You CAN Grow in Herbs in Winter

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

aerogarden-1They say insanity is when you continually try the same thing yet expect different results.

I am among the garden crazy. Every year I bring herb pots into my sun-deprived Northeast Ohio condo and will them to live through spring. Every year the thyme gets leggy and crisp. The rosemary drops its needles after the Christmas tree. This year I controlled my futile optimism and  relocated a true survivalist, my bay tree.

Then, reality shifted. I flipped through the Sur la Table catalog and spied the AeroGarden. It looks like infomercial fodder so I was skeptical. I called Ben Gill, vice president of marketing for the product. Naturally, he was high on its potential. Personally, he has two; one grows flowers and the other Anaheim peppers. But, that little hydroponic tub with its full-spectrum LED lights is just screaming for herbs.

herb-listAnd, that’s why the company offers 40 different seed pods, 28 of them are herbs. A mix of seeds and nutrients, the pods nest in the AeroGarden – which comes in 12 models – and grow in temperate, nutrient-rich water.

With optimum nutrients and lighting, seeds sprout and grow faster than in traditional soil. A typical herb garden, says Gill, lasts about nine months. And so he recommends having two, starting the second one about four months into the life cycle of the first.

With a digital panel– and a WIFI option – growers control lighting and are reminded when to add water. Yup. There’s an app for that.

The AeroGardeaerogarden-sprout-2n arrived on the scene in 2006, but is gaining popularity in a time when cooking with herbs and knowing where they came from are important.

The kits are available online from the company – occasionally at discount prices – as well as from Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Costco.

I guess there’s a cure for winter insanity.

Consider Herbal Tea Blends to Fight Cold/Flu

By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center, Northeast Wisconsin Unit of the Herb Society of America

cold-fluThe cold and flu season rages on. Herbs can be incorporated into your life to help you stay healthy.

Naturally, prevention is the best approach. You probably know to eat right, sleep well, stay hydrated, exercise, reduce stress and wash your hands often. So easy and so hard. Herbs can help.

If you’re struggling with sleep you may want to try lemon balm, chamomile, skullcap, linden, dill, hops, passion flower, and California poppy.

Herbal teas can also help. A prevention tea, full of vitamin C includes rosehips, hibiscus, lemon peel and cinnamon. Other tea blends that help you stay hydrated include:tee-1685847__340

  • Nourishing winter tea: Elderberry, yarrow, calendula, nettle.
  • Nourishing tea: Nettle, chickweed, linden, oat straw, chamomile, mint.
  • Winter tea: Elderberries, elderflowers, lemon peel, ginger, rosehips.
  • Sunshine tea: Chamomile, lemon peel, sage, clove, mint.
  • Tea for a cold: Echinacea root, lemon balm, mint, yarrow.
  • Elderberry tea: Elderberries, cinnamon, clove, cardamom

 It is the policy of The Herb Society not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

Grow Your Own Chocolate, Herbs That Is

By Jen Munson, Herb Society of America, Northeast District Delegate

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz

cocoa-452911_1280Like Charlie Brown and Lucy, Valentine’s Day and chocolate are inherently linked. We could easily debate whether it’s chocolate’s aphrodisiac qualities or plain old commercialism that links the two. But who cares. Chocolate (Theobroma cacao) is technically an herb. And, that’s a good thing.

It’s generally accepted that chocolate releases endorphins in our brains which reduce stress and pain as well as provide cardiovascular benefits.  Unfortunately the beneficial qualities of chocolate come from the bitter cocoa bean. And so they need a delivery system such as added fats and sugars. That’s where the health benefits are challenged.

Wish you could have chocolate more often?  Consider a chocolate-themed herb garden.

mint-1396017_1920Chocolate Mint ( Mentha x piperita f. citrara ‘Chocolate’)– This easy-to-grow perennial survives in nearly all zones, most soil and light conditions. It’s a fun herb to brush against as you’ll be rewarded with a lovely scent of chocolate and peppermint. Like its relatives it can spread prolifically, so you’ll want to grow it in a container or keep it slightly unhappy by growing it in a shady area. I used in as a substitute for chocolate chips in zucchini bread and it makes a lovely tea. The other benefit: it dries easily for chocolate mint tea. The flavor holds up well.

Chocolate-Scented Pelargonium (Pelargonium tomentosum ‘Chocolate Peppermint’) – This is a perennial in zones 10-11 and a tender perennial in the northeast. Like chocolate mint it is pleasing to run your hands against and have a lovely mint scent with just a hint of chocolate. It’s a vigorous grower and much like its cousins can tolerate heat and dry soil. I find that it loses its scent when dried so this one is best used fresh. Ideas for use include lining the bottom of a pan when making quick breads or cakes or using it to infuse its scent into sugar.

If you are trying to increase the use of native plants in gardens, then Geum rivale ‘Chocolate Root’ might be for you.

avens-3345_1920Perhaps a chocolate theme is in your future garden plans. When you factor in color and scents the world of plants really opens up for you. Ideas include Chocolate Sunflower, Chocolate Viola, Chocolate Daisy, Chocolate Hollyhock, Chocolate Sweet William (‘Sooty’) and Chocolate Pincushion Flower, the darkest flowering forms of Nasturtium, Sunflower, Chocolate Orange Rudbeckia, Pincushion Flower, Snapdragon and a charming Chocolate Viola.

Herb Hacks to Fight Winter Colds, Flu


By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center. Northeast Wisconsin Unit of the Herb Society of America

According to the groundhog, winter’s health challenges will be with us for a few more weeks. The following Herbal Hacks might help fight the “crud” that seems to circulate during this time of year.astragulus


Add Astragalus to your soups and stews. The Chinese have been doing this for centuries, claiming it boosts their immune systems.  It comes in stick (don’t eat them) or powder form.

 Use more Garlic in cooking (waiting 15 minutes from cutting to pot to let it activate itself).


echinecea-capsulesCurrent research suggests Echinacea may shorten the duration and severity of the flu, if used within 36 hours of onset.  Echinacea comes in teas and tinctures and becomes even more effective when paired with ginger. It is recommended to use Echinacea on an as-needed basis.

In the 1980’s research out of Israel found Elderberry effective against the bird flu.  It appeared to inhibit the virus from entering cells walls and replicating. Based on this study, Sambucol was developed and patented. You can find Sambucol over-the-counter at most stores now.

star-aniseRecords indicate star anise has been used since at least 200 BC by the Chinese as an expectorant and warming digestive aid. It can be used as a tea or a tincture.  Did you know more than 50% of the world’s star anise crop is purchased by Roche Pharmaceutical to make Tamiflu? Since Roche has now synthesized the shikimic acid they were extracting, hopefully the market will open up. I make a vegetable glyceride of star anise which allows me to take it to work and use it at the first inkling of a cold or flu.

Fire Cider:  After the recent massive sharing of fire cider recipes, just google FIRE CIDER.  Generally they include garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, lemon, cayenne and apple cider vinegar but there are many variations and additional ingredients to add.  Generally all the ingredients are chopped, put in a quart jar, covered the apple cider vinegar and let sit (shaking daily) for a month. Then, strain, rebottle into a clean and sterilized bottle and used as needed. I use much of mine as a salad dressing.  Others add to honey and drink as a tonic. 

It is the policy of The Herb Society not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment..

We Rank First In Top 30 Herbal Blogs

We Rank First In Top 30 Herbal Blogs

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of Americaparis-in-lavender

I was at my keyboard wearing my pink Eiffel Tower pajamas, a bit overwhelmed by the dozen stories on my to-do list and chilled by the snowy Ohio weather outside my front room window. So I took a break and scrolled through email. When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
A missive announcing this as the top-ranked herbal blog, as measured by Feedspot, creator of a content-reader tool. That’s right; The Herb Society of America’s blog tops the list of 30 most popular herb blogs!!!

no-one-blog-feedspotI was surprised, proud and humbled by the announcement. Whatever joyful noise I expressed startled the two cats that haunt my desk. I work alone at home, so they had the only ears to hear me.  I hadn’t entered a contest or applied for an award. So I googled Feedspot and was satisfied that the results were legit.

I am particularly proud of stories about foragingreplacing tobacco crops with Chinese herbs and the importance of native herbs. I look for new andinteresting topics to research and write about as well as the less obvious, such as those items that go beyond medicinal or familiar culinary usage.

These topics have refreshed the blog with six to eight posts each month since July 2015. While I’ve written many of the 150-plus posts, readers enjoy the voices of guest herbalists and garden writers as well.

It’s heartening to know that — in addition to you regular readers — HSA’s blog captured the attention (and accolades!) of the herbal blog industry.

Going forward I hope to live up to the award. And I continue to welcome ideas and guest authors. For more information contact me at 

Feedspot. is a content-reader built especially for power users who want to save time and track favorite blogs in one place. Using a content reader helps track up with customized top information sources – content comes straight to you, saving the time to go and check every site individually.


Solidago, 2017 Notable Native Herb™

By Karen O Brien, Herb Society of America, Botany and Horticulture, Chair

goldenrodSolidago – better known to all as goldenrod – is part of a healthy ecosystem. This truly American genus, including 77 species, is found in every state, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico.   It was chosen by The Herb Society of America as the 2017 Notable Native Herb.™

It’s important to note that goldenrod has a mistaken reputation as a cause of hay fever. Its showy flowers generally bloom the same time as ragweed, the cause for that condition.

Goldenrod has been used as food, flavoring, beverage, medicine, fragrance, industrial, and in household applications. For example, Solidago odora, or sweet goldenrod, is fragrant when crushed, has been used as a tea, and has been explored for use in the perfume industry.

Many other types of goldenrod have been used medicinally, particularly by native American people. Solidago has a rich and impressive history of healing, for uses as varied as reducing fever, relieving toothaches, minimizing bruises and insect stings and treating kidney and bladder problems, among others.

Goldenrod excels as a pollinator plant, its blooming season serving as a late nectar and pollen source for bees, wasps, butterflies, and flies. Some birds feast on the seeds or leaves, as well as the caterpillars who patronize it. A few states have named Solidago as their state flower or wildflower, a befitting tribute to a plant whose attributes have been mostly neglected by the gardening world.

Think about adding it to your garden. Remember, goldenrod growing next to the door of your home marks the arrival of good fortune and myth has it that a baby washed in a bath prepared with goldenrod leaves will grow up to have a sunny disposition and a sense of humor.

Armchair Gardening: An Herbal Tea Garden

Armchair Gardening: An Herbal Tea Garden


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By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center

In these dark, cold days we look longingly at our snow-covered frozen gardens and pour over seed catalogs. We think about new plants, or replacing plants, all those annuals and maybe a new garden.

Turn those daydreams into a plan for an herbal tea garden. It’s relatively easy to create and quite rewarding. The following plants will get you started:

20170118_063826-1CHAMOMILE  (Matricaria recuitita) …German Chamomile is an annual easily grown from seed and will self-sow. It prefers full sun or light shade.

Chamomile makes a lovely tea that many – the non-allergic —  use to relax before bedtime. Only the flowers are used, either fresh or dried.

Save leftover tea as a rinse on blonde hair; or for a facial mask, add enough honey to make a paste.

MONARDA or BEE BALM (Monarda didyma (red) or fistulosa (lavender))

Many hybrids of Monarda (often called Bergamot) exist. Perennial to Zone 4, this grows up to three feet, so it should be positioned at the rear of the garden. It prefers full sun, but can live in some shade.

The heirloom varieties offer pollen to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, so it can serve double duty in your garden.

20170118_070339Use the fresh or dried leaves for tea. You can sprinkle the petals in salads, and use both flowers and leaves in marinades for wild game.

I prefer the flavor of M. didyma, however, Native Americans use the M. fistulosa in medicine making.

GINGER (Zingiber officinalis)

Ginger is a tropical plant, but can be grown in containers on your patio. Take a piece of root (like a potato it will have eyes), plant it one to two inches deep, water and wait. A grass like stem will grow and if you’re lucky, flower. When it dies back (in about a year) you can dig up the new root that should be quite a bit larger than what you planted. Each successive planting of the same root will be less spicy than its predecessor.

Don’t let your ginger plant freeze; bring it in at the first signs of frost or it will die.

The root can be used in teas either fresh or dried. I slice my fresh ginger roots to quarter size and freeze them for later use. Some people prefer to dry and grind them into a powder. (Powder them just prior to using to retain more flavor).

Ginger goes well with lemon (which I also slice and freeze). This is my go to combination when I need a boost of energy and it is a common go-to for nausea.

LEMON BALM  (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm is a favorite of herbies!  It is easy to grow (in the mint family), and has a refreshing taste.  It is good either hot or as an iced tea. It blends well with monarda, tulsi, or chamomile.

Lemon balm likes full sun, but will tolerate some shade, and it will return with no effort. It may spread nearly as aggressively as mint.

The leaves should be harvested prior to flowering, and can be used fresh and dried. You can also make ice cubes from the tea and save for winter.

MINT (Mentha)

Mint exists in many varieties; you just have to find your favorites. I prefer apple mint, chocolate mint and spearmint.

Plant where it can either grow crazy, or cut the excess with the lawn mower. It prefers the sun, but I’ve found it will thrive in most places.

Mint makes a wonderful tea by itself but just a pinch enhances the flavor of other teas.

HOLY BASIL or TULSI (Ocimum sanctum)

Tulsi is one of my favorites. It should be considered an annual and grown from seed each year. It is gaining in popularity and availability, but collect the seed if you find a variety you really enjoy.  It prefers full sun, and shouldn’t be allowed to freeze.

Use both the leaves and the flowers, fresh or dried.  It’s spicy and some of the varieties smell a bit clove-like.

Try something new this year – maybe an herbal tea garden!