Herb of the Week: Ashwaganda


Species: Withania somnifera

Common names: Ashwaganda Root, Indian Ginseng, Winter cherry

Ashwaganda root has been used for over three thousand in Ayuverdic medicine as a general tonic and to help stabilize moods. It is a member of the nightshade family. Ashwaganda is native to India, Northern Africa and the Middle East. The roots can be used as a decoction or tincture. The dried root can also be powdered and consumed on food. The name “Ashwaganda” roughly translates into “horses smell” which might reference the plant’s musky smell.

Grows up to 4 feet with elliptical green leaves and
tiny green yellow flowers followed by red berries.

Parts Used: Roots

Collection: Dig Roots in late Fall (in New England)

Actions:  Adaptagen, Anti-inflammatory, Sedative, Tonic
Indications:  General tonic to help the body regain balance especially when battling stress. Helps promote a restful sleep.

Contraindications: Avoid if Pregnant or Nursing

 Cultivation: By seed

Light: Full Sun

Zones : Annual

Plant Type: Semi Hardy Evergreen Shrub in Native areas– Annual in New England

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Herb of the Week: Burdock


Species: Arctium lappa

Common names: Beggar’s Buttons,Thorny Burr, Love Leaves, Gobo

 History/Folklore: Burdock is a common biennial considered by many to be a weed. However, it has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments throughout history. The seeds have been used to provide relief from measles, common cold, arthritis, tonsillitis. The seeds are usually used for more acute conditions since its actions are more immediate (but not as sustainable) than those from the root. The root is a great blood purifier, and is used to help detoxify the liver. Some conditions it is effective against include rheumatism, gout, psoriasis, eczema, ulcers and acne. The Japanese use Burdock root (Gobo) as a vegetable. The Europeans use Burdock root oil as a scalp treatment. The Burdock burr is said to be the inspiration for Velcro.


Grows to a height of 3-6 feet with heart shaped leaves. Purple flowers, which appear from midsummer to early fall, are followed by sticky burrs. Roots are generally 12 inches up to 3 feet.

 Parts Used: Roots, leaves and seeds.

Collection: Dig roots in fall of the first year or early spring of second year before flower stalks appear.

Actions: diuretic, diaphoretic, blood purifier, alterative, tonic. 

Indications: Burdock helps remove toxins and impurities from the liver allowing it to work more efficiently and effectively. It is believed that it helps regulate the body’s metabolism. Mostly used as a decoction, although leaves are used as a poultice to treat bruises and inflamed skin.

 Counterindications: Avoid if pregnant or nursing. May cause allergic reaction if you are sensitive to daisies, chrysanthemums or ragweed.

Cultivation: Seeds. Self seeds readily.

Light: Full sun to part shade

Zones : Biennialnot common in deep south.

Plant Type: Biennial

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Artemisia of the week: WHITE WORMWOOD

Species: Artemisia herba-alba

 Common names: White wormwood, Desert wormwood

 History/Folklore: A short shrub that grows commonly in Northern Africa and the Middle East in desert like conditions. It has been used to treat diabetes in Iraqi folk medicine. It has also been used by tribes in the Negeve dessert to treat Enteritis and other intestinal disturbances. 

Finely divided gray green leaves that are aromatic. Grows to about 8–16 inches high.

Parts Used: leaves

Collection: Harvest and dry in mid summer. Cut stems and hang to dry.

Actions:  Antispasmodic, antiseptic, vermifuge.
Indications:  Aids in digestion, expels parasites, cleansing.

Counterindications: Avoid during pregnancy.


 Cultivation: Cuttings and layering



Light: Full sun

Zones: ? 

Plant Type: Perennial,Herb, Shrub




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Fire Cider Controversy

Ottawa Herb Society

There has been quite alot of information buzzing around since one company patented the term Fire Cider. Here is Rosemary Gladstar’s most recent response.


Official Statement from Rosemary Gladstar

Dear Friends,

The saga of Fire Cider continues….

I wish to thank you all for your ongoing support. It’s been amazing to see how many people have mobilized over this issue and who are willing to support free ownership of Fire Cider. To me this issue is larger than just fire cider. However, in this moment it is most important that the name and product “Fire Cider” be returned to its rightful owners, the herbal community, many who have been making, using, and selling Fire Cider longer than Shire City Herbals has been in existence. When I first made Fire Cider, named it such, and taught hundreds of other people how to make it through my books, videos, classes, and…

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Artemisia of the Week: CALIFORNIA SAGEBRUSH

Species: Artemisia californica

Common names: California sagebrush, Coastal sagebrush, California sagewort, California mugwort

History/Folklore: Native to California, California Sagebrush is a shrub that can attain a height of 5-8 feet whose leaves have a strong sage like aroma. It provides a habitat for several animal species, most importantly the rare and endangered California gnatcatcher.

Native Americans utilized California Sagebrush as a decoction to treat menstrual problems as well as aid in childbirth. As a poultice, it was also utilized for toothaches and wounds. It was also smoked ceremonially as well as used in sweat lodges.

Has a wispy appearance with its soft somewhat hairy leaves on slender stems.

Parts Used: leaves

Collection: Harvest and dry in mid-summer. Cut stems and hang to dry.

Actions: diaphoretic, emmenagogue, bitter.
Indications:  promotes sweating, regulates menstruation, aids in digestion.

Counter indications: Avoid during pregnancy.

 Cultivation: Perennial to zone 7. Prefers dry soil. Propagation is layering or cuttings.

Light: Full sun

Zones : 7-9

Plant Type: Perennial, Herb, Shrub

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Herb of the Week: WHITE WILLOW

Species: Salix alba

Common names: White Willow

History/Folklore:The use of Willow bark has been noted as far back as 400 BC (the time of Hippocrates). To help reduce fever and inflammation, patients were advised to chew on the bark of the Willow. In China and Europe, Willow bark has been utilized in the treatment of pain (low back pain and osteoarthritis), headaches and inflammatory conditions.. In the late 1820’s the active ingredient was isolated from willow bark and identified as the compound salicin. In the 1850’s a synthetic version of salicylic acid was created because it was time consuming and costly to extract the compound from Willow bark. Due to many cases of stomach ulcers and bleeding from the use of salicylic acid, the German company Bayer created acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) to lessen these effects.

Willow bark is considered safer for the stomach because the salicin is converted within the body to salicylic acid instead of being ingested directly. There are also additional compounds in Willow bark that work together with the salicin to provide pain relief and anti inflammatory benefits. Aspirin does not contain these added compounds. Willow bark can also be used along with other herbs(such as Meadowsweet) to increase the benefits.

Appearance: A medium to large tree growing to 80 feet and having an irregular, often leaning crown. The bark is grey brown and is deeply fissured in older trees. Leaves are grey green with a whitish underbelly.

Parts Used: Bark

Collection: Prune tree in early spring, and strip bark (down to heartwood). Use fresh or dry.

Actions:  Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, astringent

Indications:  Used to relieve headaches, inflammation, lower back pain, pain from arthritis, flu, bursitis and tendonitis. The tea is also used as a wash for wounds.

Contraindications: Avoid if taking Warfarin (Coumadin) or if allergic to aspirin. Do not give to children under 16.

Cultivation: Cuttings

Light: Full Sun to part Shade

Zones: 3-8

Plant Type:  Deciduous Tree

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Visions of Spring

Here in Western Massachusetts we have over a foot of fresh snow on the ground and we are feeling that spring is so far away. We thought a pictorial stroll thought our gardens in spring would help. Please enjoy! Witch … Continue reading

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Artemisia of the Week: ROMAN WORMWOOD

Species: Artemisia pontica

Common names: Petite Wormwood, Small Absinthe

History/Folklore: Believed to have been brought to the Americas in the 17th century, Roman Wormwood was favored in the making of Vermouth because its taste was less bitter that A. Absinthium. Roman Wormwood is considered to be the least strong of all the Artemisia.

Appearance: Finely divided gray green leaves that are aromatic. Grows to about 10–12 inches high.

Parts Used: leaves

Collection: Harvest and dry in mid summer. Cut stems and hang to dry.

Actions:  tonic, bitter.
Indications:  aids in digestion.

Counterindications: Avoid during pregnancy.

Cultivation: Perennial to zone 3. Plant 2 feet apart in slightly acidic, well drained soil. Propagation is layering or cuttings.

Light: Full sun

Zones : 3-8

Plant Type: Perennial, Herb, Shrub

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Herb of the Week: Apothecary’s Rose

Rosa gallica var. officinalis

Common names: The Apothecary’s Rose, Rose of Lancaster, Provins Rose

History/Folklore: Rosa gallica was beloved to have originated in Persia and was brought to Europe by the Crusaders. There is mention of monks growing and using roses medicinally in the 13th Century. The extensive use of this rose medicinally became synonymous with European Apothecaries. So much so that rose bushes were planted outside of the Apothecaries to symbolize their profession (similar to the scales for lawyers).

Various methods of use have been noted in Ayurvedic, Chinese, European and North American herbal practices. There are Teas, tinctures, salves, honeys, jellies, vinegars and even flavoring wines. For Aromatherapy and Body care, Rose water and infused Rose Oil can be made. Of course, there is always Attar of Rose or Rose Otto to pr

ovide a sense of well being.

Appearance:Rough medium green leaves, small thorns with semi double deep pink flowers. Rosehips are small on this rose.

Parts Used: Floral petals

Collection: Gather petals in early morning once the dew has dried before bloom fully open. Rosehips gathered in fall while still plump

Actions: Slightly astringent, mildly sedative, anti-inflammatory

Indications: Rose hips are high in vitamins C, A & E. Externally as a wound wash, to ease itching and swelling from insect bites. Tea made with petals and rosehips can alleviate inflammation, problems with the digestive system, relieve symptoms of arthritis,

Contraindications: Avoid excessive rosehip use if taking Warfarin (Coumadin)



Cultivation: Cuttings

Zones: 3-8

Light: Full Sun to part Shade

Plant Type:  Herbaceous shrub

 Rose Jelly

4 cups rose petals
1 1/4 cups water
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons rose water

Place rose petals and water in a medium saucepan and bring slowly to a simmer.

Simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in sugar and lemon juice, continuously stirring until sugar dissolves.

Bring to a boil and cook steadily for 15-20 minutes until jam starts to thicken. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil, stirring continuously

Remove from heat and stir in the rose water.

Pour into sterile jelly jars and seal.

This is not a typical Jelly – it is more syrupy

You will want to use pectin if you want a firmer jelly.


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Artemisia of the Week- Mugwort

Species: Artemisia vulgaris

Common names: Mugwort, Common Mugwort, Motherwort, Old Woman (Aldy Fraw), Felon Herb

History/Folklore: Believed to be the first of the nine sacred herbs given to the world by Odin as an antidote for poison and to heal infections, Mugwort is an ancient herb referenced throughout history. It has been mentioned in Chinese poetry prior to 3 BC and utilized in Ancient Egypt and Greece. Mugwort has had a wide array of uses, both medicinally and magically throughout the ages.

Mugwort has been called the “mother of herbs” mainly due to its use in the treating female reproductive disorders. It has been used in Ayurvedic practices, Chinese medicine and European herbalism to help regulate menses. Brewed in a tea it has also been used to aid in digestion and relief of gas.

Throughout history, mugwort has been used as protection against evil and psychic attack. Travelers wore sprigs to protect them on their travels. Ancient Romans were said to place mugwort in their sandals to help ease road weary feet. Many cultures burn Mugwort to clear the air of negative energy and to frighten away evil spirits.

Appearance:The leaves are dark green on top with a silvery, downy underside. Reaches a height of 3 to 6 feet. The pale yellow/white or pink flowers are small oval heads on long terminal panicles.

Parts Used: flowering tops and leaves

Collection: Harvest leaves before flowering. Cut flowering tops when in bloom.

Actions:  tonic, emmenagogue, nervine, diuretic, diaphoretic, anti fungal.

Indications: helps normalize menstrual flow, helps reduce stress and anxiety, aids in digestion while reducing gas, expelling of parasitic worms

Contraindications: Avoid during pregnancy.

Cultivation: Perennial to zone 3. Plant 3-4 feet apart. Propagation is by root division or self seeding.

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Zones : 3-10

Plant Type: Perennial, Herb, Shrub

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