The International Herb Symposium

I’ve never wanted a May to be over as much as this one. I’m being slightly melodramatic, but next year I am spending May in California! I am getting super excited for June, and the beginning of my Summer travels.

Do you know about The International Herb Symposium June 8-12 at Wheaton College? If not, check it out!!! The IHS is The symposium to attend, as it only happens every two years and brings teachers from all over the world! I went in 2015, and knew it was one I had to attend whenever I can.

Highlights for me are seeing Rosa Tupina Yaotonalcuauhtli again. She is a Registered Nurse, Curandera, and Sacerdotista of the Sacred Moondance Ceremony. I was able to attend her classes last time, and I look forward to learning from her again.

I hope I get to take Jacquelin (Jinpa) Guiteau’s class on Healing into the Dream World, where we will learn to use plants to heal ourselves and others in dreams. Jinpa is an ordained Buddhist monk that started the Earthquake Survivor Relief Clinic in Haiti with Julia Graves.

And Rosemary Gladstar will also be there leading an herb walk. I may the most excited about this, just because Rosemary’s enthusiasm is contagious and it isn’t often that Rosemary teaches these days.

Register for the IHS!

I hope to see you there!

With love,




Inspired by Herbs: Highlights of the American Herbalist’s Guild Annual Symposium

Gathering with other herbalists and aromatherapists always fills me with such inspiration.

The presenters, as well as the participants, brought their wisdom and love for the plants, and together we created a beautiful gathering.  I would like to thank the American Herbalists Guild for their ongoing effort of inclusiveness into this organization. Their membership has grown 65 percent in the last five years, so I believe their efforts of honoring the diversity of herbal education are succeeding.

A couple of highlights of the symposium for me were hearing Phyllis Hogan describe her ethnobotanical journey with the Hopi and Navajo. She co-founded the Arizona Ethnobotanical Research Foundation, which is committed to the investigation, documentation, and preservation of the traditional plant uses in Arizona and the greater Southwest.

This symposium was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to hear David Winston speak. I really enjoyed his teaching style and use of Chinese, Cherokee and Western herbal traditions. He seems a kindred spirit and I look forward to learning more from him in the future.

I encourage all of you to attend an herbal conference! The depth of knowledge that is passed on at these events is immeasurable. I always leave with my heart and mind full!


Geeking Out About Plants at the American Herbalist’s Guild Annual Symposium

I am so excited for the American Herbalist’s Guild Annual Symposium this weekend!

Not only do I get to teach on my favorite subjects — aromatherapy and herbalism — I also get to be around other herbalists that love plants as much as I do! As I prepare for my trip and attempt to get everything completed before I leave, I am reminded that it was only a few years ago that I decided to transition from private practice to teaching. That decision solidified two years ago when I closed my practice and moved to Denver. What a ride it has been!

At last year’s AHG Symposium I still wasn’t comfortable with the move from the ocean to the mountains. I still yearned for California and hadn’t found an herbal community yet. I am happy to say that I am now fully committed to being in Colorado and have met several herbalists I can get herb geeky with. Ah! I can breathe a sigh of relief! The stress of transition has eased, and I feel at home!

Anytime we get outside our comfort zone, we experience some sort of pain. Be it physical, mental or spiritual. I can’t say enough how herbs and essential oils have helped me with all the pain mentioned. It sounds corny, but it’s true. The plants offer more than just pain relief or immune support, they gift us with messages of love, acceptance, and compassion.

If you want to learn more about herbalism or aromatherapy, check out my YouTube channel or join us there this weekend!

Photo: Robin Atherton

Reflections on the Mountain West Herb Gathering

IMG_0316I cannot say enough positive things about the Mountain West Herb Gathering.  As with any conference there are bound to be unexpected hiccups but my experience as a teacher and attendant was that it was not only a well organized event but extremely heartfelt as well. I’m already getting excited about next year’s gathering.  Thank you Amanda Klenner for putting on such a welcoming event!  Check out her monthly herbal publication Natural Herbal Living

As someone new to Colorado, I am also happy to have met more local herbalists!  Every class I attended was wonderful, but my favorite had to be Healing the Spirit: Using Plants, Song and Prayer in Modern Herbal Practice, with Shelley Torgove and Monticue Connally.  I am glad they are both in Denver so I can learn more from them.  Deep healing occurred in the space created in their class.  There is nothing like singing with the plants!

IMG_0338My favorite part was to see (hear, taste and feel) new and old plant allies.  The mountain yarrow and horsetail looks so delicate and tender compared to our North Coast varieties.  I have found the mountain plants to be smaller, but packed full of vital energy due to their ability to thrive in such harsh conditions.  And the conifers!  I got to taste and smell the differences in some of the pine, spruce and fir.  The medicine in these mountain plants are strong and give us the gift of resiliency.  So needed at this time.

I leave you with a simple tasty tea that can be easily harvested from many places around the world.  Just make sure the trees and flowers haven’t been sprayed or are close to a heavily trafficked area.

Conifer Rose Tea IMG_0181

1/2 cup needles of your favorite evergreen (pine, spruce, cedar, cypress, fir, redwood)

1/4 cup wild roses

1/4 cup wild blackberry or raspberry flowers

Make a sun infusion with needles and flowers for 2-3 hours.  Strain out herbs and drink deeply.

When energy flows, wellness grows

Happy Summer and Abundant Blessings,



Artemisia: Moon Medicine

I don’t know about y’all, but I am feeling the yang energy of Summer approaching.  Thankfully the warm weather has hit Colorado and life is returning to the mountains after what seemed like a long Winter.  Yesterday I went hiking in Eldorado Canyon and saw many of my favorite herbs, including Artemisia, Pine, Yarrow and Rose.  Coming from California, I am used to a much earlier Spring and I was surprised at how small the Artemisia still are.  I could feel their compact potency though and am excited about seeing them grow throughout the season.

Did you know that we use several Artemisia species in Chinese Medicine?  Each species has it’s unique taste, temperature and therapeutic action. Ai Ye, Artemisia argyi, is so important that it is a separate modality of medicine.  We call the burning of Ai Ye, Moxibustion and we use it to warm the meridians of the body and expel cold, relieve pain due to cold stagnation, dispel dampness, stop cough, and calm the spirit.  If you have PMS or painful menstruation due to cold or damp, moxibustion over the abdomen can provide warmth and relief.  (Always have a qualified practitioner advise you on moxibustion application)

The first mention of Artemisia in Chinese medicine was in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica), probably written around 200CE.  In that text, Ai Ye, was said to make the body light (bring you back to the light being you are), sharpen your eyes and ears, and prevent senility.  Ai Ye was also said to promote hair growth, eliminate evil qi in the five viscera, boost qi and supplement the middle jiao.

Today, we use the essential oil of various  Artemisia species for many reasons.  The essential oil of these plants can be very strong and must be used with caution (thujone content varies with each species).  I like to massage Artemisia alba (Mugwort) essential oil (diluted in hemp oil) on my abdomen before and during menstruation to reduce stagnation due to cold and damp that can cause cramps, bloating and tension.  I also diffuse a couple drops of essential oil in my home as well to help reduce any accompanying irritability.  Adding Lavender can further enhance your relaxation.

To help reduce infectious respiratory diseases, diffuse Mugwort essential oil or burn Ai Ye as you would White Sage throughout your house to repel “evil” energy.  This can also be effective for clearing negative energy out of your space.  You can smudge yourself with it when you need more energy or clarity.

I leave you with a spritzer recipe that I hope you enjoy as much as I do!  Artemis is the Maiden Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon and Achilles was an undefeated warrior that represents courage and strength.  I like to think these two plants work as a yin (Artemis) yang (Achilles) pair that can bring about deep healing and the courage needed to witness your own healing.

The Alchemy of Artemis & Achilles artemisia-vulgaris-1

1-2 drops wild Artemisia essential oil (alba, argyi, or vulgaris preferred)

1-2 drops wild Achillea essential oil (yarrow)

1/2 ounce wild Helichrysum hydrosol

1  1/2 ounces spring water 

Add water and hydrosol to a 2 ounce glass jar with pump spray top.  Add essential oils.  Shake well and thoroughly blend mixture.  Spray on any injuries (physical or otherwise) that need healing.  Great for bug bites, sprains, dermatitis and deep traumas of body or spirit. This blend is a great healer, as it helps to balance the duality of our yin/yang nature.   

When energy flows, wellness grows

Abundant Blessings,



Cultivating Wildness

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to teach at my favorite herbal symposium in existencesympcircle_05 today.  The Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium is the Heart medicine that we all deeply crave.  There is a collective healing that is palatable and at times so thick that you have no choice but to witness the truth of your own pain.  It is beautiful.  I am so grateful for the women that work endlessly to provide this space for us all.

A highlight of the weekend for me was stargazing with Stargazer Li.  A fantastic story-teller and mischievous medicine maker, Li has given me an even deeper fascination with the cosmos.   As we lie on our backs and gaze out into the universe, Li mentioned that what if in fact we were looking down at the sky and not up, as we have no idea where we were in the rotation of the Earth.  The sensation created in my mind and body when I thought I was above the sky and not below it was exhilarating.  It made me feel weightless, formless and in the infinite void (WuJi in Chinese medicine).

stunning-images-of-the-universe-from-hubbleIt is moments like these when we remember our wildness.  There are no physical barriers or limitations to what we are capable of achieving.  It is all in our perception, attitude and awareness.  When I am totally aware that I am connected with everything around me, I feel limitless, endless and free.  This is our true nature- connecting, communicating, exchanging with all of life around us.  I am blessed to have stepped into those moments and allowed myself to open up to their gifts.

I leave you with a tea that I hope will inspire you to open up to your own gifts, and to your true, wild nature.  You will need good gloves to harvest these herbs- they are covered in prickles and thorns (like many of our paths in life!)

I’m Wild and Free TeaWild_rose

1 handful wild nettle

1 handful wild horsetail (unopened)

1 handful wild blackberry leaves/flowers/berries 

1 handful wild roses

Make a sun (and/or moon) infusion with  1-2 quarts water.  Strain (or not) and drink deeply.

When energy flows, wellness grows

Abundant Blessings,



Celebrating an Herbal Activist: An Interview with Mary Blue

This weeks blog is an interview with activist and herbalist, Mary Blue.  She is the founder of Pharmacy Herbs Community Health and Education Center in Providence, Rhode Island and has opened the Sage Clinic, a collaboration with Brown University Integrative Medicine Residency program.  Along with being a farmer, medicine maker and professor, Mary Blue is also a talented rapper.

JB: How did your herbal journey begin?mary-back-cover1

MB: I started using herbs for personal healing in 1998. I was drawn to herbs because I needed to connect to the earth in all aspects of my life, especially self care. It fit with my lifestyle and environmental advocacy work. I was engaged in community organizing and activism while working to detoxify my life and the planet. Herbalism aligned with my natural instinct to help people too. I also saw herbs as a way to passively resist big pharma, and their control over health care.

In 2001, I volunteered at an herb shop in my home town of Providence, RI. The owner, Danielle Cavallacci, eventually hired me. I apprenticed and worked with Danielle for 3 years. After studying at Indigo Herbals, I was hired at Seven Arrows Herb Farm in Southeastern Massachusetts and worked there for 4 years. I worked in the greenhouses, herb shop and organized herbal events (this is where Radherb was born in 2006). This is also where I started offering consultations, classes and herbal products. In early 2008, my best friend, Jessica, died of cancer, and asked our community to donate to building Farmacy Herbs instead of buying flowers. I was able to open the Farmacy Herbs Community Health and Education Center in the summer of 2008….This was a lasting gift to me and the community from a beautiful dying friend.

I was also part of the anti-globalization movement from 1999-2010. We were always fighting against something.  After 10 years, I went from lobbying, to the streets, to the court rooms, to the herbal clinics, and I realized that that high intensity work was not sustainable for me long term. I then decided to pursue community herbalism as a career, and weave my social justice principles into my work. I still occasionally show up to rallies, city hall, and I am still fighting in the courtroom with the Fire Cider battle! I feel lucky that I am able to be an herbalist that can make a living without compromising my social justice principles.

JB: You wear many hats as herbalist, farmer, entrepreneur and professor of Western Herbalism at Brown University Medical School, how did the opportunity to work at Brown University present itself?  

MB: After traveling around in my twenties, I realized if I wanted to affect any positive social change, I needed to stay in one place and focus.  Since 2006, one of my goals has been to affect change in the health care system through working with local doctors. I believe that if doctors are educated on what an herbalist can do to support their patients, this could change health care for a lot of people. As time went on, I built my herbal practice while many of my clients were also working with local doctors. I began developing relationships with doctors through their patients. The patients were having success with my protocols, telling their doctors, and that is how it all started.   In 2010, I was invited to speak at Memorial Hospital by Dr. John McGonigle. He is an integrative family medicine doctor and runs the Brown University Integrative Medicine Residency Program.

Since then we have been collaborating on clients, classes for my herb school and now, teaching at Brown Medical School.  John and I also just became business partners  and opened the Ocean State Holistic Medical Collaborative, Sage Clinic. This clinic is the teaching site for the Brown University Integrative Medicine Residency Program and for my Herbal Residency Program.

JB: Can you speak about the trademark lawsuit over the Fire Cider name that you and two others (Nicole Telkes and Katheryn Langelier ) have been named in? (learn more about trademarking commonly help names at http://freefirecider.comFireCiderRecipe

MB: We have an amazing legal team, which we are so thankful for. They have put a lot of thought into our case, and have completed hundreds of hours of work for little pay. At this point in the case, our lawyers are advising us to not make any statements regarding the details of the case. It is highly stressful for all of us and our families to be in this position.

I hope the herbal community understands that we are juggling a lot right now, and if your email goes unanswered for a week or longer, that we are doing the best we can to keep up with our lives, the case and our businesses. Our group Tradition Not Trademark is committed to seeing this through and fighting for our traditional herbal terms to the bitter end.

UPDATE from Tradition Not Trademark: AMAZING NEWS to report on the lawsuit Shire City brought against the herbalists Mary Blue, Nicole Telkes and Katheryn Langelier!!!! On May 12, 2016, the federal court in Massachusetts dismissed five out of the ten claims that Shire City had brought against the 3 defendants. The claims that were dismissed were all based on the three defendants’ participation in the movement to cancel Shire City’s “Fire Cider” trademark registration. Shire City had claimed that the 3 defendants’ activities had caused Shire City $100,000 in damages.

JB:  Where do you see herbalism going in the future, in terms of education, licensing, and regulation?

MB:  In terms of Western Herbalism education, it seems to be growing fast!  We don’t have national standards for herbal education, so it’s hard for any Western Herbal student to follow a clear path to becoming an herbal practitioner.  I see a lot of my students choosing to be acupuncturists or massage therapists because there is a clear path to a career.

I think it would be helpful to have a community standard that differentiates between educational requirements for a family herbalist, community herbalist or a clinical herbalist. We do have the American Herbalist Guild, but many herbalists (like myself) are not easily accepted into the AHG, and because of this they do not represent a large portion of herbal practitioners.  I would love to see coalition of established herb schools come up with educational standards for Western Herbalists. These standards would not have to be enforced by law… they would be community standards that would help herbal students and the general public understand what it actually means to be a clinical herbalist, community herbalist or master herbalist.

My generation (40 years old) was the last generation that didn’t have access to multiple blogs, podcasts and online learning tools when we were budding herb students in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  All of my education was in person with teachers, in the clinic or working directly with clients. I feel that that aspect of learning is integral to herbal education, and I hope that the ease of access to internet education doesn’t dilute the traditional way of learning herbs through hands on, in person, education. I also think it is amazing that there are so many more online resources out there for new herbal students!!

Herb schools like Farmacy Herbs and Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism (and many others) are working on training professional herbalists in the art of herbal medicine AND to understand the legal aspects of becoming an herbalist. This includes health justice principles, cultural competency, FDA regulations and more. I think it is integral for all herbal students to understand not just the how-to of herbal medicine, but all of the political and legal aspects of herbalism too.  For more info about health justice principles, check out my webinar hosted by the American Herbalist Guild onMay 17, 2016 at 7pm on Politically Compassionate Herbalism.

The regulations on herbal product companies are extremely hard to comply with. As an herbal product company owner, I had to make the decision whether or not to bring my product to the mass market or stay small. If herbal business owners want to go big or sell online, then they must understand that this could mean a lot of red tape and money. I decided to stay small, selling herbs only to local restaurants, stores and at clinics in Rhode Island.  All herbal companies (small or large) should do due diligence to follow Standard Operating Procedures and follow local health department laws.

There are pros and cons regarding licensure and regulations. On one side, licensure could provide some legitimacy to the field of herbalism in the allopathic setting, and could potentially allow herbalists to take insurance…which would be great.

On the other hand, do we really want to be regulated by a system that does not comprehend all the complexities of herbal work?  I really hope the growing field of herbalism can be defined by the herbal community, not the government.

JB:  What is the most important message about herbalism that you want to share with the readers?

MB: I would like to share that I think it is important for herbalists to understand (at minimum) and be active with the legal and political aspects of herbalism; this includes trademarking of traditional terms, understanding what is happening with the FDA, and understanding health justice principles. I also think that to survive these legal barriers and the growth of our profession and herbal education (without an agreed upon standards in the field) — AND avoid it being co-opted or misrepresented in this process — herbalists must be focused on setting the standard for herbal production, education and clinical work in our local communities and nationally.

Understanding and implementing standard operating procedures and using structure and function language with herbal product and in our consultations are small ways we can all work together to set the standards for what it means to be a professional herbalist.

JB:  Thank you for your passion and activism.  The world is a better place with activists like you working on all of our behalf.  

When energy flows, wellness grows

Abundant Blessings,



Gather With Us: An Interview with Herbalist Amanda Klenner

This week’s Herbal Pioneer Interview is with Amanda Klenner, herbalist and publisher a49b59_fdec54436e6342fa87bc92f26db2b804of Natural Herbal Living Magazine. Amanda’s enthusiasm and knowledge of herbalism has inspired her to put on the first annual Mountain West Herb Gathering June 16-19, 2016 in Breckinridge CO to educate about the diverse bio-regions of the Mountain West.

JB: What inspired you to put on the Mountain West Herb Gathering (MWHG)?

AK: We have a beautiful history of herbalism here in Colorado, ignited by Paul Bergner and Feather Jones when they started NAIMH, now known as Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism, which is now run by Lisa Ganora. This school and others have ignited a passion for herbalism, focusing specifically on the bio-regions here in Colorado. There are hundreds of herbalists here, and in the surrounding states with vast knowledge, experience, and passion to share, but there hasn’t been a place for us all to gather, share ideas, and connect.

I decided to start Mountain West Herb Gathering as a place for herbalists to connect and share our ideas, passions, and experiences. It is also a place where we can discuss the environmental changes we are seeing, and talk about what impact this is having on the plants. I am hoping it will be a place to focus on ethical harvesting of native and invasive plants, and help us become better stewards of the land that we work and play on.

JB: How did you choose the teachers for the Gathering?

AK: The teachers were chosen based on their experience in teaching herbalism, as well as their experience with particular plants, microclimates, or modalities. Each herbalist teaching at MWHG has something unique and exciting to share with the herb world, and knows how to present that information in a way that is engaging of not only the mind, but the heart and soul as well. They are experts in their field, and are teaching what they feel passionate about.

JB: You present 2 classes at MWHG, can you please tell us about them?

AK: The first class I am teaching is: A Holistic Approach to Chronic Pain. I have had chronic pain for over 10 years after bulging disks while working in a hospital. That initial injury triggered a few auto-immune diseases, one being Fibromyalgia. I manage my daily pain through lifestyle, diet, and herbs. I know many people who insist that fibromyalgia, and chronic pain, can’t be healed, but they can be managed naturally, if a person has the tools they need to support their body in its natural healing process. This class is meant to be a first step, an idea of the tools we have as herbalists and healers to help others through chronic pain.

Chronic pain is a condition 100 million Americans experience on a daily basis. It is more a more common health problem than heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined. It isn’t talked about much, and is often glanced over in holistic health books. Many times this is due to ignorance or inexperience in working with chronic pain. It can seem like a hopeless cause, because there is no quick fix. There is no cure. It is a big, complex problem with many moving pieces, and this is where holistic health can shine. We can incorporate many different healing modalities like yoga, meditation, psychological support, spirit work, exercise, herbal remedies, and custom diets to help manage and reduce chronic pain symptoms.

The second class is A New Hope: Teaching Kids About Their Plant Friends. I have two little ones, my daughter is 5 and my son is 4. They are growing up with an herbalist for a mother, and as such are often out hiking with me into the wild places, and helping me gather plants for food and medicine. They as questions, observe, touch, taste and feel the plants. We talk daily about plants having feelings, spirits, and powers, for lack of a better word. Children see the magic and mystery of the plants, and are able to listen to their intuition when working with the plants. I like to help foster that creativity, and that internal knowing, and help children make life long friends with their plant allies. I like to go to my daughter’s school and teach about the plants, while doing fun kid-friendly activities. I wanted to bring that experience to the table, and share with others some fun kid-friendly ways to learn about the plants.

JB: How can people and sponsors get in touch with you to be a part of the Gathering?          

AK:  People can find more information about MWHG at, and register for the conference on EventBrite at .

If people would like to contact me more about the conference, you can e-mail me at

I hope to see you there this June! It is sure to be a fantastic experience.

JB: Thank you for educating so many of the healing powers of the plants.  I look forward to attending the MWHG!

Abundant Blessings,



Herbal Pioneers Interview with Ethan Russo

img-dr-ethanI am honored to begin my Herbal Pioneers Interview Series with an interview with neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, Ethan Russo. Ethan has worked with cannabis extensively since the 1990’s and continues to pioneer the research on the human endocannabinoid system. He is the former Medical Advisor to GW Pharmaceuticals and Past-President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. What I like most about Ethan’s work is his ability to scrutinize down to an individual constituent all the while understanding the importance of the synergy of whole plant medicine.

This became a two-part series as I like to keep my blog posts short and I encourage readers to take the time to follow the links Dr. Russo provides for more in depth answers to the questions.  In the first interview Ethan describes how he began researching cannabinoids, debunks the terms “sativa” and “indica” and explains how those descriptions have nothing to do with the effects attributed to them. (Thank You-this has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time!)  In next week’s blog we discuss terpenoids, the future of cannabis laboratory testing and how the FDA is responding to the labeling of CBD products.

JB:  Ethan, thank you for participating in this interview and for your diligence in spreading the truth about cannabis.

Aa young scientist, what inspired you to research the constituents present in the Cannabis plant?

ER: After several years in practice, I came to believe that I was giving increasingly toxic pharmaceuticals to my patients with less and less progress. Some of my patients were employing adjunctive cannabis to treat their illnesses even back in the 1980s, especially multiple sclerosis. This caused me to look back to my teenage interest in medicinal herbs. I then embarked on a mission to find herbal agents to treat migraine more effectively. The greatest abundance of herbal agents is found in the Amazon, so I took Spanish classes once a week for a year and a half before two trips to Peru. The second took place in 1995, when I spend the bulk of a three-month sabbatical working with the Machiguenga tribe in Parque Nacional del Manù. They had a great abundance of psychoactive agents and migraine treatments. Shortly after my return, I became embroiled in the clinical cannabis controversy. Over the next several years, I experienced continual federal roadblocks to that research and began writing, editing and lecturing on the subject, and eventually, in 2003, it became the primary focus of my work.

JB: Have you published (or will publish) anything on your work with the Machiguenga tribe? 

ER: Yes. I wrote an article on the Machiguenga tribe’s diet and its pertinence to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It is accessible here:

JB: What is your opinion on the debate on whether there are two different species Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica (more if you include ruderalis or afghanica) or if all cannabis plants are Cannabis sativa

ER: I have personally been on every side of this issue. The botanical taxonomists will never agree. To be sure, the way that the terms “sativa” and “indica” are applied in common parlance is absolute nonsense. What consumers need to know is the actual chemical composition of the cannabis, both cannabinoids and terpenoids, in an accurate fashion by a reliable laboratory to have a better idea of its likely effects. I recently was interviewed on this subject at greater length, which is available here:

Read next weeks 420 blog post with the second part of the interview and celebratory post!

To see Ethan Russo speak in person, attend the Medicinal Cannabis Conference in Arcata, California April 23-24, 2016  Medicinal Cannabis Conference Website

For more information on Ethan’s work and our endocannabinoid system, check out and

When energy flows, wellness grows

Abundant Blessings,