February 8, 2019


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...

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 ...

November 4, 2016

Ryan Potvin is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist in Seattle with whom I've shard many a multiple hour nerdy discussion about the finer points of traditional diagnosis and herbal applications. I like this post of his so much that I asked him if I could post it here. He's available for appointments at The Rainbow Natural Health Clinic in Capitol Hill.

Autumn is a season marked by transformation and change. As we transition out of summer into shorter days the transformation can be felt in the crisp and cooling air and seen in the changing color of the leaves. The autumn season correlates to the Lung organ system in Chinese medicine. Our lungs are certainly affected by the change in climate as the season settles in. We begin seeing shorter days, colder temperatures, and an increase in wind and rain. This is a vulnerable time of the year for the lungs and is a season when many of us become susceptible to respiratory infections. All of a sudden we are raiding our cabinets for immune supp...

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Adiantum School Blog

A blog about herbal medicine, wildcrafting and natural health.