• May 11, 2021

Alfalfa: The King of Herbs

My first herb teacher, Edward Milo Millet, claimed that herbs were “nature’s natural nutritional supplements.” While I don’t think that’s true for every herb, it’s definitely true for alfalfa, which has been called the “king of herbs” and the “father of herbs.” You see a lot of alfalfa here in Utah, both cultivated in large fields and growing wild here and there. Out of curiosity, I looked up how much alfalfa is grown in Utah and, according to the USDA, about 600,000 acres were…

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  • May 4, 2021

Pause and Eat the Shepherd's Purse

One the books I have in my herbal library that is no longer in print is From the Shepherd’s Purse by Max G. Barlow. It's a guide to identifying and using common medicinal herbs and is named after shepherd's purse, the first herb listed in the book. This member of the mustard family appears all over North America every spring. Once you know what it looks like you’ll often spot it growing in lawns or vacant lots. It not only grows on my property here in rural Southern Utah, I’ve also spotted…

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  • April 27, 2021

The Holy Herb: Yerba Santa

My first experience with yerba santa wasn’t finding it in the wilds or reading about it. It was tasting the powdered herb from a capsule. It was in the 80s and I had adopted Samuel Thomson’s idea that tasting remedies was a good way to understand them. So, I decided to taste the herb myself before reading anything about its history and uses. Even in powdered form, I recognized its resinous and slightly warming nature, along with some bitterness and astringency. It reminded me of gumweed, a remedy…

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  • April 20, 2021

Wild Cherry Bark: A Tasty Cough Remedy

Have you ever noticed how many cough drops and syrups have a cherry flavor? I believe the use of cherry flavoring in cough medicines traces back to the use of cherry bark as a cough medicine. You won’t find it in the cherry-flavored over-the-counter medicines, but there are still cough syrups at the health food store that use cherry bark. I used to make a homemade cough syrup for my kids using wild cherry bark and white pine bark as the primary ingredients, and not only was it effective, it was…

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  • April 13, 2021

My Favorite Astringent Herb: Bayberry

The writings of the early American herbalist Samuel Thomson have greatly influenced my approach to herbalism. And one of the many useful ideas I got from him was the importance of tasting remedies to help me understand their actions. In his book New Guide to Health, he wrote: “This practice of tasting herbs and roots has been of great advantage to me, as I have always been able to ascertain what is useful for any particular disease, by that means…. I was often told that I should poison myself…

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  • April 6, 2021

The Herbal Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor

Spring is here! Flowers and leaf buds adorn the trees and soon spring flowers will be popping up everywhere. Unfortunately, for too many people, this is a miserable season because of hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis. For these unfortunate souls, spring means a stuffed up, itchy nose, red and watery eyes, and other unpleasant symptoms. That’s why I’m discussing eyebright, which is one of the three main herbs I use to counteract respiratory allergies. Eyebright is one of those plants that…

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  • March 30, 2021

The Perfect Nervine for Hard-Driven Workaholics

One thing that makes someone a better herbalist is the ability to match herbs to personalities instead of disease patterns. If someone is stressed, tense, or anxious, just about any nervine herb will probably help. And a formula containing several nervine herbs will almost definitely help. But, if the herbalist is familiar with many herbs, he or she will be able to select an herb based on what they observe about a client’s personality for even better results. Vervain is a great example of this.…

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  • March 23, 2021

The Passionate Flower

If you only know herbs from labels on a bottle, you’re missing a lot.  Passionflower is a perfect example. The flowers on this plant are amazing to look at. Spanish explorers saw a symbolic relationship between the patterns in these flowers and the suffering (or passion) of Christ, hence the name. They saw the three styles as the three nails, the five stamens as Christ's wounds, and the long, thin fibers of the corona as the crown of thorns. The passion they saw in passion flower represents…

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