Northeast Wisconsin
Dana Schlies

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

Monday, 01 October 2018 01:48

Cinnamon — Cinnamomum verum

The leaves have started falling, the pumpkins have made their appearance at the farmers market and fall has made its welcome. The cooler temperatures call for cozy sweaters, warm soup and pumpkin treats. But a pumpkin latte, pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread are not complete without their companion: cinnamon.

Cinnamon is both a delicious spice and medicinal herb, adding flavor and sweetness to countless familiar recipes around the globe from breads and cereals to curries and stews. Cinnamon is also a well-studied medicinal herb benefiting the cardiovascular, reproductive, respiratory and digestive systems. Cinnamon is the inner bark off the young shoots of the cinnamon tree, a fast-growing evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka and Southern India, and now cultivated in several countries.

Various varieties of cinnamon can be found in most grocery stores, as well as specialty spice stores and some suggest that one variety is superior to another. True cinnamon — cinnamomum verum or ceylon cinnamon — is synonymous with C. zeylanicum and has a delicate and complex flavor, sweet with a floral citrus note. Cinnamomum cassia or cassia is a close relative of the true cinnamon, grown in China and is used interchangeably medicinally and in culinary preparation as true cinnamon, although the taste is stronger and spicier. Both varieties can be found in powder form, whole sticks and cinnamon chips.

Cinnamon contains zinc, magnesium, iron, essential oils, tannins, mucilage and coumarins, which all contribute to the medicinal benefits seen in the plant, as well as its texture. It is astringent, carminative, decongestant, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogic, expectorant, hemostatic, vasodilator; it also promotes appetite and digestion, supports blood sugar balance, and stimulates circulation.

Cinnamon can be used to make a tisane (tea) or tincture, or the powder can be sprinkled directly on foods. The tincture, made with brandy, is especially delicious when combined with other cardiovascular supporting herbs: rose, yarrow, hawthorn, motherwort, etc., and made into a cordial. The powder can be combined with ginger and added to baths for athlete’s foot, chills or sore muscles. It can also be added to toothpaste to inhibit bacteria and freshen breath.

Enjoy cinnamon in Mexican stews or Indian curries, as well as desserts and holiday recipes. Large amounts of cinnamon should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. Skin irritation from powdered cinnamon is possible. As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet. 

Enjoy these recipes all season long!

Cinnamon Honey

Mason jar with 8-ounce wide mouth, or something similar

Powdered cinnamon to fill the jar ¼ full

Fill the jar to ½ or ¾ full with raw honey

Method: Add the cinnamon powder to the jar and cover with raw, unfiltered honey or maple syrup. Mix with a spoon until fully incorporated and it has a smooth texture. Spread this on toast, warm rolls, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, cereal, etc. This can also be used to make instant tea. Add a teaspoon to a coffee mug and fill with boiling water.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cloves

Method: Combine and keep in a jar for use on everything this fall. Pumpkin bread, pie, muffins, pumpkin chai tea lattes or pumpkin coffee, golden milk, granola, oatmeal, popcorn, etc. The options are endless. Enjoy this blend all season long.

Chai Tea

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon fennel

7 cardamom pods

1 star anise

1 teaspoon Darjeeling black tea

Method: Add herbs (except black tea) and 1 quart filtered water to a saucepot. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Add black tea and steep for 3 minutes. Strain. Add milk and maple syrup as desired.

References: “Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.” North Adams, MA, Storey Publishing. Rosemary Gladstar. 2012.

“Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach.” Wolters Kluwer Health. Merrily Kuhn and David Winston. 2008.

“The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Laguna Beach, Basic Health Publications, Inc. Bridgette Mars. 2007.

Friday, 31 August 2018 14:49

Garden sage — Salvia officinalis

Garden sage is one of those widely accessible herbs that is greatly ignored, but for once a year when we pull it out to stuff the Thanksgiving bird. This herb has been used for millennia as an antimicrobial, preservative and for women’s reproductive health. Sage is easily found in stores and grows well in most garden settings, thus it is worth keeping stocked in the home pantry.

Sage is part of the mint family and grows as an herbaceous perennial. It prefers well drained soil, low to moderate water and a sunny location. It does well in zones 4-8; though, some sources mention only to zone 6. It does well in our Wisconsin winters as long as it’s protected from the winter wind.

Sage is a potently drying herb, it is one of the best to dry up excess secretions in the body, including sweat, mucous and breast milk production. Further, it provides digestive support through its carminative and bitter effects, as well as having anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, hypoglycemic, neuroprotective, antiviral and immunomodulant actions. It has been used for gastritis, food poisoning and diarrhea, reducing excessive secretions in the upper respiratory tract mucous membranes, including postnasal drip and sinusitis, and excessive sweating, hot flashes, or night sweats. Sage has also been found to be effective at reducing symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and improving the mood and cognitive performance of young healthy individuals.

The leaves are commonly used to make infusions (tea) or tinctures. The herb is used fresh or the stems are cut before flowering and hung to dry, to store for the winter months. A tea or tincture can be made with fresh or dried material. A tea is made by using one teaspoon of dried, or 2-3 teaspoons fresh, sage leaves per 8 ounces of hot water; steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Drink 4 ounces at a time. This can be drunk at the first sign of a cold, to relieve menopausal night sweats or hot flashes, or to dry up a nursing mother’s milk supply. Sage also makes a delicious vinegar to be used to replace regular vinegar in a recipe or as a dressing, marinade or on top of roasted vegetables. Combine fresh sage, thyme and oregano and add to a Mason jar. Cover the herbs with a high quality, raw apple cider vinegar and let sit for six weeks before straining. Use a plastic cover or layer a piece of parchment paper between the canning lid and the vinegar as the vinegar will corrode the metal.

Sage Throat Gargle

Salt water is a common folk remedy and is gargled regularly to prevent illness. With the addition of sage, the remedy has far more antimicrobial activity to bolster the body during times of illness exposure.

1 tablespoon dried sage leaves

1-2 tablespoons of Himalayan sea salt

8 ounces of hot water

Pour hot water over the sage leaves in a pint-sized Mason jar. Steep 45 minutes to one hour. Strain out the leaves and dissolve the salt in the infusion. Use this gargle regularly to prevent illness or use several times a day at the first sign of a cold or sore throat.

Sage should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. The tincture should be used for a relatively short amount of time — four weeks or less. 

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.

Sources: “Making Plant Medicine.” Oregon, Herbal Reads. Richo Cech. 2016.

“Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.” North Adams, MA, Storey Publishing. Rosemary Gladstar. 2012.

“Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach.” Wolters Kluwer Health. Merrily Kuhn and David Winston. 2008.

“The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Laguna Beach, Basic Health Publications, Inc. Bridgette Mars. 2007.

Wednesday, 01 August 2018 04:08

Peppermint — Mentha piperita

Keep peppermint within reach to stay cool all summer! Added to iced tea, plain water or a frozen yogurt or ice cream treat, this herb will provide more than a tickle on the taste buds. Peppermint has the strongest medicinal actions of the mints, and packs a major cooling punch. After drinking a glass of peppermint tea, the body can cool down much sooner than it would on its own thanks to the cooling properties of the plant.

Peppermint is most known for its volatile oils, but has several actions on the body, including: topical analgesic, antispasmodic, carminative, antipruritic, counterirritant, digestive, expectorant, stimulant and vasodilator. Mint is an excellent herb for digestion, aiding in the digestive process while also calming any digestive disturbances, cramping or pain. It is used for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) along with stress-induced gastrointestinal disturbances when combined with valerian, catnip or chamomile. As a strong tea, it is noted to be one of the best remedies for hiccups.

The leaves and aerial parts are used to make water infusions and extracts. A water infusion of the fresh or dried leaves is an easy and an accessible option for its use. The fresh leaves can be used to make a fresh leaf tea by adding a handful or two of the clean leaves to a glass jar and covering with hot or cold water. A sun tea can be made by covering the herb with cool water and setting the covered container in the sun for an hour or two. Strain out the herb material and sweeten to taste or drink as is. Other edible berries, flowers or herbs can be combined with the peppermint, such as lemon balm, wood sorrel (oxalis stricta), linden flower, hibiscus, orange, rose hips, etc. Mint will help mask other more bitter herbs when combined in tea, as well. This is helpful when drinking a tea for its medicinal properties, as the mint will add a more desirable taste. The extract can be used medicinally as well as for culinary purposes, such as in ice cream, smoothies or shakes, coffee, chocolates, and baking recipes.

Peppermint Extract

Fresh peppermint leaves


8-ounce Mason jar

Add the fresh peppermint leaves to fill an 8-ounce Mason jar. Fill the jar with vodka, leaving 1/2-1/4-inch headspace. Shake regularly for six weeks. After six weeks, strain out the plant material and store in an amber glass jar.

Further, the essential oil can be used topically for rheumatic pain, toothache, headache, postherpetic neuralgia, poison ivy and insect bites. The oil can be used topically for digestive disturbance when diluted in a carrier oil and rubbed onto the stomach. The oil can also be used as an inhalant for sinus congestion.

Peppermint has no known toxicity and has been proven safe for long-term use. It is contraindicated for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatal hernias, as symptoms may be worsened with its use. The essential oil may be irritating when directly applied on the face or mucous membranes. The tea is safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, although the essential oil use should be limited while pregnant and not used on children under the age of 2 as there is a risk of laryngeal or bronchial spasms. A nursing mother can drink the tea and the essential oils will reach the baby through the mother’s milk. Also, in the book, “The Essential Oil Safety” by Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacs, the authors state that peppermint essential oil is contraindicated for cardiac fibrillation.

Peppermint is an herbaceous perennial, grows easily in most soil types in our zone 4-5 climate. It spreads by underground rhizomes and may overtake a garden if not well managed. Many gardeners prefer to keep it in a pot rather than planting it directly in the ground. If you are hoping to add peppermint to an herb garden, look to purchase a plant from a knowledgeable nursery, as many of the seeds on the market are not true peppermint plant. Mints hybridize readily, and peppermint is no exception. It is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint. 

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.

References: “Making Plant Medicine.” Oregon, Herbal Reads. Richo Cech. 2016.

“Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach.” Wolters Kluwer Health. David Winston et al. 2008.

“The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Laguna Beach, Basic Health Publications, Inc. Bridgette Mars. 2007.

“Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals.” New York, Churchill Livingstone. Tony Balacs et al. 1995.

St. John’s wort, also known as Klamath weed, has a rich history of use, dating back to the first century and recorded by Dioscorides, a well-known Army physician, pharmacologist and botanist, in his 5-volume book, “De Materia Medica.” Its traditional uses are very similar to the current uses in herbalism today, including antidepressant, antiviral, antibacterial, nervine, diuretic, nerve injuries, and topically for wounds, burns and bites.

This herbaceous perennial prefers sandy, dry soil in full sun. It grows to 2 to 3 feet tall with bright yellow flowers that bloom in July. The leaves are opposite and lanceolate featuring oil glands that look like small holes. The yellow petals also have small black dots on their margins, which are oil glands that produce a red stain when crushed. This was once thought to be St. John The Baptist’s blood and is where the plant gets its name. It is native to Europe, but now grows as a wayside weed throughout the U.S. The aerial top is harvested when the buds start to appear.

St. John’s wort has been touted as a cure-all for depression, although it may be helpful for individuals with mild depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this herb is best applied for other indications. For SAD, it is best combined with lemon balm for greater activity. Most herbalists do not use St. John’s wort singly for depression, but combine it with eleuthero, schisandra, lemon balm, rosemary, basil, black cohosh, lavender, or substitute it completely with other more appropriate herbs, in addition to lifestyle and nutrition changes and therapy. In spite of its label as a depression herb, St. John’s wort has been found to be more effective used for menopausal nervousness, anxiety and sleep disorders, as well as for damaged nerve tissue, as an antiviral and topically for wounds, burns, and bites.

Its optimal preparations are a tisane (tea), tincture or infused oil. High quality tinctures and infused oils should be burgundy red in color and have a fragrant aroma. Infused oils should also be bright red in color. A tisane can be made by steeping one teaspoon of the dried herb in eight ounces of hot water for 15 minutes. Tinctures can easily be made at home by steeping the herb in a vodka or brandy for six weeks. The infused oil or tincture can be used topically for its anti-inflammatory and wound healing abilities.

St. John’s Wort Infused Oil

  • St. John’s wort flowering tops
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pint sized Mason jar

Harvest the top flowering parts in early July when the buds appear. When squeezed, release a red stain. Allow to wilt for a few hours to permit the bugs to crawl away. Add to a pint-sized Mason jar and cover with olive oil and top with a coffee filter and a rubber band. Sit in a sunny window for 2-4 weeks. The oil will turn a bright red from the hypericin constituent. Use the oil externally on wounds and burns, or turn into a salve to extend the shelf life.

Note: There are a few cautions listed with St. John’s wort use. The pathway that St. John’s wort is metabolized is the same pathway as several pharmaceutical drugs and interactions are possible. Individuals on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) should use caution when combining with St. John’s wort. It is possible to reduce effectiveness of oral contraceptives, nonsedating antihistamines, certain antiretroviral agents, antiepileptic medications, calcium channel blockers, cyclosporine, some chemotherapeutic drugs, macrolide antibiotics and selected antifungals. A few side effects have been noted with long-term use such as headache, pruritus and gastric irritation. Photosensitivity is possible in fair-skinned individuals when consuming high doses but is very rare. Use caution with excessive sun exposure.

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.


“Medical Herbalism.” Rochester, Healing Arts Press. David Hoffman. 2003.

“Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach.” Wolters Kluwer Health. David Winston et al. 2008.

“The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Laguna Beach, Basic Health Publications, Inc. Bridgette Mars. 2007.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018 19:01

Linden — Tilia spp

The fragrant blossoms of the linden tree are a sight to behold when in bloom. With a scent compared to jasmine and a honey-like taste, linden flowers are worth keeping on hand for times of stress or overwhelm. Also known as the basswood or lime tree, linden tree leaves make a fabulous addition to a spring salad or, when using the flowers, a delicious calming tea.

Linden trees can be found widely planted as ornamentals, and also in hardwood forests or river flood plains. The tree produces a straight trunk up to and sometimes exceeding 100 feet in height and about three feet in diameter. Trees can be found clumped together as the trees tend to send up several young shoots at its base. The trunks become hollow as the trees age and become dens for wildlife. Sam Thayer describes the linden tree as “One of the most abundant and well-known trees in the East, basswood is an important component of mesic hardwood forests.”

The key components consist of flavonoids (including quercetin, kaempferol, hesperidin, etc.), phenolic aicds, mucilage, tannins and volatile oils. Further, its actions include: nervine, hypotensive, diaphoretic, diuretic, anticoagulant, mild sedative and calming tonic. Linden’s energetics are cooling and moistening, the taste includes the cool and moist properties as one nibbles on a leaf or drinks a cup of tea.

Linden supports several systems in the body, such as digestive, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, and urinary and Matthew Wood even states its use for the reproductive system. Its most notable use is for the nervous system as it is a gentle but fast-acting calming tonic. It is listed as supporting the body with digestive discomfort, indigestion, diarrhea, nervous vomiting, nervousness, tension, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, nervous headaches, and hyperactivity. It further supports systems dealing with nervous hypertension, palpitation and cramping, colds and flu, fever, cough, edema, and dark, scanty urine.

The leaves are primarily used as spring salad additions and the entire bract, consisting of a tongue shaped leaf attached to the flower, is used as a water infusion (tisane), syrup or tincture. The flowers from the T. cordata variety are said to have the sweetest tasting flowers, but the literature states that all species can be used interchangeably. The leaves can be collected and used from when they first unfurl (the best time to use them) and even until the tree starts to flower. They become fibrous and bitter as they fully mature. The flowers typically appear in late June or early July.

Collect young linden leaves along with dandelion, violet, chickweed, young lemon balm or other springtime edibles, toss with homemade vinaigrette and add nuts, dried fruit or edible flowers for a beautiful and highly nutritious meal. 

Try this tasty and calming herbal tisane as a bedtime treat to soothe jangled nerves or high energy children:

  • 1 teaspoon dried linden flowers
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon balm leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers

Combine in a steeping vessel. Pour one cup of boiling water over the dry herbs and infuse for five to 10 minutes. (Steeping chamomile longer than 2-5 minutes enhances its bitter flavor and is not as appetizing for children.)

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.

References: “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Bridgette Mars. Basic Health Publications, Inc. 2007.

“Midwest Medicinal Plants.” Lisa Rose. Timber Press, Inc. 2017.

“The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants.” Sam Thayer. Forager’s Harvest. 2006.

“The Way of Herbs.” Michael Tierra. Pocket Books. 1998.

“The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.” Matthew Wood. North Atlantic Books. 2008.

Tuesday, 01 May 2018 01:04

Calendula — Calendula officinalis

Contemplating a garden this year? Calendula will steal your heart with its gorgeous orange and yellow blossoms and its low maintenance growing status. No herb or vegetable garden, large or small, should be without calendula. Also known as pot marigold or garden marigold, calendula officinalis is native to Eurasia and is a self-seeding annual grown in many regions of the world. It displays the most beautiful, bright, daisy-like flowers and provides many benefits for medicinal use.

Calendula has a lengthy list of actions including: alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diaphoretic, immune stimulant, and vulnerary, making it useful for numerous common ailments. It is a very gentle herb, with no known toxicity, making it especially appropriate for babies and the elderly. Individuals with known sensitivity to asteraceae family plants should be cautious with its use.

It is one of the best herbs for skin problems and is known to support cell repair and growth. It can be used for any skin inflammation or injury. Calendula is commonly found in many baby products as its antiseptic properties support skin irritations such as diaper rash and thrush. It’s further used externally for boils, bruises, burns, bunions, eczema, chapped skin, hemorrhoids, herpes, insect bites, sprains, sunburn and varicose veins. Calendula is also highly supportive to the body when used internally. According to “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine,” herbalists commonly use calendula for “candida, cervical irritation, chicken pox, conjunctivitis, glandular swellings, hemorrhoids, herpes, infection, lymph inflammation, measles, mumps, smallpox, staph infection, stomach inflammation, thrush, and ulcers.”

The whole flowers or petals are used for herbal tea, tincture, compress, poultice, oil infusion, salve and body cream. The tincture can be diluted in distilled water and used as an eyewash, mouthwash or nasal wash. Used topically, infused calendula oil can be used to massage lymph tissue. Additionally, the brightly colored petals can be added to spruce up salads and omelets and have been substituted for saffron to color butter, rice, desserts and egg dishes. Any mundane meal can be sprinkled with the brightly colored petals to create a gourmet experience.

Classically infused into oil, calendula oil should be in every home herbalist’s apothecary. Calendula retains its moisture very well. Leave fresh blossoms to dry for a week or two before infusing into oil to reduce the chance of rancidity.

Calendula Infused Oil

  • Freshly dried calendula petals
  • Olive oil (or grapeseed, sunflower, etc.)

Loosely fill a half pint size mason jar with freshly dried calendula petals, leaving an inch of space at the top. Add oil to fill the jar, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Let sit for 2-4 weeks in a dark space, and strain out the flower petals to discard. Use the oil topically as body oil for all ages or on any skin problem ranging from dry skin to cuts, scrapes and rashes.

Calendula is a fabulous herb to grow in the garden. It is a hardy herb, blooming early and all season long, providing beauty and attracting pollinators. It is a readily self-seeding annual that will only have to be planted once. The flowers are sticky with resin when ready to pick. This resin is antifungal and a good sign of a healthy plant. The more flowers you pick, the more they will continue to bloom. As one of the easiest and most beautiful flowers to grow, easy to harvest and exceedingly useful, it is a worthwhile addition to any garden type or size.

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.

References: “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Basic Health Publications. 2007. B. Mars.

“Holistic Herbal: A safe and practical guide to making and using herbal remedies.” Thorsons. 1990. D. Hoffman.

“Medical Herbalism.” Healing Arts Press. 2003. D. Hoffman.

“Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.” Storey Publishing. 2012. R. Gladstar.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018 04:07

Nettle — Urtica dioica

Spring has sprung and with such, comes the nettle! Some of us may be very familiar with this seemingly pesky weed from the garden, while others may have grown up running through the stinging nettle patches. Whether familiar or not, this early spring superfood is a valued source of nourishment.

Nettle, or urtica dioica, is commonly known as big sting nettle, devil’s leaf, hoky poky, Indian spinach and more. The nettle plant has common names in over 18 different languages, emphasizing its cultural prominence for food and textile use. Nettle is categorized as an extremely nutritive herb, being very mild with a high profile of nutrition. The leaves can be used for tea, infusion, tincture, cooked greens, (steamed) pesto, or added to soup. The leaves contain formic acid, which is responsible for the sting. This acid is neutralized by heating, drying or mashing.

Many herbalists include nettle in a wide array of uses, as it boasts an exceptionally lengthy list of vitamins and minerals. Most notably, calcium, chromium, magnesium and zinc, while also high in manganese, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, silicone, thiamine and vitamins A and C. It is also one of the highest plant sources of protein available and is believed to build the blood and strengthen the body. It’s no wonder that David Hoffman is quoted as saying, “When in doubt, use nettles.”

Nettle infusion is a popular way to draw out more of the vitamins and minerals than a tea or shorter steeping period. Drinking your vitamins and minerals in a water base makes them more bio-available and easier assimilated by the body since digestion is bypassed. It is an easy and economical way to strengthen the body.

Nettle Leaf Infusion

1 ounce of dried nettle leaves

1 quart of boiling, filtered water

To make an infusion, simply add one ounce of herb material to a quart size glass and slowly pour one quart of boiling water over the herb. Stand a butter knife in the glass to absorb excess heat and prevent breakage. Let steep for eight hours or overnight. Strain out the herb material and add to the compost. Add frozen berries for ice cubes to impart a lovely flavor and beauty to your glass.

Nettle makes a wonderful addition to the garden and provides several harvests over the growing season. It also contributes nutrition and support to the plants growing around it, as well as speeding up the breakdown of organic materials in the compost pile. When used to water plants, compost tea made with nettles stimulates growth and provides resistance to bugs.

Be sure to harvest the herb with gloves, as the young plants pack a sting. Grab the top of the plant and cut off the top two or three sets of leaves. Cut the leaves off and discard the stem. The leaves do not need to be washed, simply shake off any debris and store in an airtight bag in the refrigerator for up to a week or hang to dry immediately. They may be used as an incredibly delicious alternative to kale or spinach in any cooked recipe or steamed for pesto.

Do not eat the leaves raw. Be sure to steam or cook the leaves for a minimum of five minutes to be certain the acid is fully neutralized. Only harvest the leaves from young plants, before the plant blossoms.

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.

References: “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Basic Health Publications. B Mars. 2007,

“Nutritional Herbology.” Whitman Publications. M Pedersen. 2010.

“The Earthwise Herbal. A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.” North Atlantic Books. M Wood. 2008.

“Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.” Storey Publishing. R Gladstar. 2012.


Wednesday, 28 February 2018 16:22

Olive leaf

Many of us seem to be familiar with cooking with olive oil and its many health benefits, and maybe you’re also familiar with its use in cosmetic products, but did you know that the leaf of the olive tree also has a wide range of health benefits? The leaf is very fibrous and not considered edible, but it can be used as tea or an herbal extract.

Olive, or olea europaea (its botanical name), is an evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region. A well-established tree is amazingly resilient and has a very long lifespan. Some olive trees are believed to be over 2,000 years old. Olive has been coined “the tree of life,” giving both fruit, oil, and medicine; its use dates back thousands of years.

Its primary properties include being an astringent, antiseptic, antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory. It also possesses antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, bitter, and immune stimulating properties, to name a few. It is sited in the herbal literature as an herb to prevent and treat a long list of bacteria and viral infections, as well as several diseases. The bitter constituent in olive leaf, oleuropein, has been recognized as producing the plant’s powerful disease fighting capability.

Its antiviral actions have been found effective at “inactivating the virus, preventing the virus from shedding its coat, budding, or assembling at the cell membrane. It can also directly penetrate an infected host and inhibit viral replication.” In his book, “Herbal Antivirals,” Buhner describes olive leaf’s ability to protect the cilial structures and lung mucosa, where viruses, specifically influenza, target and destroy the cells ability “to move mucus up and out of the lungs.” Further, the leaf also “relaxes and dilates peripheral blood vessels and protects the body against hardening of arteries.” Olive leaf’s antioxidant properties also make it nourishing to the heart and circulatory system, to prevent oxidative damage.

The leaf can be made into a tea for internal or external use. To use externally, steep one tablespoon of the single herb in eight ounces of water for half an hour. Strain out the herb material. Soak a cloth in the tea and apply to the affected skin. It can be used to dress infections, athlete’s foot, lice, ringworm or wounds.

The herbal tea blend, below, gives one example of how easily olive leaf can be enjoyed in one’s diet. This tea supports the immune system while also giving an antioxidant boost — an excellent choice to avoid any lingering cold symptoms this spring.

Immune Support tea

  • 1 teaspoon elder berries
  • ½ teaspoon olive leaf, dried
  • ½ teaspoon elder flowers
  • ½ teaspoon rose hips
  • Combine herbs and pour the mix into a tea filter. Add to a mug and pour boiling water over. Steep 10-15 minutes and enjoy!

In addition to its medicinal benefits, olive trees are quickly becoming a favorite indoor houseplant or hostess gift. They provide a beautiful touch to a sunny room and require little water. Choose a dwarf variety and bring outside for the summer to keep the tree healthy. This is an easy way to have your own harvest of olive leaves right at your fingertips. Dry the leaves thoroughly and store in glass jars out of direct light. Leaves will store well for up to two years.

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet. 

References: Tierra, M. (1998). “The Way of Herbs.” Pocket Books.

Buhner, S. H. (2013). “Herbal Antivirals.” Storey Publishing.

Balch, P. A. (2012). “Prescription for Herbal Healing.” Penguin Group.

Mars, B. (2007). “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Basic Health Publications, Inc.

Wood, M. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal. “A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.” North Atlantic Books.

Fall is here and winter is quickly approaching, and with them brings the numerous illnesses that can spread throughout our communities. Several practices can be considered to keep children healthy through these seasons, as well as providing immune support through botanicals and supplements.

As a main line of defense, four key factors play an important role in keeping your child healthy. Simple hand washing should be a priority, with plain soap and water. Avoid using antibacterial hand sanitizer, which can contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria and strip the skin of its beneficial microbes. Provide sufficient rest time for your child through plenty of sleep each night as well as naps, if needed. Switch from a cold, summer diet to emphasize a diet consisting of warming, hearty foods to bolster the body further. And finally, add in a few supplements and botanicals to provide additional nourishment and stability to the body.

There are a few supplements that have been proven to offer great benefit for direct immune support: Vitamins C and D, cod liver oil, probiotics and a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. With children spending more time indoors, and our location in a northern climate, our bodies are not always capable of producing the Vitamin D necessary for overall health. The majority of Americans are not consuming adequate amounts of fish to provide the omega-3s necessary for overall health. Cod liver oil contains omega-3s and vitamins A and D. A probiotic and multi-vitamin/mineral supplement round out the vitamins and minerals and bacterial support for our children’s growing needs. With so much of our population deficient in common vitamins and minerals, supplementing with a full spectrum vitamin is reasonable.

Echinacea has been popular for home use for several decades and was prominently used by the eclectic physicians in the 19th century. It has proven to be effective in preventing illness and is safe taken daily, but it is not as effective for treating an illness. A safe and effective dose for echinacea for children 2-5 years old is 7.5 milliliters per day, given in 2 divided doses, once in the morning and once in the evening. The dose for children 6-18 years old is 10 milliliters per day, given in 2 divided doses as well. Umcka or umckaloabo has been demonstrated to reduce the length and severity for upper respiratory infections; dosage is 30 drops, 3 times a day, taken at the first sign of symptoms. Andrographis has also been shown to boost immunity, diminish the frequency and duration of upper respiratory infections; dosage is 50-200 milligrams a day, usually for five days, for use in children. Start at the lower end for small children and work up to 200 milligrams a day for teenagers.

Further, medicinal mushrooms are showing great benefit for immunomodulation. They benefit both under- and over-active immune systems to boost immunity, and reduce the frequency and severity of illness. Reishi, shiitake and cordyceps are excellent choices that have the most evidence and clinical studies for use in children. Other herbs that can also be considered and combined with those listed above are elderberry, astragalus and codonopsis. Astragalus and codonopsis can be given in the form of tea, or made into gummies for another creative way to give herbal remedies to kids. Elderberry syrup and a children’s version of fire cider can be used frequently during the winter months. There is an abundant number of herbs that can be used to address symptom relief from coughs, fevers, sore throats, ear infections and conjunctivitis.

When taking several of these supplements or herbs over the course of an entire season, illness can be prevented and the duration or severity may also be lessened. If you are uncertain about a certain illness or feel that something more serious is going on with your child, please see your child’s health care provider for further evaluation. Trust your instincts as a parent and partner with a pediatrician, functional or integrative doctor or nurse practitioner who supports you and your family. 

This information is for educational purposes only; please speak with your family’s health care provider before adding botanicals to your child’s diet.

References: “Healthy All Year.” Aviva Romm. Romm Enterprises. 2015.

The National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements.

“Fortify Your Life.” Tieraona Low Dog. National Geographic Society. 2016.

Thursday, 31 August 2017 03:28

Keeping kids healthy during the school year

Keeping children healthy throughout the school year is a daunting task. Infections spread rapidly at school. Beleaguered parents often feel like their kids come home the first day of school with sniffles and a dry cough that lingers throughout the year. Do not despair! With a little planning, parents can support their children’s immune systems with a high quality, nutrient dense diet, pleasurable exercise and simple routines. Your kids will have the resiliency to fight various infections, and the adults in the household will be healthier and happier too!

The first line of defense against illness is a healthy, nutrient dense diet of whole foods. Emphasize fruits and vegetables at all meals, along with quality protein sources such as meat, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt and milk. Include whole grains and quality oils and fats, such as avocados, olive oil, organic butter, nuts, and nut or seed butters. During fall and winter include warming foods in the diet. Plenty of soups, stews, cooked greens, seasoned with healing herbs and spices, will strengthen the body for cold and flu season. Monitor sugar consumption and try to avoid processed junk food or sugary beverages. Make meal preparation a shared family time. Invite kids to help set the table and choose their own fruits and vegetables. Give them simple tasks such as washing and slicing produce or stirring the soup. There are many cookbooks and internet websites parents can turn to for healthy recipes and fun snacks to keep children interested in eating healthy food. For picky eaters, patience is key! Keep exposing kids to new foods multiple times and let them take charge of how much they are willing to try. Eventually, children get on board and learn to enjoy a wide range of healthy foods, especially when their parents model eating in that manner.

Adequate rest is key for everyone in the family. Poor or inadequate sleep patterns inhibit immune response, increase vulnerability to infection, decrease healing, and may lead to more frequent infections and prolonged sickness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that children 3-5 years old need 10-13 hours of sleep per night. Kids 6-12 years of age need 9-12 hours, and adolescents 13-18 years of age need 8-10 or as much as 12-14 hours per night. 

Use of electronics or hunger often interfere with sleep for kids. Establishing a “no electronics rule” at least one hour before bed helps develop healthy sleep patterns. Serving a quality protein and carbohydrate with dinner will keep bellies satisfied and allay any hunger before bed. Chamomile, lavender, lemon balm or catnip tea included in an evening routine, is an excellent way to relieve any stress or anxiety and promote relaxation. All these herbs are safe for children.

Consider the routines you have in place during the school week. Are they working for your family? Children are less stressed and tired when they have a consistent routine with realistic expectations on what they need to accomplish in a day. We live in a fast-paced world with a lot of demands placed on our kids. Plan for how homework will get done and negotiate the number of activities your children will be involved in outside of school. Prioritize family time each evening and include relaxing activities such as reading books together or sharing tales of the day’s adventures. Scheduling free time each evening can be especially helpful in noticing early signs of sickness. Take time to slow down even more to let the body heal.

Finally, exercise plays a vital role in our overall health. With the emphasis on academics, children are getting less physical activity at school than in years past. Ideally, children should spend 1-2 hours per day engaged in fun physical activities. Exercise helps keep the lymph and detoxification systems moving, which is important to prevent chronic health issues. Compelling studies show that sufficient outdoor and activity time is equal to antidepressants! There are plenty of activities to be enjoyed during the fall including walking, hiking, biking or outdoor games like hopscotch and jump rope. When the weather gets cold, turn up the music and have a dance party in the house. This is a super fun way both kids and adults can attain exercise and stress relief benefits! 

References: “How Much Sleep Do I Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Healthy All Year.” Romm Enterprises. Aviva Romm.


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