Chaga Mushroom | The Perfect Autumn Adaptogen | Free Herbal Monograph

– Chaga Mushroom –

This article was featured in HerbRally’s herbal monographs selection

Unique, mysterious and generous, Chaga is one of my favorite medicinal mushrooms to work with. Especially through Autumn and winter, I love adding this gentle yet powerfully supportive mushroom into my daily routine. The flavor is fairly neutral with a hint of woody vanilla that goes beautifully in a cup of chai tea or coffee. Let’s get to know Chaga!

A chunk of Chaga in front of a photo of the Egyptian pyramids | By Tania Oceana

Common Names: Chaga, Cinder conk, Black mass

Species: Inonotus obliquus

Kingdom: Fungi

Family: Hymenochaetaceae

Description: The visible mass (the sterile conk) is actually the mycelia (AKA Sclerotia).  This has an irregular shape and it’s color goes from light brown/orange in the middle to a dark brown and black (due to melanin) towards the surface. The texture is like cork when fresh and wood bark when dry.

Habitat: Found most commonly on Birch trees (to which it is parasitic) as well as Alder, Beech and other hardwood trees in cold northern regions. Native habitats include Russia and the Northern regions of Europe, Asia and North America. Chaga slowly infects the tree (which lives 1-8 decades after infection) after settling in wounds such as after a branch breaks off. 

Parts Utilized: Most commonly it’s the Sclerotia harvested from a tree, though the mycelia can also be cultivated in grain as well. Unlike other common mushrooms, the fruiting body is rarely seen and rarely, if ever, used. Because the fruiting event is rare, occurring within a host tree towards the end of its life, it’s details are still wrapped in mystery.

Energetics: Neutral, very slightly drying

Taste: Neutral with a mild woody, sweet and very slight astringent tones

Actions: Immunomodulating, Immune Tonic, Antiviral, Antiinflammatory, Tonic, Anti-Tumor, Anti-Cancer, Adaptogen, Stomachic 

Well known constituents: Beta Glucans, polyphenols, polysaccharides, phenolic compounds, betulin, betulinic acid, triterpenoids

Sources: Organically grown, wild harvest (note: make sure to only get ethically wild harvested because popularity is increasing and the slow growing stands can become endangered!)

Medicinal Uses:

 Seasonal Immune support

Excellent for use starting the beginning of Autumn (or slightly before) for those with weakened immunity and worked with consistently throughout winter (especially in Northern regions where Vitamin D is harder to get via sunlight and cold and flu seasons occur). Chaga supports the immune system without overstimulating it, which is where it’s immunomodulating benefit comes in. You do not want or need your immune system to be stimulated constantly, and this could potentially aggravate autoimmune conditions, but you may want to strengthen immune function up to a good level to keep healthy throughout winter. This intelligent ability of immunomodulating herbs to balance immune function, rather than have a blanket stimulating or suppressing action, is one of nature’s gifts to us. 

Cancer prevention, treatment & treatment support

Both historic and current use for a variety of cancer treatment exist in Russia, and there is a lot of modern research backing up these uses (though some studies point to only benefiting certains types of cancer, like stomach for example, and not other types).

 In addition to working just with Chaga, there is also use as support during other conventional cancer treatments. One study on its anti tumor potential (source 1) : “for those who are in the process of chemotherapy administration of the fungus will not only chemosensitize the tumor cells and thereby increasing the chemotherapeutic effects, but also help to restore the compromised immunity and protect against ulcerative GI tract damage and other side-effects induced by chemotherapy.” 

General, Stomach & Intestinal Health

Chaga has an extremely high level of antioxidants and is helpful to protect against oxidative stress, DNA damage, inflammation and offers a cardioprotective benefit from reduction in overall inflammation. The antiinflammatory benefit also makes its way to the stomach and lower gastrointestinal system, making it a great ally for those with digestive disorders such as ulcers, gastritis, IBS, Chrones and Irritable Bowel Disease in particular. There is also some benefit for metabolic disorders and blood sugar balance, however due to the potential of endangerment, it’s advised to work with more local and abundant herbs for general metabolic support. 

Chaga goes great in a cup of cozy Chai tea or coffee

Preparation and extraction:

  • Water extraction: Simmer for 20+ minutes to 2 hours. Chaga can be strained out and resimmered 2-4 times before it starts to lose color and potency ( ie. why I see Chaga as generous)
  • Alcohol extraction: In tincture making, it’s best to use a double extraction method with mushrooms, especially hard ones. There will be alcohol and water extraction  done separately, then the liquid from both extractions will be combined. The two most popular methods are as follows: 1. Tincture Chaga in 95% alcohol for 2+ weeks. Strain, save and then decoct the Chaga in water for 30minutes – 2 hours. Strain and combine the liquid. Or 2. Decoct the chaga first, strain and save then tincture the Chaga in alcohol for 2+ weeks. Strain and combine liquids. 
  • Powder can be added directly to decocting teas and soups (before or during cooking to enhance extraction with heat)

COFFEE ALTERNATIVES | Rise & Shine Herbal Blends featuring Medicinal Mushrooms | Adaptogen Blends

History of Use: 

Recorded use in Russian Folk Medicine since at least the 16th century for cancers, consumption, digestive disease and general pain. Still used in Russia for stomach and intestinal diseases. The name Chaga comes from the Russian word for fungus, which originates from the Komi-Permyak (the indiginous people) of the Siberian Kama River Basin.There is also historical and modern use in Scandinavia, NE Asia, Alaskan as well as some uses in Japan and even Tibet.

Folklore

A Finnish tale: “There was a legend about the first man who discovered Chaga in the forest. He was older than old, a long white beard that trailed before him & a long stretch of snow-white hair that followed behind him. He was so old that he was unable to stand up straight, though found himself in one of the beautiful Birch forests of Suomi where he stumbled upon the first Chaga. Upon drinking it, it was said that his hair turned pitch black & his youth was fully restored both physically & energetically.” Possibly a tale about the benefits of Chagas high antioxidant content?

My Experience: Enjoying a freshly brewed cup of Chaga tea feels like such a cozy experience. The relaxation is mild enough for me to wonder if it’s coming not only from the ritual of enjoying a warm cup of tea but also that this herb is a fairly rare and mysterious winter dwelling forest medicine here to help support me through my own winters? Either way, I used to be that person who caught all the colds in winter, but since working with Chaga (as well as other building immune adaptogen herbs) I am more confident in my body’s ability to hold its own in our long, wet & cold Pacific NW winters.  

Other Interesting Information: 

Even though Chaga mycelium that is cultivated on grain has some betulinic acid, it is much higher when found on Birch trees. Since Birch trees also contain Betulinic acid, there may be a synergetic effect going on as the Chaga holds onto and somehow processes this compound to make it more bioavailable to us. This occurrence seems to play a significant role in Chagas cancer fighting magic. 

Possible Contraindications

Oxalates: there seems to be a relatively high amount of oxalates in Chaga, which may cause contraindications to emerge in the future (especially for use with those with kidney disorders). It does seem though that the traditional method of simmering/boiling and straining the chaga, rather than consuming the powder whole, can significantly reduce the risk of ingesting excessive oxalates. 

Immune stimulation: even though Chaga can beautifully balance the immune system, it can also have an immune stimulating effect as well which could potentially interfere with medications that purposefully suppress immune function.

Chaga Coffee Recipe by Tania Oceana
Chaga Coffee Recipe by Tania Oceana

BONUS RECIPE

It’s super simple to add Chaga into your favorite black tea or coffee latte!

Simply add 1-2 tsp of strong Chaga Tea (see extraction methods above) or 1-2 dropperful (aprox. 1-2 ml) to your tea or coffee before adding creamer. Stir in and add creamer, optional sweetness and other additions like cinnamon powder!

Triology Mushroom Tincture

TRILOGY MUSHROOM BLEND | Triple mushroom tincture featuing Chaga, Reishi and Maitake | Double-Extracted for maximum potency.

Sources

  1. “Deciphering the antitumoral potential of the bioactive metabolites from medicinal mushroom Inonotus obliquus” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32877719/
  1. Medicinal Mushrooms with Christopher Hobbs (lecture)
  1. The Mycophile Volume 47:1 The Chaga Story by Ron Spinosa
  1. “Bioactivity-based analysis and chemical characterization of cytotoxic constituents from Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) that induce apoptosis in human lung adenocarcinoma cells” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S037887411831403X
  1. Vital Ways School – Notes taken
  1. Inhibitory effects of a polysaccharide extract from the Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (higher Basidiomycetes), on the proliferation of human neurogliocytoma cells. Ning XB, Qi Luo Q, Li C, Ding ZY, Pang J, Zhao C. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2014;16(1):29–36.
  1. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15630179
  1. Savage GP, Nilzen V, Österberg K, Vanhanen L. 2001. “Soluble and insoluble oxalate content of mushrooms”. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 53: 293- 296.
  2. Antiinflammatory and Immunomodulating Properties of Fungal Metabolites https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1160565/

Rose Hip Apple Sauce | Simple, Healthy Recipe

Why would you want to eat Rose Hips?

Rose Hips by Tania Oceana
Rose Hips by Tania Oceana

Because they are chalk tasty, full of natural Vitamin C, & they offer many holistic health benefits!

So what are Rose Hips & where do I get them?

If you’ve ever noticed pump, red and shiny orbs growing on rose bushes in fall, then you have seen rose hips! They are the fruit of the rose plant, and are edible – though watch out for pesticide use before consuming.

These fruits range in size, like roses do, from small and thin to large and fat. Some have ample sweet flesh while other have very little flesh and are mostly tart. A fresh, fat rose hip is a real treat!

Wild Rose in Oregon by Tania Oceana

Where do the grow? Anywhere where there are cultivated or wild roses – so mostly gardens and in the forest understory. They ripen up starting late Summer and are ready to harvest in Fall or sometimes early Winter. You want to be careful of the seeds because they have itchy hairs that are not pleasant to eat.

While fresh hips are a treat, dried hips are much more accessible and fairly easy and affordable to purchase. I highly recommend getting de-seeded hips because it’s quite the process to separate them out yourself.

Did you know? Many edible fruits and berries belong to the Rose family, such as Apples, Peaches and Raspberries!

Rose hips as a Medicinal Herb & Food-as-Medicine Plant

Besides being very high in Vitamin C, rose hips also contain flavonoids, antioxidants, quercetin, pectin and more. This combination is beneficial for general and systemic inflammation and support healthy immune function.

Pictured: Dried, Fresh with other Rose Family plants and living Rosehip

There are too many health benefits to squeeze into one article, so check out this study entitled “Assessment of rosehips based on the content of their biologically active compounds” to learn more and how exactly these compounds benefit us via www.Sciencedirect.com

The various anti-inflammatory compounds can be useful in many inflammatory and autoimmune issues, such as arthritis, allergies and IBS.

The pectin is especially soothing to the digestive tract, and can help bulk up and moisten the contents in our bowels (such as with constipation).

“Rose hips contain a large range of important dietary antioxidants. The high antioxidant activity is mainly attributed to ascorbic acid that typically ranges from 3 g/kg to 40 g/kg [5], which is fairly more than any other commonly available fruits or vegetables” Sciencedirect.com

Incorporating wild and nutrient dense food into our diets is an excellent way to add variety and to “let food be thy medicine” as ancient Greek physician Hippocrates proclaimed.

Learn more about Roses HERE

OK So how do I prepare them?

Big batch of Rosehip Sauce from last year!

RECIPE TIME!

 Rose Hip Apple Sauce 
The Super Simple Healthy Snack!

 1/2 cup (or 1 part) Dried & Deseeded Rosehips

 1 cup (or 2 parts) Apple Juice (preferably Organic and 100% juice)* 

Add to a clean jar, combine by stirring and put a lid on. You want there to be room at the top of the jar so that the hips can expand. Put a label on your jar and refrigerate. The next day, or 24 hours later, check the consistency. Viola!

You can add more hips or juice to thin out or thicken up your sauce. The hips should be soft and the texture similar to apple sauce. You can use powdered Rose hips for a smoother texture, just make sure to break up any clumps.

Enjoy as a jelly, as a desert topping or straight out of the jar!

Check out my latest video on how and why to make Rosehip Applesauce

*Looking for a low or sugar free option? You can either use a juice with less sugar, cut the juice with water and/or substitute Stevia (a sweet and no-sugar herb). Since Stevia is so sweet, I suggest a ready-to-go product over the raw powder which varies quite a bit but be aware of fillers.

Bonus: More scientific studies on the anti-inflammatory benefits of Rosehips HERE

And last but not least, I’ve been asked a lot recently about herbs in addition to Vitamin C rich Rose hips to help support our immune system. Thankfully, there are many herbal allies that may help. Check out this quick read on immune boosting herbs!

– Stay Green!

By Herbalist Tania Oceana

Soft Skin Serum for Glowing Skin

More on Roses! Rose Hip Seed Oil for Beauty

Check out our SOFT Skin Serum featuring Rose Oil for healthy and beautiful skin!

ALSO CHECK OUT:

The Natural Approach to Beautiful Skin | CLEAR SKIN ACADEMY NOW OPEN!

And check out all of our articles here!

HOW TO CRAFT AN HERBAL SMOKING BLEND

AND THE BEST HERBS TO SMOKE

Herbs rolled into an herbal cigarette

Learn the best herbs for texture, flavor & effect + how to make you own herbal smoking blend!

And check out our Summer Evening Recipe below!

Our History with Smoking Herbs

Our history as humans includes a long tradition of burning and smoking herbs, often in community and for health or spiritual benefit.

Some of the earliest smoking pipes found come from within Eqyptian tombs from around 2000 BCE. Other ancient smoking pipes have been found in Norway, historian Herodotus noted Iranian tribes smoking “burning leaves” in 500 B.C and we know many indigenous tribes still present in North America still hold pipe and tobacco ceremonies.

Some of the most common herbs appreciated and worked with by Shaman, healers and everyday people around the world include;

  • Mullein
  • Damiana
  • Sage
  • Mugwort
  • California poppy
  • Skullcap
  • Red Raspberry
  • Rose petals
  • And of course….Tobacco
  • Cannabis
  • Lavender flowers

How to Create a Balanced Herbal Smoking Blend

It can be helpful to think of herbal smoking blends in 3 parts:

  1. Base herbs
  2. Supportive herbs (effects)
  3. Herbs for flavor

The Base

This is the foundation of the blend and constitutes it’s texture. Textures matters for matters when smoking (burn consistency) and ease of packing a bowl or rolling into a joint/cigarette/blunt. Since this is the majority of the blend, you also want to avoid harsh or intense flavors.

Note: not all herbs should be smoked, some herbs are poisonous. All herbs mentioned here are herbs that are used often by Herbalists internally and have a history of use in smoking. That being said, inhalation of combusted herbs should only be done by adults who understand that inhaling any kind of smoke can be harmful.

TOP 3 HERBAL BASES

Raspberry Leaf

Mullein

Marshmallow Leaf

All of these are light, fluffy and generally neutral in flavor. You can experiment with combining these herbs in different ratios!

Pacific NW tip:

Harvest some of the invasive Himalayan Blackberry leaves instead of Raspberry leaf

Just remember to dry thoroughly, shred & rub the leaves to promote a fluffier texture

Just watch out for those thorns!

Supportive Herbs

You can personalize this section based on what you’d like from a blend.The most common areas of interest include relaxation, sleep/dreams, expectoration (to help expel lung phlegm) and creative or romantic inspiration.

Here are my top supportive herbs (many are in more than one category)

BEST RELAXING HERBS

Passionflower

Skullcap

Kava kava

BEST SLEEP AND DREAM PROMOTING HERBS

Mugwort (promotes lucid dreaming too!)

California Poppy

Passionflower

Blue Lotus Flower

BEST CREATIVE AND ROMANTIC HERBS

Damiana (most popular aphrodisiac)

Gotu Kola

Yarrow

BEST EXPECTORANT HERBS

Mullein

Lobelia

Hyssop

Coltsfoot (a little goes a long way!)

Flavorful Herbs

The sprinkles on top include a bit of herbs simply to improve or enhance a more specific flavor

TOP HERBS FOR FLAVOR

Peppermint or Spearmint (which is a bit sweeter and more mild than Peppermint)

Chamomile flowers

Lavender flowers

Lemon Verbena leaves

Clove

How to Formulate an Herbal Smoking Blend

Now for the fun part, putting it together!

Feel free to experiment with small amounts before making a larger batch. Be creative and practicing trust in your intuition.

One general recipe structure for a new formula is;

  • 2 Tablespoons base herb/s
  • 1 Tablespoon specific herb/s
  • 1 teaspoon flavorful herb/s (or 1/4 teaspoon for powdered seeds or spices)

All Together Now!

Before blending your herbs in a bowl, feel free to gently rub your base herbs in your hands to fluff them up a bit more so they can help carry the other ingredients.

If you have large pieces of leaves or flowers you can crumble them up a bit with your hands (or a blender if needed). If you’re using a pipe then it’s OK if they’re bigger chunks but if you plant to roll your blend up then you’ll want a more consistent texture.

Combine your herbs and viola! You did it!

Now you can enjoy your blend alone or added to other common smoking herbs (yes I’m talking about cannabis and tobacco) and make adjustments as desired!

PRO TIPS

  • Keep your blend in an air tight glass jar out of direct sunlight.
  • Pop a whole 2 way moisture packet (do not open) in the blend if it seems a bit dry or harsh. Some people will also add a tiny spray of water, though be watchful of mold if you go that route.

If you really enjoy the smell of your blend you can burn it as incense! You can put the loose blend on a hot surface made for incense or use a binder like pine pitch to create a solid incense.

Herbal Smoking Blend Incense

If you really enjoy the smell of your blend you can burn it as incense!

Put the loose blend on a hot surface made for incense or use a binder like pine pitch to create a solid incense cone!


RECIPE | SUMMER EVENING BLEND

Simple yet satisfying

HERBS

3 TBSP Raspberry Leaf

1 TBSP Damiana

1 TBSP Lavender Flowers

If you liked this information (written by an Herbalist) then sign up for our newsletter to get interesting new herbal info directly into your inbox!

Stay Green!

Tania Oceana | Herbalist, Formulator and founder of Epic Herbalism

Additional references

Brounstein, Howie. (1995). Herbal Smoking Mixtures. Retrieved from: http://botanicalstudies.net/herbalism/smoking-mixtures/

Jenner, Greg. (2015). Did People Smoke Anything Before Tobacco Was Discovered? History Extra. Retrieved from: http://www.historyextra.com/qa/did-people-smoke-anything-tobacco-was-discovered

Pennacchio, M., Jefferson, L., Havens, K. (2010). Uses and abuses of plant derived smoke. Oxford University Press. New York.

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Celebrate Black History Month | Meet Herbalist Emma Dupree!

Black History Month | Herbalist Emma Dupree
Herbalist Emma is gathering Goldenrod flowers. Photograph by Mary Anne McDonald

This Black History month, let’s take a look back at Emma Dupree!

“As I continue to grow and spread my branches ever outward as a Black herbalist, I can’t help but think of the roots that have led me to this moment. Roots like Emma…”

– Safiyyah Bazemore

This North Carolina Herbalist was nicknamed “little medicine thing” and “woods gal” because as a kid she was always roaming outside looking for, and learning about, medical herbs. In her later years she was also know as “granny woman,” which is a title given to folk healer elders in Appalachia.

Black History Month Emma Dupree Herbalist
Left | Emma in her garden and Right | Emma chilling on her porch

Emma lived a long life (from 1897 to 1996) and helped countless people, who at times would line up outside her porch to gain her help and receive her tonics. Her home herb garden overflowed with healing herbs such as pokeweed, rabbit tobacco, silkweed, sage, sassafras, tansy, jimson weed and a tree she called her “healing berry tree”.

She was truly a community healer and it was said that there was always something brewing in her house!

Of Emma, another Black Herbalist Safiyyah Bazemore writes “As I continue to grow and spread my branches ever outward as a Black herbalist, I can’t help but think of the roots that have led me to this moment. Roots like Emma. Roots that span centuries, cross continents, and roots that are intimately aware of the resiliency required amidst modern erasure and oppression. While Western herbalism still often lacks discussion and recognition of the contributions from Black herbalists, it is my hope that learning Emma Dupree’s story encourages you in more ways than one.”

Sage, a great medicinal herb to have in your garden

Emma’s parents were actually born as enslaved people (which means that I was alive while Emma was a 1st generation free person, for perspective on how resent the extreme oppression of black Americans was). As an elder, Emma shared her knowledge with physicians and medical anthropologists, and received the Brown-Hudson and North Carolina Heritage Awards for her contributions.

Herbs drying in a home apothecary

While I couldn’t find a published book from her (her knowledge was more shared via storytelling and word of mouth), there is a movie about her, called Little Medicine Thing. There are also interviews (like this one) and videos (like this one) if you want to check out more!

Herbalist women of color are part of the beautiful tapestry of modern American Herbalism and we wouldn’t be where we are without these wise women!

Thanks for reading!

Stay Green Plant Lovers!

Autumn abundance & heart health | Learn about Hawthorn berries + A SYRUP RECIPE

“Don’t eat random red berries!”

One of my first lessons in wild edibles as a kid. Years later and I have thankfully befriended at at least a few random red berries and confidently enjoyed their fruit.

Common names; Hawthorn, May-Tree, Hawberry, Thorn Apple.
Latin Name; Crataegus spp.

Hawthorn grows abundantly in Europe, Asian and North America. There are many varieties found just in the Pacific NW region that I call home, and I use most interchangeably. This rose family, shrubby tree often has lobed leaves, serious thorns and flowers that range from deep pink to white.

The leaves and flowers, picked in the spring, make a delicious tea. Come fall is when the fruit ripens. The bright red berries have a very subtle apple flavor, and the variety pictured here has one large center seed inside the fruit. Like many common foods, I think Hawthorn is best enjoyed mixed in with other ingredients and cooked; jams, pies, in apple sauce, tea and more! Unless it’s a survival situation, it can’t hurt to get creative!

BENEFITS OF HAWTHORN

Besides being a fun wild or urban foraged food, Hawthorn is high in antioxidants and may support a healthy cardiovascular system. Like most brightly colored fruit, Hawthorn contains flavonoids and antioxidants which help to fight off free radicals and ease overall inflammation.

Hawthorns affinity for the heart and circulatory system is pretty extraordinary. From known (see citations below) and unknown mechanisms, this herb may benefit and balance high blood pressure, blood sugar and is often used in a long term preventative and/or strengthening herb for the heart and vascular system.

In additional to the anatomical heart, the metaphorical heart can also be deeply nourished by this herb. Hawthorn is subtly relaxing, and has been a gentle herbal ally during grieving and heartbreak. For those experiencing a “heavy” or “tender” heart, try taking Hawthorn (leaf/flower/berry) tea, tincture or syrup daily for at least a week and see if that doesn’t help uplift, relax and brighten your mood a bit. Highly sensitive individuals may be able to feel an affect with smaller doses or even simply sitting with the tree.

HAWTHORN BERRY SYRUP

One of my favorite ways to enjoy Hawthorn is to make it into a syrup that I can use on pancakes and to sweeten tea with.

SUPPLIES NEEDED

Water, Hawthorn Berries, Sugar, Honey or Maple Syrup, a pot and a measuring cup

STEPS

Step 1. *Responsibly gather or purchase your Hawthorn Berries

Step 2. Place your fresh or dried berries into a pot of boiling water. For fresh berries use 1 cup of water per 1 cup of berries, and for dried berries use 2 cups of water per cup of berries

Step 3. Simmer the water and berries uncovered for 10 minutes. Gently crush the berries with a fork in the pot as they soften

Hawthorn Berries

Step 4. Let this cool slightly and finish crushing the berries in the pot

Step 5. Strain this mix through cheese cloth or a metal strainer. Use a spoon to help get out as much of the pulp as you can

Step 6. To this warm berry liquid, add equal parts sugar, honey or maple syrup and stir. Voila!

Pour into a clean jar, label with the date and refrigerate.

This Hawthorn Syrup should last about three weeks. Add to your favorite foods and beverages and enjoy!

*Responsible foraging means that you learn to accurately identify the plant, the correct plant parts, in the correct season, and use ethical wild crafting practices. If you are in the Portland, OR area we do offer Herb Walks and if not then there may be other herbal and wilderness hands on educational classes in your area!

Citations

“Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease”

“Effect of Crataegus Usage in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: An Evidence-Based Approach”

“Hawthorn: For the Heart”


Herbs for Strong, Healthy Hair | Three Recipes

Herbal Hair Rinses | Holistic Habits

We all want a thick, shiny mane and there are many herbal and holistic techniques that can help!

Hair fall, thinning and breakage are all quite common and can arise from nutritional deficiencies, medications and hair styling habits.

We will look at several herbs and I will share 3 recipes for healthy hair:

  1. Hair & Scalp oil to promote hair growth and moisture
  2. An herbal vinegar rinse for itchy scalp and to promote hair shine and strength
  3. An herbal tea blend high in nutrients to boost hair, skin and nails from the inside out

Hair & Scalp Oil

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment" is a nice old saying that fits well here. You want your hair to come out of your head thick, healthy and at a faster rate in the first place rather than trying to coax brittle thin hair forever. You want to promote blood flow (and thus nutrient flow) to your scalp, and massaging a nutrition oil is a great way to do this.

Base: Oil

Best oils: My favorite is Jojoba because it is light and closest to our natural skin oils. Other good options are olive, coconut (melted), almond or grapeseed oil.

Castor Oil: Add in 1 part Castor oil to 5 of your base oil. Castor oil is a thick, nourishing oil rich in Vitamin E and Omega fats, and has a reputation for regrowing thinning patches.

Rosemary Oil: Rosemary stimulates hair growth and adds shine to hair. If you can plan ahead, then infuse fresh or dried rosemary into your base oil for 4+ weeks and strain. If not, Rosemary Essential Oil will be good too. Add 5drops per 2 ounces of oil (after adding Castor).

Peppermint Oil: Peppermint Essential Oil helps stimulate blood flow to the scalp, and has antimicrobial properties. Add 5 drops per 2oz oil.

Optional: Lavender Essential Oil: Because it smells so nice and helps with relaxation. Add 3 drops per 5 oz of oil.

Mix and pour into a dropper bottle.

Tania Oceana and her hair oil

How to use

  1. Distribute approx. 2ml over the scalp (which is 2 droppersful if you’re using a tincture bottle). You can section your hair out if your like.
  2. Massage into your scalp for 2 minutes. You can bend over so you are getting even more blood flow to your head – just don’t pass out!
  3. Loosely tie, braid or bun your hair (if it’s long) and leave this on for at least one hour. You can leave on overnight (i recommend using a shower cap to save your pillow) or you can add gentle heat over your head (ex. a hot towel over a shower cap) to intensify the absorption.
  4. Wash and style your hair as usual. Use 1-2x/week

Tip: You can also add a bit of oil to your tips since the bottom of our hair tends to be the most dry. Add while you are oiling your scalp.

Healthy Hair ACV Rinse

Putting apple cider vinegar may seem weird, but let's be honest, you're curious. And you will not look back after experiencing how much your hair loves this mix!
Rosemary & Sage

Base: Apple Cider Vinegar. Preferably the raw kind (the more probiotics, the better). The acidity actually help support the natural PH level on your scalp and in your hair. It’s surprisingly conditioning, yet cleansing, too. This has effectively cured my dandruff!

Rosemary: Again, it promotes strength and shine. Infuse fresh Rosemary in ACV for 2 weeks if you can, or else use 5 drops of the Essential Oil per 2 oz of the base.

Horsetail: This herbs in commonly found growing near water and is high in nutrients. The silica in particular can help strengthen hair. Allow to infuse into the ACV for at least 2 weeks, or simmer in water for 10 minutes and add to the ACV if you don’t have much time.

Sage: Another nourishing herb which adds shine to hair while also soothing a dry, itchy scalp or dandruff. Note that when used often it may darker hair, so exclude for blonde hair.

Bonus: Other gentle essential oil (like Lavender) for an added aromatherapy benefit.

How to use

Dilute 3 tbsp. of this rinse into 1 cup of water to use. There are a few ways it can be used, the most common are:

  1. After shampooing and conditioning, pour onto hair in the shower and let sit for a few minutes. Rinse and style as unusual. Note: Since I use a thick leave in conditioner, I use between shampoo and conditioner.
  2. For a refresher, if you want to go more au natural or you’re just curious what it can do, substitute your conditioner and shampoo for this cleaning and gently smoothing rinse.
  3. For those with fine, thin or oily hair, substitute your conditioner for this rinse and use after shampooing.

The vinegar smell should fade once your hair dries.

Bonus: You can use this herbal vinegar in a homemade salad dressing (though not if it contains essential oils).

Or try our read-to-go Herbal formula Apples & Herbs!

Herbal Tea for strong hair, skin & nails

Many herbs are high in calcium, magnesium and iron. An herbal tea is a great way to incorporate easily assimilable nutrients into your diet. 

Base: Red Raspberry Leaf. This common herb is nutrient dense and has a mellow, pleasant flavor. It is often used during pregnancy to add nutrients and tone the uterus. Use 1 ounce of dried leaves.

Stinging Nettle

Nettle: Another nutrient dense herb, this one also help with seasonal allergies. Add 1/2 oz.

Horsetail: High in silica, this herb has a neuatral flavor and incorporates in well. Note that prolonged or excessive use may be hard on the kidneys. Add 1/4 oz.

Bonus: Not necessary, but to add a bit of natural sweetness and moisture, add 1/8 oz or 1 tbsp of Licorice root.

Combine, jar and label.

How to use

Add 1 oz into a quart sized jar (or about 4 Tbsp) into a quart jar and add freshly boiled water. Allow to steep for at least 30 minutes, though you could leave up to 2 hours or even overnight. Strain and refrigerate. You can drink straight or add to water (or make into lemonade), at 4 ounces 2x/day.

As always, consult a doctor when changing your diet or adding in supplements.

Loose Lead Herbal Tea by Mossy Tonic

There you have it! Some common and very helpful herbs on your healthy hair journey!

Let us know in the comments how these herbal tips are working for you.

And remember: Nature is sacred, and you are nature.

-Tania Oceana | Herbalist at Mossy Tonic


Rested | Herbs for Sleep

Finally the days are getting longer, the sky bluer. We are still practicing our quarantine habits of distancing and doing a lot online. For some, days can meld together and for many, the blue light of our addictive devices can stimulate our brains to stay up longer than we’d like, and reduce the restfulness of our sleep.

Thankfully, there are many herbal allies that may help.

Insomnia, the inability to fall and stay asleep, is incredibly common! The most common sleep issues are as followed

  1. Difficulty getting to sleep (not feeling tired or feeling tired but not able to fall asleep)
  2. Waking up in the night (one or more time, with or with out restless/shallow sleep and an inability to get back to sleep)
  3. Restless leg syndrome (which can cause or exacerbate the previous two complaints)

Since there are many contributing factors, let’s take a look at the most common.

Artificial light

Blue light interacts with the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin, which contributes to our circadian rhythm (and naturally correlates with the sun in the sky, thus helping to increase energy in the day and decrease it at night).

Try using a blue light filtering setting or app on your device, have a cut-off time for using devices (ideally at least 2-3 hours before bed) and dim home lights and replace blue-white lights with warm yellow lights.

Overthinking

I personally believe that this correlates with device use because we can access such vast and controversial information, as well as continue work and socialization at any hour. For the majority of human history and prehistory, late evenings and nights consist mainly of winding down activities rather than stimulating ones. It’s OK to sign off.

Some herbs which help to slow down and relax our nervous system include Passionflower (my personal favorite), Kava and Holy Basil. Slow deep breathes, relaxing music and peaceful literature are also underrated tools.

Relaxing Tea Blend

– 1 part Passionflower herb

– 1 Part Chamomile Flowers

– 1 Part Skullcap

Combine, and use 1tsp per cup of freshly boiled water. Steep covered for 3 minutes, strain, add sweetener if desired and enjoy.

Note: Stevia is a great herb for sugar substitution, keto and low carb diets. To learn more about how to utilize this naturally sweet herb, check out this article “Simply Add Stevia”.

Can’t Fall Asleep

Maybe you feel relaxed and are snuggled up in bed, but end up tossing and turning. Since there are many and varied factors individual to you, let’s just look at which herbs may be of most benefit.

Valerian | This stinky herb is well known as sleep herb, but did you know that one out of every ten people experience the opposite effect (increased energy)? This if definitely worth a try, especially if there’s accompanying muscle tension. Tip: add in a blend because of the pungent flavor.

Ashwagandha | Since this herb is an adaptogen, it’s commonly thought to be energizing, which is partly true. This herb helps to regulate and balance the body and energy levels long term, but I find it to be quote sleepy within 20 minutes of ingesting. The flavor is a bit like dirt, but can hide pretty well in a chai type drink (obviously without black tea or caffeine).

Hops | This resinous herb is very sedating, and a little goes a long way (which can also be said about it’s flavor). I like to use this herb in formulas rather than alone, mostly due to it’s very potent and somewhat harsh aroma/flavor. But it get’s the job done!

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Restless Leg Syndrome

I myself suffered from this for a time, and I found three factors which have since resolved this issue. One is caffeine, which if I ingest (in amounts larger than green tea) after around 4pm, stays in my system in sufficient quantities to disrupts my sleep schedule. A second is magnesium, which can relax muscle spasms. An herb high in magnesium is Oat straw, which is of benefit in restoring nervous system well being. There are also dietary and supplemental avenues of ingestion, in addition to an epsom salt bath which causes absorption through the skin. The last is actually a cannabis lotion. I’ve found that using a lotion of salve with mostly THC or a combination of THC and CBD (the two most popular cannabinoids) helps to relive spasms locally. I live in Oregon, so these products are widely available, and no you won’t feel a high when using a THC lotion topically on unbroken skin (though it’s a possibility with use on a mucus membrane).

Whatever your reasons for poor sleep, do what you can to increase the quality of this very important restorative process. You may already feel the correlation your mental and physical health have with your sleep. You deserve deep and restorative sleep!

Goodnight Tea Blend

– 1 part Valerian root

– 1 part Passionflower

– 1 part Lemon Balm

Combine and make a standard tea extraction, and I wouldn’t drink this 1/2-1 hour before bedtime.

And you gentle with yourself. Our minds want to “what if!” us all day long, but remind it that you are more than just your thoughts, and that it’s OK to say “give it a rest please” to your inner ego voice who’s yapping on and on. Long breath in, long breath out. You got this. Now go get those jammies on and brush those teeth!

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposed only and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult your doctor before starting any supplementation.


Top 5 Herbs to Grow at Home

It’s early spring and time to start thinking about which plant to grow!

Here are my top five favorite herbs to grow because they are all easy to grow as well as medicinal, culinary and nutritious!

They can all be started or grown indoors as well as outdoors (after the last frost).

Herbs to Grown this Spring
Direction from bottom right, up and over

1. Peppermint
– black thumb proof
– good for indigestion
– trace minerals & vitamins calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A
Tip: Keep potted because it will take over

2. Echinacea
– beautiful pollinator flower
– immune boosting root/leaf/flowers
– tolerates poor, rocky soil
Tip: Add to others teas because the flavor can be unpleasant/numbs your mouth

3. Sage
– classic culinary herb
– helps balance body fluids, especially around/in #menopause (dries nightsweats while helping skin to retain moisture)
– add flowers to salads & beverages
Tip: slow grower so I prefer to buy an already established plant over sprouting myself

4. Chamomile
– gently relaxing for people of all ages
– makes a soothing eye compress
– good for nervous stomach aches
Tip: grows well in a full sun window

5. Calendula
– heals wounds fast (use only on uninfected scraps, scabs & scars)
– easy and quick to grow from seed & reseed from flowers
– gently stimulates lymph flow
Tip: pluck the #flower heads off as they peak to get a long harvest window

Happy planting Plant Lovers!


Clear Skin Academy: Herbalism for Naturally Beautiful Skin

SURVIVAL FOODS | 3 Edible Herbs to Forage

1. Slippery Elm Bark

While tree bark may seem like the least appealing option, various tree barks have been staple in traditional diets. The part consumed is the inner bark, and unless you are in a serious emergency, take great care to gather this in the way that won’t kill the tree.

As the name implies, the texture, especially when made into a “survival gruel”, is slimy. Though slime isn’t my favorite texture, the flavor is neutral and almost pleasant. The mucilage (slime) also holds medicinal qualities that can help soothe digestive and respiratory irritation.

2. Cat Tails

I’ll never forget the time I mentioned in a college class that in an emergency you can eat cattails. To the horror of my classmates, I had to explain quickly and behind bright red cheeks that I’m not talking about a cat’s tail, but this plant!

This water loving plant is common in wetland areas, and you may have played with the flowers which clump tightly together on a tall spike that looks like a corn dog. When ripening you can release the tight flowers and they expand into white and very fluffy clumps that blow away and/or get attached to all your clothes. While fun, the fluff is not what you want to eat, though it can help as fire kindling. The edible parts include the stalk and young stems, which can be eaten raw or cooked (after peeling the outer layers). The young shoots can also be eaten cooked like asparagus, the roots can be dried and turned into flour and the nutritious pollen can be collected and added to foods.

3. Hawthorn Berries

The pacific NW is overrun with the invasive Himalayan blackberries, so go ham on those if you see them first (a bonus survival plant to know). A less commonly known edible berry grows on the Hawthorn tree. Ripe in Autumn, these red berries are found commonly in the wild, beside meadows and city sidewalks.

Hawthorn Berries

They are great because they can be eaten raw and range in flavor from bland/mealy apple to juicy and delicious. They are small but can be gathered, deseeded then dried or turned into sauces, beverages and jams. They support cardiovascular health and are high in antioxidants. Just watch out for those thorns! Learn more about Hawthorn here.

Bonus: 1 Plant to avoid at all cost: Snow Berries

You may notice birds eating this cute fluffy berry but be warned, it’s poisonous to humans. You can find these shrub berries throughout winter in the forest understory, as well as ornamentals in gardens. Though not extremely deadly, you do not want the gastrointestinal distress these will cause even if you’re not in a survival situation.

*NOTE: Always get multiple reputable sources (such as a reference book and double checking with a local Herbalist) before ingesting a plant you find.

Stay Green! And keep an eye out for our local plant walks coming up in Spring by adding your email below.

Tags: Foraging, Survival Skills, Wild harvesting, Plant I.D., Urban Foraging, Wild Foods, PNW Plants

Follow @mossytonic for more Herbals Info!

Elder Flowers | Old World Winter Ally + Recipes

ENTER TO WIN A FREE ELDERFLOWER TINCTURE HERE! Giveaway ends 11/30

Elder Flowers in bloom | By Tania Oceana

Steeped in lore and myth, the bewitching Elder Tree has been revered as a healing tree for centuries.

The Elder tree is intricate, possessing nourishing, edible, medicinal and poisonous compounds. In the seed, all of these aspects coexists at once.

Elder trees are found throughout North America and the Black Elderberry (sambucus nigra) is by far the most popular in Western Herbalism. The root has strong purgative properties, and is very rarely used today. The berries have earned some popularity as the featured herb in Elderberry Syrup (a sweetened concoction that you can often find in health food stores. See a simple recipe at the end of this article).

A fallen Elder Flower on Elder leaf by Tania Ocean | 2018

While the berries are more popular, the flowers have similar properties and do not contain the same digestive-irritating compounds found in the berry seeds (which are strained out during extraction). Elder flowers are a beautiful and underrated herbal ally for respiratory health and common winter ailments.

Winter Health Ally

Winter has it’s own charm in higher latitude; powdery snow, a chance to cozy up near a fire with some hot cider and many holidays. There’s always two stories, and the other side contains an elevation of viral infections such as the common cold, the flu and now also C.V19. There are strategies to help balance our body and help prevent these types of infections such as supplementing with vitamin D, adding spicy herbs to your food, as well as continuing safety precautions that limit spread. In addition to these, adding in some Elder Flower tea can also be a great way to incorporate an antiviral herb into your daily habits. (And there’s a recipe below!)

Elderflowers

Elder Flower Tincture by Tania Oceana

Like Elder berries, Elder flowers contain antiviral properties as well as diaphoretic and antipyretic agents. A diaphoretic helps to promote sweating, and in this way assist the body in it’s natural elimination process and cool the body. An antipyretic helps to prevent or lower a fever, which is a common symptom of colds and flus. Elder flowers can also help to loosen and expel congestion and phlegm from the lungs. You can see why Elder is revered during the cold and flu season!

The benefit of working with the flowers are that they can be easily brewed in tea (where as the berries must be simmered for at least 20 minutes) and they are very gentle and incorporate well with other herbs. The flavor is unique, a little bit musky but not unpleasant. Elder can be used daily, for prevention and as needed. Drinking tea hot further adds to the diaphoretic effect.

Stay safe, warm and enjoy a cup of Elder Flower tea this winter. Bonus points if you’re reading an old fairy tale while sipping.

RECIPES

My favorite Elder Flower Tea Recipe

1 part Elder Flowers

1 part Mint (Pepermint or your favorite variety)

1 part Lemon Balm (who also has anti-viral compounds)

Mix herbs and then use 1 Tbsp per cup of freshly boiled water. Steep for 2 minutes and strain. Add honey, sweetener and/or lemon as desired. Enjoy!

Stay cozy

Simple Elderberry Syrup Recipe

3 Oz dried Elder berries

3 cups water

1 cup Honey (bonus for raw)

Combine in a pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes

Strain, cool down and add the honey. Stir and bottle in a sterile airtight glass container. The honey helps with the preservation but also refrigerate and use within two weeks.

You can add cinnamon, ginger or rosehips while simmering for flavor and added herbal goodness.

Note: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is for educational purposes only.