Katrinka Morgan Leads The Herb Society of America

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

When Katrinka Morgan joined The Herb Society of America as Executive Director in 2007, she brought more than 20 years of non-profit experience to the role.

Katrinka and Laurel

Katrinka (left) and her best friend Laurel

As Executive Director, Katrinka makes certain the organization operates efficiently to fulfill its mission of spreading herb education. Her goals include empowering the staff to support and assist members, by providing programs and services.

Under her leadership the Society has moved into the 21st century with improvements to the physical structure of the headquarters building during the 2009-10 remodel, a transition to increased digital communications with electronic newsletters and a reduction in the operating budget.

“Working with The Herb Society brings something new to each day,” says Katrinka. “We never know who might call or come to visit. Most visitors have driven by the headquarters office and finally decided to stop and see what we are all about.”

Katrinka is always looking for new initiatives to better serve members. “Currently we’re working on updating the brand and enhancing our social media presence including the HSA website, Facebook, Pinterest and even Twitter,” she says. “We’re also excited for the new Annual Meeting format at an ideal destination in Asheville, North Carolina.”

Katrinka quilt

Executive Director Katrinka Morgan’s hobby results in beautiful quilts like this one.

Katrinka’s interest in herbs started with healthy cooking. At home she grows a number of herbs. She organizes her culinary cultivars in a wine barrel to ease their cultivation and beautify her front yard. Scattered throughout the garden beds are elderberry, calendula, blueberry lily, lavenders, several varieties of Echinacea, salvias and St. John’s wart for color, flowers, bees and butterflies.

Her favorite herb to grow and use is basil for pesto or for fresh, homegrown tomatoes. She’s learning to grow and use lesser recognized herbs such as lovage, savory and chervil.

Katrinka, her husband Jim and dog Henry live on two acres in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. Away from work she likes to quilt for friends and family, and always seems to end up being part of Lucy and Ethel adventures with her bestfriend Laurel.

Hops: Beyond Beer

By Paris Wolhopsfarmfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Hops flowers can do more than give you a buzz. Like chamomile and lavender, they are said to hasten sleep. Simply sew a sachet, put it near your pillow and Zzzzzz.  To get more insight for the herb user, Blogmaster Paris Wolfe interviewed Kori Rodley, public and media relations coordinator from Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Oregon.

Q. Where are hops traditionally grown?
A. Hops grow best in moist, temperate climates like Germany, the Pacific Northwestern United States, and central Europe.

Q. How many varieties are there? Do they differ greatly? Is it like grapes and wine?
A. Hops can be like wine grapes. Different varieties tend to be grown in different regions where they are best suited. They have different flavors, sizes. If you look at beer brewing recipes, you will see that different hops are used in different recipes and at different points in the brewing—some used for bitterness, some for flavor, and some for aroma.

Q. What variety best induces sleep?
A. All hops have similar relaxing qualities. The plant, “Humulus lupulus,” is considered a sedative plant so the variety shouldn’t matter. It is a matter of taste and preference.

Q. What are their uses?
A. Hops can be used in all sorts of culinary and medicinal ways. One can make a tea, tincture, vinegar or other infusion. They are also made into essential oil.  I have even seen recipes for hops flowers sautéed in butter and garlic.

Hops copyQ. What parts are used?
A. The female hop flowers are generally used in brewing, culinary applications and herb projects. However, leaves, stems and roots are edible.

Q. How does a home user acquire the fresh or dried flowers?
A. You can buy hops plants at local garden nurseries and online, if you’d like to grow them yourself. You may be able to find fresh flowers at your local farmer’s market in the late summer or get in touch with a local brewer to see if they have a source. You can also buy hops in a dried pellet form—normally frozen—from a brew supply shop. Mountain Rose Herbs sells the dehydrated organic hops flowers in bulk. 

A Word About the Company:  Mountain Rose Herbs has wide range of product offerings including bulk herbs and spices, aromatherapy and essential oils, tea and tea supplies, and natural health and body care. Every aspect of product creation is carried out in accordance with strict quality control and organic handling procedures.

A Skeptic Contemplates Herbal Medicine

By Harriet Hall, M.D., Co-Founder Science-Based Medicine Blog

Harriet Hall, M.D., is known for her critical approach to medicine. In this post — reprinted from the March 22, 2011, entry at The Science-Based Medicine Blog — she cautions consumers to think carefully about using plants as medicine. Please post your comments below.Harriet_at_TAM_2012.jpg

Herbal medicine has always fascinated me. How did early humans determine which plants worked? They had no record-keeping, no scientific methods, only trial-and-error and word of mouth. How many intrepid investigators poisoned themselves and died in the quest? Imagine yourself in the jungle: Which plants would you be willing to try? How would you decide whether to use the leaf or the root? How would you decide whether to chew the raw leaf or brew an infusion? It is truly remarkable that our forebears were able to identify useful natural medicines and pass the knowledge down to us.

It is equally remarkable that modern humans with all the advantages of science are willing to put useless and potentially dangerous plant products into their bodies based on nothing better than pre-scientific hearsay.

Ancient Sumerians used willow, a salicylate-rich plant that foreshadowed modern aspirin. Digitalis was used by the ancient Romans long before William Withering wrote about its use for heart failure. South American natives discovered that chinchona bark, a source of quinine, was an effective treatment for malaria. These early herbal remedies pointed the way to modern pharmaceuticals. How many other early remedies fell by the wayside? What else did the Sumerians, the Romans, and Natives use that did more harm than good? If “ancient wisdom” exists, so does “ancient stupidity.”

Plants undeniably produce a lot of good stuff. Today, researchers are finding useful medicines in plants that have no tradition of use. Taxol, the cancer-fighting product of Pacific yew trees, was discovered by the National Cancer Institute only by screening compounds from thousands of plants.

There is a reason pharmacology abandoned whole plant extracts in favor of isolated active ingredients. The amount of active ingredient in a plant can vary with factors like the variety, the geographic location, the weather, the season, the time of harvest, soil conditions, storage conditions, and the method of preparation. Foxglove contains a mixture of digitalis-type active ingredients but it is difficult to control the dosage. The therapeutic dose of digitalis is very close to the toxic dose. Pharmacologists succeeded in preparing a synthetic version: now the dosage can be controlled, the blood levels can be measured, and an antibody is even available to reverse the drug’s effects if needed.

Ancient wisdom“Ancient wisdom” argues that if an herbal remedy has been used for centuries, it must be both effective and safe. That’s a fallacy. Bloodletting was used for centuries but it wasn’t effective and it did more harm than good. If a serious side effect occurred in one in a thousand recipients of an herb, or even one in a hundred, no individual herbalist would be likely to detect it. If a patient died, they would be more likely to attribute the cause to other factors than to herbs that they believed were safe. Even with prescription drugs, widespread use regularly uncovers problems that were not detected with pre-marketing studies.

Arguments in favor of herbal remedies include:

  • They’re natural. (So what? Strychnine is natural.)
  • They’re safer than prescription drugs. (Maybe some are, some aren’t; how would you know?)
  • They’re milder than prescription drugs. (That would depend on the dosage of active ingredient.)
  • They’re less likely to cause side effects. (When they have been as well studied as prescription drugs, they may turn out to have just as many or more side effects. All effective drugs have side effects, and if an herbal medicine has fewer side effects it might have fewer therapeutic effects too. Formal systems for reporting adverse effects have long been in place for prescription drugs; not so for herbal remedies.)
  • They’re different from prescription drugs. (Some are identical to prescription drugs, like red yeast rice which contains the same ingredient as prescription lovastatin; and some herbal products have been found contaminated with prescription drugs.)
  • They’re less expensive. (True, but is a cheaper, inferior product a good bargain?)
  • They’re easier to obtain. (True, you don’t have to make an appointment with a doctor; but that means you don’t get the benefit of a doctor’s knowledge.)
  • The mixture of ingredients in a plant can have synergistic effects. (This is widely claimed but almost never substantiated. The other ingredients are just as likely to counteract the desired effect or to cause unwanted adverse effects.

For every disease, God has provided a natural remedy. Perhaps this is a comforting thought for believers, but it is not based on any evidence and is not convincing to atheists and agnostics. And it doesn’t help us find that natural remedy.

  • Even when an herbal remedy works, finding a safe and reliable source is problematic. Horror stories abound:
  • Contaminants (such as heavy metals, pesticides, carcinogens, toxic herbs, and insect parts).
  • Wild variation in content (from no active ingredient to many times the amount on the label).
  • Mislabeled products that contain an entirely different herb. When you take an herbal remedy, you are taking.

I won’t list specific examples here; they are easy enough to find. I’ll just say that natural medicines are not regulated the way prescription drugs are, thanks to the infamous Diet Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.

The term “street drugs” comes to mind: you don’t really know what you’re getting.

The herbalists’ arsenal can be a rich source of potential knowledge. But blindly trusting herbalists’ recommendations for medical treatment can be risky.

Harriet A. Hall, M.D., is a retired family physician and former Air Force flight surgeon. She writes about medicine, “so-called” complementary and alternative medicine, science, quackery, and critical thinking. She has recently published Consumer Health, A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.”

Meet Blogmaster Paris Wolfe, MA

lavender 2IMG_3843Paris Wolfe has been a journalist since the mid-1980s. She’s been herb gardening since she moved into her first house in 1990. Writing about food, and herbs, has been a passion throughout her career. She’s written for The (Lake County) News-Herald, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Cleveland Magazine and so many more publications. Her credentials include a Master of Arts degree in public relations. Working on a blog with The Herb Society of America is a natural progression of her writing talents.

“I’m excited to be working with the Society. There is so much potential to extend its reach into untapped communities,” she says. “Gardening is on the upswing with 35 percent of 12 percent or 14 million households (2009) engaging in herb gardening.”

“The herb gardening market is a $653 million industry with the average home gardener spending $85 per year,” Paris notes. “Of these gardeners millennials (18-34) are the fastest-growing segment.”

Paris believes in research-based communication and that includes talking to experts about their experiences and knowledge. She hopes to incorporate those talents in the blog and other activities of the Society.

Her favorite herbs are basil, cilantro and lavender. Just ask “Why?” And, she’s partial to mint for mojitos. She can’t grow catnip because it attracts stray cats and she already has four.

Paris lives in Concord Township, Ohio, with her sons Dante and Dominick. She enjoys gardening, cooking, dining out, reading and skiing.

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If you have questions or blog ideas, you can contact her at pariswolfe@yahoo.com

The Big Bug Smokeout

By Paris Wolfe, Writer, Herb Society of America

My son Dante, 18, is heading off to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Featured imagewithin minutes of this post. He’s a powerhouse of fitness and energy. He plays rugby, lifts weights, runs. He’s so NOT the fragile baby of the late 1990s when he was getting ear infections, RSV, colds, stomach flu and various viruses one after another. I’d like to think fighting those bugs built an amazing immune system, which he continues with clean, healthy living.

Or maybe it was the white sage smudging in every room. An expansive friend – that would be hipster in today’s pop culture? – turned me on to white sage. She explained smudging as a Native American (or older) ritual to clear energy and support health. I’d already tried sprinkling holy water in corners. What could herbal smoke hurt?

So, I bought not one, but two, wands of tightly tied, dried white sage. Mostly from the Pacific Southwest, readily available in alternative shops, herb stores and by mail order. For mail order, search the web or try Amazon.com.

I fired up my lighter and held it to the wand. When the sage started smoldering, I walked through the house “throwing” wisps of greyish smoke into every corner of every room … near the crib, over the changing table, in the bathrooms, kitchen. Like many burning leaves it smelled a little illicit.

Maybe Dante aged out … or maybe it was my extreme measures. It’s impossible to measure. But, life slowly became less infected. And, today, we go through fewer traditional and non-traditional remedies.

I love lemon herbs!

I love lemon herbs!

By Paris Wolfe, Writer, Herb Society of America

Just after my wedding in November 1989, my then-husband and I bought a 1,000-square-foot, yellow ranch in Concord, Ohio. The landscaping was raw. So, I enriched the soil, readying it to plant my favorite things. (No guilt about digging up someone else’s gardening mess.) Problem was, I was only 25 years old and had spent most of my recent years in college or working. What were my favorite plants? I had no idea.

My BFF’s mom, Pat Peters had her opinion on what was good for me – herbs. And, she graciously thinned her garden gifting me thyme, savory and more. Her most memorable contribution was lemon balm. It was easy to grow, lush and made good tea, especially when combined with mint. It never dried well, but some things are meant to be enjoyed in season.

That gift started a 25-plus year love affair with herbs, especially those with a lemony essence.

Three houses later and I’m still obsessed with lemon thyme. My favorite cultivar has variegated leaves and adds colorful depth to the garden. With my former plants getting woody and sparse, this year I planted five new clumps near the curved concrete walk leading to my front door. And, that’s probably not enough to dry for myself and friends.

A hardy perennial, this lemon thyme is decorative as sun-loving ground cover and flowers in the middle of the summer season. The tiny leaves maintain their oils when dried and add dimension to any recipe calling for plain, old thyme. My favorite recipe is a mayonnaise-based pasta salad with crab, grapes and carrots. Or maybe homemade chicken noodle soup.

Also on my lemon herb list is lemon grass, which I use in an Asian marinade for shrimp kebabs. And, surprisingly, my cat Rain enjoys as a gourmet alternative to cat grass. My other three felines, Midnight, Bonnie and Rocky have lesser palates and ignore the stuff. (Herb lady. Cat lady. What can I say?!)

The most aromatic is lemon verbena, again a great herb for tea, particularly iced tea.

It’s easy to maintain a lemon garden in Ohio, though some of the tender plants require replacement after our harsh winters. In the garden, I group these herbs together because the leaves are all different, complimenting each other. Of course, I segregate lemon balm as I would mint so it doesn’t take over.

Do you have a favorite lemon herb or lemon herb recipe? Feel free to share it in the comments below.

Welcome HSA Editor Brent DeWitt

As Editor for The Herb SBrentDeWittociety of America, Brent DeWitt has a mission. He is working to strengthen the Society’s marketing and advertising as well as unify and rejuvenate the brand. That will result in a stronger organization and growth in membership.

“When I joined the Society in December 2014 I was impressed with its history and mission,” says Brent. “At the same time, I recognize HSA’s challenges. Increasingly, organizations must demonstrate relevance and value to their audience. This can be communicated through interesting topics, easily digested material and a consistent dialogue from both a visual and content standpoint.”

“This group has a depth of knowledge and resources,” he notes. “It needs to reach out more to members and the public.”

Printed pieces such as brochures and guides are gaining a consistent, professional and contemporary look.  That style will be migrated to the website, blog and other social media communication tools. These changes will make HSA benefits more easily available to members.

Before coming to work in HSA’s national headquarters in Kirtland, Ohio, Brent worked for nearly 30 years as a graphic designer, art director and marketer. He has worked in advertising agencies as well as on corporate marketing and creative teams. Throughout his career he has developed engaging advertising, collateral pieces, publications, corporate identity, illustrations and web designs.

Brent enjoys herbal teas and uses lavender for deep sleep.

He  lives in Lakewood, Ohio with his wife and son. He likes the outdoors, hiking, mountain biking, camping, DIY projects, woodworking, motorcycles.