Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Free Herbal Webinar: Tonight!

LearningHerbs presents a free live event…


We’re going to show you…

  • How to correctly use the 6 best herbs you take at the first sign of a cold or flu
  • 7 simple techniques that support all 8 parts of your immune system
  • Why Echinacea isn't always the best choice for a cold
  • *How to more deeply decipher your Key to Winter Wellness Chart

  • Register for this free webinar by clicking here. 
  • Be sure to register even if you aren't able to attend. We'll send out a link to the replay for all the folks registered. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Your Key to Winter Wellness

Tired of being sick all winter long? 

Interested in using herbs instead of over the counter medicines? 

I've got a brand new herbal chart to help you choose the best herbs for your cold and flu symptoms. It also covers herbs to prevent you from getting sick. 

You can download it for free AND see a video I created on the three different types of coughs and the best herbs for each cough. 

Download the chart for free by clicking here

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ashwagandha Benefits

 Ashwagandha Root: Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha root is a powerful medicinal herb that is used extensively in Ayurveda. This article will look at many ashwagandha uses for ashwagandha herb including how to use ashwagandha powder and how to use ashwagandha for women. 

Common names: Winter cherry, Indian Ginseng

Scientific name: Withania somnifera

Family: Solanaceae

Parts Used: root mainly, leaf and berries can also be used

Plant Energetics: sweet, astringent, bitter, moist, warming

Plant Properties: adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anxiolytic, aphrodisiac, immunomodulator, cardioprotective

Plant Uses: fatigue, emaciation, reproductive health, hypothyroid, insomnia, longevity, low libido, degenerative disease, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, fibromyalgia, insulin resistance

Plant Preparations: ashwagandha powder, tincture, decoction, poultice

Ashwagandha root has long been used in India and Africa and in recent years has enamored western herbalists with its ability to both strengthen those who are weak and calm those who are stressed and anxious. 

The Supreme Rasayana: Ashwagandha Benefits

The first writings about ashwagandha benefits are in Ayurveda texts from roughly 3,000 - 4,000 years ago. Ayurveda classifies ashwagandha as a rasayana. A rasayana is an herb that deeply rejuvenates and promotes longevity. 

Rasayanas are especially revered for bringing health into the elder years. 

It is used in all conditions of weakness and tissue deficiency in children, the elderly, those debilitated by chronic diseases, those suffering from overwork, lack of sleep or nervous exhaustion. 
Frawley and Lad
Yoga of Herbs

Classically, ashwagandha is described as reducing kapha and vata and increasing pitta. It is predominantly used as a strengthening and rejuvenative tonic for all forms of weakness, fatigue, convalescing, and wasting. 
-AHP Monograph

Calming Adaptogen

Ashwagandha root is especially alluring in its ability to both strengthen and calm the nervous system. Taken over time ashwagandha can build up emaciated tissues, decrease a negative response to stress and increase energy levels. 

Ashwaganda can be translated to mean smell of a horse’s urine or sweat. I have not been able to make this comparison myself, but don’t let this description stop you from trying this incredible herb! Along with this is a common saying for ashwaganda root: it gives you the strength of a stallion. 

“One obtains longevity, regains youth, gets a sharp memory and intellect and freedom from diseases, gets a lustrous complexion, and strength of a horse”. 
Ayurvedic Scholar
100 BC

However, rather than being overtly stimulating, one of ashwagandha's benefits is that it is gently sedative and supports healthy sleep cycles. Its species name is somnifera which refers to its use to support sleep. Rather than think of it as an herb for acute insomnia, it is something that is taken over time to restore nervous system health and restore healthy sleep cycles. 

Ashwaganda root is sometimes called the ginseng of India. But while some adaptogens, like ginseng, may be overstimulating to people with anxiety, ashwagandha excels at decreasing anxiety and soothing the nervous system. Consider it for people with anxiety as well as people with debilitating exhaustion who don’t need stimulants but instead need deep rest. 

It should be considered wherever there is nervousness and exhaustion in any chronic disease. It has the capacity to greatly increase vitality, sense of well-being while reducing anxiety and fatigue. 
Kiva Rose

Ashwagandha: Photo Credit to Liz Butler

Ashwagandha Uses for Reproductive Health…

Ashwagandha root is famously used to support both sexual desire and fertility in men and women. While it probably does this in many ways that we will never fully understand, I think of it as nourishing the vital essence. When we are overall healthy and strong we can devote more of our energy to sexual and reproductive vitality. 

Ashwagandha for women...

When used for women, ashwagandha can be paired with shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), another wonderful Ayurvedic herb. 

While ashwagandha root can be used for both sexes, it has been long used for promoting sexual health in men and can be used specifically for spermatorrhea. 

While Ashwagandha can serve as an aphrodisiac in stimulating libido in both men and women, it is even more valuable when thought of as an herb that builds semen potency as well.
-KP Khalsa
Culinary Herbalist Course

Ashwagandha Benefits for the Brain...

Ashwagandha root has been shown to improve cognitive function in young men. In a trial 20 men were given ashwagandha daily and had cognitive tests done before and after a two week regimen. After two weeks they showed significant improvements in cognitive ability. 

Not many tests have been done using ashwagandha in humans; however, this small study makes me wonder how ashwagandha might help preventing or slowing Alzheimer's disease. The authors of this study hypothesize that ashwagandha may prevent or possibly repair central nervous system disorders.  

The indication here is that the use of Withania somnifera can bring significant changes in neurological baseline functions, with the postulation that it can be applied clinically in prevention, and possibly repair, 
of central nervous system disorders.

Ashwagandha Benefits for the Heart...

Ashwagandha helps to protect the heart from age-related illness. It can be combined with arjuna bark (Terminalia arjuna) which is a famous herb for the heart from Ayurveda. 

Ashwagandha flower
Photo Credit: Liz Butler

Ashwagandha Uses to Support the Immune System and Against Cancer

Ashwagandha root is an immunomodulating herb that can support the health of the immune system. Consider it for people who have immune system disorders such as HIV or chronic infections as well as for those who tend to get every upper respiratory virus that comes their way. 

Cancer specialist and herbalist Donald Yance says he uses ashwagandha as an immunomodulating herb with his cancer patients. 

I use ashwagandha in adaptogenic formulas for all my patients with cancer during and after chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. The immune-modulating activities of ashwagandha have been well researched and are significant. 
Donald Yance
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism

Yance, in his book Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, also cites a study with 77 breast cancer patients that concluded: “Ashwagandha is useful against cancer-related fatigue in addition to improving the quality of life in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.” 

Ashwagandha Benefits for Degenerative Disease

Ashwagandha root is used for a variety of degenerative, wasting and chronic diseases, including arthritis, TB, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Because it builds tissue and supports overall health it can help people regain their strength. 

Ayurveda considers it a “grounding” herb — one that nourishes and regulates metabolic processes and stabilizes mood. 
- KP Khalsa

Herbalist David Winston and Steven Maimes writes in their book Adaptogens that Ashwagandha has been shown to be directly beneficial for people with hypothyroidism and insulin resistance and diabetes. 

In my own practice ashwagandha root is one of my most-used herbs. I always reach for it when there are signs of exhaustion especially when those are accompanied by sleep problems like chronic insomnia. It also works for many people with autoimmune conditions and arthritis. 

I buy all of my ashwagandha powder from my affiliate partners Mountain Rose Herbs. They sell organic high quality ashwagandha powder. 

Botanically Speaking…

Ashwagandha herb is a small shrub in the Solanaceae. It grows to about two feet and prefers semi-arid conditions. It is native to arid areas in India and can also be easily cultivated. 

Leaves are alternate and ovate. They measure about 10cm long and 5 cm wide. 

Ashwagandha leaves

The flowers are yellow to green. 

Ashwagandha Flowers
Photo Credit: Liz Butler

In the fall ashwagandha produces red berries in a papery sheath.

Ashwagandha roots are long fleshy tubers that are cream colored. If you can grow tomatoes then you can probably grow ashwagandha as they need a similar climate. 

Ashwagandha Root

The roots are harvested at the end of the first year. 

Plant preparations: Using Ashwagandha as Medicine

Ashwagandha has historically been used as a powder in Ayurveda. I learned to use ashwagandha powder from my mentor KP Khalsa. And, like him, I use anywhere from 10-30 grams of ashwagandha powder as a daily dose. 

The following dosage suggestions are taken from the official AHP monograph on Ashwagandha. 

Ashwagandha Powder: 3-6 g daily
Decoction: 20-30 g added to heated cow’s milk
Medicated Ghee: 1 teaspoon, 2 times daily
Medicated Oil: Internally, 3-10 drops; or apply externally 
Tincture: No standardized dosage information available.

Donald Yance recommends a 1:1 extract ratio at a dosage of  2-8 mL per day. 

Formulating with ashwagandha root
Ashwagandha can be taken as a single herb; however, it is often formulated. Ayurveda has some complex formulations with ashwagandha; however, it was often simply mixed with pungent herbs like pippali or or the formula trikatu. 

In the book The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs, Tierra and Khalsa recommend the following preparation of ashwagandha. 

1 part pippali( (long pepper)
5 parts honey
10 parts ghee

Ashwagandha in bloom

Ashwagandha Side Effects

Ashwagandha is considered safe with no known toxicity within normal dosage amounts. Animal studies have shown abortifacient properties when taken in extremely large dosages. For this reason many sources will recommend not using ashwagandha during pregnancy. Ayurveda, however, regularly uses ashwagandha during pregnancy and even uses it to prevent miscarriage. A more balanced, yet still conservative approach, is to only use ashwagandha during pregnancy under the advice of a qualified herbalist or health professional. 

Ashwagandha side effects may include increasing the sedative effects of barbiturates. 

In Ayurvedic theory, ashwagandha side effects may increase pitta or ama when taken in excess. It shouldn’t be used if there is a current upper respiratory infection or lots of congestion. 


Ashwagandha root is a supreme tonic herb that can be used both to revitalize those who are exhausted and weak as well as soothe people with anxiety and overt stress. 

Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda and is becoming more popular in the west due to its unique mix of strengthening and calming benefits. This is a safe and powerfully rejuvenating herb that could benefit many people faced with the chronic health problems of modern society. 

Other resources used in writing this article

Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism by Donald Yance
Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Michael Tierra and KP Khalsa
Adaptogens by Winston and Maimes
AHP Monograph
Culinary Herbalism Course with KP Khalsa

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Parsley Benefits: More than a simple garnish

The Benefits of Parsley

Botanical name: Petroselinum crispum

Family: Umbelliferae

Parts used: roots, seeds, leaves

Taste: sweet (root), aromatic, pungent (leaves)

Plant Energetics: close to neutral (root), leaves slightly warming

Plant Properties:  diuretic, carminative, anthelmintic, antioxidant, aperient, emmenagogue (especially the seeds), galactagogue  

Plant Uses: urinary tract infections, edema, kidney stones, cystitis, delayed menses, amenorrhea, digestive complaints, cancer prevention, heart disease

Plant Preparations: parsley tea, decoction, culinary, essential oil, fresh leaf poultice

It’s unfortunate that many folks are so intent on finding the next exotic herb and spice in far-away lands that our seemingly common kitchen herbs rarely get the respect they deserve. Parsley is a prime example of that!

Oftentimes parsley is simply thought of as a garnish herb to make a dish look more appealing. But few realize that eating a handful of parsley or drinking parsley tea frequently is good medicine. In this article we’ll look at the specific ways parsley is used medicinally as well as the benefits of eating it regularly to prevent diseases. 

Benefits of parsley as food…
The medicinal benefits of parsley can be partially attributed to it's nutrient content. 

Parsley vitamins
Parsley is really high in nutrients, notably Vitamin K, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. It is especially high in Vitamin K, which is strongly tied to heart health and healthy bones. 

Parsley has minerals galore including a good supply of iron. It’s high in folic acid, which helps relive stress by strengthening the nervous system. Parsley is well known for strengthening the functioning of the kidneys. 
-Robin Rose Bennett 
Plant Healer Magazine Volume II Issue IV

If you want to get the most medicinal benefits of parsley as food, forget simply eating a small sprig once in awhile. Instead, eat large amounts of fresh parsley in salads and sauces. 

Ingredients for tabouleh: A parsley recipe

Parsley Recipes
Now that you know the amazing qualities of parsley you'll probably want to know how to make a tasty parsley recipe. 

I have two favorites ways of enjoying the benefits of parsley.

The first is parsley pesto. Basically to make this parsley recipe you make a basic basil pesto but substitute the basil for parsley. You can see a complete parsley pesto recipe here. 

My other favorite way to enjoy parsley is a tabouleh salad. This parsley recipe includes lots of other nutritious vegetables. I like to make mine with quinoa so that it's gluten free as well. You can see my entire tabouleh parsley recipe here. 

Medicinal uses of parsley as a diuretic…
As a medicine, parsley herb is best known for its effects on the urinary system. The leaves and roots are used as a diuretic and have been used for a variety of ailments in which increased urination is beneficial, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones, cystitis, edema and, historically, it was used for gonorrhea. 

Parsley roots have a stronger diuretic action than the leaves and are typically taken as a strong decoction or tea. 

An infusion of parsley is beneficial when, with nephritis or
cystitis, the specific gravity of the urine is high, and the urination painful and irritating to the mucous membranes. It is useful in gonorrhea and strangury, with great irritation of the parts, with heat, or a scalding sensation on passage of urine, and can be given during the inflammatory stage. It has also been given in dropsy with good results.
-Finley Ellingwood 
American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919

Medicinal uses of parsley as a carminative…
Besides sprucing up your dinner plate, parsley herb is also used as a garnish herb because it can help with poor digestion. Have bad breath? Try fresh parsley. Have signs of stagnant digestion such as bloating, constipation or gas? Try eating parsley. Maybe you have trouble finding a good appetite, then try eating a few sprigs of parsley before the meal is served.

Fresh parsley (especially the flat-leafed variety) is great for digestion on its own. It can also be paired with fennel to relieve more severe cases of stagnant digestion. 

Parsley as an emmenagogue…
Parsley has a mild ability to stimulate uterine contractions and can be used to promote menstruation in delayed menses or amenorrhea (lack of menstruation). (Often times there is an underlying hormonal issue that also needs to be addressed.)

Parsley root is also considered nourishing and blood building, which can be an important part of supporting a healthy menstrual cycle. Herbalist Peter Holmes likens parsley root to nettle, another nourishing and blood-building herb.  

Because parsley herb can stimulate uterine contractions it is not recommended in large doses during pregnancy. Although we don’t have any actual case studies showing a strong abortive effect it’s better to take a conservative stance on using parsley during pregnancy. 

In the quote below Ellingwood discusses the use of the essential oil for amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea (painful menses). 

Apiol is a specific in amenorrhea. Five or six minims in a capsule, three times daily, for six or eight days before the menstrual epoch will restore the flow in many stubborn cases. It has no marked abortive influence. In persistent dysmenorrhea it has cured many 
cases intractable to other agents.
-Finley Ellingwood 
American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919

Medicinal uses of parsley herb used externally..
I don’t hear of many herbalists using parsley externally today, but there are many references in our older herbals using fresh parsley leaf poultices. Different herbals recommend it for eczema, insect bites, dandruff, inflamed eyes, sprains and enlarged glands. 

The seeds as well as the leaves, sprinkled on the hair, in powder, or in the form of an ointment, will effectually destroy vermin; the leaves, applied as a fomentation, will, it is asserted, cure the bites or stings of insects. The leaves, bruised, are a good application to contusions, swelled breasts, and enlarged glands—reputed to "dry up the milk" of wet-nurses. 
-KIng’s American Dispensatory, 1898

The Leaves of Parsley laid to the Eyes that are inflamed with heat or swollen, doth much help them, if it be used with Bread or Meal; 
- Culpepper, The English Physician, 1652

Parsley herb for inflammation and heart disease….
Dr. Bharat Aggarwal, in his book Healing Spices, describes parsley as being an “antioxidant helper”. He says that not only is parsley high in antioxidants and flavonoids, it has also been shown to increase the benefits of other antioxidants. 

We have a growing awareness that chronic inflammation in the body is a root cause of many different chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Eating foods high in antioxidants, like parsley, is one way we can prevent oxidative stress. 

Parsley is also used to support cardiovascular health. It’s used for hypertension (most likely due to its diuretic effect). It’s also been shown to reduce platelet aggregation, thus reducing clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes. 

According to a Pubmed article, “In Morocco, Parsley is mostly used as an elixir to treat arterial hypertension, diabetes, cardiac and renal diseases.” 

Here’s an old recipe using parsley as a cardiovascular tonic. 

St. Hildegard of Bingen wrote about the tonic effects of parsley on the cardio-vascular system in the 12th century. A recipe for parsley wine that’s been passed down is:

Parsley Tonic Wine
12 sprigs of parsley
1 quart of white or red wine
2 tablespoons of white-wine vinegar
9 ounces of honey

Put all the ingredients except the honey together into a soup pot. Boil for 10 minutes then add 9
ounces of honey.

Strain and pour into bottles. Take 1 tablespoon 3x a day.

-Robin Rose Bennett
Plant Healer Magazine #6

Photo Credit

Botanically Speaking…
Parsley is a biennial plant in the parsley family (Umbelliferae). 

The first year it has a rosette of pinnate to tripinnate leaves. Curly leaf parsley and flat leafed parsley are both commonly found in grocery stores and gardens. (More on the differences between the two below.)

It has a cream-colored taproot. 

Photo Credit

In the second year it produces an umbel flowering stem that may grow up to 1 meter tall. The flowers are pinkish to yellowish-green. 

Difference Between Curly Parsley and Flat Leaf Parsley? 
If you know your parsley you might notice that there are two distinct kinds that are commonly sold. One kind has really curly leaves while the other variety has a flat leaf. 

What’s the difference? 

You can tell a lot about herbs by their taste and this is a perfect example of letting your taste sensation be your guide. If you get a chance taste each kind. Do they taste the same? (hint: they don’t!) 

Here’s another taste question for you. Does the stem taste the same as the leaves? What’s the difference?

I’m going to let you discover the different tastes of parsley for yourself, but here’s a hint. Parsley with a stronger aromatic and pungent taste is going to be stronger herbal medicine for digestion and diuresis. 

Plant Preparations….

Is dried parsley effective? Dried parsley leaf can be effective, but parsley is best used fresh. It’s easy to grow in your garden and can also be found in grocery stores all year round. 

If you really want to use dried parsley for making parsley tea be sure to use good quality parsley, either by drying it yourself or by ordering it from a reputable company such as Mountain Rose Herbs

Dried parsley root works great. 

Since parsley is typically served as one sprig on the dinner plate we tend to think that is a good serving size. Not even close! 

In our house we make an effort to get as much parsley herb in our diet as we could possibly enjoy. During the hot summer months we make salads that are at least half parsley leaves. We also like to include liberal parsley garnishes with all of our meals (think small handful rather than sprig).  

Parsley root can be used as a parsley tea or decoction. 

Dosage suggestions: Herbalist Jeremy Ross recommends 2-3 grams of dried parsley root, 2-4 grams of dried leaves or 1 gram of the seeds. 

In his Culinary Herbalism course, herbalist KP Khalsa recommends 1-4 ounces of the fresh juice for kidney stones or as a diuretic. 

Apiol is the name given to parsley seed essential oil. (I do not have experience with this preparation.)

When buying parsley look for vibrant green bunches without any wilted or yellow leaves. When home, cut 1/2 inch from the bottom of the stems and then store in a glass with a bit of water until ready to use. 

Special Considerations…
Parsley leaves and parsley roots are considered safe for most people. The leaves, roots, seeds and essential oil should be avoided in large amounts during pregnancy and lactation. 

Rarely, parsley may cause a photosensitivity rash in some individuals. 

Parsley is a readily available food and medicine that can be easily enjoyed on your dinner plate or more specific medicinal preparations. While it is most commonly used as a diuretic and carminative herb, it can also be used daily to decrease oxidative stress. I hope this article inspires you to start enjoying copious amounts regularly. 

Further Resources and Citations

Web Resources:
Essential oil information:

Critique of medicinal conspicuousness of Parsley(Petroselinum crispum): a culinary herb of Mediterranean region.

Moroccan use of Parsley

Book Resources:
The Earthwise Herbal (Old World) by Matthew Wood
The Energetics of Western Herbs by Peter Holmes
Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal

A Clinical Materia Medica by Jeremy Ross