The general herbal approach to maladies of the skin, such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne,  is to detoxify the other primary organs of detoxification – the liver, kidneys, and colon – along with the lymphatic system, so that the skin can function better.  The idea is that the skin manifests imbalances from within the body and is not acting on its own but rather as part of a system.  Other herbs are used to help reduce inflammation, since many skin disorders are inflammation-based.
The herbs in the Healthy Skin Tea are herbs that detoxify, reduce inflammation, and also help support healthy skin in general by adding minerals and other nutrients that help support the function of the skin and the body in general, while promoting repair and regeneration.
The primary liver herbs in this formula are burdock root, yellow dock root, and Oregon grape root.  These herbs all help detoxify the liver, while the Oregon grape root also helps reduce inflammation and has some antibacterial actions.  Yellow dock also is a mild laxative and can help support healthy colon function.  Detoxifying the liver can also help balance hormones, as the liver metabolizes many of the hormones in our body.
Red clover blossoms act as an alterative, or blood purifier, helping to “open the channels of elimination” and clear the skin through doing so.  They act as a mild lymphagogue (lymph mover) as well as adding minerals and nutrients that nourish skin.
Calendula flowers act as an anti-inflammatory and lymphagogue, making them very beneficial for skin health.
Nettle leaf is mineral-rich, a mild kidney tonic and detoxifier, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine.
Horsetail adds minerals, such as silica, that nourish skin, hair, and nails.
Gotu kola is very mineral-rich as well, while adding anti-inflammatory properties and supporting collagen synthesis and skin repair.
Contains: red clover blossoms, Oregon grape root, burdock root, yellow dock root, nettle leaf, calendula flowers, horsetail, and gotu kola.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a member of the legume family and the seed Trigonella foenum-graecumand leaves have long been used in food and medicine.  Fenugreek seed powder is a component of curry powder and is used to flavor marinades, chutney, and pickles.  The sprouted seeds are a nourishing food and a good way to get some of the therapeutic actions from this herb as well.  Fenugreek has also been used in agriculture as a feed for animals, to increase egg & milk production, and to help animals gain weight.
Medicinally, fenugreek has been used throughout history by various cultures for many things, including as an anti-inflammatory for the digestive tract, for helping heal peptic ulcers and colitis for example, and the skin, for helping heal abscesses for example, due to its healing mucilaginous components.  It is also helpful for thinning mucus in the lungs and helping to clear congestion and can be useful for sore throats, bronchitis, and allergies.  Fenugreek is also considered a digestive aid, helping to increase appetite, better digest fats, and generally help purify stagnant digestion with bloating and gas, bad breath, etc.
Fenugreek may be best known by customers coming into my shop, Herban Wellness, as a galactagogue.  It is known to promote milk production in lactating women and is known for its maple syrup-like odor which when taken in adequate amounts can produce that odor in those taking it in large enough quantities.
Fenugreek has been studied mostly for its ability to help better regulate blood sugar levels in those with insulin and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.  It appears to help increase insulin sensitivity of the cells, therefore decreasing glucose levels in the blood.  The fiber content of the seed, when consumed as a powder or extracted in water for the mucilaginous/carbohydrate components, may be responsible for the improved glucose tolerance in those taking Fenugreek seed.
Fenugreek also has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels and to help prevent atherosclerosis (plaque formation and hardening in the arteries).  This hypocholesterolemic activity has been primarily attributed to saponins and the mucilage (gum fiber/carbohydrates) in the fenugreek seed, and is mainly attributed to a reduction in the reabsorption of cholesterol and bile acids in the intestines.
Fenugreek is known as a nutritive and anabolic food, promoting hair growth, semen production, and milk production.
Primary therapeutic actions: hypoglycemic, galactagogue, anti-inflammatory, hypocholesterolemic, demulcent, appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and diaphoretic.
Check out this link for information on sprouting and eating the Fenugreek seeds:
http://www.herbsarespecial.com.au/free-sprout-information/fenugreek.html

This tea is a blend of herbs that can help increase insulin sensitivity of cells and therefore increase uptake of glucose (blood sugar) from the blood and into cells.  This is the primary action and intention of this blend, but other herbs – such as Devil’s club in this tea blend – also help with adrenal and immune function, while Eyebright and Bilberry leaves also can help prevent venous and eye issues that can result from hyperglycemic conditions by strengthening and toning the blood vessel walls.  The herbs Fenugreek, Cinnamon, and Devil’s club are the primary blood sugar regulators, helping to balance blood sugar levels in those with high blood sugar conditions, such as those with Diabetes mellitus, both insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent.  Fenugreek has perhaps the most research on it, showing a hypoglycemic effect, as well as helping to reduce cholesterol levels.  Cinnamon can also be a helpful herb for those wanting or needing to avoid high glucose spikes after meals.  This blend can also have a beneficial effect on digestion and help support the healthy digestion of fats in particular.  This tea is beneficial for those who suspect or know they are “pre-diabetic” and for those who have well-controlled diabetes, as well as those who know they could be headed that way if they don’t change course with dietary changes.
Contains: Fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum-graecum), Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum cassia), Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis), Bilberry leaf (Vaccinium myrtillus), and Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus).
Enjoy this tasty tea daily for best results!
See my post on Fenugreek as well for more information.

This has been a thought on many health-conscious people’s minds: how do I protect myself from this invisible, potentially toxic, radiation that is drifting our way via air and water from Japan as I write.  I think it is a question worth asking, even though there are those who scoff.  I especially think it’s important when prevention and acting “as if” in sensible ways could only provide health benefits. From what I can find, iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, the radioactive element that can most effect/damage the thyroid gland, but cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years!  It also mixes easily with water and acts similarly to potassium in the body, and so is taken up and processed by the body similarly.  Cesium and uranium both have the most potential to negatively effect the kidneys.  Therefore, it appears that the thyroid gland and the kidneys are the most susceptible to nuclear radiation.
The problem with radiation  in general is that we don’t really know what damaging levels are, and our exposure has gone up as more radiation is continually being emitted around us, from electronics, cell phones, etc.  With the exposure to nuclear radiation through this current crisis,  we may not notice immediate health problems but could experience higher cancer rates years down the road.
How do we protect ourselves?  The reading that I’ve done now points to several things you can do right now, that are generally really good things for the body all the time.  Some of this is based on scientific studies that looked at mainly animals, but people as well, during and after radiation exposure, to nuclear radiation as well as radiation from cancer treatment, x-rays, etc.,  and some is based on information we know about how radiation is processed in the body.
Antioxidants:
Makes sense, right?  Radiation causes free radical damage and antioxidants can help reduce that damage.  Some antioxidants to consider: turmeric (or curcumin at 2-4 g/day, a compound extracted from turmeric, which has been shown to protect the body from breast cancer after radiation exposure), Ginkgo biloba (protective after radiation exposure), rosemary, beta carotene (from carrots, kale, tomatoes, blue-green algae, etc.), vitamin E, glutathione (a powerful antioxidant made up of the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamine;  found in high amounts in barley and watercress, but otherwise is synthesized by taking the amino acids in supplement form or applying a glutathione cream), superoxide dismutase (SOD) (another powerful antioxidant that you can take in supplement form and is found in horseradish), selenium cysteine (found in high amounts in broccoli and garlic), and the brassica family plants (broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc.).
Mushrooms:
These wonderful fungi can help protect the body from radiation, probably partly because of a compound called beta-glucan, which is particularly protective to the bone marrow after radiation.  Mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake, and cordyceps are also immune supportive and have many anticancer/tumor properties.  How much do you need to take to be effective?  A typical dose would be 1-2 g twice/day of the powder, capsules, or tincture.  You can also incorporate some mushrooms (shiitake, maitake)  into your food.
Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda):
This substance appears to bind to both uranium and cesium and minimize their damaging effects on the kidneys, which have to excrete them.  One source I found suggested 1/2 tsp, twice/day away from food.
Adaptogens:
This powerful category of plants is protective and supportive to the body in general.  Particularly of note are Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng), Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), RhodiolaEleutherococcus (Eleuthero), and Holy basil (Tulsi).

A therapeutic dose of these would be 2 dropperfuls (about 60 drops or 2 millileters) 2-3 times/day of the tincture (1:2 extract would provide 1 gram of herb per 2 ml of liquid ingested), 2-3 cups of tea at 1 Tbsp/cup simmered for 20-30 minutes for the roots and steeped 20 minutes for the leaves (holy basil), or 2 grams of the powder/capsules, twice/day.
Algae & Other Chlorophyll-rich greens:

Chlorella & Spirulina in particular are detoxifying to the body and known to carry radiation out the body, partly due to the chlorophyll content and due to carotenes and minerals in these superfoods.  Wheatgrass is also very high in chlorophyll and shown to help with radiation.
Iodine & Seaweed:
Iodine can compete with iodine-131 for use by the thyroid gland, therefore limiting radioactive exposure.  Although potassium iodide is recommended for high levels of radioactive iodine exposure, it is not recommended for long-term use.  Seaweed and other iodine-containing substances (fish, iodized salt) are better long-term sources.  Kelp, kombu, bladderwrack, and other “brown seaweeds” are considered the best for protecting the body.  They also are a source of trace minerals that are helpful for metabolic processes in the body and have antioxidant effects.  3-5 g/day is recommended, with 3 g amounting to about 1 tsp of kelp powder.
Vitamins & Minerals:
Vitamins E, D3, C, and A are all antioxidants and vitamin D3 has been shown to support immune function, so all of these are potentially helpful.  The minerals selenium, iodine, & magnesium are most cited for their potentially beneficial effects during this time.
What would a good approach be?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing.  I take a tincture (a liquid extract) combining several herbs, including Adaptogens & Antioxidants.  Mine includes adaptogens (American ginseng & Schisandra berry, which protects the liver) and antioxidants/liver support (Turmeric, Rosemary, & Ginkgo).  I take 60 drops (2 dropperfuls) twice/day.  I take 2 – 500 mg kelp capsules twice/day, so 2 grams/day.  I also take 1 Tablespoon of a green powder blend once/day that contains chlorella, spirulina, kelp, alfalfa, and nettle.  I take about 5000 IU vitamin D3 once/day.
It may sound like a lot, but it takes me 5 minutes out of my day to do.  I put 2 squirts of my herbal tinctures in a little water, 1 squirt of my liquid vitamin D3, &  toss it back with my kelp capsules with breakfast.  At some point during the day I shake up my green powder in about 4 oz of water in a jar and get it down as quickly as possible (you could alternatively take this in a smoothie or with juice).  I then take 2 more squirts of my tincture and 2 more kelp capsules with dinner.  And I’ve done my best at getting in some good nutrients for the day, including broccoli and kale.  I was, by the way, doing all of this except for the faithful taking of my kelp capsules, before I found out about the nuclear radiation from Japan.
My hope in sharing this information is to empower you with tools you can incorporate into your life to help protect you from the radiation we are going to be exposed to in some degree over the weeks/months to come.   It is better to act than to ignore this potential danger or to freeze in fear.  Please give feedback/insights and feel free to ask questions.

Eriodictyon californicum

This is an herb that grows primarily in California, dipping up into Oregon and east into Nevada and northern Arizona.  Its Latin name is Eriodictyon californicum, the most common species of this herb used in commerce.  Its thin, narrow leaves are what are used medicinally.  Used primarily as  a decongestant, Yerba santa is used for any wet, mucus-y lung or sinus condition, such as a head cold, seasonal allergies, or bronchitis.  It acts as an anti-inflammatory as well, so the two properties of decongestant and anti-inflammatory together are good reasons to add to an allergy formula, such as my Allergy Ease formulas.  It is also may have some antihistamine effects, therefore helping to prevent allergy symptoms.  Yerba santa is also used for chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (gastritis) and urinary tract inflammation or irritation.

Oh, allergy season – for allergy sufferers, the herald of spring is not one of joy.  There are many tools for relief, however, especially when one can prepare ahead of time and start taking anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory herbs or other nutrients (quercetin, local honey/bee pollen, vitamin C, etc.) that support the body and hopefully help reduce or avoid the hyper-immune reaction that leads to pollen and other allergies.  This tea is a combination of some of the most useful herbs for this purpose.  Nettle leaf and dandelion leaf are classic spring tonics, full of minerals and nutrition, while helping move fluid through the kidneys.  Nettle leaf also has anti-histamine effects, meaning it helps stabilize the mast cells that release histamine that in turn causes the runny nose, itchy eyes, etc. that are the hallmarks of this condition.  Yerba santa is a decongestant, that lessens secretions from the sinuses and lungs and has some anti-histamine effects as well.  Green tea is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and the caffeine can help open the airways.  Hawthorn leaf and flower are known to have anti-histamine effects, while also having a calming effect on the nervous system and a strengthening effect on the heart and the circulatory system.  Goldenrod is a great anti-inflammatory and a diuretic.
The best approach is to drink several cups of this tea a day, at 1 Tbsp/cup hot water for 15 – 30 minutes.  Drink for a couple of weeks leading up to when allergies generally start, and/or once allergy symptoms begin.
Other options are to take freeze-dried nettle capsules or a combination of nettle & quercetin (a anti-histamine flavonoid).  Adrenal tonics can also be helpful, such as devil’s club or eleuthero.  Local honey and bee pollen can also be really helpful, sort of inoculating the person against the pollens in the area.
Contains: nettle leaf, dandelion leaf, yerba santa, green tea, hawthorn leaf & flower, goldenrod, and sassafras.

Rose hips

It seemed appropriate to choose an herb from the rose family, as Valentine’s Day approaches and rose has long been a symbolic plant for the heart and love.
Rose hips are the outer, fleshy portion of the seed pod (ovary) where the rose develops its seeds, at the base of where the spent rose flower.
The seeds are discarded (or perhaps are pressed to yield a delightful skin oil called rosehip seed oil) and the sweet, tart, mealy flesh can be eaten fresh, preserved in jams, jellies, honeys, and the like, or is dried, cut & sifted, and is used in teas around the world.
Its red/orange color give indication that it is high in antioxidant flavonoids, the most famous being vitamin C, of which rose hips are a rich source.   Rose hips are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and can help strengthen and tone arteries and veins, therefore becoming useful for preventing things such as easy bruising, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids.  Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, rose hips are also used over a period of several months to help reduce symptoms of arthritis, such as pain and stiffness.  Good results have been shown, particularly in a study in Denmark where patients consumed powdered rose hips for several months and felt less stiffness and pain in their joints.

Enjoy this uplifting and aromatic blend of herbs in the morning as you get ready for a new day or sip on a cup in the afternoon for a caffeine-free pick-me-up.  Inspired by the returning light and longer days, this blend reminds me of spring in a glass, as I relish and search for its return.  It is a blend of citrus, floral, and slightly camphor notes and can provide a gentle lift without stimulants because of the enticing aroma, antioxidants, and circulatory stimulation of rosemary.  Rosemary and lavender dance together beautifully in this blend, tempered by the smoothness of marshmallow root and the tart of rose hips and orange peel.  This blend of herbs is also soothing to the nerves and stomach, and and helpful for promoting healthy digestion.  Rooibos is a lovely, honey-tinged herb from South Africa that has all the antioxidants of green tea but no caffeine.  It also has some mild stress-relieving and protective effects.
Contains: orange peel, marshmallow root, rosemary, lavender, rose hips, rooibos, and rose petals.

Cinnamon is a very familiar spice/herb to most people.  Often, I find that people are surprised to see it in cut bark form for use in a tea, however, as it is most familiar in powder form.  It has a long history of medicinal use and was shipped from the Spice Islands to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, and China in earlier times as part of the spice trade.  The inner bark of the Cinnamomum spp. is used and is transported in rolls.
A sweet, spicy, warming herb, I often use the bark in tea blends for its flavor and also because of its beneficial effect on blood sugar.  It increases insulin sensitivity of cells and can help decrease blood sugar spikes after a meal.  It is also a drying herb, so it can help decrease diarrhea and the associated fluid loss, as well as helping to slow or stop bleeding, and to help lessen mucus congestion of the lungs and sinuses.  A tincture (liquid extract) can be used to slow or stop postpartum hemorrhage.  It can also help with sluggish or weak digestion, especially when the stomach is cold.  One way to tell if someone has more of a “cold” digestive system is if they have a harder time digesting cold foods, such as raw vegetables and yogurt.  The tincture and oil are both very antimicrobial and antiparasitic.

This tea is a blend of flavors many people associate with the holidays, or this time of year anyway…  Cinnamon, orange, clove… and a hint of sweet with stevia leaves mixed in there.  Inspired by a wonderful customer of mine at Herban Wellness, she wanted to gift a small amount of this blend to her clients this month.  Everyone knows I can’t simply write about a tea for taste, can I?  So, what can one expect to feel from this tea?  Or what are some of the potential benefits from the herbs in this blend?
Orange peel, clove, cinnamon, and cardamom all have a beneficial effect on digestion, but helping to relax, promote the flow of digestive juices in the gastrointestinal tract, and to dispel gas.  They all, but particularly clove, also have antibacterial effects.  Orange peel and cardamom also have an effect on the nervous system, helping to both uplift and invigorate, while promoting calm.  Hibiscus flowers, another addition to this tea blend, not only adds its signature rich pink color, but it has a very beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, helping to lower blood pressure and strengthen arteries and veins.  Also, interestingly enough, hibiscus is sometimes referred to as a refrigerant, meaning it has a cooling effect on the body, which is in contrast to the spices in this blend which tend to warm.
See my write-up on Cinnamon bark to understand its beneficial medicinal effects.
Stevia, other than being a hundred times sweeter than sugar without any sugars, also has been studied for its medicinal effects and seems to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar balance.  I love to blend a few stevia leaves into my teas for a subtle, completely natural, no-calorie sweetness.
Contains: orange peel, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, hibiscus, and stevia
A perfect blend for the holidays, no?  Sip while baking cookies or serve warm or cold at your holiday party in a glass pitcher.  Serve to family members when things start to get a bit snarly to soothe and brighten.