Saturday, March 17, 2018


RED ROOT –Ceanothus Americanus, Ceanothus Fendleri, Ceanothus Velutinus, Ceanothus Cuneatus, Ceanothus Herbaceum, Ceanothus Spinosus, Ceanothus Greggii, etc. 

Also known as: New Jersey Tea, deer brush, snowbrush, desert ceanothus, grub roots, green buckbrush, bloodroot, etc.

Parts used: root, leaves, flowers

Systems/organs affected: liver, lymph, spleen, blood, digestive, nervous, bowel, lungs

Properties: astringent, scrofulous, hemostatic, antispasmodic, expectorant, hypotensive, sedative, lymph stimulant, lymph tonic, anti-inflammatory, alterative, antisyphilitic, heaptic, splenic stimulant, antibacterial, nervine, antiviral

          RED ROOT is a member of the Rhamnaceae (buckthorn) family. It is indigenous to the Americas although it has been naturalized elsewhere.  There are between 60-80 different species of this plant and it does cross breed so new hybrids seem to pop up all the time.  It has ovate shaped leaves with three predominant veins that start at the base of the leaf and continue out to the margins.  It is a rather hardy shrub like plant that can be anywhere from 12 inches to 25 feet tall.  Some varieties have thorns on them while others do not.  The flowers grow in feathery clusters and can be greenish white to white in color-some are fragrant while others are not.  Again it depends on the variety.  (The smell is said to be sweetly nauseating-so like cooking honey).  The flowers give way to a tri-lobed seed capsule that turn a reddish color when mature.  The root is red (when picked at the proper time-otherwise it is white to pinkish) which is where the name comes from.  It has also been referred to as blood root (Sanguinaria Canadensis) which is an ENTIRELY different species of plant so please pay attention to the Latin!  The seeds of this plant can lie dormant for 200 years or more waiting for fire to germinate them.  They are also one of the first plants to come back from a fire and help with soil erosion (much like ocean spray plant or fireweed).  It typically blooms from June to August and can be found growing in coastal shrub lands to forest clearings from British Columbia to Guatemala and throughout the Rockies.  The dried leaves have been compared to black tea in flavor but the root is where the true medicinal content of the plant lies.  The root is best harvested in late fall to early spring (Nov. & Feb.).  The root should be chopped up into small pieces while fresh because once dried it takes a tank to crush it.

Red root is considered by many herbalists to be a plant for the herbal kit.  (In other words not to be without).  It has many medicinal uses but it is perhaps best known for what it does for the lymph system.  Chemical components within the plant stimulate the lymphatic system to flow thus removing blockages and/or toxins. It also works as a tonic to the lymph-toning the system as it heals. It is best used with other lymphatic (Scrofulous) herbs for this purpose rather than alone. For this reason it makes it a perfect herb for anything that effects the lymph system such as appendicitis, enlarged spleen, tonsillitis and other lymph node issues in the body.  Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the spleen plays a significant role in how the body metabolizes and uses food.  They believe it is a splenic imbalance that causes digestive issues and sluggish metabolic function.  (To many herbalists the spleen is the biggest lymph node).

Red root has a lengthy history.  It was in the King’s Dispensary (1898) along with a host of other herbal works from that period.  The leaves were typically used during that time but weren’t considered as effective as other herbs for illnesses (not medicinal enough).  The root didn’t become popular until the mid 1900’s even though the Native Americans had been using it for decades.  The Cherokee used the root to tone the digestive tract, for skin cancer and venereal sores.  The Chippewa used it for lung issues, constipation, shortness of breath and digestive problems.  The Iroquois used the root for colds and to improve blood circulation.  The leaves were used for diarrhea.  It was also used by many tribes as a wash for wounds and venereal diseases and as firewood when timber was scarce.  Father Pierre d’Incarville, a French Jesuit and botanist (1700’s) was one of the first to bring the plant back to his home country, where it was used much like the natives used it.  Early Eclectic physicians used it as a mucolytic agent due to its ability to move fluids in the body.  It was used for varicose veins, broken capillaries, reproductive cysts, hemorrhoids, to improve arterial blood flow and more.  The European colonists used it to alleviate whooping cough and other respiratory complaints.  During the Revolutionary War it was used as a substitute for tea (the leaves) and in Civil War times it was employed for malarial splenitis (enlarged spleen due to malaria).  In fact in the Eclectic Medical Journal (1898, 4th Edition, vol. 58:301-302) it states,

          In malarial splenitis of a chronic nature, and subsequent malarial anemia, ceanothus is a valuable remedy.  Because of its stimulating effect upon the mucus membranes of the body, and its stimulating action upon the blood supply of the stomach, ceanothus is an excellent remedy in some cases of dyspepsia-those in which there is a depraved blood supply, little absorption, poor hepatic and splenic action.  It goes on to say that due to those actions it makes it a beneficial plant for diarrhea, dysentery, gonorrhea, asthma, menorrhagia, cancer, syphilis, chronic bronchitis, sore throat and/or mouth, etc.  Michael Moore calls it one of the most unsung herbs of our time.

Red root contains a chemical called ceanothine.  This compound is believed to give the plant most of its medicinal value although it does have a host of other beneficial components and acids.  For many herbalists the spleen is the key for using this plant.  It is a deficiency in the spleen that leads to things like Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Colitis and a host of other intestinal and/or digestive issues.  This also plays a role in skin disorders as well as the two are irrevocably connected.  Other conditions that are affected by inadequate lymphatic or spleen function are mononucleosis, strep infections, gingivitis, dental plaque, leukemia, AIDS, mastitis, tonsillitis, anemia, Hodgkin’s disease, rheumatic conditions, hepatitis, bad skin/acne, ongoing headaches, lupus, lyme disease and other autoimmune disorders, etc.  (Who knew so many things could be affected by such small things?!)

Henriette’s Herbal says that water is the best menstruum for this herb.  Basically it says that,

          When purified, ceanothine is white, its odor and taste is similar to that of green tea; it is soluble in water, but insoluble in alcohol, ether, and carbon disulphide.

Ceanothus Velutinus is the one most found in Idaho.  There are other herbs that CAN be used  as alternatives to red root but their potentcy will vary.  For instance, poke root is a great alternative but needs to be used wisely and carefully as it is three times as potent as red root so you would use one third the amount of poke root as you would red root.  Cleavers is another option but it is not as potent as red root.  You would need 4 times the amount of cleavers as you would red root to get the same effect.  Red root has a high protein and calcium content.  It also contains fair amounts of copper, iron and zinc.

          WebMD suggests that this herb should not be taken by pregnant and/or nursing women, those on blood thinners (red root has coagulating abilities), those on iron supplements (it may interfere with absorption), those with digestive issues, glaucoma those taking blood pressure or cholesterol meds and those scheduled for surgical procedures.  Too much red root can cause a loss of appetite, low blood pressure, drowsiness, vomiting, shock, diarrhea, headaches, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, glaucoma and coma.  (Those are RARE and only come from extended long period use).  Consult with a qualified physician before ever beginning an herbal product or regimen.

         As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Stay strong and healthy! 

Sunday, November 19, 2017


GOLDENROD –Solidago Canadensis, Solidago Multiradiata, Solidago Gigantea, Solidago Occidentalis, Solidago Altissima, Solidago Missouriensis, Solidago Odora, Solidago Virgaurea, etc.

Also known as: wound wort, Canada goldenrod, northern goldenrod, Missouri goldenrod, giant goldenrod, yellow weed, Aaron’s rod, etc.

Parts used: roots, leaves, flowers, seeds

Systems/organs affected: kidneys, bladder, lungs, immune, gastrointestinal, lymphatic

Properties: styptic, diuretic, kidney tonic, analgesic, lymphatic, astringent, anti-allergenic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, renal tropho-restorative (nutritional restorative for the renal system), stimulant, antifungal, carminative, vulnerary, cicatrisant (promotes cell regeneration for tissue and skin by scar formation), antioxidant, anti-catarrhal
Goldenrod is a member of the Compositae (daisy) family.  There are between 60-130 species of this plant (depending on who you talk to) that have lance-like alternating leaves that may or may not be serrated (depending on the variety).  They can be anywhere from two to eight feet tall with clusters of tiny, bright yellow flowers.  Depending on the variety the stem may or may not have hairs as well.  The erect plant blooms from June to September (depending on the location) and can be found in open meadows, irrigated fields, roadsides, drainage ditches, etc.  It is native to North America but can now be found several places throughout the globe.  Goldenrod isn’t like other plants that normally spread through insects or wind transfer.  It sends out runners from the root and multiplies that way.  Often you will find a colony of them growing together.  Goldenrod pollen is heavy and so depends entirely on insects for pollination above ground.  It does get blamed for a lot of seasonal allergies as it blooms the same time as ragweed which is notorious for causing allergic reactions (ragweed is also wind pollinated) and so it gets a bad rap.

Goldenrod comes from Latin origins and it literally means, ‘to make whole’.  It has quite the reputation medicinally and was a very popular herbal remedy which has somehow been forgotten by modern man and big pharma.  It is still used widely in Europe though so at least some people have some common sense to keep the plant useful.  There are at least 12 species of goldenrod in the Rockies with 8 of them being located right here in Idaho.

Goldenrod, like so many other herbs, has an interesting history.  In the Crusades it was often referred to as ‘wound wort’ for its ability to stop bleeding.  The injured were often given poultices of the plant until help could get to them, which in those days could take a while. (It was given either in powder form or as a decocted boiled plant wash).  The Native Americans used it in much the same way for humans and for saddle sores on horses.  The Spanish Americans would mix it with soap to make a plaster for topical use on sore throats (kind of like a throat cast).  One particular species called Missouri goldenrod has a high latex content and has been experimented with as a possible replacement for rubber.  It was rumored that Thomas Edison was gifted with a car from Henry Ford with tires that Edison had made using the latex of goldenrod plants.  For whatever reason the idea never caught on.  The root and leaf teas were used both internally and externally for headaches, burns, rheumatic conditions, colds, ulcers, neuralgia, kidney stones, toothaches, etc.  The flowers were used for sore throats and were often chewed for such.  It was also mixed with other herbs as an immune stimulant and to alleviate fatigue and exhaustion.  It has also been used to some degree for diabetes.  The Native Americans also used this plant as an edible.  The leaves and flowers were added to soups, salads and stews for texture as well as flavor.  The leaves  were cooked much like spinach and eaten.  The seeds were eaten in survival situations and used to thicken gravies and soups.  The leaves and flowers provided  a lovely tasting tea also known as Blue Mountain Tea which was the tea believed to be tossed into Boston Harbor but then was known as Liberty Tea or Freedom Tea.  The tea was used by the natives and early colonists for urinary issues, cramps, intestinal gas, colic and to remove excess mucus from the lungs.  The German E Commission also approved its use for urinary, bladder and kidney issues as studies have found it particularly effective for those areas.  In Europe it is used to prevent and treat kidney stones. (Better watch out Europe or the FDA word Nazis might come down on you for using those ‘medical’ terms.)

Goldenrod is also an essential oil that is steam distilled from the flowers.  It has an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) of 61,900! ORAC was created by the USDA to measure the antioxidant capabilities of foods and plants.  When you realize that blueberries have an ORAC value of 2400 and cloves have an ORAC value of over one million you soon have an understanding of the plants with incredible toxin fighting abilities.  The oil is mostly used for liver function, the circulatory system, cardiovascular system and the urinary tract.  It helps to open up the sacral, root and solar plexus chakras that govern both our sexual and survival instincts.  In Ayurvedic medicine it means that rather than being ‘pissy’ and resentful towards others we learn to become more accepting of our life experiences so that we can grow.  As this happens we are able to let go of our negative energy and our kidney and bladder energies then begin to flow as they should (detoxifying the body).  The oil is used mostly via inhalation through a diffuser or water bath, although people are using it more in topical applications every day (ALWAYS DILUTE).  It has been found to be helpful for skin issues, arthritis, gout, athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, burns, insect bites and as a mouthwash for toothaches and oral infections.  It is inhaled directly from the bottle or in a diffuser to ease respiratory congestion and to calm and uplift the mind and senses.  As it has a citrus pepper like scent it also helps to get rid of odors in the home and/or workplace.  It is also purportedly aquaretic-which means it acts as a diuretic without removing electrolytes needed by the body as so many diuretics often do.

Culpeper said that it is a plant of Venus and thus good for beauty (skin).  He also stated that, “The decoction of the herb, green or dry, or the distilled water thereof, is very effectual for inward bruises, as also to be outwardly applied it stays bleeding in any part of the body, and of wounds; also the fluxes of humours, the bloody-flux, and women’s courses, and is no less prevalent in all ruptures and burstings, being drank inwardly, and inwardly, and outwardly applied.  It is a sovereign wound herb, inferior to none, both for the inward and outward hurts, green wounds, old sores and ulcers, are quickly cured therewith.  It is also of especial use in all lotions for sores or ulcers in the mouth, throat, or privy parts of man or woman.  The decoction helps to fasten teeth that are loose in the gums.” (1653)

Peter Holmes, author of ‘Energetics of Western Herbs’ said that goldenrod should be used for any chronic kidney condition as it is tropho-restorative for those organs in general.  Goldenrod contains rutin.  Rutin increases capillary strength and circulation to the cardiovascular system.  Apparently it is also a thinking herb in regards to mucus in the body as well.  If there is too much mucus goldenrod will thin it out, if there is too little it will produce just enough to do whatever the job is necessary. 

Goldenrod is currently being studied for its possible use for cancer (especially prostate) and insulin resistance (diabetes).  Both look promising at this time.  It will be interesting to see what the future brings with this plant.

With all its benefits you can bet that big pharma will find reasons for you not to take it.  WebMD says that you should avoid this plant if you are pregnant and/or nursing, taking diuretics, lithium, blood pressure meds, if you have issues with fluid retention, osteoporosis or are allergic to the ragweed family.  It is also advised not to give it to children under 5 years of age.  The tea does have a lovely anise like flavor and is believed to be safe to consume up to 3 cups a day.  As with any herb, please consult a qualified physician before beginning any herbal product or regimen.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them as you see fit.  Stay strong and healthy


WOOD BETONY – Betonica officinalis, Stachys officinalis, Pedicularis Canadensis, veronica officinalis.

Also known asbetony, lousewort, bishop’s wort, Paul’s betony, herb Christopher, beefsteak plant, high heal-all, hedge nettle.

Parts used: aerial portions.

Systems/organs affected: liver, heart, stomach, nerves, digestive.

Properties: nervine, astringent, sedative, bitter tonic, aperient, stomachic, antiscorbutic, aromatic, antidepressant, hypotensive, anti-diarrheal, anthelmintic, anti-venomous, carminative, alterative, anodyne, emmenogogue..

WOOD BETONY is a member of the Labiatae (deadnettle) family. It is a lovely perennial that can get up to three feet tall. It has purplish/pink flowers and long, narrow leaves with round-toothed margins. Some varieties are native to Europe, Asia and Africa while others seem to be native to North America. It blooms from June to August (depending on the species) and can be found in woodland clearings, gardens, grasslands and hedgebanks. Harvest the leaves before the flowers bloom and dry in the sun.

Wood Betony has a long history as a panacea. The ancient Egyptians believed it had magical powers and that it could ward off evil spirits. This translated to the Middle Ages where the Anglo-Saxons wore betony amulets to protect them from evil. The Romans believed it could cure at least 47 different diseases and disorders. In fact, Caesar Augustus’ personal physician, Antonius Musa, wrote a small book about it. Gerard gave a long list of uses for this plant, especially its use for urinary issues. Culpeper wrote that it preserves the liver and protects one from disease and witchcraft. It also was believed that wounded animals would seek out the plant and ingest it to cure wounds and diseases. Maude Grieve (A Modern Herbal, 1931) said that, “… throughout many centuries, faith in Betony’s virtues as a panacea for all ills was thoroughly ingrained in the popular estimation… betony was once the sovereign remedy for all maladies of the head.” Apparently this has merit as the word “betony” is derived from the Celtic “bew” which means “head” and “ton” which means “good.” The Celts and others used it for all kinds of head issues including migraines which it seemed to be very effective against. It also was used for: poor circulation, poor liver function, joint pain, depression, insomnia, as a nerve tonic, for addiction, psychiatric disorders, head injuries, digestive issues, inflammation and more.

The Chinese and East Indian cultures use it as a tonic. A tonic by definition means it is something that helps the body heal itself, but slowly. Tonics are employed in Asian cultures long before using the traditional herbs. Perhaps this is one reason it really isn’t used much in Western cultures as we tend to want the healing to happen NOW!!! We are impatient and don’t wish to wait for our healing to happen naturally.

More recently wood betony was found to contain betainerosmarinic acidbetulinic acid, and the alkaloids trigonelline and stachydrine. It also is higher in tannins which is what makes it work so well as an astringent. Trigonelline is a component commonly found in fenugreek which is used in China for nervous system disorders and diabetes among other things. This component has been studied and found to be important for insulin secretion, glucose metabolism and cell regeneration just to name a few. It has been found to have neuro-protective, sedative, antiviral, anti-migraine, hypoglycemic, antibacterial and anti-tumor activities. (, “Trigonelline: A Plant Alkaloid with Therapeutic Potential for Diabetes and Central Nervous System Disease.”) And that is just one component of wood betony!
Curr Med Chem. 2012;19(21):3523-31. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't; Review
Stachydrine also has been studied and was found to have anticancer capabilities especially with regard to prostate cancer. (
Nat Prod Res. 2012;26(18):1737-40. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2011.608673. Epub 2011 Oct 11.
, “In Vitro Anticancer Activity of Stachydrine Isolated from Capparis Decidua on Prostate Cancer Cell Lines.”) It was found to promote blood circulation and break uyp stagnant blood (blood stasis). (
, “Stachydrine, A Major Constituent of the Chinese Herb Leonurus Heterophyllus Sweet, Ameliorates Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells Injury Induced by Anoxia-reoxygenation.”)

Wood Betony also contains phytochemicals that have been found to be effective against tuberculosis. It has elements within it that specifically aid the nervous system which is why it has been used for migraines, Parkinson’s Disease, stomach cramps, colic and other nerve-related issues. It also increases tone throughout the body, making it a good option for things like prolapsed organs and/or uterus, debility, excessive menstruation, liver and/or gallbladder issues and even more. Wood betony works well when used in combination with other herbs too, such as yarrow or comfrey for sinus problems or nosebleeds.

Wood betony is said to taste similar to black tea – so it has a mild bitter flavor. Overuse of wood betony can cause digestive irritation and nausea so be aware of this fact. WebMD says that if one is pregnant or breastfeeding it should be avoided; and as betony can lower blood pressure it is recommended that those on blood pressure medications avoid it as well as those scheduled for surgery for the same reason.

AS ALWAYS, CONSULT A PHYSICIAN BEFORE STARTING ANY HERBAL PRODUCT OR REGIMEN. As is customary with all of my posts I am including some links below for your benefit.  Stay strong and healthy my friends!