August 27, 2019

Chinese name: Bai shao

Latin name: Peonia lactiflora

Organ affinities: liver

Flavor and temperature: bitter, sour, sweet, cool, slightly astringent.

TCM Actions: builds liver blood, subdues liver yang, restrains the yin, softens the liver

White peony root (bai shao) is the peeled root of the Peonia lactiflora plant. Chi shao is the root of the same plant, but is unpeeled and thus red in color, and has slightly different uses. In this article I'm talking about white peony root. White peony root is sometimes prepared in different ways (ie stir fried), which all have slightly different uses or affinities. It's typical for Chinese herbs to be prepared in some way. For our purposes, raw white peony root works just fine, and is the most typically seen on the market.

I really enjoy looking from the perspective of individual herbs and what specific lessons they carry. White peony teaches us many different things, the first of which is the importance of well nourished liver blood for a well functioni...

April 25, 2019

This crumble is a simple and delicious way to use lots of Japanese knotweed! It tastes just like rhubarb apple crumble. The shoots in the picture are the maximum size to harvest. We peeled them and removed the leaves to use them in the crumble. A vegetable peeler works best for this. You should harvest them when they are 1-2 feet tall, and I always prefer to harvest the fattest ones I can find for minimum peeling effort. Some people harvest thinner ones and don't peel them, but the peel can be fibrous just like rhubarb, and I am not a fan of that texture.

Many wild foods require some type of preparation (such as cooking or boiling and discarding water) in order to disarm toxic compound and make them safe to eat. In the case of knotweed, it is recommended to eat only when young, and is usually cooked to reduce the oxalic acid content. The young stalk can be peeled and eaten raw in small amounts if you sprinkle it with salt, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then rinse. This was taught to me...

February 8, 2019

Mullein

Verbascum thapsus


INTRO: Mullein is a fuzzy-leaved, weedy plant that has a rich history of use dating back to the greeks (Dioscorides wrote about it!). The leaf is most often used, and it is known mostly for its action on the lungs, and can even be smoked. It is incredibly abundant in Washington, and is a fantastic and gentle medicine. I have put together a description of Mullein viewed from a Chinese medicine framework, and the unique insights that can be gained from that approach. I have attempted to use language that is accessible to those without a background in Chinese Medicine. I have also included some information on western usage. Enjoy!

PREPARATION: Hot water infusion of leaf is preferred, tincture is also used. When making the tea, be sure to strain carefully as the hairs often get into the tea and can irritate the throat. 

HABITAT: Mullein grows in eastern and western Washington, enjoying the side of the highway, abandoned vacant lots and former forest fire ar...

February 7, 2019

I've recently been suffering from restless leg syndrome and I can't tell you how annoying it is! My heart goes out to those who suffer this for many years. As with anything that happens to me, I turn to herbs, and I have found some very effective solutions and wisdom I'd like to share.

Restless leg syndrome, and many muscle spasms for that matter, is often due to liver wind (a metaphorical term from Chinese medicine). The "wind" we are referring to here does not mean the wind that knocks trees over, though it does share some characteristics with that type of wind. Almost no name in Chinese medicine is arbitrary, many of which create metaphorical imagery to help us understand the body in more poetic terms. 

The liver controls "the sinews" which refers to the tendons, ligaments and to some extent, the muscles and nerves. That means that those tissues rely on nourishment from the liver to remain healthy. This makes a lot of sense from a western context, as glycogen is stored in th...

October 28, 2018

Over the years I have boldly experimented with many herbs and encountered many uncomfortable feelings. Like the time I drank blue vervain tea that was too strong and nearly threw up at work, or that other time when I took 30 drops of blackberry root tincture and was constipated for three days. Finally, it occurred to me that I could compile a list of all these symptoms to help you all out, and perhaps get a better idea of what you're doing so you don't repeat my mistakes.

That said, this is not an exhaustive list and was made purely from my own brain. Please enjoy imagining my comedic discomfort and learn from MY mistake rather than your own.

Negative symptoms that might occur when taking herbs

(dose is too high, to frequent, wrong herb, wrong order of operations)

  • Aching kidneys

    • Some diuretic herbs when used excessively over a long period (or short period) of time may deplete kidneys of their “yin” component, thereby making them dry and achey (dandelion)

    • Some herb...

January 21, 2018

This recipe is a synthesis of two different formulas that I came across. A sort of East-meets-West you might say. One is dit dat jow, which is a Chinese martial arts formulas used for impact injuries (thus the Safflower and Frankincense) and different western connective tissue injury combinations (thus the Soloman's seal, comfrey root, witch hazel and rosemary). I chose Safflower oil as a base because it also helps "move the blood" which is an action you want when healing an injury.

This formula is most applicable for bruises and injuries where there is damaged capillaries and or connective tissue. Acute injuries should be past the initial hot swelling stage (first 48 hours or more depending on the severity of the injury). For example, I would ABSOLUTELY use this salve on a lingering tendon injury in the finger, OR 48 hours after rupturing a tendon in your hand. During the first stage of swelling, other herbs like arnica are more appropriate, as well as cold compresses. I woul...

November 18, 2017

The four elements (Earth, Water, Air and Fire) are a metaphor for different types of energy in our lives that act in observable patterns. They can manifest on many levels, from singing a song to eating a bowl of soup. Every thought, every action, every exposure and everything we consume all has an elemental action, either increasing or decreasing. Using this metaphor can help us understand what we need more or less of in our lives, and how we can get it.

In cold and damp weather, it becomes increasingly important to proactively bring the fire into your life, which brings hot and dry energy to counteract the cold and damp. Many people find themselves having poor circulation, poor digestion and low energy this time of year, which is a direct result of the weather. 

Think of this game as putting things on the other side of a balancing scale: too much will tip the scale and create imbalance in the fire element. Moderation is key.

The first and easiest way to cultivate fire is physic...

September 4, 2017

The face doesn't lie, or at least according to traditional assessment techniques. Where you're breaking out, where you have lines, and the general moisture and temperature of your skin are all reflections of the complex workings of your body. Naturally, the best way to have glowing skin is to have glowing insides. Of course, life presents many barriers on this road to inner enlightenment, and thus originates the search for outer beauty without inner perfection. There are many tools that I have found in my journey as an herbalist that I feel passionate about sharing.

1. FACE HYDROTHERAPY

Hydrotherapy is, in a nutshell, blood circulation regulation and capillary exercise. It is incredible medicine for the skin, which requires nourishment and waste excretion to be healthy, both of which require good circulation. There are different ways of applying it, but some basic principles:

Hot water (or wet hot towel) drives blood to the surface of the body. It turns your skin red, and opens the p...

August 7, 2017

When the weather gets this hot no one wants to drink a hot cup of tea, but who said you have to make tea hot?! Cold infusions, though not effective extraction for all herbs, can be really fantastic and markedly different from hot infusions.

Making a cold infusion is as simple as pouring water from the tap (room temperature) over dried herbs in a jar/ pitcher, and putting the it in the fridge overnight. recommend at least 6 hours of steeping time. Strain it into a glass and drink. Some people might like sweetener added, which is fine. Note that most sweeteners are less soluble in cold liquid. I store it in the fridge throughout this process to prevent bacterial proliferation. If not consumed within three days, time to dump it and start a new batch.

Nettle  leaf

Nettle makes a deep emerald green cold infusion, especially if left to sit for 12 hours or more in the fridge. Nettle is mineral rich, diuretic and mildly stimulating. It's important to drink water in addition to diur...

January 27, 2017

Have you ever gone to take your shoes off after a walk in the park to notice that the soles are covered with orange sticky buds? Those are cottonwood buds, and they a medicinal favorite. Incidentally, those are also the trees that release a ridiculous amount of fluff in the spring that accumulates in the gutters to look like snow. The season for harvesting those wonderfully sticky buds is here yet again, and I am currently brimming with enthusiasm for the indispensable medicine they offer.

Finding and Identifying:

Scan the skyline and look for incredibly tall, naked, white barked trees. The bark will have black scars on it. Also, inspect the ground to see if there are large, waxy heart shaped leaves. Finally, the branches should have fat buds. The buds should smell very aromatic. If you pull a bud from the tip of a branch, there should be orange resin inside (note that not ALL buds contain resin, only the leaf buds do).

Cottonwood is a common name which refers to some members of the ...

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Adiantum School Blog

A blog about herbal medicine, wildcrafting and natural health.