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Hoarding picIs the hoarding of money different from or any healthier than the hoarding of stuff?

The “reality” TV show Hoarders offers a glimpse into the world of hoarding. Is the show’s point to help people let go of clocks, salt shakers, and airplane models? Mock people’s inability to let go? Or plain, morbid curiosity about what drives their hoarding? I’d love to see a segment on the show about hoarding money. Think about it. We label people who hoard newspapers, bottles, and, well, cats, as crazy. But when the wealthy in our communities hoard money, we idealize and revere both the hoarding and the hoarder.

I’ll tell you that I’m not good at purging stuff myself. I have many boxes in my basement filled with my childhood memories, holiday supplies, block party “necessities,” large celebration basics, and even a salvaged kitchen. My biological dad was a salvager long before the green movement started, so I come by my habits honestly. If there’s a project that can be saved from the land fill, I’m your gal. I do my best to keep my hoarding to the confines of the stuff in our basement. That said, I do not believe in hoarding money.

I think we can all agree that no one will be able to take any of their worldly goods or money with them when they die. And one day we will all die.

I believe everyone should be able to meet their basic needs for their survival: food/water, clothing, shelter, and healthcare. In many countries, the idea of how much is needed to live a satisfying life looks very different from ours. They need much less. So maybe we should take a look at why we feel we need so much more?

I would say the roots of our greed and need to hoard stem from scarcity. The definition of greed is: intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. I’d add “scarcity” to that definition. We need to understand why greed and hoarding exist, on the individual, community, state, and national level. By better understanding the reasons behind greed and hoarding, we might be able to help ourselves and others find ways to look for something more fulfilling to enhance their life rather than the selfish desire to have more than one person will ever need or use. When people’s basic needs are met, I believe they are freed up to live outside of scarcity.

How do you define greed? Are greed and hoarding related? What ways do you think we can take care of our people’s basic needs? If you could choose how we would change the hoarding of money by the top one percent, what would it look like? Related articles you might enjoy:

Seven Deadly Money Disorders: Hoarding
Nick Hanauer: Beware, Fellow Plutocrats, the Pitchforks Are Coming
The Rise of the American Oligarchy
CarlyHosfordIsReal Blog
Anonymous Art of Revolution

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The growing season at Raven Crest Farm is coming to an end. It has been an amazing year with new green friends in our garden and bountiful herb harvests. We started to make flower essences this summer, a beautiful way to connect to the vibrational essence of plants and the world of green healing in a deeper way. Now fall is here and winter waiting on our door steps, the garden is dying back, the plants have shed their last seeds and are being tucked in for their winter beauty sleep. As our own energy starts to move inward as well and our bodies are getting ready for the colder season, it is the perfect time to strengthen and support the respiratory system.

In this part of our “Plant a Medicinal Herb Garden” series we will look at easy to grow herbs that will support and heal the the lungs, throat and sinuses, while adding flavor to your kitchen and beautifying your garden.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Hyssop is a sun loving, perennial, low growing shrub with beautiful dark blue blossoms that attract many bees and pollinators. Hummingbirds love it too. Hyssop is drought resistant and does well in poor and sandy soil. It is an herb in the mint family and has a delicious aromatic and minty scent. Hyssop's warming energetics make it a fine remedy for a stubborn cough and shivers. The responsible medicinal constituents are soothing to the lungs and help to loosen and expel mucus when taken internally (see recipes below). In addition, hyssop is a good carminative, meaning it supports healthy digestion and prevents formation of gas.


How to Make a Tincture

Here is the link again to Rosemary Gladstar's video on How to Make a Tincture in case you have never made one before. It is an easy process to make your own green medicine from freshly picked herbs from your garden. You will pay a fraction of the cost compared to a store bought tincture and your medicine will be just as effective if not more potent with the help of your intentions and the love you gave to the plant in your garden. When you grow your own medicine, you ultimately give that attention and love to yourself.

How to Make an Oxymel

An oxymel is another very good tasting way to extract the medicinal constituents from hyssop. Instead of using alcohol as a solvent, organic apple cider vinegar and raw honey are combined. You can take a teaspoon straight up as needed during a cough or cold or add it to salad dressings as a delicious culinary treat with many health benefits.

To harvest hyssop, cut the flowering tops in early summer when the flowers are just about to open. At this time, the plant holds the highest concentrations of medicinal essential oils. The plant will grow new flowers and you can harvest a second time later in the year.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Just like hyssop, anise hyssop is also a hardy perennial herb in the mint family. It grows up to 4 feet tall with heart-shaped leaves that have a pretty purple rim. The stalks of light purple flowers are a favorite of bees and bumblebees. It is self-seeding and will happily spread around your garden. Leaves and flowers have a subtle licorice aroma, hence its other name – licorice mint. 


How to Use Anise Hyssop

Anise hyssop makes an aromatic tea from the fresh or dried leaves and flowers that eases digestion. The fresh leaves are also a lovely addition to salads. Native Americans used anise hyssop medicinally for coughs and fevers, and so do I.

A tea or tincture blend of anise hyssop and hyssop combined soothes and helps to heal irritated lung tissue during a respiratory infection. We made an oxymel from hyssop and anise hyssop combined and it is my favorite in salad dressings. 

Anise hyssop can be harvested several times per year. Harvest the flowering tops when the plant is starting to bloom. Cutting back the flowers before they can mature into seeds invigorates the plant to grow new flowers – which can be cut again a few weeks later. That way you can enjoy fresh anise hyssop tea all summer long. Place a good hand full of fresh leaves and flowers in a teapot or large ball jar. Poor boiling water over the herb and close the lid to make sure the precious essential oils do not escape. Let steep for 5-10 minutes, strain, sweeten with a touch of honey to taste - and enjoy!

How to Dry Herbs

To dry medicinal or culinary herbs, harvest the flowering tops, bind three or four stalks tightly together with a rubber band and hang upside down to dry in a well ventilated room that is protected from night moisture. After a few days or a week, roll a leave between your fingers next to your ear. When the plant is fully dried, it will “crackle and pop”. If the leaves are still floppy, dry them a little longer. Pull the leaves from the stems (this process is called garbling the herb) and store in a ziplock mylar bag or tightly closed ball jar in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

Mullein (Verbascum thapus)

Mullein is a tall standing bi-annual plant that forms a rosette of velvet soft, large leaves in the first year and a tall stalk covered with small yellow blossoms in the second year. The plant self-seeds before it dies and will spread around your garden so you never have to plant it again. In ancient times, mullein was considered a protector against evil spirits as it stands tall and straight like a guardian when in bloom.


Mullein Medicine

All parts of mullein can be used medicinally, but the leaves is what we are after for their soothing and coating effects on the mucus membranes, such as the lung tissue and sinuses. This medicinal action is called demulcent. Mullein and osha root tincture combine very well to treat stubborn sinus infections.

Mullein flowers can be used to make a healing ear oil for ear infections. It works especially well when combined with garlic oil.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Wild thyme is a sun loving perennial ground cover, temperate in all zones, that will compete with your lawn, and win (!), when you don't mow it during its self-seeding time. A soft bed of flowering thyme will spread through your lawn that will release its lovely scent with every step you take on it. It also makes a nice border in ornamental flower beds.


Thyme has strong anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties. Both the tincture and tea are useful during respiratory infections. A steam bath with dried or fresh thyme works wonders for congestion and sinus infections.

Thyme Steam Inhalation for Sinus Infections

Pour boiling water into a bowl and add a tablespoon of fresh or dried thyme leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon. Place your head about 12 inches above the bowl and cover your head and the bowl with a towel. Close your eyes and inhale the aromatic thyme steam through your nose for 2 to 5 minutes. It will clear up your sinuses and lungs and help to loosen phlegm and mucus, while delivering the anti-bacterial essential oils straight to the places where they are needed. If you feel the steam is too hot, raise the towel a little so cool air can come in.

Dabbing some thyme tincture on your gums several times a day is a great remedy for gum disease.

In addition, thyme tincture can be used as an all natural disinfectant in your home. Simply mix a tablespoon of tincture with some vinegar and water, spray on your counter tops and wipe off.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Garden sage is a perennial shrubby herb that can grow up to 3 feet tall. The velvety leaves are not only a wonderful culinary herb but also have powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and the fresh purple and pink blossoms are delicious in a raw sage blossom pesto


Medicinal Uses of Sage

Sage is an extremely versatile herb. A tea from sage, thyme, hyssop, anise hyssop and mullein is a great remedy for coughs and colds. Add raw honey for extra healing and anti-bacterial action.

Make a sage honey (yummy!) and take it by the teaspoon for the cold and flu and to soothe a sore throat.

To help heal a sore throat you can also make a strong sage tea, add a dash of salt and use as a gargle. This is also a good remedy for mouth sores.

For fungal skin infections, such as athlete's foot, mix a few drops of tea tree essential oil with sage tincture and rub it onto the affected area.

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Yes, garlic! Plant lots of garlic in the fall and mulch it well with straw. Garlic is one of the strongest anti-bacterial herbs around. It contains over 50 sulfur compounds that have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal action. These compounds are broken down in the lungs, which is the reason for garlic breath. It also means that the medicine is working right where you need it - in your lungs.

Garlic Medicine

Roast a whole garlic bulb in the oven and enjoy two to three garlic cloves spread on a piece of bread or a gluten free rice cracker.

You can also add fresh garlic cloves to a green smoothy or hearty vegetable juice.

Both recipes will work wonders on stubborn lung infections and candida yeast infections.

Welcoming Winter

With these green allies in your garden, you will be well prepared for the coming winter season. Together with the immune building plants discussed in the previous blog, Part 1: Immune-Boosting Herbs, your green medicine cabinet will be fully stocked and you can even share your healing wisdom with friends and family.

Sign up for an herbalism class in your area and dive deeper into the world of healing with medicinal plants. We need more of us.

Green blessings,
Susanna Raeven

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PhoneThis post marks the beginning of a three part series on greed, consumption, and economic oppression of the majority by the few.

In the wake of September 11, former President George W. Bush advocated consumer consumption as both a way to strengthen our nation and a prosperity tactic. In 2007, Annie Leonard wrote The Story of Stuff as a critique of hazardous rates of production, consumption, and waste. In 2014, potentially the warmest year on record, we mark our 23rd year of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, and the release of Apple’s sixth iPhone in seven years. Reflecting on these landmarks, I’ve found myself thinking about the sustainability of our spending habits and the social consciousness of our collective character.

I spent part of my childhood in the well-off community of Palo Verdes, California in the home of a prosperous salesman and a mom who got to be a part-time homemaker, I came to know the comfortable dream of the 1960s white middle class society. At 54, I am conditioned into a U.S. culture focused on the individual initiative and unstoppable growth that sustained the rose-colored glasses dream of my generation’s parents’ past. But one small detail interfered with that dream — deregulation, the deregulation of the Bell System, banks, and many other industry giants that has steadily increased since the 1980s, enabling massive greed. The result? The Great Recession. Now only the rich wear the glasses. And so, we meet with greed.

Recently, I was reminded of the detachment and depersonalization of greed through a series of interactions with an activist group picketing at the front of my outdoor clothing co-op in Seattle. Being a curious person, I gave this group of young people a bit of my attention and time. They shared with me their concerns regarding my co-op’s buying practices, and expressed an interest in meeting with the executive team to open dialogue about livable wages and working conditions. After chatting with the student activist group, I offered to help support their cause by doing my best to set up a meeting with the co-op’s CEO.

Being a people-minded and persistent person I assumed setting up a meeting would be a quick and simple task. When it comes to landing appointments with CEOs, business leaders, and government officials, I’m not often stonewalled. One of the many gifts that dyslexia has given me is the tenacity it takes to open doors. This time, after many hours of committed time on the phone with executive personal assistants and the co-op’s public relations professionals, I was still meeting dead ends. I connected these dead ends to greed. The execs didn’t want to discuss their practices. In the end I think a meeting may have happened, but I was not invited to attend, so I am unsure of the outcome.

When I was young, I don’t remember a huge skepticism toward business — any fracture in the feeling that businesses looked out for customers and shareholders without conflicts of interest was concealed by the apathy of a fat and happy middle class. Companies were approachable. CEOs and boards of directors were reachable by phone and assumed responsible.

I look forward to revisiting that customer-focus and approachability in our future. Maybe we’ll see those values displayed again by small and local companies, maybe with the growth of organizations like Kickstarter, a crowd funding platform for creative projects. Or maybe big corporations will find their way back to seeing the importance of customers and business ethics. Who knows? In the meantime, I will continue to look for ways to lower my consumption.

How did we get here? How have the rights and responsibilities of corporate citizens changed in your life time? Can you find someone in your community either younger or older to have a conversation with about this topic? If you could stop supporting one store, industry, or big business person because of greed, who would it be?


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Jesse Wolf Hardin - Art of HerbalismHerbalism is sometimes spoken of as one of the “healing arts,” along with acupuncture, chiropractic, counseling, and massage therapy.  These practices and any other non-invasive ways of healing people and planet are “crafts” carefully learned, practiced and applied, that truly become “art” at the point where we:

1. Make our work with herbs a creative process and apply our own imaginations.

2. Strive to maximize our herbalist knowledge and skills.

3. Seek to heal people at the deepest emotional and spiritual as well as physical levels.

4. Try, as a matter of both course and principle, to practice our plant medicine as beautifully as possible!

I wrote our Plant Healer book The Enchanted Healer because of feeling certain that our enchantment with plants and healing is every bit as important to our effectiveness and satisfaction as is our herbal knowledge and skill at treatment. The following is abridged from that chapter of that book, championing a creative and joyous herbalism that is possible for everyone, no matter how much you know or how much experience with plants and healing you have had.

You might think, “Of course beauty and enchantment matter,” but these days a stark line is often drawn between conventional medical care and alternative or holistic therapies, between phytotherapy and folk herbalism, between hard science and folklore, between the necessary growing of food crops and the nonessential raising of ornamentals, as well as between the supposed florid artist’s life and the sober existence and sensible priorities of regular people. Not so in many ancient and tribal societies, nor in the attractive land-informed cultures that we are together working to create. For them and us – from nourishment to remedy, from planting to harvest, birth to death – is an opportunity to meld ritual and necessity, substance and gesture, artfulness and practicality, working to make every act and result not only productive but evermore meaningful, beauteous and satisfying!Mortar Pestle Art

Notice how folk herbalists of any culture find hidden patches of desired wild plants largely by their form and color, as in tune with the patterns and hues composing the land as is a painter with her visions of forms and palette of endless chromatic possibilities. We can see surely the art in their purposeful ascertaining of patterns and composing of response, in their deeply partnered dance of natural healing and allied plants... and in what they collect on their shelves, hang on the wall and wear on their bodies. Each of these herbalist’s clothes express their particular persona, the decorating of home and clinic to reflect their particular values and beliefs, preferences and desires, hungers and callings.

On their desk may be a collage of the tools of inquiry, alongside the frivolity of plant deco. We may note the curving lines and brass sheen of a vintage druggist’s scale, a hand-me-down magnifying glass, a surreal earth goddess or primitive carved crucifix, the predictable vase or Mason jar with flowers long ago having died and dried into twisted shapes too amazing to throw outside. On the window sill, colored glass of some sort that’s sure to refract into the room its enchanting morning lights, Arkansas crystals and sun hungry potted sage. Framed and hung are images of treasured places, from topographic maps marked with one’s favorite spots for gathering wild herbs. Paintings of flowers, or goddesses, or faeries, or vine covered cottages that invite us to world of veritable magic. Historic drawings of Yerba Mansa or flowering Mullein, or the voluptuous Victorian images we humorously refer to as "plant porn".

Art can be seen not only in the objects they surround themselves with, but also in their gestures, acts and tasks. Just watch how they customarily acknowledge, empathize with, speak to, ask for the collusion of, and somehow express their profound gratitude to those medicinal plants that they kneel before in acts of humble connection or unplanned ceremony. See, also, the deft movements of hands and blades as leaves are separated from flowers and roots, not unlike the sculptor removing elements of stone or wood to reveal a focused and refined purpose within. Their creation of formulas can be in some ways like the art of cooking, with brilliance, intuition and adaptation augmenting tradition, evaluations made with alert taste buds and noses that know. The rhythms of their interchanges with clients and patients can be like practiced choreography with room left for on-the-spot improvisation – in what I think of as the herbalist’s song and dance.  Inspired and fueled by not only necessity and compassion but impassioned aesthetics and taste, theirs is a practical trade made into something complexly personal, focused on a vision and purpose, intent on increased excellence and effectiveness – a point of service and connection that is art at its most relevant.  Important. Magical, even.  

Medicine WomanThe pencil for the writing of ours and our world’s story – for the creation of our art – is in part in our hands, ready for us to make the changes that are needed. We have an entire chest of colors to choose from, with the now and future our unlimited canvas. We have the pharmacopea botanica for most of our bodily healing needs. All the necessary materials, it seems, are at hand for whatever project we might launch, awaiting only the actual sweep of the painter’s brush, the slice of the sculptor’s knife, the swirl of the kitchen ladle, the gathering and processing of the herbs, the pouring of the salve of tincture, the purposeful and ceaseless reaching out to help.

A main theme of our book, "The Enchanted Healer," is that you are simultaneously a healer and a person still engaged in your own personal healing. You are both the subject and creator, witness and participant, viewer and doer. As such, this kinetic relational process that we call “art” involves not just the illustrator’s pen or paint, the gardener’s shovel and seed, cotton bandages or healthful herbs... it needs you.

Now see what you can do!

 Art of Herbalism

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While many kids (and adults, too) might prefer to sleep with a light on, research shows that exposure to artificial light after the sun goes down can disrupt healthy body function and is associated with an increased risk for cancer. So turn off your computers, TVs, and nightlights for kids, and learn to embrace the nighttime darkness.

Light, Circadian Rhythms and MelatoninHidden Risks Of Nightlights

Our bodies are governed by a 24-hour biological clock, the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm regulates when we sleep and wake, and governs many other important biological processes. Melatonin, one of the main hormones responsible for maintaining this cycle, is normally produced in the dark. Light at night suppresses the pineal gland’s secretion of melatonin and disrupts the circadian rhythm.[1] Low melatonin can contribute to a wide variety of health conditions, from sleeplessness to migraines.

Increased Cancer Risk

The circadian rhythm also regulates important processes that modulate tumor activity.[1] Several studies have found evidence that melatonin directly inhibits tumor growth and development.[1,2] Even short-term exposure to bright, white light at night can interfere with this effect.[2]

Women working the night shift show increased risk for breast cancer, and this effect is attributed to their exposure to light at night.[2] These observations and a multitude of laboratory studies have led researchers to conclude that “shift-work that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans.”[3] Interestingly, blind women show a lower risk for breast cancer as well,[4] strengthening the link between light exposure and cancer risk.

Importance for Children

Children may be especially sensitive to artificial light at night. One study found that in children, melatonin activity was suppressed by light at night almost twice as much as it was in adults.[5] Childhood experiences, and even in utero conditions, can influence the risk of cancer later in life. Adolescence and other developmental periods are particularly important and circadian disruptions during these periods can be very detrimental.[4]

Researchers note that “ill-timed electric light exposure to a child may disrupt circadian rhythmicity and contribute to increased risk of cancer later in life.”[6] They suggest that parents avoid night-lights for children from birth onward, and that parents should also use dim red light sources when feeding or caring for a child during the night.

Simple Steps for Reducing Exposure to Nighttime Light

1. Teach your child to sleep without a nightlight. While it can sometimes be a difficult transition to remove nightlights for kids, most children will eventually get comfortable sleeping in the dark. Make the transition slowly. For the first few nights, keep a dim nightlight on in the room. Them, remove that light, and keep the hallway light on with the door cracked. Slowly, work up to closing the door and having your child sleep in complete darkness.

2. Keep a dim, red nightlight in the hallway and bathroom. Red light is better than blue light for nighttime exposure, as blue light is especially disruptive to melatonin. Also keep a red light in your room that you can turn on if you need to get up in the night.

3. Remove alarm clocks, nightlights, and bright electronics from bedrooms. Your room should be as dark as possible at night, and even the lights on an alarm clock can produce unnecessary and harmful light.

4. Use blackout curtains. For those living in the city with bright streetlights outside, blackout curtains can help keep your home free of artificial light.

5. Avoid watching TV or using your computer or phone before bed. Avoiding these artificial lights at bedtime will likely help you to fall asleep easier and get a healthier night’s rest.


[1] PLoS One. 2014 Aug 6;9(8):e102776.
[2] Cancer Res. 2005 Dec 1;65(23):11174-84.
[3] Lancet Oncol. 2007 Dec;8(12):1065-6.
[4] Epidemiology. 2005 Mar;16(2):254-8.
[5] J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Sep;99(9):3298-303.
[6] Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2012 May;21(5):701-4.

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BooksThe term “well-read” most likely has many interpretations depending on family traditions, interests, and education. My well-read means being informed on the subjects that are of interest to me. As an armchair anthropologist, some of these interests include biographies, social sciences, humanities, and history.

Last night, I had the good fortune to hear Brian Little speak about his new book Me, Myself, and Us at Town Hall, Seattle. His passion for psychology, personality, and the science behind our behavior was infectious. He began the night by asking 10 questions about our personalities, which we were to answer based on a scale of 1−10. The questions were set to measure self-ratings of diplomatic to blunt communication, slow to fast paced approach to life, introverted to extroverted personalities, and so on. At the conclusion of his lecture, he assigned introverted, extroverted, and ambiverted (combination of introverted and extroverted) personalities to everyone in the room based on our scores from the test. After the lecture, I greatly enjoyed exploring these findings with my husband, daughter, and a dear friend. I am equally excited to read more about the topic in Brian’s new book.

Thankfully, as fall turns to winter, the days are getting shorter and reading season is right around the corner. I am grateful to have a warm and cozy house that invites me to catch up on the books I pushed aside as summer’s multitude of outdoor activities unfolded.

As a dyslexic, I didn’t begin life expecting to look forward to reading, but now, as I turn the pages, my imagination paints worlds unknown with a multitude of strange but intimately welcoming people and ideas. I look forward to the hug of an armchair as I meditatively page through the book at hand, as the act of page turning, peaked curiosity, and emotional involvement work in concert to create a rich experience. When the end of a book finally draws near, there is an undeniable sense of accomplishment combined with the desire to take those last few pages a little slower, deferring the encroaching finish.

Regardless of the physical finish, many of my favorite books seem to stay with me in my thoughts and conversations. As I reflect on my version of “well-read,” I am reminded of the multitudes of differing interests, reads, and variations on truth in our shared world.

Little noted that we’re not destined to steep and respond to the world in various predetermined ways. Instead, we are predisposed to act and react in a series of typically patterned responses. In this variety of patterns, habits, and behavioral balance, Little’s lecture emphasized the wonders of clear communication in such a diversely well-read and well-received world.

What does your bookshelf reveal about you? How do you define “well-read”? Do you know which human traits form your world view?

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tea for coldsWhen we’re suffering from a bad cold, nothing makes us feel like we’re taking care of ourselves more than a steaming cup of herbal tea, particularly if it contains medicinal herbs. Sipping on medicinal herbal tea is one of the best steps you can take to shorten the duration of illness when the symptoms of a cold, sore throat, or other upper respiratory infection begin.

Fortunately, medicinal tea for colds is widely available these days. We don’t even need to live near a health food store—many supermarkets and drugstores now sell herbal blends formulated to treat a variety of conditions, including tea for colds, sore throats, coughs, and general immune support. However, while these pre-blended teas, generally sold in tea bags, often contain at least a couple of herbs with known medicinal properties, the medicinal herbs are not always in high enough quantities to have much impact. Furthermore, when medicinal tea ingredients are blended together in tea bags, they can’t be properly infused or decocted to optimally extract the active constituents.

A much better option is to make your own tea for colds by using one of the following herbal tea recipes and using the correct infusion and decoction techniques for the specific herbs in your tea.

What Are Medicinal Infusions and Decoctions?

Tea is the most common type of herbal extract—it is essentially a water-based herbal extract. Making tea is one of simplest ways to separate the active, healing herb constituents from the inactive, fibrous matter. There are two basic ways to prepare medicinal tea: infusion and decoction. Broadly speaking, an infusion is made by combining hot water with medicinal herbs and steeping to extract their active ingredients. A decoction, meanwhile, is made by adding the ingredients to boiling water and simmering them.

Which method to use depends mostly on the herb itself (for example, chamomile or licorice) and the part of it being used (for example, flower or root, respectively). Although there are exceptions, the basic rule of thumb is that infusions are used for delicate and less dense parts of plants such as flowers, leaves, and green stems. Decoctions are used to prepare tea from hard and woody plant material such as roots, barks, and some seeds and hard fruits.

The actual methods for properly infusing and decocting herbs vary and depend on the ingredients themselves, whether they are fresh or dry, how they are cut or crushed, the quantity and strength of the tea to be made, and the goals for treatment. However, there are some basic guidelines that can generally be followed if specific dosages are not given.

• To make an infusion, use one teaspoon of dried herb per one cup of water. Warm a glass, porcelain, or stainless steel vessel and put the dry herb into it. Pour boiling water over the herbs. Cover the vessel with a tight-fitting lid to ensure that only a minimum of the aromatic volatile oils are lost through evaporation. Steep for 15 minutes (recommended time may vary). Strain the infusion to drink.

• To make a decoction, put one teaspoon of dried plant parts (powdered or broken into small pieces to break the cell walls and facilitate extraction) for each cup water into a non-aluminum pot or saucepan. Add the appropriate amount of water to the herbs, bring the water to boiling, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, strain and drink.

Important Exceptions To the Infusion/Decoction Rule

One important exception to this basic rule is for woody herbs, roots, and seeds that are rich in significant volatile oils such as valerian root and fennel seeds. In this case, boiling will cause evaporation of important volatile constituents. For herbs like this, it is best to crush or even powder them finely and make an infusion. Another exception is for herbs that don’t tolerate heat at all. For those herbs, such as elecampane root, a great remedy for colds with coughs, cold infusions are best. For cold infusions, you steep in cold water for extended periods of time to extract the constituents without damaging them.

Oftentimes, a medicinal tea formula will contain a combination of herbs, some of which should be decocted and some infused. Another basic rule of botanical medicine is that when preparing a medicinal tea containing both soft and woody herbs, it is best to prepare an infusion (for the soft herbs) and a decoction separately. This ensures that the active constituents of the more delicate herbs are not destroyed and that the soluble constituents from the tougher, woodier herbs are appropriately extracted.

Herbal Tea Recipes

Infusion for acute cold care

David Hoffmann, author of Medical Herbalism, a foundational textbook on the scientific principles of botanical medicine used in Bastyr University's herbal sciences classes, has a favorite herbal remedy for acute colds.[1] This tea for colds is ideal when there is much inflammation and mucus production in the upper respiratory tract.

1 part black elder (Sambucus nigra dried flower)
1 part yarrow (Achillea millefolium dried flowers, leaves, stems)

1 part peppermint (mentha piperita dried leaves)

Combine equal parts of each herb (for instance, one ounce of each). Infuse two teaspoons mixed herbs per one cup water (for instance, four teaspoons in two cups water), covered, for 15 minutes. Strain and drink hot, often, until symptoms pass.

Additional Herbs for Infusion

When I was a naturopathic medical student, some of my botanical medicine instructors recommended additional herbs that could be added to the herbs above to enhance the infusion:

• Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis dried budding aerial parts) This plant from the mint family has a slightly bitter, sharp, spicy flavor and is traditionally used for colds and flu. (Use 2 parts.)
• Yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum dried leaves). This sweet, aromatic herb is used for colds or any condition in which there is cough with poor expectoration.
• Thyme (Thymus vulgaris dried flower and leaf). You know this aromatic herb well for its culinary importance, but thyme is also a powerful antimicrobial that also acts as an expectorant and anti-spasmotic, making it great for coughs associated with colds and bronchitis.
• Linden (Tilia spp.dried flower and leaf). This slightly sweet, aromatic herb is a sedative and anti-inflammatory. It can be added in equal parts to the infusion recipe above when your cold symptoms are making you too irritable to sleep.

Immune Supportive Decoction/Long infusion

This tea recipe comes from herbalist, author, and naturopathic doctor Sharol Tilgner.[2] Although this recipe is a general immune supportive, Dr. Tilgner explains that it is specifically helpful for viral respiratory infections and can be used for the prevention and/acute treatment of colds and flu. The herbs have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, lymph stimulating, adrenal supportive, mucous-thinning properties.

2 parts echinacea (Echinacea purpurea dried root)
1 part licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra driedroot)

1 part osha (Ligusticum porteri dried root)

This formula combines the techniques of decoction and long infusion. The echinacea and licorice roots should be decocted, while the osha root should be infused for 25 minutes to preserve the volatile oils.

Combine two parts of echinacea root for every one part licorice root. Keep the osha root separate. For acute treatment of colds, decoct two teaspoons echinacea/licorice combination per one cup water in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, infuse one teaspoon osha root per one cup boiling water, covered, for 25 minutes. Strain both the infusion and decoction, combine, and drink a cup of hot tea four to five times a day until symptoms pass. For preventative, long term treatment, decrease echinacea/licorice dose to one teaspoon per one cup water and decrease osha dose to one-half teaspoon per one cup water and drink three cups per day.

Caution: Chronic, large doses of licorice can raise blood pressure by increasing sodium resorption and potassium excretion by the kidney. Avoid licorice if you have pre-existing hypertension.

Combining Herbal Tea Recipes for Colds

Any of the herbs mentioned above can be combined to create your own tea for colds. I hope I’ve given you some useful herbal tea recipes for colds and shown you why making your own tea for colds using proper infusion and decoction techniques is far superior.

Find more information on a wide variety of health-promoting teas here.


Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press. 2003.

Tilgner, Sharol. Managing editor. Herbal Transitions. Newsletter. Winter, 2005.

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