How we find it: St. John’s Wort

At Herb Pharm, we use St. John’s Wort flowering tops, sustainably-wildcrafted from its wild habitat. But what does that mean? And how do people even find St. John’s Wort anyway?

Let’s start with some definitions. Sustainably wildcrafted means we don’t grow the plant on a farm; it’s picked from the wild. And it’s picked in a way that leaves plant populations safe for future generations.

We use a lot of St. John’s Wort. It’s in formulas like Good MoodTM, Nervous System TonicTM, Trauma OilTM, Inflamma ResponseTM, VirattackTM, Soothing Throat SprayTM, and well you get the idea. We need lots of St. John’s Wort every year.

So how do you get St. John’s Wort from the wild?

The easy answer is that we work with talented, dedicated wildcrafters we trust to find the plants, harvest them and deliver them to us each year. For the long answer, we head out into the wilds of Southern Oregon. Here’s what it’s like to commercially wildcraft St. John’s Wort for a single day. Continue reading “How we find it: St. John’s Wort”

Do you promise to give the Skullcap and only the Skullcap?

Skullcap is not a liar. No herb is. But you’re forgiven if you have trust issues with it. Actually, these issues are why we grow it ourselves. So we can keep an eye on it, and make sure it doesn’t get mixed up with bad company. Make sure our Skullcap supply is pure and never adulterated.

You see, Skullcap has a long history of adulteration. For more than 25 years, the American Botanical Council has tracked incidents of dried Skullcap getting sold mixed with a type of Germander. What’s worse, this Germander is considered a liver toxin. As a result, Skullcap has been falsely implicated in liver dysfunction cases.

Clearly, this is unacceptable. So we did something about it.

Continue reading “Do you promise to give the Skullcap and only the Skullcap?”

Smells delightful. Tastes bitter. Let’s break it down.

Think of a time when you could smell home cooking from another room. The aromas drifting out of the kitchen. The scent of simmering garlic maybe, or of herbs like Rosemary and Thyme. The promise of a warm, delicious meal prepared with love. Picture yourself walking into the kitchen, grabbing a wooden spoon and sneaking a taste. Now imagine a powerful bitter flavor washing over you. A desperate, mouth-puckering, need-a-glass-of-water bitter.

This is Wormwood. Smells delightful. Tastes bitter. Let’s break it down. Continue reading “Smells delightful. Tastes bitter. Let’s break it down.”

The Egyptians wrote about it. The Romans loved it. You probably own it. You just don’t know why.

GentianHerbalist or no, you probably have Gentian in your home. It’s in the pantry next to that weird bottle of alcohol you got as a gift and never opened. Can’t find it? Don’t worry. Gentian is in every bar in America, Europe or wherever you’re reading this. People take it for its flavor, but it’s not what you think. Continue reading “The Egyptians wrote about it. The Romans loved it. You probably own it. You just don’t know why.”

Rhodiola

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-golden-root-same-roseroot-aaron-s-rod-blossoms-image31085717Known as the “golden root,”  Chinese emperors and Scandinavian Vikings alike coveted this amazing, health-giving herb.  For centuries, Rhodiola has held a place in Asian and Scandinavian traditional medicine for enhancing strength and physical endurance, longevity and fertility. Over the past 30 years, numerous studies have been conducted in the former Soviet Union and Russia as well as Sweden, confirming these traditional uses, and more.

Rhodiola is an herb with a wide variety of uses in today’s hectic world of intense mental and physical stress. It is one of a class of herbs known as adaptogens; adaptogens these help us to adapt to non-specific mental, emotional and physical stress. A relative newcomer in the U.S. herb market, Rhodiola has begun is gaining more attention recently with features in Newsweek magazine and Herbalgram.

Rhodiola is a genus of the Crassulaceae, also known as the Sedum or Stonecrop family. The genus contains a number of species, spread throughout the northern hemisphere.  The species we use, Rhodiola rosea, is primarily (although not exclusively) native to Russia and Scandinavia.  It prefers high elevation, mountainous regions in latitudes above the Arctic Circle.  Extremely limited populations of R. rosea occur, however, in the northeastern U.S., Tennessee and North Carolina. Several other non-medicinal species occur in various regions of the U.S., including R. integrifolia in Oregon.

Common names for this herb include “golden root”, “rose root”, “rose stonecrop” and the genus name, Rhodiola. The plant itself is a small, succulent perennial from 12 to 30 inches tall when bearing its yellow flowers. The root is very thick and fleshy, smelling of rose attar when sliced. The delicious, rose-like fragrance of the root led to the specific name “rosea” as well as some of the common names.

Without painting Rhodiola as a panacea, it is important to recognize the broad application of an herb that can effectively help us to deal with non-specific stress. The stress of chronic overwork alone can have an impact on various aspects of our bodies and our lives, including sleep, appetite, mood, mental clarity and energy level.  Rhodiola is particularly well suited to deficient, stress-related states that manifest in disturbed sleep or sexual function, poor appetite or over-eating, irritability, depression, hypertension, headache, general fatigue or cardiac anomalies such as rapid heartbeat. Keep in mind that many of these conditions can be symptoms of more severe health problems, which you should discuss with your health-care practitioner.

The following bullet points highlight Rhodiola’s most important uses.

 • Adaptogenic; increases non-specific resistance (generalized adaptability) to chemical, biological and physical stressors

• Psychostimulant; increased mental ability, attention, clarity and learning

• Increased endurance and capacity for physical work or exercise

• Antioxidant; free-radical scavenging, reducing destructive reactions in the body that lead to disease

• Immune support when immunity is affected by stress

• Anti-depressive; improves gloomy moods and decreases depression

• Cardio-tonic; cardiac support and protection

• Support in fatigue, lassitude and altitude sickness

• Anti-hypoxia; increases oxygen absorption in the body

• Support in recovery from illness

• Support for stress-related reproductive syndromes

• Increased overall energy and general well being

Energetically, Rhodiola appears to be cooler than many of the better-known adaptogens such as Asian Ginseng.  It is a primary adaptogen for those who find these other herbs to be too heating or stimulating.  Rhodiola is suited to practical application in treating a number of sexually related conditions in men and women. Preliminary studies show positive effects in normalizing menstrual periods and supporting fertility in women.  It also appears to benefit long and short term memory, as well as activities requiring intense mental focus such as final exams.

Herb Pharm’s Rhodiola is a 1 : 5, weight to volume extract of wildcrafted root.  It bears a wonderfully rose-like fragrance and rather astringent taste.  Rhodiola combines well with other adaptogens and tonics such as the Ginsengs, Eleuthero, Schisandra, Maca, Ginkgo, Hawthorn and Ashwagandha.  Rhodiola is useful as a long-term tonic in the face of chronic or expected stress, or for improving overall health.  In acute stress, increase the dose for a day or two and then reduce it to a normal dosage level. We also have Rhodiola powdered extract in capsule form.

With such a broad range of application relevant to today’s stressful world, Rhodiola looks poised to become a significant adaptogen and tonic in Western herbal medicine.

Dandelion

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-dandelion-flowers-grass-image31064568(Taraxacum officinale)

Spring is a time of refreshing on many levels. It’s a time to open the windows and let cool, cleansing winds inside in place of winter’s lingering stuffiness. In folk healing, spring is associated with the liver, the major cleansing organ of the body. Traditionally, spring tonics are used to help refresh and invigorate the body by giving an extra boost to liver function. Oftentimes these tonics consist of bitter greens and freshly dug roots that are just awakening to the new season.

One perfect and common spring tonic is Dandelion. Although most people might not believe it when they look at their lawns, Dandelion is not a native of North America. Like many of our dominant weeds, it has naturalized here from Europe and Asia. It has spread so efficiently as to become one of the most widespread and easily recognized plants in the world. While Dandelion is an object of scorn for some, it is also a highly effective herbal medicine used in treatment of the liver and liver related disorders.

The name ‘Dandelion’ comes from the Latin ‘dens leonis,’ due to the fanciful resemblance of the leaf margin to a lion’s teeth. The flower, seed head and parachute-like seed tufts are familiar to us all. When cut, fresh Dandelion exudes bitter, milky latex, especially from the root. The bitter flavor is common to many liver herbs. Tasting bitter can activate the digestive system, including the liver, almost immediately. In many countries, a bitter aperitif such as Campari® is used to stimulate digestion before dinner. This practice is similar to using 15 drops of Gentian liquid extract in a little water before a meal. Regularly including ‘bitter’ flavor in our foods is a healthful practice in general and especially so for the overly sweet-oriented Western diet.

More commonly in Europe than in the U.S., Dandelion leaves (or greens) are eaten as a vegetable. Just make sure that your greens have not been sprayed or chemically fertilized. The taste is bitter, but very pleasing and a small amount of the greens in a salad can enhance digestion of an entire meal. Additionally, Dandelion greens are relatively high in beneficial nutrients. The leaf has a diuretic effect on the kidneys, increasing output of urine and elimination of metabolic wastes, including those excreted by the liver. The root has a greater effect on the liver and gall bladder, mildly stimulating liver activity and bile production. Increased bile production aids the cleansing action of the liver and in turn of the body. Combined, the whole plant has a detoxifying and alterative, or gentle, glandular corrective action. As a tonic, Dandelion is a wonderful way to rejuvenate the body and welcome spring.

Because the liver is responsible for hundreds of functions in the body, liver health is critical to our overall wellbeing. Conversely, herbs that support the liver can be used as direct or adjunct remedies in numerous conditions. Some of the most common liver related issues involve the skin, digestive system, female reproductive system and eyes. In many cases, Dandelion is used in conjunction with more system-specific herbs.

Herb Pharm’s Dandelion is cultivated on our certified organic farm and is harvested when the plants are starting to flower. Our Dandelion liquid extract is made from the fresh (undried), whole flowering plant with root. As a general spring tonic, take two 40-drop doses per day before meals. For a stronger cleansing effect, take up to 40 drops, four times per day. Start using bitterness along with the more common flavors and you’ll soon learn to enjoy it as a welcome addition to your meals.

Burdock

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABurdock Blend is one of a small category of Herb Pharm products called blends. These products derive their names by blending different parts of the same plant, in this case Burdock root and seed. Other blends include Hawthorn and Mullein, and although it is not labeled as a blend, Super Echinacea. The purpose of making a blend is to combine various plant parts, which may have different chemical characteristics or traditional uses. This creates an extract that represents more fully the effect of the plant. In some cases such as Dandelion this is done by harvesting the entire plant, thereby combining the root, leaf and flower in one extract. In Burdock Blend, the root and seeds are harvested in season and extracted separately. The extracts are then ‘blended’ to create the finished product.

Burdock (Arctium lappa) is native to Europe, but has become naturalized throughout the U.S. It grows in areas considered to be waste places, in other words areas where the native plants and soil have been
disturbed. The long leaves form out
of rosettes in its first year and in the second year the plant sends up a tall stalk bearing leaves and flowers. After flowering, seed heads are
covered with numerous stiff, hooked bracts
that cling stubbornly to clothes
and animals. It is said by some
that Burdock seed heads were the inspiration for Velcro™! However accurate that belief is, it is true to say that Burdock is considered a noxious weed by many of the farmers and ranchers who encounter it.

As a medicinal herb, Burdock is in a therapeutic class called alteratives, often referred to as “blood purifiers.” These herbs help to restore the normal function of the body through improving metabolism of nutrients and by increasing the elimination of wastes. Three of our main eliminatory organs are the skin, liver and kidneys, the organs that Burdock acts on most directly. Improving elimination of wastes by stimulating skin circulation and liver and kidney function reduces wastes in the blood. This is important because certain imbalances are aggravated or even caused by waste build up.

Burdock is bitter, and like other bitter herbs it stimulates liver activity. The seed has a stronger diuretic action than the root, stimulating excretion of urine. Burdock also has a mild diaphoretic effect, increasing circulation to the skin. Together, the seed and root stimulate major channels of elimination and make Burdock Blend especially effective in supporting various skin conditions.

Burdock also offers traditional support for joints and enhances immune system function. Its immune effect further aids Burdock’s ability to support the skin. The liver stimulating action exerts a very positive effect on digestion. Burdock is specifically indicated in dry, scaly skin conditions, urinary irritation and digestive complaints.

Burdock is a very safe herb. One form of Burdock root called Gobo is cultivated for use as a vegetable. The Botanical Safety Handbook 2 lists Burdock root and seed in class 1, meaning they have no known safety concerns under normal use, including use in pregnancy, nursing or with other medications. However, it would probably be advised to reserve Burdock Blend during pregnancy for reduced dosages in the last trimester only. The dose of Herb Pharm’s Burdock Blend is up to 40 drops, two to four times per day. When treating children be sure and adjust the dosage using Clark’s Rule.