Wholistic Wellness Council

Wholistic Wellness Council

In partnership with Sacred Garden School of Herbalism, Tonic is the host of a new low-cost Wholistic Wellness Council.

Starting February 17th, the council will meet above Tonic Herb Shop on Fridays between 9:30 am and 2:30 pm with the goal of providing safe, effective & affordable herbal care for individuals in our community through in person consultations to discuss the client’s health concerns. The council is part of the Sacred Garden School’s advanced herbal training program. Students and an instructor collaborate to conduct the interview, examine the client’s tongue and pulse, and to come up with customized herbal recommendations tailored to the individual’s needs. It is an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned from and to gain experience working with clients under the guidance of a clinical herbalist.

Scope of Practice:

Please understand that this is an energetic practice and that as community herbalists, we do not diagnose, treat or cure allopathic disease, nor do not prescribe medicine. We are not a licensed medical facility and we only work non-emergency health concerns. We do educate our clients about herbs, diet and lifestyle changes that we believe would be supportive for them and empower them with tools to take charge of their own health.​

How do the Consults Work?

We ask our clients to commit to 3 consultations- your initial appointment + 2 follow-up appointments. Natural healing is a time-honored process and to effect change with food and healthy choices, it takes more time than most are accustomed to. The three appointments also serve to help our students understand how to support people with lifestyle changes.

  • The initial visit lasts 90 minutes-2 hours.
    • Your first session will be a thorough intake of your health concerns and a comprehensive interview that includes your health history. This process allows us to get to the root of your experience and tailor our recommendations to your individual uniqueness.
  • 2nd & 3rd Appointments (Follow-up visits) last about 45 minutes – 1 hour
    • After the initial visit your consulting herbalist will write up your case and do extensive homework to reveal patterns and root causes that may be related to your health concerns. Your case will then be reviewed by peers and faculty for feedback prior to a follow up session with you where your clinician will then be able to discuss detailed treatment options to address your concerns.
    • During your third visit, we will check in with you about how the herbs are effecting you and discuss any changes that have taken place since your initial visit. If we feel it’s necessary, we can adjust your formula at this time and make further recommendations for long-term self care.
  • The cost to the client is a flat rate of $20 per appointment. We feel that having some amount of monetary exchange strengthens one’s commitment to the healing process. If, however, that cost is too great for you, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate your financial needs.  Any herbs and supplements, if you choose to purchase them, are an additional cost separate from the consultation fee. Formulas can be filled in Tonic’s apothecary, or you may choose to source herbs elsewhere.
Interested in Consulting with Us?

You can schedule your appointment with us using one of the links below:

Initial Visit, 2 hr

Follow-Up Visit, 45-60 min 

If you are unable to schedule through the online calendar, please email us at  sacredgardenschool@gmail.com and include “Wellness Council” in the subject line.

We expect demand for the clinic to be high as we are only seeing 2 people per week. Appointments are on a first-come first serve basis. If you need to cancel we ask that you give us a minimum of 48 hours notice.

We look forward to meeting you.

Yours in health,

Ashley Davis

Seasonal Wisdom- Autumn & Gratitude

Seasonal Wisdom- Autumn & Gratitude

It is not just this culture that celebrates this season by offering gratitude. Cultures around the world have felt the pull to show respect for abundance, for life, and also death as part of the great cycle.

Autumn is a transitional time between summer, the season of abundance and winter, the season of scarcity.  It is a time when we gather, store, take stock of all that we have harvested. And as the leaves fall, the air becomes crisp and everything around us becomes lighter, dryer and retreats inward, human beings have no choice but to acknowledge death as a necessary precursor to new life.

Many traditions, from Hindi to Jewish to Celtic, consider this time to be the beginning of a new cycle, a new year. Offering gratitude not only for the harvest, but also for ancestors and those who came before is also a common theme. In Mexico and Latin America the Dia de los Muertos honors loved ones who have passed. In Korea the festival of Chuseok celebrates abundance of the harvest as well as the ancestors and is marked by gathering with family, thanksgiving and prayer.

It’s a natural to be reminded by the change in season that loss is a part of life, which helps us to stay grateful for what we have.

I would like to offer personal gratitude for the plants, who continuously offer their sustenance and medicine. I’m also so grateful to our employees at Tonic who work hard to keep us going and make our store a warm & inviting space. And for our ancestors, both familial and the collective ancestors. To all of the people, plants and animals who paved the way for us to be here now, including the indigenous people of this region, the Massawomeck, who inhabited these lands prior to the arrival of my ancestors, and who are an important part of our collective history.

And finally, to our customers, for your continued support for the past 6 1/2 years. Thank you for choosing to support us over Amazon, Walgreens or Vitacost. Thank you for giving us such encouraging feedback on our products & drinks. Thank you for valuing your own health and wellbeing, and for turning to the plants for balance.

To show our gratitude, we are offering
15% off all retail products & bulk herbs this Friday (Black Friday/Native American Heritage Day) & Saturday (Small Business Saturday)
Stop in for complimentary mulled cider and a storewide savingsFor those of you who are not local, you can also get
15% off all products on our online store

Use Coupon Code GRATITUDE15 at checkout


Coming in February: Community Wellness Council

In partnership with Sacred Garden School of Herbalism, Tonic is the host of a new low-cost Community Wellness Council.Beginning February 17th, the council will meet above Tonic Herb Shop on Fridays with the goal of providing safe, effective & affordable herbal care for individuals in our community through in person consultations to discuss the client’s health concerns. The council is part of the Sacred Garden School’s advanced herbal training program. Students and an instructor collaborate to conduct the interview and to come up with customized herbal recommendations tailored to the individual’s needs.

If you are interested in being a client, you can learn more about the program here:
https://tonicherbshop.com/wellness-council/

If you are interested in being a student, you can learn more about Sacred Garden School’s herbal programs here:
www.sacredgardenschool.com 

My Favorite ‘Witchy’ Herbs

Mortar pestle and herbs original drawing on handmade paper/ image 1I have always loved Autumn and Halloween, even before I had any inklings of becoming an herbalist. And since my relationship with the natural world has deepened, so has my appreciation for this season. Since Halloween is associated with witches and witches are associated with herbalism, I want to share some of my favorite sacred herbs that I use in my practice .
If you want to read more on the connection between herbalists and witches, check out this article I wrote on the subject.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)- a well known women’s herb, mugwort is a blood-mover, emmenagogue, digestive bitter and a dream herb. She has a reputation for bringing vivid dreams and strengthening intuitive faculties. You can smoke her, take her as a tincture or a tea, use her as a smudge or a dream pillow. Because of its blood-moving properties, this is an herb that you do not want to take during pregnancy.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica)- a plant said to connect heaven to earth. Angelica has been used historically by shamans to aid in the journeying between realms. In Native American tradition it is used on the rocks in sweat lodges to open the mind, imagination and the pores of the skin. Used internally it also brings blood flow to the periphery,  supports the smooth flow of vital energy, strengthens digestion and promotes expectoration. It breaks up stagnation and congestion of fluids, phlegm and blood. Best to avoid this one during pregnancy too.

Elder (Sambucus nigra)- Elder is rich with lore of the goddess (and witches), more specifically the crone. She is wise, powerful, and protective. On a physical level she protects us against viruses and respiratory illness. She is diaphoretic, diuretic, blood-moving, blood-building, and opening to the hollow tubes of the body (blood vessels, bronchioles, colon, etc.). Join us for Stars, Spells & Sambucus on Oct. 29th to learn more!

Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)-  Rosemary for remembrance is what Shakespeare said. Tis true, rosemary has been scientific-ally shown to improve memory & cognitive function. Her volatile oils work on the limbic system. I love Maia Toll’s description: “Rosemary can ease remembrance, softening sharp edges, or she can dredge the distant paste, pulling on your DNA to bring forward the longings of lineage. Crush the leaves. Hold them to your nose. The past is encoded into our cellular memory. Rosemary whispers Sink into the knowledge that lives in your bones. Let memory rise up from the body of your being.” (From The Illustrated Herbiary)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)- Bitter in taste and feathery in appearance, yarrow is another herb of protection. Yarrow helps us with boundaries, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Named after Achilles, yarrow is the quintessential wound herb. Topically it is antiseptic and can stop bleeding. Internally, it can improve blood flow, regulating the blood by reducing platelet aggregation and promoting clotting when needed. It can support digestion, diaphoresis and diuresis. Use as a tea, tincture, poultice, salve or bath.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)- yet another protective plant, used in medieval times to exorcise demons. In modern times it’s a well-known antidepressant (are depressive thought-forms any different than demons?) St. John’s Wort is a mood boosting herb with so much more to offer. It’s also an antiviral, anti-inflammatory and nerve tonic (wonderful for nerve pain & burns). I think of it primarily as a solar plexus strengthener. It improves digestion and detoxification. Its bright, solar energy increases the internal flame, which strengthens one’s sense of self, confidence and will power. It brings light to dark places, and a bright internal flame is truly the best protection. Fresh plant tincture or oil is best. I avoid using St. John’s wort internally with any form of medication, unless using the homeopathic form, which has no drug interactions.

***This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease***

Angelica

Angelica 

Botanical Name: Angelica Archangelica

Family: Apiaceae

Parts Used: root and leaf (medicinal), stem and seed (confectionary)

Description: from Maude Grieves: The stems are 4-6 feet high and hollow. The foliage is bold and pleasing, the leaves are on long stout, hollow footstalks, often 3’ in length, reddish purple at the much dilated, clasping bases; the blades, of a bright green color, are much cut into, being composed of numerous small leaflets, divided into 3 principal groups, each of which is again subdivided into three lesser groups. The edges of the leaflets are finely serrated. The flowers, small and numerous, yellowish or greenish in color, are grouped into large, globular umbels. They blossom in July and are succeeded by pale yellow, oblong fruits, 1/6-1/4 inch in length when ripe. Both the odor and the taste of the fruits are pleasantly aromatic.

Cultivation: prefers deep, moist loam in a shady position. The plant thrives in damp soil and love to grow near running water.

Habitat: grows along rivers and on the shore of the Baltic regions and the Scandinavian states, south into Alpine areas. It can be grown in gardens in North America and is naturalized in some places.

Constituents: volatile oils, resin, wax, bitters, furanocoumarins, flavonoids, sugars, organic acids, phytosterols.

Actions: astringent, bitter, tonic, diuretic, vulnerary, cholagogue, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, carminative

Energetics: pungent, bitter, sweet, oily, warming, cooling, stimulating, antiseptic (volatile oils are moving, which can be both warming and cooling)

Tissue states: atrophy, depression

Indications:

From David Hoffman’s Medical Herbalism:

“Angelica is a useful expectorant for coughs, bronchitis and pleurisy, especially when accompanied by fever, cold or influenza. Angelica leaf may be used as a compress to treat inflammations of the chest. The content of carminative essential oil explains its use in easing intestinal colic and flatulence. As a digestive agent, angelica stimulates appetite and may be helpful in anorexia nervosa. It has also been shown to help ease rheumatic inflammations. In cystitis, it acts as a urinary antiseptic. The furanocoumarin constituent bergapten has been used in the PUVA treatment of psoriasis (PUVA is an acronym describing oral administration of psoralen and subsequent exposure to long-wavelength ultraviolet light).

Angelica is a common flavoring for liqueurs, such as chartreuse and Benedictine, and is an ingredient of gin and vermouth. The leaves may be used as a garnish or in salads, and the candied stalks in cakes and pudding.”

From Matthew Wood’s Earthwise Herbal:

In European phytotherapy it is said that angelica calms both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic sides of the autonomic nervous system. When the sympathetic is overactive it creates a condition of nervousness and shuts down the digestion, creating a condition of asthenia (the pale, thin, dry, vata type) when the parasympathetic is dominant we have a condition of gastrointestinal excess, creating a hot digestion with a heavy, damp, cool interior. Because angelica affects the circulation, the thin types may have purple fingers from poor peripheral circulation, while the thick ones may have blue-green-yellow-gray coloration around their veins (look at the forearms) due to blood stagnation.

It makes fluids more active and breaks up excessive concentrations of water, phlegm and blood. It promotes peripheral circulation, and opens the lungs and skin. Hence it is beneficial for heavy, stout, blood-stagnant people (bear people) who need their relaxed, watery side activated.

The bitters and sugars get the appetite and secretions going, while the aromatic compounds stimulate circulation to the stomach and periphery. The oil stimulates the “fat of the kidneys,” the adrenal cortex, releasing cortisol, which supports digestion and raises blood sugar levels.

The circulation of the blood is opened to the periphery to bring nutrition to all parts of the body, to stimulate fluid movement in the possibly dried out joints, to rebuild the fatty deposits insulating the nerves, and to improve circulation to the hands, feet and uterus. Thus, angelica is an excellent remedy for the undernourished “asthenic” (Rudolph Weiss).

By opening the pores to release perspiration and supporting circulation, angelica is remedial for chill from dampness and cold. It was a traditional remedy for contagious diseases.

The lungs are closely allied with the skin. As a lung remedy, angelica is indicated in old bronchitis cases where there is exhaustion and the mucus is thin and difficult to expectorate. It dries and warms the lungs. It improves circulation to the lungs, thus aeration through the blood. As the phlegm improves in texture and the blood comes in, the mucosa secrete new immune cells and enzymes, which renew the defenses of the respiratory tract.

Angelica acts on the lymphatics as well. And through its action on the blood angelica assists the liver. It improves circulation through the portal vein and the hepatic artery, bringing more food/toxins for metabolism.  And, through the action on the circulation and the liver, angelica influences the uterus. By warming and stirring the blood it relieves blood congestion and cramping.

Specific Indications (per Matthew Wood):

  • Thin, dry, pallid persons with poor digestion, gas, bloating, but tendencies to accumulation of fluids; poor peripheral circulation with cold, purple hands and feet.
  • Thick women with blood stagnation
  • Complexion around veins yellow/gray/blue/green
  • Emotionally empty, hollow; stimulates the imagination and relaxes the mind.
  • Cut off from spiritual world; “I can’t believe, I can’t pray,”; life no longer makes sense, depression
  • Mental dullness, exhaustion, and obtuseness, sometimes with phlegm congestion
  • Intense mental acuity and focus; relaxes the mind.
  • Anguish, spasms, nervous excitation, and fatigue; calms excess in both sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic
  • Headache (from stress), migraine, vertigo, fainting
  • Lung congestion, dullness of the mind, pallid complexion
  • Seasonal allergic asthma
  • Lack of appetite, anorexia nervosa (decoction)
  • Gastritis, dyspepsia, stomach pain, heartburn, sour stomach, hyperacidity, nausea, omitting
  • Intestinal gas, colic, diarrhea (tincture for cramping)
  • Liver insufficiency; increases digestion and metabolism of oil and production of bile, secretion of bile, hence digestion and nutrition; elevates blood sugar
  • Asthenia, anemia, wasting, deficient immunity associated with hepatic insufficiency.
  • Strengthens heart; poor peripheral circulation; cold, pale, sometimes purple hands and feet
  • High and low blood pressure
  • Increases urine
  • Menses: excessive bleeding, cramping, or amenorrhea with weakness.
  • Middle-aged women, full-figured, with blood stagnation, veins blue/green/yellow and sometimes gray; with cysts, excess bleeding
  • Arthritis, gout, joints stiff, extremities cold; fingers purple
  • Muscular cramps, spasms, nerve problems, epilepsy.
  • Bruises- blue/yellow/green/gray
  • Intermittent fever; chills and fever
  • Helps relieve craving for tobacco and alcohol

Cautions: Not recommended during pregnancy. Because of its furanocoumarin constituents, angelica may provoke photosensitivity reactions. (these are not easily extracted in water). During treatment with angelica, patients should avoid prolonged sunbathing and exposure to strong UV radiation. In addition, some authorities state that because of the coumarin constituents, high doses of angelica may interfere with anticoagulant therapy.

Preparation:  The roots easily turn rancid. They should be cut lengthwise, rapidly dried in a heated stove, crushed and stored airtight. Freezing the seeds preserves their properties and promotes germination.

Boiling the root produces an aromatic bitter, while steeping produces an anesthetic and astringent for the stomach lining. Alcohol improves the relaxing and antispasmodic properties (Michael Moore).

Dosage: Tincture dosage is 2-5 ml three times a day (assuming 1:5 in 45%). To make a decoction, please 1 tsp of cut root in 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Decoction dosage is 1 cup tid.

The BHP recommends 2.5 g dried herb, 2-5 ml tincture, or 2-5 ml of liquid extract three times a day. German Commission E recommends a daily dose fo 4.5 g dried herb, 1.5 ml tincture. Total daily essential oil dosage is in the range of 10-20 drops.

Matt Wood says that small doses are relaxing while excessive doses can cause depression of the CNS. He recommends 1-3 drops 1-3 x /day, or more in acute conditions.

Signatures: (per Matthew Wood)  The root of angelica is brown, furry, oily and pungent—the picture of “bear medicine” in American Indian medicine. Bears eat such roots in the spring to wake up and start rebuilding their mass. (Also osha, lomatium, American liquorice, balsam root and spikenard). These stimulate the cortisol side of the adrenal cortex to increase appetite, digestion and nutrition. Hence, they are suited to thin, pale, undernourished people.

Just as the bear goes into hibernation through the winter, bear medicines usually relax the mind, open the imagination, and bring people into dreamtime. The most effective way to bring this on is to burn the root and smell the fumes. They are gently relaxing to the mind and body while activating to the imagination.

“Angelica aligns you to walk with your guardian angel”- Julia Graves

Looking at the root from a different angle, it is light and airy. In fact, it contains pockets of air. It grows in damp conditions. Thus, it aerates or brings air into the watery realm. It makes fluids more active and breaks up excessive concentrations of water, phlegm and blood.

History/Ethnobotany/Folklore:

Bear medicines like angelica are used on the rocks in the American Indian sweat lodge. This serves both a spiritual and physical purpose, as the vapors open the imagination and the mind, while at the same time helping to open the skin and bring the circulation to the surface.

Angelica root worn around the neck was said to offer protection against psychic and epidemic contagion.

**This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease**

Alfalfa

Alfalfa comes from the Arabic phrae “al-fac-facah,” which means “father of all foods,” and that is how I was first introduced to this plant. I will always think of alfalfa as one of the greatest nutritive tonics we have.

This time of year, as the sap begins to rise in the trees, so does our blood begin to quicken and move towards the surface. After a winter of being cooped up indoors, eating heavier foods without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, this is the time of year that our ancestors would begin to crave fresh, green, light and alkalinizing foods.  Alfalfa infusion offers an answer to this craving. It satisfies our bodies nutritional needs, while gently supporting detoxification so that our blood flows more easily to the surface.


Latin Name: Medicago sativa

Family: Fabiaceae (pea/legume family).

Growing: Alfalfa is a nitrogen-fixer and makes a great cover crop, but with roots that extend up to 60 ft. into the subsoil, alfalfa is persistent. This is why it’s so nutritious. It can accumulate nutrients from very deep in the soil.

Parts Used: aerial parts

Taste: Bland, slightly sweet, astringent & bitter.

Energetics: Cooling, moistening.

Constituents: Vitamins A (carotenes), B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Panothenic Acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobalamin), Vitamin C, D, E and K, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Selenium, Zinc, Phosphorous, proteins, Isoflavones (genistein, daidzein), Coumestans (coumestrol), triterpenoid saponins, chlorophyll, organic acids

Actions: Nutritive, Diuretic, Anti-inflammatory, Phytoestrogen

As a nutritive tonic, alfalfa has been used in a variety of chronic degenerative conditions, especially nutritional deficits are involved (i.e. anemia, osteoporosis).  It has a long history of being used by pregnant and nursing mothers to strengthen the blood, stimulate lactation and increase the quality of breast milk.

Alfalfa is one of the many legumes that contain phytoestrogenic isoflavones (plant compounds that mimic estrogen). Phytoestrogens can compete with estradial, a stronger estrogen, as well as xeno-estrogens (estrogen-like compounds found in plastics, pesticides, etc.) This produces a protective effect against estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer.  Phytoestrogens are also helpful during menopause, when women experience a decline in endogenous estrogen. Although plant estrogens are smaller and weaker, they do bind with estrogen receptors and can take the edge off of menopausal symptoms.

 It can have Its alkalinizing effect on the body helps to calm the nerves & muscles, remove acids from the digestive tract, reducing putrefaction in the gut, and cleansing the internal fluids and tissues. Alfalfa contains fructo-oligosaccharides (pre-biotics) which help to feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut and allow them to outcompete with the “bad” bacteria.

Alfalfa has also been shown to decrease cholesterol and cause regression of atherosclerosis.

It has traditionally been used to relieve water retention, arthritis and peptic ulcers.

Preparations:  Alfalfa seeds and sprouts can be used to top salads and soups. The aerial parts are dried for tea. It can be tinctured, but because minerals are not readily extracted in alcohol, it is best to tincture in vinegar or using a Spagyric method.
Alfalfa is an ingredient in our Strong Bones & Body Tonic and Pregnancy Tea

Dosage: Infusion: 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of water; Tincture: 30-60 drops in a little water 1-4 times per day (Assuming 1:1 potency).  Powdered herb:  5-10 g per day.

ContraindicationsPregnancy– There are mixed reports on this. Some say that plants with coumestans and isoflavones should be avoided during pregnancy and by women and men with fertility problems. These constituents have been shown to decrease fertility in animals who graze on these types of plants. It is thought that the constituent stachydrine has a stimulating effect on the uterus and should be avoided during pregnancy. This perspective, however, is based on a reductionist approach. 

No human studies or animal studies on Medicago in pregnancy or lactation have been conducted, but based on the nutritive, food-like nature of the plant, most herbalists consider Medicago to be safe during pregnancy.  In fact, alfalfa is an ingredient in the classic NORA tea that midwives recommend for pregnant mothers during the second and third trimesters. And, farmers often increase the amount of alfalfa in the feed of pregnant mares as it is more nutritious than grass hay and believed to benefit livestock. One study found that Medicago feed increased milk yield, lowered fat, and increased milk protein in dairy cows.14

Blood-Thinners: Because alfalfa contains vitamin K, there is a potential of an antagonistic interaction with blood thinning agents.

Lupus: Alfalfa is thought to exacerbate symptoms of lupus, possibly caused by immune system stimulation by L-canavanine. This constituent, however, is based on the ingestion of large amounts of seeds & sprouts. Alfalfa leaves, in tea or tincture form, contain trace amounts of canavanine and are considered to safe when consumed within the recommended dosage15.

Works Consulted:

Dr. Sharol Tilgner (1999): Herbal Medicine From The Heart of The Earth.

David Winston Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulas

Matthew Wood The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants

https://restorativemedicine.org/library/monographs/alfalfa/

https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/alfalfa

 

*This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease*

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a shaggy mushroom that grows on deciduous hardwood trees. It can be found in the Fall, and it looks like an upside down mop head or a Muppet-version of Cousin It.

Lion’s mane is delicious when sauteed, baked or added to soups.

As a medicinal mushroom, it is best-known for its effects on cognitive function.

Actions & Benefits: antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune amphoteric, and nootropic.

Nootropic is another world for neuro-regenerative. It promotes nerve growth & repair, which supports memory and protects the brain from injury & toxins, and prevents neuro-degenerative conditions. Traditionally lion’s mane was considered a whole body tonic that nourishes the organs and promotes overall strength & vigor.

Studies have shown lion’s mane to protect against stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, dementia, nerve damage, gastritis and gastric ulcers* (Christopher Hobbs).

Its anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulating and liver protective properties make lion’s mane appropriate for a variety of ailments, including gastric ulcers, cancer, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, high cholesterol, chronic fatigue and neurodegenerative diseases.* Most medicinal mushrooms will prevent these same conditions, but what makes lion’s mane unique is its effect on nerve growth & repair, which is attributed to the constituents known as hericenone & erinacine.

Safety: the only contraindication is a mushroom allergy. Lion’s mane and most medicinal mushrooms are considered food-grade and safe to consume daily at moderate-large doses.

Dosage: 1 -1.5 grams per day (approx. 500 mg or 1 tsp. of powder three x a day). If you’re eating it fresh, 3-15 grams per day is enough.

Preparations: the fresh fruiting body is excellent when sliced and sauteed, baked or added to soups. The dried mushroom can be decocted, tinctured in alcohol or ground into a powder.

You can find lion’s mane powder in our Matcha Latte Blend

*This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease

Cacao

In the spirit of Autumn Equinox, which is all about the balance between polarities (masculine/feminine, light/dark, hot/cold, inward/outward, etc.) I’m inspired to share about the medicine of Cacao, theobroma cacao (the plant that chocolate comes from).


The Essence of Cacao

I have used cacao for years as a heart opener and an aphrodisiac, but only recently learned that its essence helps to balance the masculine and feminine polarities within us. We carry Cacao Spirit Essence by Brigid’s Way, which comes with this description:

“Releases and dissolves pains and wounds held in the body, particularly in the female breasts and male genitals. Helps to heal limiting beliefs around sex, and see the Divine aspect of Lovemaking. Facilitates ecstatic union of the masculine and feminine, as well as sensuality.”

This certainly explains the aphrodisiac effects of cacao, but masculine and feminine energies are not limited to gender and sexuality. It’s really more about yin and yang and the primordial separation of unified source energy into two poles, which simultaneously attract and repel one another in a dance that creates life. We are all seeking to unify these opposite forces within us (although most of us are looking for something outside of ourselves to complete us). When we do balance these energies within our own bodies, we experience amplified bliss, energy and power.

History of Chocolate

The cacao tree has been cultivated for 11,000 years and was considered by Mesoamerican empires including the Mayans and the Aztecs. The Aztecs believed that cacao seeds had been brought from paradise and that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cacao tree. The Aztecs prepared cacao into a thick, bitter and frothy brew made of mashed corn flour, roasted cacao beans and water and flavored with cinnamon and chili pepper. And it was primarily consumed by the elite, including nobility and warriors.  It was served at weddings and was used in offerings and rituals, including human sacrifice. The Aztec king Montezuma supposedly drank 50 goblets a day and an extra hefty dose of the beverage before visiting his harem.
 
The hot chocolate drink that we think of today is credited to Spanish nuns living in Chiapas, who added cane sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, omitting the chilis and salt.  They were so enamored with their creation that they would drink it in mass, despite the bishop’s attempt to suppress this behavior. Claiming that it helped them overcome ‘the weakness of the stomach’ and thus assisted their efforts to worship, they were allowed to continue.

 Therapeutics of Cacao

  • Actions: Diuretic, stimulant, aphrodisiac, anti-depressant/uplifting nervine, nutritive
  • Energetics: bitter, drying, initially warming, then cooling
  • Properties: Cacao contains psychoactive and mood altering compounds including tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Cacao also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), an alkaloid that triggers the release of norepinephrine and dopamine, all of which contribute to feelings of euphoria. PEA is identical to a hormone produced by the brain when a person feels infatuated [raises blood pressure, heart rate, heightens sensation, arousal, giddiness, nervousness and sleeplessness while lowering appetite.]
  • It also contains Theobromine, a close structural relative of caffeine. It is a stimulant but its effect on the central nervous system is less intense.
  • And cacao has compounds similar to THC (anandamine) which bind to cannabinoid receptor sites in the brain and produce a subtle pain-relieving effect and a sense of well-being.
  • Cacao is rich in antioxidants, which improve mental clarity as well as physical endurance, and support cardiovascular health as well as minerals like magnesium and copper.
  • Cautions: Ceremonial cacao is contraindicated with anti-depressants. A little bit of chocolate for dessert is okay, but avoid large, therapeutic doses with SSRIs or MAO inhibitors. Cacao is also stimulating, so you will want to use caution if you’re taking other stimulating medications such as ephedrine, Sudafed and amphetamines. Also because of its stimulating nature, high doses of cacao could exacerbate anxiety, high blood pressure and IBS.

Preparations

Cacao can be enjoyed as a chocolate bar, hot cocoa, added to smoothies, baked goods, or even teas and liqueurs. Dark chocolate is the best for medicinal purposes (look for 70% cacao or higher).  Cacao pairs well with rose, damiana for enhanced heart-opening effect. Maca, damiana, ginseng or epimedium will enhance its stimulating aphrodisiac qualities. And CBD, skullcap, kava or hops will create a more relaxing yet euphoric experience. Check out some delicious recipe ideas below:

  • Aztec Sipping Cocoa (Hot chocolate blend with maca, chipotle and sweetened with coconut sugar)
  • Kava Cocoa (A relaxing hot cocoa with kava kava, cinnamon, vanilla and organic cane sugar)
  • Damiana Cacao Liqueur Blend (a heart-opening blend of roasted cacao nibs, damiana and rose petals and a touch of cinnamon to infuse into your choice of liquor)

My favorite way to enjoy cacao is with a little bit of CBD (25mg), either as an infused chocolate square or a hot cocoa with CBD added. Then I light some incense, turn on some music and either dance, do some yoga or meditate depending on my energy level. You can also take a walk, journal, paint/draw, play music, hang out with friends, or anything else that makes you feel good and keeps you out of your analytical mind. I highly recommend carving out an hour or more in the evening, or whenever you can fully relax and spend some time doing whatever brings you joy.

Ceremonial Cacao

Cacao ceremonies are a great way amplify the effects of cacao, to connect with the spirit of the plant, to more fully occupy your heart space, and to experience an expanded state of consciousness.  A Cacao ceremony is simply ingesting cacao with intention. The intention is up to you, but since cacao is so great at opening the heart chakra and uplifting your mood, intentions related to joy, connection, and self-love are good suggestions. Ceremonial grade cacao is ideal, but you can use any high quality 80-100% cacao (in bar or paste form rather than powder). It can be a solo or a group experience.  Read more about how to create your own cacao ceremony HERE.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not meant to prevent, treat or cure any disease.

Yarrow

(Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow’s genus name ‘Achillea’ refers to the Greek warrior Achilles who is said to have carried this plant with him on the battlefield. This speaks to the traditional use of yarrow for wound-healing, a use for which it is best known.

I personally used a yarrow poultice and did a yarrow foot soak when I put a 1/2″ deep gouge in the top of my foot with a hand sickle. It worked great. The bleeding was slowed and the wound remained clean. It healed quickly without the need for stitches. Yarrow is a must-have for any first aid kit, but its uses go way beyond first aid…


Parts Used: aerial parts

Actions: vulnerary, antiseptic, hemostatic, emmenagogue, bitter tonic, circulatory tonic, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory

Taste: bitter, aromatic

Energetics: Cooling (but also sometimes warming), drying (but also sometimes moistening)

Uses: Yarrow’s vulnerary (tissue-healing), antiseptic (stops infection) and hemostatic (stops bleeding) properties make it ideal for treating a variety of cuts and wounds (including perineal tears, hemorrhoids and any kind of hemorrhaging). A fresh leaf poultice applied directly to the wound is great if you have access to the fresh leaf. If not, you can make a tea from the dried leaf to use as a wash, a soak or a compress.

Taken internally as a tea or tincture yarrow can help staunch excessive menstrual bleeding, resolve bruises, and bring fresh blood flow to cold/stagnant areas. This is why herbalist Matthew Wood refers to yarrow as the “great normalizer” of the blood. Yarrow can work amphoterically (bi-directionally). It can staunch heavy flow and bring on a fuller flow when menses is scanty. It can both aid in clotting and reduce clotting/thin the blood, depending on what the body needs.

In addition to regulating the viscosity of the blood, yarrow is a blood-mover. Yarrow flowers especially excel as a diaphoretic, meaning that they move blood to the surface to release heat through the pores. This is why it has been a favorite remedy for fevers. Yarrow is often combined with elder flower and peppermint as a cooling/relaxing diaphoretic tea (best drunk hot).

As a cold infusion, yarrow exerts a stronger influence on the digestive & urinary systems. As a urinary antiseptic, it can be helpful in cystitis. And as a bitter tonic, yarrow stimulates digestive secretion, strengthening assimilation & elimination. Its tissue-healing action can be felt in the GI tract where it helps to heal leaky gut, and inflammation of the intestines (colitis, gastritis, diverticulitis, etc.)

Indications: lacerations, bruises, active hemorrhaging, nosebleeds, excessive menstrual bleeding, dark or scanty menses with clots, thick/viscous blood with clots, history of or high risk for strokes, venous congestion, varicose veins, stagnation of portal vein, acute fever (especially when the skin is cool and the person is not breaking a sweat), cystitis, gastritis, colitis, diverticulitis (any ‘itis’), stroke.

With all that I have read about the possible complications of both ‘ronavirus and the injections, I cannot help but think of yarrow. It could be very beneficial for reducing the side effects of the injections, including clotting, strokes, and bleeding disorders. ‘Ronavirus is primarily a vascular pathology and yarrow, as the ‘normalizer of the blood’ could be very appropriate for these times. Even more so when you consider the relationship between this pandemic and 5G…yarrow flower essence offers protection against environmental toxins. It is said to strengthen our own forcefield and shield you from all forms of toxic energies. So I think it is a very appropriate herb on all levels- physical as well as spiritual.

Dosage: Dosage plays a huge role in the physical vs spiritual effects. With a tincture, you can use anywhere from 1-40 drops. The smaller drop doses work on the subtler emotional & spiritual energies while the larger doses (20-40 drops) have a stronger effect on the material body. For more information on energetic vs material dosing, check out our Dosing Guide. For a yarrow infusion, 1 TBSP of herb to 12 oz. boiling water steeped for 10 minutes is pretty standard.

Harvesting: You can start to harvest the leaves in late spring, before the flower comes. The flowers are harvested at their peak (early-mid summer). I like to harvest the top 6″ of the flower stalk, including the smaller leaves on the stalk. These leaves & flowers can be tinctured fresh or dried for tea.

Cautions: because it is a blood-mover, yarrow should not be used in high doses during pregnancy. Small amounts are fine when it is indicated. Also, yarrow belongs to the Asteraceae family, which includes ragweed, chamomile, sunflower, etc. Some people have allergies to plants in this family.

Products: You can find yarrow in many of our house-made products, including:

Works Consulted:

Wood, Matthew. “The Indispensable Blood Remedy” https://www.matthewwoodherbs.com/Yarrow.html 

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Nettles in Spring.

Nettles full of zing.

The stinging hairs are filled with an acid that can irritate the skin. But don’t let that deter you from getting to know them. Stinging nettle is a generous weed, with much to offer those who dare to treat it with respect.


Parts Used: Leaves, seeds, roots

Actions: Astringent, diuretic, nutritive tonic, alterative, lymphatic

Energetics: Warming, drying

Uses: The leaves are the most common parts of the plant used although the flowers, seeds and roots are used as well. Nettle leaf is highly nutritious. It is our most proteinaceous plant in North America, and is one of the most nutrient dense plants in the world! Nettles contains high amounts of amino acids, chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, iron, and other minerals. A strong tea, called a nourishing infusion (see recipe below), is recommended as a daily tonic to nourish and strengthen the blood. Nettle tea also makes a great herbal hair rinse that promotes new growth and vibrancy.

Think of nettles as a free and abundant superfood. Cooked nettle leaves may be used in the same way you would use spinach.  Cooking or drying nettle removes the sting. Add Nettle to your stir fry, soup or quiche. It also makes a yummy pesto (try mixing it with other spring greens like garlic mustard, chickweed, and dandelion greens). 

Nettle has a strong affinity to the urinary system. It is a lymphatic and a diuretic. Used daily, Nettle leaf will increase kidney function and aide in the elimination of toxins from the body. This is useful for conditions such as chronic urinary tract infections, water retention, gout and kidney stones.  Nettle seeds of are a trophorestorative for the kidneys, while the root has more of an affinity for the prostate.

Its ability to flush acid wastes from the body can also benefit skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rashes. Nettles are also known to alleviate symptoms of seasonal allergies. For allergies, fresh plant tincture or freeze-dried nettle capsules are best, because these preparations preserve the formic acid which has an antihistamine effect. Most herbalists recommend to start taking nettles 4-6 weeks before allergy season starts. For some this is Springtime tree pollen, for some it is the grass pollen of Summer, and for others the leaf mold of Fall is what makes them sneeze. 

Whether you suffer from Springtime allergies or not, Spring is an ideal time to use nettles as Spring is traditionally a time for cleansing. Not the extreme juice fasts and master cleanses that are popular today, but a more natural form of cleansing that uses seasonally-available plants to gently enhance the body’s innate mechanisms of detoxification by supporting the liver, kidneys, and digestive organs.

Because Nettle is so nourishing many people find it energizing. By improving energy levels throughout the day, most people will also find that regular use of Nettles helps them to sleep better as well. But they are drying and some people find them too warming. To offset its drying effects, try mixing it with some moistening plants such as violet. And it’s not advised to use nettle regularly if you are taking prescription diuretics as this can cause too much fluid loss.

Harvesting Nettle Leaf

When approached with attention and respect, nettle can be harvested without stinging. It only stings when it is carelessly brushed or bumped. You can always wear gloves to be extra safe. I like to crop the top 6″ of the plant because this encourages the plant to grow thicker and fuller. Make sure to snip the plant’s stem right above a leaf node. Then you can take your basket of nettle tips inside and pluck the leaves from the stem and spread them on a screen to dry or store the fresh leaves in the fridge to use in cooking.

It’s important to note that you should only harvest nettle leaves in the Spring before the plant goes to flower. Once it flowers it can be too irritating to the kidneys.  You also want to be sure that you are harvesting nettle from healthy soil, not on the roadside or a drainage ditch or a field sprayed with chemicals.

If you do get stung, try using fresh plantain leaf, curly dock leaf, or violet leaf as a spit poultice. Chances are you will be able to find one of these growing nearby. If you can’t, just sit with the sensation and know that it is bringing blood flow to the area and that the pain will subside soon. You might find it interesting to know that flogging oneself with nettles was a traditional treatment for rheumatism. The sting brings blood flow to the joints and can help with cold types of arthritis (pain is worse in cold weather and improves with warmth and movement).

How to Make a Nourishing Infusion

Nourishing infusions are essentially a strong herbal tea that is steeped for 4-8 hours or more. It takes this long to extract the minerals from a plant, so this method is used for mineral-rich plants like nettles, alfalfa, oatstraw, raspberry leaf, red clover blossoms, etc.   

I like to make mine before going to bed. That way it can steep overnight and is ready to strain in the morning.

To make 1 quart of nourishing infusion, you will need

  • 1/2 cup of (dried) plant matter
  • 1 quart-sized mason jar
  • 1 quart of boiling water

Simply add the herb material to the jar, fill the jar with boiling water and screw on the cap.

In the morning (or after it has steeped for at least 4 hours), strain the tea through a sieve into a clean jar or some other glass vessel. Drink the 2-4 cups throughout the day.  You can warm it up, drink it cold, add honey or lemon juice, or anything else to your liking. 

Other Nettle Recipes

This website is full of fun ways to add nettle into food & drink

*** This article is for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and this information is not intended to prevent, treat or cure any disease ***

Beets

Beets. While not technically an herb, food is medicine when it comes to nutrition, beets are hard to beat.

February is Heart Month, and beets are beneficial to our heart health. The red color gives you a clue that they are nourishing to the blood.

Actually, the red-violet pigment that gives beets their rich color comes from a compound called Betaine, which has been show to improve vascular health, lower blood pressure, protect the liver from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and protect other organs from inflammation. (1)

Beets also contain nitrate, which the body converts to vasodilating nitric oxide, another mechanism of lowering blood pressure (2).

AND, beets are loaded with polyphenols (antioxidant), carotenoids (precursor to Vitamin A), vitamin C, folate (vitamin B12), iron, potassium and other minerals (2). These phytonutrients work together to nourish the blood, reduce oxidative stress, lower inflammation & blood pressure, protect the blood vessels, support the liver & improve eyesight (2, 3)

According to Ayurveda, the sweet-tasting and dense beet is provoking for kapha dosha, and raw beets are provoking to pitta, while cooked beets pacify pitta dosha (3). The cooling quality is what helps to pacify pitta. The antioxidant bioflavonoids also reduce disorders related to heat/fire such as allergies, inflammation and infection.

Beets are said to cleanse and cool the blood and nourish the liver (3), partly due to the beta-carotenes.
February is a great time of year to detoxify the liver, before the rising temperatures of spring bring a surge in blood flow and biochemical activity.
To briefly summarize using the format of an herbal monograph:
Beet (Beta vulgaris)
Parts Used: root (the leaves are also delicious, but are not the part discussed here)
Tastes & Energetics: Sweet, salty, bitter, cooling (cooked), warming (raw)
Actions: nourishing tonic, blood tonic, alterative (blood-cleanser), hypotensive, antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, mild laxative
Indications: deficient blood, anemia, seasonal allergies, high blood pressure, over-taxed livers. The cooked beet cools firey pitta people. The heavy, nourishing & grounding qualities balance the spacey vata types who tend towards anxiety, dryness, constipation and deficiencies.
Cautions: its sweet and anabolic qualities can aggravate kapha dosha if consumed in excess.
Now, without any further ado, here are two recipes from Tonic’s kitchen that are great ways to get beets into your day and into your body:

Vegetarian Borscht 
(serves 6)
Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs beet root, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 lb green cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil (olive or avocado work well)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated OR 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut the onions, carrots, beets and cabbage (you can use the shredding blade on a food processor to cut this prep time way down).
  2. Add the olive oil to a large stock pot and sautee the onions over medium heat. When onions are translucent, add the garlic and ginger/caraway seeds (I personally like the ginger, but caraway offers a more traditional flavor) and stir for one more minute.
  3. Next add carrots and beets and a pinch of salt. Sautee for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Then add the vegetable stock and turn the heat to high. Add the cabbage and bring the pot to a boil.
  5. Simmer 15-25 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  6. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice, and add salt & pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with sour cream, a wedge of lemon, or fresh parsley if desired.

Beet Muhammara (raw beet & walnut dip)

This was a customer favorite back in the day when we were offering more foods in the kitchen. Now you can enjoy it at home.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large fresh Beets, peeled and quartered
  • 1 ⅓ cups toasted Walnut Pieces (plus more for garnish)
  • 3 large Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tbsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 ¼ tsp Sea Salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground Black Pepper
  • ⅛ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses or Mild Molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 2-4 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2-4 tbsp Olive Oil

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse to a textured paste. 
  2. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil and process until fairly smooth but still textured. 
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings and ingredients as desired. If you need to thicken it, you can add 1/3 cup of gluten-free panko bread crumbs. 
  4. Garnish with walnuts or pomegranate seeds. Serve with carrot sticks, cucumbers, pita bread, toast or crackers.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Will keep in the fridge up to 1 week.

Works Consulted:
1) Biotricity
2) NIH 
3) Joyful Belly
*This article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to treat, diagnose or cure any disease and does not provide dosage information, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. As such, this content should not replace professional health advice and readers are encouraged to seek the services of a doctor, nutritionist, naturopath or clincal herblist before using the herbs discussed in this article.