(Schisandra chinensis)

Schisandra is a deciduous climbing vine that is native to China & Eastern Russia. It’s a highly prized tonic herb in traditional Chinese medicine, used to promote longevity and overall wellness. Because it contains all 5 flavors recognized by Chinese medicine (bitter, sour, salty, pungent & sweet), its effects on the body are broad, as each flavor is associated with an organ system. The flavors will come through differently for different people, and there is a saying that whatever flavors you taste first are the flavors you need the most to restore balance. Because it contains a balance of all 5 flavors, it is considered safe for any constitution.

Family: Schisandraceae
Names: 5 flavor berry, Wu Wei Zi
Parts Used: berry
Energetics: sweet, sour, warm, all 5 flavors
Actionsadaptogen, astringent, tonic, antioxidant, hepatoprotectiveUses: As adaptogen, schisandra strengthens the hypothalamic/pituitary/
adrenal axis (HPA) and normalizes the endocrine and immune systems. It has historically been used as a longevity tonic, a sexual tonic, and a tonic for vital energy.  Out of all the adaptogens that exist in the world, schisandra stands out as one that is both calming and invigorating. It can give you sustained energy and endurance while calming the spirit and helping you stay focused. And it is simultaneously nourishing, calming, rejuvenating and detoxifying.

Schisandra is also hepatoprotective, meaning that it protects the liver against damage caused by environmental toxins, viruses or alcohol/drugs. In Chinese medicine, it is considered to nourish the liver yin, or the cooling & nourishing aspect of the liver’s functions. Modern research has shown that schisandra increases metabolism of heavy metals, and can help to decrease elevated liver enzymes. This is helpful for anyone with a liver that is overheated and overworked due to high levels of stress, anger, and controlling personalities as well as anyone exposed to a high level of toxins. It can be a useful herb for someone recovering from hepatitis, mono, or undergoing a hepatotoxic drug regimen such as chemotherapy.

As an astringent herb, schisandra astringes excess fluid, tightening loose tissues to prevent leaky/boggy/atonic conditions such as urinary frequency, prolapse of the bladder, and diarrhea. It is used in Chinese medicine for leaky chi (involuntary sweating, premature ejaculation and ‘wasting & thirsting diseases’) when vital energy is slowly dissipating from the body.

I think of schisandra as an herb for anyone who is feeling puny or sluggish, with poor detoxification, brain fog, blood sugar lability, and a lot of anxiety/stress/overwhelm. It’s great for type A people who have burnt themselves out and are experiencing signs of adrenal fatigue such as metal fog, low energy, low libido, weak immunity. These people would do well to kick the coffee habit, as coffee depletes the adrenals, and schisandra makes a wonderful replacement for your morning coffee, perking you up while helping you to adjust to the symptoms of withdrawal (keeping you feeling stable and focused, alleviating jitteriness, headache and palpitations).

Indications: tuberculosis, mild asthma with wheezing , diabetes, blood sugar lability, diarrhea, nocturnal emission, involuntary sweating, insomnia, forgetfulness, low energy, chronic stress, brain fog, difficulty focusing, anxiety, palpitations, weak immune system, low libido, bladder prolapse, quitting coffee addiction, hepatitis, heavy metal toxicity, mono, cancer

Contraindications: because the sour flavor can increase gastric secretion, use schisandra cautiously if you have gastric ulcers acute gastric inflammation. Its liver detoxifying actions may affect the metabolism of certain medications (inhibiting CYP3A4). Schisandra has shown no harmful effects to fetal development, but it does have a traditional use of inducing labor (20-25 drops of tincture per hour), so large amounts should be avoided by pregnant women. If you are pregnant, seek the guidance of a professional herbalist or midwife before using schisandra regularly.

Dosage: 3-9 grams daily of powder, or 1 tsp of dried berries to 8 oz of water, decoct for 5 minutes or steep for 30 min. Tincture: 30-60 drops (1.5-3ml) qid

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

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston; Healing Arts Press 2007
Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care by Maria Noel Groves; Storey Publishing (2016)
Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulas by David Winston; Herbal Therapeutics Research Library (2014)
The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety by Simon Mills & Kerry Bone; Churchill Livington (2005)

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


(Commiphora myrrha)
Myrrh is the resinous secretion of a small desert tree found in Africa and the Middle East. It has been used for thousands of years for its purifying properties, both as an incense and as an herbal remedy for internal and external infections. Myrrh has a fiery, invigorating effect on the blood, supporting clear, uninhibited blood flow to the entire body, increasing oxygenation to the cells and improving overall metabolic function.

Family: Burseraceae

Names: Guggulu, Myrrh, Mirra

Parts Used: gum resin

Energetics: bitter, pungent, warming, drying

Actions: anti-microbial, astringent, carminative, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, vulnerary

Uses: Myrrh is directly anti-microbial, making it useful for relieving bacterial or fungal infections, both topically and internally. It also stimulates the production of white blood cells, strengthening the body’s ability to fight pathogens. Use myrrh as a mouthwash for ulcers, gingivitis, or as a gargle for laryngitis or strep throat. The astringent and vulnerary actions helps speed up the healing of tissues, making it doubly useful as a wound-healing herb. Externally apply to wounds and abrasions as an antiseptic and Internally, it can be useful in treating intestinal candida overgrowth, boils, staph, bronchitis, and the common cold.

Another species of myrrh called Guggul (Commiphora mukul-burseaceae), is known for its detoxifying properties. Like all resins, it is warming, bitter, and antimicrobial. All species of myrrh help to move the blood and to cleanse the blood of toxins. One of my Ayurvedic teachers described Myrrh as having as a scraping action. Imagine a tiny scraper clearing all excess debris from your blood vessels and joints. All myrrhs have this action and can be used to lower moderately lower cholesterol levels, enhance circulation and relieve stagnation in the joints.

As a warming, bitter & detoxifying plant, myrrh can also be useful in obesity by stimulating digestive secretion, improving blood flow, and eliminating toxic build-up that slows down metabolic functions (i.e. insulin receptivity), thereby improving cellular respiration & metabolism. In Ayurveda, these warming and clearing resins are said to “burn up” ama or toxins. Think of it as helping your metabolic fire to burn nice and hot, preventing creosote build-up in your pipes.

Myrrh also has a reputation for purifying space, creating a sacred atmosphere, and focusing the mind. Burn the pure resin, mix it in with other herbs to make an incense blend, or add the essential oil to a spray bottle to evoke myrrh’s aromatic properties.

Indications: arthritis, high cholesterol, obesity, hyperglycemia, blood stagnation due to injury or toxic accumulation, would-healing, bacterial and fungal infections, gangrene, boils, ulcerated mucosa in the GI tract, vaginitis due to candida, pelvic stagnation leading to amenorrhea, atonic uterine tissue, uterine tumors or infertility, sore throats, bad breath, canker sores, bleeding gums, respiratory infections accompanied by profuse mucus secretion, and creating sacred space for ceremony (as incense)

Dosage: Tincture: take 1-4 ml three times a day. Externally, use undiluted tincture on the skin 2-3 times a day.

Contraindications: Theoretically, myrrh may interfere with antidiabetic therapy, since hypoglycemic properties have been documented. The essential oil can be irritating to the skin and mucosa. Always dilute your essential oils. We don’t recommend using essential oils internally, regardless of purity/quality claims. They all have the potential to disrupt your microbiome.

Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffman, FNIMH (2003)
The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad (1986)
Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulas by David Winston (2014)
The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood (2008)

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

Kava Kava

(Piper methysticum)
Kava root is a well-known herb used by many to relieve anxious states of mind and to promote a relaxed & euphoric mood. Kava is a large shrub native to Oceana and cultivated from Hawaii to New Guinea. The root is traditionally  pulverized & masticated in water or coconut water, then filtered and served at room temperature. The pungent & bitter taste is followed by a tingling sensation on the tongue, as the kavalactones begin to exert their analgesic effect.

Family: Piperaceae

Names: Kava Kava, Ava Pepper, Ava Root, Kawa

Parts Used: rhizome

Energetics: bitter, pungent, warming

Actions: relaxing nervine, hypnotic/sedative, antispasmodic, local anesthetic, urinary antiseptic, antifungal

Uses & Indications: Kava is primarily used to treat anxiety. It has been shown to reduce anxiety without dampening mental alertness or reaction time. In fact, it seems to improve concentration in some. As an antispasmodic, Kava also relaxes muscular tension and spasm, which makes it especially helpful for those who need to relax both body and mind.  In addition to relaxing tension, it has mild pain-relieving properties and has demonstrated “significant analgesic effects in animal studies, apparently via non-opiate pathways” (1). As a hypnotic, it can also be an ally for those struggling with sleep due to anxiety or muscular tension/pain. Kava has a reputation for helping menopausal women who struggle with mood swings and sleep troubles. Because it is warming, it may exacerbate hot flashes in some.

Kava is traditionally used among Pacific Islanders in ceremony. It is drunk during important political meetings and councils to facilitate an environment of peace and cooperation (How can we get our current leaders to give this a try!?) Kava Chai is a favorite beverage at herbal gatherings, shared at the end of the day, usually accompanied by live music and bare feet in the grass. I can assure you that it is effective at promoting a mild state of euphoria, sometimes resulting in uncontrollable giggles:)

Kava effects everyone differently. For some, it will make you feel giddy, light and uninhibited. For others, it can make you very sleepy. I believe that how kava effects your mood is highly dependent on what your body needs at that time, as well as the dose. Start small. You can always take more.

Alleged Hepatotoxicity & Safety Concerns: Kava should not be taken concurrently with alcohol and should be avoided by heavy alcohol users or anyone with pre-existing liver damage. There is a lot of controversy around the safety of kava, and some regulatory bodies have reacted to allegations of kava causing liver damage, leading kava to be restricted in some countries. As of 2004, a total of 78 cases of liver toxicity associated with kava use had been reported worldwide. However, most case reports had other drugs/alcohol involved (2). After review of the hepatotoxicity cases, it has been concluded that “the hepatotoxicity cases that were definitely attributable to kava were most likely immunologically mediated idiosyncratic drug interactions (IDRs), rather than a direct toxic effect” (3)

One study conducted in 2012 suggested that kava extract caused liver cancer in rodents who were fed massive amounts of kava extract in corn oil (Exposed rats received either 0.1, 0.3 or 1 gram of kava kava extract per kilogram of body weight and mice received 0.25, 0.5, or 1 g/kg), 5 days a week, for 2 years (2). This dose would be equivalent to 17-68 grams a day for a 150 lb human! That is over 100 times the dosing range recommended by Commission E.

Joseph M. Betz, Ph.D., a scientist with the National Institute of Health has a great presentation that discusses the controversy. After reviewing his presentation, it seems clear than when taken in appropriate doses, hepatotoxic effects are rare. Three studies that he reviewed (Sarris et al 2009, Conner et al. 2006, and Gasbur and Klimm 2003) all reported that Kava was well-tolerated among the participants and that no evidence of hepatoxicity was found (2).

Of coarse, every herb effects every person differently, and Kava does seem to have a higher potential than other plants to produce some kind of allergic reaction, especially among Caucasians. So, if you are interested in trying kava for the first time, please start with a low dose and listen to your body. The most common adverse reaction reported are in the form of dry, itchy skin rashes that have been known to occur among heavy kava users. If you notice any symptoms, on your skin or elsewhere, discontinue use. Most cases of clinically documented reactions have subsided within 24 hours of discontinuation.

Contraindications: Kava is probably safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women, when used in moderate doses, but caution should be used. Commission E and the Australian TGA recommend that kava-containing medicines are avoided by pregnant and nursing women, “but these ensued from lack of data rather than from any direct concerns” (3). “Women in some areas of New Guinea traditionally drank kava during pregnancy to promote the flow of milk…” “to induce an easy labor and to correct displacement of the womb” (3). There is no evidence of harmful effects on the fetus in animal studies or case studies. In Hawaii, women avoid any kava immediately after becoming pregnant. And there are reports of kava leaf being used topically to induce miscarriage (3). Taking all of this into consideration, it’s probably best to avoid kava during the first trimester.

Dosage: German Commission E recommends preparations equivalent to 60-120 mg of kavalactones taken 3 times a day (1). That’s about 840 mg/week. Kava does have the potential to be abused, like all mind-altering substances. Please use the plant with respect and gratitude, and remember that while all plants are here to help, they will let you know when you have crossed a line.

1. Hoffman, David “Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine” (2003) Healing Arts Press: Rochester, Vermont

2. Joseph M. Betz, Ph.D. “Kava: Piper methysticum Forst.ppt presentation” from the Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH. December 8, 2013.

3. Bone & Mills “Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Second Edition.” Edinburgh London: Churchill Livingstone (2013).

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

This month, in celebration of Kava, we are offering 10% off of our Kava Cocoa and Kava Root Bath.

Turkey Tail Mushroom

(Trametes versicolor)
Turkey tail is a common sight in the forests of West Virginia and woodlands worldwide. Its fruiting body is typically 2-4 inches wide. The top surface has concentric rings of varying colors, which resemble the shape and color of the wild turkey tails, thus the name. Its flesh is thin and leathery, and the bottom surface is whitish to light brown.

Family: Polyporaceae

Names: Yun-Zhi, Kawarate

Parts Used: fruiting body

Energetics: bitter, salty, neutral

Actions: tonic, adaptogen, immunomodulator, anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant

Uses & Indications: In Japan and China, turkey tail preparations are used as an adjuvant therapy in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments such chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer. Compounds in turkey tail and other mushrooms have been found to activate the immune cells, which enable the host to fight cancer cells. Notably, the increase in cancer-free survival was among patients with esophageal, stomach, and lung cancers. Turkey tail has also been studied in breast cancer patients. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health among breast cancer patients suggests that turkey tail may correct radiotherapy-related immune system defects. The patients in the study exhibited enhanced lymphocyte numbers and increased tumoricidal (tumor-killing) effect of the natural killer cells. It is postulated that relapse after primary breast cancer treatment may be related to the innate and adaptive immune system defects, which may be offset by the use of turkey tail, making this a useful remedy for both breast cancer patients and breast cancer survivors (2).

Contraindications: none known

Dosage: In clinical trials a dose ranges from 3 to 9 grams per day of an enzymatically processed turkey tail extract were used for prevention. About 25 g or approximately 1 ounce of shredded or powdered fruiting body in a decoction is taken before meals twice a day or 2 grams per day of powdered water-based extract (3).

1. Lindequist, Ulrike, Timo HJ Niedermeyer, and Wolf-Dieter Jülich. “The pharmacological potential of mushrooms.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2.3 (2005): 285-299.
2. Torkelson, Carolyn J., et al. “Phase 1 clinical trial of Trametes versicolor in women with breast cancer.” ISRN oncology 2012 (2012).
3. Hobbs C. Mushroom medicine: challenges and potential. Journal of the American Herbalists Guild. 2014; 12(2):9-13.

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

This month, in celebration of medicinal mushrooms and their immune-supportive properties, we are offering 10% off of our immune-building broth packets with shiitake (in store & online). We are also offering 10% off of our Host Defense Mushroom capsules including Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, Turkey Tail and Lion’s Mane (in-store only)

Gotu Kola

(Centella asiatica)

What do pain, Celiac’s disease, world peace and yoga have in common? Well, they are all national themes for the month of September, AND they can all be improved with the help of a little herb called Gotu Kola- a sub-tropical creeping plant that thrives in swampy habitats.

Maybe you have heard of this plant and its potential for improving cognitive function? It’s true that this tiny creeping vine can revitalize the brain and nervous system, increase mental concentration, and combat cognitive decline associated with aging. But it does much more than that! Gotu Kola is also a tonic for our blood vessels and connective tissue.   As a systemic anti-inflammatory, it is helpful for autoimmune conditions.  And it has a reputation for relieving depression, anxiety, and expanding consciousness. Read on to learn more about the wonderful benefits of this humble herb.

Brain Tonic

Gotu Kola, also known as Brahmi (not to be confused with Bacopa, which is also referred to as Brahmi), is an important herb to the Ayurvedic lineage of herbal medicine.  In fact, “brahmi” means “godlike,” which shows just how revered this herb is in India  where it us used to aid in meditation.  It is considered a rasayana, or a rejuvenative tonic for the brain and nervous system and it is said to re-vitalize the nervous system, increase attention span, and support graceful aging (5).

Studies have demonstrated cognitive-enhancing and anti-oxidant properties in rats, supporting the idea that gotu kola could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive deficits that result from oxidative damge and neurotoxicity (1).

More recently, a study out of Korea shows that components in brahmi/gotu kola show potential for supporting healthy memory. It is, afterall, the food of elephants, and we know that their memories are excellent (5)! This is why gotu kola is the main herb in our Sparkling Mind Tea formula.

Vascular & Connective Tissue Tonic

Gotu Kola also nourishes and tonifies our vascular tissues. According to herbalist Matthew Wood, gotu kola stimulates blood flow in the capillaries, reduces venous stagnation, improves cholesterol balance, helps break down aged red blood cells, reduces urea in the blood (acidity), and increases circulation to the extremities and the brain. (4).  This makes gotu kola useful in any condition involving vascular insufficiency, leading to hypertension, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, or edema.

As a  nourishing tonic to the connective tissue, gotu kola can be useful in conditions involving damaged or inflamed tendons, ligaments and joints, such as arthritis, rheumatism, and tendinitis. This relief is further amplified by gotu kola’s systemic anti-inflammatory effect. Herbalist David Winston teaches that gotu kola is specific for “connective tissue disorders and skin conditions where the tissue is red, hot, and inflamed” (3). He uses gotu kola in many formulas for auto-immune conditions and skin conditions, including lupus, psoriasis and eczema.


Many auto-immune conditions begin in the gut, from chronic inflammation (often related to food allergies/sensitivities) in the intestines, which leads to leaky gut, which leads to an over-reactive, hyper-sensitive immune system. Gotu kola, with its cooling and anti-inflammatry properties, can heal damage to the intestinal lining, making it useful for Celiac’s disease, as well as any condition with red, hot, inflamed tissue. This vulnerary, or tissue healing, action applies to internal or external wounds, speeding the healing of ulcers and burns and preventing scarring from surgery (1, 3).

Effects on Mood & Consciousness

A nerve tonic, rejuvenant, sedative, and antidepressant, gotu kola has been traditionally used to modulate anxiety and improve mood. It is believed that these effects are partly due to an increase in neurotransmitter production (1). In both Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions, Gotu Kola is considered a supreme Shen (spiritual) and Sattva (reality enhancing) tonic herb.  It has been shown to harmonize trans-hemispheric communication in the brain, which is likely why it is used by yogis, monks and meditators for its psychic and awareness-enhancing effects (2), and why we include gotu kola in our Yogic Tea. Brain hemisphere synchronization produces changes in brainwave states associated with expanded states of consciousness (2).

The Hindus consider it a powerful herb for balancing and opening the crown chakra, which is one of the primary points through which intuition is believed to enter the mind/body (2).  Gotu kola is also said to act directly on the pineal gland (brow chakra) (2). Taken long term, gotu kola may increase intuitive awareness, an idea that is certainly supported by thousands of years of antecdotal evidence. What an incredibly useful plant for our times! And a perfect ally to get to know this September, as we celebrate yoga, set intentions for world peace, and spread awareness around safe therapeutic options for chronic pain.

Tastes & Energetics: bitter, sweet, astringent, cooling, drying

Indications: mental and physical fatigue, anxiety, depression, senility, loss of memory, hypertension, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, edema, lupus, scleroderma, dermal tuberculosis, psoriasis, leprosy, septic wounds (external), arthritis, rheumatism, damaged ligaments and tendons, tendinitis, cellulitis, Parkinson’s disease, low thyroid function contributing to depression, dry skin, cold extremeties, poor digestion, weight gain and/or little endurance., eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, cellulitis

Contraindications: Gotu Kola has no known toxicity when used in recommended doses (approx. 1 gram daily of dried leaf or 4-8 ml of liquid extracts) and there are no reports documenting negative interactions between gotu kola and medications (1). There is always the potential for allergic reaction to any herb, but this risk is greatly reduced when using whole plant preparations. Theoretically, gotu kola is not recommended for women who are trying to get pregnant. And little information is available on the safety of this plant for nursing mothers. My personal opinion is that in moderate doses, it is perfectly safe, but please do your own research and only do what makes you feel comfortable.

Shop Gotu Kola products at

Yogic Tea
Sparkling Mind Tea
Gotu Kola-Dried Herb
Gotu Kola Extract


  1. Gohil, K. et al. (2010). Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sept-Oct; 72(5): 546-556.

2. Faerman, Justin. 3 Powerful Ancient Herbs To Raise Consciosuness and Awareness; Waking Times: February 2016. <>

3. Winston, David. Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs & Formulas, 11th edition.  Broadway, NJ: Herbal Therapeutics Research Library, 2017. p.130.

4. Wood, Matthew (2008). Earthwise Herbal, Volume 1: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2008. p. 174

5. Khalsa, KP. Five Great Ayurvedic Herbs for the Mind and Memory; The Banyan Vine: August 21, 2018. <>

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


(Ganoderma lucidum)

Have you noticed the ever-increasing speed of time? The ceaseless barrage of activity, of information, of news that seems to spiral from us and around us at a faster rate than it did ten years ago? Do you feel overwhelmed by the demands that you place on yourself, trying to keep up with your desires to be more, do more, be better? This is the sentiment of our time, and it is felt by all, even those of us who try to consciously avoid the pitfalls of mainstream capitalism and consumerism. There is no way to participate in society without absorbing the collective anxiety that we are all co-creating. But there are ways to resist being overcome by the madness. Yoga, meditation, positive thinking, play, good food, soulful music, gardening–all can help to ground us and brighten our days. And the plant kingdom is full of allies for helping to bring us back to center: ashwagandha, milky oats, blue vervain, rose, hawthorn, devil’s club, motherwort, too many to name. The one that I want to share about today is Reishi. This is an herb that we should all know.

Image result for ganoderma lucidumRed-orange, fiery fungus, primordial mushroom of the forest, tapped into the matrix of the underworld, full of ancient wisdom, Reishi is well known as a tonic herb from the Chinese medical tradition. Highly revered for centuries, reishi has a long history of use as a longevity tonic with immune-modulating properties. 
Today ancient and modern science convalesce to create a three-dimensional understanding of this plant, and its applications are myriad. We know reishi to be an energy tonic that specifically supports the vital energy of the physical heart and the spirit or the “shen” that resides in the heart. It has been shown to stabilize blood pressure, lower cholesterol and to protect and revitalize the liver. Research has shown reishi to be effective in protecting the liver from the toxic effects of chemotherapy and reduce the likelihood of metastasis. As an immune modulator, reishi strengthens the immune system without stimulating it. In fact, it has the ability to calm down a hyperactive immune response (i.e. allergies or autoimmune conditions) or to activate an immune response depending on what the body needs. The list goes on and on. It truly has an application for every body system, and is generally safe for almost anyone to use daily. An adaptogenic herb by definition is one that is non-toxic and produces a non-specific response, meaning that it is a tonic in the truest sense.  It is nourishes and restores balance to the system.  It also supports the body in its intelligence to make use of it as it sees fit rather than eliciting a strong action in one direction or another, which usually results in some kind of side effect.  

Reishi is all about balance. And context. At first glance, its bright orange color and rigid structure suggest that it embodies the fiery and active energy of yang. And it does, to an extent, represent the fire element. Yet it cannot grow without the soft, moist, mossy surroundings of the forest, representing the yin, the water and earth elements. (Well, technically it can be cultivated, but wild reishi is considered to be stronger medicine). My experience with reishi is marked by a feeling of groundedness, of earth, of support, without the feeling of heaviness that the earth element carries. It gently restores fire to the system without creating excess heat . Reishi’s reputation for calming the mind and the spirit makes it a wonderful ally for anyone experiencing emotional shock, PTSD, or living in a state of chronic stress with the sympathetic nervous system (yang) in overdrive. It will help you to get into the more nourishing and replenishing parasympathetic mode (yin). It seems to contain every element and plant and mineral of the forest ecosystem in its fruiting body and to nurture both yin and yang. It works best when used in the context of lifestyle change, meaning that it will help with adrenal burnout as long as you also pause, make space, slow down and give the body time to recharge. If you don’t change your lifestyle, you are only putting a band-aid on a wound and is a waste of a precious resource such as reishi.

In the wake of Summer Solstice, when the yang energy of productivity is at its peak, we can all take reprieve from the heat in the shade of the metaphorical forest contained in the form of reishi mushroom. Summer can be a time of intense heat and energy and activity. It can also be a time marked by socialization, lazy days, cook outs, camp outs and vacations. Heat can be both relaxing and stimulating, depending on the degree of heat, and the context. It’s all relative. It’s all up to us as individuals to find a rhythm, a system, an intentional state of dis-order, whatever we need to do to feel our way to center, over and over again, multiple times a day. Remember to breathe deep and that we are all ultimately more strong, productive and useful when we are able to approach the chaotic events of modern life from a place of calm & center.

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

Blue Vervain

(Verbena hastata)

Blue Vervain is a wonderfully relaxing plant with many uses. Native to the United States, Vervain is a beautiful perennial herb, growing 3-8′ tall. It prefers full sun and medium-wet soils. Often found in wet meadows and river bottoms in the Great Lakes region, Blue Vervain attracts butterflies and other pollinators and makes a great addition to your medicinal herb garden.

Family: Verbenaceae

Parts Used: aerial (above ground)

Energetics: bitter, acrid, cold, drying

Actions: bitter tonic, relaxing nervine, febrifuge, hypotensive, diaphoretic, emetic in large doses

Uses: a strongly relaxing nervine, vervain calms states of anxiety as well as hysteria and seizure. It is useful for occasions (or periods of time) when the sympathetic nervous system is stuck in overdrive, such as acute and chronic stress, or when body is shivering due to a fever. In fevers, the diaphoretic action of vervain opens the peripheral blood vessels to bring on a sweat and break a fever. It can also be useful following a debilitating illness to restore digestion and tone. As a bitter tonic, small doses of vervain are stimulating to digestive secretions, and decongestant to the liver and gallbladder. Vervain also has a reputation for helping to relieve hot flashes and night sweats.

Indications: hot flashes, night sweats, fevers, and any time the pores are tightly closed and the body needs to vent. Constitutionally speaking, vervain is suited to people who are intensely driven with perfectionist tendencies. These people often have very high and unreasonable expectations of themselves as well as others. Their strong mental and emotional focus draws energy away from the digestive and reproductive centers. And without that grounding lower body strength, they often overexert their upper bodies, resulting in tension in the upper shoulders and neck. Matthew Wood writes that vervain is for people with “strong above, weak below.” He also recommends it for women who have intense food cravings during menses (Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants p.351).

Dosage: As a tincture, use 2-4 ml per day according to the British Pharmacopeia. Matthew Wood recommends 1-3 drops 1-3 times a day.

Contraindications: not recommended during pregnancy. It is not a nourishing or tonic herb so prolonged use and/or high doses are not recommended.

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


(Dipsacus sylvestris)

Teasel is a very common sight in this area. As a biennial, the young thistle-like leaves begin as a low-growing rosette its first year, before shooting up a flower stalk in year 2. The flowers, which can grow to 8′ tall, are generally whitish-purple, and attract many pollinators. Its seeds are a favorite source of food for birds. The genus includes about 15 species. Of these, D. sylvestris, D. fullonum, D. japonica, D. asper and D. sativus have been reported to have medicinal value.

Family: Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family)

Parts Used: primarily root (although some American herbalists have suggested that the seed is also of value)

Energetics: bitter, pungent, slightly warming

Actions: bitter tonic, yang tonic, tonifies the ‘essence,’ nourishes sinew and bone, hemostatic

Uses:  Dipsacus sylvestis, the European native, was used to tease wool, but was only recently introduced to the Western materia medica by the late herbalist William LeSassier. He used it as a substitute for the Eastern variety, Dipsacus japonica, which has a long history of use in traditional Chinese Medicine as a tonic to restore kidney ‘jing’ or ‘essence’ (Wood, The Earthwise Herbal).

In Chinese Medicine, the kidney jing refers to our inherited chi, or vital essence, our constitution, the blueprint material for the body, which is housed in the kidneys. Jing is similar to our trust fund, our foundational storage of energy. We can draw on this supply of reserves whenever we need to, but it’s difficult to replenish, so we must manage it well.

According to TCM, the kidneys include much more than the blood-filtering organs that we think of in the West. The Chinese kidneys store the essence and govern the deeper tissues of the body including bone, connective tissue, nerve tissue and reproductive tissues. The kidney system has a direct effect on the endocrine system, sexual function, growth, maturation, and the immune system.  Seen from this perspective, it’s no surprise that as a kidney tonic, teasel root can be used to treat a wide variety of issues from broken bones to weak prostate to preventing miscarriage, which are all signs of depleted kidney chi.

Teasel, as a kidney tonic, is used to promote the healing of broken bones and torn, injured or inflamed connective tissue. This makes it useful in treating the symptoms of Lyme disease, since the Lyme-inducing bacteria often targets the nerve, muscle & connective tissues. Herbalist Matthew Wood introduced the use of teasel as a specific therapy for Lyme, explaining that teasel “teases” the spirochete out of its hiding so that the immune system or antibiotics can effectively deal with them. This makes teasel an important adjunct therapy for use with antimicrobials. Many other herbalists have corroborated that small doses of teasel root can product a Herxheimer reaction, or a healing crisis, as the increase of toxins from the dying bacteria flood the bloodstream. While this is not a one-size-fits-all remedy for Lyme disease (remember, we treat the person, not the disease), it is an exciting addition to our herbal tool bag.

Indications for Teaseldysmennorrhea, menorrhagia, uterine bleeding during pregnancy and after childbirth, spermatorhea, frequent urination, cold hands and feet, injuries to tendons and ligaments, lower back pain (all signs of deficient kidney or liver energy in TCM) (Reid, Daniel, A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs), fractures, rheumatism, bruises, Lyme disease (Wood)

Fun Facts: The points where leaves merge at the stem form a cup, which collects rain water. This has the function of preventing sap-sucking insects from climbing the stem.

The dried flower heads of teasel have historically been used as a natural comb to clean and raise the nap on wool.

Contraindications: not recommended for yin-deficient conditions

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

Pleurisy Root

(Asclepias tuberosa)

Pleurisy root is a cousin of milkweed, native to North America. It is not used so often in today’s herbal community, but was a favorite medicinal plant to both Native Americans and early American electic physicians.

Family: Asclepidaceae

Names: butterfly weed, orange milkweed

Parts Used: root

Energetics: sweet, slightly bitter, slightly salty/minerally, moistening

Uses:  Highly valued in treating pleurisy, pneumonia, and influenza to reduce inflammation and assist expectoration (1). As a diaphoretic, pleurisy root can be useful in breaking a fever. It also has a moistening effect to both the skin and the mucus membranes, lubricating dryness and loosening secretions that have become stuck or stagnant. Asclepias relieves sharp pain associated with pleurisy and acute bronchial trauma or infection (2). IHistorically pleurisy root was also used for consumption, diarrhea, dysentery, rheumatism, typhoid and eczema (3).

Indicationssharp, cutting chest pain that comes on suddenly and persists for hours or days (2), pleurisy, pneumonia, acute fever.

The American Eclectic physicians favored this medicine as a treatment for any disease where the skin is hot or dry, or in which the pores are weak and allow for passive sweating, with a flushed face, a full pulse, and pain that is worse with movement. Contemporary herbalist Matthew Wood recommends pleurisy root for a “cough that is dry in the upper lungs, wet in the lower lungs,” “pneumonia in the early stages, especially in children,” “coughs that are tight, dry and constricted,” and “sharp, stitching pains in the chest; pain in the chest from coughing” (4).

Contraindications: can be emetic and purgative in high doses

1- David Hoffman Therapeutic Herbalism
2- Finley Ellingwood American Materia Medica
3- Maude Grieve A Modern Herbal
4- Matthew Wood The Earthwise Herbal 

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


(Elettaria cardamomum)

Cardamom is a well known and loved spice from the Indian subcontinent, often used as an ingredient in chai tea and used to flavor curries, desserts, and liqueurs. In Egypt and the Middle East, cardamom is ground and put into coffee to offset the acidic effects of coffee in the body (and it adds a delicious flavor)!

Family: Zingiberaceae (Ginger family)

Parts Used: dried ripe seeds

Energetics: pungent, aromatic, warming, drying

Actions: digestive stimulant, expectorant, carminative, diaphoretic

Uses:  Excerpted from The Yoga of Herbs by Dr. Frawley & Dr. Lad:

“Cardamom is one of the best & safest digestive stimulants. It awakens the spleen, stimulates samana vayu (similar to the solar plexus), enkindles Agni (the digestive fire) and removes Kapha (excess water & mucus) from the stomach & lungs. It stimulates the mind and heart and gives clarity and joy. Added to milk it neutralizes its mucus forming properties and it detoxifies cafein in coffee. Its quality is sattvic and its particularly good for opening and soothing the flow of the pranas in the body.” (p.109)

The stand-out characteristic of cardamom for me is its ability to break up. I think of cardamom for any condition involving too much mucus, whether in the lungs, sinuses or GI tract. I love adding cardamom to milk, yogurt or ice cream to “warm” the cold nature of the dairy and neutralize its mucus-forming tendencies.

Indications: nervous digestive upset in children, belching, flatulence, indigestion (especially when dairy leads to digestive upset), excessive mucus production, wet/boggy coughs

Description: excerpted from A Modern Herbal by Maude Grieve:

“The large perennial herb. yielding Cardamom seeds is known in its own country as ‘Elattari’ or ‘Ilachi,’ while ‘Cardamomum’ was the name by which some Indian spice was known in classical times.It has a large, fleshy rhizome, and the alternate, lanceolate leaves are blades from 1 to 2 1/2 feet long, smooth and dark green above, pale, glaucous green and finely silky beneath. The flowering stems spread horizontally near the ground, from a few inches to 2 feet long, and bear small, loose racemes, the small flowers being usually yellowish, with a violet lip. The fruits are from 2/5 to 4/5 of an inch long, ovoid or oblong, bluntly triangular in section, shortly beaked at the apex, pale yellowish grey in colour, plump, and nearly smooth. They are three-celled, and contain in each cell two rows of small seeds of a dark, reddish-brown colour.” (p.159)

Contraindications: large amounts of cardamom can aggravate ulcers or other excess Pitta conditions.

Recipe: Baked Pears with Cardamom 

1/2 tsp cardamom
2 whole pears
1/2 cup water


1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Lay pears down on a baking dish.
3. Coat the bottom of the dish with water.
4. Sprinkle the pears with cardamom.
5. Bake at 350 til tender.

Check out this website for many wonderful Ayurvedic recipes! You can type cardamom into the search field to see a full list of recipes using this incredible spice.

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