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Meadowsweet – a meadow plant that prefers moist areas, this plant is native to Europe and Asia, but is naturalized in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada.  Meadowsweet belongs to the Rosacea (Rose) family and its Latin name is Filipendula ulmaria. Its previous Latin genus name of Spirea is where the word aspirin was thought to originate, since this plant contains salicylates that were the basis for the drug aspirin.  From this history, one can deduce that this plant can help with inflammation and with pain.  The leaf & flower (upper part of the plant in flower) are used medicinally.
Primary properties: anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antacid, antiemetic, carminative, astringent, analgesic, antiulcer, diuretic, antimicrobial, immune modulator, diaphoretic, anticoagulant, mild bitter.
Based on its primary properties, meadowsweet is indicated in hyperacidic conditions of the stomach, such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), often experienced as “heartburn” because of the stomach acid entering the unprotected esophagus, and for helping heal ulcers and the associated pain.  It is also useful for helping to calm an upset stomach, relieve nausea and indigestion, and dispel gas and bloating.
Meadowsweet is a good anti-inflammatory, helping with inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract as well as joint and muscle inflammation and pain, including arthritis and other rheumatic pains.
As a member of the Rose family, the meadowsweet leaf has the characteristic astringent properties, toning and strengthening tissues, especially of the gastrointestinal tract.
The anti-inflammatory effect of meadowsweet is combined with its supportive, healing effect on the stomach and the anticoagulant (blood thinning) properties, therefore making this herb a potential great alternative to the “baby aspirin” a day some people choose.
The tea and tincture are most often used.  The tea is a pleasant-tasting one that can be mixed with other herbs, such as marshmallow root or slippery elm for their antacid and anti-inflammatory properties or with elder berries and Echinacea to help break a fever and boost the immune system, or taken alone.

Marshmallow – a plant that grows well in wet, marshy areas and is native to salt marshes along the ocean in Europe and western Asian, its Latin name is Althea officinalis and it is a member of the Malvaceae (Mallow) family.  The leaf and root are both used medicinally.  It is highly likely that the name of the store-bought marshmallows you are familiar with was derived from this plant.  The root is high in mucilaginous carbohydrates that can be soaked, whipped into a froth, and then sweetened – probably the origin of the marshmallow as we know it today.
Primary properties: demulcent, emollient, diuretic, anti-inflammatory
Based on the above primary properties of marshmallow, this plant can be used in to soothe and cool inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, including a sore throat, acid reflux, and in cases of gastritis or colitis in the stomach or intestines.  Both the root and leaf can be used for this purpose, although the root is more mucilaginous (slippery, mucus-forming) than the leaf.  The root and leaf both stimulate a reflex action whereby the lungs and urinary tract can also be soothed and cooled.  Therefore, marshmallow is useful in cases of dry coughs and to help soothe the burning pain of urinary tract infections.  Topically, the root or leaf can both act as an emollient, moisturizing and protecting the skin, as well as soothing and cooling a dry, hot skin condition such as a rash or burn.
The root can be taken in powder form, in which case you are consuming the whole root, by shaking in water or juice and swallowing, or by taking as a capsule.  The root and leaf can also both be used in a tea.  A “cold infusion” will get more of the cooling mucilage/carbohydrate in the tea, so you can soak the root or leaf in cold water for several hours to overnight and drink the fluid.  Tincture is the least-preferred method for using this plant, although as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory, it will still be useful.

Lemon balm – a member of the mint family, this plant grows well in the cool, temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest. Its Latin name is Melissa officinalis, and its leaves are used medicinally and are full of volatile/essential oils with a lemony scent.  As is the case with most plants that are a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family, this herb has an affinity for the nervous system and the digestive tract.  Because our stomach and intestines are highly innervated (surrounded with nerves), this herb can help relax the nerves and smooth muscle around the intestines, calming a nervous/anxious or tense stomach and helping to dispel gas and bloating.
Lemon balm’s primary actions in the body are: nervine, antispasmodic, carminative, antidepressant, anti-anxiety (calming), antimicrobial (including antiviral), diaphoretic, and hypotensive.
Based on these primary actions, lemon balm is indicated for both anxiety and depression and for nervous heart palpitations and digestive upset.  It is a fabulous calming herb, considered cooling and sedative, gentle enough for children to help promote restful sleep.  It is used during colds & flu for its diaphoretic action, helping to break fevers and promote rest.  Its antimicrobial properties also make it a beneficial herb or use during viral or bacterial infections, particularly as a hot tea where it can promote perspiration.
Lemon balm is also one of the few herbs that is indicated for use in hyperthyroidism.  One herbalist, Sharol Tilgner, found that the fresh juice was most helpful for this (she would press and freeze the juice in ice cube trays to be used when needed).
As a carminative, antispasmodic, and nervine, lemon balm is indicated when someone has gas, bloating, or general indigestion.  The volatile oils act locally on the smooth muscle surround the intestines to relax and promote passage of gas so there is not as much gripping and pain.
The essential oil has all of these properties, as well as being used in salves topically for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory effect for herpes/cold sores.
The fresh herb is the most flavorful, and if you have access to it in your yard or garden, use this to make a tea.  However, the dried herb will certainly suffice, using about 1 Tablespoon herb/cup of hot water and steeping approximately 10 minutes, and has a grassy, mild lemon-y flavor.  The tincture or glycerite (extract in vegetable glycerine) are also great, because they are extracts of the fresh plant.

Immune Power Balls
Adapted from “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar
Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Astragalus root powder
1 Tablespoon Maca root powder
1 Tablespoon Reishi mushroom powder
½ Tablespoon Spirulina, Blue-Green Algae, or Chlorella powder (optional)
1 cup sesame butter (tahini) or peanut butter
½ cup honey (or more to taste)
½ cup crushed almonds
Your choice of shredded coconut, cocoa or carob powder, raisins or goji berries, chocolate or carob chips, and granola for flavor
Instructions:
Combine the powdered herbs and mix well.
Combine the sesame or peanut butter and honey, mixing to form a paste.
Add enough of the powdered herbs to thicken, and add the almonds and the other optional components to your liking.  Thicken to consistency with carob or cocoa powder.  Roll into walnut or teaspoon size balls and eat two per day.  Store in the refrigerator or in a sealed glass jar and eat within a week.
The herbs in this recipe:
Astragalus root is from the Chinese system of medicine, as a long-term, supportive immune system tonic, antioxidant, liver protectant, antitumor, and adaptogen (stress/adrenal support).
Maca root is from high in the Andes and is eaten as a food, as a nourishing root vegetable high in B vitamins, protein, and carbohydrates.  This food and herb has been used to support a healthy immune system, increase energy levels, and enhance libido.
Reishi mushroom is used as an immune tonic for strengthening the immune syste and supporting the body’s ability to fight viral infections.
Spirulina/Chlorella/Blue-green algae are superfoods, high in chlorophyll, beta-carotene, and many trace minerals, and are detoxifying.

Dandelion – a very common plant most people know for its sunny yellow flowers, its puffy seed heads that can be blown into the wind, or pulling it up in their yards when they see it as a blemish on their lawn, its Latin name is Taraxacum officinale and it is native to northern temperate zones around the globe.  The leaves and root of this plant are both used as medicine, and the leaves as food.  The leaves are best harvested fresh in the spring and can be eaten as a bitter salad green to stimulate digestive juices, as well as being an excellent diuretic.  The root can be harvested in the spring or fall and is used primarily as a digestive and liver tonic herb.
Historically, the leaves were eaten as a vegetable, the roots roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute, the root fermented into beer, and the flowers made into wine.
The leaves primary actions are: diuretic, bitter digestive, mineralizing (high in potassium in particular).
The roots primary actions are: liver tonic, liver detoxifier, digestive stimulant, diuretic, mild laxative, anti-rheumatic.
As a diuretic, the leaf is considered stronger in its action and contains enough potassium that it does not leach the body of this important mineral, as many pharmaceutical diuretics can do.  Therefore, both the leaf and root can be used to increase the flow of fluid through the kidneys, helping move kidney stones, lower blood pressure, and reduce edema (swelling due to water retention).
As a bitter digestive, the leaf is more bitter tasting, but both have this action, which is basically stimulating the flow of digestive juices through the reflex action of the bitter taste on the tongue.  They stimulate bile flow, the mucosal lining of the stomach and intestines to secrete mucus, and the pancreas to secrete enzymes.  This is useful when someone has sluggish or poor digestion and dyspepsia (digestive discomfort), particularly when taken before meals.
The root more so than the leaf, is considered a liver tonic, helping to promote liver health and to detoxify the liver through stimulating it to release toxins that can then be excreted.
This plant also has some anti-inflammatory effects, and combined with its action on the liver and digestion as well as fluid excretion, it is used for joint inflammation and other rheumatic complaints.  The root is also commonly used in formulas for skin conditions, because of its action on the liver and kidneys, two primary detoxification organs that can help take the burden off the skin to detoxify when its experiencing inflamed skin conditions such as eczema or acne.
Dandelion is also useful for overall stagnation in the body with symptoms of poor skin with a dull color, slow or poor digestion, lethargy or fatigue, swollen or inflamed tissues and organs, and poor circulation.  In these cases, dandelion works by helping to move the blood and eliminating toxins from the body
Traditionally, dandelion was not recommended in patients with liver or gallbladder disease, based on the belief that dandelion stimulates bile secretion.  Dandelion leaf and root should be used cautiously with people who have gallstones or any obstruction of the bile ducts.  Dandelion should also be used cautiously in the case of stomach ulcers or gastritis, as it may cause overproduction of stomach acid.
Dandelion root and leaf are both sold loose at Herban Wellness to be used in teas, they are also both sold in liquid extract (tincture) form, and in capsule form.  The roasted dandelion root is also sold to make into a tea that has a rich, roasted flavor.  Dandelion root is included in my Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea, helping to promote movement of toxins out through the liver and kidneys.

Astragalus root – A medicinal plant whose use comes to us from Chinese medicine, its Latin name is Astragalus membranaceus and it is a member of the Fabaceae family, also known as the legume/pea family.  The root is the part that is used, and it is considered a quintessential immune tonic or immune modulator.  This means it can help with immune system weakness, when someone regularly gets sick with viral or bacterial infections or takes a long time to recover, or immune hyperactivity, when someone has an autoimmune illness such as rheumatoid arthritis.  In Chinese medicine, it is considered a tonic herb that can increase vitality and longevity.
Its primary actions that have been borne out in traditional use, clinical practice, and/or laboratory research are that astragalus is: immune modulating, adaptogenic, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypotensive, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, cancer preventive, tissue regenerative, and protective against drops in white blood cell count during chemotherapy or radiation.
Based on the above actions, this herb is used in cases of immune weakness due to chronic stress, because it has a protective effect on the adrenal glands, heart, liver, and kidneys and can help decrease chances of immune weakness when under stress.  It can act as a prophylactic against the common cold, upper respiratory tract infections, and other viral infections.  It is also potentially protective against a compromised immune system during cancer treatment, and because of its antitumor, heart & liver protective effects, and its antioxidant properties, astragalus is often useful for someone diagnosed with or at risk for cancer, improving chances for recovery and longevity.  Astragalus may also be useful as a hypotensive, because of its heart tonic and diuretic actions.
Astragalus is used medicinally in a decoction, meaning that the root is cooked/simmered in water or broth for a certain length of time, usually a minimum of 20 minutes; as a tincture, or powdered in capsules.  Traditionally, the root slices were added to soups/stews in fall and winter and cooked in the broth, then removed and the soup and broth consumed.  This is a great way to get the health benefits of astragalus root into your diet.  At Herban Wellness, I sell astragalus root in shredded form for decoctions/teas and the root slices (they look like tongue depressors) for decocting or adding to soups/stews.  I also sell the powder that can be added to food.  Generally speaking, you need to consume this herb regularly for several weeks to help strengthen a weak or debilitated immune system.  The general dose is 1 Tbls or so of herb/12 oz or so of water.  Add 3-4 root slices to a pot of soup.
Because this herb seems to strengthen and tonify the immune system over time, it is generally not taken or recommended for acute infections.  It is mostly used for chronic immune and adrenal weakness and to strengthen and protect organ systems over time.

A plant that grows abundantly and well in the Pacific Northwest, many people are familiar with it only because of its sting (its other name is Stinging Nettle).  This “sting” comes from little hairs that cover the stem and much of the leaves of this plant and when brushed against or grabbed will impart formic acid to the skin, which causes a mild burning/stinging sensation that can last for hours.  When dried, it loses much or all of this property, and when cooked or made into a tea or extract, it loses this effect entirely, which is why we can use it in food and medicine.
I like to describe nettle as a “dark, leafy green.”  It can be added to soups, stir fries, baked into lasagna, made into pesto, etc. when collected (carefully) fresh.  It is very high in minerals, including calcium, iron, and magnesium, which when consumed in food or as a “long infusion”, which means soaked in either hot or cold water overnight or at least 4 hours, strained, and drank, the many minerals are in the liquid and can be readily absorbed and utilized by the body in this form.
Traditionally, the leaf has been used as a kidney tonic and diuretic, helping to move fluid, lessen edema, to break up stones, and ease discomfort in the kidneys or bladder.  It has also been used as an anti-inflammatory, by inhibiting prostaglandin formation , for helping with the pains of arthritis and other joint inflammation or injuries to tendons, ligaments, or muscle.  Nettle leaf also has an antihistamine effect, particularly when it is freeze-dried, so can help with the effects of seasonal and other air-born allergies, helping with hives and other allergic skin reactions.
Nettle leaf is considered a “tonic” herb in herbal medicine, meaning that it is strengthening and beneficial for the body over time.  It is a nutritionally-rich herb and a useful medicine.
The nettle root also has an affinity for the urinary tract, and is particularly used for its positive effect on prostate health.  It helps reduce inflammation, inhibits the growth of prostate cells, and can help with urine flow and comfort.   Nettle root appears to interfere with the formation of the stronger-acting testosterone, which is linked to prostate inflammation, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Herbs are plants, and contain many compounds, so unlike most pharmaceutical medications, they often do not have as dramatic an action, but they also usually don’t have as many negative side effects.  As humans, we have co-evolved with plant life for thousands of years.  Our bodies recognize and respond to plants because of this and so can use them for our benefit because of historical use and knowledge gained from modern research, if we so choose.
In herbal literature and in my personal use of herbs, I have found that herbs can act to strengthen and balance the body.  They can act as anti-inflammatory agents, have antioxidant effects, and are able to protect, support, and balance organ systems, such as the liver, heart, and adrenal glands.  In this way, they can actually work with the body to restore or increase health, which is where the body naturally wants to be.
In my shop, I would say my customers come from 3 camps: (1) those that already prefer a more natural approach to managing their symptoms, and/or would like to do more to address the “root cause” than treat symptoms; (2) those that are currently on medications and would like to get off of them because they are concerned about the long-term implications or because they do not like the negative effects of the drug; (3) those that are not really being helped by anything and are willing to try something like herbal medicine that they may be quite skeptical about.
The most common things people come in for, and the most common complaints herbs are often able to help with, are nervous system imbalances, like anxiety and insomnia;  digestive problems, such as acid reflux, irritable bowel complaints, indigestion; stress-related imbalances, such as adrenal fatigue and low immunity; cardiovascular problems, like high blood pressure and cholesterol, sluggish circulation; and much more!  It is very gratifying to be able to help someone feel better because of my knowledge of how herbs can help and their willingness to take them and give them a chance to work.

I often get puzzled looks when I use the word “tincture” or describe an infusion of herbs.  What is an elixir versus a tonic?  Why do we extract in alcohol?  So I thought I would define a few terms commonly used in herbal medicine.
TEA: First, let’s talk about “tea”, since it is a familiar word and concept that people can understand.  Technically, a “tea” is only made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, which brings us white tea, green tea, black tea, oolong tea, bancha, pu-erh tea, and all the varieties within that.  This tea plant, Camellia sinensis, contains caffeine.  Pause.  Did you know that all of these teas come from the same plant??  Pretty cool.  Each type of tea is processed differently to bring out different flavors and properties.  For example, white tea is the least processed and lowest in caffeine of all these teas.  Depending on subspecies and where this plant is cultivated and the climate it is bred to grow in, you get an incredible diversity of flavors and aromas in teas.
TEA vs. INFUSION or TISANE: Okay, so, herbal “teas” are really herbal aqueous (water) infusions or tisanes, but now we just refer to any plant infused/steeped in hot water as a tea.  So if you ever are confused, hopefully this just added to the confusion!  By “infused” or “steeped”, we are referring to the plant material sitting in hot water, its properties getting extracted into the water.  I will refer to all plant water infusions as teas from now on.
Let’s continue then.  Some plants and the desired constituents in those plants are most active and available prepared as a water infusion, because the compounds are water soluble (hydrophilic).  These are best prepared and taken as a tea.
TINCTURES: Some plants contain desired compounds that tend to be more alcohol or oil soluble (they are more hydrophobic) and tend not to be water soluble, or poorly so.  These would preferably be consumed as a tincture, then, which is an extract of fresh or dry plant in an alcohol & water solution.  Something like lomatium root (Lomatium dissectum), which is oozing with resins and volatile oils when harvested fresh, is best prepared in a high-alcohol preparation then in order to capture some of these resins and oils in the solution, since these have many of the antibacterial, antiviral, and decongestant effects that lomatium can offer.
Can plants/herbs with water soluble compounds be extracted as a tincture?  Yes, they can!  These would just contain a lower alcohol percentage to water (say 40% alcohol content), therefore preserving the preparation while extracting both water soluble and some alcohol soluble compounds.
Tinctures are often desirable because they are a concentrated herbal extract that is taken in drop doses.  The added advantage is that the fresh plant can be extracted into the solution and then it is preserved for potentially years once the plant material has been pressed out and the liquid (tincture) is stored.
GLYCERITES: These are herbal extracts in vegetable glycerine, another solvent used to extract both water and alcohol-soluble compounds from plants.  There are generally not as many herbal glycerites available on the market.  Glycerine is a sweet, viscous bi-product of the soap-making industry and can extract some hydrophilic (water soluble) and hydrophobic (alcohol soluble) compounds from the plant.  Another advantage is that they are sweet-tasting extracts and because they contain no alcohol, they are great for kids and anyone averse to taking alcohol-containing substances (or anyone who should not, for that matter).
HERBAL OILS: One way to prepare herbs for topical use is to infuse (there’s that word again) herbs in oil so that the properties of the plant can be extracted into the oil.  Basically this means covering fresh or dried herbs with oil and allowing them to sit in the oil for a length of time and then pressing out the plant material.  The oil then can be used directly on the skin, or used in a lotion or salve.
SALVES: What the heck is a salve, anyway?  Pronounced “saav” (like “have” with an “s”; silent “l”), this is essentially a wax-thickened oil, and is basically what a lip balm is.  Beeswax or other emulsifying vegetable waxes are usually used to thicken/harden the oil so it can be spread on the skin.

Devil’s club is a familiar sight in our local woods, and a plant many hikers (or bush-whackers) know only as a nasty plant they may have grabbed once on accident.  Covered in spines, this plant is like our “native ginseng”.  Large leaves that are reminiscent of our big-leaf maple sit like umbrellas on top of thin, spiny stems that grow from 3-10 feet tall.  The root bark is used, harvested by very carefully and respectfully entering a family of these spreading stems covered in thorns, and cutting a chunk of root between two plants.  This does not kill the plant.  The bark is then stripped and cut up to make medicine.  Devil’s club has been used as a medicine for a long time, as the indigenous people all through the Pacific Northwest were well-acquainted with it.
The root bark acts as a safe and effective respiratory stimulant and expectorant, helping to break up and dispel mucus from the lungs.  It also seems to act as an herbal adaptogen, helping to support and protect the body from the potentially detrimental effects of long-term stress by strengthening the immune system and adrenal glands and balancing blood sugar, even perhaps helping with sugar cravings.
Energetically, this herbs seems to have a strong protective and strengthening ability, helping people to have better boundaries when that is needed.