Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine Teaches Online

Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine Teaches Online

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

herbs for medicineWith July 4th passed, the next big calendar date is “Back to School.” When the kids return to their studies you can, too. Make your studies about medicinal  herbs.

Consider the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, an online school with a home base in the botanically rich Appalachian Mountains just outside Asheville, NC. The school offers several opportunities to learn online, including the Herbal Medicine Making Course and the Herbal Immersion Program.

“We believe that direct connection with healing plants is the best way to learn about their medicine, and so we’ve infused our programs with a plant-centered approach to herbal medicine,” says owner and teacher Juliet Blankespoor, who has a degree in botany and a life of experience.

“One of the perks of our online format is the community support from herb lovers from around the globe. Our students range from total beginners to seasoned herbalists with established gardens and businesses. We welcome anyone who wants to learn more about growing or preparing medicinal herbs.”

Juliet-Blankespoor-in-her-gardenJuliet has had a connection to the earth since childhood.  “As a child I was a geeky introvert and bookworm,” she says. “I loved to dance and spend time alone in the woods.

“When I was eighteen I became involved with environmental activism and my vision started to turn toward the natural world. Somehow, almost overnight, I became infatuated with plants and have been involved in a love affair with the green world ever since. I wanted to know who every plant around me was.”

It only made sense to formally study plants, which Juliet did at the University of Florida. “I absorbed all I could about our local flora from my professors. In school, I would learn how to identify a plant, recognize it as a medicinal,” she recalls, “and then rush home to read about its herbal uses from one of the few books I owned on the subject.”

plantingAfter graduating Juliet founded and formulated a tincture line, Green Faith Herbals. She spent her twenties growing and wildcrafting medicine for her tincture business. At the same time she furthered her herbal studies.

In 2007, settled in the southern Appalachians, she started the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine and began teaching from home. After time, Juliet decided that she’s “a raging introvert” and moved the school online.

The virtual format offers more flexibility to students and her staff of highly experienced instructors. Studies can begin any time. The Herbal Medicine Making Course is a six-month program, while Herbal Immersion Program—which focuses on growing medicinal herbs—is completed in two and a half years.

“My mission with the school is to encourage more people to grow herbs and enjoy their medicinal and culinary bounty,” says Juliet, who uses herbal medicine as her family’s primary form of health care. “We also go to the doctor when needed but for the most part, we address everyday ailments at home.”

HSA (2)“We use herbs for preventative medicine. For example, we eat raw garlic daily to help ward off colds and to reduce the chance of cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

She also drinks a homemade tea blend of green tea, hibiscus, and calendula to support the immune system and to provide plenty of antioxidant compounds (which reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and inflammation, in general).

“We make herbal pestos from lemon balm, holy basil, and bee balm and use just about every kind of culinary herb (homegrown, of course) in our daily cooking,” says Juliet.

For more information, visit The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine.


Medicinal Disclaimer – This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.

Learn to Use the Herbal Wellness Cabinet

Learn to Use the Herbal Wellness Cabinet

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

RXDana Eudy, owner of Field Apothecary in Germantown, New York, sees herbs as a contributor to a healthy lifestyle and that, she says, “keep us out of the expensive, over-burdened health care system.”

“Herbs can be used in so many creative ways from healing to cooking to skincare to cocktails,” she says.  “I like getting them in to my system in all forms and am always looking of ways to be inventive with them. They have the amazing power to heal us on our deepest levels.”

Thinking about it holistically, the herbal maker says, “They live in harsh elements and toxic environments but have evolved to tolerate and even defend themselves under these conditions. They also have the ability to capture our only true energy source – the sun and turn it into food and medicine.  While herbs can be used for treating illness, I suggest that a person work with a practitioner if they are dealing with a complicated health issue.”

I blogged about Field Apothecary  in February and sampled a CSA Wellness Box in March. This month, I return to owner Dana to learn more about the products delivered to subscribers of her Community Supported Apothecary (CSA) or sold individually on line. My figurative “place” in mainstream culture is so far removed from herbal treatments, that I asked Dana’s guidance to use some of the products such as bitters and flaming cider. Others, such as Poison Ivy Liniment, Lip Balm and Tulsi Tea, were self explanatory.

Q. How do you know which herbs and herbal products to combine?

A. I have been fortunate to have many great teachers such as Peeka Trenkle, David Crow, Dr. Vasant Lad. I use herbs like I would use food. I have many herbal books that I consider cookbooks. I keep these books stored in my kitchen and I refer to them often. It is certainly an indulgence and I have quite a library filled with herb reference books.  All the remedies that we make are also used in my own home so it is a personal experience.

20170216_080809Q. I received various bitters in my Wellness Box. What will Digestive Bitters do for me?
A. Bitters RULE! You will notice that many European diets have an apertivo or digestif before or after a meal. Meanwhile, Eastern medical traditions consider digestion the beginning of good health. Bitters help stoke digestive fires and help us assimilate and digest our food.  Because the digestive fire slows as we age it becomes increasingly important to get bitters (bitter food, too) into our diet.         Our digestive system is the seat of our health. If we are digesting well, we are typically more in balance throughout our system. And our gut and mind are interconnected. A healthy gut certainly leads to a healthy mind. We literally “think” more clearly.
Q. What do Clear Thinking bitters do for me?
A. I use them before meditation but also later in the day when I am feeling sluggish and need to bring my focus back. Field Apothecary’s remedy contains the two brahmi herbs gotu kola and bacopa which we grow at Field. Brahmi herbs are a very special class of herbs in Ayurveda that are considered brain food.

20170216_080622Q.  What does Flaming Cider do?
A. Flaming Cider as we call it is an amazing overall boosting tonic. Apple Cider Vinegar by itself is so beneficial. By adding herbs to this base we make it stronger. It is great for first-stage colds, congestion and stagnation. When our bodies are having a hard time keeping up with seasonal transitions such hot inside cold out, think fire cider. We use it as a vinaigrette, add it to cole slaw, guacamole, flaming cider margarita, bloody mary, roasted veggies . . . you can see how versatile and how I might work to get it in to my diet. A little goes a long way. Even my kids will ask me for it when they are feeling a bit off. A shot or one tablespoon should generally do it. If I am under the weather, I may take that amount 3 times per day. Flaming Cider also kick starts digestive fire with all the warming herbs such as garlic, ginger and horseradish.


All Field Apothecary wellness products are made from herbs cultivated by Dana and her family. They grow about 65 different herbs – from hops to tulsi.  Her tinctures, ointments and more are sold individually online or through a CSA subscription. 

 

Consortium Creating U.S. Source of Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Consortium Creating U.S. Source of Chinese Medicinal Herbs

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

P1000908As Americans look to alternative medicine to ease their pain – both physical and financial – demand is increasing for Chinese medicinal herbs.  The Appalachian Herb Growers Consortium is working to develop an American supply for more than 30,000 licensed U.S. practitioners. Among their partners are tobacco farmers who are looking for new crops.

“Our mission is to increase farmer income while providing the acupuncture and oriental medicine community with quality, effective herbs that are grown and processed with respect for the nature and the tradition of Chinese medicine,” says David Grimsley, director of consortium, which is housed at the Blue Ridge Center for Chinese Medicine in Floyd County, Va., (pop. 15, 500) The center sits up a hill,  at the end of a gravel road in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

P1000909

Compare imported with freshly grown herb on right.

Grimsley and team are working to prove that ecologically grown, sustainable medicinal herbs can be grown profitably in central Appalachia. While the climate and geology promise a fresh, high-quality product, profit may be a challenge. Medicinal herbs from China — though they face unknown quality control in agricultural practices and processing AND may face lengthy times in storage and transit — are low-cost in the marketplace.

“We can grow and we can process, but will we be able to sell them? Will people pay for them? Is there a market for American, ecologically grown medicinal herbs,” asks Naomi Crews, herb production coordinator. “We’re learning where the price points are and whether they’re profitable for farmers.”

International politics could answer some of those questions. For example, says Grimsley, “It would not take much for there to be a domino-effect of trade embargoes, bringing Chinese herbalism to a screeching halt. By responsibly introducing these Chinese herbs to Appalachia, we are creating a medicine chest for our country that might prove someday to be what we have to rely upon if faced with international sanctions or antibacterial resistance, or an epidemic.”

Creating a potential medicine chest means being ready to launch quality production.  “As medicinal herb growers, we are working to produce the best quality herb, which is not necessarily the same as aiming for the highest output,” says Crews.

P1000919Currently, the Center has 50 farmers with trial gardens. They receive appropriate seeds or seedlings and guidance for cultivation. Some plants, like Mentha haplocalyx, a Chinese field mint are prolific and ready almost immediately for harvest. Others, like Anemarrhena asphodeloides and Scutellaria baicalensis, take up to three years to develop. And then, their roots are the valuable component. These require new plantings each year to sustain the production.

For now, Crews cares for roughly five acres of hillside test gardens that grow 35 different herbs. Among them are Platycodon grandiflorus. This isn’t just any balloon flower but, the one valued by practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine.

Nearby, Chrysanthemum morifolium is grown for its delicate flowers that bloom in late fall.

Dedication to ecologically grown crops goes beyond unadulterated soil and chemical avoidance. The center gathers rainwater for irrigation, offers houses for pest-eaters like wrens and bluebirds, and keeps flowerbeds blooming for pollinators. Black snakes prevent a seed-thieving mouse explosion in the barn.

“We recognize that we exist in an ecological landscape,” says Crews.


It is the policy of The Herb Society of America 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 particular medical or health treatment.

Hot Stuff: Chile Pepper, Herb of January and 2016

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, Herb Society of America

Jan2016_screensaver_1440The chile pepper is hot.

It’s January 2016 Herb of the Month for The Herb Society of America AND 2016 Herb of the Year for  the International Herb Association.

I’ve been herb gardening since 1990 and never would have considered the chile to be an herb. Piper Zettel, assistant to the curator of the National Herb Garden, says I’m mistaken. And, I’m OK with that.

“Chile peppers are considered an herb because they’re used to enrich human lives,” she says. “Herbs are plants used to enrich lives in ways that are not strictly edible or ornamental. Chile peppers are used medicinally and industrially.”

Thus, an herb.

“There are more than 30 species and probably a couple 100 different varieties,” she notes. “The National Herb Garden plans to grow 100 varieties to celebrate the herb.”

Chile peppers may be one of the most global of herbs. Consider their use across cultures – starting in South America thousands of years ago and traveling around the world during the last 500. Today, Americans are fascinated by the chile-pepper-spiked foods such as  hot wings, hot sauces, chili,  infused vodka, flavored cocktails.

I recently had a jalapeno-cucumber mojito. The heat of the pepper with the cool of the cucumber created a balance that was delish.

Food fascination aside, chile peppers are being studied for medicinal uses.

A February 2015 news article in The Scientist notes:

“Initially causing a burning hot sensation, the compound [capsaicin] is used as a topical pain medication because, when applied regularly, results in numbness to local tissue. Despite being widely used, researchers have previously not known how capsaicin exerts its pain-killing effects.”

While medicinal uses may be significant, some folks use them to torture themselves and, perhaps, unsuspecting exes.

Fear holding you back? Search “Hot Pepper” on YouTube to watch capsaicin masochists in action..  Apparently, you’ll find popular videos reaching millions of viewers. One chilehead has gathered more than 34 million – yes, million — views.

While the hottest pepper of  2016 hasn’t yet been determined, the hottest pepper in 2015 was the Carolina Reaper, checking in at more than 2.2 million Scoville units.

For the initiated, the Scoville scale measures ‘hotness’ of a chile pepper or anything made from chile peppers. Developed in 1912, it’s named after founder William Scoville.

Pure capsaicin – which determines the hotness of peppers – is 15 to 16 MILLION Scoville units. No pepper has gotten even close. And, that may be a good thing.

Several sources agree the 10 hottest peppers are

 1 Carolina Reaper 1,200,000 ~ 2,100,00
2 Moruga Scorpion 1,200,000 ~ 2,009,231
3 Choclate 7 Pot 1,169,000 ~ 1,850,000
4 Trinidad Scorpion 1,029,000 ~ 1,390,000
5 Naga Jolokia “Ghost Pepper” 1,020,000 ~ 1,578,000
6 Naga Gibralta 900,000 ~ 1,086,844
7 Naga Viper 800,000 ~ 1,382,118
8 Infinity 800,000 ~ 1,067,286
9 Dorset Naga 800,000 ~ 970,000
 10 Naga Morich 770,000 ~ 1,034,910

For the record, the jalapeno checks in between 2,500 and  8,000 Scoville units. That’s hot enough for me.


Get Fast Facts and recipes from HSA. Or share yours in the comments below.

 

Samull Grant Winner to Educate Through Medicinal Garden

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

https___s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com_236x_74_29_aa_7429aac6b57ef03f16d5e73f53fd631d (1)Karen Diaz has a passion for herbalism that stems from her roots as the granddaughter of braceros and farmers from rural Jalisco, Mexico. (If you don’t know the word “bracero,” look it up. It’s a fascinating part of history.)

An educator, she is bringing that history into third to fifth grade classrooms at 6th Street Elementary School in Silver City, New Mexico.

“For generations my family has used herbs as a form of healing, medicine, and food,” say Diaz. “As I became involved in environmental justice and community organizing, I was drawn back to my roots of connecting to herbs as a tool for teaching and incorporating them into local food systems.”

6th Street Elementary is one of nine schools to receive HSA’s Donald Samull Classroom Herb Garden Grant.  The grant is funded by a bequest from the estate of Donald Samull, an elementary school teacher who used his love of herbs in the classroom with his students, grades three to six.

Diaz’s classroom was one of five that received $200 to establish an outdoor herb garden.  An additional four received monies for indoor herb gardens.

“I plan to establish an herbal medicinal garden with my students where we would also have lessons pertaining to how these herbs were traditionally used by cultures native to rural Grant County, which would include the Apache tribe and Mexican people,” says Diaz. “I also want to highlight ethnobotany, history, science, art, and math concepts in my lesson plans with my 3rd to 5th graders.”

2015-2016 Award recipients:

Indoor Herb Garden

  • Bailey Middle School Cornelius, NC
  • Evergreen Middle School Brooklyn, NY
  • Jere Whitston Elementary School Cookville, TN
  • Albert Hall School Waterville, ME

 

Outdoor Herb Garden

  • Douglas Elementary Tyler, TX
  • Dahlonegah Public School Stilwell, OK
  • 6th Street Elementary Silver City, NM
  • Simonton Elementary School Lawrenceville, GA
  • South Side Elementary Nuseum Magnet School Miami, FL

 

“I am amazed at the number of applications we receive each year for this grant,” says Katrinka Morgan, executive director of HSA. “Mr. Samull inspired when he taught and continues to inspire. We are honored to continue to share his love of herbs through this grant program.“

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.”