BOTANICAL NAME: Astragalus membranaceus

COMMON NAME(S): Huang Qi (Chinese), Milkvetch, Yellow Leader

FAMILY: Fabaceae



ACTIONS AND PROPERTIES: Adaptogen, antibacterial, antiviral, diuretic, immune-stimulant, vasodilator, nutritive, Qi tonic (5)

Tonifying and stimulating, astragalus is often affectionately called the “young person’s ginseng.” Like ginseng, it strengthens the qi, or the vital energy of the body. It specifically strengthens the wei qi, or the defensive energies of the body that protect us from pathogens. It works best as a preventative. Taken daily it will strengthen one’s resistance to respiratory infections, viral infections such as shingles, and even Lyme disease. When I lived in Vermont, everyone was using astragalus as a preventative measure to reduce their chances of contracting Lyme.

The polysaccharides in astragalus intensify white blood cell activity, stimulate pituitary adrenal-cortical activity, and restore depleted red blood cell formation in bone marrow (7). In other words, astragalus increases the bone marrow reserve, supporting the deepest layers of the immune system in its fight against pathogens by stimulating the production of immune cells (2).

Another mechanism of action is its ability to increase interferon, a chemical messenger that helps a cell that’s been affected by a pathogen communicate what is is experiencing to other nearby cells so that they can better protect themselves. Although it does have antiviral activity, astragalus should not be used during a fever or acute infection because it closes the pores and doesn’t allow you to break a sweat. When you have a fever that oftentimes will accompany a flu, your body is trying to sweat it out, but Astragalus will not let you sweat it out. In Chinese medicine they say that astragalus can actually drive an infection it deeper into the body, which we don’t want. So Astragalus is a really great plant to take as a preventative medicine, but not in an acute illness.

Though it is a relatively new focus in eclectic American herbalism, astragalus is getting some serious clout as of late for being an adaptogen, an herb that has some normalizing activity, particularly on the immune, nervous, and hormonal systems. It is classified as a “superior tonic” in Chinese medicine and is used in China for treating cancer. Astragalus is part of Fu Zheng therapy, which is often used concurrently with more conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer (3). 

Chinese medicine also considers astragalus as lung tonic and is classically used to improve respiratory health and strengthen the vital energy of the lungs in cases of chronic asthma, emphysema or respiratory weakness. Again, it is best used as a daily tonic to support the lungs before or after an illness, but not during the acute phase of an illness. 

Five main uses:

  1. Adaptogen
  2. Strengthens and rebuilds depleted immune activity
  3. Chronic lung deficiency
  4. Antiviral
  5. Allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Astragalus is contraindicated for those with acute infections. Those with autoimmune conditions should speak with their healthcare provider before using astragalus, as it may stimulate immune function. May also interfere with drugs that are meant to suppress the immune system.

Decoction : 10 g : 16 fl oz water, decoct 35 minutes, steep 1 hour. 1-2 cups per day
Tincture : Dried root (1:5 40% alcohol), 2-4 mL 3x a day
Glycerite : Dried root (1:8) 10-20 mL 3x a day
Capsule : 1,000 to 3,000 mg 3x a day

Astragalus membranaceus is known in China as Huang Qi, meaning “yellow leader.” This name refers to both the colored interior of the root and the plant’s position of prestige among Chinese medicine practitioners. Astragalus is thought to have been used medicinally in China for at least 2,000 years, with its first text appearance in the TCM classic Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica Classic). This text is the foundation of TCM, and within it herbs were arranged by type of material (herb, tree, etc), and then graded into categories of potency: upper, middle, and lower. Astragalus was listed in the highest class (3).


  1. Herbal Therapeutics, David Winston
  2. Foundations of Herbalism, Christopher Hobbs
  3. Herbrally, Krystal Thompson
  4. The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, Matthew Wood
  5. History of the Use of Astragalus.
  6. Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman


Solomon’s Seal

The name Solomon’s Seal comes from the Biblical King Solomon, whose divinely-gifted ring had a special seal that aided him in magically commanding demons. According to lore, King Solomon placed his seal upon the plant in recognition of its great value. If you dig up a rhizome of Solomon’s seal, you can see the scarring on the rhizomes from where old shoots once sprouted. They look like the marks of an old-fashioned wax seal made by a ring.

There is a great deal of herbal lore about this plant. Galen (130-200 A.D.) recommended Solomon’s seal to remove freckles and skin spots.  It was said to improve complexions and help women retail beauty and agelessness (perhaps because of its tightening effect on connective tissue?). And sixteenth century English herbalist John Gerard has some misogynistic suggestions for bruising that I will not repeat here.

Native Americans and the 19th century Eclectic physicians used Solomon’s seal for a variety of “female troubles”. It has applications for first aid, and the urinary, cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems, but its main claim to fame is as a tonic to the musculoskeletal system…

Botanical Name: Polygonatum biflorum

Family: Asparagaceae

Description: Native to North America, Europe, Siberia and Asia. It grows in deciduous woodlands with full to partial shade. The stems form arches with alternate, parallel-veined leaves. The creamy tubular bell-like flowers hang from the undersides of the stems, going on to form blackish blue berries.

Part Used: Rhizome

Taste: Sweet, bitter

Energetics: cooling, relaxing, toning, moistening

Actions: demulcent, yin  tonic, expectorant, nutritive, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, relaxant, cardotonic (mild), amphoteric

Constituents: Asparagin, Convallarin (a cardiac glycoside), steroidal saponins, saponosides (including Diosgenin), Allatonin, Sapogenin, lectins, non-protein amino acids

Uses: A superior tonic and anti-inflammatory for the connective tissue, Solomon’s seal is ideal for connective tissue injuries (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, arthritis, partial tears of the rotator cuff, runner’s knee, mild tears of the meniscus of the ACL, disc injuries and sacroiliac pain.

As an amphoteric (an herb that works bidirectionally), Solomon’s seal can both tighten and restore tone to overly loose ligaments, muscles and tendons, and loosen the forementioned tissues when they are overly tightened. According to herbalist Jim McDonald, Solomon’s seal nourishes and moistens dried out, atrophic tissues by improving the production of synovial fluid.  I think of Solomon’s seal for loud, crackling joints and joint pain that is worse after exertion.

As a demulcent herb, Solomon’s seal is soothing and moistening to the digestive tract. It also soothes hot and irritated tissues of the urinary tract and respiratory system. Traditional Chinese Medicine classifies Solomon’s seal a yin tonic, meaning that it strengthens the yin faculties (the nourishing, lubricating, restorative aspects of the body). It is used in China to balance dryness (dry cough, dry throat, diabetes) and build yin. It is said to restore color to the hair, build marrow and increase semen (all signs that Solomon’s Seal builds Kidney yin/Jing)

Signatures: Herbalist Matthew Wood talks about Solomon’s seal as “Wolf Medicine”. Wolf medicines have a right angle in the way that they grow, and we see this in the horizontal growth of the rhizome that grows perpendicular to the vertical shoots. Wolf medicines act on the tendons, ligaments, joints and gallbladder. They are indicated when we need to make a sharp turn in our life, to make a radical change, but lack the ‘gall’ to do it.
Another signature is how the white, knobby rhizomes resemble bones and joints (especially finger bones).


  • Decoction: 1 tsp dried rhizome per 8 oz water, simmered for 10-15 minutes, then steeped for another 45-50 minutes. Drink 4 oz 3 x per day. Decoction may also be applied topically as a compress
  • Tincture: fresh root 1:3, 95% alcohol; dried root 1:5, 50% alcohol; 5 drops to 3 ml 3 x a day. Tincture may also be applied topically as a liniment
  • Salve: oil extract (1:4). Applied topically
  • Poultice: fresh root can be mashed and applied topically for bruises, hemorrhoids and inflammations


  • Solomon’s seal does contain trace amounts of cardiac glycosides, and may potentiate the effects of cardioactive medications
  • Large doses may cause gastric upset
  • Berries are toxic

Works Consulted;

  • Maude Grieves, A Modern Herbal
  • Michael Tierra, East West School of Planetary Herbology Natural Medicinal Herbs
  • Robyn McKenzie, Solomon’s Seal- Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine
  • Matthew Wood, Herbalist Matthew Wood gives an in-depth discussion of the Doctrine of Signatures

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

Find Solomon’s Seal in our Achy Joints Salve

Red Clover

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a member of the legume family. It is a wonderful nitrogen-fixer for your gardens or fields, as it improves soil nutrition and fertility. In our bodies, red clover is also highly nutritious, supplying us with minerals, including calcium. It is simultaneously nourishing and detoxifying, its detoxifying properties being due to its action on the lymphatic system.

Lymphatics are herbs that aid the flow of lymph. The coumarin content in red clover helps to pull fluid from the interstitial spaces and into the lymphatic vessels, helping to thin the lymph and allowing it to flow more easily. This is helpful for swelling, bruising, edema and signs of lymphatic congestion including fibrocystic breasts and swollen lymph glands. You may also need lymphatic support following an acute illness such as measles, mumps, or even the flu or a coronavirus. Supporting the lymph will help to clear the “debris” of an immune battle and help to ensure that the bug is fully cleared from your body.

Red clover is also an expectorant, meaning that it can be useful for relaxing spasmodic coughs. The Algonquin people used it to treat whooping cough.  It can also be supportive for bronchitis. As an alterative, red clover can be used to support the pathways of elimination, promoting detoxification and “purifying” and alkalinizing the blood. This is helpful when dealing with diseases of “excess” including rheumatoid arthritis and chronic skin conditions, which can be, in part, due to toxins accumulating and triggering an overactive immune response.

Red clover also a reputation for treating cancer. It has been traditionally used by dozens of cultures around the world as a remedy for cancer, and modern studies have found 4 antitumor compounds, including genistein, which has shown to inhibit growth and metastasis. I wouldn’t rely on red clover alone for this, but I would include it in a larger herbal protocol for cancer support/prevention, especially estrogen-dependent cancers like breast cancer.

You see, like its cousin soy, red clover contains phytoestrogens (though not as much as soy). These smaller plant estrogens bind with estrogen receptor sites, but have a much weaker effect than larger endogenous estrogens or xenoestrogens, so they displace the stronger molecules that can promote excess growth. These same phytoestrogens can help lessen the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats because they help to provide an estrogenic effect when our endogenous estrogen becomes deficient. And, since decreasing estrogen levels can also be a factor in osteoporosis, mineral-rich red clover can help with that as well when used consistently as an overnight infusion or an infused vinegar.

The blossoms will be appearing very soon here in the mid-Atlantic, and have probably already started to bloom further south of us. Now that you know about how many uses they have to offer, maybe you will be inspired seed some in your garden as a cover crop, and to harvest a few blossoms every day to dry for year-round use. Make sure that you harvest them on a dry, sunny day when they are not wet with rain or dew, and space them out on your drying screen to promote air flow and prevent mold (see contraindications section below to learn why this is so important).

<<< Find red clover blossoms in our Strong Bones & Body and Sparkling Lung teas>>>

Trifolium Pratense

Parts used: flowers

Constituents:  calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, chromium, manganese, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin C, amino acids, vitamin E, phenolic glycosides, flavonoids, saponins, salicylates, coumarins, cyanogenic glycosides.

Actions: nutritive tonic, lymphatic, alterative, expectorant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant

Indications: osteoporosis, eczema, psoriasis, acne, edema, lymphatic congestion, swollen lymph glands, tonsilitis, cystic breast disease, rheumatoid arthritis, hot flashes, night sweats, irritable coughs, spasmodic coughs, cancer

Preparations: dried flowers and top leaves make a wonderful nourishing infusion (best steeped overnight to extract all of the minerals). Infusing red clover into vinegar is another way to get the nutritional benefits. You can also get the lymphatic benefit from a tincture of the fresh flower. Topically, red clover infused into an oil makes a great lymphatic massage oil for the breasts

Dosage: as an on overnight infusion, using 1 ounce of the dried blossoms to one quart of water, you can drink 2-3 cups per day. As a tincture, take 60-100 drops (3-5ml) four times a day. But please remember that dosing can and should change depending on the person and the reason for using it.

Contraindications: you will likely read about red clover having blood-thinning properties and being contraindicated for people using prescription blood thinners. My understanding is that this is a theoretical concern and that coumarin by itself has no effect on bleeding times. It is the oxidation of coumarin, caused by mold, that turns it into dicoumarol. Dicoumarol is a potent blood thinner. So, as long as your red clover blossoms are not moldy, this is not an issue. Be sure that your red clover blossoms are bright and vibrant, not brown or grey or powdery.

Works Consulted:

  • The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman
  • Herbal Therapeutics by David Winston
  • Opening our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards
  • Body Into Balance by Maria Noel Groves
  • Herb & Drug Interactions lecture by Mimi Hernandez

*this article is for informational purposes only. The information presented here has not been reviewed by the FDA and is not intended to prevent, treat, or cure any disease*

Spring Tonics

This is my favorite time of year for wild-crafting! So many edible & medicinal plants light up the fields and forests- chickweed, dandelion, violet, cleavers, nettles, red buds, ramps and morels to name just a few. Did you know that even the invasive garlic mustard is a highly nutritious green that makes a great pesto? And that the apple and cherry blossoms that grace us with their beauty make a lovely cordial?

I love how Mother Nature provides  us with the bitter and  pungent flavors to help us detoxify our bodies and eliminate excess from winter. Many of the plants available in spring are lymphatics and alteratives (An alterative is an herb that gradually restores proper function to the body and increases overall health and vitality by supporting the ability of the body to eliminate waste through multiple channels of elimination (i.e., lungs, skin, liver, kidneys, lymph or bowels)- what used to be referred to as “blood cleansers”) Dandelion, cleavers, chickweed, violet, nettle, sassafras, burdock- all of these were used as spring tonics (aka blood cleansers) among Appalachians before the age of refrigeration and grocery stores.

While these traditions seem to have faded from popular culture over the past few generations, they remain strong among herbalists, folk healers, wise women and mountain-dwellers. And there is a resurgence of interest in learning these traditional practices. So for those of you who are curious about the wild nutrition that your backyard can offer, here are some recipes for you to play with this season…

Before you begin to forage, I have to emphasize the importance of proper plant identification. Dandelions, cleavers, violets and nettles are all relatively easy to identify, but if you are new to this, please consult a field guide or go with someone who can help you. Do not rely on the plant identification apps! I have found them to be woefully inaccurate.

Violet gelation in a bowl


This is not the bright purple, boxed gelatin of your youth. This is an all-natural, low sugar, nutrient-rich treat.
Recipe & photo from: Homestead Lady


  • 2 Cups Violet Flower Tea* OR 1 Cup Violet Tea Plus One Cup Organic Apple Juice
  • 2 TBSP Organic Beef Gelatin, flavorless
  • Raw Honey to taste (About 2 TBSP)

To Make Violet Tea

Gather 2-4 cups of violet flowers and pinch off the green backs. Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil and pour over the violets in a heat safe container. Cover and let steep for 2-6 hours. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor (and the more beneficial for your health). When its done, strain out the flowers and measure the tea for this recipe. Drink whatever is left over.


  • Put the tea or the tea/juice combination into a saucepan and warm the tea gently.
  • Add gelatin, a little at a time, and stir to incorporate.
  • Add honey and test sweetness until it makes you happy.
  • Place into gelatin mold, ice cube tray, glass baking dish, whatever!
  • Refrigerate for 4-6 hours OR for better results, leave in fridge overnight.
  • Tip: add a little bit of lemon juice to the tea after straining for a colorful reaction!

I made this yesterday with my 3 year old and it turned out great! We poured it into little heart-shaped molds. He was so excited this morning to bring his violet “jello” to school for lunch.


Please note that honey syrups must be stored in the fridge for preservation.

Violet Syrup Ingredients
1 oz. freshly picked violet flowers
5 oz. water
organic sugar

To Prepare:
* Boil water and pour over the violet flowers.
* Cover and allow to steep for 4 hours.
* Strain into stainless pot and gently warm on the stove.
* Add 2 oz of sugar/honey by weight for each 1 fluid ounce of violet tea.
* Mix until the sugar is completely dissolved.
* Bottle. Shelf stable for 1 year.

Use violet syrup to sparkling water, teas, cocktails or as a sweetener for lemonade. It is a cooling, nutritive


Note: only harvest wild greens from clean areas, at least 20’ from the road


  • 1 cup of young dandelion greens
  • ⅓ cup of young violet leaves
  • ⅓ cup chickweed (optional-if you can find it)
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • 2 TBSP wild spring onions, roughly chopped
  • a handful of violet, dandelion or red bud flowers as garnish


  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste (note, you may not need to add salt due to the tamari)

(This recipe makes dressing for more than one salad. Keep in the fridge for up to a week for more salads!)

Mix the greens, wild onions and grated carrot in a salad bowl. Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing. Add 3 Tbsp of dressing to the greens, tossing well. Sprinkle violet flowers over the greens and then serve.


  • 2 cups of greens (stinging nettles, watercress, dandelion greens, chickweed, garlic mustard, lamb’s quarters, or any combination of the above)
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley, mint, dill, or other fresh herbs for flavor
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • Hard cheese such as parmesan to taste (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Note: If you are using nettles in your wild pesto, you can blanch them for a minute or two to remove the sting before proceeding with the recipe below. I have found that the chopping action of the food processor is sufficient to break open the hairs and release the acid, but if you are not confident, blanching or steaming them will definitely do the trick.


Add the garlic and seeds/nuts to the food processor and pulse to coarsely chop these.

Rough chop the greens and herbs and add them to your food processor. Add a splash of lemon juice to brighten the flavor and color. Start blending, adding olive oil, one tablespoon at a time until you have your preferred texture. If you want to make a pesto sauce you will need more oil. If you want a paste for pizza, use less oil. Flavor with salt, pepper and hard cheese. (Omit the cheese if you plan to freeze it, you can always add that later after thawing).


Cleavers (Galium aparine) is classified as a lymphatic, alterative, diuretic and nutritive tonic. It helps our lymphatic system during a time when our immune systems may be tired and sluggish following a long winter.

Cleavers is fairly easy to identify, but please be sure to consult a good field guide to make sure that you are working with the right plant. Cleavers has tiny hairs that allow them to stick to your clothes. They have narrow, pointed leaves that grow in whorls of 6-8. Each whorl is spaced about every 2″ along the stem. They have square stems and tiny white star-shaped flowers.
Cleavers are best made as a cold infusion:


  1. Place one or two handfuls of finely chopped, fresh cleavers (the leaves and stems, not the roots) into a quart-sized canning jar.
  2. Fill the  jar with cool water and cover with a lid.
  3. Place the jar in a refrigerator and allow the cleavers to infuse overnight, or eight to twelve hours.
  4. Strain and enjoy cold, warm or at room temperature. Store any remaining infusion in the fridge for up to 3 days.


This recipe was taken and slightly modified from Simply Recipes

PREP TIME- 30 mins * COOK TIME- 45 mins * SERVINGS- 4 servings


  • 1/2 large shopping bag of fresh nettle tops (***Fresh, raw stinging nettles sting! While the sting has medicinal value (it’s a rubefacient and anti-inflammatory), you may want to wear gloves when handing them raw. Once they are blanched they loose their sting.
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, butter or ghee
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 3-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stockhomemade or store-bought
  • 1 to 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 tablespoon fresh parsley 
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (or coconut cream if you don’t do dairy)


  1. Blanch the nettles:

    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Wearing protective gloves, transfer the nettle tops into the boiling water. Blanch for 2 minutes.

    Use tongs to lift the wilted blanched nettles out of the pot and transfer to the bowl of ice water to shock them. Strain in a colander.

    Cut away and discard any large stems from the nettles. (This should be easier to do now that the nettle stingers have lost their sting due to the blanching.)

    You should have 3 to 4 cups of blanched tender nettle tops and leaves for this recipe. Any blanched nettles not used at this point can be frozen for future use.

  2. Sauté the shallots, celery and garlic:

    In a 6-quart soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Then add garlic and sauté another minute or two.

  3. Add the potatoes, stock, bay leaf, and thyme:

    Add the chopped potatoes, the chicken stock and bay leaf. If using unsalted or low sodium stock, add one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.

  4. Chop the blanched nettles, add to the soup pot, and simmer

    Roughly chop the blanched nettles. Add 3 to 4 cups of the chopped blanched nettles to the pot. Add enough water to just cover the nettles and potatoes, 1 to 2 cups. Return to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the nettles tender.

  5. Purée the soup:

    Remove the bay leaves  from the pot. Add the fresh parsley. Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a standing blender, purée. Return to the pot and take off the heat.

  6. Adjust the seasonings and serve:

    Add salt to taste. Depending on the saltiness of the stock you are using, you may need to add at least a teaspoon or more to the soup. Add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Add lemon juice. Right before serving, swirl in the cream, sour cream or coconut milk. Adjust seasonings to taste.

    Sprinkle with black pepper and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint to serve.


Wild garlic by Maxlegran via Wikimedia commonsWhen I search for Wild Onion Infused Vinegar, the first articles that come up are about how to use vinegar to kill wild onion grass. Why would you sacrifice such a free and available source of flavor for the sake of visual uniformity in your lawn? Have you ever tasted onion grass? It is powerfully pungent. It may be small and tedious to chop, but an easy way to utilize this wild green is to make an infused vinegar. This makes a flavorful vinegar that can be added to salad dressings or marinades all year long.

To make an infused vinegar:

  • Gather a few handfuls of onion grass (just the tops are fine, but if you can dig up the bulbs you can  include those too. I like to selectively weed them from my garden using a dandelion weeder)
  • Rinse the dirt off, pat them dry. Trim off the roots and coarsely chop the leaves
  • Loosely pack a canning jar with the onion grass and cover with your choice of vinegar (apple cider, white wine or rice vinegar have nice, gentle flavors). Make sure that the plant material is fully submerged by the vinegar and that the jar is filled to the top.
  • Cover the jar with a lid. Plastic lids are ideal for vinegars because they don’t react with the vinegar. If you only have a metal lid, you can place a piece of wax paper between the vinegar and the lid before securing the lid.
  • Let sit for 10-14 days and then strain out the plant material through a sieve lined with cheesecloth, reserving the vinegar.
  • Pour the vinegar into a bottle and store in the refrigerator. Use within 6 months.

I could go on and on with more of these recipes, but time and space are limited. Dandelion wine will have to wait for another blog. If you want to play with more spring foraging, I highly recommend these two books:

  1. Stalking the Healthful Herbs by Euell Gibbons
  2. Healing Wise by Susun Weed

Again, please be careful when identifying wild plants for the first time. Happy foraging!

Disclaimer: these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. 

Greens & Chlorophyll

Ionic ChlorophyllSpring is the season of the liver/wood element, and green is the color that nourishes the liver. If you’re looking for a gentle way to support detoxification, this is a great time to add more greens to your day.

Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants that helps to convert sunlight to usable energy. Chlorophyll’s main action is a chelator, meaning that it binds to things such as heavy metals and carcinogens and facilitates their excretion. Chlorophyll also supports phase II detoxification in the liver, reducing oxidative stress on the liver and supporting the metabolism of harmful toxins, drugs and excess hormones.

Chlorophyll closely resembles the structure of our red blood cells, with just one atom difference (red blood cells have iron at the center while chlorophyll has magnesium at the center).


Just like our red blood cells, chlorophyll can bind with oxygen, facilitating the transportation of oxygen to our cells and increasing the production and recycling of red blood cells in our bodies. And even though we don’t transform sunlight into energy as much as plants do, a diet rich in chlorophyll does help us to have more energy (especially when we eat chlorophyll rich roods before soaking up some sunlight). Chlorophyll is also known to protect the skin from sun damage.

Just like the plants, this time of year our blood (sap) begins to flow outward and upward. We crave movement and growth and expansion. We need to rid ourselves of excess to allow our blood to flow optimally. And just like plants, we can use flavonoids and pigments to help protect our skin as we soak up the sun’s rays. So as we approach the yang-half of the year (beginning at spring equinox) we will want to add more greens to our diet to support the elimination of all that we have accumulated during the sedentary winter months of heavy foods and lack of sunshine.

Nettle, Stinging – Snake River Seed CooperativeChlorophyll-rich plants include nettle, spinach, alfalfa, cilantro, parsley, spirulina and chlorella, all of which are amazing detoxifiers and can be helpful for preventing seasonal allergies (especially nettle!). For additional support for your liver and for general detoxification, be sure to also read our previous posts about beets, dandelion, chickweed, schisandra, yellow dock, and violet . Many of these herbs are ready to harvest right now and can easily be foraged or cultivated in your yard!

If you don’t have the capacity to harvest your own greens, or have a hard time drinking dandelion leaf tea, you can still have amazing benefits from taking liquid chlorophyll drops. We carry Trace Minerals ionic chlorophyll drops (pictured above) that can easily be added to your tea, water, smoothies, dressings or sauces for a burst of green power.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.*

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***



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


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.


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 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


*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


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.


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.