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. 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Nutmeg Benefits: Medicinal Properties of Nutmeg

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DIY: Calendula Herbal Body Butter

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Best Earl Grey Tea

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Giving Credit and Citing Sources

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Orange Elecampane Bitters Recipe

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ginger Tea Benefits

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Ashwagandha Benefits

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Parsley Benefits: More than a simple garnish

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Skullcap Herb: A restorative relaxing nervine

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Benefits of Coriander

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Violet Herb - A guest post by jim mcdonald

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Black Pepper: A Powerful Medicinal Spice

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Licorice Herb - Our Sweet Tonic

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Making Sense of Herbal Measurements

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Usnea: A Powerful Herb for Infections

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Friday, October 11, 2013

6 Reasons Why Herbalists Should Study the Taste of Herbs

The taste of herbs is a facet of herbalism that has intrigued me for several years. I began teaching about the Taste of Herbs three years ago with presentations alongside Michael Tierra and I’ve taught an introductory course at herbal conferences across north America.   

After several years of exploring the taste of herbs I am still completely fascinated with this sensorial exploration! I’ve even created an entire course exploring these concepts in depth. 

You can download your free copy of the Taste of Herbs Flavor Wheel and learn more about my upcoming course at

What is the Taste of Herbs?

Exploring herbs through the sense of taste is a traditional tool that has been used for as long as we can imagine. Before microscopes, petri dishes and isolated chemical constituents, taste was a practical tool to give someone insight into how to use an herb. 

This practice is still very much alive in traditional methods of herbalism. If you were to study herbs from an Ayurvedic or Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective you would find that taste is an important part of studying herbs and their methods of use. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are five tastes. 

In Ayurveda there is a sixth taste, astringent. (In Traditional Chinese Medicine astringent is considered to be a part of the sour taste.) 

For me, studying the taste of herbs is two-fold. On the one hand it is a theory that has been passed down through many generations and it is something that can be memorized to gain a deeper understanding of herbs and how they work. 

But taste isn’t something that should be learned from book study alone! Our own subjective experience of taste is just as important to explore. As Paul Bergner recommends: to be a master herbalist in thirty years or more, taste an herb every day. 

Here are my six top reasons why herbalists should study the Taste of Herbs! 

1.Tasting herbs is about connection

Taste can give us a strong visceral connection with plants that goes beyond memorizing what books say or even what our teachers say. 

Our senses - taste, feel, smell, listen - are powerful ways in which we make sense of our world. They help us to take in information, record that information and learn.

Ever have a sense of smell immediately evoke strong memories? 

Ever hear a song that instantly brings you back to a particular time in your life?

How about the taste of comfort food? A favorite family recipe? 

These experiences of the senses strongly transport us to another place and time. 

They present another way of knowing that strongly activates the mind. We can easily forget something we read in a book one time, but once you really connect with a plant through the sense of taste you’ll never forget it.  

2. The Taste of Herbs is key to understanding Herbal Energetics

In my opinion, one of the reasons herbalism is such a powerful form of medicine is that it matches herbs to people instead of diseases. As herbalists we don’t diagnose eczema or fibromyalgia or heartburn and then give herbs to match those diseases. That is more the realm of western medicine. 

Instead, we seek to understand the person and their underlying imbalances and skillfully match herbs, diet and lifestyle suggestions to help them create health from the inside out. 

When using herbs in this way they go beyond being “herbs for eczema” and, instead, become a powerful tool to help someone discover and resolve the root cause of their health problems. 

Does the person have too much heat? Cold? Is there too much dryness or moisture? 

Once we understand the person, we can then match herbs to the person. 

Warming herbs can be given to help someone who has too much coldness. Cooling herbs can be given for someone with too much heat. 

How do we know if an herb is warming or cooling? 

By taste and taste sensations. 

I know you already know this! 

On a hot summer’s day do you reach for a steaming hot bowl of chili? Or watermelon? 

On a brisk fall day do you want an iced smoothie or a warm drink? 

The taste of herbs is like an herbal decoder ring for understanding herbal energetics. With this knowledge you can be more confident and effective when choosing herbal remedies. 

3. How potent is an herb?

I often hear people ask about the potency of an herb. The classic example is someone finding a long-lost jar of herbs on their back shelf and wanting to know whether it is still good. 

Since there isn’t really a broadly accepted “due date” on herbs, the best way to tell is by using our senses. If you know how the herb tastes when it is vibrant and potent herbal medicine, then you can do a taste comparison to tell if you can use your forgotten herb with confidence or if it is too far past its prime.

You can also use the sense of taste to determine if the herbs you harvested from your garden are more or less potent than the herbs you bought online or the herbs you wildcrafted. 

I love being able to taste an herb or an herbal preparation and know by taste alone whether or not it is going to be powerful medicine. 

4. If it is the right herb

Most of the time we confidently know which herb we have. Perhaps we harvested it ourselves using our plant ID skills, or it came fully labeled from a reputable company. Sometimes we can simply use our eyes to know that yes, this is really chamomile. 

But this isn’t always the case. The majority of herbal safety problems comes from adulterated herbs. This is where someone has substituted a more readily available herb that looks similar to the one desired. Skullcap being adulterated with germander is a key example.

Powdered herbs can be difficult to recognize by sight alone. Knowing the taste of an herb can help you to really know that the powdered herbs you get are the ones you ordered. 

Another way you can use taste to know if it is the right herb is fairly obscure. I am sure this would never apply to anyone reading this. But let’s just say that perhaps someone, at sometime, forgot to label one of their herbs or herbal preparations. If they intimately know the taste of herbs then they’ll be able to tell if that green jar of tincture is California Poppy or Skullcap. (Note: this is for example purposes only and has, of course, never happened to me.) 

5. Commonalities between species

Another frequent question people have is whether they can use a plant with the same genus, but different species, in a similar way. 

What about plantains? Can Plantago lanceolata be used similarly to Plantago major

Can Rosa rugosa be used like Rosa nootka

Can common mallow (Malva neglecta) be used like marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)? 

One way to tell the difference is by taste! 

Do they taste the same? Do they feel the same in your body? 

6. Differences between species or even plant parts

Just as the taste of an herb can tell us if two similar herbs can be used in the same way, the taste of herbs can tell us if they are different. 

Is Monarda dydima similar to Monarda fistulosa? Or is Holy Basil similar to culinary basil? The answer to this is fairly obvious once you know their taste. 

The taste of herbs can also gives us insight into whether different parts of a plant can be used in similar ways. For example, can elecampane flowers be used like elecampane root? What’s the difference between valerian flowers and valerian root? 

Understanding how the taste of herbs can be used in theory and in practice provides herbalists with a practical tool that they can use every day. Not only can it increase your confidence and effectiveness when choosing herbal remedies, it can also bring herbs to life through a sensorial and visceral connection to the plants. 

You can download your free copy of the Taste of Herbs Flavor Wheel and learn more about my upcoming course at 

As in ancient times, herbalists would do well to continue to rely upon their trained senses and experience to properly assess the therapeutic nature of plants, and among the different faculties there is perhaps no equal to the perception of taste. 

Used by every system of traditional medicine, taste figures prominently in the practice of herbal medicine, providing immediate insight into the properties and uses of medicinal plants.

Todd Caldecott

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hyssop: An Herbalist's Perspective

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

What herb is good for _______ disease?

Lady's Mantle with rain drops
I recently published an article about using herbs for uterine fibroids. The intent of my article was not a DIY or how-to sort of article, but was written to give someone an idea about the complexities of how herbalism approaches chronic disease. 

After it was published I became inundated with questions and statements such as the following. 

“I have fibroids. Should I take both Lady’s Mantle and yarrow for my fibroids? Or just one of them?” 

“I took yarrow for fibroids and it didn’t work so I had a hysterectomy. Too bad herbs don’t work.” 

“This article has some information but doesn’t give a step-by-step guide on how to treat your own fibroids.” 

Today, in North America, people often don’t fully understand what herbalism is. Many people still mistakenly believe that herbalism is simply using herbs instead of using drugs. Sometimes I forget this (being so immersed in the herbal world myself) but these questions definitely woke me up! 

This article is another attempt on my part to explain what herbalism is, how it differs from western medicine and why there is no one herb for chronic disease. 

I’ve written another similar article on this topic which you can read here: 9 Reasons Why Herbs Don’t Work. 

Western Medicine Approach

Here is a classic example of how western medicine operates. 

A person has a health problem so they go to see their doctor. The doctor either uses clinical observation or a series of lab tests to determine the name of the illness. The doctor then diagnoses the illness and prescribes the drug that is used to suppress that illness. (I say suppress because western medicine drugs rarely cure disease, instead they suppress symptoms of a disease. There are exceptions of course.) 

A lot of people tend to think that herbalism is choosing to use herbs rather than pharmaceuticals for the disease the doctor has diagnosed. 

This results in the classic question of: I have ________ disease, what herb is good for that? 

If someone is the DIY type and they are diagnosed with eczema, they might pick up an herbal book, check the glossary for “eczema herbs” and attempt to use the herbs listed instead of taking drugs. 

Sometimes this works! 

Sometimes it doesn’t. The more complex the disease, the less likely this will work. 

What is Herbalism? 

Herbalism has been practiced in some form or another for countless hundreds of thousands of years. There is no one way to practice herbalism, instead there are many traditions with their own diagnostic methods and their own materia medica. 

Because the theory and practice of herbalism predates western medicine by thousands of years, it does not have a developed practice around using herbs for western medicine diseases. 

This is my big take home point. 

Herbalism is a system of healing entirely separate from western medicine. It not only uses plants (instead of drugs) but has a completely different diagnostic system. 

(Of course that is changing now as people are working to integrate the two, but this is a very recent phenomenon.) 

Therefore, that classic question: I have ______ disease, what herb is good for that? does not really exist within a traditional herbalist's repertoire. 

Depending on the type of herbalism studied, a person can learn various diagnostic patterns and techniques. Once a person is immersed in that system, a simple western medicine diagnosis of fibroids can be helpful, but is still very limited information! 

Choosing one or two herbs based on that diagnosis is rarely going to produce effective results. 

When to seek out additional help? 

Herbalism is often called the people’s medicine. As it should be! Here in the United States we still have access to commercial herbs and many medicinal plants grow around us. Herbs can be safe, cheap and effective. 

I believe it is a human right to understand how to use herbs for every day ailments. From tummy aches to simple injuries to aches and pains, herbs can also be simple and safe to use. 

However, if you have a complex chronic disease that you would like to use herbs for, then you will probably need additional help from someone who has the training and experience to work with chronic health problems. 

If you want to help people with complex chronic diseases then you will need to seek out advanced clinical training. Simple articles on the internet, even if written by yours truly, are not a good substitute. 

Trying an herb at random for a complex disease, not getting results, and then declaring “herbs don’t work” is not an actual reflection of herbs or herbalism. 

Most clinical herbalists go to years of study and training before they start working in-depth with people and herbs. I myself have over 8 years of herbal education under my belt. I promise you I didn’t spend all that time learning how to look up herbs for diseases in an index! 

When I work with people who have chronic disease I spend hours working with that person. I create an integrated plan that can be implemented over time. Depending on the unique situation, that person may need to change their diet, their lifestyle, adopt a broader range of healing mechanisms (from yoga to massage to fewer work hours, etc) as well as take a continually evolving collection of herbs. 

As you can imagine it's difficult to sum that up in a quick conversation about "what herb is good for that?" 

While there may be herbs that I commonly use for certain western diseases, I never have a cookie-cutter approach. Instead, herbs and other recommendations are chosen for the individual, not the disease. 


We live in a western medicine culture and can easily identify with terms like fibroids or eczema or fibromyalgia. And indeed, when doctors diagnose someone with these diseases it can be a helpful starting point for the herbal practitioner. 

And when I write articles, I use western medicine terms because people can identify with them. If I wrote articles on Natural Solutions for Kidney Yang Deficiency or how to dissolve stagnant phlegm in the lower burner, very few people would actually read them. 

However, herbalists work outside of western medicine. We do not diagnose western medicine diseases nor do we prescribe medicines for western diseases. Some may find this to be a limitation but I do not. When it comes to chronic disease, traditional herbal practices generally outshine western medicine in their ability to actually address the root causes of a problem (rather than simply suppress them). 

As herbalism continues to grow I hope that more people have this greater understanding of the differences between western medicine and herbalism. It’s up to us as herbalists to keep spreading the word! 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Meadowsweet Herb: Queen of the Meadow

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