materia medica

Milk Thistle: Herb of the Week

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is one of the simplest herbs to work with, and one of the safest. It’s an excellent herb for beginners to work with, and at the same time it’s one we continue to turn to in our clinical practice, even for very complex cases. Safe and Simple Most herbs don’t work…

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Dandelion: Herb of the Week

Oh, the dandelions! One of our earliest flowers and one of the last to hang on at the end of the season, dandelions (Taraxacum spp.) are with us for most of the year here in New England. They’re cosmopolitan, human-following plants, found all over the world. They’re weeds – that is to say, resilient and…

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Prickly Ash: Herb of the Week

The southern prickly ash (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) and the eastern prickly ash (Z. americanum) are relatives of the Sichuan hot pepper (Z. simulans, Z. bungeanum). This is a spice, by the way, that is safe for people with nightshade allergies, who shouldn’t consume cayenne or other hot peppers which are in the nightshade family (the Solanaceae).…

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Betony: Herb of the Week

Wood betony is our Herb of the Week this time, and for this one you’ll want to make sure you check the botanical name, because there’s at least one other popular and important herb who goes by the common name “betony”. Which Betony? In this case, we’re referring to Stachys officinalis. (In some older texts…

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Catnip: Herb of the Week

If you watch a cat who’s eaten some catnip (Nepeta cataria), you’ll observe that there’s an initial rolling-rubbing-wriggling response, usually followed by a bout of “the zoomies”, and then a contented curl-purr. The Cats’ Herb There have been many theories over the years about exactly what catnip does to cats and why they like it…

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Motherwort: Herb of the Week

Lion-Hearted Mother Imagine a mother whose child is having a terrible anaphylactic allergy attack, and is being rushed to the hospital. The mother stays close by and tries to keep a brave face: keeping eye contact, holding the child’s hand, speaking soothing reassurances, projecting safety while the medics hover and flit. That’s motherwort mind. Motherwort…

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Sumac: Herb of the Week

Want to make herbal pink lemonade? Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina / R. hirta) is the herb for you! Sour Is Sweet In Summer’s Heat Staghorn sumac is in the Anacardiaceae, the family of plants which includes cashews and poison ivy. It’s a common roadside and greenspace volunteer. Once you learn to see its distinctive horn-shaped…

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Red Seaweeds: Herb of the Week

Continuing with our seaweed explorations from last week, this time we turn to the red seaweeds. Introducing the Reds First, who are we talking about? The red seaweeds we work with most often are dulse (Palmaria palmata), nori (Porphyra umbilicalis), and irish moss (Chondrus crispus). There are lots of others – about 7000 defined species…

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Kelp: Herb of the Week

Not all herbs live on the land! This week we’re featuring kelp, bladderwrack, and all the brown seaweeds. Minerals in Kelp Seaweeds are superfoods, if anything is. All seaweeds used as food or medicine are extremely mineral-rich, often carrying a complement of minerals and trace elements not found easily in land plants. Seaweeds are renowned…

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Red Clover: Herb of the Week

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is this week’s herb of the week! Infused With Nutrients This red clover is growing right outside the Field’s Corner T station in Dorchester – plants will grow anywhere there’s a bit of dirt. They teach us lessons about persistence. Red clover is a favorite herb for many herbalists, and is…

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Reishi: Herb of the Week

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is actually a mushroom and not a plant – but hey, the way we define “herb”*, it definitely counts. Acclimate to Altitude It took me a long time to figure out reishi, partly because when you research it, it seems like there’s nothing reishi can’t do – so where do you even…

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Yerba Mate: Herb of the Week

This week’s #herboftheweek is yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis)! A caffeine-bearing plant from South America, this is a particular friend for us “not-a-morning-person” people. Mindful Stimulation You might think mate is just a weak version of coffee – no way! It does have caffeine, though somewhat less than coffee, but it has so much more to…

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Marshmallow: Herb of the Week

In honor of Clara, the awesome editor of our new book, this week marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is our herb of the week! She was pregnant during the writing and editing phase, and just went on maternity leave. We couldn’t have done this without her, but the coolest thing for us was how enthusiastic she was…

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Violet: Herb of the Week

Violet (Viola odorata) is one of the first plants up in the spring, and we’re always so happy to see it each year! Flower Art Violet is one of many plants that make art: the beautiful purple flower is not actually its reproductive flower. There’s a second flower that happens later in the season, which…

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White Pine: Herb of the Week

White pine is one of my very favorite herbal teas – it’s so delicious! “Like drinking a Christmas tree” might not sound super appealing, but give it a try sometime. I bet you’ll love it. A Giving Tree Not only that, white pine has a lot to offer, starting with its needles. You don’t even…

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Solomon’s Seal: Herb of the Week

Next week is the Boston Marathon, and we’re prepping for a class on runner’s health at a local sports club – and that means, solomon’s seal is our herb of the week this time! Why? Because solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum, P. multiflorum) is one of the best plants I know for joint health. Joint Healing…

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Centaury: Herb of the Week

Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) was Ryn’s very first “herb of the month” when he began studying herbal medicine, and now it’s our herb of the week! Chiron’s Gift Originally, Ryn was drawn to this herb because it has centaurs in the name – and that’s as good a reason as any! Why centaurs? It’s rooted in…

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Plantain: Herb of the Week

The common plantain plants – Plantago major & P. rugelii & P. lanceolata – are medicinially identical, so we’ll cover all of them together in our entry this week. Break Up Biofilms When we say “plantain”, you might think of those little banana-like fruits – but that’s not the plantain we mean. Instead, we’re referring…

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Meadowsweet: Herb of the Week

This week’s featured herb is meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)! A Boon for Braces Meadowsweet has been one of my best friends on this whole orthodontics experience. It’s so soothing to the irritated insides of my cheeks, I can’t even tell you. It drastically reduces the pain, and noticeably speeds healing. When my braces are really bothering…

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Basil: Herb of the Week

Garden basil (Ocimum basilicum) may seem like just an ingredient in pesto, but wait! There’s more to this week’s herb! Mood Lifter One of my favorite things about basil is its ability to uplift the spirit – much like its close relative, tulsi (Ocimum sanctum). During stretches of grey weather in the winter, I find…

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Calamus: Herb of the Week

Calamus (Acorus calamus) is this week’s herb of the week! There is so much amazing about calamus, but the reason I picked it for this week is that we’re kicking off a Whole30, and calamus is a big help when you’re kicking the sugar habit. So here we go, calamus: let’s get through this week…

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Linden: Herb of the Week

Also known as basswood, lime flower, and tilleul, linden – Tilia spp. – is our herb of the week this time. A Hug In A Mug We like to call linden “a hug in a mug”, and I don’t know what I would do without it! This morning was a perfect linden day: I woke…

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Sage: Herb of the Week

Sage is the other plant in our logo – lavender for me, and sage for ryn. Sage was one of his very first herb-of-the-month plants when he was first learning herbalism, and at the time, it wasn’t really a plant that I worked with much. I’d had a lot of teachers who revered sage, but…

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Lavender: Herb of the Week

Lavender is one of the plants in our logo, and has been since I began working as an herbalist. When I first started practicing, I wanted to choose a plant that would be relevant. I loved the stories about old apothecaries who had signs without words, because the general population didn’t read, but they were…

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St. John’s Wort: Herb of the Week

The St. John’s Wort card in my oracle deck says: blooming at the height of summer, St. John’s Wort is like solar batteries, ready aid when everything is grey and damp. St. John’s Wort has been touted for depression, but its function is more about the gut than the brain – and so are our…

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fennel and beetle

Fennel: Herb of the Week

Winter is the Fennel time of year! Fennel is a warming herb that improves digestion and liver function, which is why you see it in recipes for sausage and other heavy or fatty meats. Fennel is particularly suited to the cold, stagnant digestive conditions that we see so commonly in our culture today. A lot…

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inula

Elecampane: Herb of the Week

If you listened to last Friday’s podcast, you know that Ryn was sick last week with what we affectionately called the “Lung Crud Plague”. If you’re also sick with lung crud, Elecampane is the herb for you! But before we talk about the why, let’s just get this right out in the open: Elecampane tastes…

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ashwagandha seedling

Ashwagandha: Herb of the Week

Ashwagandha is one of my very favorite herbs: it supports the adrenals and other endocrine organs, improving the function of those organs and helping the body to better cope with stress. You’ve probably heard about the “HPA axis” – which is the connection recognized between the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands. But I submit that…

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hawthorn berries

Hawthorn: Herb of the Week

Hawthorn is often categorized as an “exhilarant” in old herbal literature – strongly uplifting to the spirit. Along with Rose, Vanilla, Vetiver, and others, Hawthorn is a great “rescue remedy”. Whether it’s sadness from a deep loss or just baked-on, caked-on gloom and doom, Hawthorn can help. I love to make an elixir of Hawthorn…

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prunella in iceland

Self-Heal: Herb of the Week

Self Heal, Prunella vulgaris, is one of those plants that seems able to do everything. Writing in the 16th century, Gerard said that no herb equals Self Heal for healing wounds, and a whole host of other things. Self Heal is used all over the world – by Native Americans, Europeans, and all across Asia,…

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ground ivy Charles River

Ground Ivy: Herb of the Week

Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, is a small, unassuming little plant. You might know it as “Creeping Charlie” or “Gill-Over-The-Ground”, or (if you’re from England) as “Alehoof”. It often grows low to the ground, spreading horizontally instead of vertically – but if it’s in an area that isn’t mowed too often, it’ll stand up for a…

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icelandic angelica

Angelica: Herb of the Week

I didn’t really understand Angelica until I went to Iceland, but since then, I can’t get enough of it! Angelica LOVES Iceland, and it grows as tall as me – or taller. It’s got a strong, tall stalk and huge flower head, with leafy arms that reach for the sky and the sun that never…

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Rose: Herb of the Week

A lot of people think of Roses when they think of Valentine’s Day, but there is so much more about Rose to love! Let’s start with the thorns – which you might think is somewhat strange, but the thorns are exactly what makes Rose such an amazing protector of small furry creatures and little feathered…

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Nettle in Flower

Nettle: Herb of the Week

Nettle is one of the most loved herbs – and there’s so much to love! For starters, Nettle is one of the most super of all the super foods. High in vitamins, minerals, even protein – Nettle is deeply nourishing. According to the USDA, “Nettle is probably one of the richest sources of minerals among…

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mullein flowers

Mullein: Herb of the Week

Mullein is a fuzzy plant that starts out small, but in its second year can grow over six feet tall! Mullein is a good friend to people who challenge their lungs – whether it’s with smoke, particulate, or any other crud we breathe in. It’s particularly great when that “crud” is dry, dusty, and caked…

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arctic thyme

Thyme: Herb of the Week

Thyme remains one of my very favorite herbs for colds, the flu, and other respiratory gunk. Thyme has a very high volatile oil content – in other words, the constituents that make it smelly – and those volatile oils are super anti-microbial. The trick is, you have to get them in contact with the microbes…

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ginger slices

Ginger: Herb of the Week

There’s so much to say about Ginger, so I’ll start with something unexpected: believe it or not, Ginger is one of my favorite herbs to help me get to sleep at night. Why? Because it’s strongly antispasmodic – which means that it helps tense muscles relax. Whether those muscles are crampy gut muscles, crampy skeletal…

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Yarrow: Herb of the Week

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a warrior’s plant. Named for Achilles, the mythological Greek hero of the Trojan War who was nearly invulnerable in battle. And for centuries, Yarrow has been considered “battlefield medicine”, because of its ability to staunch the flow of blood. How does it work? I like to describe it like this: Yarrow…

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chamomile bunch

Chamomile: Herb of the Week

I once had a client who said, “and don’t you go telling me I need something stupid like Chamomile! this is a serious situation!” And all I could think was, “Wow, you actually DO need chamomile!”

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Goldenrod: Herb of the Week

Goldenrod, Solidago spp., is a super important herb in our apothecary. It’s delicious and so helpful in so many ways!

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Elder: Herb of the Week

Elder, Sambucus canadensis, nigra, is one of our favorite herbs. You may have heard that elderberry syrup can help with the flu. You may have wondered, is that actually true? IT IS! Elderberries are chock full of vitamin C and anthocyanins, which are antioxidant. Both of these are great for supporting good health every day.…

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Calendula: Herb of the Week

Calendula is the herbal (and botanical) name for pot marigold: Calendula officinalis. It’s not only good at keeping pests off your tomato plants, it has a whole host of medicinal actions. Calendula is commonly made up into an oil or salve, and is useful for just nearly anything that happens to your skin. Campfire burns,…

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Savoring Salicylates

Who’s Afraid of Phytochemistry? part 1 of ?   Don’t let the diagrams scare you! Don’t let the long names drive you away. Phytochemistry can be intimidating at a first look, but it does have some useful insights to offer even the most folksy of healers. The best parts of it are those that bear…

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Herbs for National Take Your Daughter To Work Day!

I LOVED Take Your Daughter To Work Day when I was a kid (thanks, Dad!! <3), and today, my daugther Amber came to the school with me to talk about our favorite herbs! To be fair, through Amber’s life, most days were take my daughter to work days, and she was always super helpful. I…

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Herbs for Passover: Horseradish, Parsley, and Chicory!

Check out the whole Herbal Holidays video playlist here!

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Ostara and Nettles: An Herby Holiday Video!

An herbal tribute to the Spring Equinox! There are more free videos for you at our YouTube channel!

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Fun Free Videos!

This year, we’ve been making short herbal videos to celebrate every holiday we can think of! We pick one or two herbs for each one and talk about them, so you can have some fun learning about holidays and herbs together! Here’s our most recent one about Hops for St. Patrick’s Day: And you can…

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First Aid Kits For Everyone!

Why should you carry a first aid kit? Think about the places you go every day – the grocery store, a restaurant, the subway, a kids’ soccer game: if something happened, do you know where to find a first aid kit? If you did find one, would you know how to use it? Would it…

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You’re a Trainwreck.

Hi. My name is Katja. I’m a total Trainwreck. Hi, Katja…

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Linden and Tulsi: Two Great Herbs that Go Great Together!

Looking for a fail-proof cup of tea? Look no further! Linden and Tulsi can turn that frown upside down.

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Licorice Oil for Eczema

When my daughter was born, she had very severe eczema. Eczema is almost always related to food allergies, and hers were gluten and dairy. Giving up food allergens is important, but skin issues, especially long standing ones, take a while to resolve. Here’s a simple topical that will cut your waiting time: Licorice oil!

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Solomon’s Seal: Beyond Sprained Ankles

Solomon’s Seal is a favorite herb around here. We love it for any kind of sporty injury: sprained ankles, pulled muscles, you name it. The reason we like it so much is that Solomon’s Seal helps connective tissues heal. When you pull a muscle, maybe you think in terms of muscle pain, but it’s not…

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Sage: a Favorite Nervine

You’ve heard of Sage (Salvia off.) used as a throat gargle, an antiseptic mouthwash, you know it’s good for headaches. You’ve used it to help weaning mothers dry off their milk supply, and women in menopause ease the transition. An aid to digestion before, during, or after a meal, not to mention a tasty addition…

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Seven Herbs for Summer Health

Every season has its associated issues: in winter, I would say we can’t live without things like Thyme, Sage, Garlic, Onion – potent plants that get us through cold and flu season. Here are seven plants that will make your summer much more enjoyable!

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Seaweed as Food and Medicine

In the summer of 2010, I went out to harvest kelp with Larch Hanson, who has been harvesting seaweed for the last 40 and more years up in WayNorth Maine, along with his son Jay and his apprentice, Micah Woodcock. We source all of our seaweed from Micah – AtlanticHoldfast.com

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herbal medicine for beginners - book cover

Our Book is Now Available on Amazon.com

Our first book is here!

This is the perfect introduction to a powerful yet manageable apothecary of 35 herbs and teach you how to apply them to common ailments.

We keep it simple and practical, and along the way teach you how to think effectively about herbs & herbalism, laying the foundations for deeper study.

The book is available through Amazon.com

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