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Natural Health
Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

Aloe Vera Cream


A skin savior, aloe vera gel, comes to the rescue after a monster sunburn. A natural, holistic approach to after sun skin care. I'll be teaching you an easy two-ingredient recipe resulting in your own homemade moisturizing cream.

This cactus like plant contains a gel inside its spiky leaves that contains loads of medicinal properties people have been using for thousands of years. Aloe vera gel can be used for consumption or topical use. The main reason people consume the gel is for the antioxidants, vitamins, and the digestive relief it provides. External uses include; treating a variety of skin conditions, burns, psoriasis, frostbite, cold sores, etc. 

I should mention if your burn is severe you should consult a doctor before applying aloe. However, if your sunburn is mild let's dive right in! We will be creating a paste from the gel and coconut oil.

Step 1: Have your aloe vera plant handy. If you do not have the plant you can buy the leaves at the supermarket or purchase pure aloe vera gel. 

Step 2: Cut the leaf from the base of the plant. 

Step 3: Remove the thorny edges of the leaf by slicing the edges. Then cut the leaf open down the middle. You will see the clear aloe vera gel.

Step 4: Using a spoon, scoop out the gooey substance from the leaves into a bowl.

Step 5: Transfer gel into blender with 1 tbsp of coconut oil and blend to smooth consistency. 

Once your final product resembles that of a paste you can bottle it up in a jar and store it in the fridge for up to one month. With no added coloring, preservatives, or perfumes this paste has a short shelf life so use accordingly. To treat a sunburn, remove gel from the fridge, the gel is most healing and soothing to skin when cold. Spread a layer over affected areas. Apply a few times a day to sunburned area.

Taylor Goggin is tropical gardener in Florida who gained her skills in cooperative agriculture while work-trading with a World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program on the Hawaiian Islands. She now grows papaya, banana, avocado, fig, tomatoes, and medicinal herbs to make into inventive plant-based recipes. Connect with Taylor on Instagram, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Broadleaf Plantain: A Wonderfully Edible and Medicinal Weed


Broad-leaf Plantain, or Plantago major, is a common perennial ‘weed’ found across North America. I’m sure you have seen this unassuming little plant in your yard, along the roadside or at a local park. Plantain grows well in poor soil, and can often be found coming up along sidewalks or in heavily traveled areas. At our farm, this little plant grows happily along our dirt driveway where the soil is compacted and heavily traveled. While it may be deemed an enemy by those who want a pristine lawn- plantain is a truly wonderful medicinal plant that is easy to find and identify and offers a wide range of health benefits.

Plantain leaves are oval shaped and easily identified by their 5-7 veins growing parallel out from the center. If you pick a leaf, you will see stringy fibers- like those in celery. It grows in rosettes, with many leaves growing out from a central shaft and can become a ground cover where allowed.

The flowers of plantain grow straight up, like little green spears, on leafless stalks. While they are not showy or fragrant- they do provide important food for honeybees and native pollinators.

Plantain is incredibly moisturizing, and can be eaten, taken internally or topically to treat skin and digestive issues. When harvesting for food or medicine, it is important to gather healthy plants from pollution-free areas. While plantain grows happily along the side of the road, these plants should not be used for human consumption.

Young leaves, before the plant flowers, can be steamed and eaten like spinach with similar nutritional properties. Plantain has been used internally medicinally to support the digestive system, treating persistent diarrhea and chronic digestive issues.

Plantain roots can be dried, powdered and used topically to treat abscessed teeth or infections in the mouth.

Topically, plantain leaves can be used to sooth burns, rashes and sunburn as well as insect bites and stings. Leaves can be crushed or chewed and applied as a poultice directly to the affected area, or can be steeped in your favorite oil to create an infused oil or salve.

One of the most valuable properties of plantain is its ability to draw out whatever needs to be drawn out- including insect venom.

At Olsen Farm we keep honeybees, and currently have 27 hives. Last year I accidentally knocked part of a hive over during an inspection- a beekeeper’s (and most anyone’s!) worst nightmare. I was stung over one hundred times through my pants, but luckily was wearing a veil to protect my face and torso. AI immediately applied a poultice of crushed plantain leaves directly to each sting, and then applied homemade plantain salve for a week. I made a complete recovery with minimal discomfort and without a dangerous allergic reaction- I own it all to plantain! Plantain has an almost magical ability to remove whatever is afflicting us- It can even be applied to stubborn splinters to help the body safely expel them.

To make an infused oil using plantain leaves:

  • Gather fresh plantain leaves on a sunny day from a clean and pollution free area. Allow the leaves to wilt in the sun, getting rid of any excess moisture.
  • Chop or cut winter leaves and fill a pint mason jar 2/3
  • Fill the mason jar to the brim with your favorite oil- I use olive oil because it is inexpensive and is gentle on sensitive skin. Lid and label your jar with ingredients and the date.
  • Let your plantain leaves in oil steep in a dark place for 4-6 weeks, strain our leaf bits and your oil is ready to use!
  • Infused oil can be applied topically or ingested for digestive support. To make a salve, heat your oil in a double burner and add beeswax (at a ratio of 1/4 cup beeswax to 1 cup oil).

I hope you can spot this lovely little plant, and know more about its potential. Plantain may not look like much- but it’s benefits are plentiful!

Kristen Tool is co-owner of Olsen Farm in Lanesborough, Mass., where she works with her husband to revive 28 acres of a four-generation family farm by keeping bees, growing fruit, vegetables and herbs without the use of pesticides, raising poultry, cultivating mushrooms, leading workshops, and preparing plant remedies. She is the Secretary of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association and manages a crew of incredible teens who run the local farmers market through a nonprofit program, Roots Rising. Connect with Kristen at Olsen Farm on Facebook, on Instagram @olsen_farm, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Wild Herb Hair Serum (with Video)


Photo by Angèle Kamp on Unsplash

Did you know your local park has the hidden potential of being a forge-able food forest? On a recent bike ride through the park, the herbal haul I raked in consisted of: rosemary, pine needle, and lantana flowers. Of course adhering to foraging rules in my city and only taking a handful of herbs I needed, I am able to create a holistic hair serum to last for months on end!

Learning how to infuse oils is actually much simpler than you might imagine. In fact, I’d say the most challenging step is patience while waiting for your fusion to be nice and potent! Here is an infused oil I know you will love; used to strengthen and grow your hair into a healthy, beautiful mane.

Rosemary. Rosemary is an herbal powerhouse for hair growth. The medicinal properties of the herb prevent hair follicles from being starved of blood flow, weakening, and leading to hair loss. In fact, rosemary improves circulation to the scalp therefore stimulating hair growth. This herb also acts as a cleanser due to its antibacterial properties and naturally cleanses the hair. Rosemary increases shine and relieves irritated, itchy scalps, and dandruff. 

Pine needle. Paired with rosemary, pine needle is the perfect partner to repair hair. This magical herb is jam packed with Vitamin E, known for increasing hair growth. Correspondingly to rosemary, pine needle, keeps the scalp clean and free from dandruff. Also known for reversing hair loss, pine needle can stimulate strong, thick, healthy hair when applied. 

Sunflower oil. Also packed with Vitamin E, sunflower oil, has major benefits for hair health. People use this oil for overall hair restoration, as a deep conditioning mask, or an approach to minimize frizz and maximize shine!

Alternative Oils

As previously mentioned, I used only one type of oil for this hair serum. However, there are numerous of other oils that nurture your hair back to health. That is why when you are creating your own herbal-infused oil, keep in mind, you can most definitely mix and experiment with what works best for you! Certain oils to include:

  • Argan oil
  • Almond oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Castor oil
  • Olive oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Grapeseed oil

Do not fret over measurements, all these oils contain qualities that help nourish your mane. When thrown together they only have positive benefits towards your scalp and hair. The one rule I will implement is that the oils your select are of the highest quality. Meaning, going organic and minimally processed is ensuring that you will get the oils natural levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

How to Make Herbal Hair Serum

Here is the step by step to creating your own holistic hair serum:

  • Select a jar, make sure it is sterilized and completely dry.
  • Add your herbs and fill your container to the top with the oil of your choosing.
  • Place the container in a dark, warm spot, maybe in your kitchen cabinet, and out of direct sunlight.
  • Make sure your jar is sealed air tight, let the mixture sit for 4-6 weeks. The longer you let the serum sit the stronger your infused oil will be. Patience is key here.
  • Shake the oil mixture to allow the contents to mix and release the herbal elements into the oil every few days.

In a few weeks’ time, you will have your own DIY hair serum! You can drain the oil of the herbs into another clean jar through a cheese cloth. I recommend applying it to your scalp and begin combing it through to your roots. Use 1 to 2 times per week, leaving overnight is the best way to nourish and pamper your hair.

Taylor Goggin is tropical gardener in Florida who gained her skills in cooperative agriculture while work-trading with a World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program on the Hawaiian Islands. She now grows papaya, banana, avocado, fig, tomatoes, and medicinal herbs to make into inventive plant-based recipes. Connect with Taylor on Instagram, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

What is Chinese Medicine? An interview with Dr. Leon Hammer


Dr. Leon Hammer is a world-renowned expert in Chinese Medicine who studied for almost three decades with the internationally recognized master John H.F. Shen; Dr. Hammer has taught and practiced widely for the past 50 years and authored eight seminal books and 40 articles. The curriculum of the accredited Dragon Rises College of Oriental Medicine in Gainesville, Fla., is based on his work. 

Dr. Hammer, how would you describe Chinese Medicine to those who don’t know much about it? 

It’s a medicine that is gentle, effective, and treats the individual as a whole within their life context. It’s been proven over a long period of time. It’s a complete internal medicine, one that has treated billions of people over thousands of years for every condition known to mankind. It has all of the tools for prevention, for treating the beginning of the disease process, up to treating complex chronic disease. And it is cost-effective.

How is your work the same as or different from what is called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

What is alluded to today as TCM is not the Classical Chinese Medicine that preceded it. TCM as it is taught and practiced today was invented by a group of traditional Chinese doctors in the 1950s under orders from Mao to create a medicine that is easy to teach, easy to learn and cheap. The practitioners of this new medicine were at first called 'barefoot doctors;' what they practiced was later named TCM.

I learned Chinese medicine as an apprentice to a truly traditional Classical Chinese doctor for many years. His training pre-dated Mao’s orders. 

You have not retired after a half century of work. What keeps you going?

First, it works. Second, it is a masterpiece of harmony, intricacy, and movement, which never ceases to fascinate and intrigue me.

How have people used Chinese medicine in the U.S. as compared with China?

Pain is about 95 percent of what is treated in the U.S., but only 5 percent of what’s treated in China. The rest falls into the category of "internal medicine". In China, Chinese medicine was about 95 percent herbal and about 5 percent acupuncture until Mao. Today, my contacts in China report that the recent and current treatment for the coronavirus is herbal.

Blue lotus, or purple water lily (Nymphaea nouchali). Photo by pixel2013 on Pixabay

Can you give an example of how Classical Chinese Medicine works?

Sure. R. was a 45-year-old college professor who was accompanied by his wife. His complaint was long-standing knee and low back pain that interfered with his ability to engage in his favorite exercise, tennis. He had been treated unsuccessfully by every relevant form of biomedicine and alternative medicine, including acupuncture. He denied any past physical trauma or emotional shock.

When I took his pulse I was most impressed by what is called his Left Distal (heart) Position — it was Flat and a little Slippery. Its rate was slow. He showed no signs of physical trauma [very Tight] or sudden heart shock [Rough Vibration] on the pulse and particularly the Proximal Positions [Kidneys] did not stand out in any way. His tongue was slightly pale; some contraction and redness at the tip. Other standard indicators observed with regard to eyes, face and hands, and bone structure, were unremarkable.

What does all this mean?

The Flat quality at the Left Distal Position indicated that the qi (and possibly blood) of the heart was stagnant. [Qi is the circulating life force. It’s also spelled chi and ch’i in English.]  The contraction and redness at the tip of the tongue supported this impression. Slipperiness is a sign of “Phlegm Misting the Orifices,” a common finding in this condition indicating diminished awareness.

Because the Proximal Positions (kidneys) were relatively sound and the lungs not Flat, the event that caused the "Heart Closed" condition did not occur at or before birth. 

However, the Flat quality indicates that at the time of insult to the heart, Mr. R.’s energy was low, usually a finding in growing children up to the age of 14 to 18, when all the qi is being used for maturation. 

I asked him about a possible emotional shock during childhood. His wife reminded him that his mother had died when he was five years old. At that age a child is unable to cope with such a trauma and the feelings of loss and abandonment get repressed, which appears as the Flat quality at the heart positions. Qi is then relatively unable to easily enter the heart. (At a later age when qi is stable, the quality would have been Inflated.)

How does this relate to his knee?

The stagnant heart qi diminishes the peripheral circulation necessary to heal his damaged knee. 

How did you treat it?

The treatment goal was primarily to open the heart and renew peripheral circulation of qi and blood and open the heart orifices (misted by phlegm), related to awareness and to supplement heart qi. Acupuncture and herbs for this purpose led to the complete relief of his complaint within three weeks.

So many variables to diagnose in the mind-body connection!

Yes. Here there was a relationship between an emotionally traumatic event that occurred when he was a child, his heart and circulation, and their relationship to the healing of trauma to his knee. In diagnosing, our fingers read the pulse and palpate acupuncture points, the abdomen and spine; with our eyes, we read the tongue, the eyes, the skin, posture and gait; with our ears we hear the voice and other sounds. Only by taking into account all of these variables is a solution possible.

With this kind of complexity to take into account when diagnosing — is Chinese Medicine considered “scientific"?

According to the Oxford Twentieth Century Dictionary, science is defined as "knowledge, most severely tested, coordinated and systematized, especially regarding those wide generalizations called the laws of nature."

Chinese Medicine is a pragmatic discipline that meets this definition in its original and most creative form. Accumulated knowledge tested and recorded over thousands of years, tested on billions of patients, fits the definition. Our Chinese medical predecessors kept what worked and disposed of what did not. Contemporary Chinese medicine is the residue of what worked. This knowledge has been coordinated, systematized, theorized into principles known as "the laws of nature".

What does Chinese medicine say about the “objectivity” of the observing practitioner?

Over a period of at least 3,000 years, it has perfected the art of observation, the superb refinement of our senses, blended with rigorous logic. It does not pretend that the practitioner is irrelevant. It recognizes that the medical practice is enriched with the intuitive gifts and varied experience and personality of the observer/practitioner.

How can you test and statistically verify something with so many variables?

Chinese medicine is not statistically verifiable in the Western sense. Western science, including biomedicine, eliminates variables and studies one vector or etiology at a time. The standard deviation eliminates everything that could have happened by chance, and in the West anything that could have happened by chance is not accepted as knowledge.

On the other hand, Chinese medicine functions on the relationship between etiologies and the organs and relationships between the organs themselves. 

Red lanterns. Photo by Silentpilot on Pixabay

I’m seeing here the scientific world view as one that isolates the object of study into separate parts, compared with the more ancient, holistic world view which focuses on inter-relationships among subsystems. What are the implications of this?

The founder of standard deviation and statistical significance spoke to my medical school class in 1949. He told us that his introduction of these concepts caused the loss of more knowledge  than any gains in knowledge from its use. Why? Because information that could have happened by chance was excluded. He expressed deep regret about his life’s work. He said he wished he could undo what has now become the foundation of biomedical science.

Chinese medicine has not eliminated knowledge from chance occurrences. It eliminated only knowledge that did not over time prove clinically useful.

Can you give another example of Chinese medicine working from the paradigm of living relationship rather than dissection of parts?

 While they were aware of anatomy in the Western sense, and performed surgery, all Oriental medicine was more concerned with what makes these anatomical structures, organs, muscles etc. alive than with describing them in detail.

They studied `life’ and called the essential ingredient of life qi. They observed that movement was intrinsic to life ( something that impressed me first during my internship when I had the misfortune of pronouncing hundreds of people dead.) 

Everything in the universe that moves is subject to the same force, qi. Qi is what makes a body alive. The Chinese and other Oriental medical systems focus their attention on how qi is organized in people, animals and the universe, beginning with the concepts of yin/yang, and going much further. 

Might quantum physics be able to describe what Qi is?

Recently the Nobel Prize was won by three astrophysicists for discovering that only five percent of the universe is what we would call reality--that is, what we can see, smell and touch. Everything that has substance and that we call 'reality.' I repeat, only five percent [4 percent per the Kavli Foundation.]

Twenty-five percent of the Universe is what is now called Dark Matter--that apparently is measurable. Seventy percent is what is now called Dark Energy--that is apparently not  measurable.

From the beginning the Chinese scholars and physicians have postulated that the force that creates and maintains life is the same force that moves the planets and stars, the universe. They call it qi and it has never been measured by a machine.

In my opinion, qi is what these astrophysicists are calling the Dark Energy of the Universe in all Life on earth. Qi is this Dark Energy in all living entities--microbes,mushrooms, plants, animals, humans. Its proper flow and functioning is what we call health.

Last thoughts on what Chinese medicine is for you?

Chinese medicine has been for me the fulfillment of a search for a congenial system of healing that embodies the inseparability of body and mind, spirit and matter, nature and humans, philosophy and reality. It is a personal, subtle, gentle, yet highly technical medical system, which allows me to be close to the essence--the life force--in myself and others.  It surrounds me like nature, or a great work of art. I am consumed and renewed at the same time.

Dr. Hammer, thank you very much for your time and teaching. 

Note from the Author and Interviewer

Further information on Dr. Hammer’s work is at The Contemporary Oriental Medical Foundation.

Leon Hammer, M.D., is a graduate of Cornell University, Cornell Medical College, and the William A. White Institute of Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry. In the early 1970’s, Dr. Hammer began a study of Chinese Medicine in England and traveled to study in China in 1981. He studied with the internationally acknowledged Chinese master Dr. J.F. Shen over a period of 27 years. After retiring from his practice of Chinese medicine, Dr. Hammer has devoted his time to writing and teaching.

Dr. Hammer was first published on the subject of Chinese medicine in the American Journal of Acupuncture in 1980. His book, Dragon Rises Red Bird Flies, has become a classic in the field; his second book, Chinese Pulse Diagnosis: a Contemporary Approach has been described as a seminal work. His third book, The Patient-Practitioner Relationship in Acupuncture, unpacks the “sacred space of the client-practitioner interaction.”

He has lectured and taught throughout Europe, Australia, Japan as well as the United States. In 1984, he served as a member of the Commission for Evaluation of Acupuncture Schools, and in 1995, he was appointed a member of the National Blue Ribbon Committee for Initiation of the Herbal Examination. From 1991 to 1998, he served as a member on the New York State Board of Acupuncture.

In 2001, Dr. Hammer received an award as “Educator of the Year” for participation and contribution to excellence in education from the American Association of Oriental Medicine. In 2002, he received an award from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Foundation for “Building Bridges of Integration” between Oriental medicine and Western Medicine.

Dr. Hammer helped found Dragon Rises College of Oriental Medicine in 2001, and he continues to function as Chairman of the Board and professor emeritus.

Pamela Sherman gardens with her husband at 8,300 feet on part of an old pioneer farm on the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. She can be reached at Read all of Pam's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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19 Essential Oils for Beginners

Is Aromatherapy Herbalism?

No and yes. No, because they are very different disciplines using botanical materials in different ways. Yes, because aromatherapy is used by many herbalists to complement an herbal treatment, or in many cases, to complete it. Both disciplines use plants for healing body, mind, and soul. Herbalists treat a person holistically considering all aspects of their dis-ease. In using both herbal remedies (infusions, decoctions, tinctures, etc.) and essential oils (water insoluble components of the plant), an herbalist creates a broader holistic approach to treating illness.

19 Essential Oils For Beginners


Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for healing. Essential oils are volatile substances extracted from plants typically by a distillation process. These properties are not released in any significant amount in typical herbal preparations. Essential oils are comprised of numerous chemical constituents, with each chemical having a particular signature and mode of action. The majority of the constituents in essential oils are produced by the plants either for their own protection, to attract pollinators, or to heal wounds. Their modes of action and therapeutic properties are also effective on humans, and we can use essential oils to affect our physical and emotional health in various ways.

There are over 100,000 aromas found in nature, but as humans we can recognize only about 300 of these. It is through receptors in our sinuses (the olfactory bulb) that lead to the limbic system of the brain that corresponds to our emotions and feelings. When we inhale aroma molecules, we have a direct path to our emotions and memories. That is why when you smell certain aromas, such as a cake baking in the oven or a soup pot on the stove it can bring you back to a different place and time. You have effectively experienced aromatherapy! This is a very simple example for a very complex healing art, but you get the point I’m sure.

Essential oils are most commonly administered aromatically via inhalation and topically via absorption through the skin. Rarely are essential oils taken internally, and never without the supervision of a professional health care provider with extensive knowledge in the practice of aromatherapy and its effects on the body. Safe use of essential oils is paramount! Learn more about safety guidelines for aromatic, internal, and topical use as well as dilution recommendations in the article Essential Oil Safety.

Many essential oils are antiviral and antibacterial and can be used in diffusers to help fight cold and flu infections as well as relieve congestion. Essential oils with nervine properties can be used to calm anxiety, release tension, soothe headaches, and alleviate sleeplessness. The stimulating effect of some essential oils can be used to energize the mind and body, improve mental focus and memory, and relieve mental fatigue.

Remember that our skin is our largest organ and is not to be ignored. However, essential oils are very potent and are usually mixed with carrier oils before using them on the skin. When essential oils are used in skin products, they can promote cell growth, improve circulation, and help rid the body of toxins. Essential oils can also be helpful for alleviating pain, swelling, and itching from bruises, bug bites, stings, and burns.

Aromatherapy in Herbalism

Herbalists use botanical material (flowers, leaves, bark, seeds, roots) to make remedies that can be taken internally. Many herbs are actually food and can be eaten or drunk on a daily basis. Aromatherapists use the essential oils of the plant, and for the most part they are used externally or topically, although internal use is sometimes recommended under their experienced supervision.

An herbalist may complement an herbal treatment with an essential oil to help stimulate feelings or emotions that may indeed support the healing process. They may also include essential oils as part of their prescription to help build immunity or to reduce stress and encourage relaxation. Essential oils can be used for these purposes in salves, lotions, ointments, and other skin preparations; in steam inhalations and simply diffused into the air; and in dental hygiene products and throat sprays. A thoughtfully made herbal preparation with essential oils has therapeutic value not just from the essential oil itself, but also the other ingredients with which the essential oil is combined. This, along with the careful, holistic consideration of the dis-ease profile, makes for a powerful holistic remedy.

19 Essential Oils For Beginner Herbalists

19 Essential Oils For Beginners

Here are some essential oils that one may want to have in their home kit. For suggestions for a starter kit with four essential oils, see this Basic Essential Oils for Daily Living article.

Essential Oil


Therapeutic Properties


Light and citrusy

May help nervous tension

Chamomile (Roman)

Fruity, woody

May help relieve stress, tension and anxiety, improves digestion, reduces pain, heals skin


Lemon - citrus

Insect repellant, may help with fevers and digestion

Clary Sage

Sweet and spicy

Calming, may help with muscle fatigue, improve sleep, uplifting, tension tamer and aphrodisiac


Light and woodsy

Works to reduce cellulite, calming and uplifting



Helps relieve pain, improves mental clarity and reduces congestion


Warm, exotic, sweet and spicy

Calming, may help with aging skin


Floral, spicy

Promotes emotional balance, helps reduce cellulite, relieves stress and tension


Strong spicy scent

Stimulating, improves mental clarity, relieves pain and nausea



Improves mental clarity and memory


Sweet, heavy floral smell

Helps with depression, may help improve skin elasticity, reduces stretch marks, aphrodisiac


Fresh, Fruity, woody

Helps with mental exhaustion, obesity, water retention



Reduces cellulite deposits, helps reduce pain and inflammation, promotes relaxation and restful sleep



Uplifting, improves mental clarity


Heavy, floral

Calming and uplifting

Rose (otto)

Floral, damp, invigorating

Helps relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety


Menthol, earthy

Helps reduce cellulite, relieves mental fatigue, relaxes tight muscles


Earthy, spicy, floral, woody

Calming, aphrodisiac, reduces stress

Tea Tree


Antibiotic, anti-fungal, antiviral

Herbalists are life-long learners and a well-informed herbalist will want to embrace the use of aromatherapy in their art and practice, but not without educating themselves first. It is important to remember that essential oils are not the same as their whole plant counterpart, and may have very different properties, so developing a thorough understanding of them is essential to using them safely and effectively. Through education we can better inform ourselves to take care of ourselves and those that we love. Aromatherapy and herbalism are serious studies that require dedication and commitment.

Learn more about essential oils in Using Essential Oils blog series.

Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy of New England, the home of the Online Introductory Herbal Course, Online Intermediate Herbal Course, and meeting place for Boston area herbalists. Photos provided and copyrighted by Herbal Academy of New England.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Chinese Medicine Practitioner Reflects on Covid-19


Permaculture teacher Marco Lam has inspired design students for 20 years. Based in Daoism, he has practiced Chinese acupuncture and herbalism for as long. In Daoist medicine, human healing can only take place in respectful connection with a healthy natural world. Permaculture strategies can help restore the health of the land and in so doing, the health of the human. From this perspective, Marco reflects on the current covid-19 pandemic. 

For starters, what are you doing right now that the clinic is closed? 

An inspired permaculturist asked me and my family to move to and practice permaculture at a 700 acre farm outside of Steamboat at 7,000 ft. (in the Colorado Rockies.) It's an incredibly wonderful high alpine environment . There’s a lot we can do. I’d like to do regenerative grazing to help build soil health. But first-- there’s a permaculture principle which says: do long, protracted observation; observe your land for a year before designing.  Listen, ask questions, be curious. 

Will you grow Chinese medicine herbs?

Likely. There’s a medicine in working with the fresh herbs--from planting to growing to harvesting to processing. And you can do so much more with bulk herbs than with a processed product.  Many in the Chinese medicine field have never seen the living plants that they prescribe on a daily basis.  It changes how you practice medicine once you are more in relationship with the plant medicine itself.

But I subscribe to Lean Farming: let the community pull you into what they want rather than doing what you want and marketing aggressively. I’ll still go back to Boulder to see patients once social distancing is lifted. I plan to bring herbs that I grow back to my patients to support their health at a deep level.  In the Yampa Valley,  the economy is tourist-based and second-home-based, so right now it’s suffering. We are working with the Community Agricultural Alliance to bring food directly from local producers to the community.

Can you say more about protracted observation?

This coincides with what I see going on in the culture right now, with us mostly home-bound. I call it the Time of the Great Pause. Now we can take the time to ask questions that we didn’t ask before as a society or local community. This is our time of protracted observation, listening, asking open-minded questions. Rather than calling it The Great Uncertainty, take a moment and really observe what is happening 

Can you say more about calling this time the 'Great Pause' rather than a time of uncertainty?

There ARE things we are certain of. We are certain about what creates more regenerative habitats. We are certain about what brings people together, what brings health. We know that relationships between and among people and between people and the land are crucial for health. We can creatively use and respond to change. Permaculture teaches us to design for change, for the regenerative future we want to live in.  Another Permaculture principle is: the problem is the solution. This is an opportunity to design something better--our food system, our healthcare on a personal, familial, community, watershed, regional, national level. 

Looking to the “top pulpit” is not where it’s at, no matter who’s in charge there. Our future will be solved in community--of people, of mycelia, of watersheds.

For example, right now, Telluride is using this time to ask the big questions about the food system and healthcare and sustainable economics and living in community, such as what scale produces the healthiest food?

A Permaculture principle is Slow the Flow — of water on the land, of dollars out of the local community. Every dollar I spend in the community creates a multiple of about $16 of wealth when I buy from a locally-sourced and owned business.  Each of those dollars gets re-spent in the community multiple times. When we purchase from, say Amazon, the money leaves our community to rarely ever come back.  We can think of this as financial erosion, just as if water is flowing too fast through a landscape. Our job as designers is to slow the flow of useful resources.

Another example: using and reusing water multiple times from off your roof.  If the water off your roof can be used to wash dishes in your sink and then go out to water your fruit trees, that same gallon of water that would have gone to waste is used twice rather than just going into the stormwater drainage. This is a more elegant design.The system used in most cities creates work and waste. Most inelegant designs do that.  Many people have more time now to think about these things.

Another example from the national/international food system — it relies on a lot of cheap labor. The workers are subjected to poor sanitation — they get no breaks, nowhere to wash their hands, live in crowded, dense barracks. They are considered legally “essential” but are not treated as such and some are getting sick. When we talk about sanitation and the health of food, it suddenly makes much more sense to grow it much closer to home.

I made a 4-by-8-foot cold frame out of scrap wood and one piece of lexan plastic; the amount of greens I can grow in that bed is amazing.I can cut a salad out of the cold frame almost every day starting in March and add a level of nutrition that you can’t buy in a store. In the high Rocky Mountains, our growing season for greens with this simple shelter can be extended from March through December. Growing your own food is part of the redesign of society and nurturing to your very being.

And understanding health and wealth holistically — mind, emotions, body, spirit. For instance when you’re working with plants and seeds--running your hands through a bucket of seed you just threshed — the feel of it, the connection to the food, the land...that’s a kind of wealth that is deeply remembered.

Speaking of plants and health, what does Chinese herbal medicine have to say about Covid-19?

In China,  the primary treatment of choice for Covid-19 is herbal medicine. An article in National Geographic says 85 percent of COVID-19 patients receive some form of herbal treatment, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology. In China, the State picks up the tab for healthcare, so they are looking at what’s most economical and Chinese traditional medicine is less expensive than Western medicine. But also traditional Chinese herbal medicine happens to have been around and evolved over thousands of years. It has treated many pandemics and has a repertoire of what has worked to strengthen the immune system in different situations. It’s also about less heroic measures — building immunity with herbs, healthy food, lifestyle choices, etc., rather than trying to save people at the last minute.

There are cases of moderately unhealthy  people with covid-19 who were treated with herbs and got better rapidly. First responders in China were given a certain protective herbal formula (Yu Ping Feng San). Tens of thousands of patients got better with traditional herbal medicine. There is a lot of data in China on this. Please see Published research papers related to the treatment of COVID-19 using traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) on my website.

In China, each regional hospital sent out its own traditional medicinal protocols. This makes sense — the way your symptoms show up will vary per the strength of the patient’s immunity, local climate conditions, altitude, diet, and other aspects of lifestyle and environment. Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the human terrain rather than the symptoms, just as a regenerative farmer treats the soil rather than the plant.

What’s the terrain with covid-19? 

Dampness. It’s called a “damp disease,” marked by a disturbed microbiome that tends to sugars and simple carbohydrates. This gives us an early understanding about which populations will be impacted the worst, dietary precautions to take, and herbs to help repair the damage and boost immunity.

How does this translate into protecting your immunity here in the U.S.?

There’s a lot you can do herbally here--but there are no exact protocols yet. Elderberry is most useful when taken as a preventive. It’s not for taking when you’re already sick. There’s a lot of data from the EU on this. The Chinese formula the first responders have used, Yu Ping Feng San, along with elderberry and vitamin C, is a great combination for immunity.

Spring is a time of change, a crucial time for health. Dandelion is an important medicine at this time. Pick 5 to 6 pinky finger-sized roots from your backyard — not sprayed, not where people have walked. It has to be from a clean yard, a semi-wild yard.

If you pick it before it flowers, dandelion clears out dampness (covid-19 is a damp disease). It’s much less bitter, if at all, before flowering.If you pick it after it flowers, dandelion also clears out excessive heat in the body — that is, negative bacterial influences It’s more bitter after flowering.

Simmer these roots for ½ hour in a quart of water. Add a squirt of lemon and a drip of honey. Take 1 cup twice daily for 1 week. This is deep mineral nourishment.

If you can add the aerial parts of lemon balm--great. That’s anti-viral and helps calm the nervous system. Also the aerial parts of stinging nettles and cleavers are great.

There’s so much medicine all around you--you are surrounded by it. When you realize this, it changes your relationship to the land, and in that way changes who you are. You start “coming home” to the land. This is medicine. Covid-19 is a wake-up call for our time, an opportunity to heal.

Marco Lam is a permaculture teacher and Chinese traditional acupuncturist and herbalist. He can be reached at

Pamela Sherman studied permaculture design with Marco Lam in 2008. She grows food with her family on an old pioneer farm high in the Rockies and writes about regenerative food growing. She can be reached at

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Bee Propolis: Make Use of Medicinal, Misunderstood ‘Bee Glue’

Pink Bee Propolis Crystals


Honeybees collect nectar and pollen from plants as sources of food. They also collect water to drink and an incredible substance called propolis. Propolis is made from a resin-like material honeybees gather from poplar tree buds, as well as buds from conifer trees. In our area of Western Massachusetts we have many poplar trees, in other parts of the country and the world honeybees collect resin to create propolis from other types of trees. Bees then create a mixture of this resin, pollen, wax, and natural enzymes to make propolis.


Inside the hive, honeybees use propolis to fill cracks, smooth out rough surfaces, and coat hive entrances. A few years ago, we observed hives in our apiary with more propolis were stronger, more populated, and had better overwinter survival rates through the long and variable winters in Massachusetts. These observations led to research about this natural substance bees seemed to be using as medicine: Could it have benefits for humans too?


How Do Bees Use Propolis?


Research led to Dr. Marla Spivak, who has collected extensive data on propolis and its importance to both honeybees and humans. Dr. Spivak notes honeybee colonies continue to collect and coat hives with propolis, regardless of beekeepers’ attempts to remove the sticky substance. She suggests this behavior means honeybees need propolis for some reason, and wonders if bees use propolis as medicine.


In her article “The Benefits of Propolis,” Dr. Spivak states: We know that propolis has remarkable medicinal properties for humans. It is highly antimicrobial, meaning that it is antibacterial, ant- fungal and even antiviral. So does it have medicinal benefit to the bees


 Our observations, and Dr. Spivak’s research, pointed to a big “yes”.


It is important for hive health to leave most propolis where the bees put it — they work hard to create a balance inside the hive for the maximum benefit of the colony. We would be doing them a disservice to undo all their hard work. There are times where bees will use propolis to seal boxes and frames together, lovingly called “bee glue” by many beekeepers. These sticky bits can be carefully scraped from hive boxes and processed in a few ways:

Make a ‘Bee Glue Varnish’ for Hive Boxes


Bee Glue Propolis On Hive


Propolis that must be scraped from hive boxes can be dissolved in 190-proof grain alcohol and painted back on the inside of wooden boxes. Because propolis is such a thick and sticky substance, it takes weeks to fully dissolve. The alcohol evaporates off the wood, leaving a coat of propolis “varnish”.


Propolis has been used for generations in varnish for fine instruments, including violins. This propolis paint is a way for us to give the bees back the propolis they had so carefully collected, while also allowing us to continue managing our hives without having the boxes completely glued together.


Medicinal Bee Propolis Tincture

Make Homemade Bee Propolis Tincture


For human consumption, propolis can be made into a tincture using 190-proof grain alcohol, that is filtered after sitting for 4 to 6 weeks. This tincture can be taken in water or, for those with strong disposition, dropped directly on the tongue.


We use propolis tincture to treat sore throats, toothaches, colds and flu symptoms. Tincture can be used as a natural bandaid when applied directly to cuts and scrapes but the grain alcohol does burn! To solve this problem, I recently made a propolis salve using our beeswax, organic olive oil, and propolis tincture we had prepared. The salve can be applied to scrapes and cuts without worry about the alcohol burn.


Two summers ago, I became seriously ill with Lyme disease. My immune system was destroyed after six months untreated for the virus and three months of strong antibiotics. Along with lots of rest, plenty of water and healthy food, I took propolis tincture daily and believe I owe my full recovery to this magical medicine from the bees.

Kristen Tool is co-owner of Olsen Farm in Lanesborough, Mass., where she works with her husband to revive 28 acres of a four-generation family farm by keeping bees, growing fruit, vegetables and herbs without the use of pesticides, raising poultry, cultivating mushrooms, leading workshops, and preparing plant remedies. She is the Secretary of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association and manages a crew of incredible teens who run the local farmers market through a nonprofit program, Roots Rising. Connect with Kristen at Olsen Farm on Facebook, on Instagram @olsen_farm, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

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