5 Handmade Herb Gifts, Get Started Now

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20170831_070024If you start now, you still have time for handmade holiday herbal gifts. And, go …

Herb Society of American members will find more ideas in HSA Webinars.20170511_191210 (2)

Learn more about joining HSA and enjoying membership benefits like Webinars.

Give Thanks with Herbs

Give Thanks with Herbs

By Maryann Readal, Secretary, The Herb Society of America

20170515_180816The holidays are here. The glossy magazines tempt us to add stress to our holiday preparations with their gorgeous photos of decorator-inspired table settings and culinary dishes that require hours of working in the kitchen. If you grow herbs or just like using them, your holidays can be special without all of the fuss and stress – thankfully. Here are some simple ideas using common herbs to create a special Thanksgiving celebration.

Sage – Whether your stuffing is store-bought or made-from-scratch, add fresh chopped sage to enhance flavor.

Mixed Herbs – Brining turkey has been the culinary rage.  Try this easy dry herb brine recipe for a turkey that turns out flavorful, moist and tender.

Rosemary – Fasten a sprig to each dinner napkin so that the rosemary fragrance entices guests as they sit down at the table.  Or tuck rosemary sprigs in your Thanksgiving centerpiece to add fragrance and interest.

20170511_191248Chives – Mince chives and mix them into softened butter for Thanksgiving rolls. Be creative and add other herbs to the butter as well.

Dill – Add chopped dill to a sour cream dressing for a cucumber salad.  Or add chopped dill to a favorite dip to add another taste dimension.

Mint – Dress up holiday drinks with a sprig of mint. Make minted water to serve with iced tea or water at dinner.  Simply steep a handful of mint leaves in some boiling water for a few minutes and chill.

Basil –  Pick the last basil from the garden. Toss leaves into your Thanksgiving salad. Use basil leaves on post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. Or make a basil pesto and serve over cream cheese with crackers for a holiday appetizer. Use leftover pesto on turkey sandwiches.

Rosemary winter groupThyme – Sprinkle thyme into your Thanksgiving vegetables for a fresh spring-like flavor. And remember this is the “thyme” to give thanks for all the fragrant herbs growing in your garden.

Lavender – Tuck a lavender sachet in your pillowcase to ensure a restful night’s sleep before and after Thanksgiving Day. Remember to pamper your guests with sachets, too.

Lemon Balm – Use fresh lemon balm leaves or purchase lemon balm tea for a calming and uplifting drink at the end of your Thanksgiving meal.

Whether you have one or 20 guests for the holiday, choose one or choose several of these ideas to make herbs a part of your Thanksgiving.



Herb Society Open House Nov. 19, 2017

Herb Society Open House Nov. 19, 2017


Join The Herb Society of America from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, November 19, 2017, for an Open House full of holiday cheer with a wonderful selection of holiday herbal-themed gifts. Items and vendors include:

  • Wood Road Farm – Fresh Wreaths & Table Arrangements
  • Natural Skin Revival – Natural Skin Care Products
  • Thistle and Twill — Handcrafted Keepsakes and Gifts inspired by Nature
  • Sandi’s Kitchen – Culinary Herb & Spice Blends
  • Western Reserve Herb Society — Herbal Gifts & Culinary Delights
  • O’Neil’s Handmade Artisan Chocolates – Delicious Herbal Chocolates
  • Storehouse Teas –Handcrafted Certified Organic and Fair Trade, Artisan Loose Leaf Teas
  • Cupcake Me — Decadent Cupcakes and Cookies
  • The Herb Society of America – Holiday & Herb-related GiftsStorehouse tea

The Herb Society of America
9019 Kirtland-Chardon Rd.
Kirtland, Ohio 44094

Plan Ahead for #GivingTuesday 2017

Plan Ahead for #GivingTuesday 2017

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and after the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season. 

The Herb Society of America is participating in #GivingTuesday. HSA is asking members, friends, and families to donate  as we focus on Every Garden Counts; Every Plant Matters.”  To that end funds HSA collects will be used to raise awareness of the Notable Native Herb™ and GreenBridges™ programs and, thereby, make the world a better place. – Paris Wolfe

giving-tuesdayBy Jen Munson, Herb Society of America, Northeast District Delegate

GreenBridgesLogo_Lo#GivingTuesday donations target conservation.

There is a lot of uncertainty out there. Some of the government’s decisions — such as pulling out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change along with decisions happening at the local level like cutting through beautiful state lands to build gas transmission lines — have created strong feelings of concern for our environment. We are experiencing the effects in our gardens with the struggles of bees and butterflies. The hurricanes in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico have shown us first-hand what can happen if we don’t work harder on our conservation efforts.

Our message this #GivingTuesday is one of hope. Awareness of the importance of growing native plants has been raised with the plight of the monarchs and many people are beginning to grow milkweed.  While we still have our work cut out to protect the butterflies, we’ve been hearing from members and friends that monarchs are reappearing in their gardens.

Just think what we can accomplish by emphasizing the importance of conservation and inviting more native plants into our gardens. We can have positive impacts quickly in ways like enjoying hummingbirds pulling nectar from native salvia, birds feeding on elderberries or bees dancing around notable native mountain mint.

It can feel rather small just focusing on our own gardens; but “Every Garden Counts, Every Plant Matters.”

Our GreenBridges™, Notable Native HerbTM, and Promising Plants programs all promote conservation through education. They further emphasize that you don’t have to sacrifice beauty and interest by growing natives in your garden. So for HSA this #GivingTuesday is #GrowingTuesday. We need the community’s support to raise money so that we can continue to raise awareness for conservation and our educational programs that support the environment.

Learn more about donating to HSA.

Neighboring with Nature: Native Herbs for Purpose and Pleasure

By Peggy Riccio, HSA Member and Guest Author

NeighboringwithNatureI first heard about Neighboring with Nature on Facebook. Members of the Garden Writers Association (GWA) had just attended their annual symposium and raved about a book on native plants on a GWA Facebook group. I was intrigued—I have an interest in both native plants and herbs. I then discovered that the author, Susan Betz, is both a GWA member and an Herb Society of America (HSA) member. For ten years she has served on the Native Herb Conservation Committee, the Notable Native Herb of the Year Committee, and the Green Bridges Initiative.  For more than 30 years she has educated and promoted the use of herbs and has served as a Master Gardener.

Neighboring with Nature: Native Herbs for Purpose and Pleasure is a culmination of Susan’s passions:  conservation, herbs, and native plants. Susan begins the book by defining native plants as species growing in the United States before the European settlement and herbs as useful plants found growing the world over, valued for their flavoring, fragrance, medicinal, industrial, culinary, cosmetic, and symbolic uses.  In her book she uses the HSA definition of native herbs: “chiefly seed-bearing plants—annuals, biennials, perennials, aromatic or useful shrubs, vines and trees that grew naturally in this country without the interference, accidental or intentional, of man before European settlement. The defining characteristics of these plants are their usefulness, past or present, for flavoring, medicine, ornament, economic, industrial, or cosmetic purposes.”

Susan BetzOften people mentally categorize plants, separating native plants from herbs. Susan has an interest in both groups for their respective qualities as well as the overlapping group of native herbs. “Native plants clean the air, filter water, moderate the climate, and feed the people, birds, insects, and more. Gardening with herbs personalizes people-plant connections and gardening experiences,” explains Susan. “In every backyard and beyond there is a spot just waiting for the right neighborly native herb. With all of the regional native plants available, that spot can be filled easily.”

She demonstrates this by describing 21 native herbs common to the northeastern region of the United States. Divided into three sections, groundcovers, perennials, and shrubs, small trees, and vines, these native herbs are easily recognizable to the average gardener. For each plant she provides the scientific name, common names, native range, hardiness zone, bloom time, height and spread, habitat and cultivation, uses in the garden and landscape, plant pals, special notes, and wild friends. “The defining characteristics of these plants are their past, present, and future usefulness. Native herbs provide a botanical bonanza such as flavoring culinary creations, decorative uses, fragrance and scent, home pharmacy, tasty beverages and teas, etc.”

For some plants, she provided authentic Native American recipes from E. Barrie Kavasch’s Native Harvests, Recipes and Botanicals of the American Indian. For example, one could harvest the fruits from a serviceberry tree to make Indian pudding or one could forage wild grapes to make wild grape butter. Wild bergamot leaves and goldenrod leaves and flowers can be used to make teas. She also provides the technique to make ink from elderberries and a disinfectant from juniper needles. At the end of the book she provides harvesting tips and techniques, a bibliography, a list of useful websites, and recommended books.

Short descriptions of 21 plants is merely an introduction — America has a very rich heritage of native herbs. According to Susan, Daniel E. Moerman’s book, Native American Ethnobotany, list more than 4,000 native herbs with more than 44,000 uses.

This easy-to-read, 140-page paperback is a great introduction to the concept of native herbs and their benefits to the landscape. I highly recommend it to all gardeners. I asked Susan what she would like readers to come away with after they read her book and she said: “The role of the suburban landscape and home garden has become vital to the future health and well-being of our planet. Gardening is no longer just about style or design, the methods we use to manage our landscape is just as important. I hope this book motivates people to learn more and to conserve these native herbs for future generations.”


The Witch’s Herb Garden II

By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center

L0051251 Mandragora (Mandrake) plant from 'De historia...'Continued from October 30, 2017 … See Part I

All alone in a corner of the Old Woman’s garden are the mandrakes – waiting for some poor fool to pull them out.  They scream when ripped from the ground you know, and any person or animal hearing the scream will immediately perish.   Long used for dark magic, this plant was sacred to Aphrodite and used as a powerful aphrodisiac.  Too strong, some say.  Its roots are shaped like humans and carrying even a tiny piece insures good health and much more.  It hides from man, and it glows in the dark.

The following steps for harvesting mandrake was taken from an old English Herbarium from 1000 AD

  1. Before sunset – draw a circle around it with an iron tool lest it flee from you.
  2. While facing west, cut off the top of the plant.
  3. Being careful not to touch the plant, dig around it with an iron tool.
  4. When you see its hands and feet, fasten them.  Take the other end of the rope and tie it around a hungry black dog’s neck.
  5. Throw meat in front of the black dog so he cannot reach it unless he pulls up the plant.
  6. Run fast lest you hear the screams and perish with the dog.

Difficult, yes, but mandrake was one of the best plants for hexing, and black dogs were easy to find.

Aside from the poison garden, people would visit the Old Woman for a variety of reasons.

Many wanted love charms.  In front of the house, for easy pickings, sits the love potion garden.  The most important plant in the garden for love is the apple tree. Sometimes the spell was as easy as cutting an apple with the intention of forever love, and handing half to the object of affection. Both halves must be eaten simultaneously for the charm to work.

Caution was required when cutting the apple … an even number of seeds on both sides meant love and a happy marriage. If one seed is cut, rocky love will follow and the marriage will be filled with anger and yelling.  If two seeds are cut, the husband will perish within one year.

Apple blossoms are so sweet smelling, is it any wonder they were often dried and used in love potions?

Protective amulets were cut of apple wood, and when properly done, insured a long life.

RoseOther plants in the love garden include lemon balm, roses, basil, catnip, daisies, peppermint mallow and periwinkle.   Several of these in a sachet under your pillow might help the man of your dreams come into your life.   If your love has left you, you might be instructed to put a vase of mallow flowers in your window.  This should make him think of you and return to your arms.

The inability to become pregnant brought a number of women thru the Old Woman’s creaky gate. In the back, along the mossy stone fence, lies the fertility garden.  It is filled with cucumbers, carrots, mustard, and poppy and more.

Some women would come to visit the Old Woman to insure there was no pregnancy or question what was to be done about a current one.   That garden was outside her back gate and the plants were scattered through the forest, looking like they weren’t cared for to the uninformed.  This allowed her to claim ignorance if “they” came for her.  We won’t talk about what might be in that garden.

Infidelity was a common complaint and many women wandered in seeking help with rotten husbands.  The Old Woman might hand them some dried basil with instructions to sprinkle it on his cheating heart as he slept.  Or she might suggest slipping a caraway seed or two in his pocket.

And thievery – oh such a common complaint.  For that the Old Woman might suggest caraway seed sprinkled around the property to help bad guys choose another place. And if you were about to travel, a piece of comfrey with your belongings would help them travel unnoticed.

Yes, the Old Woman’s garden was full of plants.  Every corner of her yard offered up something to the trained healer/witch/midwife.

No wonder so many feared or coveted her knowledge.


The Witch’s Herb Garden

The Witch’s Herb Garden


By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center

From Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, we seem to have an undying curiosity of what plants witches used….and for what.  In the spirit of Halloween, it seems appropriate to explore these.

Shakespeare gave us the most recognizable and infamous of all incantations with the three Scottish witches in Macbeth:

“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

Although there are variations on the plants symbolized in the chant, following are some of the more accepted versions:

  • Eye of newt – mustard seed
  • Toe of frog – buttercup leaves
  • Wool of bat – holly or moss
  • Tongue of dog – hounds tooth
  • Adder’s fork – violet
  • Blind worm’s sting – knotweed
  • Lizard’s leg – ivy
  • Howlet’s wing – garlic or maybe ginger

We wonder, did the wise women (or witch) use odd names for effect, for safety, or something else?

Perhaps it was something else, something politically motivated. After al, women practiced the healing arts throughout Europe, mostly as midwives, until the church and state targeted them. And that happened because the church and state wanted the power and money associated with healing arts.

When Rome fell, monks gathered the healing herbs brought across Europe by the Romans.  Then, they became the healers. Power hungry and corrupt leaders always need a scapegoat to blame for the troubles in their worlds, and what better place to look than older defenseless women who owned valuable property just waiting to be confiscated?

I’ve always wondered about the bravery — or maybe the stupidity — of these foolish men. It raises a question: If these women were as powerful and wicked as charged, how could the prosecutors survive? Weren’t they afraid that a nose twitch could web their fingers, curse their family….or  far, far worse?

But these powerful women persisted, from the burning times until now. The journey of the “witch” (or wise woman) continues, though still under a cloud of suspicion.

Halloween 17Let’s look back to the Wise Old Woman who lived on the far edges of the village, alone, with her cats.  Her home is rundown, the plants and trees are overgrown, the path is covered in leaves and rusty gate squeaks as we push it open.  It’s autumn and the days are shorter and the air is brisk.

You’ll find monkshood (aconite) so lethal that it was used to poison arrows and, in World War II, the Nazi’s put it on their bullets.  Witches believed it could make them invisible if they tied the seeds to them wrapped in lizard’s skin.  It was reputed to protect one from vampires and werewolves.

In the garden the winter rose (black hellebore) sits in the corner in bloom. Thought to be a cure for insanity, it would also help one become invisible.

In the back is a lush bunch of witch’s bells (foxglove).  They seem to be growing in each corner of the stone fence.  Ahhh, for protection. I imagine if we looked in the cottage, we’d see black stone floors – dyed with the leaves of the foxglove- to keep negativity out.

What self-respecting witch would be without moonflower (datura) with white flowers that bloom in the night and give off an intoxicating fragrance?  Used as a hallucinogen, and to increase physic vision and communicate with friendly spirits, the plant is poison to even handle.   When a visitor would come begging for something to stop another from harming her/him, the Old Woman would often take the seeds, wrap them in brown cloth and tell the visitor to gather something belonging to the alleged ill-doer and place the bag of seeds on top of the item and hide it well.  So long as the bag remained over the object, the ill-doer could do them no harm.

Overgrowing anything in its way, the deadly nightshade knows it will always be the Devil’s favorite plant.  Often nightshade was put in ‘flying’ ointments, but was also handy for helping one forget an old love.  Some believe the more nightshade in a garden, the greater the protection from evil.

Continued on October 31, 2017