I have been pestering my husband for over a year to make a plant press for me. At one point, I even madeit public by writing a few blogs to drop the hint. Alas, our farming activities have included so much growing, harvesting and processing of plants that there was little time to spare to make me more equipment to study them.
Anyone who wants to learn more about their local medicinal plants should have a plant press. In some spaces of course, such as anational park, it is inappropriate to take plant specimens. This is a project more suited for outings in privately owned wild areas where you are given permission to hike. A good guide book is essential, but there are times when it is inconvenient to stay out in the field long enough to research the identity of any new find. For these times a good pocket knife and plastic baggies are just as important as the field guide.
A plant press will allow a budding naturalist to preserve plant specimens in a more permanent way. Keeping a library of dried plant material connects us with the earliest botanists and medicine makers. When I first started I used phone books and old magazines stacked between heavy encyclopedias. This is a great way to work in a pinch, but invariably I lost track of which books held my latest collection and they were easily damaged or forgotten. I had in mind a plant press that James Green describes in his Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook, A Home Manual, but making it required a trip to the hardware store... insert my previous comments on lack of time here....
Finally, this year for my birthday, my husband came up with a new design that was quick and easy enough to get done in between weeding the garden and taking care of the kids. I couldn’t wait to share it with others as I believe it is a practical way for anyone to make their own press. So many do-it-yourselfers don’t have a wood shop, so his solution will allow anyone who can operate a simple cordless drill to connect with their environment in this ancient way.
A Cutting Board Plant Press
Time is always of the essence, so going to the local store and buying two matching cutting boards was a quick choice. You can pick the size of the board to meet your needs. We selected ones with handles so that it can be carried around the farm or on trips. With materials in hand, this project took us about 15 minutes to complete and is much more cost-effective than ones you can buy on the internet:
Tools and Materials
drill with drill bit
paper cutter (or scissors)
optional wood clamps
2 wooden cutting boards with handles
4 bolts with matching wingnuts
blotting paper or watercolor/marker paper
Drill holes in the four corners of one of the cutting boards and use that board as the template to make matching holes in the second board (clamp with wood clamps for ease). To minimize wiggling/twisting, the holes should be just big enough to force your bolts through. Take cardboard and blotting paper and cut into a stack of rectangles that will just fit inside the bolt holes on your cutting boards. Put your bolts through the bottom cutting board and stack in your cut cardboard and paper. Place on the top cutting board and tighten down with the wing nuts. You’re ready to go in search of flowers!
Out in the field, take off the wing nuts and top cutting board to begin layering flowers. Start by laying a sheet of cardboard on the bottom board and place as many flowers as you can fit in between two sheets of blotting paper. Add a square of cardboard to complete the first layer. Keep adding layers to dry as many flowers as your bolt length will allow. When finished, put on the top cutting board and tighten down with the wing nuts to press. Sit your harvested flowers in a dry ventilated place and wait for success.
Hello, this is Jesse Wolf's partner Kiva Rose, with the second in what will be a long series of posts by us on the topics of medicinal herbs, folk herbalism and natural healing. Together we host the upcoming herbal conference and celebration in the forests near the Grand Canyon, Arizona, and produce and sell a special digital quarterly for herbalists and the students of herbalism called Plant Healer Magazine, but we are also committed to making available to everyone a certain amount of absolutely free educational content including Plant Healer's complimentary blog "Herbaria" (subscribe at www.PlantHealer.org), and some of our newest writings will be appearing right here on this Mother Earth News blog.
In all cases, we strive to provide a balance of information, from how to identify and make use of America's medicinal plants, to interviews with famed herbal practitioners and teachers, with the intention of helping you take some responsibility for your own health and that of your family... in the most natural ways possible.
The Brambles of Summer
Many rose family plants, including Rubus species such as Raspberry and Blackberry, are astringent tonics. This means that they tighten and tone lax tissues, and that’s useful in a practical sense because they help to restrict the loss of needed fluid through those too relaxed tissues. This could be excessive diarrhea or sweating during a fever that is leading to dehydration, excessive uterine bleeding during menstruation, excessive urination, or even bleeding, swollen gums as the result of gum disease.
Most of us think of the leaf or even root in regards to medicinal uses, but the tart, unripe or partially ripe berries are also very useful, and children are generally more easily convinced to take a tasty berry potion than even the nicest tea. The good news is that Rubus species tend to be very tasty indeed, from leaf to berry! There are a great many ways to turn Blackberries, Raspberries, and other closely related species into medicine, and I’ll provide a couple recipes here so you can get an idea of some easy ways to make your own remedies with them.
This elixir is tasty, easy to make, and lasts forever if kept in a cool, dark place. If you prefer not to use this small amount of alcohol, then a syrup also works very well. The berries are rich in antioxidants and have some value in inhibiting the flu virus (I really like to add blackberry to my Elderberry syrup as well, for just that reason), among their many other virtues. This elixir or the syrup can help reduce feverishness and diarrhea in both children and adults while still tasting good.
Note: Do NOT wash the berries just prior to using them, the extra water can make the elixir ferment! You want the berries and leaves as dry as possible.
For your elixir, it’s helpful to have on hand:
a pint canning jar (or other glass jar that seals well)
approximately half a pint of blackberries (preferably a mix of various stages of ripeness, as the less ripe berries are more astringent)
approximately half a pint of fresh blackberry leaves, roughly chopped
cinnamon to taste (optional)
fresh ginger to taste, grated or finely chopped (optional)
about a pint of high quality brandy (the better the brandy, the better your elixir will taste)
approximately 1/4 pint of raw honey
a good stirring spoon
First, fill your jar all the way to the top with the Blackberry fruit and leaves, you don’t have to pack them in but push them down a bit to minimize the air space in the jar. Add optional spices if desired, these are especially nice if being used for any sort of gut upset, and help to reduce cramping. Now, pour the honey in slowly, stirring as necessary, until the plant matter is well coated. Next, fill to the top with brandy, against stirring as necessary to remove air bubbles and fill the jar evenly. Now cover the jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake carefully to finish the mixing process. Let macerate in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks (or as long as you can stand to wait. Strain through coffee filter. Bottle and store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight until needed.
Wildflower and Bramble Leaf Tea
This is a lovely tea to drink just for taste’s sake, but it’s wonderful for calming irritated nerves, overheated children (and adults), and addressing any seasonal digestive issues as often happens with summertime bouts of diarrhea. It won’t dry up secretions to the point of causing suppression, but it will cool the body, reduce a fever, and gently lessen any excess loss of fluids.
2 tsp of fresh blackberry or raspberry leaf
1 tsp fresh rose petals
1 tsp fresh Lemon Balm leaves
2-3 fresh violet leaves
1 cup boiling water
Pour the water over the herbs and let steep 5 to 10 minutes. Honey can be added to taste. This can also be iced and served cold, and drunk as desired.
The plants you need can be ethically wildcrafted in many parts of the country, including close to or within urban areas. You can also purchase them from any of a number of herb suppliers, including one of our favorite sources, Mountain Rose Herbs.
Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal
The Plant Healer's Path by Jesse Wolf Hardin (www.PlantHealer.org)
Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Chemical preservatives are found in almost every type of processed food, and they are posing serious risks to our health. Here are the top five reasons to avoid food preservatives.
A study that monitored more than 61,000 Swedish women over 18 years found that the consumption of processed meat is associated with a 50% to 100% increase in the risk of gastric cancer. The most dangerous types of meat were found to be bacon, pork, salami, ham, and hotdogs. Additional studies suggest that the development of cancer is due to nitrosamine, a product of nitrite preservatives.[2,3]
Sulfur dioxide is found in many soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, dried fruits, and dried vegetables. A study found that one in nine asthmatics experience worsening symptoms as a result of consuming soft drinks that contain sulfur dioxide.
Lowered Blood Oxygen
A study found that sodium nitrite, a common preservative in processed meats, causes lower levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin. These are the cells and molecules responsible for carrying oxygen to the body, a lack of which can lead to decreased energy production and cell death.
Diabetes and Heart Disease
Processed meats have been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%, coronary heart disease by 42%, and diabetes by 19% as a result of their high salt and preservative content.
How to Avoid Preservatives
The following foods are likely to contain the largest amounts of preservatives and should be avoided.
Processed meats such as salami, pastrami, bacon, and all deli lunch meats [1,4]
High-sugar beverages such as soft drinks and flavored coffee 
Restaurant food, especially fast food
Canned or dried food, including vegetables, fish, and fruits
Frozen food such as boxed meals.
In general, any food with a high sugar content, a low water content, and an acidic or low pH is likely to contain preservatives. The ones that are most commonly found on ingredient lists are:
Benzene: Sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, benzoic acid
Acetate: Sodium acetate, acetic acid
Sorbate: Potassium sorbate, sorbic acid, propanoic acid 
Nitrate: Sodium nitrite or nitrate, potassium nitrite or nitrate, nitrosamine, nitric acid.
Fresh vegetables and fruits may also be coated with preservatives, but these are easily removed by washing.
Safe Foods and a Vegetable Wash
Researchers suggest eating nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, and replacing processed meat with freshly butchered local meat or wild-caught fish. Vegetables and fruits are safer than meats, but should be cleaned to remove pesticides and preservatives. Spraying and rinsing them with a vinegar or lemon solution will greatly reduce any surface preservatives. One common recipe includes:
1 cup filtered water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon baking soda.
By eating more organic, whole foods, and less processed and packaged food, in general, the better you will feel and the healthier you will be. You can find a variety of delicious, whole-food recipes here.
1. Int J Cancer. 2006 Aug 15;119(4):915-9.
2. Br J Cancer. Dec 1973; 28(6): 562–567.
3. Food Addit Contam. 1992 Sep-Oct;9(5):561-77.
4. Public Health Rep. 1984 Jul-Aug; 99(4): 360–364.
5. Br J Dis Chest. 1980 Apr;74(2):128-34.
6. Appl Environ Microbiol. Aug 2004; 70(8): 4449–4457.
7. J Egypt Public Health Assoc. 2001;76(3-4):281-95.
8. BMC Med. 2013 May 23;11:136. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-136.
There is no experience or practice more valuable, empowering, and utterly satisfying than enabling the health and well being of ourselves, our family, friends and community... naturally. And herbs are arguably the most benign, helpful, and therefore central component of natural health. The restrictive modern medical system — with its often harmful emphasis on pharmaceutical drugs — makes learning at least the rudiments of herbal self-care more important now than at any time before. Folk herbalism requires no certification, only our dedicated study and devoted practice, as we take on the work of helping to heal our bodies, communities, and the Earth itself.
As the publishers of Plant Healer Magazine and books, my partner-blogger Kiva Rose and I have given ourselves to making both ancient traditions and the most up-to-date research and skills available to all who are interested — from doting mothers and kitchen medicine makers to neighborhood herbal providers, street medics and professional clinicians. With the following series of exclusive Mother Earth News posts, Kiva and I hope to bring to a wider audience a taste of the aesthetics and joys of herbalism as well as needed practical information such as folk herbal recipes, herb profiles with uses, tips on making assessments, an introduction to understanding personal constitutions and natures, plant energetics made easily understandable, wildcrafting in city and countryside, healthful food, and how to choose an herbal education.
Forget what you may have heard and quiet your fears about whether you are qualified or “good enough” — anyone who ever lovingly uses a plant to ease discomfort or contribute to someone’s health is an herbalist. Time, study, and experience make us more effective, but we are already herbalists by virtue of our alliance with the plants, and our intentions and efforts to contribute to vital healing processes. With this caring and doing, we join a long lineage of healers and caregivers from primeval remedy makers through tribal Medicine Women and southern Root-Doctors, Hispanic Curanderas and even licensed physicians who continued using plant-based medicines into the 20th century. And of all those who ever work with herbs, there will always be those of you who feel called to a deeper relationship with the herbs, who feel a calling or a sense a mission. Discovering and defining one’s role within the field of herbalism is one of the core topics of our most recent book, available now through the M.E.N. bookstore: The Plant Healer’s Path, and for those most interested in becoming an herbalist we’ve provided an extensive excerpt that you can read for free on this site: Walking The Path of Herbalism.
Kiva sends her greetings, and looks forward to writing a useful and fun post for you in a week, so keep checking back. And she and I wish all of you every blessing on your individual paths of service and wellbeing We hope that you’ll make us your lasting allies and aides... in this natural, vital, and truly delightful purpose.
Adventure and savor!
Jesse Wolf Hardin is an inspiriteur, artist, and the author of nearly 1,000 articles and a dozen books including his newest, The Plant Healer’s Path, a collection of in-depth interviews entitled 21st Century Herbalists, and a much acclaimed historical novel of healing and adventure, The Medicine Bear. As Terry Tempest Williams said, his voice “inspires our passion to take us further, seeing the world whole.” Kiva Rose is one of the best known herbalists of this generation, as well as an artist, storyteller and committed culture-shifter, with her Medicine Woman Roots blog well loved. Together they produce Plant Healer Magazine, the leading publication for herbalists and wildcrafters, and the HerbFolk Gathering held in forests near the Grand Canyon each September.
Years ago in my home state of Missouri, I would sit miserably with insect bites all around my ankles and waist through most of the summer months. Mites, chiggers, spiders, mosquitoes. They would all get me. Not only that but I had an allergy to whatever was in their saliva because the bite would swell and be incredibly painful. One bite could have a swollen purple mound around it the size of a half dollar. But now that I live relatively ‘bite free’ in the Pacific Northwest, the only discomfort that finds me is a summer visit to the family farm.
My last trip was about three years ago and I came home peppered with bites. I wrapped my ankles to keep my pant legs from rubbing against them and driving me insane. On top of this, it would always last a week or more after I got home. This year was our first summer trip to Missouri that my wife and I had our own medicines and salves. I was nervous and excited to try some of our new products.
Preventing Insect Bites Naturally
First thing I did was on the ‘prevention’ side. As most people apply a chemical spray you wouldn’t dare ingest (though 60% of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your blood stream) or light some smelly candle that does who knows what inside your lungs, I went with essential oils. We didn’t get the Lemon Grass in time to add to what we already had but it was still useful. We had strong scented essential oils that the bugs supposedly couldn’t tolerate like Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lavender and Rosemary essential oils. I would dab a little around the ‘hot spots’ which tend to be the ankles, knees, and the waist and groin areas. I would apply it once, only in the evenings when the temps were cool enough for the bugs to come out in force. This trip I had five bites total with only two causing me any real irritation. A radical change from the typical vacation to Missouri in summer but now I went on to the second phase; ‘treatment’.
Treating Insect Bites Naturally
The salve I brought was one we made with Chickweed infused in olive oil, mixed with Lavender infused in olive oil, strained and poured into a heated pan of beeswax with Peppermint and Lavender essential oils. If you can make sun tea and boil water, you can make salves for everyday medicinal use. What I didn’t fully realize until talking to my wife Michelle about this article was that she added the Lavender for purely scented reasons. Lavender actually has some amazing qualities besides its calming aroma and I feel it gave an added bonus to the Chickweed.
Lavender has numerous compounds that act as antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic. Michelle had already made a Lavender hand spritzer for travel use in case you find you can’t wash your hands somewhere. Chickweed has compounds great for rashes, eczema, nettle stings, diaper rash and any other skin irritations. Combine the soothing effects of Chickweed with the disinfecting effects of the Lavender and I had bites that didn’t stand a chance. The bite site did fill with pus on two of them but they went down after a couple days and never did I get much of the swollen purple mound. My approach this visit was to disinfect and clean the sites regularly throughout the day. I even washed them real good in the shower compared to the usual just soap around it because they were so painful.
The chickweed we grew in our yard and the lavender we have growing as well but the particular stuff we used came from plants on a walking trail we found in Portland, Oregon. None of the ingredients were toxic. None of them had horrible odors. All of them worked better than anything else I had bought and used in the past. I am sold on the fact that there can be better alternatives out there than industrialized products advertised in expensive commercials.
Vitamin B12 is best known and most promoted as a cure for low energy, but this vitamin is important for much more than keeping energy levels up. Without enough vitamin B12, you may suffer from everything from depression and memory loss to canker sores and dizziness.
Many people with vitamin B12 deficiency don’t have fatigue. Vitamin B12 plays crucial roles in maintaining the health of your blood cells, digestive system, brain, and nervous system. And while fatigue (due to anemia) is sometimes a symptom, recent research shows that many people have vitamin B12 deficiency without anemia or significant fatigue. Instead, they have vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms that are more related to impairments in the nervous system.
Deficiency symptoms most often caused by impaired nervous system. In the nervous system, vitamin B12 is necessary for the formation of myelin, a whitish insulating sheath around nerve fibers that increases the speed at which impulses are conducted. It is also needed for the production of some neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 deficiency can therefore result in defective myelin synthesis and neurotransmitter imbalances, leading to a host of mental, emotional, and physical symptoms related to the nervous system.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
The following are the most common vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms:
Abnormal sensation, typically numbness, tingling or pricking (“pins and needles”) of the lower legs and feet (both sides)
Weakness in the legs
Increased risk of falling
Psychosis (suspiciousness, persecutory or religious delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, and disorganized thought-processes)
Sore, swollen, beefy red tongue
Sores at the corners of the mouth
Recurrent canker sores
Burning sensation of the mouth
Shortness of breath on exertion
Decreased bone health and increased risk of fracture
Mild diarrhea or constipation
Possible increased risk of cardiovascular disease
Possible increased risk of cancer
Lightheadedness or fainting, possibly accompanied by a rapid increase in heartbeat, after standing up from a lying down position
Causes of B12 Deficiency
Causes of vitamin B12 deficiency include not eating animal products, not making enough stomach acid (“achlorhydria”-common with aging), an autoimmune disorder called pernicious anemia, and certain medications, especially acid-blocking medications (proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers) for gastro esophageal reflux and acid reflux, and Metformin for diabetes.
Treating Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency usually starts with injections of the vitamin. Some patients need regular vitamin B12 injections for life, depending on the cause of their deficiency. After vitamin B12 injections have returned the body’s levels to normal, it’s possible to switch to oral vitamin B12 supplements. Vitamin B12 supplements may contain a few different forms of the vitamin, including cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, and adenosylcobalamin. While all these forms of vitamin B12 are capable of treating vitamin B2 deficiency, methylcobalamin is superior for oral use. The typical recommended dose for treating vitamin B12 deficiency is 2000 micrograms per day.
For information on food sources of vitamin B12, see The Top B12 Foods for Every Diet, where you’ll find information on the best dietary sources of vitamin B12 for meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans.
Source: Nutrients. Nov 2013; 5(11): 4521–4539.
According to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), E. coli, pneumonia and staph infections are developing stronger resistance to antibiotic medications. The WHO states that “governments around the world are beginning to pay attention to a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine.”
The organization's report focuses on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in common bacterial pathogens, which “involves a range of resistance mechanisms affecting an ever-widening range of bacteria, most of which can cause a wide spectrum of diseases in humans and animals.” The issue is made more problematic by the fact that “there are many gaps in information on pathogens of major public health importance.” The report goes on to state that there have been high rates of antibiotic resistance in diseases that are the cause of many common healthcare and community-acquired infections. Of the six World Health Organization regions with national reports of 50 percent resistance or more, five have reported antimicrobial resistance in E. coli and staphylococcus aureus (staph), and all six have reported instances of resistance in pneumonia.
Antibiotic resistance is both a global health concern and an economic issue, causing more than 8 million extra days spent in hospitals. WHO estimates the current yearly cost to the U.S. health system at between $21 and $34 billion. “Because AMR has effects far beyond the health sector, it was projected, nearly 10 years ago, to cause a fall in real gross domestic product (GDP) of 0.4 percent to 1.6 percent, which translates into many billions of today’s dollars globally.”
WHO's report drives home that “resistance to common bacteria has reached alarming levels in many parts of the world, indicating that many of the available treatment options for common infectious diseases in some settings are becoming ineffective.” While the situation seems dire, the World Health Organization is doing what it can to help remedy the situation and has tried in years past to promote the monitoring of antimicrobial resistance.
There is currently no universalized, global system for surveillance of the problem. However, “the World Health Organization will facilitate the development of tools and standards for harmonized surveillance of antibacterial resistance in humans, and for integrating that surveillance with surveillance of antibacterial resistance in food-producing animals and the food chain.” The organization also promises to work to develop strategies for population-based surveillance, not only for improved physical health but also to prevent harmful economic impacts caused by an increased strain on the healthcare system.