Archive for Herbalism

‘Tis the Elderberry Syrup Season!

by Shannyn Caldwell

While the Cold & Flu yells: “It’s our Season.”

Elderberry simply, but firmly, says: “NOPE!”

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 If you make your way through the Holistic Health Professional, Traditional Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Herbalist  or  Master Herbalist programs at Genesis, you will learn to make tinctures and syrups, teas, tonics, decoctions, poultices, and salves.

Additionally, you’ll learn about essential oils to boost your immune system and teas that will open your lungs and sinuses. You’ll learn about “super-heroes” like Echinacea, and Eucalyptus and where to apply them on the hands and feet to help the body begin to heal itself.

No matter how many tools you collect in your naturopathic tool kit, there will always be a star at the cold/flu season… Elderberry!  “’Tis the season,” as they say, so I thought I would help us along with this wonderful, seemingly magical elixir.

So, elderberry syrup.  What’s all the fuss about?


First…the elderberries themselves:  Elderberries (Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis)


What do we know?   First, we know it’s been around a long time.

Nerd fact: Hippocrates, the “father” of modern medicine wrote about it.  So did Dioscordes who was a Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author of De Materia Medica. So…cool.

In a 1650 medical text elder was translated from Latin to English as the “medicine chest of the common people.”

Elderberry…  The medicine chest of the common people.

What else to we know? The berries themselves are nutrition to an extreme. Flavonoids (obviously…check out that color!) High Vitamin C, A, as well as iron and potassium. They are off the charts as an anti-oxidant.

As far as the honey in the syrup, it has a powerful antiviral as well as a high ‘yummy’ factor!

How about the cinnamon, ginger and clove?  They are warming (take that cold) plus they aid in digestion.  An entirely differently blog could be done just for the power triangle of the goodness of the ginger, cinnamon and clove combination.

I made this basic recipe over the weekend. It was beyond yummy and hopefully our little family will have our healthiest season yet!  Want to try your hand?

Elderberry Syrup

*2/3 C Dried Elderberries

*3 ½ C Pure Water

*2 TBSP Ginger Root

*1 Cinnamon Stick

*1/2 TSP Clove

*1 C Raw, Unfiltered, No Additives Honey

(Note: I use all organic ingredients. It is advisable not to mix toxins with medicinals.)



Pour water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and clove into medium sauce pan and bring to boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat. Reduce liquid by about half. It will take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. The time will vary. So just watch it closely.

Once the syrup is reduced by ½, remove it from the heat. Cool slightly, then strain into a glass bowl.

Next, when the liquid is cooled to luke warm, add the honey and stir until it is incorporated.

Pour into a 16 oz jar.

Your syrup will last several months in the refrigerator.



Adults: 1 TBSP & Children: 1 TSP

Take daily as a preventive during cold and flu season.  At first sign of a cold, the dose can be raised to as much as 1 TBSP per hour for adults and 1 TSP per hour for children*.

*Infants under one year old should not ingest honey as their digestive systems are not yet sufficiently developed.

Last but not least, here’s some good news…  Elderberry syrup is so tasty that it’s one medicine you won’t have a fight get into their happy, healthy tummies!­­­

How to Begin Your Herbal Quick Reference Project

Imagine yourself, a new herbal professional just getting started with clients and you suddenly can’t recall which herb pairs with milk thistle to support the liver, or you are finishing up with one client and have another one waiting and you know the name of the herb you want to use but it slips your mind with the added pressure of knowing someone is waiting for you.  What do you do?  What is available to help you quickly browse through the actions of the herbs in your apothecary?  Oh yes of course, grab the Herbal Quick Reference!

This is YOUR Herbal Reference List! It is a project intended for each Genesis School of Natural Health student to begin thinking about in Phase One, actively start working on in Phase Two, and finish up prior to the completion of studies.




As you are progressing through your courses some herbs will “POP” out at you.  Perhaps you are already using or interested in a few.  Begin the project by writing down their common name.



Next you will want to collect the binomial names of the herb you want to study.  The binomial name is a Latin name used for scientific plant identification.  It is broken down into two-parts, the first is a general name called the “genus”.  This name can be shared by a number of plants.  The second name is called the “species”.  This refers to the individual plant.  When written, the binomial names are usually italicized the genus being capitalized and the species all lower case.

Familiarity with the binomial name of a plant is very important to make sure we have selected the exact herb intended to use for a condition.  For instance,

Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.) is the lavender species most grown and most preferred by herbalists for its soothing action. Other hybrids of lavender (often called “lavender,” too), like lavandin Lavandula intermedia (Emeric ex Loisel.), may contain differing constituent profiles and can be stimulating, rather than relaxing. Without the proper Latin name, you can be in for a surprise and end up wide-awake rather than sleepy. So if you want to chill out, get yourself some L. angustifiolia.”1



You will then want to add the primary action(s) of the herb in parenthesis.  The action of an herb is the job that it does in the body.  An herb that is alterative is supportive of homeostasis.  Alteratives will help restore proper function, elimination of waste, and restore health and vitality.

If you don’t know the herbal action right away, don’t worry, you can fill it in later.  As you progress through  your studies you will have access to materials that provide this information.


Next you will want to add the temperature and taste of the herb after the herbal action in parenthesis.

The temperature of an herb is what TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) refers to as the herb’s Qi or nature.  (To gain a basic understanding of the concept of Qi refer to the blog:  Qi According to Me.)

“The way that an herb acts within the body—and hence its therapeutic effect—is determined by its temperature, its taste and the channels/meridians that it enters. An herb’s temperature is classified as hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold.   In line with common sense, cool and cold herbs are used to treat hot conditions, while warm and hot herbs are used to treat cold conditions.”2

Remember, the nature (temperature) and taste of herbs are not separate properties but are both considered together when selecting herbs.

There are seven tastes—sweet, salty, astringent, sour (which can also be astringent), bitter, acrid (sometimes referred to as pungent or spicy), and bland (which in TCM doesn’t mean without taste, rather it means natural, unspoiled, or pure.)  The taste of an herb is an important indicator of its action in the body.  Bitter tastes, for instance, have been known to affect appetite, weight loss, and digestion for thousands of years.  However, the bitter must be tasted to be effective.  It is the body’s response to the bitter taste of the herb that triggers the the secretion of digestive enzymes in the upper abdomen, aiding digestion.

“Regular exposure to bitter foods in our diet helps promote healthy regeneration of intestinal flora by improving the intestinal environment and disrupting pathogenic germs. These intestinal changes improve the efficiency of our liver, pancreas, and small intestines.”3

Another wonderful herb for circulation is Cayenne.  However, the stimulation of the circulatory system begins with the taste of the herb.  Taste! One of our five physical senses that has been “under-understood” in terms of health in our modern culture.



Here is where you get to list the amazing things that the herb can do.  It is difficult (believe me) to keep this concise, but you will need to for your useful, easy-to-read “quick” reference.  Don’t worry, you will have your reference library and ‘Google’ to fall back on when further study is needed.  Now for those of you on the other extreme, the example here has a good amount of informative text, stretch yourself!



Be sure to add herbs under each of the Body System headings listed on page 2 of the Herbal Reference Project guidelines accessed in the Student Portal.  You will want to create a well-rounded list for your apothecary containing herbs that offer support to all the body systems and also remedies for many common illnesses.Please go ahead and include the herbs and text listed in the Herbal Reference Project guide.  They are there as examples for you and are also recommended, commonly used herbs that you will need to know and want to use.  This alone will get you off to a good start on your project!


Formatting Helps:

  • Use a spreadsheet program similar to Excel or Numbers, or create a table in a Word-type document.
  • Portrait or Landscape orientation (Whatever works for you as this is easily changed.)
  • Use a clear, easy-to-read text and add bold highlights to things you really want to catch your attention, like the common name of each herb.


Herbal Reference Project DON’Ts:

  • Don’t include too many herbs to start this project. Remember, you won’t be starting out with 200+ herbs in your apothecary.  Maybe someday it will grow to that, but certainly not in the beginning of your career.
  • Don’t make the project a bigger deal than what it is. I wasted so much time trying to include every herb and every bit of information I could find, that I completely missed the point about it being a “quick” reference.  I submitted my scaled-down version in the end and that was still way over-the-top!


Herbal Reference Project DOs:

  • Start with approximately 40+/- You can always add more later on. Your project will grow along with your collection of herbs. J
  • Use the herbs listed in the Herbal Reference Project guide (located in the Student Portal.) Think of it as a ‘freebie’ to get you started!
  • While this is not a requirement for submitting the project, you will find it helpful to be in the process of trying the herbs you will be using on others to experience how they work. (See: The Experiential Herbalist)
  • Learn & Have Fun!






Author: Colin I.H. Perry, TND, MH

Everyone that I have ever met loves lavender. It is not only a beautiful plant, but also a very useful one in the arena of natural medicine. It can be used in tinctures and teas and also externally as a massage oil.

In Latin it is known as Lavendula officinalis and in Ayurveda it is called Dharu. The scented flowers are the part of the plant that is used medicinally.

Ayurvedically, the quality or Guna of lavender is sharp, penetrating, oily and light. It has a pungent taste or Rasa. It’s potency or Virya is a cooling one. The post digestive effect or Vipak is pungent.

These attributes mean that it is a cooling and calming herb that can assist in nervous problems such as anger, insomnia, irritability and low self esteem. It can help relieve headaches. It calms nausea and is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, so is very useful in cases of infection.

Lavender is a cooling and calming herb that can assist in nervous problems such as anger, insomnia, irritability and low self esteem.

I often combine a tincture of lavender in equal parts with a tincture of Calendula officials to cleanse and dress wounds, as such it makes a perfect post surgical antiseptic.

Orally ingested it can treat asthma, colds, coughs and catarrhal congestion. Whatever your constitution, it can benefit you. It is an antioxidant and can reduce free radicals. It also has proved effective against parasites such as those causing the tropical disease Leishmaniasis caused by sandfly bites.

One of it’s constituents is a pentacyclic terpenoid called Amyrine. This is a strong anti-viral agent and has also been shown to have an important cytotoxic effects during experimental research conducted on tumours (David Bramwell 2004).

<<Blog written by Colin Perry, a graduate of Genesis School of Natural Health’s TND and MH programs.  Original post at:  Used by permission.>>

The Experiential Herbalist


In a workshop I listened intently as the herbalist spoke about getting to know the taste, temperature, and actions of herbs on a personal level.  I was both intrigued and challenged. Except for a few herbs that had piqued my interest, much of my knowledge seemed intellectual.  I too wanted to live and breathe herbs.  How did he get to know so many and so much about each herb, and how they synergized with other herbs, and which ones would help people in the best way? He knew them intimately because he used them!

There is no time like the present to increase our herbal experience.  So if you’re ready to “step it up a notch,” then get started intentionally using them.  Pick one herb each month to add into daily life.  In only two years you could have an in-depth knowledge of 24 herbs.  Now this may not sound like a lot, 24 herbal simples?  However, once you start combining these herbs the effects will multiply and so will your “experiential knowledge base.”  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Keep a notebook and journal about each herb.  Record everything you can think of about your herb selection.
    1. Taste? Bitter, sweet, salty, sour, lemon-like, acrid, etc.
    2. Smell? Minty “green”, floral, apple-like, etc.
    3. What does it look like as a plant, cut and sifted herb, powder? Color, texture, etc.
    4. Part of the plant? Root, leaf, aerial parts, flower, whole plant, etc.?
    5. Texture? Prickly, smooth, silky, gritty, etc.
    6. Does it taste differently as a powder, tea, tincture, etc?
  2.   What are its herbal actions as a single herb (herbal simple)?
    1. Does it act differently as a hot tea or a cold beverage? Effective cold/hot or not?  Bitter when steeped too long?  How much tea is effective? Is a tincture or capsule a better delivery method, something else?
    2. How long does it take to work? Immediately, 15 minutes, ½ hour, 2 hours, a day, daily for week, month, etc.
    3. Is it drying, moistening, or neutral?
    4. Is its temperature hot, warming, neutral, cooling, cold, etc.?
    5. How does it make you feel? Energized, tired, relaxed, edgy, think clearly, etc.
    6. Is it aromatic? If so, how does the scent affect you?  (Lavender, peppermint, chamomile, etc.)
  3.   What are its herbal actions when mixed with another herb or herb combination?
    1. You can ask many of the same questions here that you did of the herbal simple.
    2. How is the herb different in a compounded form? Stronger/weaker?  What ratio did you use?  How might you change that ratio for a better effect?
    3. How do different herbs or combinations bring out the best, or worst in this herb?
    4. Which herb combinations taste better or worse?
    5. Is the herb or herbal combination safe for children and the elderly?  How about pregnant or lactating women?

Be encouraged to try the herbs and form your own opinions before beginning your research.  You might find that you perceive an herb slightly different than others, and that’s okay.  It is not always a matter of right or wrong.  Learning HOW to know herbs is an invaluable skill. As we gain knowledge, we gain intuition.  So don’t let the reading of Materia Medicas become like reading a love story about someone else.  Take the opportunity to fall in love yourself!

If you have a question, suggestion, or an experience of getting to know an herb of your own that you would like to share, please do so, in the comments below!

May the joy of knowing herbs be with you!


Calendula and Yarrow

Snip20160811_2Calendula and Yarrow:  Herbal Preparation Projects
by Barbara Richey

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

I made a caendula ointment. Calendula is a beautiful golden flower that can be found in eastern Canada, south through New England, west through Pennsylvania and Ohio, north through Michigan and Wisconsin.  In the west, it is cultivated in California.  Calendula features warm gold blossoms. Once they bloom the flowers can be picked throughout the season.

Calendula is an herb that is used to heal the skin. It’s great for scrapes, bruises, insect bites and minor wounds. It can also be used for sore and/or infected gums.  I enjoyed working with this flower because of all of the useful healing properties. I have family members with eczema and varicose veins. I created salves to treat their skin ailments.  PDF – Calendula and Yarrow

Stimulating Senses with Cinnamon

Carla BergStimulating Senses with Cinnamon  
by Carla Berg

There are a variety of ways to use cinnamon spice holistically. Below are just a few examples, along with how they can stimulate our five basic human senses. Within each category, the tincture process is explained, and then a medicinal use is listed as it correlates with our senses.

Sight: The cinnamon bark, derived from being peeled off an evergreen tree, curled into flavorful, long tubes looked delicious with their nice brownish red color. I knew this would be a popular tincture choice to have around this fall!

PDF – Stimulating Senses with Cinnamon

Plantain & Borage

Collin2Herbal Preparation Project:

To complete the first part of this project, we are going to make two fresh herbal tinctures one of Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) leaves and the other Borage (Borago officinalis) flowers and leaves.

Then, to satisfy the second part of the project, we will produce a healing vulnerary salve by simply combining the two tinctures with organic coconut oil thus giving the skin the benefit of all three with their combined synergic effects.

Both tinctures were formulated by picking the fresh leaves, macerating them and covering this with 75 proof alcohol. This was then put aside for two weeks before straining the liquids off their marcs to produce clear filtered herbal preparations. We will discuss the Ayurvedic properties, actions and major indications of these herbs.

PDF – Colin Perry SG31 – Plantain & Borage

Lemon Balm Hydrosol

LemonBalmLemon Balm Hydrosol by Carla Berg

I’ve been enjoying essential oils for only a few years, mostly to make homemade products like soap and toothpaste. My husband, Todd, went shopping for supplies and noticed the price tag on essential oils. He was not very pleased and knowing my interest in herbs was growing, he decided to plant some herbs and make a distiller with an extra pressure cooker that we had. Todd drilled a whole in the pressure cooker lid and installed a fitting in order to attach a copper tube to the condenser, which was a separate copper tube that was coiled and glued to an old tin can. The last step was to drill a hole in the bottom of the can for the copper tube to deliver the final product into the receiver. Todd used copper because it is known for having toxic effects on microorganisms. Since I planned to consume or use the hydrosols externally, I did wash them in a watered down bleach solution, then thoroughly rinsed afterwards.  » Read more

The Zing of Ginger


The Zing of Ginger
by Faith Schwartz

Common name: Ginger (Ginger root)
Botanical name: Zingerber officinale
Family: Zingiberaceae (ginger family)
Genus: Zingiber



Ginger is perhaps the world’s oldest recognized medicinal plant and arguably one of the most important. Native to south-east Asia, ginger is traditionally thought to have been cultivated for its medicinal value for over 5000 years, although the first mention of the plant is found in Chinese writings dating back to about 400 BC.

Both Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic herbalists use the plant extensively; in fact, it’s estimated over half of Chinese herbal formulas include ginger. In Ayurvedic (Indian) herbalism ginger is labeled the “universal medicine” and is touted to have come from the Garden of Eden.

Ginger’s botanical name was derived from the Sanskrit word, singabera, which means “horn-shaped” – an obvious reference to the most coveted part of the plant, its rhizome (root).  » Read more

Red Raspberry Leaf

Red Raspberry Leaf

43608852_sCommon name:
 Red Raspberry (American Raspberry, Black Raspberry, Dewberry, Bramble Fruit, Thimble Berry)
Botanical name: Rubus spp. – Rubus idaeus (cultivated variety), Rubus strigosus (wild variety)
Family: Rosaceae (rose family)
Genus: Rubus



Raspberry is a beautiful plant native to Europe and Asia Minor, though now widely naturalized throughout the world. A member of the rose family, raspberry is in the genus Rubus, meaning “red” and the species idaeus refers to the shrubís historic growing region on Mount Ida near Troy in northwest Turkey. Taken together this botanical name identifies raspberry as the “red bush of Ida”.

Records of domestication of raspberry have been found in writings of Palladius from the 4th century while the therapeutic effects of red raspberry leaves were documented in the writings of Gerard in the late 16th century. The Native Americans prized the fruit, leaves and roots (of the North American variety, Rubus strigosus) as a womenís tonic, as well as a nutritive tea; the Eclectics likewise touted the plant as a great contributor to womenís health. Raspberry was included in the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary until the middle of the 20th century. » Read more

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