Tag Archives: herbalism

High Season: what’s brewing in your cabinet?

26 Jun

As we sweat through another midsummer, fermentations thrive! Here’s what I have in my cabinet today. A few are alcohol infusions, most are ferments.



I have some writing to do about these, I guess! Stay tuned.

Alewife gets a cold, engages with Osha root: Monica’s tincture.

13 Mar

Brooklyn Alewife has a cold.  I thought I got through this winter without getting  sick at all.  Till now.  I do recall some time in mid-January, I almost got sick and warded it off with plenty of sleep, elderberry brandy, herb teas, and an amazing Osha root-based tincture from my friend Monica.   She discovered the root via her now ex-boyfriend, who left a bunch of it behind, and she began chewing it straight-up to help her overcome a lingering illness.  Liking it a lot, she found that she particularly liked it in combination with both red root and cherry bark.  Periodically when I got a threatening tickle in my throat this year, instead of taking cough drops I took a half-dropper of Monica’s tincture.  It soothed my throat as well as warding off whatever germs were attacking me.


These halls ads were all over the subway a coupla years ago. I feel like this lady right now.

Osha root (Ligusticum porteri)  is an herb that Monica introduced me to last year.  It’s native to the Southwestern US and Mexico, and my herbal books seem to have a blind spot for it.  My wellness wall chart in my kitchen sites it for sinusitus, because of it’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.  A quick google search led me straight to Wikipedia, and the picture of Osha looks much like poison hemlock, which is not too surprising because both plants are in the parsley family.  The plants are easily distinguished by smell, however.  Hemlock has a mousy smell when the leaves are crushed, whereas Osha has a celery smell to it.  This celery smell and taste is noticeable to me in consumption of the dried root.   Osha is sometimes called bear root, because brown bears are attracted to it, both eating the roots and rubbing it on their fur.

Researching Osha today, I find via both Susun Weed’s website  and on the Mountain Rose herbs website an advisory that Osha is an at-risk species, to use sparingly.  Guilt rises in me, as I just bought two ounces of the root yesterday (okay, that’s not that much).  Because of the scarcity of the root, you should be mindful of your herbal sources:  Do you get your supplies from someone who harvests sustainably?

English: Ligusticum porteri variety porteri (o...

English: Ligusticum porteri variety porteri (osha, Porter’s lovage, Porter’s licoriceroot, loveroot, etc.), showing flowers and part of seedhead, Winsor Trail, Santa Fe National Forest, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weed sites Osha as a very powerful herb that helps to prevent against anaphylactic shock and other extreme reactions to both allergens and venoms.   She also refers to it as “singer’s root,” because of its soothing effect on the throat.  I have noticed it listed as an ingredient in prepared herbal remedies such as “Singer’s Saving Grace,” and “Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark,”  two remedies that I have used over the years when I am sick.  The good news is, a little goes a long way.  I was not sparing in my use this winter, and an ounce of diluted tincture lasted me the entire season.

Here’s what Monica did.  Keep in mind, neither Monica nor I are trained herbalists, but amateurs dabbling in herbal crafts, experimenting researching, and having conversations.  Do your own research.  Check out the resource linked, for instance in this article.  Take your herbs with respect and caution.   Via Weed, 2 oz. of dried roots should be combined with 10 oz. of high-proof alcohol.

Monica’s Osha tincture:

In a glass jar, combine

2 oz coursley chopped osha root

2/3 oz cherry bark (read more about it here)

1 and 1/3 oz red root. (read more about it here)

Cover the roots with 20 oz. 100-proof vodka.  Cap the jar tightly, and let it sit for a year.  If some of the alcohol evaporates, you can top it off.

Tinctures are generally consumed  a few drops at a time in a glass of water.  Monica chose to dilute her master tincture with distilled water to a still strong but more directly ingestable level (Dilute yours to taste if you go this route:  she just said, “I put a lot of water in there.” I’m going to guess my bottle is half distilled water).  If you dilute the whole tincture, you will shorten the shelf life, but is a nice way to carry it around and apply at will on the bus, on the road, whatever, even if you don’t have a bottle of water with you.

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Ingredient of the day: Burdock Root (Articum lappa)

12 Jul

In my last sauerkraut recipe, I added some ground burdock root.  I love burdock for its nutty taste and for its healing properties.  You may know burdock more as a common weed, and an annoying one at that.  If you have dogs or cats that venture outdoors, you have likely seen the fruits of the plant, aka burs, even if you haven’t been acquainted with the plant itself.

Rosalind: How full of briers is this working-day world!

Celia:  They are but burs, cousin, thrown upon thee in holiday foolery.  If we walk not in the trodden paths, our very petticoats will catch them.    —Shakespeare, As You Like It

Dog with burs. He’s wearing them like they’re in style! These are one of the worst things to get out off your mutt’s fur.  Image credit to the St. Thomas dog blog

Burdock’s root is most commonly used for both healing and culinary purposes, not the annoying fruits of the plant.  It is often available at several of my local health food stores, and I imagine it’s also easy to find in asian markets because burdock is a common ingredient in Japanese kinpira recipes.  Burdock is considered a bitter, aka it stimulates the digestive juices and whets the appetite.  It is most known  as a treatment for skin problems like eczema and psoriasis.

For a therapeutic dosage, Hoffman recommends that you should drink at least three cups of burdock tea per day, prepared by using 1 tsp of the root simmered for 10-15 minutes in a cup of hot water.  It is also possible to apply the root to the skin in external preparations, either in the form of the same tea or by expressing the sap of the root and mixing it with an oil base to desired consistency (Thanks once again to David Hoffman’s Holistic Herbal for the specific herbal info.  See my bibliography).

Arctium lappa

Burdock:  Arctium lappa (Photo credit: Matt Lavin)


Carrot and Burdock Kinpira

adapted from Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking

Cut 2 carrots and one generous burdock root into matchsticks (slice them on a steep diagonal, and then cut the diagonals again lengthwise).

Sautee the  burdock in a little bit of sesame oil for about 3 minutes, then add the carrot and saute 3 minutes longer.

Add water to cover half the veggies, and a splash of soy sauce.  Cook, uncovered until the water cooked off, adding a generous portion of grated ginger to the mix towards the end of the cooking time.  If desired, garnish with toasted sesame seeds.





Old Ways Herbal: Juliette Abigail Carr, RH (AHG)

Women & Children's Herbal Clinic, Vermont Herb School, & Ramblings on Family Herbal Wisdom


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