothe a sore throat and the herbs open the sensorium and even stimulate digestion. So this recipe can be multi-purpose — check out my suggestions for variations on the recipe at the end of this post. I’ve also included an easy list of shopping sources in case you need help procuring the ingredients.

Raw Herbal Truffles

Here’s the short & sweet of it. {Warning: It’s a ISH recipe, meaning if you really, really, really need exact measurements, you won’t get them here. Particularly because 1) That’s how I cook, 2) quantities really depend on preference}.

To prepare to make the truffles with minimal mess and stickiness, oil a mixing boil with coconut oil to reduce honey stickiness and have ready a smaller bowl to dust the truffles with additional cacao, sea salt and lavendar flowers. Have a prepared sheet of parchment ready so the truffles may dry.

Pulverize into powder (spice grinder or by hand in a mortar & pestle): 

1 cup Masala Chai Blend

1/2 cup Rose Petals

1/8 cup Lavendar Blossoms

Add to the mixing bowl with: 

1 cup Chaga powder (optional)

1 cup raw Cacao powder

1 cup raw coconut (optional)

1 tsp of sea salt

Slowly stir in raw honey until a thick paste is created — stir with a wet spoon or spatula — or for extra theraputics stir with your hands. Not too much, just enough to create a ball consistency. Too much and the truffle will mush, sag, and will be overall just too sticky.


Roll out each ball by hand, a tablespoon size works for a bite-sized bit. Smaller if you feel the taste is too flavorful. Dust with additional cacao powder, add a sprinkle of sea salt and decorate with lavender flowers.


The flavors won’t do away with the ills of the world, but they can lift the spirits and offer herbal hope. One bite at a time.


Alternative recipes: 

Truffles digestif: Add a TBSP of dandelion root, marshmallow root & burdock root to the Masala Blend for grinding. Friend & herbalist Gina Brown adds Triphila powder for an Ayurvedic twist to further aid in digestion. Eat one as a dessert or before a meal.

Throat-coat & sinus truffle: Add marshmallow root (abt 1/3 cup) to the Masala Blend when grinding. Eat one hourly to soothe throat and open sinus.

Easy-peasy Shopping Sources: 

Bulk herbs for masala chai can easily procured online via Mountain Rose Herbs

Bulk chaga powders can be found at Mushroom Harvest

Raw cacao, coconut oil, coconut can be found in bulk at Wilderness Family Naturals

Raw honey (as well as locally grown herbs, which I recommend) sources can be identified at LocalHarvest.org or check out your local farmers market.

For you people in GR:

Spice blends can be procured at Penzey’s, Harvest Health & Elder & Sage

Raw honey can be procured at Siciliano’s as well at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market




Peace in Silence

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As I look out my window typing this, winter has definitely settled in. Cold sun. Branches icing. Big, fat snowflakes float gently from the sky.

I pause to admire their beauty.  The quiet outside is a reflection of what I am feeling inside – a settling of peace, quiet, and contentment that only a moment of silence could offer. But then, that feeling lasts only a *moment.* The chaos around me whips me back to reality with a start – the phone rings, my dog barks, and my youngest child screams from another room needing my help. Sigh.

“How do I carry that sense of peace and contentment with me throughout the day,” I found myself wondering.

It is a theme I ponder often. How do I live in chaos, uncertainty, surrounded by suffering and *still* remain to be at peace? Peace. Peace is what I want for myself the next year. It would be cliche to say I am hoping for peace on earth. I mean, don’t get me wrong, that would not be a bad thing. But I think if I ever want to hope for a more peaceful world, I need to work on it myself and only hope that others want to join me on this same path.

So come along with me …

To find peace and contentment, I will need to suspend judgement, acknowledge that this moment is all I have – I’ve not been promised another.

I will try to remember that everyone around me is doing the best they can with what they have and I will try to honor the highest in everything they do.

I will look to the sky, the trees, the birds, the insects and to everyone around me and accept that they are already perfect… and also remember that I, too, am already perfect and can stop with the self-judgement to be more [insert blah blah blah here].

And even in a time of being socially networked, I will seek out the silence and quiet. To pause, be still, observe and re-find the joy that is always there in the silence waiting to be experienced.

So come along with me … My hope for you in this new year is that you have peace in your heart, a quiet mind and joy in your song as we embark upon yet another trip around the sun together. Collective peace, quiet and joy would be so awesome, non?


De-Stress, Rest & Restore


The halls have been decked and gifts have been swapped, and in the midst of what can sometimes seem like holiday hell, hopefully there is a moment or two where you can catch your breath and rest.

Winter’s season, by design, is a time to turn inward, rest and reflect. It’s a time where many set New Year’s Goals and Resolutions and this is a perfect time to ask yourself, “What do you need to keep in your life in the next year to make you thrive? What doesn’t serve you that needs to go? These aren’t the easiest questions to answer, but recognizing that you ~do~ have the power to make your life work for you. And in this time of shoddy economy and global breakdown, if not now, when?

While resting in this quiet, take time and really rest and then you may hear the answers you already know.

Stress & Modern Day Bears 

I daresay that stress is one of the worst contagious illnesses of our time — and it’s absolutely preventable. The impact of this stress on our bodies is the underlying cause of chronic disease and general unhappiness. The fight or flight response to stress can be likened to being chased by a bear (thanks Herbalist Howie Brownstein)– the body’s systems shut down, healing all but stops and panic dominates. And while we aren’t chased by literal bears in our day-to-day activities, our modern day bears come in all forms — email, text, phone calls, CNN streaming in the airport, the 6pm news, the piles of bills on the counter, budgets, busy schedules. And these modern day bears chase us upwards of  80 hours of our week.

Many people feel out of control, unable to manage the day-to-day pressures, especially given the current pressures of the local economy and overall state of global events. LIttle do we realize that we actually have all the power we need to make choices and repair our body’s depleted systems that have been impacted by our daily demanding routine. Part of that power is taking a moment to remember and realize the impact of our choices on our health and then making a conscious shift to a lifestyle that is more supported of our values and nourishing to our lives.

That shift does not, however, happen overnight.  Peeling apart the layers can take time, struggle and dark moments.  But with the courage and determination to restore quality to your world and with the help of some basic guidance of the plants in our natural world, we can heal ourselves from stress.

Revisiting the basics to handle stress

In order to stay strong in the face of stressful situations, as cliché as it may be, we need to remember to rest and to eat. If you can’t change the stress, get more rest and get more sleep to start.

A healthy body eats whole, nutrient dense foods. Of all colors and flavors. And remember: NOURISH with Healthy Fats! Omega 3’s, fatty acids.  The brain and nervous system absolutely need healthy fats to function to the fullest.  Choose foods that are chemical free and local to the extent that your body allows.

Get your ZZZs… SLEEP MORE!  Regular sleep patterns seem to be quite a luxury nowadays, but sadly, this lack of sleep is a contributing factor to weight gain and deprives our body of the desperately needed rest and restore time so it can recover from our demanding wake time.  Many studies are revealing that as a culture we are sleep deprived.  Re-organizing and re-prioritizing our evening schedules is necessary to be able to accommodate about 8 hours of sleep that the average person needs to maintain a healthful body.  Not all people require this amount of sleep, but many do.

How to support a regular sleep schedule? Reduce after-hours activities that include screen time. Late night computer and television use can actually disturb the REM sleep patterns later in the evening. Try to cut off screen time after 9 or 10, and certainly avoid the urge to turn the screens on if you are unable to fall asleep.

Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening. This can affect the body’s ability to fall asleep later at night. Limit alcohol consumption to dinner time.  Having the proverbial nightcap may be a relaxant beverage, but regular, late-night consumption of alcohol can also disturb REM sleep patterns (not to mention, relying on alcohol or other heavy narcotic to support regular sleep can lead to longterm dependency).

AND MOVE during the day!  Restlessness at night can be a sign that you aren’t moving enough during the day. The body needs to MOVE to manage cortisol levels that spike when under stress, and getting in regular exercise can significantly improve sleep habits.  Exercise need not mean a gym membership — it can mean gentle walking, stretching, dancing — anything just to keep the body lithe and circulation flowing.

Get some bodywork! ACUPUNCTURE, BODYWORK & MEDITATION: For those folks who travel internationally across timezones or those working night and swing shifts, this can mean a regularly disrupted sleep pattern that can last for days on end.  Consider supporting these work transitions with regular treatments of acupuncture.

Other regular bodywork treatments like massage, cranial sacral and acupressure can relax the body and help release tension that builds up because of the stress response. Additionally, adding in a mindfulness practice such as meditation or guided imagery can help break the patterns of circular thinking and can support an unloading of the day’s proverbial baggage, leaving space to rest and restore.   

Starner’s go-to herbs for Peace in Chaos

Herbs are our allies to help us move toward a life of making choices that serve us to lead brighter lives. The herbs ~cannot~ be a substitute for making those choices. That is our responsibility and we all have the power to do what needs to be done — they are here to support that. Here’s my fave short list of herbs that I love to have on hand to support the nervous system as we try to manage stress in our lives.

Reduce anxiety, improve clarity with AROMATICS. Rose, Geranium, Mints, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, Oregano, Basil — all these herbs have aromatic oils that can be uplifting and can provide clarity in times of stress. They can be sought out as teas to sip (the ritual of making tea in and of itself is calming) or as essential oils to vaporize in a room (or cupped in your hand) or added into a carrier oil for massage (remember those foot baths!).

Bliss out your stressed state with RELAXANTS & CALMATIVES (aka Nervines) and alive anxiety, restlessness. Chamomile (also aromatic and helpful to relieve stomach upset), Lemon Balm, Raspberry leaf, Spearmint, Catnip, Rose, Blue Vervain, Passionflower, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort.  All can be used as tea, or tincture, and some can be used extracted into oils for massage… Experiment a bit! For circular thinking — I like Passionflower, Wood Betony, Blue Vervain.

Help get better sleep with SEDATIVES. Hops, Kava Kava (gives me the giggles), Valerian (can sure calm spasm, quell anxiety and induce sleep in most people, and can agitate a select few– test it out first).

Build back up your nervous system with nourishing NERVINE TONICS. Herbs that can actually restore tone to the central nervous system used over time include Milky Oats (Avena Sativa), Nettle, Passionflower, Skullcap. There are others, but those are a few favorites (and toning needs to be done with lifestyle change).

What’s the correlation to stress and digestion? In times of stress, the body slows the digestive process and this can inhibit the proper uptake of core nutrients leading to a different sort of malnutrition. BITTERS are a MUST for helping stagnant digestion that is symptomatic of excess stress.  BItters ~should~ be had as food and a main staple in our diets (think dandelion leaves, Romaine lettuce, fennel, Chamomile tea) but they can also be integrated into our diets as classic digestifs (such as commercial Campari or Angostura) or tinctured bitters (I hand make my own bitters with a variety of herbs such as Orange Peel, Cinnamon, Aspen Bark, Fennel, etc). If there extreme digestive deficiency and there is ulcer, etc., more must be done with diet and herbs that can support the mucosa to heal should be introduced (marshmallow, slippery elm, etc).


Remember that everyone’s path (and constitutions) are different, so herbs that work for one may not be suited for another.  And the *right* herbs that are good for you now in this moment may not be the herb you need later down the road. Be open to this and if you want to talk more about what might be right for your constitution, schedule a time to talk with me about your needs.


Great Lakes Herbalist jim McDonald on Bitters 

Fascinating article on our culture of pill popping for stress: New York Magazine “Listening to Xanax” (2012)

¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante) ~ Rúben Dario


 On my way out of the country I picked up a copy of Ruben Dario’s poems in the Managua airport, hoping his modernist/romantic style would help me through the sense~making of travel in such a beguiling country. Having been in love with several of Dario’s other pieces, it was ¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante) that I felt flow through me as the plane departed and headed for the States, leaving behind many amazing people and experiences. I just wanted to share, hoping that you might like it.

¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante)

~ Rúben Dario 

Here, beside the Latin sea,

I speak the truth:

I sense my antiquity

in the rocks, the oil, the wine.

How ancient I am, dear God,

how ancient I am!

Where has my song come from?

And where am I going?

The cost of knowing my own self

is the long moments of profound despair

and the how and the when–

And this Latin clarity,

what use is it here

at the entrance to the mine

of the me and the not-me?

I am a student of the clouds,

I think I can interpret

the confidences of the wind,

the earth and the sea–


A few vague confidences

about being and non-being,

and fragments of awareness

from today and yesterday.

I stopped and cried out,

as if in the midst of a desert,

and I thought the sun was dead,

and burst into tears.




I took a walk through the fields and in the woods this morning in one of my most favorite areas in GR– the gravel pits and down by the Grand River in and around Johnson/Millenium Park.

Not only did this help re-root my person back to my own land after being away in Nicaragua for the past few weeks, but it also gave me a chance to stop and say hello to some of my favorite plants as they move into winter’s hibernation.

I recommend getting out in all seasons, if you want to work with plants. It’s good for both an herbal practice and for the heart– even on those cold mornings (and remember, there’s never the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing).

The Pot Stirrer’s Broths

Nourish. Food is the mortar for our castle’s walls and is a key element in warding off and rebounding from illness (more on the castle as metaphor for immunity in another post). Winter is a good time to slow down and think through how you are feeding yourself. Quality and habits matter for not only digestion; but for proper absorption of the minerals and goodness our healthful diets have to offer to us.

Have you ever noticed that those times you are really stressed, eating junk, not sleeping  and BAM. Sick. Yea.  I hate that. During cold & flu season and if you are recovering from an illness, injury or surgery– pay particular attention to reducing refined sugars, excess caffeine (a tough one for me — I love my espresso), excess alcohol, conventional dairy and gluten. These foods not only lack in the nutrient density needed for healing; they negatively affect blood sugar, sleep patterns, adrenals– the whole lot of it.

Make sure the meals that you eat throughout the week are filled with healthy, organic and even wild plants of all colors (I love late afternoon snacks of veggie juices and smoothies as easy ways to get extra fruits & veggies into my day), eat fermented foods (pickles, kimchi, kefirs — all are probiotic dense and FANTASTIC for digestion), bitter flavors (stimulates bile production — also AWESOME for digestion), and healthy fats (get your Omega 3s!!). Oh, and Vitamin D! And C! And….

Broths!  I am a big believer of the nutritive power of mineral dense plant & bone broths. Both are key components in my cooking and broth is a useful food to easily get nutritive plants and minerals into my family’s diet in a bioavailable way.

Bone broth has been in simmering on the stoves of healing kitchens across the globe and across time — In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bone broth is a key component to building yin deficiency and nourishing the body, and the Jewish Bubbe knows that chicken soup is her form of penicillin. It’s an ancient food.

My chicken broth fortified with nutritive herbs and mushrooms

As a cook, a good broth (vegetable, chicken or beef) is a must to have on hand in the pantry and is essential in many recipes. I guess I’ve become a bit spoiled — my homemade broth is leaps above the stuff at the supermarket and making it at home allows for quality and price control. And as an herbalist, I know how healing a good bone broth can be for a recuperating body and can help build immunity.

Bone broths build blood, support the adrenals, build connective tissues, bones, teeth, and gums in a whole foods way rather than solely derving the minerals we need from supplements. Broths can be especially powerful when power-packed with nutritive herbs and medicinal plants like nettle, red clover, oatstraw, seaweeds, horsetail, astragalus, burdock and wild foraged medicinal mushrooms like reishi, maitake, shitake, and chaga.

Sun curing foraged Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) for my broths

While there is no replacement for the tissue healers that come from cooking with bones (from healthy, pastured animals), plant-based broths (simple decoctions of plants) can be equally valuable for those wishing to adhere to plant-based diets. You’ll find my recipe below is pretty plant packed, and super powerful. I’ve included my recipes at end the of this piece.

Broths = Comfort food

I use both the bone and plant broths for sipping warm in a mug — a perfect food when sick, particularly with fever or for feeding the body when recuperating from surgery or severe illness. I prefer to enjoy it rich and full-flavored. If it is too rich for your tastes, broth can easily be thinned with additional water to taste. I also integrate broth into soups, use them to cook grains, rices & pastas, and even add the plant broth into smoothie recipes for added minerals.

A note on my recipes — I cook by sense and feel. Ingredients listed are in “ish” amounts. Please let me know if you have questions, or share links to additional broth making resources — I am always looking for great information.

Foraged Red clover, Nettle & Oatstraw from my gardens for a Plant-Based Broth

Plant-Based Broth. (Vegan) High in bioavailable minerals such as Magnesium, Calcium, Silica, Potassium.

Herbal infusion mixture — Goal is approx. 2 cups (ish) dry herb total: Red clover, Nettle, Raspberry leaf, Oatstraw, Astragalus (2 sticks), Bull kelp seaweed, Horsetail (if suffering from muscle tissue injury), dry Burdock, JujuBe, and Wolfberries.  In case of Gluten Intolerance, remove Oatstraw and increase Nettle, Red Clover, Raspberry leaf.

1 cup dry mushroom of choice — Shitake, Chaga, Reishi, Maitake — mix match as you wish, or 3 TBSP powered mushroom (MushroomHarvest online offers great mushroom blends). Mushrooms can support cellular repair, have powerful polysaccharides, and are antioxidant rich. Plus they are magical.

Magical Foraged Maitake


Simmer herbal mixture and mushrooms  and decoct SLOWLY in 4 qts of water for 20 minutes. Simmer, boil, whatever. I used to be really concerned about the boil until I realized what I was shooting for here was simply a MINERAL EXTRACTION from the plant material. You can’t destroy minerals with heat – they are an earth’s element so heat won’t destroy them and a long cooking/extraction time is needed to extract minerals.

Strain & store in Ball Jars or containers and refrigerate. Keeps for 2 days. Freezes well. I love this as chilled ice tea, warm in a mug, added to smoothies (in place of the water) or as my vegan base for soups and other dishes.

I also soak grains, cook rices, pasta in this sweet, yet neutral flavored broth. For a more aromatic broth, sweat carrots, celery, onion and garlic then add broth with a bouquet to create a more flavorful soup more suitable for French style soups. It’s very versatile.

Simmering a Plant-Based Broth with green onion for a quick soup seaweed soup base


Bone Broth

Brown 2 lbs of organic, pastured soup bones (LocalHarvest.org for sources near you — I love using oxtail) in a large stockpot (I have a big 12 quart pot that works well for this). For chicken broth, I brine and then roast a whole chicken, remove the meat and use the softened bones in soup with a small ratio of water, herbs. But similar process. And I always make sure to add the feet.

Add a few tablespoons of oil along with chopped carrots, onions and heads of garlic. Sweat. Then add 1 cup vinegar to deglaze the pan (those are the good, tasty bits) and this will help extract minerals from the bones.   Cover completely with water and fill the stockpot. Stir in additional dry herbs:

1 cup Bull kelp (or other) seaweed

1 cup Nettle

1 cup Raspberry leaf

1 cup Oatstraw

1 cup dry Burdock root (or several fresh roots, cleaned and chopped)

1 cup Red cover

1 cup Horsetail

1 cup Comfrey

2 cup Medicinal mushrooms (Shitake, Chaga, Reishi, Maitake)

Astragalus — a few sticks

1 cup Wolfberries

1 cup Jujubes

Bring all ingredients to the pot to a boil. Skim off scum that boils to the top, then reduce to a simmer. Over the course of 7 days, I bring the pot to a boil then simmer for 8-10 hours.  I refrain from stirring the pot (haha) then strain through a colander and add into pint jars, which I then freeze for later use.

Food Safety 101 recap: When cooking stock on the stove top for extended periods of time, food safety can be managed by bringing stock to a boil and boil for at least 10 minutes before serving. Do the same before straining and putting into steralized jars to help ensure any potentially dangerous bacteria (i.e. botulism) is eliminated before eating or preserving. 

A few ingredients for Burdock Stew


Nourishing Burdock Stew (Can be Vegan, GF if made w/o Oatstraw)

Plant or Bone Broth, prepared as above directed above

1 cup brown rice — cooked, optional

1 cup adzuki bean — cooked, optional

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

3 reg sized, peeled and chopped Burdock root (available at many Asian grocers if you don’t dig it up yourself)

3 carrots, chopped

Salt, pepper to taste, or even Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Rosemary.

Sautee onion, garlic, sweat Burdock & Carrots, then stir in cooked rice & beans (optional). Cover with prepared plant or bone broth.  Simmer again for 20 minutes to meld flavors. Eat and savor this nourishing, nutrient dense soup.


Additional resources:

Jim McDonald’s recipes, musings and links on Broth

Chef Michael Rhulman’s Recipe for a Stovetop Stock plus links & Yummy bacteria convo

The Nourished Kitchen on Bone Broths with links to easy crock pot recipes.

My favorite SeaWeed Source: NatureSpirit Herbs

Need herbs? Organic, bulk herbs available from Mountain Rose Herbs. But they can also sometimes be sourced locally using LocalHarvest.org. 

Grassfed, pastured healthy bones for stock: LocalHarvest.Org for a farmer nearest you

Mushroom sources at Mushroom Harvest

Returning to the SouthWest for Traditions, Bringing my kids along to join the Herbalism Resurgence

This year will mark my third year journeying to the desert southwest from the Mitten State for the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference. While only a few days long, the past two Traditions gatherings have played a pretty significant role in developing my confidence in growing as an herbalist. At the core it has helped me connect with the network of people committed to moving our relationship with the soil, the plants and with each other to a deeper level.

I am not by nature a dry, desert southwest person. I am a water person — a woman brought up in sailboats, on the water, on the beach. I do love a good warm summer; but constitutionally, hot and dry aggravates me in excess. Add wind, well, then I am a crumbling mess to blow away on the breeze.

Despite my mermaid proclivities, and much to my own amusement, I have fallen in love with the beguiling power and mystique of the desert Southwest. I am certainly not the first one to declare my enchantment for this place —  the desert, but the mountains, forests, canyons.

When I first acknowledged in my heart that my calling was to be an herbalist; my husband gave me Michael Moore’s classic, “Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West.” The book was his own personal copy, a relic of his childhood spent studying plants and traveling in the desert southwest, among the canyon lands and mountains. That gift, for many reasons, was very special to me and no matter that I am a girl of the Mitten, Moore’s enjoyable book remains as one of my most treasured.

Not long after my husband gifted me Moore’s book, Moore’s book in tow, I travelled to the mesas of New Mexico to attend the first Traditions at the Ghost Ranch. I found the spirits of the mesas calling to me, infusing my psyche with their ancient advice and encouragement. I left the first gathering with my heart expanded and with a sense of anticipation and uncertainty not knowing how my practice would unfold.

I returned home, a year passed. In that time, I launched my herbal CSA and actively began teaching in my community and continued learning from the plants and my teachers.

The second Traditions rolled around and I returned to the Ghost Ranch. This time only to be called to my knees (literally) by the ancients to pay attention to my intentions and question my own strength and motivations.

I fortunately was surrounded by caring souls who I realized I could show my weakness to — dear kindred spirits that had my back and let me collapse, and helped me back on my feet.

Upon returning to my home, I continued to be challenged on the physical level, with a winter spent recovering from knee surgery.   In the time span of nursing an injury, I continued to teach, contemplate more, and rest. Learnings came from paying attention, giving the time to healing as needed when recovering from a surgery. I actively worked to feed and strengthen my body. Pace has and continues to be an issue, and I still have to be mindful not too take on too much or push to hard.

And now, it is time to return to the southwest for traditions for a third time — to Arizona to the Coconino National Forest and Mormon Lake. Today I find myself comfortable in where I am as an herbalist — comfortable in what I know and comfortable not knowing as much as the herbalists more experienced than I. But at the same time, believing that I have something to contribute, something of value as part of growing this resurgence.

Traveling to Traditions with Children in Tow

One of my intentions this year while recovering from my knee injury was to contemplate what sort of practice I wanted to shape — what my practice would be like for my clients relative to my community’s needs and how it would fit into my own lifestyle given that I have children to care for as the primary hearth-tender at home.  Now, many of you that personally know me know that I am not the kind of mom for whom being a mommy comes easily. If left to my own devise, I could work on projects and plan and scheme for 14+ hours or more a day — I get my energy from my work (Did I say I had a problem with pacing myself?).

I will be honest — I was frustrated when I had to consider changing my travel plans considerably to accommodate my home schedule (husband’s travel, blah blah blah). Then, the clouds parted and it was suggested by a friend (Thanks, Gina!!!) to just bring my kids! And thanks-be to the patron saints of travel, so far arrangement-making has been relatively headache free. Needless to say, I am NOT driving the 29 hour trip to schlepp my kids to Arizona (Thanks, Rebecca!!!).

Of course the kids’ immediate response was, “Yay — no school!”  But also, much to my surprise was, “Wow — 7Song has a plant walk for kids,” and “I can’t wait to see Rebecca McTrouble!” Even, “I can’t wait to heal people at my first aid class.” {All giggles on my end}

They excitedly read through the classes for the weekend, marking their names to the classes they wanted to attend. I was delighted to see them excited about taking a kids herbal first aid class and Jacob even saying he wanted to go to all the kids classes and even sit in on 7Song’s Street Medic class.  Emma picked up on Jacob’s excitement at wanting to go to all the classes — “as long as there are crafts,” she said.

I am really grateful to the organizers — particularly to Kiva Rose, Katja Swift and to Kristine Brown — who have made it a priority to create programs for kids so they can be involved in the resurgence of herbal medicine.  Because of their really great advice about shaping a good experience at Traditions with kids in tow; I plan to set aside my own agenda (dammit — how I really, really, really want to sit through all of the great classes on the agenda and absorb!!) and shape our experience by letting my kids discover, inquire, make friends, get outside and just be.

For me, finding good flow and a reasonable pace has always been challenging. Aligning my life and work to the seasons has allowed me to shift and flow with not only the cycles of nature, but of the days, and minutes and hours and the curveballs that get handed to me all the time. Respecting the need to shift and be flexible is difficult for me; but helps me just “go with it”  so even with this upcoming weekend with other herbalists, I can flow into this space with my children in tow and integrate them into the tribe of herbalists I love and admire so dearly.

And now, with what at first I saw as a tremendous barrier, I now see as an exciting opportunity to introduce my children into my tribe of herbalist folk and hope they too feel they are part of the next generation of herbalists. Because they are.

Hawthorne for the Herbalist’s Heart

The Hawthorne

Today I was called out to the fields in search of my Hawthorne tree. It’s a tree of the faeries, a tree that in folklore in linked with the spiritual heart, fertility and death.

Even approaching this tree in a windy field, I felt a calm come over me. The winds — both those swirling about me and within me — calmed. Her branches spiked with 3″ thorns warned for me to hone my senses and to pay attention to the placement of my person, lest I desire to lose an eyeball. Each step, as I came into her fray, was taken carefully as I was on a rocky hillside and it wasn’t in my interest to fall into her spiny clutches. 

A profound, deep sense of peace comes over me when I sit at the base of this tree. Last year at this time, I collected the fruits from the ground as they had fallen before I arrived to gather them from the tree. I sat in the soft grass, collecting the newly- fallen fruits and found my senses sharpened, my ability to focus and attention increase. The wisdom offered to me that day was to Occupy nature. Occupy myself. Quiet down and find peace and softness.

Sitting there, colors became more vibrant. It’s almost as if I have those colors burned into memory the day was so clear. Much like the colors today. 

Hawthorne as both food and plant medicine is cooling in nature. The berries, high in flavonoids are an excellent food and can help dispel heat and inflammation in the body, having a particular affinity to the heart muscle.

And while there is an abundance of literature on the use of the leaves, flowers, berries and thorns of the Hawthorne for support of the heart, this post focuses on how I find myself drawn to the tree and her herbal abundance for her affect on me and my internal rhythm.

What I’ve learned by sitting with the Hawthorne.  It’s cooling nature helps bring that sense of peace to the one who’s agitated. Good for one who has a limited ability to settle down and pay attention. It can help bring the attention inward.

For the aches of broken-heartedness, it can soften the ache a bit. And for those who have a hard time being playful, the Hawthorne can help bring a bit of softness to a hardened heart. It teaches one how to be open and willing to receive soft, loving, nourishing kindness in a way that is respectful of space and boundaries.

I like to prepare the berries- harvested at peak ripeness- with leaves, flowers (both gathered earlier in the spring) into a brandy-based elixir, sweetened with raw honey (though it can stand on its own without the honey as well). It’s divine to take a drop here, there whenever there’s an achy, melancholic anxiety in my spiritual heart.

I am grateful for this lovely tree. She grows in a large field with hedgerows to either side of her that are lined with other Crategeous species that aren’t nearly as majestic or prolific — many of the trees in our area suffer from a rust blight. In addition to the blight, the frost patterns we had earlier in the year squelched what little we would have had in terms of fruit in the hedgerows.

I enjoyed my visit with my Hawthorne today. Alas, I didn’t bring an offerings to her as I should have, though I did find myself singing softly while gathering her berries. I will return on the New Moon with a proper offering in tow as a showing of my thanks and gratitude for her gifts of food and healing medicines and presence.


A few herbal musings on Hawthorne:

Sean Donahue

Darcey Blue

Henriette Kress on Hawthorne

Rosalee de la Foret 

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