Doctors Can Not Be Hypocrites?

Doctors Can Not Be Hypocrites


Pretty PrimoseI have a little confession to share. I like to indulge in the occasional crime show. Last week I watched one that got me thinking (not the reason I usually watch).

This show starts each episode with a snappy little quote and this quote inspired this article. Here’s the quote, see if you can guess who said it (there’s a clue in the subject line)…

“It’s more important to know what sort of person has a disease than it is to know the sort of disease a person has.”

Can you guess who said it?

Here’s another clue…Have you ever heard of the Hippocratic Oath? That’s the oath that doctors take to “do no harm.”

Or at least that’s what I thought until I read more about it on wikipedia.

Here’s a little clip…

“I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:…

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel…”

You’ve likely put the pieces together by now. Yes, that first quote was said by Hippocrates.

It turns out there’s some disagreement about whether Hippocrates actually wrote this oath, but if we look at how doctors have followed both this oath and his medical teachings, we can start to see the origins of the the word “hypocrite.” (sorry, I couldn’t help myself, it was a gimme!)

I don’t mean to bash all doctors, I get that their hearts are usually in the right place. They want to help people feel better when they’re sick. A noble intent in my books.

But (you knew there was “but” coming) when you look at the current practises of the western medical model and it’s advocates, you find that it’s rarely if ever in line with this very important teaching…

Treat the person not the disease. (that’s my paraphrasing)

Fortunately this teaching is still being followed by the growing number of alternative healing modalities, from naturopaths to homeopaths to reiki masters to ayurvedic doctors to acupuncturists and often by herbalists.

I believe this teaching is of paramount importance iff you want to actually heal (iff= “if and only if”, just think back to high school math class). If you’re satisfied with suppressing symptoms, then you can keep treating the disease every time it appears (cuz it’ll keep coming back).

I’ll close with a teaching from the Nei Ching (ancient Chinese text about healing) that echos the teaching of Hippocrates…

“A person is not sick because of a disease, they are diseased because they are sick.”

strength & wisdom.


PS.  For you Urban Foragers living around Vancouver, I want to let you know about the Urban Edibles Map tucked away on my website. If you’re looking for patches of wild foods or if you’ve found some (fruit trees too), please add them to this awesome community resource. It may seem counter-intuitive to share your favourite foraging spots, but I encourage you to resist these thoughts of scarcity and competition. This entire resource has been built on the idea that our communities are stronger (and healthier) when we know the plants around us. Click here for the map.

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Sometimes it’s better NOT to know what you’re doing

Sometimes it’s better NOT to know what you’re doing (aka. Why My Toddler is a Better Gardener Than Me)

Have you ever experienced of Beginner’s Luck, **? Or been shown up by a 2 year old?

Well, I have. Both happened for me just a few weeks ago.

Herb Garden Harvest Time

Back near the start of January, I started really craving fresh herbs. I realized that I was really missing the sight of living green plants. I got this idea into my head that I was going to start a little herb garden in our spare room.

My head was full of visions of big, bushy herbs that I could trim and use fresh in my cooking. I was dreaming of thyme, oregano, parsley, rosemary and maybe even some basil (though I’ve killed my share of basil plants over the years).

Day Sixty-ThreeLet me back up a little to tell you that I am not a gardener. It’s not to say I haven’t tried, even grown a couple of things, but it only worked really well once… the first time, when I had Beginner’s Luck behind me. There’s a very good reason that I teach people how to work with wild herbs and I don’t teach how to grow medicinal herbs! I’m just not that good at it.

So, back to the story.

I got out my grow lights, soil, seeds and set up a cute little corner to let the magic unfold. I’d just read an article about using egg shells for starting seedlings. It’s supposed to leach calcium into the soil and help the plants grow better. The key words being … supposed to.

I got a bunch of egg shells, filled them with warm, moist soil and set them up, I thought this was quite brilliant, in the egg carton’s they’d come in. Then I dug a little whole with my finger, dropped a couple of seeds in each whole, covered it and sat back to watch the show (feeling quite proud of myself, I might add).

The next day, I had one of those parenting moments. My 2 year old was playing while I was making dinner, when suddenly I realized that I hadn’t heard a peep from him for too long. You parents know this moment, (yes?) when you realize it’s too quiet. Uh-oh!

So I wandered around the apartment looking for him, but couldn’t find him. More uh-oh. Then I checked the last place that I expected him to be… the spare room.

You see, he’d helped me with some of the set up and seed planting. Well, he spread dirt all over the floor and we called it helping.

Anyway, there he is, standing on a bedside table that he’d pushed over to the new herb garden. It took me a moment to take it all in. Around his feet was a carnage. Not dirt and broken egg shells, as you might be thinking. There was a mess of torn papers that I couldn’t identify right away.

In front of him was a gallon jug of water (that I’d set out to de-chlorinate), but something was off. The surface of the water was covered in little black dots.Soaking chia seeds in water with matcha

He turned and looked at me with a face that still makes me laugh. It was a mix of excitement, personal pride and mischief. I could’ve sworn I saw a sly little smirk (which I supposed he may have gotten from me). I wish I had a picture of that face to share with you.

The black dots, it turns out, were seeds. And the papers thrown all around were seed packets, now entirely empty seed packets.

Ha ha, you little …

Realizing that he’d just started the germination process for almost all the medicinal seeds that I was going to plant for the whole year, I moved quickly to try to save them.

It was too late to take them out and dry them off, so the only thing that I could do was put them in soil and hope that he hadn’t ruined them. I put a bunch of soil into two growing trays and simply poured the seedy water over top.

I admit that I was kinda peeved. I wanted so badly to get it right this time.

adjacent beds

2 y.o.’s first gardening attempt (Left) vs. professional herbalist attempt (Right)

Fast forward to today… all my seedlings are dead. It turns out that such a small amount of soil in those egg shells dries out really quickly and I missed too many watering dates. But his plants were thriving! Both beds, as you can see are lush, green and vibrant with mustard, kale, parsley, morning glories, and a couple that I can’t yet identify.

Tonight, we’ll do the first harvest from his gardening bounty. And I’ll have a side dish of humility and a good chuckle.

So, lesson learned. Sometimes it is better to not know what you’re doing, not try to “do it right.” Thank you, oh Divine Source of laughing at yourself. Next time, I’ll let my own inner 2 year old play with the seeds and not try so hard.aven's bed #2

If you have a funny herbal gardening story, please share it here.  Creating more community dialogue is a big motivation for me to send out these weekly articles.  I’d love to hear your stories and comments.  That said, please post your comments on the blog (at the bottom) rather than sending me an email.


strength & wisdom.


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Fire Cider: A Magical Elixir

Fire Cider: A Magical Elixir

Fire_Cider_FlickrIf you’ve never tasted Fire Cider, it’s hard to describe it. It’s … an experience … which grows on you :)

It is in my Top 3 Folk Remedies. It’s strong, simple medicine that is both a great tonic and treats many specific conditions.


Fire Cider has been on my mind a lot over the last couple of weeks for two reasons.

  1. It’s great for treating lung and sinus congestion or even infections. I’m seeing lots of this late winter lung congestion coming up in the people around me.
  2. Fire Cider has been Trademarked. Herbalists all over are working to keep the folk knowledge alive and public.

Let’s start with my recipe first, then I’ll share a bit more about this controversy.

Garliq’s Fire Cider

diy fire cider


  • equal parts : garlic, ginger, horseradish
  • 1-10 hot peppers (whatever you like)
  • or use some cayenne powder (somewhere between a pinch and a 1/2 tsp/litre)
  • apple cider vinegar (ACV)


  1. Chop up garlic, ginger and horseradish.
    • I mince everything, but if it slows you down too much to chop it all really finely then just cut bigger pieces
  2. Put it all in a jar with pinch of cayenne according to your taste
  3. Pour in ACV to cover the herbs and cap the jar
  4. Shake it every day or so for 2-4 weeks
  5. Strain through a couple layers of cheesecloth or some muslin
  6. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the plant mush (the “marc”)
  7. Store in the dark

Oh, and 8. Take Regularly!


Fire breathing

It should NOT feel like this!

Surfing the Experience…

This recipe may seem intimidating to some people. Rosemary Gladstar named it well, it has flare! But sometimes people hear the name and read the ingredients and they think “hey, this is a good medicine to force sickness out of my body” (somewhat like the current use of oregano oil).

Heroic medicine is the name I use to refer to this approach. It tends to be driven by panic or impatience and creates one strong burst to try to push the body toward wellness.

I mention this because I this recipe was created from a far more nourishing tradition of herbalism, more of a grandmother’s herbalism. This approach focuses on nourishing the body.

So, dilute your Fire Cider if it’s too strong for you, or take smaller doses. Maybe try it in your food so it’s easier on your stomach. I’ve even seen recipes that add honey.

Please don’t force yourself to take some burning hot elixir of life that leaves you reeling. That’s not the way of nourishment.


Ok, onto the trademark story…

First, let me say that it was just in the US that it was trademarked. I don’t think it applies to Canadian law.

Quick history…

Rosemary Gladstar coined the name in the 1970′s. She’s published it in her books and on her website. And she has a video on youtube.

Shire City Fire Cider label

This is now the only legal Fire Cider label in the US

Then, just recently Shire City Herbals was able to trademark it by arguing that their brand is so popular that we’re all thinking of their product and label when we think “fire cider.” They claim they’ve created a “secondary meaning.”

But it gets worse. They’re actively preventing other people, including Ms Gladstar, from selling or even sharing recipes. This has had a significant impact online with websites like Facebook and Etsy. Facebook actually took down pages for the World Fire Cider Making Day. And Etsy has refused to allow anyone else to sell anything called Fire Cider.

The thing that kind of surprises me is that I expect this sort of thing from Monsanto. They’re trying to patent the garlic and ginger that goes into your Fire Cider, but from a small scale herbal business I’m just stunned.

United-statesians can sign a petition –> here

Or read more with these links…

And if you’d like to share your story with Fire Cider or thoughts on this controversy, please add your comment here.

Reminder : the Herbal Integration Course

You can learn to make your own Fire Cider variations in the Experimental Lab component of the Herbal Integration Course this year. This is a new addition to the course designed to review class work and to experiment with things that we won’t get to in the Core Program.  Things such as, but not limited to… ginger beer & herbal sodas, complex syrups, blended salves, medicated creams… and Fire Cider.

Only 2 spots left in class!

Apply here –> Herbal Integration Course

strength & wisdom.


Posted in Community Herbalism, Recipes, Treating with Herbs | 1 Comment

Why herbs sometimes don’t work

Why herbs sometimes don’t work or Why it’s really important to make your own herbal remedies.

Hey there *|FNAME|*,

September 17Have you ever had the experience of herbs not working as well as they did the last time? Maybe you bought some echinacea tincture or an elderberry syrup to get ready for cold and flu season, but it didn’t seem to do anything. You took it right when you were supposed to, as soon as you noticed that tickle in the back of your throat, but you got sick anyway.

Have you heard an herbalist say something like “herbs aren’t the same as pharmaceutical drugs, they can be subtle” or “you can’t have the same expectations of herbs because …”? I confess that I’ve said these things, too.

And while there is a need for a paradigm shift in order to really understand the full potential of healing with herbs, you also have a practical need for these things to work right when you need them to work. You don’t want using herbs to feel like a gamble, right?

Well it turns out that there’s a strong possibility that the herbs weren’t working right is because you weren’t actually taking the right herbs.

To be absolutely clear, I’m not suggesting that you chose the wrong herbs to take. I’m saying that it’s possible that the herbs INSIDE the bottle you bought were different from the herbs on the label of the bottle.

In 2011, there was a study done in Canada testing the quality of commercially available herbal supplements. “Canadian researchers tested … popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice,” says a NY Times article published this past November.

It goes on to explain why your echinacea may not have worked, “among their findings were bottles of echinacea supplements, used by millions of Americans to prevent and treat colds, that contained ground up bitter weed, Parthenium hysterophorus, an invasive plant found in India and Australia.”

Your motivation and quality control are far higher than what you commonly find in commercially available herbs. The “nutraceutical industry” is now worth billions of dollars in the US and Canada. And practically, you know as well as I do, that corners are going to be cut to increase that profit (even if it’s just a little). If you were an underpaid wildcrafter or farmer, I’d bet that you’d be tempted to get as much as you could too.

But this article’s not so much about assigning blame as it is a reality check. It’s very important to know what you’re buying when you buy herbs.

“Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.

Many were adulterated with ingredients not listed on the label, like rice, soybean and wheat, which are used as fillers.

In some cases, these fillers were the only plant detected in the bottle — a health concern for people with allergies or those seeking gluten-free products, said the study’s lead author.”

The person who shared this with me is a medical doctor and presented it as evidence that ‘herbs aren’t real medicine.’ But, as you can imagine, he and I see things quite differently.

I see this article as evidence of why it’s SO INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT to make your own herbal remedies. It’s not that all commercial herbs are mislabeled or poor quality, but 1 out of 3 is a great reason to learn to make it yourself.

We need to make the high standards we place on our food the same high standards we place on our herbal medicines. And for many of us, this means making it yourself.

There are many other advantages to making your own herbal remedies (lower cost, locally sourced, etc), but isn’t it a huge motivation just to make sure that you’re taking what you mean to be taking? How well can herbs work if they’re replaced with wheat, corn or rice?!

Build your home medicine cabinet with the Herbal Integration Course.

I created this course specifically to help people develop a deep and powerful trust in local herbal medicines, along with building the skills to make these medicines in their own kitchens.

If you’re interested in feeling more connected with your life’s purpose and the aliveness of the world around you, I invite you find out more.

Check it out: Herbal Integration Course

strength & wisdom.




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The F-word, an essential element of Herbalism

The F-word, an essential element of Herbalism

or Why Gathering and Making Your Own Herbal Remedies is Important


Have I got a treat for you! I’m really excited to share this with you because it’s hot off the presses. Well, it’s hot out of the editing room…

smaller title screenThis is the Official Public Release of Episode # 3 of Urban Wild Foraging with Garliq7 Wild Edibles.

As I said a year ago when we released Episode #1 – Nettles, the editing has been slow. But I think you’ll agree that these videos are great. My co-conspirator, Angela, has done a fantastic job from her camera work right through to the finished product.

In this episode, we visit my community garden in east Vancouver to see what wild edibles we can find outside of the garden plots.

In practically no time at all, we found 7 wild edibles! (that you’ll find in practically every community garden in town)

So yes, as you’ve likely caught on to at this point…

the F-word is Forage.

And just before we get to the video, I want to share the top 7 reasons that foraging for food and medicine is extremely important.

7 advantages of foraged foods and medicines…

  1. Absolutely no need for fertilizers or pesticides when you forage “weeds.” These little green friends not only survive, but often thrive in areas that could not support a garden.

  2. More nutritious than many organic veggies, which is amazing when you consider the idea “healthy soil grows healthy foods.” Most of us would agree with that, I expect. But wild plants are not only able to find the nutrients and minerals they need, but find more of them than the plants in your average garden.

  3. Weeds improve soil in the places where they grow. By contrast, industrial agriculture depletes the soil. Even organic farming on a large scale requires frequent inputs to keep soil healthy. But wild plants always find a way to grow. And they always leave it better than they found it.

  4. Plants don’t produce chemicals that are harmful to the ecosystem. the chemicals that wild plants produce are familiar to the ecosystem, they easily decompose without harming the health of the ecosystem. Again this is a contrast to pharmaceutical chemicals that continue to impact an ecosystem for weeks or years after first contact.

  5. No fossil fuel use! You can’t get more local than foraging weeds in the city. No need for trucks, trains, and tankers when you can just walk your food home.

  6. You can ensure love and respect are shown to the living plant before it becomes … well, you. I suspect that most of you agree that you find food more nourishing and more delicious when you know it’s been loved all the way from field to fork. This can’t be measured with a machine, but it has a very real impact on your health and enjoyment.

  7. You actually get the herb you want at the quality you expect. This is not always the case with commercial herbs, especially if they’re wildcrafted. A 2013 study of 12 different suppliers here in Canada, showed that 1/3 bottles “were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice.” (there’ll be a whole article on this in the next few weeks)

You can chew on these points as you watch this 8 minute video.

Enjoy :)

garliq at community garden

And if you’d like to share a foraging story, I’d love to hear (and so would everyone else).  Please share that here.

“Didn’t I hear something about a Course that Teaches Foraging?”

Yes, you did.

And if you liked that little taste, you’ll love the Herbal Integration Course. In this course, you’ll learn about many aspects of wild foods and medicines. You’ll gather them, eat them, ferment them, cook them, make medicines with them and teach others about them.

You’ll also learn how to use to heal using the medicines you handcrafted.

To learn more, click here –> Herbal Integration Course

strength & wisdom.


PS. The class is almost half full with the Early Bird Deadline – to save $150 – coming up this Sunday Feb. 9th (end of day). If you’re interested, but you have questions now is the time to ask them. Submit your application with your questions to ensure you get the discount and we’ll start a conversation. Apply here –>

PPS. I’m not a high pressure sales guy :) I want to make sure this class is a good fit for you and your learning goals. I also really enjoy authentic human interactions, this email format still feels a bit funny to me.

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Case Study : Healing with Herbs Ripples Out into the World


Sandra Christensen
Herbal Integration Course 2013

When people are drawn to studying herbalism it tends to be for a specific reason. Maybe they have some pain or discomfort they’d like to be free of, or they’re looking to treat a specific illness in a family member.

Some folks study herbalism because they want to be prepared. Frequently, but not always, these are parents who want to feel prepared for when their children get sick. Perhaps describing these folks as having a “grandmother-type” energy is a more universal way of saying it.

Sandra Christensen is an example of someone with a ‘grandmother-type’ feel to her, but it has nothing to do with her age.  It’s about how she is.  I noticed it pretty quickly when we first met. Even before applying to the Herbal Integration Course last year, Sandra emailed me to tell me that she was active in her community garden and wanted to create a medicinal garden full of native plants. And when she applied, she said that her greatest motivation for taking the class was to improve her son’s health by making her own herbal remedies.

Can you see what I mean about her being a ‘grandmother-type’? She’s got her eye on supporting others, considering the needs of future generations and working for the betterment of the whole planet.

Do you know people like this? I’ll bet you do. They’re not always the one with the mic. Often, in fact, you find them just on the outskirts “keeping an eye on things”, or behind the scenes. (Check the kitchen, these people love to feed people!)

I believe that the world conspires, on some level, to support these people. And that often creates unexpected results.

sandra's apothecary 2013This is how it was with Sandra. Yes, she achieved her main goals. She has a full medicine cabinet of herbs that she gathered and processed herself. She’s found herbs that support her son’s health. She now knows many local native plants. And the community-based Backyard Healing Garden had it’s first work party 2 weeks ago! (I’m really proud of you Sandra!)

But the thing I want to draw your attention to is the unexpected benefits that this class brought to Sandra. There are two remarkable shifts that she’s permitted me to share with you.

Sandra shared the first shift at the end of our final class last year. It went something like this,

“the thing this class has really shown me is that healing is at the root of all the work that really needs to be done. That’s how we can really help each other, we can heal together…This class gave me the space and time to have a relationship with plants and that shifted my relationship with people too.”

I didn’t hear hear about the second big shift for Sandra until a few weeks ago.

“Last year, I set Nov2012 082the intention to be more quiet, to do more listening, and to turn inwards. It led to deeper transformations and brought me to new spaces and places I had not foreseen. A big part of my shift in 2013 was to take your Herbal Integration Course with the intention of exploring a new path that felt closer to my soul purpose. So please accept my deep gratitude for your inspiration and wisdom this past year.”

There’s a secret power that many people don’t understand when they think about herbal medicine. It took me a while to clue in, too. It’s the reason that these sorts of deeply personal changes happen for people when they study herbs in the right way.

You must develop an actual relationship with the living plant. And you have to see yourself as no better or worse than that plant, whether garden weed or old growth cedar.

There is a magical connection, a magical metamorphosis that can happen when we open our hearts to the living world with humility and a sense of wonder.

Sandra did this. And plant medicines have become rooted in her heart and soul, and they’re growing outward from there destined to touch many lives.

HIC poster '14And about that Herbal Integration Course…

I created this course specifically to help people develop a deep and powerful trust in local herbal medicines, along with building the skills to make these medicines in their own kitchens.

If you’re interested in feeling more connected with your life’s purpose and the aliveness of the world around you, I invite you find out more.

Check it out: Herbal Integration Course

strength & wisdom.


PS.  To save $150 with the Early Bird Deadline, apply by next Sunday Feb. 9th (end of day).  This course filled up 1 week before the application deadline last year, so get your applications in today.  The class is already 1/4th full.  Apply here–>

PPS.  Tuesday Feb. 4th @ 11am PST, I’ll be doing a free webinar: Connecting with Plants Using Empathy & Your Heart.  To listen live or to access the recording–>Sign up here

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Chaga Cream Soda

Chaga Cream Soda

I’ve been excited about fermentation for many years now.   But my passion has very recently entered a whole new level.Mysterious Box

I found the missing ingredient!

That is, I found my missing ingredient.  You see, unless I’m able to find a way to bring medicinal plants and my giddiness for foraging into any aspect of my life, I start to get a bored.  It’s funny to say, but it’s true.  I’m that geeky, that enamoured, that totally consumed with the healing power of plants!

So, a few months ago, I began experimenting with the my Ginger Beer recipe.  And by experimenting with, I mean that I began adding a lot of herbs along with (or instead of) the ginger.  I’ve been playing with recipes for a ‘strong bone’ soda, an ‘antiviral’ soda, a ‘chill out’ soda and even a ‘nighty-night’ soda.

But I want to share with you my tastiest experiment so far…

Chaga Cream Soda

glass of Chaga Cream SodaThe other competing name for this brew is Adapto-drink, but that name just doesn’t have the same pop.  (I could resist the pun)  Most of the ingredients are considered adaptogenic, meaning that they support the adrenal glands, restore vitality and overall health, and are best taken in smaller doses over longer periods of time.

In other words, not only do you get to treat yourself every day with this delicious drink, but I’d highly recommend it!

Here’s What’s In It…plate of dried herbs

  • 30 g (1 oz) of Chaga ‘mushroom’ (cut and sifted or freshly powdered)
  • 15 g (1/2 oz) of Reishi mushroom (freshly powdered)
  • 15 sticks (~10g) of Licorice root (I prefer the chinese variety to the european)
  • 1/2 of a Vanilla bean
  • 3 cups of organic sugar (use your favourite type)
  • 1/4 cup of active, liquid whey (can also work with a ginger ‘bug’)

How I do it…

First let me say that these amounts make 2 gallons (8 L) of soda.  You may want to start out with a half batch.

  1. Put all the herbs except the vanilla and 1 gallon of water into a pot.
  2. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for 30 minutes or so.
  3. Add the vanilla and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.

    fermenting bucket

    Chaga Cream Soda in 2 gal food grade bucket

  4. Take it off the heat and let it sit for a while.
  5. Strain through muslin or cheese cloth to filter out herbs.
  6. Add sugar and stir until it’s all dissolved.
  7. Once it’s cooled to ‘just warm’, add the whey, pour into bucket(s) and cover loosely.

I’m fairly new to fermenting with whey after years of using only ginger ‘bugs’ as my yeast source.  But I’ve become a devotee.  It works quickly and has been more consistent for me than the wild yeast captured in the ‘bug’.

If you’re new to fermenting with whey, it can be a little freaky at first because you can actually see the yeast colonizing the surface of your brew.  Many people, myself included, mistakenly identify the yeast as mould.  This is different than a sour kraut that sometimes gets surface mould.  It’s more like the white specs that you get on your brine pickles.

yeast on surface

click image to get a closer look

So, don’t be alarmed if/when you get something that looks like this…

It means it’s working.  (sometimes the yeast ‘blanket’ is strong enough to capture the bubbles that rise up as it ferments.  The bubbles can get really big!)

Knowing when it’s ready…

I start testing it after about 5 days (in the winter).  It’s often too sweet for me at this point, but I can taste that something is happening.  I usually bottle it around day 10 and start serving it to my kids right away.  Both for my taste and my desire to limit the sugar my kids eat, I wait until it’s got a semi-strong sourness and the sweet isn’t the first punch of flavour.

Make sure you do these 2 things before you serve it…

  1. Refrigerate before opening!Grolsch bottle lid
  2. Burp your bottles.  I recommend using the resealable bottles (grolsch style) because it’s impossible to burp a capped bottle.

This is a very, very active culture.  Not only have I exploded bottles by leaving them too long, but without burping them you’ll end up showering yourself (maybe the whole room) when you open them.  Trust me on this, way more explosive than champagne!

 Ok, let’s talk herbs…

First, let me highlight that this brew means that each cup (250ml) of Chaga Cream Soda contains 1.25 g of herbs.  That means that 1 or 2 cups each day is the perfect tonic dose.

Chaga, often called a mushroom, is a fungus found almost exclusively on Birch trees.  It has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, adaptogenic, and restorative properties.  Sadly, it doesn’t grow around Vancouver (requiring much colder winters) so you can’t easily forage it yourself.  But it does grow in northern BC, so if you’re adventurous you can find it.

Reishi has been a deeply revered mushroom in China for many thousands of years.  It does grow  southern BC, but requires much older forests than most around Vancouver.  While hiking on the west side of Vancouver Island a few years, I found many sizable reishi’s.  China town is also a great place to get them.

Licorice is another herb with a very long history of use in Asian, Ayurvedic and European herbal traditions.  It’s heals digestive issues, lung issues.  adrenal exhaustion, hormonal imbalances and much more.

Vanilla is an herb that I know very little about.  I’ve added it here solely for it’s yummy flavour and scent.

If you have herbal soda stories or if you try this and want to share (or ask questions), please comment here.

Click here to download the Chaga Cream Soda recipe.

Introducing: The Herbal Integration Course

Over the last 10 years, I’ve watched folks struggle to find health care practices that feel good in their hearts AND that work.  I’ve seen many people resign themselves to taking drugs that they’d rather not be taking because it’s the only thing they trust to work.

I created this course specifically to help people develop a deep and powerful trust in local herbal medicines, along with building the skills to make these powerful medicines in their own kitchens.

Herbal sodas, medicinal root beers and other herbal ferments are a part of this course.  The Experimental Labs will have you bottling your own medicinal ferments in no time.

If this is resonates with you, I invite you find out more.

Check it out: Herbal Integration Course


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Treating Children with Herbs – Using Tinctures Safely

photo(4)If you’ve been following my work for any length of time, you’ve noticed a reference or two to parenting. In my early years of teaching herbs, I catered a lot to parents who wanted to develop trust when using herbs on their kids.

To say that this is an enormous passion for me would be understating it :) There have been a good handful of cases where herbs have saved me from having a heart attack because they were SO effective at treating my children. And I want to share this experience with other parents.

My eldest son’s first really high fever, for example, scared me to death. If you’ve tended sick children, you know this one. It’s easy for the vulnerability I felt that day to come flooding back even as I write this. It was a sense of almost complete powerlessness that came as an hollowness in my stomach and a weakness in my knees.

Do you know this feeling?

Or last summer, when my youngest son fell and hit his head on our concrete patio (actually twice in 10 minutes). I had to bite back a scream of worry/terror when I saw the size of the goose egg on his forehead. Same fear in my stomach and knees.

In both these instances, herbs worked really well and really fast.

Now, treating children with herbs is a huge topic. I’m not going to cover all of it right now. This is part one of the series…

Treating Children with Herbs -

the When, Why and How of using Tinctures

I used to have a real hesitation about giving children tinctures (meaning alcohol extracts of herbs). I was worried that giving alcohol to them was somehow wrong, though I couldn’t exactly explain why. Kids just aren’t supposed to have alcohol, right?

Wrong. Well, not in the ways that tinctures are used. Of course, I’m not talking about doing tequila shots with a toddler and then laughing as they stumble down the hall. I’m talking about pretty small amounts and amounts that occur naturally in the food (mostly fruit) they’re already eating.

Did you know that the average ripe banana contains more alcohol than I would give to a young child as a tincture? You see, fermentation happens. It’s part of the natural decomposition process of any fruit or vegetable containing sugar. And that’s what produces alcohol. So, the more ripe the fruit, the more alcohol it contains. It’s not enough to notice when you eat it, but it’s there.

And having this context is what really helped me to release my reservations about giving tinctures to kids. When the amount of alcohol I’m giving is less than the amount in the fruit that I want them to eat, I can feel safe about it.

Ok, you may be thinking, just because it’s safe doesn’t really answer the question Why would you want use tinctures to treat kids?

My first answer is concentration. A well made alcohol tincture can contain the same amount of medicine as a 4 oz cup of tea in every squirt (approx. 1 ml) or 1 large ‘horse pill’ of powdered herb. This means that you don’t actually have that much liquid to get into their little bodies.

If you haven’t tried to get a 2 year old to finish a cup of tea (even when you play tea time and have special cups and everything), trust me when I say it can be next to impossible. And forget it if it tastes bad! This is a greater challenge still when they’re sick.

A huge benefit of tinctures is that they help you get enough medicine into your children to be effective. I use tinctures on children because I want to know that the herbs will have a chance to work because enough of them are actually inside the kid.

My other big reason is speed. Tinctures work fast. Alcohol absorbs quickly into the body and gets into the bloodstream through the skin (or throat or stomach lining). Whether you hold it in your mouth or under your tongue or just swallow it down, it doesn’t need to be digested in order to get where it needs to be to start working. This is not the case with teas or powdered herbs.

I’ll also mention that convenience and simplicity are factors. If your little one stays home sick, it’s not as relevant. But if they’re just a little under the weather and still going to childcare or to a play date, tinctures are easy for travel.

Of course, there are a couple of caveats with this. It’s best to avoid giving alcohol to people with a liver dysfunction. And check for religious beliefs before giving anyone tinctures. Actually, make sure that you’ve got clear consent from a child’s parent before giving any herbs, especially if it contains alcohol (they may not know the banana thing).

Now that we’ve answered why, we can see some hints that answer When would you use tinctures on children?

I opt for tinctures I’m treating ‘acute conditions’, meaning when I’m using herbs in a reactive fashion to restore balance. In practice, it means treating viral or bacterial infections and first aid situations. So, colds and flus, coughs, fevers, strains and sprains, infected wounds, etc.

When I’m using herbs in as preventative medicine, I almost never use tinctures. In these cases, I much prefer to weave herbs into food and ferments, to use teas, or to take powdered herbs in capsules. In these cases, I want the herbs to work more slowly and to be digested.

Ok, let’s get to the how. I know you left brained folks are chomping at the bit to know How do you use tinctures safely and effectively when treating children?

I’ve already said that we’re talking about small doses, but how much tincture are we talking about?

When giving children tinctures, I use a really, really simple formula to give a safe and effective dose.

Use 1 drop of tincture for every pound (by weight) of your kiddo.

My little guy is about 30 lbs right now, so I give him 30 drops, which equals 1 ml, of tincture.

I almost always dilute this with a little bit of water or juice. But not too much! If you dilute it too much, you risk them not taking the whole dose. Think ‘small mouthful’ or somewhere in the teaspoon range (5 ml).

I use a small plastic syringe when giving herbs to my youngest. I squirt whatever herbs I’m using into a little cup and then suck that up into the syringe before adding water. Then I fill the syringe by sucking in water (or juice). You can mix in the water before you suck it up into the syringe, but you run the risk of adding too much water and not getting the full dose into the syringe. Sometimes, you only get one chance with kids and you wanna make it count.

**Note – if you dilute the tincture with hot water, it will evaporate the alcohol.  But don’t put boiling water into the syringe!  Only use the syringe after the water’s cooled**

There are other formulas for calculating dose. This is the one that’s stuck with me and I’ve never had any troubles. I hope that it works for you too.

What comes up for you? I’d love to hear your feedback, questions and stories about treating kids with herbs.  Please share your comments on the blog (rather than emailing me).  So many of the emails I receive would be a contribution to the whole community.

Introducing: The Herbal Integration Course

Over the last 10 years, I’ve watched folks struggle to find health care practices that feel good in their hearts AND that work.  I’ve seen many people resign themselves to taking drugs that they’d rather not be taking because it’s the only thing they trust to work.

I created this course specifically to help people develop a deep and powerful trust in local herbal medicines, along with building the skills to make these powerful medicines in their own kitchens.

If this is your struggle, I invite you find out more.

Check it out: Herbal Integration Course

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Winter Solstice – Standing for Darkness

Happy Solstice

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus

winter solsticeIn this dark time of year, I want to send a message to your hearts from mine. Over that last few years it has become a custom for me to send out a Solstice greeting. Part of this custom has been for me to share some of my own journey. And while all the marketing advice says that it is taboo to share my own process, I’m always delighted to be flooded with your stories, experiences and feedback. (More so, in fact, than any other email I send throughout the year.)

So with this spirit of Sacred Service and shared vulnerability, I am breaking my radio silence that’s gone on for most of 2013. I’m shining a light into the darkness of this last year in hopes of reconnecting with you all, that we may journey together through these confusing times.

Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year, the epitome (in the northern hemisphere) of this season of darkness. It is the essence of Yin energy, of inward reflection, of quiet and stillness.

Well, it’s meant to be.

"Bear Meditation" When we look at the forests, the plants and animals, we see their harmony with this seasonal energy (for the most part). And if you’re like me, you crave it also.

Now when I speak of darkness, I want to be clear that this is not a judgment. It’s the darkness that calls me, the reflection that I crave. At this time of year, I want to dwell in the Shadow.

There is a tendency in new age-y philosophy to ‘bright side’ everything. “Focus on the positive not the negative…you get what you draw to you.”. Ultimately, this tends to be used as a way to avoid uncomfortable feelings more than anything because there are no negative feelings. There are only our feelings and how we respond to them.

In the theory of the 5 Phases/Elements, Winter is associated with Fear. It makes sense when you think about it. Darkness is one of two innate fears for us humans. And it even makes sense that people trying to support you by offer coping mechanisms that veer you away from this very uncomfortable and exposed emotion.

But I want to make a Stand for Darkness, for sitting with fear.

It has always been darkness that has birthed my greatest transformations and fear that has shone the brightest light allowing me to see myself.

It’s now been a year since the prophesied 2012 Solstice. Do you remember that charge that the world held on this day a year ago? What did you do with that charge?

I went into my darkness, my yin. And I thought I’d be able to do that and stay in contact with my expressive self (ie. my yang). For those of you who have been on this list for a while, you’ll have noticed that I sent very few emails and wrote very few blog posts in 2013.

I have been busy (if you can call it that) in self reflection. I have been asking myself hard questions like what is it I do? what’s in my heart to do? how can I further align my heart’s calling with my work in the world?

Like a duck preparing to take flight from the water, I have been busy under the surface and it probably looked like not much was happening.

A lot’s been happening.

In 2014 you’re going to see many of these changes. The Urban Herb School is going to be swallowed up by the Living Medicine Project. Teaching herbalism was always meant to be a portion of my work and a few years ago became the focus as I struggled to make this business work. It was always intended to be balanced with my clinical herbal practice and more free community clinics.

Knowing the plants and making the medicines, for my heart to feel complete, needs to be balanced with healing with the plants, both individual people and the community.

So, along with launching my clinical practice, there is a new website coming over the next couple of months.

Also, I’ll be making some changes to this list also. You’ll be hearing from me on a weekly basis instead of my scattered communications of recent years. I want my work with herbs to be something that this community can rely on, learn from and grow with.

So, to tie this back in with the Solstice theme… tonight is the rebirth of the Sun, of expressive Yang energy. Simultaneously, it is the rebirth of my expressive yang energy after a year swimming in the glorious darkness.

My wish for you during these dark days, is that you’re able to hold the hand of a beloved and swim in your darkness, befriend your shadow and face your fears.

I believe there is truth in the prophesies of these times. I believe the pendulum is swinging back toward connection with Spirit. And I believe that sitting with our fear is what will most effectively prepare us to be the agents of change that Earth requires.

May you have both Strength and Wisdom as you walk your heart’s path. May the Divine Fire warm your heart and burn away all stories that you are alone in this world.

Blessed be.


PS.  Here’s a message from an Indigenous Elders Council about Fukushima.  I know it’s on many of our minds these days.

PPS. Here’s a short Solstice video … The Longest Night

PPPS.  I know I’ve shared this before, but it still makes me laugh…

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Herbal antibiotics, Superbugs & the Herbal Integration Course

garlic bulbOne of the most common reasons that I hear as to why people want to learn about herbal medicines is some version of “I want an alternative to antibiotics.”

Some folks are looking for something that won’t give them diarrhea. Others don’t like getting a yeast infection after every course of antibiotics regardless of what they were for. And some folks are really charged about superbugs, namely MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

It would be easy enough to spend this whole article (and pages and pages more) talking about the problems with pharmaceutical antibiotics. I don’t want to do that. That info is already easily found.

What I do want to talk about is using herbs to replace the need/use of antibiotics. And then get to why herbs will actually save us from these superbugs.

As the popular story goes, humans lived in the dark ages up until penicillin was discovered, on some mouldy bread, by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Then we had the ability to kill anything that is seen trying to kill us, namely germs. [vaccinations play a role in this story too, but let's just keep it simple right now]

Did you know that in 1945, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, Fleming warned against extensive antibiotic use? “There is the danger”, he said, “that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”

Let me be really clear about this… herbs work very effectively in treating bacterial infections. And they always have, since long before 1928.

The popular story is a myth. It’s incorrect for many reasons, not the least of which is that humans are not at war with bacteria. (You could say that the medical establishment got the Fox News perspective on health.) Life on Earth exists in its current form because of bacteria. They’re not an enemy.

And, this is a big and, there are many, many herbs with anti-bacterial properties. Some of these are in your kitchen and some of them grow near where you live.

There are 2 fantastically effective antibiotic herbs that I gather every year in Vancouver (growing in pacific northwest generally). Both are abundant and easy to find and harvest. And both are part of the Herbal Integration Course curriculum. I’m very passionate about teaching people to identify and use these magnificent herbal medicines.

But I’m not going to tell you which plants they are right now, sorry. Since I’m hoping that some folks reading this are considering taking the Herbal Integration Course this year, I’m going to save these 2 names for class.

I have a strict policy when teaching people how to learn directly from plants (as I do in the course): The plants teach you first. I teach about the medicine after you’ve spent time with the plant, after you’ve had some help understanding the communication from the plant. That way you can develop confidence in what you’ve learned from the plant. You can’t easily dismiss what you’ve learned as influenced by you knowing the medicinal uses (cuz you didn’t).

But I won’t leave you high and dry either. There are at least three very effective antibiotic herbs that you likely have right now. Not only are these effective for treating many bacterial infections, but also for treating the superbugs that don’t respond to pharmaceutical antibiotics.

The first, as you may expect from me, is … Garlic. I’ve had great success treating ear infections with an infused garlic oil (usually mixed with an anti-inflammatory herb like calendula to soothe). It also works great on yeast infections (candida).

The second is Thyme. Specifically the essential oil (which is also found in the fresh or dried leaves). Gargling repeatedly with a strong tea of thyme easily treats strep throat. And drinking the tea can clear up lung infections . It combines wonderfully with garlic for this, though both can be a bit sharp so I take them with a big spoon of honey.

Number three is an essential oil that almost everyone seems to have… Lavender. If you were guessing Tea tree oil, you’re also right about that one (I had a hard time deciding). Both these essential oils are great for treating bacterial skin conditions, whether it’s an infected cut or skin wound to impetigo or even mrsa. (These are topical applications)

Herbal antibiotics have three clear advantages over pharmaceuticals.

  1. Herbs are easier on your body. They don’t kill your gut bacteria, so they tend not to mess up your digestion. The chemicals that the plants produce are recognizable to your body. Your body knows how to process, use and breakdown (ie. understand) the plant medicine.
  2. Herbs are easier on the ecosystem. Like your body, the ecosystems where chemical antibiotics end up does not know how to process these chemicals because they were created in a lab rather than a plant. Strong foreign chemicals have enormous environmental impacts. How can they not?
  3. Herbs don’t create resistant bacteria. I get really excited about this one because it speaks to balance. It means that herbs can help us find a healthy balance with the bacterial world. We can give up the arms race of creating stronger and stronger antibiotics to kill the ever adapting bacteria.

(As a little side note in defence of medical doctors: while they did/do over-prescribe antibiotics for human use, the real birth place of resistant bacteria is the industrial food system and its treatment of animals.)

There is much more to this conversation. To name just a few of the areas ripe for exploration and discussion: what are antibiotics specific environmental impacts?, bacteria and their roles, and debunking germ theory.

I’ll close with an invitation… if you’d like to learn how to effectively use herbal antibiotics, then consider joining the Herbal Integration Course in 2014.

strength and wisdom.



PS. I changed the Early Bird Deadline to Feb. 16th. To save $150 with the early bird discount you need to submit your application by the end of day Sunday Feb. 16th. But there’s no need to wait that long if you’re ready sooner. This course filled up a week before the application deadline last year. Apply here –>

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