Sustainable. Sustainability. These words have become synonymous with a descriptor for someone (a person) or something (a business) that is actively striving to be sensitive to the needs of the environment, although the word is clearly used in other contexts as well. Dictionary.com defines the word as an adjective in its secondary definition as: “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.” Sustainability, as an adverb, is defined the same.

Personally, the concept of environmental stewardship and striving to incorporate environmentally sustainable practices into my life and business is an important value and action in my life. Professionally, as an Herbalist and someone who uses herbal medicine and healthful food to support my body’s health, sustainable farming practices and sustainable harvesting of wild plants, is of critical importance. In fact, I was originally drawn to herbal medicine, because of my deep love and respect for this planet Earth and her wondrous and abundant plant life and landscapes. Much of this has arisen from the feeling I get when I am immersed in nature, and how much joy and calm I experience when in nature, whether it be a city park, sitting in my yard, or deep in the wilderness where not a human-made sound can be heard. Inherently, by consuming plants for their healing properties, we are connecting to the Earth herself.

Many people do not consider how trends and popularity of certain herbs and plants can dramatically effect the harvesting of them in the wild, potentially wiping out native populations, or dramatically reducing their numbers. Examples include Echinacea, which is a prairie plant and whose population has been dramatically reduced in the wild. Goldenseal root is a major one, because it is more difficult to grow in cultivation, and its price as a result is quite high. Many herbs are also not grown in an environmentally aware manner, and just like food crops, can be grown in poor or contaminated soils, watered with contaminated water (heavy metals and the like), and grown using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. These practices are not sustainable, because the soil and chemicals can be drawn up into the plant and taken up by the consumer’s body, not to mention further adding to the chemical load in ground water and streams.

As a result of my commitment to sustainability in my own life and in my business, I choose to only purchase “organically-grown” or “sustainably wild-harvested” dried whole and powdered herbs, tinctured herbs, essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils from my vendors. It goes beyond that, of course, because quality of the plant material matters significantly as well, but that is for another article. I am working on buying more of my herbs from growers/farmers I personally know and can see for myself the practices they are using, and of course, I see the quality of the dried herb material that I receive.

In other vendor practices, I choose to purchase from suppliers that are local (less shipping) as much as I can, use sustainable and/or organic growing or sourcing practices themselves, and I have brought in products that promote re-use and can replace disposable products, like sustainably-grown bamboo utensils, stainless steel tea ware (to promote loose-leaf instead of tea bags and boxes which are just that much extra packaging), glass smoothie jars, to-go tea mugs, and bamboo essential oil wipes that are not individually wrapped.

In addition, I also package our tea blends in cellophane bags made from plant cellulose rather than plastic, and tie them with raffia ribbon, both of which will break down when composted in a city compost and will eventually break down (hopefully) in a landfill. We offer paper bags for packaging up your bulk herbs, and are happy to fill your own glass or metal containers that you bring in with you. I choose to use natural cleaners in my shop and home, those that will not negatively impact my health or my dog’s (many of you know Abby!), my staff, and of course my customers when they breathe the air. These products are safe to rinse down the drain and also do not do harm when inhaled, or when absorbed through Abby’s paws or human bare feet at home. I also purchase paper products that are made from post-consumer recycled paper (including our printing paper, paper towels, and even toilet paper). I use long-lasted LED light bulbs at Herban Wellness to reduce power use, and recycle these light bulbs and any batteries we use. We almost exclusively re-use packaging for our own direct shipments to customers, pass on our packing peanuts to other shipping businesses so they get used at least once more, and most of our vendors use the corn-derived packing peanuts that will dissolve when exposed to water. We also collect any used and clean plastic bags, plastic packing bubble mailers, and styrofoam packaging we receive and take it every other month to a special recycling event in Kirkland (“Styrofest”).

I am always looking for more ways to contribute less to waste, especially of plastic. Recently, I saw Office Depot was offering Scotch tape rolls that were made partially from post-consumer plastic. Hey, that’s a small step, but appreciated! We also use any scrap paper exclusively to take notes, outside of our own personal notebooks for formulas or communication between staff members, instead of sticky notes or other “new” paper products. And of course, we separate and clean our recycling, and I also personally take buckets of composted food and tea waste home to put in my Yard Waste bin. I have requested a compost bin at my commercial building, and the city of Kirkland complied for free, but people kept putting trash in it, so it ended up not working well.

Hopefully this list will help you better understand how we strive to be environmentally sustainable in our practices at Herban Wellness. I am always striving to do more! If you have any suggestions, please do let me know and if it is feasible, I would love to uplevel our practices. I also hope that perhaps you will be inspired by this list of our practices, that occur behind the scene, but are a small part of the way we contribute to a healthier planet, that at this point, needs every little bit it can get.

Looking up at Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir trees.

I’m sure we’ve all felt the power of trees. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are surrounded by an abundance of them. Sometimes we are in awe of their sheer size and height, other times it’s the sound of the wind through their leaves or needles, or the scent of their resins or aromatic terpenes released from their needles, the grounding smell of earth and woods amidst the forests.

Knowing that trees essentially inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen is a benefit of sharing space around trees and plants of all kinds as well. We breathe in as they breathe out, and our lungs and bodies benefit. In addition, if you’ve ever stood or sat at the base of a tree, most people feel the grounding and calming effects of this. Rooted into the earth, and reaching toward the sky and sunlight, trees emit a calming presence.

Medicinally and ceremonially, trees have wonderful benefits as well. As I was considering this article and began listing all the trees I know of that are used for their healing benefits, I was impressed by how long the list was getting, and I definitely did not even get close to completing it! Here are a few to remind you, also: Ponderosa Pine (and other pine trees), Fir, Larch, Spruce, Cottonwood/Poplar, Willow, Slippery elm, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Western Red Cedar (Thuja), Eucalyptus, Tea tree, Palo santo, Copal, Frankincense, Ginkgo, White Oak, etc.

There are a few we use the bark of as a tea or tincture (liquid extract) preparation (such as willow bark and slippery elm inner bark), several where the wood is distilled for essential oil (cedarwood, sandalwood, palo santo), several where the needles are distilled for essential oil (all the conifers – fir, spruce, pine), and several where the leaves are distilled (eucalyptus, tea tree). Cottonwood is used for the both the bark occasionally and for the resinous buds as a tincture or infused oil for topical application. Some the resin is used, such as the conifers, frankincense, copal, etc. to burn, powder, or distill into essential oil.

There are many trees that have been used in a more sacred and ceremonial way, by burning their wood, leaves, or resins, which may be in addition to their uses as physical medicine. These include Palo santo wood which has become very popular for its grounding, centering, and protective properties when burned like an incense, Western red cedar, whose leaves are bundled and burned to clear energy and spaces, and Copal resin which is burned ceremonially for spiritual cleansing and healing and is a popular incense.

When it comes to the conifer (evergreen) tree needles distilled into essential oils or hydrosols, these can be used in a diffuser or in topical applications for several purposes. By inhaling these oils, there are many positive effects on the respiratory tract, helping to open the lungs and sinuses, thinning and drying up excess mucus, and reducing inflammation of the mucosal membranes. These oils, such as Black Spruce, Grand Fir, Scotch Pine, are used for acute and chronic lung and sinus issues, so are great for wintertime health by diffusing in your living spaces, or applying in an oil or cream to the chest and neck. This is also true because compounds in these conifer needle essential oils stimulate the immune system and help ward off airborne viruses and bacteria. They are also useful for chronic lung issues, such as asthma and weak lung capacity, as well as recovery from bronchitis and sinusitis, and smoke exposure (think of cigarette smoke or smoke from wildfires) when inhaled directly or via steam inhalation.

In addition to their respiratory effects, conifer tree essential oils are known for their restoring, energizing, and stabilizing effects on the body. They can be inhaled for helping with burnout, fatigue, chronic or acute stress, recovery from physical illness, during a workout or run, etc. They also can help with muscle soreness by massaging on topically (diluted of course). Black spruce is also used for helping balance emotions, by inhaling for its grounding and centering effects, or massaging on the body and inhaling.

There is so much more I could say about trees and their medicine, but I will leave more for another day. Enjoy, appreciate, and utilize trees for their many positive effects on the body, mind, and spirit, and always be aware of sustainability practices with these precious plants.

You want to know what I love and find unique about herbs and herbal medicine?

What I find unique about herbal medicine is that herbs can be used for both symptom management and for helping to restore the health of an organ or system. For example, milk thistle can be protective to liver cells and help restore and promote regeneration of healthy cells. Hawthorn can be strengthening to the heart and circulatory system and help prevent heart-related issues. Marshmallow root is healing and soothing to the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract and can help with recovery after an inflammatory issue, such as heartburn, gastritis, or leaky gut. Ashwaganda can help us feel more calm and get more restful sleep. Cherry bark can calm a cough and thin mucus.

Within this topic, I also find it important for people to understand the difference between taking an herb for a certain symptom (or symptoms) and taking an herb to support the underlying system. For example, when someone is dealing with a viral infection, such as the flu, there are certainly herbs that might be able to make you more comfortable. Where herbs really stand out, however, is how they can help support your immune system in combating the virus. I think of it as the herbs mobilizing the immune system to keep fighting the invaders or infection. Many of the herbs commonly used to stimulate the immune system have been shown to help shorten the duration and severity of a cold or flu virus. Think: elderberry, olive leaf, oregano. This means you have to keep taking them, even once the symptoms are in full force, and they can really shorten how long you are sick.

Another thing people may not understand, is that you need to take these herbs in copious amounts, frequently, to really have a notable effect for an acute situation such as this. These same herbs are often very effective at keeping you from getting sick in the first place, if you take them frequently when you first feel any sign you might be getting something.

Then there are other immune support herbs that can help you from getting sick in the first place, by taking them on a daily basis or taking them several times a day when around people who are sick. Think: astragalus root, certain medicinal mushrooms such as reishi and shiitake, olive leaf, elderberry. These are used more as preventive medicine (notice there is some overlap) and can help someone get sick less frequently and recover more quickly when they do.

I view herbal medicine as a “tool in the toolkit” of health, and it exists best in a holistic lifestyle of health. This holistic lifestyle includes the things most of us know we “should” be doing, including beneficial nutrition/diet, pure water, sufficient sleep, and exercise, which are essential for care of the body. And yet, there is much more that contributes to a healthy life, including our mental and emotional health, our stress management techniques, the health and quality of our relationships, time in nature, and our general sense of our purpose and place in our communities and in the world. Then there are the various healing modalities we can choose from to help support our health, including massage, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, nutrition consults, life coaching, therapy, energy work, chiropractic, etc.

Taking herbs alone is not going to solve all of our health problems. But, let me tell you, I am grateful for their many benefits and the healing they have supported in my body and in countless others I have had the pleasure of guiding in their selection and use of herbs for their own healing.

Almond (sweet almond) oil –
One of the most useful, practical, and commonly used oils. This natural expeller pressed oil from raw almond kernels is exceptionally rich in fatty acids. It is great for all skin types as an emollient and is best known for its ability to soften, soothe, and re-condition the skin. It is commonly used as a body oil and massage oil. Good for normal to dry skin types.
Apricot kernel oil – Similar in its properties to sweet almond oil, but more suitable for sensitive and prematurely aged skin, as it is reconditioning, nourishing, and gentle to the skin. Used regularly for facial oils and products. Good for all skin types.
Argan oil – pressed from the Moroccan Argan tree kernels, this oil is high in tocopherols (vitamin E), carotenes, squalene, and fatty acids beneficial to the health of the skin. Squalene is a fat-soluble antioxidant that is well-absorbed into the skin and therefore is cell protective and helps heal damaged skin. Argan oil is a well-absorbed, antioxidant, light oil that is useful for all skin types, including aging skin, as well as for smoothing and treating hair.
Jojoba oil – comes from the beans of a shrub-like plant and is considered the most favored carrier oil family because of its molecular stability and low rancidity.  Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax and has properties similar to our own sebum, and as a result has been traditionally used in hair and skin products and is a general gentle moisturizer for all skin types. Good for oily, acne prone, and combination skin.
Rosehip seed oil – This unique oil is extremely high in essential fatty acids, and Vitamins A and E. It is generally considered to be best for dry, weathered, and dehydrated skin, although it absorbs into the skin quickly as well. It works well on scars and is the predominant oil used for treating wrinkles and premature aging. Vitamin A, which helps to delay the effects of skin aging, assists with cell regeneration, and promotes collagen and elastin levels to increase.
Tamanu oil – From the whole organic nuts of the Polynesian Tamanu tree, this rich, aromatic oil is famed (and backed by research) for its ability to heal damaged skin. Its benefits are notable for the treatment for scarring, stretch marks, minor cuts and abrasions, rashes, acne and more.  It is also reputed to be useful for nerve pain, inflammation, and has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

What can you do to support your body’s natural healing process after an injury, whether minor or major? You sprain your ankle, step down off the stairs and land in a way that “tweaks” your knee, you have some muscle strain or joint pain after an intense workout. Instead of simply waiting for the injury to heal on its own, which most likely it will do eventually, particularly with the right nutrition and rest, you can be proactive and address the damage using herbs and other nutritional supplementation.

Ligaments and tendons can be slow to heal and repair because of the lack of rich blood flow to these elements of connective tissue. By strengthening and tonifying the tissue, though, it can be quicker to heal then you might expect.

Let’s start by talking about your options for ligament and tendon damage, fractured bone, and joint pain and/or swelling. First, you want to make sure you eat a mineral and vitamin-rich diet, adding herbs that are rich in these healing minerals include nettle leaf (high in calcium, magnesium, and iron), alfalfa leaf, horsetail (high in silica for strengthening tissue), oat straw (high in calcium), which can all be consumed by making an infusion (ideally steeped overnight), straining, and drinking at any temperature you desire. Or, take the powdered herbs and add them to smoothies, juice, broth, or other food. Another healing food is bone broth (purchased or homemade) that is rich in tissue-healing minerals and compounds like collagen and glucosamine.

Second, other herbs/foods such as marshmallow root, soloman’s seal, and okra, which are all high in mucilaginous compounds, can help lubricate dry tissues including painful joints by stimulating a reflex action in the body. These can be eaten (in the case of okra), added to foods as the powdered herb (in the case of marshmallow root), and simmered to make a tea (in the case of soloman’s seal).

If you have damaged or injured tissue and inflammation has increased significantly, you can also add anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric root, ginger root (which is also good for circulation), and white willow bark (can help with inflammation and relieve mild pain). Capsules, tincture, or simmered decoctions of these can all be helpful.

The following three herbs can also be really helpful for helping heal damaged tissue. Read all about them and ask us to help you formulate a healing blend if you so desire!

Mullein root (Verbascus thapsus)

The leaf and flower of this wonderful, prolific plant are most commonly used in herbal medicine, for lung conditions and healing lung tissue (the leaf) to soothing ear pain (the flower). Only in recent years have I heard of the root’s use, specifically for spinal misalignment due to overuse, sleeping funny, car accidents, and the like. It is also considered helpful for increasing lubrication of the joints and spinal vertebrae, helping with slipped discs and other back pain. Several traditional, talented, clinical herbalists have used mullein root in this way with great success, including Jim McDonald, Matthew Wood (he uses leaf for the same action), and David Winston. We generally recommend taking it in tincture form, 1-2 dropperfuls (approximately 1-2 ml) in a little water or juice, 3 times/day.

Soloman’s Seal root (Polygonatum biflorum)

Herbalist Jim McDonald writes that “Without doubt, Solomon’s Seal is the most useful remedy I know of for treating injuries to the musculoskeletal system. I’ve used it to treat broken bones, sprains, injured tendons and ligaments, tendonitis, arthritis, dryness in joints and “slipped”/herniated discs (including mine – that sure did hurt…). Solomon’s Seal has the remarkable ability to restore the proper tension to ligaments, regardless of whether they need to be tightened or loosened.” Not a commonly-known herb, it grows abundantly throughout the midwest and parts of the Eastern and southern U.S. Several well-known and respected clinically-practicing Herbalists, including David Winston and Matthew Wood, use this herb with great success for helping the body heal. At Herban Wellness, we currently sell the cut root and the tincture for easy incorporation into formulas. The root can be simmered, 1 heaping Tablespoon per 4 cups water and simmered down until reduced in half, to 2 cups, then drank in 1/2 cup increments 3-4 times/day. The tincture is dosed at 1-2 dropperfuls (approximately 1-2 ml) 3x/day for healing acute injuries.

Gotu kola herb (Centella asiatica)

A plant that grows weed-like in parts of Indian and SE Asia, gotu kola is a useful herb for healing tissue, including skin, tendons and ligaments, as well as increasing venous circulation. One of gotu kola’s constituents, asiaticoside, seems to increase wound healing and scar reduction, so it is used for wound-healing topically and internally for healing of gastrointestinal wounds, such as ulcers. Gotu kola has also been shown to increase the synthesis of collagen, which leads to its use topically in skin care.  Other effects, including its anti-inflammatory properties, seem to indicate an increase of connective tissue repair in general, so gotu kola is used to aid in healing of tendon, ligament, and muscle injuries and joint inflammation. It is also considered to be a “rasayana” herb, helping to restore health to the nervous system and helping to promote a feeling of well-being over time. At Herban Wellness, we include it in our Recover & Repair Tea for post-workout recovery, post-surgery recovery, and as an anti-inflammatory support. We also include it in our Balanced Energy and Mental Clarity Tea blends, as well as our Stress Drops and Mental Clarity Drops tincture blends, as it is used for increasing circulation to the brain and synergizes well with other herbs for helping with the stress response and for focus of the brain.

I love to travel. I consider it a necessity for my quality of life to go somewhere internationally at least every other year, if not yearly. Getting out of my comfort zone, experiencing different cultures, seeing Earth’s natural wonders, stepping out of my daily life routines, feeds my spirit in a way nothing else seems to. Now, I am realizing a long-held dream of mine, to travel to “meet” the many plants and herbs I use in my craft, products, and shop, as well as to meet the farmers, distillers, and the many people who are responsible for planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, extracting, distilling, pressing, and providing this precious plant material for us to use. This trip is meant to help create new connections and sources for plant material that is of the highest quality, sustainably grown and harvested, and helps promote the sustainable economies of the people and countries they are sourced from. That is ultimately the goal.
I thought I would share what I have used and would never travel without, to help you develop your own herbal travel kit, for your travels locally, domestically, or abroad. Over decades of travel, I have learned what I need to bring with me to make my travels as successful and easy on my body as possible. I have certainly had my share of intestinal upsets in my traveling life, and since this is a point of weakness for my body, I stock a lot of things to help prevent contracting intestinal parasites or bacteria, and to help my body digest food it is unaccustomed to.
My kit contains herbs to support:

  • The Immune System
    • Herbs to take daily while traveling (especially by plane) to keep your immune system strong. I like our Immune Builder Drops from Herban Wellness or Astragalus Supreme capsules from Gaia Herbs.
    • Herbs to take if you feel like you have contracted something. I like our Cold & Flu Away Drops from Herban Wellness or Anti-V Formula capsules by Natural Factors. The Anti-V Formula can also be taken daily while traveling to prevent, and more frequently if you feel you have contracted something.
    • Essential oils to inhale regularly when exposed to recirculated indoor air, such as in an airplane cabin, or in large crowds of people coughing and sneezing. I swear by our Be Well Blend that contains Eucalyptus, Lemon, Oregano, Myrrh, Clove and other essential oils that are antiviral, antibacterial, and help keep your lungs and sinuses clear. This also makes a good hand and surface sanitizer!
  • The Digestive System
    • I always travel with Ginger root – in “chews” or crystalized ginger, such as those found by Reed’s Ginger Company to help calm my stomach if it gets queasy, motion sickness, or if my stomach feels in any other way upset. You can also take Ginger root capsules, such as those by Gaia Herbs or New Chapter, daily to prevent parasites and to help improve digestion.
    • If you’re prone to parasites or simply want to ensure you don’t get them, you can take Black Walnut hull capsules or Wormwood capsules as a preventative. Oregano leaf capsules (not the Oregano oil) can also be taken preventively. 1-2 capsules per day should do it. If you do get exposed to something, you can take Oregano Oil capsules, 1 capsule several times/day to treat, but Oregano Oil can disrupt your own healthy flora so should only be taken in acute situation and for a limited period of time, such as 2 weeks at the most unless you know you are treating an active parasitic or bacterial infection.
    • Digestive Enzymes are something I personally take with me to take with meals to help me better digest different foods, especially since I eat very differently when I’m traveling then when I’m at home. For example, this trip I am eating way more cheese and bread than I ever normally eat! I like Digest Gold enzyme capsules by Enzymedica, because it is a very broad-spectrum and powerful digestive enzyme and Enzymedica only focuses on digestive enzymes and enzyme research. I have had a lot of success with them.
  • The Nervous System and Endocrine System (specifically the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal, aka HPA, Axis)
    • If you need help getting in sync with a new time zone, it is helpful to have an herbal sleep aid on hand, like our Sleep Well Drops to help promote rest and sleep if your body is not responding to the dark in the new locale. You can also take a capsule such as Valerian root or a blend such as Sound Sleep by Gaia Herbs. All of these promote sleepiness and relaxation and can help promote deeper sleep.
    • Melatonin can also be utilized when adjusting to a new time zone by taking 3-5 mg an hour before your intended sleep time at your destination (you can take it enroute) or your intended bedtime when at your destination.
    • Adaptogenic herbs that help with energy levels and cortisol balance can be useful for taking in the morning at your location, especially for the first few days when you may wake up not feeling fully rested. Licorice root and Rhodiola root are both used in the morning to help boost energy levels. I prefer tinctures, where you can take 15-30 drops when you wake up. We also make Energy & Metabolism Drops from Herban Wellness that would accomplish the same thing, plus it contains a seaweed extract, Bladderwrack, to help support the thyroid gland and metabolism. Or Adrenal Health from Gaia Herbs is a good capsule blend.
  • Essential Oil singles I bring with me:
    • Tea tree – for any cut, wound, or pimple you might want to dab this onto for its antimicrobial benefits.
    • Lavender – for burns, wounds, or for relaxation and anxiety this can be applied to wrists and temples.
    • Peppermint – for headaches on the temples, for stomach upset if applied to the area around the belly button, for cooling you by applying some to your feet or temples.
    • *Please dilute appropriately and know the limits of these very strong aromatic extracts!
  • Essential Oil Towelettes by Herban Essentials (I know, they have Herban in their name, too!) are my new favorite travel kit item because they use 100% pure essential oils such as Orange, Lemon, Eucalyptus, Lavender, & Peppermint on towelettes that are individually wrapped (I don’t love that part but it’s handy). You can open one and wipe down things around you on the plane, as well as cleaning your hands when you don’t have access to a sink and soap. And they smell awesome too! We now carry them at Herban Wellness.

Modify according to your travel needs and the time you’ll be away, of course.
Let me know if there’s anything herbal you won’t leave home without!
Happy and safe travels to you!
 

Nervines are a category of herbs that act on the nervous system, helping to soothe, restore, and sedate the Central Nervous System (CNS) or the nerves of the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).  Herbs in this category exist on a continuum, from herbs that calm but don’t affect alertness (good for those who feel “stressed” and tense, and who may experience symptoms of anxiety during the day) to those that sedate and promote sleep (good for those with insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep, a busy mind and tense body when laying in bed).  Many herbs can do both. When taken in small amounts, these help relax and calm anxiety (valerian is a good example) but when taken in larger amounts, they make you sleepy and very relaxed.
Some nervines include: Lemon balm, Oat pods, Chamomile, Passionflower, California poppy, Valerian, Hops, St. John’s wort, Linden flowers, Skullcap, and Kava root.
Many others abound, since herbs do seem to have a particular affinity for the human nervous system.  Since many people suffer from issues such as insomnia, anxiety, muscle tension, and stress (an all-encompassing word), these herbs can come in very handy.  For other nerve-related issues such as tingling or numbess of the skin, damaged nerves from car accidents or other tissue trauma, and digestive irritability, nervine herbs can also help restore nerve tissue, reduce nerve tingling, pain, or itching, and calm and soothe stomach or head aches.
Nervines most commonly used for their sedative and sleep-promoting properties: Valerian, Wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, Hops, and Nutmeg (fresh grated). 
Antispasmodic herbs for muscle tension, cramping, and overall pain during the day or night may benefit from Wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, Crampbark, Skullcap, Betony (aka Wood betony), and Kava root, and dosing is individualized.
Antidepressants (mood stabilizing and elevating) herbs include: St. John’s wort, Damiana, Holy basil, Rhodiola, Ginseng, Vervain, Mimosa, and Lemon balm (mild). Many of these are also useful for nerve healing and nerve pain. 
Sleep can be a challenging activity to pin down for some people, as critical as it is for so many functions in the body. The reason for this is that many systems in the body, when out of balance, can cause sleep disturbance. The endocrine system is particularly important, and when hormonal changes such as menopause occur, this can interfere with sleep. Adrenal health can also play a big role, as the constant state of fight or flight many people operate from, can make it hard to calm down and find a relaxed state when sleep is in order. If cortisol levels get thrown off, this can also impact sleep. In addition, melatonin levels can be affected by light exposure into the evening hours, especially now that so many people are looking at their computer or phone screens right up until sleep time. Blood sugar imbalance can also affect sleep, so what you eat at night and when you eat, can also affect sleep quality. Liver health can also be a contributor, as the liver does a lot of its “dumping” at night and if it’s not functioning properly because of numerous factors, this can lead to sleep disturbance. As you can see, there is a lot of troubleshooting and balancing needed in order to support healthful, restful sleep for some people,
Adaptogens help with adrenal health and regulating the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis) and help with long term stress support: Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng), Schisandra, American Ginseng, Holy Basil, Ashwaganda, Devil’s club, Rhodiola. Most of these should not be taken at bedtime, with the exception of Ashwaganda and possibly Holy basil, but should be taken in the morning and early afternoon. 
Some of our products to support sleep and relaxation: 
Get Sleepy Tea is formulated to help relax the body and tense muscles, calm the mind, and promote sleepiness and the body’s ability to drop into deep, restorative sleep.  A tea can be a relaxing ritual to get into before bedtime, comforting and warm. This is best for trouble falling asleep and calming a busy mind at night.
Contains: Lemon balm, Skullcap, Chamomile, Orange peel, California poppy, Passionflower, and Valerian.
Sleep Well Drops is a tincture blend (extract in alcohol and water) of Passionflower, Hops, Valerian, and Skullcap.  These herbs in particular can help you get a more consistent, restful sleep.  A tincture can be ideal for those to whom tea doesn’t appeal, or who do not wish to consume a cup of fluids before bed, which can interfere with sleep.
Chill Out Tea is a relaxing blend of herbs formulated for daytime or evening use because they don’t necessarily make you tired or reduce mental alertness.  This blend is great for anxiety, stress, tension, and to help the body relax and reduce muscle pain and spasm.  It also contains herbs that help restore and soothe the nervous system and can help reduce mental chatter and an overactive mind. Some customers drink it for a similar feeling to having a glass of wine to relax in the evening.
Contains:  Lemon balm, Oat pods, Kava root, Lemon verbena, Linden, Skullcap, and Rose petals.
Sleep Thru is a capsule blend made by Gaia Herbs that helps lower cortisol production at night, while supporting overall adrenal health, and calming the nervous system. This should be taken for at least a month, an hour before bed every night.
Contains: Ashwaganda, Magnolia bark, Passionflower, and Jujube date.
As you know, we can customize herbal formulations in tea, tincture, and powder form. There are also options in the essential oil realm, using the benefits of aromatherapy for your nervous system, endocrine system, and grounding.
In summary, herbal nervines are very effect for falling asleep. With issues of staying asleep, it could also be an adrenal imbalance (cortisol spike) – think of Ashwaganda at night, or other adaptogens during the day to regulate;  liver stagnation – think of artichoke leaf, dandelion root, milk thistle morning and night for a month; blood sugar balance (eat protein and vegetables with evening meal; inadequate nutrients (especially minerals such as Magnesium, B- vitamins, and Calcium). 
Here’s to restful, restorative sleep!

When wandering through the parks and gardens around Kirkland and the whole Seattle area, you will likely see these plants in the early spring onward, if you know what to look for. Maybe you are fortunate enough to have them growing in your own yard or garden. Make sure to properly identify the plants, find a relatively clean patch and rinse the plants well before eating fresh/raw if they’re not from your own garden. With Nettle (aka Stinging Nettle), you’ll need to use gloves to harvest.
Chickweed – the whole upper parts are used of this low-growing plant that loves moist, cool weather. High in minerals like iron and calcium, chickweed is also high in purifying chlorophyll. Chop and add to salads, juice it, or make a long infusion by soaking in cold water for 4-8 hours and drinking as a tea. Topically, this plant is a soothing, anti-inflammatory, and antipruretic (anti-itch) skin herb.  It can be applied as cooling poultice, or infused in oil (such as olive oil) and applied or made into a salve. Internally, the fresh plant tincture can help with water retention and weight loss as the minerals and chlorophyll can help with boosting metabolism.

A chickweed carpet

A chickweed carpet


Chickweed closeup with hairs on one side of stem

Chickweed closeup with hairs on one side of stem


 
 
 
 
 
 
Cleavers – the upper parts are used before flowering of this sprawling, sticky plant with its unique whorled leaf pattern. This plant is mineral rich, high in chlorophyll, and acts as a diuretic (increases urinary flow through the kidneys) and lymphagogue (helps move lymphatic fluid). This makes it a great spring tonic, good for skin and kidney health, and for supporting the lymphatic system and lessening water retention.
Cleavers

Cleavers


Cleavers the sticky plant

Cleavers the sticky plant


 
 
 
 
 
 
Dandelion leaf – The young leaves are used in the spring as a great spring tonic. They are bitter in taste and are a classic liver tonic and detoxifier, as well as a bitter digestive tonic to stimulate the flow of digestive juices. The leaves are also a strong diuretic, helping to move fluid through the kidneys and reduce water retention and swelling.  The leaves are great eaten fresh in the spring in salads and are high in potassium among other minerals, so doesn’t deplete the body of this important mineral when used as a diuretic.
Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion


 
 
 
 
 
 
Nettle leaf – Urtica dioica, commonly called nettle or stinging nettle grows naturally in the Pacific Northwest. The leaves and stem are covered in tiny hairs that contain formic acid, which is irritating to the skin if touched. This uncomfortable property dissipates when the plant is dried and crushed, and disappears when cooked. The leaf is high in minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium, as well as chlorophyll. The leaf is most commonly used, but the root and seed both have medicinal properties. The leaf helps reduce allergy symptoms by lowering histamine release, so is great to consume this time of year. I like to recommend its consumption as an herbal tea, ideally made into a long infusion by steeping cold or hot for 4-8 hours. It can also be added to food or smoothies as a powder. When harvested fresh, it can be added to any cooked dish that calls for spinach or other leafy green.
Nettle just emerging

Nettle just emerging


Nettle plant

Nettle plant

Written by guest writer and herbalist Taylor Jeffers for Herban Wellness.
We are taught in grade school the basics of health – nutrition, exercise, and hygiene, but what about having health goals specific to the world we live in? Nowadays we are exposed to more toxins on a daily basis, have high-stress lifestyles, and are overfed yet undernourished. Shifting our focus to creating optimal health now is investing in tomorrow.
It’s important to acknowledge the basics of the body’s needs and support the foundations of health. We can do this by providing the body with essential nutrients, ensuring proper organ function, removing things that directly impede optimal health, and supporting a balanced microbiome. The following are primary factors to address when building optimal health.
Deficiency:
Despite the fact that we are a well-fed nation, nutrient deficiency is still a common issue. Nutrient deficiency is not only caused by a poor diet but also by farming practices that deplete the soil, overconsumption of nutrient depleting substances like sugar, consumption of processed foods that are lacking in vital nutrients, and long-term use of medications.
Toxicity:
As a growing concern in our highly developed and ever expanding world, reducing our exposure and ensuring our bodies’ capability to release toxins is crucial. Exposure to toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, medications in our water supply, volatile organic compounds like flame-retardants found in furniture, petroleum-derived ingredients in topical products, and much more are all linked to various issues from allergies to cancer.
Stressors:
The effects of stress are far-reaching. Stress is not just a conversation of mental health but of the entire body. Prolonged stress affects every single organ system and is linked to decreased immunity, digestive issues, cardiovascular disease and so on.
Pathogens:
Like the Earth, our bodies are an ecosystem. This delicate ecosystem may become disrupted through exposure to pathogens and by overuse or misuse of antibiotics. Maintaining a healthy ecosystem requires a healthy gut flora through the use of fermented foods or probiotics, preventing spread of pathogens, and supporting the immune system when necessary.
Creating a plan that is as unique as you:
A truly holistic approach requires a look at our family history, lifestyle, and constitution.
While genetics are not a death-sentence, it is important to know what runs in your family to know where your predispositions may lie. Taking account of your genetic background along with your constitution and lifestyle can provide clues that support your plan. It can be hard to know where to start, but focusing on the basics of nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are all great places to begin. Once that has been established, herbal medicine can provide extra support.
Using herbs as tools to optimize health:
The most favored herbs amongst herbalist are generally those that tonify the body. These herbs are given the name tonics as the generally support the overall function of an organ or organ system by nourishing and strengthening. True tonics are herbs that walk the line between food or herb but are generally more medicinal or nutrient dense than most foods. By supplying essential nutrients to a particular organ or organ system, the organ may resume proper vital functioning. A well documented example is the balancing nature of red raspberry leaf on the female reproductive tract. Other tonic herbs include nettle, oats, dandelion, milk thistle and hawthorn.
Many herbs are incredibly helpful at nourishing the body as they provide nutrients in a highly bioavailable form. These include herbs such as nettle, oatstraw, horsetail, chickweed and so on. You can add these herbs to your food by sprinkling them in as powders, adding them to smoothies, infusing your oils and vinegars, or infusing in broths. Most commonly they are taken as a long-infusion where they will be steeped in cold water overnight (this maximizes extraction of minerals) and drunk freely everyday.
Herbs such as ashwagandha, astragalus, or one of the many ginsengs are given the title ‘adaptogens’. Adaptogens help the entire body adapt to stressors by modulating the stress response mechanisms. Where there is deficit or excess these herbs will bring back into homeostasis. They strengthen the entire body and are safe to use long-term. While in order to be a true adaptogen they must be non-specific in their action on the body, some herbs will have higher affinities to certain organs or slightly different energetics. For some examples, reishi mushroom strengthens the cardiovascular system, while astragalus is king at strengthening the immune system, and ashwagandha is calming whereas rhodiola is stimulating for most people.
Herbs that are considered cleansing are herbs that promote optimal function and generally stimulate the organs of elimination. It’s easy to overlook this step and sometimes we take this step too far by making detoxification a race to be won. For some, targeted detoxification programs are necessary and should be overseen by a professional. For the rest of us it’s crucial to recognize what can support optimal function of our emunctory organs: the intestines, liver, kidneys, skin and lungs. Some herbs that are helpful here include dandelion leaf and root, burdock root, yellow dock root, cleavers, and milk thistle. Using these herbs periodically to open elimination channels can relieve the toxic burden on those organs and revitalize the body.
Creating a healthy gut microbiome is often considered to be the route to optimal health, as it is commonly where many ailments start. Including bitter herbs with our meals supports our digestive processes and consuming plenty of pre- and probiotics are essential to a thriving gut flora. Some herbs like burdock or dandelion root provide inulin, a fiber that acts as a prebiotic, and are also bitter which can improve digestion. They are optimally consumed as a powder or other whole-root form to provide inulin, and can also be consumed as teas, capsules or even taken as a tincture before meals to prepare the body for digestion and for their other benefits. Other herbs in this category may include specific antimicrobials that can balance out a disrupted flora or fight chronic viral or bacterial infections. Our favorites at Herban Wellness include olive leaf, berberine-rich herbs such as oregon grape root or goldenseal, lemon balm, thyme, and yarrow.
Reducing oxidative stress on the body takes high precedence in the modern world. Incorporating antioxidant rich herbs in your cooking or supplements can dramatically change the way your body is recuperating from the damaging chemical warfare it encounters daily. This ultimately leads to less chronic inflammation in the body. Herbs in this category include the well-known turmeric, ginger and rosemary and lesser acknowledged olive leaf, artichoke leaf, and clove. Essentially colorful foods are the richest sources, so don’t forget your herbs such as elderberry, schisandra, hawthorn berry, rose hips and goji berry! The cell protective capabilities of milk thistle, schisandra berries, and astragalus are an important consideration where any damage is suspected or to be expected with certain types of ongoing medical treatment.
As you work towards supporting your body’s needs from the ground up, you may discover that radiant health was always within reach. The recommendations are intended to spark a desire to focus on the building blocks of health in a holistic way by using what nature offers us. For centuries we have evolved with plants as food and medicine, and this unique relationship can be re-established to create vibrant health for today and tomorrow.

Written by guest writer and herbalist Taylor Jeffers for Herban Wellness.
Edited by Katya Difani.
Part of the human experience is to bear witness to our own grief and loss. Grieving is such a personalized experience and can leave us sorting through many emotions, often all at once. The goal is not to use herbs in a way that numbs this process, but to provide clarity, tranquility, and hope.
Herbs
Herbs are heart-centered in their approach. They can soften the blow by soothing the nervous system, especially when we feel overwhelmed and unable to go on. Rose is particular for comforting the heart, allowing it to remain open while suffering from loss of a relationship, job, or the death of a loved one. Feeling disheartened and weighed down by this kind of pain can be alleviated with borage; a plant known for encouraging resilience. When stress and tension creeps in linden, skullcap, kava root, and oats will ease you back into a more peaceful rested state.
Self-care during times of grief are essential. Find solace in brewing a cup of any of the herbs listed above, or our Chill Out Tea, which features many herbs that relax the mind and body. An herbal tincture (liquid extract) of any of the above herbs can be added to water or juice as well. Or draw yourself a bath that infuses any one of the plants mentioned above. You can also have fresh rose flowers in your space.
Herbal Bath Blend for Heartache:

  • 2 parts linden
  • 1 part rose
  • 1 part lavender
  • ½ part borage & sage

Add ¼ cup of herbs to a cotton muslin bag to infuse in the bath water. Or add 1/4 cup of herbs to a quart of just-boiled water and steep 15-20 mins. Strain and pour into bath water. 
For those who are overcome by the sometimes intense waves of emotions, finding energy to brew tea or a take a bath may prove to be too difficult. Having an herbal tincture on hand such as our Chill Out Drops or Heart Mender Drops will simplify the healing process. The herbs featured in these formulas are intended to calm, soothe, protect, and uplift. Reach for our Chill Out Drops when you feel frazzled, shaken up or overwhelmed or reach for our Heart Mender Drops when heavy heartedness or trauma has overcome you. These can be added to a little water or juice.
Flower essences
Flower essences are unique extractions of the spiritual wisdom flowers embody. These are not herbal tinctures working directly on the physical body nor are they a part of the aromatherapy world. They are very specific medicines that work directly with specific mental, emotional, and spiritual states we encounter in our lives and can be of great support in any emotional challenge. We have found when a person feels stuck or has not been able to move forward, flower essences excel at breaking this pattern.
A few key flower essences for grief include Bleeding Heart, Star of Bethlehem, Borage, and Gorse.
Bleeding Heart is employed to strengthen the heart so that painful emotional attachments may be released. Star of Bethlehem is one to always have nearby, as it is an incredible support for the nerve jangling, heart-wrenching, emotionally paralyzing states that ensue when we are delivered bad news. This essence will help us to shed tears in acceptance of what has happened. Again, for those who feel weighed down and unable to go on, borage will lift you up. And for those times when pain seems never-ending and that life can’t possibly get better, gorse will dissolve pessimism and restore hope.
We carry many individual flower essences but because grief often carries many emotions to sort through it can be even more helpful to try a blend. Products that feature these essences and more include Grief Relief Flower Essence Spray & Five Flower Formula. Grief Relief is a blend of flower essences and essential oils that can be misted around the body or sprayed into the mouth to support your grieving process. Five Flower Formula is a famous blend of five flower essences that assist with stress and trauma of any degree. All flower essences are safe for any age and even animals in need. With flower essences, simply place a drop or two under your tongue or add to your water bottle and sip throughout the day. For animals, these essences can be squirted in their mouths, added to their food, or even rubbed into their ears or bellies externally.
Essential Oils
An often overlooked therapeutic remedy is the use of aromatherapy. This rather versatile realm of healing essential oils can provide a level of comfort and grace you didn’t know you were missing. Turn on that diffuser with a few drops of lavender essential oil, steam a few drops of grapefruit or eucalyptus essential oil in the shower, or apply a soothing blend of your choice throughout the day to help you get by. It’s important to note that while there are many oils that can, for example, provide a calming effect, it is truly about which one you connect with and enjoy. One is not necessarily better than another, so try a few to find the ones that put a smile on your face.
Floral essential oils such as lavender, rose, jasmine, or neroli are all comforting oils that are as sweet as a mother’s touch. Others such as cedarwood, pine, or frankincense are useful for quieting the mind that’s consumed with thoughts of “I should have” or “what could have been.” And for when you just need a dose of sunshine, any of the citrus oils are available to give you a boost. Our line of essential oils from Snow Lotus provide an array of single oils as well as many blends that encourage and foster a calm and healing atmosphere. Some blends to check out are Calm Spirit (which can be purchased pure or diluted in a roll-on bottle), Citrus Bliss, Inner Balance, and Spirit Lift.
Kate’s Magik is a line of intention-based aromatherapy products that are intelligently formulated to enrich our experiences. Their anointing oils are yet another way to use essential oils for healing. Anointing our bodies with these oils are literal prayers sent from our own intentions, with the help of plants, into the points of our bodies that need it most. There are many to choose from however Peace & Purification may be helpful when anxiety, stress, or depression hits or Healing may be chosen to relieve shame or guilt which may be blocking our ability to move forward.
Mother Nature provides us with all of the tools necessary to walk through this life feeling supported and loved. Although loss is inevitable, herbalists are here to offer support during challenging transitions. We hope that this information finds you when you need it most and encourages you to sit with your pain; but never alone.