Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why I am shutting down my blog permanently.

I have a big announcement and, I have to admit, it’s a bit bittersweet for me. 

Over the next few months I am going to be moving all the information from this blog to my newly designed site Once I move everything over I’ll be shutting this blog down.  

I know some of you really value this website and I want to share with you the story behind it and why I am moving on. 

I started this blog in 2008. I had just moved to the Methow Valley at the time and had high speed internet at the house for the first time in a long time. At that time there wasn’t a whole lot going on in the herbal internet world but it was inspiring! There were only a few blogs like Kristine Brown’s, Kiva’s and Darcey’s. Henriette, jim mcdonald and LearningHerbs had their great sites. There were a couple of herbal forums like the Herbwifery forum and Susun Weed. I loved it all and I wanted to be a part of it! 

So I started my own blog. My vision for my blog was that I would share my own herbal adventures in the Methow Valley: wild plant hikes, wild food harvesting and herbal preparations, etc. Oh the blog parties we used to have! 

Over time my readers grew. I grew as an herbalist and my vision for my own herbal calling evolved. 

My most recent vision for my blog was that I wanted it to be an abundant resource of information for herbalists. Besides my in-depth herbal articles I also wanted to highlight what was going on in the grassroots herbal world. So I hosted a blogroll with hundreds of blogs. I created an herbal bookshelf with all my favorite herbal books and I even hosted a page for herbal CSAs. 

Then about three years ago I created a new website. It took me about 9 solid months of work to lay the groundwork. This site was totally different from my blog. I wrote this site for people who were looking for natural solutions to their chronic health problems, not necessarily herbalists. That site also began to grow. 

And now, with two popular herbal websites, it has admittedly gotten too complex and confusing. 

People ask, “What’s your website?” And I have to pause and then say something like, “Well, if you want this type of information go here but if you want this other type of information go here…” Not too long ago my dad told me that he wanted to give my website link to someone but he was just too confused about which one was best. 

If my own dad is confused then it’s time to get some clarity. 

I spent a lot of time thinking about what to do about the two sites. At one point I considered getting a whole new website, but in the end decided I didn’t want to start over from scratch. 

So, after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to have only one website and the one that made the most sense was

Over the next few months we’ll be slowly moving the best articles from my blog to

I hope that by combining my two sites it will be a better resource for you! 

I have spent the past two months working with a designer to totally transform the new site. (It really needed an update, something my dad also informed me of). And for the past several weeks my husband has been working non-stop to get it all programmed. If you know Xavier you know he’d rather be in the woods or tanning hides. I am so grateful for his work! 

So there you have it! Admittedly this is a bit bittersweet because I love my blog. My blog was 100% me. I did the design, 95% of the photos are mine, the writing (for better or for worse) was mine and I’ve handled everything on that site now for 8 years. What’s more is I’ve cherished all the support I’ve gotten from so many of you with your comments and shares. 

However, I am very excited to have one website and I am committed to continually improve that site so that it is an increasingly valuable resource for you all. 

Please come check out the new site! 

Also I have a gift for you all! 

I wrote a new ebook: Top 3 Herbs For Your Health. 
Visit to get your free copy.  

Thanks for reading about this transition. I really wanted to share my story with you and thank you for supporting this blog over the years. It’s an honor to be an herbalist and I am privileged to share that journey with you. 


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Herbal Intensive in the Methow Valley

Last year 19 people from around the world traveled to take a week long herbal intensive with me in the south of France. 

We had an amazing time. 

Which got me to thinking... I live in one of the most beautiful places in North America. I could invite people to do the same thing in my own valley! 

In July of this year I am hosting an herbal intensive for herbalists who want to learn more about using herbs for chronic diseases. 

We will cover important topics in the classroom (including tongue and pulse diagnosis), explore the beauty of this amazing valley and we'll even make beautiful floral scarves and learn about growing medicinal herbs organically.


I also have a brand new ebook for you! 

You can download your copy of 6 Medicinal Plants of the Methow Valley when you sign up to hear more about the course. 

Does spending a week learning about herbs in a beautiful location sound fun to you? If so, I hope you'll join me. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Nutmeg Benefits: Medicinal Properties of Nutmeg

If a person eats nutmeg, it will open up his heart, make his judgment free from obstruction, and give him a good disposition. 
Hildegard von Bingen writing about the benefits of nutmeg
around 1151 AD

What is nutmeg?

In the Far East islands of Banda, once called the Spice Islands, a pigeon devours a fleshy cream-colored fruit along with the large seed inside of it. This aromatic seed remains unharmed and is eventually deposited into the surrounding lush tropical forests. 

The seed germinates in the rich volcanic soil and a tree begins to emerge. If this dioecious seed is female, it will produce its first fruit within 9–12 years. It produces about 2,000 fruit per year after about 20 years. Eventually the tree will reach to around 20 feet high and live for 3 quarters of a century. 

Banda Islands where nutmeg grows in its native habitat

When you hold nutmeg in your hand, you are truly holding a special treasure. That sweet and aromatic spice is often taken for granted as a “pumpkin” spice to be used occasionally in baking during the holidays. But the nutmeg tree and its fruit is a powerful medicinal herb. 

Nutmeg has a rich and sometimes sad history. Its fruit, seed, and mace have been highly prized as both food and medicine for thousands of years. Europeans became so obsessed with this plant that atrocities were committed and blood was shed. 

This article will briefly look at the troublesome history of nutmeg, nutmeg benefits, the medicinal properties of nutmeg and it will also answer some common questions about nutmeg. Does nutmeg make you sleep? How much nutmeg is safe?   

History of Nutmeg

Nutmeg grows natively in the Banda Islands, north of Australia. For thousands of years the Banda people harvested the fruits of the nutmeg tree to use the fruit, the mace, and the nutmeg seed as food and medicine. They also traded nutmeg extensively with surrounding islands. 

It’s easy to love this sweet and aromatic spice, and when it arrived in Europe through the spice route, Europeans fell head over heels for it. Not only did it taste delicious, it was believed to stop the plague and was used as a hallucinogen. 

When the European spice trade over land was stopped in 1453 (due to the successful siege of Constantinople by Mehmed II), the race to win the spice trade over the seas began. European countries braved the open sea to discover a route to the East Indies and the treasure of spices growing there. To get an idea of how lucrative this endeavor was, the price of nutmeg was so high in Europe, it is said that one small bag of nutmeg seeds could guarantee a life of retirement for a sailor. 

The Portuguese were the first to make it to the Banda Islands, but it would be the Dutch who would eventually take control of the islands through an ill-fated treaty and then horrific violence and force against the Banda people. 

Years later, after many battles had been fought, the Dutch would sit down with the British in 1667 to create a treaty to formally settle their differences. The Dutch wanted control of one of the small islands in the Banda Islands that the British had managed to gain control of. In return, the British wanted the island New Amsterdam located in the “new” Western world. The treaty was signed and that is how the British traded nutmeg for what is now called Manhattan. 

Much of the history I’ve read about nutmeg and the spice wars focuses on the skirmishes between European countries. But while Europeans were satisfying their greed, the Banda people were all but destroyed. Despite their resistance, they were overrun and scattered throughout Polynesia.

In time, the French were able to smuggle enough nutmeg seeds from the Banda Islands to grow their own nutmeg farms in tropical regions, thus breaking the Dutch monopoly. Today a lot of the nutmeg we buy in the US is grown in Grenada. 

Medicinal Properties of Nutmeg: Nutmeg Benefits

Nutmeg is commonly used as a culinary spice. The US imports many tons and millions of dollars of nutmeg from around the world. Most of this is ground and sold for use in baking, especially during the holidays. 

But nutmeg is more than a simple culinary spice. The benefits of nutmeg include reduced anxiety, sound sleep, better digestion, and help for colds and the flu. 

Nutmeg Seed vs. Mace

There are two spices that come from the nutmeg tree: mace and nutmeg

Mace is a beautiful and bright red skein located around the nutmeg seed. It is used in cooking and as a medicinal spice. 

Nutmeg is the brown seed located inside of the mace. This article is mainly focused on using the nutmeg seed. 

Does nutmeg make you sleep?

Nutmeg is one of our most powerful herbal sedatives. I learned how to use nutmeg for sleep from my mentor KP Khalsa and have used it to help countless people get reliable sleep. 

A folk remedy for sleep is warmed milk with nutmeg. Yum! 

However, when using nutmeg for serious insomnia, it’s used in larger amounts and in a specific way. 

Nutmeg takes 2–6 hours to go into effect, so it has to be taken hours before bedtime. The sedative effects of nutmeg last for 8 hours, so the effects need to go into place 8 hours before a person needs to be awake. If someone took nutmeg at 10 p.m. at night, then its effects could last well into the morning hours. 

The amount taken is anywhere from 1–10 grams. Because nutmeg can create unwanted effects at larger dosages, it’s important to start low and slowly increase the amount. 

Using nutmeg for insomnia can help to reset sleep patterns. However, there are usually other underlying reasons for the insomnia that also need to be addressed. 

Nutmeg Benefits: For Digestive Issues

Nutmeg is a warming and aromatic spice that can relieve many uncomfortable digestive symptoms. It’s commonly used for bloating and gas. It can also relieve diarrhea and is commonly used with children. 

Aromatic culinary spices used in our food are a wonderful way to prevent common digestive problems. Nutmeg can also be taken as an herbal chai mixed with other spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cloves to relieve digestive discomfort. 

Nutmeg Benefits: For Colds and the Flu

Several historical texts from the Eclectics mention using nutmeg to relieve cold and flu symptoms. I haven’t tried this myself, as I am more likely to reach for elderberry and garlic, but wanted to include this quote from Felter here. If you use nutmeg for colds or other upper respiratory symptoms, I’d love to hear about it in the comments! 

Grated upon a larded cloth and applied warm we have found it to give prompt and grateful relief in soreness of the chest attending an acute cold or the beginning of acute respiratory inflammation.
Harvey Wickes Felter
The Eclectic Materia Medica, 1922

Nutmeg Benefits: As an Aphrodisiac

Nutmeg is often called an aphrodisiac and is added in small amounts to herbal aphrodisiac potions. Aphrodisiac is a troublesome term since it can give the illusion that someone takes it and suddenly becomes the plot of a cheesy '80s film where they fall helplessly in love with the first person they see. 

In reality, an aphrodisiac can have many different methods to slightly influence a romantic evening. For example, someone who is really stressed and unable to relax might find a relaxing nervine to be an aphrodisiac because it relieves their tension. Someone who is suffering from chronic sleep debt and is tired all the time may find that an adaptogen helps them get the rest they need, leaving them more refreshed and open to expending energy in the bedroom. 

Nutmeg is a delicious herb that is also relaxing and calming. Don’t expect it to be the magical secret ingredient in your love potion; however, if someone has a lot of anxiety, stress, or perhaps insomnia, nutmeg may be able to support relaxation and sleep. Being well rested and calm can undoubtedly help to remove any physical barriers to sex. 

Or, as Hildegard von Bingen points out, nutmeg can get rid of bitterness in your heart and make you more pleasant and cheerful. 

Take some nutmeg and an equal weight of cinnamon and a bit of cloves, and pulverize them. Then make small cakes with this and fine whole wheat flour and water. Eat them often. it will calm all bitterness of the heart and mind, open your heart and impaired senses, and make your mind cheerful. 
Hildegard von Bingen
around 1151 AD

Nutmeg can also support male sexual health and has been used for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), impotence, and premature ejaculation. 

Like valerian, nutmeg is a versatile herb with many other benefits. It has been used in Ayurveda throughout the history of that healing system, for a diverse range of conditions. It is a warming agent, a good cardiovascular tonic, helps lower blood pressure, increases circulation and enhances digestion. It is also a useful tonic for men, recommended as part of treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), infertility, impotence and premature ejaculation. It has been used as an aphrodisiac.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa

Nutmeg Benefits: For Hypertension

Nutmeg has hypotensive abilities and can reduce blood pressure. I haven’t seen modern herbalists using nutmeg for that specific purpose. However, it is something to keep in mind when using medicinal amounts of nutmeg in someone who tends to have low blood pressure. 

Botanically Speaking

Nutmeg spice is the seed from the fruit of a large evergreen tree that grows in tropical regions. 

The tree has evergreen oblong leaves. 

The flowers are cream colored. 

The tree is dioecious, meaning it has both female and male plants. The female plants produce the cream-colored fruit. The fruit can be prepared and eaten. 

The delicate mace that surrounds the nutmeg seed can be dried and used as a spice and as medicine. 

The nutmeg seed is about the size of a rounded quarter, brown and hard. 

Few cultivated plants are more beautiful than nutmeg-trees. They are handsomely shaped and glossy-leaved, growing to the height of twenty or thirty feet, and bearing small, yellowish flowers. The fruit is the size and colour of a peach, but rather oval. It is of a tough fleshy consistence, but when ripe splits open, and shows the dark brown nut within, covered with the crimson mace, and is then a most beautiful object. Within the thin hard shell of the nut is the seed, which is the nutmeg of commerce. The nuts are eaten by the large pigeons of Banda, which digest the mace but cast up the nut with its seed uninjured.
Alfred Russel Wallace
December 1857, May 1859, April 1861

Uses of Nutmeg

Walk into any grocery store and you’ll find nutmeg in the spice rack. While this nutmeg may give your apple pie a nice taste, this isn’t medicinally potent nutmeg. 

If you want the best quality nutmeg, then buy the whole nutmeg seed and grate it up as needed. You can use a cheese grater for this or buy a specialty nutmeg grater

Uses of nutmeg

Once ground, nutmeg quickly loses its potency. I use up my freshly ground nutmeg immediately to within a week. 

If you don't want to deal with grating whole nutmeg, then I recommend buying high quality nutmeg powder from my affiliate partner, Mountain Rose Herbs. Buy it in small quantities and use it up quickly. 

In Chinese medicine nutmeg is commonly roasted, which is said to reduce any toxicity. 

Nutmeg is used in many sweet and savory dishes. It is traditionally drank in warm milk to promote sleep. 

How about a delicious nighttime drink for the fall, made from ½ water and ½ milk, boiled with ginger, cardamom and nutmeg?
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa

How much nutmeg is safe? 

I’m going to warn you about Googling information about nutmeg. What will quickly pop up are overblown news stories about teenagers using nutmeg to get high, which then lead reporters to describe nutmeg as being toxic. 

Nutmeg, like anything else in this world, can be toxic when taken in high enough dosages. Taking over 6 grams of nutmeg will be a powerful sedative. If you do this during waking hours, you may feel extremely fatigued. I’ve recommended up to 10 grams of nutmeg for insomnia and didn’t see any ill effects (besides the much-needed sedation). The Botanical Safety Handbook does not recommend over 5 grams. This doesn’t match my personal experience with this herb, but I do think it is wise to be cautious with large dosages unless working with an experienced practitioner. 

Taking as much as 30 grams or 1 ounce of nutmeg can bring on uncomfortable symptoms, including vomiting, headache, and hallucinations. The last reported death from nutmeg poisoning was in 1908 (Botanical Safety Handbook). 

I do not recommend medicinal doses of nutmeg during pregnancy. I have seen nursing moms take medicinal doses of nutmeg without any problems, but nutmeg has not been proved safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. 

Medicinal Properties of Nutmeg


Nutmeg is a humble-looking brown seed with a delicious sweet and aromatic taste. It can be used in sweet and savory dishes, from garam masala to eggnog to pumpkin bread. 

Nutmeg is also an important medicinal spice most notably used to address a variety of digestive complaints and insomnia. 

Hundreds of years ago, the fervor around nutmeg was so strong that Europeans fought battles and braved the high seas for control over this tree and its fruit. It’s an amazing treasure to hold fair trade, organic nutmeg in my hand and think about all the lives lost and the riches won over this humble little seed. 

Banda Islands, home of the nutmeg tree. 

Further Resources 
  • The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Michael Tierra and Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa
  • American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook
  • Physica by Hildegard von Bingen
  • The Eclectic Materia Medica by Harvey Wickes Felter (1922)

This article was originally written for 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Best Earl Grey Tea

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Giving Credit and Citing Sources

Lately I’ve been asked by several people about the correct way to cite sources or provide references within herbal articles. 

While I don’t feel like I am the most qualified person to answer this I thought I would take a stab at it. I would love to hear other’s comments below or in their own blog posts. 

First I would like to break this up into two different categories. 

1. Citing sources when writing a book or a professional article (such as for the JAHG)
2. Citing sources in more informal circumstances such as blog posts, class materials/handouts, etc. 

The method of citations in professional circumstances is usually determined by the publication itself. They will provide you with citation guidelines such as which citation format to use. In these types of publications citations will be more frequent. You’ll need to provide citations for any claims you make, any studies you reference or any material that is not strictly your own. 

For the purposes of this article I am going to focus on more informal circumstances since this is what most commonly effects the herbalists I work with. 

Here are four things that need to be cited. 

  • Ideas and concepts learned from other sources. 
  • Quotes
  • Recipes
  • Any claims about herbs. (For example, instead of merely writing “studies show,” provide citations to specific studies.)

Why should you provide citations at all? 

If you look around at the majority of herbal articles written by grassroots herbalists you’ll see that citations and references are few and far between. Is it even necessary? 


Here are some important reasons why citations are important. 

1. Honoring and respecting other herbalists

Citing or referencing the original source who inspired you or who you have learned from is a way to honor and respect that source of information. 

Sometimes people may feel that saying they learned something from somewhere else puts them in a bad light. Not at all! First of all we all learned everything somewhere. None of us were born knowing any facts about herbalism or any recipes or any diagnostics. We all had to learn this from somewhere, whether that be another herbalist, a medical researcher or a plant! 

Taking the time to acknowledge our teachers is a way to honor and respect them. I love to remember my teachers while I am teaching and writing. It gives me a sense of purpose and helps remind me that I am part of a greater whole. I don’t stand alone, I am standing on the shoulders of my own teachers. 

2. You’ll be taken more seriously. 

Are you trying to change people’s opinions? To help them see the value of medicinal herbs? 

Writing an article with a lot of claims about medicinal herbs, but without supporting evidence, will make people question the validity of what you are saying. 

3. Not citing materials reflects poorly on your integrity

Whether you are doing it out of ignorance or maliciousness, repeating information that you learned from someone else or using other people’s recipes without referencing that original source makes you look dishonest and unethical. 

4. It helps prevent “herban legends”

The act of questioning long held-assumptions by looking for proof can help prevent herbal myths. 

It has been a common occurrence that myths about herbs get repeated over and over because no one has stepped in to question the validity of the statement. An example of this is goldenseal. You will commonly hear that goldenseal is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is good for colds and the flu. Yikes! 

In his stellar book on Echinacea and Goldenseal Paul Bergner writes extensively about why goldenseal is not an antibiotic. He cites traditional sources as well as modern day studies to prove his point. I wonder, would goldenseal have been as unethically over-harvested if it hadn’t been wrongly portrayed as a “broad-spectrum antibiotic?” 

5. Using copyrighted information without citations can violate copyright laws. 

Up until now I’ve focused on why you may choose to cite something based on your integrity and respect for other herbalists. But the fact of the matter is that a lot of information is copyrighted. Using copyrighted information as your own is against the law. This most often refers to printed materials such as books and magazine articles as well as electronic information, including ebooks and even blog posts. 

How do you know you need to cite another herbalist or source? 

Knowing when it is necessary to provide citations can be somewhat of a judgement call. 

Some knowledge is considered general knowledge that wouldn’t need to be attributed to one single person. For example, you might say in an article that rose hips are high in vitamin C. If this were an informal article you probably wouldn’t need to cite that since that information is readily found anywhere. If this were a more scientific or professional article you may want to cite a study showing this to be true. 

I cite herbalists when I know I learned that specific piece of information from them whether that is an idea or concept. I also attribute direct quotes and give credit for recipes…

What about recipes? 

Basic recipes such as how to make a syrup, an elixir or tincture don’t need to be cited. 

If you are using someone’s specific recipe then you need to give credit and you may possibly need permission. 

There’s a general rule of thumb that if you dramatically change a recipe in three ways then it can become “yours” and no citation is needed. However, if you are highly inspired by someone’s herbal recipe then it’s just good manners to say “This was inspired by…”

How do you cite sources? 

Specific formats
As a reminder, there are specific sets of guidelines for citations in every profession. The APA format is specifically for behavioral sciences but is a popular and easy to follow format. You can see a tutorial of the APA format here.  

Another popular style is the MLA. This is commonly used in the liberal arts and humanities. You can read more about this style here

Need help with formatting your citation? Herbalist and friend Victoria Debra Bray told me about this citation machine which helps you generate citations within a certain format.  

I cite sources informally by citing the person and, if applicable, the article, book, study or course where that specific information is included. I generally cite this within the article as well as at the end in a resources section. Keep in mind that this is truly informal and is not up to professional standards. 

Attribution of Quotes
If you are quoting someone word for word then you’ll need to attribute that quote. This applies whether or not the quote comes from an article or book or from a personal conversation. Here’s a guide on quote attribution in the MLA style. 

Can you copy and paste entire articles or blog posts onto your own website as long as you give credit? 


There are two reasons why you should never copy and paste entire blog posts and put them on your own blog or website. 

The first reason is that it is illegal to take an entire article and copy and paste it somewhere else, even if you provide a link back to the original source. It violates copyright law. 

The second reason is that this really doesn’t help you and can actually hinder you as far as search engines go. Search engines have little bots running around to determine how far up sites should rank in their search engines. If you have duplicated content on your site then search engines will penalize you by putting your site lower on the search engine rankings. Unfortunately, if you steal my entire articles/blog posts for your own site we both get penalized. 

If you really want to share someone’s article on your own website the best thing to do is include a paragraph to introduce the article along with a link back to the entire original article. 


Providing citations and resources within your herbal articles is a way to show respect to your teachers and substantiate any claims you make. Besides showing personal integrity, citations also mean that you can avoid plagiarism of copyrighted materials, which can become a legal matter. 

For most grassroots herbalists, using informal citations will probably suffice; however, I could see a good argument for adopting professional standards, especially for those who want to be seen as professionals. 

Resources and citations

Echinacea and Goldenseal by Paul Bergner

Monday, November 10, 2014

Orange Elecampane Bitters Recipe

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