Showing posts from 2016

Herbal Miscellany in Europe

In September I took a European tour; visiting Portugal, Spain and Morocco. Among other things, I was extremely interested in visiting essential oil distilleries and perfumeries or things related. Fortunately for me I had some opportunities in Spain and Morocco.

In Barcelona I visited the Museu Del Perfume, a tiny museum dedicated to perfume. Located in the Perfumeria Regia shop on Passeig de Gracia (it was very difficult to find. I got lost several times!) is a small room that showcases perfume bottles from ancient Greek times to present. Most descriptions were in French, which I don't speak, however it was interesting to view the bottles.

In Morocco my friends and I received our own private herbal session from Abdul at the Herboristerie Bab Agnou, an apothecary in Marrakech.

Abdul presented several herbal combinations for skin conditions used in the Berber culture, some of which have been used for centuries.

As we were trekking through the Atlas Mountains, we came across a woman…

Mushroom Madness

I recently camped in the Northern Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin. It has been a drier-than-average summer, however it rained cats and dogs for about 2 days.

And of course after a good rain, you get a nice flush of mushrooms! I saw several different species ranging from coral mushrooms to turkey tails to Indian pipes (which is actually a parasitic organism of fungus).

As I hiked down trails in the damp woods I was surprised by the explosion of mycelial growth. There were mushrooms everywhere! Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Mushrooms are amazing organisms. In fact, fine networks of mycelium grow on the ground waiting for the right conditions to fruit and become what we know as mushrooms. These mycelium help digest and recycle large organic material, producing accessible nutrients for other organisms. Mushrooms have even been used as a remediation organism to clean up heavy metal and chemical toxicity in soil, truly acting as Nature's recyclers and detoxifiers.

For more fascin…

Healthy Skin Using the Oil Cleansing Method

Many of us have grown up using harsh cleansers and exfoliating products; all in the hopes of attaining clear and healthy skin. Personally I grew up having acne-prone skin and have combated breakouts most of my life. Speaking from experience I know that it can be devastating and have detrimental effects on one’s self-image.

As I became more aware of what I was applying to my skin, I ditched the Noxzema and blemish remedies that contained benzoyl peroxide. These items were not only perpetuating my breakouts, but also drying out my skin. I came to realize that body care products and cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA therefore companies can add whatever cheap chemicals and heavy metals that they wish to make certain items more appealing to the consumer. For example, formaldehyde (embalming fluid) is added to body care items as a preservative, especially if the item is water based. However, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing). Why would anyone want that on their skin?! …

Sanguinaria canadensis

In the Great Lakes area, spring is always a very exciting time of the year. Our winters are long, and spotting blossoms amongst the brown and dead foliage of the previous season is always a delight!

One of my favorite native spring ephemerals is bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). It usually makes an appearance towards mid-April through May, depending on weather conditions. The flower immerges first while the leaf remains curled around the stem. As the flower fades, the leaf starts to unfurl and appears palm-like. Once it is finished flowering, the oblong-shaped seed pod remains.

The name bloodroot originates from the root which contains a red liquid. This red "juice" contains the alkaloid sanguinarine, among other constituents, and is toxic if taken internally. However if applied externally, sanguinarine has been successful in abating viral conditions of the skin such as warts, skin tags and even certain types of skin cancers (however not medically documented).

There are many…


Enfleurage is a method that has been used for centuries to draw out the scent of a flower and fix it to fat which is especially useful for delicate flowers that can’t be distilled.

I am always looking for ways to extract and utilize scents from flowers; naturally. I want the exact scent that the flower releases. Especially now while I have fresh, tropical flowers like plumeria and jasmine right outside of my room. While reading, I came across a method called enfleurage which has been used for thousands of years by many cultures.

This ancient method is rarely done except in France in the Grasse region. Due to the expense of production, the end product is hard to find in the aromatherapy market.
Currently I am trying my luck with making an enfleurage. I started with plumeria flowers and learned quick; I made a mistake on the first try. Instead of adding my blossoms to a solid fat such as shea butter or mango butter, I added them to a few ounces of jojoba oil. The oil smelled nice for a sh…

West Indies Herbalist

Last weekend I attended the Rastafari Agricultural & Cultural Vegan Food Fair in Estate Bordeaux, St. Thomas. It was a great authentic, local island experience. Local farmers, artisans, musicians and delicious vegan food were featured.

The highlight for me was a presentation given by Ras Bobby, a local herbalist of the West Indies.
He was both brilliant and captivating. He spoke of several different herbs, real nutrition and, of course, some pointers on how to stay healthy.

Almost everything he presented really resonated with me. Basically herbs have been available to us for thousands of years. We have evolved with them, they are our nutrition and medicine.
Herbs are so complex and help us in several ways. Ras Bobby reminded me of the importance of consuming a diet rich in herbs and vegetables to truly stay healthy.

Ras Bobby is a very knowledgeable herbalist and works for the people. The people of St. Thomas are lucky to have such an experienced healer at their fingertips.