Tag Archives: herbal medicine

Red Root – New Jersey Tea

written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH Medical Herbalist

Botanical: Ceanothus americanus

Main Actions: Astringent, Lymphagogue, Expectorant.

Indications: Red Root is indicated for stagnation of lymph, thick mucus, swollen glands and poor assimilation of nutritients to the tissues.

Red root, also known as New Jersey Tea, a lymphatic herb which stimulates interstitial fluid circulation used for splenic and liver congestion, enlarged lymph nodes, sinusitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, pharyngitis, chronic post-nasal drip and mononucleosis. It can also help increase platelet counts and is specific for reducing cysts.

Astringent: The root is an effective astringent, expectorant and antispasmodic for as asthma bronchitis and coughs It has proven useful in mouthwash to relieve sore throat, gum inflammation, to help tooth decay. The astringent qualities of Red Root that dry up damp conditions aid conditions where lymphatic congestion is a problem can also be applied to:lymphatic swellings, sore throats, mastitis, mononucleosis, tonsillitis and strep infections as well as chronic conditions such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, rheumatism, AIDS as well as various types of anemias.

Expectorant:  utilized in folk medicine practices of Native Americans to alleviate whooping cough, and shortness of breath; working as a mucolytic agent to lower the viscosity of mucus and promotes the expulsion of phlegm from the respiratory tract.

Relieves Digestive Problems: traditionally used for the digestive system, liver and spleen. The spleen can be viewed as the body’s largest lymph node: addressing how well our immune system functions, how waste descends and is removed from the body, and how nutrients are sent up into the body to build blood, nourish cells and muscles. When digestive disorders are present on a disease or syndrome level, deficiency of the spleen is a contributing factor. Spleen deficiency appears in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Irritable Bowel Disease (Chron’s and Colitis),

Antibacterial Properties: Antibacterial properties are due to the lignans, tannins and ceanathine The root was used as a decoction to help treat sexually transmitted diseases, notably syphilis and gonorrhea. Also, it appears to lessen frequency of canker sores, cold sores and prevent formation of tooth decay when used as a mouth wash and sore throats.

Red Root can be prepared as a decoction tea and is available for purchase: 



Kudzu Root (Puerario montana)

Kudzu Root

Kudzu Root

written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH – Medical Herbalist

The Kudzu (or Kuzu) plant is a climbing, woody vine which belongs to the pea family (or the legume family). For more than 2000 years in Chinese medicine, the chopped kudzu root has been used as herbal medicine for the treatment of headaches, diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal obstruction, stomach flu, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases; it is used as a digestive aid, fever reducer, and is thought to inhibit alcohol cravings and lower blood sugar.

In traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as gat-gun, ge gan, kudzu root is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. TCM uses kudzu in treating the symptoms of high blood pressure such as headache and dizziness (although kudzu has little or no effect on blood pressure itself). It has been used traditionally for tinnitus, vertigo and Wei syndrome (superficial heat close to the surface). It has shown value for helping migraines and cluster headaches and can increase circulation, an action that tends to reduce muscle pain and stiffness, and increases blood flow through the coronary arteries.

Studies have shown that Kudzu can reduce alcohol cravings. For problem drinking: In clinical studies, Kudzu has shown some promising results in reducing the desire for alcohol and decrease the amount of alcohol consumed. A person who takes Kudzu, will still drink alcohol, but will consume less than if they had not taken Kudzu. The mechanism for this is not yet established, but it may have to do with both alcohol metabolism and the reward circuits in the brain. The Harvard Medical School is studying Kudzu as a possible way to treat alcoholic cravings. While Kudzu Root seems to lessen the desire for alcohol, it also stimulates regeneration of liver tissue while protecting against liver toxins.

Kudzu is also taken internally on a regular basis to prevent recurrences of colds sores, shingles, and herpes. The root is prepared as a decoction/ boiled tea for reducing an elevated fever, muscle aches, and symptoms of a cold or flu and can sooth inflamed mucous membranes of the throat and bronchial passages.

Animal and cellular studies have provided support for the traditional uses of kudzu root on cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and endocrine systems, including angina pectoris, blood sugar balancing effects for diabetes and their long term complications.

Medicinal Food The nutritive starchy root of kudzu is high in complex carbohydrates, helps balance the acidic nature of many foods, and is soothing and cooling the digestive tract. Powdered kudzu root is very “starchy” -similar to arrowroot powder, and is used to thicken sauces, especially in Asian cooking. Simply mix the powder of kudzu in a little cold liquid to dissolve and use as a substitute for cornstarch or arrowroot.

Traditional therapeutic actions: Antispasmodic, anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, antiviral, diaphoretic, muscle relaxant, cold and flu treatment, vasodilator, antihypertensive, antioxidant, liver protective, circulatory support, raynauds. Used to counteract abuse of drug and alcohol; helping to reduce alcohol cravings.

Nutrients: Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B2.

Kudzu root is a very safe herb, with no known drug interactions and is most effective when used in its natural state, as prepared as a decocted tea. The recommended dose of Kudzu root tea ranges from 9 to 15 g daily. To order chopped Kudzu Root click here:

Maca Root – Lepidium meyenii

Maca Root (Available in capsules and powder)

written by Katolen Yardley, MNIIMH – Medical Herbalist

Maca Root -Lepidium meyenii- is a root vegetable grown high in the Andean mountains of Peru (up to 7,000 to 11,000 feet),  making it one of the highest altitude growing plant in the world.  Maca’s use dates back to around 3800 B.C., when Peruvian Indians cultivated and ate it for both its nutritional and medicinal value.

A radish-like / turnip like root vegetable that is related to the potato family, Maca is also tuberous and spherical in form. Weeding or pesticide application are typically not used as the climate itself is not suitable for most weeds or insects, thus the majority of all maca cultivation in Peru is carried out organically, as maca itself is seldom attacked. Maca is sometimes planted alongside potatoes, to help repel most root crop pests. The root itself is about three to six centimeters across and 4.7 centimeters in length. There are four recognized types, based on the color of the root, varying from creamy yellow or light pink to dark purple or black however its nutritional value is consistent. Maca is consumed as a main staple food in the Andean diet – eaten roasted, steamed or mashed, used as a flour or cereal grain in cooking; and is packed full of nutrients including amino acids, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

Recently termed a Super food, (like Chaga mushroom) meaning Maca is a highly nutritious, nourishing food for enhancing our health and promoting longevity.  Known as an adaptogen, an agent which helps the body to adapt to changes in the internal or external environment- Maca is used for strengthening the nervous system, enhancing immune system function and for hormonal balancing while helping the body to raise its natural resistance to stress.

Best known for its aphrodisiac and libido enhancing properties, Maca has been found to assist with impotence, relieve symptoms of menopause or andropause, raise the sperm count in males (according to animal studies) and useful for infertility in women. A hormone balancer, for both male and female issues, Maca is useful for symptoms associated with menopause, such as power surges, mood swings, PMS and low libido ; it supports adrenal gland function for conditions of chronic stress, fatigue or depletion. Maca can be used for mood enhancement, improving energy, mental clarity, assisting to alleviate depression and lowering anxiety. Coupled with Macas ability to support the body in stressful conditions, it also has been shown, when used long term, to assist in lowering raised blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Used to promote healthy blood sugar balance. Maca is consumed as a food in other countries, thus it is non addictive, non toxic and non habit forming – it does not contain any harmful stimulants and is free from caffeine.

How Can Maca Benefit You?:

  • Increases energy (Chronic Fatigue)
  • Treat sexual dysfunction (Loss of Libido)
  • Increases stamina & athletic performance
  • Nourishes glandular system
  • Fertility enhancement
  • Improves physical and emotional well being
  • Promotes mental clarity
  • Balance hormones (PMS, menopause symptoms)
  • HRT alternative(Hormone Replacement Therapy)

Maca is available in capsule form or in powder form (which can be added to a smoothie, cereal, missed into yoghurt or put into capsules). It has a slight and unique butterscotch aroma and unique taste. To order Maca capsules and Maca powder

Organic Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata)

Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) is one of the most sacred plants of the First Nations people. It is usually braided, dried and burned; and used in the beginning of prayers, rituals, smudging and other ceremonies to attract positive energy, purify a space, bring in good influence, and align in harmony with the earth and with ones higher self.

Three stranded braids of the sweetgrass represent mind, body and spirit. In essence, Sweetgrass is a melding or braiding of these qualities together. Sweetgrass is often referred too as “the hair of Gaia, our Mother Earth”.

The purifying smoke cleanses an area, brings in positive thoughts and healthy and higher vibrational energies. Sweetgrass is known to be carried in medicine and pipe bundles to protect sacred objects.

Just as the sweet scent of this natural grass is pleasing, smelling a bit like warm vanilla; this sacred ceremonial herb is sometimes called Seneca Grass, Holy Grass, and Vanilla Grass.

When used in combination with sage smudge sticks; sweetgrass can help turn a negative atmosphere in to a positive environment.

Directions: Sweetgrass is usually burned by shaving little bits over hot coals or by lighting the end of the braided dried grass, let it burn for about 10 seconds, then blow the flame out. Hold a large clamshell, or bowl under the grass to catch the embers.  The grass should smolder and give off smoke. It is this smoke which is used for cleansing and purifying a sacred space, a person, home, or new environment.

Begin smudging in the north corner of a space and pass the smudge stick over the top and bottom of the corner. Pass it around any doors or windows, under chairs and furniture frequently used. Moving clockwise, continue smudging an entire space and repeat the action until completed

One may visualize light filling a space, or one may repeat words in prayer as smudging, such as “light and contentment fill this space”; visualized positive energies filling the environment. Then lay the sweetgrass in the bowl and allow it to burn out on its own.

Repeat as needed, cleanse ones home or environment monthly, or after any negative or traumatic emotional experiences.

Sweetgrass braid -sold individually as one braid for $ 9.99- to order click here.

Chaga Mushroom or Fungus also known as “King of the Herbs”

written by Katolen Yardley, Medical Herbalist

  • Latin Name: Inonotus obliquus however it may be found under the Latin names: Polyporus obliquus and Poria obliqua
  • Family: Hymenochaetaceae
  • Phylum: Basidiomycota (known as a true mushroom).


Chaga is a slow growing fungus which grows on birch trees (and is also on alder and beech trees). Geographically, Chaga is restricted to cold habitats, found growing in Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, northern areas of the United States, and in Canada.

Why are mushrooms considered to be a fungus?

Mushrooms are considered a fungus, or a member of the fungi kingdom, as they do not contain chlorophyll, yet they have a strong symbiotic relationship with other plants and organisms – growing on decomposing leaves, logs, trees and soil in a forest setting; fungi are essential to our food chain. Fungus have the ability to break down organic matter in a decaying forest and actually draw its food and nutrients directly from decaying trees, rather than from the soil itself. Fungi digest their food outside their bodies by releasing enzymes into the surrounding environment, breaking down organic matter into a form the fungus can use.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies produced by some fungi and the term “mushroom” applies to those fungi that have a stem, a cap, and gills or pores on the underside of the cap.All fungus begins with a spore which germinates, when the spore grows strands, this is called the mycelium. The fruiting body or the visible top of the mushroom, and the mycelium (the feeding body) make up the mushroom which can appear to grow overnight, in the cases of some species, or take longer time for development in other species.

In the case of Chaga, its sterile conk – a perennial woody growth, which is the mycelium of the mushroom – has the appearance of a black, irregular, cracked mass resembling burnt charcoal that grows on tree trunks. Due to the large amounts of melanin present in the chaga mushroom, the fruiting body rarely is seen. Unlike most mushrooms, chaga is a polypore, a fungus with pores instead of gills. Rather than growing in soil, Chaga prefers birch trees, once a tree is dead, the “sterile conk trunk rot of birch”, referring to chagas fruiting bodies grows under the outer layers of wood surrounding the sterile conk, spreading its mushroom spores for regrowth.

Common Names

Chaga is also known as siberian chaga, clinker polypore, cinder conk, black mass, birch canker polypore, sterile conk trunk rot of birch and birch mushroom. In the arctic, the first nation’s people used chaga as a form medicine and called it Tiaga or Tsa Ahga. In France, it is called the carie blanche spongieuse de bouleau (spongy white birch tree rot), the Dutch name is berkenweerschijnzwam (birch mushroom glow) and in Germany it is known as Schiefer Schillerporling (slate inonotus). However in the Orient, Chaga is known as “King of the Herbs” a name which most alludes to its respected and powerful healing properties.

History of this Medicinal Plant

A healing plant of renowned value throughout the world, Chaga is thought to be one of the strongest immune stimulating medicinal mushrooms and is used today as the base natural product in over forty oncology pharmaceutical medications and compounds. Since the early 16 th century, Chaga has been documented for its medicinal actions. Traditionally Chaga was used as a common remedy for cancer, gastritis, ulcers and other toxic diseases; especially for tumors of the stomach, esophagus, lungs, genital organs and/ or breast.

Chemical Constituents

  • Beta-D-glucans, a type of polysaccharide which has strong anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties, reputed to assist in stimulating the body to produce natural killer (NK) cells to battle infections, tumor growth and stimulate apoptosis (programmed cell death). The 3-beta-D-glucans found in medicinal mushrooms have been subject of research since the 1960s.
  • Phenolic compounds, melanins
  • Lanostane-type triterpenoids, including betulin and betulinic acid. (The anti-cancer properties of betulin or betulinic acid are currently being studied for use as chemotherapeutic agents and are already used as anti-HIV agents in mainstream medicine). Important note: betulinic acid appears to be absent in cultivated chaga, with nature herself producing higher medicinal quality chaga.
  • Bitter triterpene compounds that support the thymus and spleen,
  • Germanium: one of the highest sources found in nature.

Reputed Health Benefits

Studies support the use of Chaga for immune enhancement, possible cholesterol lowering, anti-obesity properties and improved insulin resistance, digestive tonic, anti ulcer, general tonic, psoriasis, diabetes, hypertension, anticancer potential, an anti viral, anti tumor, immune response modifier, (may assist in the modulation of T-Cells, macrophages, neutrophils, and white blood cells), anti-inflammatory properties, hypoglycemic activities and antioxidant properties offering protection against oxidative damage to cellular DNA.

Medicinal Actions

Much research has been conducted in Russia on this remarkable adaptogen fungus and more recently, health advocate David Wolfe can be found on”You Tube” educating his listeners on Chaga mushroom as a super food used daily for overall health enhancement. Chaga may help to:

  • Support and enhance immune function and help improve resistance to dis-ease. Chaga also contains the full spectrum of immune-stimulating phytochemicals found in other medicinal mushrooms.
  • Adaptogen properties: help the body to respond and resist internal and external stressors
  • Reduce fatigue, improve vitality, endurance and stamina
  • Regulate digestion: a useful anti-inflammatory agent of benefit for gastritis, ulcers and general pain.
  • Improve mental clarity
  • Improve physical performance
  • Antioxidant and anti-aging effect
  • Regulate the function of muscles and nerves
  • Improve resistance to disease
  • Enhance sleep quality
  • Improve metabolism
  • Regulate the activity of cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Reduce pain
  • Promote healthy skin and hair
  • Contains antioxidant properties
  • A restorative tonic and blood cleansing agent
  • Contains anti viral, anti fungal and anti tumor properties.

Interesting Tidbit: Siberian Chaga is neither a plant nor animal yet its DNA make up is thirty percent closer to humans than plants.

Nature vs. nurture

Chaga is best used medicinally when harvested through wild crafting, as the mushroom holds the highest medicinal value and chemical constituents when wild crafted; the cultivated species are lower (or absent) in both medicinal properties and betulinic acid. Chaga can be purchased here in dried form and prepared as a tea. To purchase Chaga Mushroom:

Other Medicinal Mushrooms

One important clarification, medicinal mushrooms do NOT include the common white, brown mushroom or button mushroom – those common edible mushrooms found in supermarkets. White or button mushrooms have little flavor and no medicinal value compared to wild species. In fact, they may even be unhealthy -heavily sprayed with malathion and other pesticides and provide no nutritional value. The medicinal mushrooms include: Reishi, shitake, chaga, turkey tail, maitake, agaricus, oyster mushrooms, coriolus, cordyceps, poria which contain immune enhancing benefits.

Information given here is for consumer education only. It is not meant to

replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.

Red Raspberry Leaf Herbal Tea

Written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH ~ Medical Herbalist

The medicinal use of red raspberry dates back to the early 1500’s as raspberry leaf tea became popular throughout Europe, China, and North and South America. The Latin name is Rubus ideaus, also known as wild or garden raspberry; it grows widely throughout north america, found in thickets around fields and is frequently planted in gardens for the fruit it bears. The leaf and fruit are used medicinally.

Red raspberry is a popular tonic for women’s reproductive health, drank daily by teenagers to gently regulate the menstrual cycle, or drank regularly to prepare the body for a healthy pregnancy – however Red Raspberry is most known for its tonic effects during pregnancy. With centuries of safe and frequent use during pregnancy; raspberry is the best known and safest of all pregnancy tonic herbs, used to strengthen the reproductive system, to encourage fertility, used to prevent miscarriage, increase milk production and reduce the pain during labor and facilitate an easier childbirth.

Traditionally red raspberry leaves were drank as a tea from the beginning and throughout pregnancy, its benefits include:

  • A tonic herb used to increase fertility in both men and women. Raspberry leaf is an excellent fertility herb when combined with Maca, Red Clover and Nettles.
  • An astringent herb of benefit for preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage. Raspberry leaf tones the uterus and helps prevent miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage from an atonic uterus.
  • Easing of morning sickness. Raspberry leaves’ assist with gentle relief of nausea and stomach distress throughout pregnancy.
  • Reducing pain during labor and after birth. By toning the pelvic and uterine muscles used during labor and delivery, Raspberry leaf can help minimise many possible complications and extended labor.
  • A galactagogue: Assists in the production of breast milk in a nursing mother.
  • Providing a safe and speedy birth. Raspberry leaf works to encourage the uterus function without tension. It does not strengthen contractions, but allows the contracting utering muscles to work more effectively and so may make the birth easier and faster.

Other applications: Astringent herbs such as red raspberry can be used to reduce symptoms of a sore throat, when prepared as a tea and used as a throat gargle – is also useful for reducing inflammation of bleeding gums and mouth ulcers and used for diarrhea and leucorrhea. The astringent properties can be used as an external wash for skin wounds, hemorrhoids and open sores to encourage a closing of the tissues and wound healing.

The leaf contains: tannins, flavonoids, fragarine, the leaves are rich in vitamins including iron, vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins and many minerals including phosphorus and potassium – all of which are needed during pregnancy. Thus making the tea a useful aid to ensure adequate minerals and for gently preventing iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy.

Red raspberry leaf contains the chemical fragarine, an alkaloid chemical, found to strengthen uterine muscles, tone the tissues of the pelvic region for an easier childbirth, helps to reduce the risk of bleeding and hemorrhage during labor and ensures in an easier delivery.

Raspberry can be safely drank before, throughout, and after pregnancy, and certainly consumed, used in 3 or more cups in the last trimester of pregnancy. During birth the infused tea of red raspberry can be drank hot or cold during labor or the tea can be frozen into ice cubes (prepared beforehand) and sucked on during labor, reportedly used to assist with expelling the placenta, encouraging the flow of breastmilk, and restoring the reproductive system and hormones after birth. Continue to consume the tea after birth to stimulate milk production and to encourage hormones to normalize after birth. Click here to purchase Red Raspberry Leaf Tea.

Check out our complete herbal care line for pregnancy, breastfeeding and babies at www.alchemyelixir.com some items of interest include:

Plantain (Plantago lanceolata, Plantago major)

Plantain – the Latin names are Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major

Synonyms: Ribwort plantain, english plantain, rib grass, long plantain, ribwort, broad leaf plantain, lance leaf plantain

Plantain is a visually familiar plant to anyone looking down at their feet while walking on the grass, or by roadways. Growing up to 5-15 cm tall, two species are most common, broad leaf plantain – or plantago major (with round large leaves) and lanced leaf plantain – plantago lanceolata (with long, narrow ribbed/ lanced leaves). Both species can be used interchangably and the leaves are commonly used medicinally.

Traditional uses of Plantain

1. Soothing: Due to the high mucilage properties in this plant, the actions of the mucilage properties in this plant are active both internally and externally. A notable wound healer, plantain is soothing for pain and inflammation. Plantain can be combined with other herbs for bronchial ailments and offers soothing protection for dry inflamed mucosa, for a thick mucous and harsh cough or asthma. Also soothing for the digestive tract.

2. A nutritive tonic herb: The leaves are an excellent source of chlorophyll and packed full of minerals including vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, calcium, magnesium and silica.

3. Antiseptic: ideal made into a poultice for addressing wound healing, cuts and abrasions on the skin, also used in combination with other herbs for lung infections or urinary tract infections.

4. Urinary Tract Tonic: soothing for the mucous membranes lining the urinary tract, helps to reduce colic and spasm or bleeding. Gently soothing and weakly antiseptic for the urinary system.

5. Refrigerant: a cooling effect both locally and for inflammation and a fever. Can be combined with diaphoretic herbs for lowering a high body temperature and encouraging sweating.

6. Anti catarrhal: a unique remedy that can help to depress the secretion of mucous from the membranes of the respiratory tract. A possible herb used for hayfever and seasonal allergies.

7. Astringent: The presence of tanning in this plant make it ideal for toning the mucous membrane issues of the mouth and throat, skin and digestion. Added into a soothing eyewash, or also of benefit for diarrhea. Traditionally used for both internal and external wounds to stop bleeding from an open wound or cut. Internally using plantain as a tea would go far in supporting conditions of a bleeding ulcer. Ideal for bleeding gums and gum inflammations.

8. Traditional External Applications: Plantain is a widely used and soothing agent for all types of skin healing, from cuts and wounds, scrapes and abrasions, plantain can be applied as a poultice, a cream, salve or fomentation. Also ideal for assisting the body remove venom from insect bites and as a poultice, effective for pulling out congestion. A soothing remedy for all mucous membranes in the body, for hoarse dry coughs and also for bronchial congestion. An ideal healing agent for wounds and ulcers, inflammation and bleeding conditions. A soothing urinary system herb for inflammation of the mucous membranes.

Dosage: Infuse one teaspoon of herb for 15 minutes in boiling hot water, strain and enjoy 3 cups daily as a general adult dose.

To purchase plantain click here

All about Dandelions

-written by Hunter Cubitt-Cooke

The Latin name is Taraxacum officinalis.

Common names include: lions tooth, white endive, wild endive, swine snout, canker wart and puffball.

Actions: Traditionally Dandelion has been used as a powerful diuretic, bitter, pancreatic regulator, galactogogue (stimulates flow of breast milk), cholagogue (stimulates bile), aperient, stomachic, tonic, anti-rheumatic, mild laxative, urinary anti-septic, and detoxicant herb.

Uses: Dandelion is used as a cleansing herb affecting the circulatory, digestive, urinary tract and lymphatic systems. As a bitter, it is useful for indigestion and used to gently stimulate and improve a lack of appetite. The leaves are rich in vitamins A, B, C, and nutrient minerals. Taken as a tea the dandelion leaves help to remove excess water. Dandelion leaf also contains potassium which is often depleted with synthetic diuretics, thus it is remineralising as it removes excess fluid from the body. The root stimulates and flow of bile and especially effects secretions and excretions of the liver and gall bladder. The milky sap from the fresh stem is used for the removal of warts.

Called Pu Gong Ying in TCM and frequently used for cooling, it is sweet and pungent. In Ayurvedic medicine it is a detoxifying herb for ama and pitta conditions, dispelling accumulated and stagnated pitta and bile.

I was taught as a child that dandelions are unwanted and to be killed with poisons. They are beautiful, especially in great numbers and destroying them didnt make sense to me. In fact, this wonderfully useful plant removes poisons from our bodies, as well as acting as a general tonic.

Preparations. If harvesting fresh, use the whole plant before flowering, the leaves during flowering, and the root can be gathered in the fall. Make an infusion of the leaf by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 3-4 tsp. of leaves. Let steep 15 minutes and drink 3 times daily. To prepare the root, make a decoction by using 1 tsp. of the root to each cup of boiling water and let simmer for 15 minutes. Drink 1 cup, 3 times daily. As a cold extract use 2 tsp. of plant with 1 cup cold water and let stand for 8 hours. For a tonic or as a stimulant, make a juice by pressing the leaves in milk or using an electric juicer. Take 1 tsp. of juice 3 times daily. For warts, express milky sap and wipe the topical wart frequently. References and

Recommended Readings: The Herb Book , John Lust. The Yoga of Herbs, Frawley/Lad. Herbal Healing for Women, Rosemary Gladstar. Bartrams Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Thomas Bartram.

-written by Hunter Cubitt-Cooke. Hunter is a plant enthusiast currently working to expand his understanding and knowledge of plants and their healing potential. He has studied with the Alberta Wild Rose College of Natural Healing and volunteers at Alchemy and Elixir Health Group in Vancouver.

Simple Tips for Staying Healthy During the Winter Months

Written By Melissa Furneaux, B.Sc., HHC, RHN

It’s that time of year again….decorating Christmas trees, shopping for presents for loved ones, baking cookies with the kids, and…colds and flus? Unfortunately, most of us know from experience that this could certainly put a damper on the holiday festivities. Don’t fret just yet, though…all is not lost! Luckily, there are a few simple diet and lifestyle tips that can keep your immune system going strong long after Santa has come and gone.

  1. While Christmas may not be the easiest time to reduce sugar intake, it is important to understand that refined white sugar seriously impairs the white blood cells of your immune system. As with anything, however, moderation is key. Now may be the perfect time to start experimenting with more wholesome, less refined sweeteners, such as blackstrap molasses, raw honey, or brown rice syrup. Decreasing your sugar intake just might be the most important thing you can do to boost your immune system!
  2. Get a good night’s rest; In addition to a healthy immune system, adequate sleep is linked to balanced hormone levels, clear thinking, improved mood, radiant skin, and weight management. While everyone is different, most people need about 8 hours per night. If this is unrealistic for you, focus on the quality rather than the quantity of your sleep by making your bedroom a tranquil environment and eliminating sources of light or using a sleep mask.
  3. Drink water! Staying hydrated is important year round, but particularly during this time of year, when there is a good chance that we are consuming more coffee and alcohol at social events, both of which dehydrate the body. In addition to staying hydrated, adequate water intake will promote balance within the body, help your liver and kidney’s to flush toxins, and decrease sugar cravings. While everyone is different, 8 glasses per day is a good goal to aim for. If this seems like a lot, try drinking one more glass per day than you are currently drinking, and increase the amount each week. And remember, by the time we feel thirsty, we are most likely already dehydrated.
  4. Garlic is particularly beneficial for the immune system, as it promotes warmth and moves energy throughout the body. Specifically, most of garlic’s benefits seem to be attributed to sulfur-containing compounds. To get the greatest benefits, try eating it lightly cooked, or raw if it is not too intense for you.
  5. Fermented foods have been an important part of traditional diets around the world, but are commonly lacking in North American diets. It is estimated that up to 80% of our immune system is in our G.I. tract. Foods like traditionally prepared yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi , and miso contain probiotics that promote intestinal balance by allowing “good” bacteria to flourish.
  6. Try to take some time for yourself during this busy season, even if it’s only a few minutes each day. Pay attention to the first signs of a cold, and listen to your body. While short term stress is a very helpful adaptation, chronic stress (>2 weeks) decreases memory, lowers immune activity, and will lead to adrenal fatigue, among other things.
  7. Lemon and apple cider vinegar are both very cleansing and alkalizing, promoting a healthy pH balance within the body. This will also support the growth of healthy bacteria, as many problem-causing bacteria thrive in a more acidic environment created by stress or excess sugar and meat. Try drinking hot lemon water in the morning, incorporating either into dressings and sauces, or sipping on lemon water throughout the day.
  8. Ginger is antibacterial and stimulates the immune system to act against invaders. With its warming nature and pungent flavour, it has a particular affinity for benefiting the lungs and respiratory system. It is also an excellent remedy for nausea. Try making a simple tea from chopped, fresh ginger.
  9. Lets not forget the importance of exercise and fresh air, as poorly filtered office air is the perfect environment for spreading germs. Exercise releases mood-boosting endorphins, increases immune cell activity, circulation, and helps you excrete toxins via sweat.
  10. It is no surprise that including lots of fruits and vegetables in our day to day diet can keep us in top health year round. They are packed with tons of immune supporting nutrients such as vitamins C and E, bioflavenoids, carotenoids, and other antioxidants. Darker produce, such as berries and leafy greens tend to pack the most nutritional bang.
  11. Zinc is essential for many aspects of immune function, including infection-fighting T-cell, NK cell, and lymphocyte activity, as well as being directly involved in antibody production. It is found in oysters, shellfish, meats, eggs, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds are especially good sources. As with everything, moderation is key, as too much zinc may actually decrease immune function.
  12. And last but not least remember to laugh! Every cell in our body is physiologically affected by how we feel! Finally, if you do find yourself feeling under the weather, only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary since they will lead to imbalances in your GI tract. Following a course of antibiotics with probiotics can also be extremely beneficial in rebalancing your system. There are also many herbs available to support the immune system, including Goldenseal, Echinacea, and Astragalus. Herbs are powerful and work synergistically; A professional herbalist can help you find the most appropriate combination to fit your needs. Hopefully you’re now feeling a bit more prepared to face the upcoming few months strong and healthy! Happy Holidays, everyone!

Melissa Furneaux, RHN (Registered Holistic Nutritionist) has a fascinating backgrounds, a blend of a Bachelor of Science in BioPsychology and Nutritional Science. Her unique interest is in the relationship between the foods we eat, and changes with mood and behavior. Melissa offers nutritional assessments, meal planning, recipes, grocery store tours and also provides guidance for food planning for families and during pregnancy. Her private practice is located at Alchemy & Elixir Health Group.

Until December 31, 2010 Melissa is offering the following promotions: $50 for an initial consult, or $125 for an initial consult plus 2 follow-up visits. Appointments can be booked at:info@alchemyelixir.com

Preparing an Herbal Poultice

Where a fomentation uses the application of a flannel or cloth soaked in and strained from a decoction or infusion; a poultice involves placing the herbs themselves onto the body. Poultices have numerous applications, by supplying heat and moisture to an area:

  • they provide healing and regeneration to tissues,
  • stimulate circulation,
  • improve organ functioning,
  • can be used for eruptions, abscesses, for enlarged or inflamed glands;
  • used to reduce inflammation and help pull foreign bodies or substances from an area,
  • promote the resolution of boils, and hasten the healing of irritable ulcers and foul-smelling wounds.
  • Hot poultices applied externally can be used for respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis and congestion.


  1. Bruise, grind or crush the medicinal parts of the plant (dried or fresh) to a pulpy mass. If fresh plants are being used, chop them finely before use.
  2. Add just enough moisture (hot water or brewed herbal tea) to make a thick paste; the herbs can be mixed with moistened slippery elm bark, corn meal, or flaxseed for additional drawing power.
  3. First wash / disinfect the skin with a rinse of chamomile or calendula tea or tincture. Then cover the skin, with a thin layer of vegetable oil (almond oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil) to protect the skin and assist in easy removal of the herbs and promote the absorption of the medicinal properties through the skin.
  4. Apply the poultice herbs directly to the skin or wrap the paste / pulp in a wet, hot cloth (muslin or a towel), cover with saran wrap or plastic to retain heat and secure in place.
  5. For a poultice to be effective, it should be kept moist and warm by using a hot water bottle or heating pad on top of the pack.
  6. Remove before poultice gets cold. A second poultice can be applied. After removing wash the area with water, herb tea or antiseptic tinctures such as chamomile or calendula. Repeat daily until the condition clears.

Note: If using irritant herbs such as mustard or onion in a poultice, ensure that the skin is protected with a thin application of oil and keep the paste between two pieces of cloth to prevent direct contact with the skin. If the temperature is too high, the skin may blister or burn from hot temperatures. If a condition continues immediately consult your herbalist or health care practitioner.

Onion Poultice: Onion is one of the oldest and most versatile kitchen herbs. Excellent for drawing out impurities. A high sulfur content makes it ideal for inflamed areas. Traditionally onion preparations have been especially effective for colds and congestion, athlete’s foot, warts, athlete’s foot, muscle pain, and unsightly liver spots or dark blemishes. Yellow corn meal can be added into the onion poultice. Onion juice prepared from steamed or boiled onions was traditionally prescribed as a medicine to improve circulation, and digestion.

Onion Poultice: Prepare a thin cotton gauze or cloth old cotton towel or a piece of flannel (even a thin tea towel will work) of sufficient size to cover the area. Cut up onions very fine; heat them, not cook them too much but heat them; mixing with them – for this quantity – about a tablespoonful of corn meal. Spread this on the cloth, covering with a heavier cloth, – warm, not too hot, – and apply to the body. Use a hot water bottle to lie over the towel and let this heat for at least thirty minutes more. Remove the poultice.

Flax Seed Poultices: Flaxseed is a source of omega-3 acids and is valued for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. For minor scrapes and infections, a flaxseed poultice is a useful healing aid. Grind 1 tablespoon of flaxseed with a mortar and pestle. Pour hot water over to moisten the flaxseed, and create a thick mulch, like the consistency of oatmeal, (not too runny and not too dry) apply to the skin.

Cabbage Poultice: Use raw or cooked cabbage. Can use whole leaves layered over area and covered with a hot towel. Has a warming, detoxifying and stimulating effect for ulcers, varicose veins, shingles, eczema, gout, rheumatism, infection. Apply to lower abdomen to promote pelvic circulation and assist to dissolve small fibroids and cysts in pelvic cavity. Used over the liver it will assist in breaking up congestion and detoxify. Cabbage leaves placed in the bra will help with engorged breasts.

Carrot Poultice: Boil carrots until soft or use raw and mash to a pulp. Mix with small amount of vegetable oil. Used for cysts, abnormal growths, boils, cold sores and impetigo.

Clay Poultice: Use clay that has been cleaned of impurities. Mix with water or apple cider vinegar to make a paste. Allow to dry completely before removing with warm water. Use on inflammatory skin diseases, bruises, sprains, acne, drawing toxins from the skin.

Mustard Poultice: Good for arthritic joints and any condition requiring increased circulation. Used to help relieve congestion, aid asthma, bronchitis, relieve coughs and assists in getting rid of colds and flu when used on the chest.

Use powdered mustard and mix with water to make a paste. May need to add flour to hold paste together. Place a thin layer of oil on the skin. Do not apply mustard directly on skin, instead wrap in a muslin or cheesecloth or cotton towel barrier between skin and paste. Cover with plastic wrap. Remove immediately if stinging or burning occurs. Use with caution. Do not use on sensitive or broken skin.

Potato Poultice: Grate raw potato, mix with boiling water. Used to reduce inflammation as in arthritis. Has soothing and cooling effect. Can be applied to boils or carbuncles.

Plantain Poultice (Nature’s Band-Aid) Plantago major or lanceolata: An invaluable remedy for scrapes and wounds, bee stings and burns; even drawing out foreign objects imbedded in the skin. Best gathered fresh, collect enough to cover the affected area. Mash it, grind it, or even chew it if necessary. Add enough water to create a thick paste. Apply the poultice HOT daily or as needed until the irritated area heals.