Life at Herb Pharm – June 9

Life at Herb Pharm is a photo blog series with photos of the herbs and people that make Herb Pharm great.

Boi, Dana and Sabrina are harvesting Meadowsweet, which thrives in the moist conditions near the river on our farm. We hand select the best leaves in spring and return for the sweet-smelling flowers of early summer. Meadowsweet can be used to soothe minor pain*, and aspirin precursors were derived from this species.

Boi, Dana and Sabrina harvesting Meadowsweet.

To assist with the hard work of hand planting, we rely on our mechanical transplanter to save us some of the bending and kneeling. Here we’re at work planting Echinacea. We’ll let the plants grow for three years then harvest the roots in fall 2017. Echinacea is great for immune system support*.

Harvest team using the mechanical transplanter to plant Echinacea seeds.

Here’s our farm team, harvesting Stinging Nettle leaf by hand for fresh extraction. Stinging Nettle is most frequently used for respiratory system support*. Nettles grow abundantly in the cool, wet spring months here in the Pacific Northwest.

Farm team harvesting Stinging Nettle.

The California Poppies are in full bloom, and Luna can’t help but admire them. Their vibrant orange petals and pollen lend beauty to the farm. Can you pronounce their Latin name, Eschscholzia californica?

Luna admiring the California Poppies in the harvest truck.

Our harvest truck is filled with Celandine. A member of the poppy family, its tender tops exude an orange sap when broken. We wait until this hardy perennial fully blooms in May before we dig up the entire plant.

Celandine in the harvest truck.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Life at Herb Pharm – May 26

Life at Herb Pharm is a photo blog series with photos of the herbs and people that make Herb Pharm great.

By July, these young Calendula seedlings will provide thousands of yellow and orange flowers. We handpick the flowers when they’re at peak bloom, then we carefully air dry them to preserve their resinous oils.

Calendula seedlings sprouting.

Calendula seedlings in the greenhouse

It may look short now, but this plot of Goldenrod will get as high as its fellow prairie natives with proper tending. With the warming soil temperatures, as long as we keep the weeds away (and we will!) it’s just a matter of time before our Goldenrod grows tall.

Goldenrod growing in the field

These wispy flowers blowing in the wind are our Pulsatilla. To make sure we keep the most desirable traits of a plant from generation to generation, we hand collect seed from our favorite plants.

Pulsatilla flowers in the field

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Treat Your Kids to Better Health

It’s heart-wrenching when your child isn’t feeling his or her best. We get it. Unfortunately, there are certain things you just can’t make better with a kiss. For those times, we’ve created the Herb Pharm Kids Line.

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Our new Kids Line uses only those herbs that time and experience have shown to be safe and effective for children. The line includes:

* This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The line has begun shipping to natural products stores, but if it hasn’t made it to your local store yet, you can buy it on our website now.

Every herbal medicine in the Kids Line comes recommended by Aviva Romm, MD: “For over 30 years, Herb Pharm tinctures have been my go-to products for my family and for my patients.” Dr. Romm is the mother of four grown children and a Yale-trained physician and herbalist specializing in integrative medicine. She has spent nearly 30 years as a health care practitioner and advocate for the health and environmental concerns of women and kids. She is also a midwife and award-winning author.

Like Dr. Romm, we keep parents and kids in mind, which is why each bottle is labeled with easy-to-follow dosing instructions based on a child’s body weight. The instructions make it quick and simple for you to determine the proper dose that’s just right for your child.

Formulated with kids’ palates in mind, these herbs will be a comfort to your child’s health and taste buds. We use naturally sweet glycerin in five of our six Kids Line medicines. Glycerin does not cause tooth decay and has superb extractive capability.

We use only 99% pure, certified organic, non-GMO glycerin from vegetables, not palm trees. Glycerin from palm, while less expensive, contributes to decreased biodiversity in regions like Indonesia, where the demand for products from palm has led to deforestation.

Of course, our Kids Line also provides the high quality, purity and potency you’ve come to expect from our herbs. Apart from the herbs that are sustainably gleaned from out in the wild by our partner wildcrafters, we use primarily certified organic herbs. Every ingredient we use is natural—you don’t need to worry about any artificial additives.

Whether you’re looking to boost your child’s health when she’s already feeling well or he needs some support for when he’s feeling poorly, for those things that your kiss can’t make better, you can rely on the Herb Pharm Kids Line.

VIDEO: The Health Benefits of Coconut Water

For thousands of years the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) has produced many useful products for humankind, including firewood, timber, various wood products, soap, glycerine, palm leaves for thatched roofs, and the exocarp (husk) for garden mulch. Also this beautiful tree provides several delicious foods, including coconut water, seed endosperm (aka flesh & meat), coconut milk (made from the seed endosperm), oil, and a sweet, nutritious sugar made from the nectar of the tree’s flowers.

In this blog post I’m presenting a video talk on the use of coconut water as a therapeutic food.

Kava Revisited: Modern Uses for an Ancient Botanical

Of the many herbal adventures I’ve had exploring for herbs throughout the world, sourcing Kava in the remote South Pacific island nations of Vanuatu, Tonga and Fiji was one of the most interesting, fun and exotic.

The cultivation and ritual consumption of Kava root has a very long history of over 2,000 years and today Kava is still an integral part of the cultures of South Pacific island peoples. Many consume it frequently or even daily to relax at the end of the day and as a social lubricant, and it is always used in celebrations and traditional ritual ceremonies.

Kava’s traditional use is far from mere superstition, and chemical compounds in the plant’s roots have been proven through modern pharmacological studies to be an effective muscle relaxant, and a mind-calming euphoriant. I’m always pleased, and a bit amused, when modern science “discovers” what herbalists have known for centuries.

When consumed orally, Kava root and it’s extracts are mild muscle relaxants which can relieve muscle tension and spasms. They also relax the mind and can help relieve the mental stresses of worry, dark thoughts and anxiety. Simply put, Kava makes you feel good, but without any narcotic action or addiction.

I like it when I can widen the use of herbs beyond their ordinary applications. I find Kava’s muscle relaxant and mind soothing properties especially useful when receiving a massage, and when practicing Hatha Yoga and meditation, because it both relaxes the body and mind and creates a feeling of physical and mental tranquility.

When receiving a massage, Kava enables the person receiving the massage to mentally relax and to ease body tension, and it enables the massage therapist to work more effectively into the muscles and joints.

Kava use in Hatha Yoga enables the muscles, ligaments and tendons to slacken and stretch longer. The joints become more mobile, the muscles more relaxed, and the mind more calm and centered … all important things when performing the various asanas (postures) during Hatha Yoga practice.

These same effects are useful in the practice of meditation where the body needs to be relaxed and the mind and thoughts calm and centered. I find that taking Kava before meditation enables me to be more physically relaxed, and I can calm and center my mind sooner and go into a deeper state of meditation.  Remember, Kava is not a “high” nor an “upper” or “downer.” It’s mental and physical relaxing properties are subtle, which is compatible with the practices of Hatha Yoga and meditation

Another area I find Kava useful is with conflict management. In South Pacific native cultures Kava has been traditional used as a social lubricant to greet visitors, to facilitate friendly conversation, to promote amiable business negotiations, and to enable the resolution of social disagreements and feuds. In Vanuatu there’s a variety of Kava called “War Kava.” So the story goes, in times past feuding tribes would drink War Kava as a last-ditch effort to avoid war.

I have a friend who would take Herb Pharm’s Kava extract with her roommates before dividing up the costs of their monthly household bills, which, as anyone who’s ever lived with roommates knows, can sometimes create conflict and anger. She says it helped a lot and made everyone more flexible, empathetic, and agreeable.

I’ve also heard similar stories from Herb Pharm’s retailer customers who ritually take our Kava extract before staff meetings.

I’ve often said if we could get every adult on earth to take Kava the world would be a much better place. In fact, let’s have all politicians and officials of the world’s governments, the United Nations, NATO, etc. take Kava before all their meetings and maybe we can finally have world peace. Give Kava a chance.

Be a Steward of the Healing Herbs

Post by Herb Pharm co-founder Sara Katz:

I love herbs. Always have, always will, don’t we all! Herbs give us so much… healing, fragrance, flavors, soul travel….they can touch every part of our experience as living beings. So they are loved. And sometimes they are loved to extinction. Sandalwood is loved so much that the last few native stands on the Big Island of Hawaii are currently being harvested and the genetic diversity lost forever. Echinacea is loved so much that prairies once covered by those cheerful magenta to pink blooms are now mostly enjoyed in protected reserves. Venus Fly Trap plants fascinate us by closing their traps on unsuspecting insects, and those same traps were found useful against human retroviruses — now the Flytraps’ survival as a species is widely considered ‘vulnerable’.

Americans, along with the Chinese, love our wild American Ginseng!.. so much so that high-level discussions about American Ginseng are tied up in an international muddle of cultural tradition, economic need, economic greed, and conservationist efforts to cultivate, regulate and supervise. The list of threatened plants goes on.

In fact, The List, can be quickly accessed by going onto United Plant Savers’ website. United Plant Savers is THE non-profit organization in the U.S. looking at the rapidly worsening problem of plants we love in the wild having their existence threatened. How can we be so reckless with these life enhancing wild herbs we have come to love?

In my herbal lifetime, the tradition of wildcrafting has evolved from a sustainable rural tradition handed down through the centuries to a full-scale worldwide wild harvesting industry! The Goldenseal and Ginseng we purchased from Blessed Herbs in 1980 was hand-picked with gratitude and respect, and with care that the plant was harvested so that it could reproduce. That kind of care in wild-harvesting still goes on. It absolutely does! It’s just that the demand for Ginseng, Goldenseal, Ramps, Sandalwood, Bloodroot and so many other wild plants far outnumbers the individuals who apply that kind of sensitivity to their harvest of wild herbs.

United Plant Savers, which this year celebrates twenty years of stewarding our native medicinal plants, was formed in 1994 when Rosemary Gladstar and other herbalists realized that the increasing demands of wild plants by the herb industry, added to environmental encroachment, was resulting in populations and harvests of many of our most popular wild medicinal herbs being diminished in size and in numbers.…because we weren’t loving them enough. United Plant Savers has identified about 30 wild medicinal plants that are ‘At Risk’.

Those who know me realize I like happy endings. There is no happy ending to this story yet. However there is an opportunity for you to show that you DO love our wild medicinal plants enough to be part of United Plant Savers mission “to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come.”

Become a member of United Plant Savers. There are many benefits like access to the annual Journal of Plant Conservation, discounts at herb conferences and access to current information on wild herb conservation. But most of all by becoming a member you are saying that protecting our wild medicinal plants is important to you and you want to do something about it.

Thank you for reading my blog and for loving our wild herbs.

“Mum’s” the Word!

blogmumA popular garden perennial and well-known ornamental plant, Chrysanthemum, is beginning to grow roots at our farm.  Typically referred to as florist “mums”, the plants are noted for their spectacular display of autumn flowers.  Garden centers and grocery storefronts are heavily stocked with the alluring hybrid colors of pink, yellow, purple, red and white throughout September and October. In 1798, the first cuttings of Chrysanthemum were planted in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Since then, plant breeders have transformed this Asteraceae-family flower from a typical daisy pattern into attractive pompons, buttons, anemone, single and double floral displays.  The US national Chrysanthemum society has divided mum flowers into thirteen distinct bloom forms by the arrangement of its floral parts, and the flower occupies second position in the world flower trade behind roses.  Modern floral exhibitions of Chrysanthemums resemble pictures from the popular Dr. Seuss books.

However, Chrysanthemums share a much older cultural heritage near its wild origins of China.  As a native to Asia, historical evidence has documented Chinese cultivation of this plant as far back as the 15th century B.C.  The Chrysanthemum flower, referred to “Ju hua”, along with plum, bamboo, and orchid are collectively referred to as the “Four Noble Ones”.  Through several dynasties, mums were exclusive to the elite class and common people were not allowed to grow them.  In China, leaves are steamed for cooking and the dried flowers are typically prepared as a tea for consumption on a regular basis.  The pale white to yellow flowers are steeped in hot water to create a cooling, medicinal tea with a floral aroma.  Specifically, Chrysanthemum morifolium is cultivated for it’s broad medicinal attributes and especially noted for eye health.  The dried flowers spread through Korean markets as a popular cure for insomnia, and in the year 910, Japan adopted Chrysanthemum as their national flower. Japan’s annual festival of happiness is based upon recognition of Chrysanthemum’s healing properties.

At Herb Pharm, we are growing three medicinal cultivars of Chrysanthemum morifolium, Bo Ju hua, Chu Ju hua, and Gong Ju hua.  Each variety is named after a specific region of initial cultivation in China’s Anhui province.  We are fortunate to have received stem cuttings of these rare varieties from Peg Schafer’s certified organic farm in Sonoma, California.  In 2011, Peg published a wonderful book titled “The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm” and claims to be one of the few, if not only, grower of these varieties in the U.S.  The cuttings arrived rootless in the beginning of March, and our challenge was to sustain the tender cuttings until root development.  Chrysanthemum morifolium does not grow true from seed, so cuttings are the only option for propagation.  Stem cuttings require a high level of relative humidity, while maintaining a soil temperature of 70-75 degrees.  Cuttings should never wilt and a continuous film of moisture should cover the leaves until roots are able to form.  The plants grow best in well-drained, slightly acidic soil.  Throughout the growing season, mums should be pinched back a few inches every month to encourage bushy, compact growth.  Pinching stem tips will increase flower yield and create a healthy structure for future growth.  Just remember not to keep pinching too late into summer, or you could lose the entire fall bloom.  Also, mums will over-winter in our climate and last several seasons given the appropriate pruning and soil requirements.  At the farm, we will be harvesting our first flowers in September/October for drying, and propagating from these original plants for many years to come.  The dried flowers are a key component of Herb Pharm’s new Eye Health™ Compound, and we are excited to become one of the few farms cultivating these medicinal varieties outside of China.

Originally published in June, 2014.