Learn to be an Herbalist

By Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine

how to be an herbalistIt’s an exciting time to be an herbalist as more and more people are using medicinal herbs for health and well-being. Nearly one-third of Americans use medicinal herbs, and the World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of people worldwide still rely on herbs as their primary form of health care. This botanical medicine momentum translates to more interest in herbal products and herbalism; there are more opportunities than ever for rewarding employment in the field as well as golden opportunities for entrepreneurship.

To help spread the herbal word, the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine has put together a *free* guide on how to start your herbal career. It’s 95 pages gushing with information for brand new and seasoned herbalists alike, including:

  • How to become a thriving herbalist
  • Getting the right herbal education
  • An herbalist’s salary & career opportunities
  • Debunking the mythic “Certified Herbalist”
  • Legalities of herbal products businesses in the U.S.

Get your free copy here: https://chestnutherbs.com/budding-herbalist-guide/

Samull Grant Awarded to 10 Classrooms

Samull Grant Awarded to 10 Classrooms

image3The Herb Society of America is giving $300 in “seed money” to 10 classrooms throughout the United States to foster learning and environmental appreciation. The funds are used for supplies such as soil, plant trays, containers, youth-sized tools, and more to establish classroom herb gardens.

“Garden based learning is a tremendous way for kids to learn not just about plants but science, math, history, geography, life skills, and more,” says Rie Sluder, president of The Herb Society of America. “We are impressed with the plans that the teachers have to use the “seed” money, and love that the Samull Classroom Herb Garden Grants create opportunities for children to learn about the important role herbs play in our everyday lives.”

The Samull Classroom Herb Garden Grant was founded in 2009 by the estate of teacher Donald Samull. An elementary school teacher, Mr. Samull used his love of herbs to teach his students about nature. Today, the Samull Classroom Herb Garden Grant honors his love of herbs and continues that tradition of combining teaching and the environment.

Jefferson elementary - st louis missouri - samull grantThis year’s recipients are…

  • Creation Kids Village School – Celebration, Florida
  • Esparto Middle School – Esparto, California
  • Corvallis Waldorf School – Corvallis, Oregon
  • James B. Edwards Elementary School – Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
  • Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Harrison Center’s 21st Century Community Learning – Port Huron, Michigan
  • Youth Opportunities Unlimited – New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Dutch Ridge Elementary School – Beaver, Pennsylvania
  • Stone Springs Elementary School – Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Kaelakehe Elementary School – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

The 2018-2019 grant was able to supply more schools because of the one-time generous grant from the FJ Foundation. To choose the winners, the Samull Classroom Herb Garden Grant Committee’s five members, read nearly 170 applications and reviewed the applications three times, according to Chair Peggy Rados,

To learn more about how our awardees plan to use the seed money please visit the grant webpage.


Bittersweet … A Tale of Two Sisters

By Kathleen M Hale, Western Reserve Herb Society

The Sisters’ Shame
We were two daughters of one race;
She was the fairest in the face.
    The wind is blowing in turret and tree.
They were together, and she fell;
Therefore revenge became me well.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

bittersweetA lot of legends of magic, revenge and sorcery begin with two sisters. Sometimes they are friends.  Sometimes they are rivals.  But an unspoken message in many stories is, “Don’t pick the wrong one!” Increasingly, North American gardeners are finding themselves faced with this dilemma.  The choice may be between a native plant and its sometimes seductive, sometimes invasive sister, introduced from elsewhere.

Bittersweet gives us such a story. American bittersweet, Celustrus scandens, is seen everywhere this time of year in wreaths and dried arrangements. It has tiny vivid orange fruits and arils, each surrounded by an arched areola. The fruit is produced on long, twining stems. During the gray days of fall and winter, Bittersweet is a versatile, reliable provider of warm color in the home.

It is poisonous. At least to people, dogs and cats.  Birds and squirrels may eat the berries unharmed.  Some indigenous American tribes have made medicinal preparations from parts of the plants, which reputedly act to purge the body in every possible way.

American bittersweet, while a North American native, is not actually “true” bittersweet. That attribute was already snagged by its European cousin, “bittersweet nightshade” (Solanum dulcamara).  Yes.  Nightshade.

American bittersweet grows freely throughout most of the eastern two thirds of the United States.  It is a reliable indicator of a wetland habitat. A new variety of American bittersweet is American Revolution bittersweet vine (Celastrus scandens ‘Bailumn’), more free flowering than the wild plant, and with much larger fruit.

The related Chinese or oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is becoming more common than American bittersweet, and is spreading throughout the same geographical range. Both have seeds that are widely spread by bird, although Chinese bittersweet also propagates by rhizomes. The plants are very similar in appearance, although the Chinese bittersweet carries her flowers all along the vine, whereas the American bittersweet flowers only at the tips. Both varieties grow on long (15 to 20 feet), trailing and climbing deciduous vines, which use other neighboring plants for support.  Both may girdle and kill the supporting plant, but that is more often the case with Chinese bittersweet.  Her lavish growth is more likely to make her an aggressive and fatal neighbor. That is why the Chinese bittersweet is considered invasive, while the native bittersweet is not. Chinese bittersweet’s lush growth also hogs the light, and kills neighboring plants by cloaking them in darkness.

 Humans have been instrumental in spreading the reach of Chinese bittersweet.  Her more lavish growth and flowering, and her seeds’ greater attractiveness to birds, have made her a popular introduction.  Chinese bittersweet has been planted in great numbers to control roadside erosion. And all of those wreaths and centerpieces eventually get dusty and start dropping (poisonous) bits around the house.  The next stop is the landfill…where the new plants prosper.

Medical disclaimer

The American bittersweet is, therefore, quickly becoming an endangered plant, while the Chinese bittersweet is sometimes labeled a noxious pest. Its wanted poster is right up there with Japanese knotweed.  Even serene gardeners start considering the nuclear option: RoundUp. And that’s sinister, indeed. More bitter than bittersweet.

Moral of the story: Plant native.

Add Lemongrass to Your Garden Plans

By Peggy Riccio, member, Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America

lemongrassSeptember.JPGLemon grass is probably one of the easiest, cheapest herbs you can grow. You can purchase short, unrooted culms (stalks) at the local Asian grocery stores and simply stick them in the soil in large containers or in the ground.

This year I bought three culms for less than a dollar in July. They were a foot tall with little to no roots. I planted the three in one large plastic container. I left them in full sun, on the deck, and ignored them. Here in Virginia we had an unusually wet summer, so they were watered. By September, the three plants had grown to 4 feet tall and the container was heavy.

I was growing mine for culinary purposes but lemongrass can be used as an ornamental for the summer garden. Its graceful slender foliage is a great thriller plant for large container plantings and its height can serve as a screen for the back of a perennial border or even as a summer hedge.  Plant them about two feet apart to give them plenty of space to let the foliage arch gracefully downward. Grow lemongrass in full sun and rich soil with plenty of water at first to have the roots become established.

Lemongrass is versatile in the home. The fragrant leaves can be used for floral arrangements, even dried floral arrangements, and potpourri. In the kitchen the leaves are best used fresh or dried in a liquid where you can remove before eating or drinking, much like bay leaves. I infuse the leaves in my black tea for a lemon flavor and I use them in coconut curry soup and egg drop soup. When cooking dishes like stir-fry, fish, seafood, chicken, rice, and even baked goods, cut a culm that is at least a foot tall with a half-inch swollen base. Cut below the swollen end, which is what you will use in the dish, and remove the outer, fibrous layers (the remaining culm in the container will re-sprout). Cut to the inner, white heart, which should be soft enough to eat in dishes. If you have too much, store in plastic bags in the freezer.

lemongrassLemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus, is native to India and Sri Lanka and hardy to Zone 9. I have to treat lemongrass as a tropical plant in my Zone 7 Virginia garden. As frost approaches in October, I have several options for my plants. Option one: I could drag this heavy container to my office where I have good light to overwinter until next May. Option two: I could cut the culms into small sections and dry or freeze them. Option three: I can dig the plants up, cut down to a few inches, re-plant in small pots, and place indoors at a south facing window. By keeping the soil barely moist, the roots remain alive through the winter so the pots can go back outside next year. Option four: Since the three culms cost less than a dollar, I can do nothing and simply start all over again next year.

This year, I elect option two so I can continue to have hot, lemon-flavored tea during the cold winter months. Next year, I will pay another visit to the Asian market and for less than a dollar, plant lemongrass again for flavor as well as beauty.

Author Peggy Riccio gardens in a typical suburban Northern Virginia home. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a horticulture degree and has been involved in horticultural communications for more than 20 years. Currently, she is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America. Riccio produces pegplant.com, a local gardening website for the Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC metro area. Pegplant offers local gardening news, resources, and information about gardening, gardens, and plants.

Contest 2: The Winner is …

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

In September we relaunched the “Showinner 2w us Your Herb Garden” Contest. Folks were invited to send herbal planting efforts. Names were placed in a “hat” and a winner was selected. Winner Susan Maasch in Bangor, Maine, will receive a copy of the book What Can I Do with My Herbs by Judy Barrett.

About her herb garden Maasch writes:

“My herb garden is right outside my kitchen door. I focus on culinary herbs which we eat all summer and early fall and then dry or freeze for all winter long. We have four kinds of thyme, four kinds of sage, garlic chives, summer savory, parsley, oregano, basil and 40 kinds of garlic from all over the world.

We grow lemon verbena and different mints to use for tea. I use the lavender for my chai tea and to make lavender cookies. The garden is my meditation and joy giving me great flavor and gifts to give others.”

Maasch started herb gardening about 46 years ago when urban and suburban kids were inspired by the back to the land movement, holistic living, Earth Day, and “general hippie values” of the 1970s. She hasn’t stopped.winner

“I love the labor, the earth in my hands, the rewards of growing my own food and herbs including the tea we drink,” she says. “I always say the garden is a visually beautiful place to be and when I enter it I leave the world and all its troubles behind. I am somehow transported to the moment and a place of peace in a way nothing else does for me.”

300 Posts Published by Herb Society Bloggers

300 Posts Published by Herb Society Bloggers

hsa-logo-seal-364On Wednesday, October 31, 2018, we published our 300th blog post for The Herb Society of America.  With today’s post the counter rolls to 301. The first post, published five years and nine months ago in February 2013, was written by Holly Cusumano of HSA’s Philadelphia Unit. The latest is by Beth Schreibman-Gehring of the Western Reserve Herb Society Unit in Cleveland.

The award-winning blog built momentum after July 2015 when Paris Wolfe became the first Blogmaster, a role she continues today. She both writes original posts and works with numerous writers to bring twice weekly posts to HSA’s social media audiences.

This success is possible because of the writers and readers who participate and support the blog and The Herb Society. The blog’s mission is quite simple … to promote the essential experience of herbs from cultivation and use to learning and research, for members and the public throughout the United States

  • to protect botanical heritage,
  • to steward scientific diversity and
  • to promote personal enjoyment.

For blog followers and readers who don’t already belong to The Herb Society of America, the organization is a non-profit founded in 1933 with more than 40 units located in seven regional membership districts. Two of The society’s most important activities are found in the GreenBridgesLogo_LoGreenBridges™ Initiative, a pollinator protection program, and Notable Natives™, a native herb conservation effort.

Whether you are looking for a local unit to join or if you are simply looking for a trusted resource for information on herbs, The Herb Society of America community is your connection the world over to help you learn and to share your ideas, knowledge, and observations with other herb enthusiasts.

Get to know us better at herbsociety.org. Better yet, become a member. And, keep reading as we reach for 400 posts over the next year.

Thank you.