Pine Needle Cough Syrup

Pine Needle Cough Syrup

Making pine needle cough syrup is super easy and essentially no more work than making a very strong pine tea and then 'holding' it with good quality, preferably raw, local honey. Pine is an expectorant for thinning and moving mucous in the lungs. It's warming, somewhat drying, and has a sweet and sour flavor blend that can only be described as piney.

Herbs for Toddlers and Young Children

Herbs for Toddlers and Young Children

If illness is the great teacher, it certainly doesn’t spare the littles. But as parents, we have such a diverse arsenal of herbal medicines available to us that using them one way that we can best show our babes to appreciate the natural world. Let's walk through some basic information about safely and effectively incorporating herbs into our everyday routines with our kids, using herbs for immune system regulation, digestive health, the nervous system, and skin health. 
Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis Herbal Remedy Poke Root to the Rescue

Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis: Poke Root to the Rescue

Issues like mastitis and clogged or plugged milk ducts can pop up when least expected - and least wanted - especially during times of stress and depressed immunity. Poke root oil or poke root salve is a wonderful herbal remedy for nursing mamas who are looking for a safe, traditional, effective treatment that really kicks the healing up a notch.
How to Get the Most Medicine Out of Your Reishi Mushrooms

How to Get the Most Medicine Out of Your Reishi Mushrooms

I could write a book about the long-lauded benefits of reishi mushrooms, the king of the medicinal forest, the crowning glory of medicinal mushrooms, the mushroom of immortality, the fungus of long and vibrant life, as it is known in much of Chinese medicine. But this blog post is not that.

(If you're curious about the medicinal benefits of mushrooms, you can scratch the surface with a quick internet search, or check out a couple resources here, here, and here.)

So, you may already be well aware of just how fabulous reishi is, but you may not know exactly how to incorporate this fungal friend into your everyday life with ease and grace and efficacy. That is what this blog post is. Here are 5 methods of using reishi that do just that.

March 09, 2018 — Red Moon Herbs
Herbal Tea Hot Toddy Recipe

Herbal Elixir Hot Toddies

A new herbal twist on the traditional hot toddy gives this winter drink an immune boosting power and a tasty finish.
January 13, 2018 — Red Moon Herbs
Ginseng’s Best Kept Secret: Missing the Leaf for the Root

Ginseng’s Best Kept Secret: Missing the Leaf for the Root

November marks the tail end of ‘sang season, but relics of the harvest time remain: small town signs scrawled with ‘Will Buy Ginseng – No License Needed’ and reports of poachings on private land or national park felonies over the last two months. Ginseng hunters and buyers have been everywhere this autumn. But where is the ginseng?

 

Statistically speaking, approximately 95% of it is getting shipped to Hong Kong and Singapore, a region which has now exhausted their resources of the root and relies almost exclusively on the Appalachian mountains to supply their steady demand. In 2012, the U.S. exported 45,000 pounds of wild ginseng and 342,000 pounds of the cultivated woodland crop. But what many consumers and cultivators alike don’t know is that ginseng has a secret, and it’s hiding in plain sight.

 

The Down and Dirty on Ginseng in North Carolina

 

We’ve all seen the hokey reality tv episodes where life depends not on modern commerce as we know it but on rebel flags, bear hunting, and huge sackfuls of ‘sang harvest. But what is the deal with ginseng in North Carolina, really? Is there a way to harvest it legally without risk of jail-time? Is that even sustainable? How is poaching different from stealing? Let’s get rooted – no pun intended – in the regulations here and take a look at the rules of the game of Appalachian ginseng.

 

As one of six states that permits a very limited amount of ginseng to be wild harvested from its national forests, North Carolina has struggled to get that number of permits just right. This system has scaled back considerably in the last two years to make room for the growing threat of poachers and thieves. Offering only 136 permits per year (a 75% reduction), the state agency is attempting to limit the destruction of ginseng as much as possible. But Forest Service botanist Gary Kauffman has noted that despite having the lottery restricting the ginseng harvest for the last couple of years, it’s not certain whether the ginseng plants are bouncing back with any vigor.[1]

 

If you’re fortunate enough to win the lottery, the ginseng ‘lottery’, that is, in which you enter your information at the Nantahala or Pisgah U.S. Forest Service district office and get (or don’t) randomly granted a permit to dig, you may harvest between September 1 and 15th. There is some semblance of accountability for future generations; NC state law requires that you sow the seeds from the ginseng you are harvesting within 100 feet of the plant.

 

Considered ‘green’ when it is freshly dug, ginseng roots must by fully dry before selling to most dealers. The drying process takes about a month when done naturally. The dried root sells for between $500-$2000 per pound to hungry and steady Asian markets. Before exporting it off to any international buyers, dealer permits must be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

But this isn’t ginseng unlimited: you may dig only 1-3 pounds fresh with this type of permit, and any harvesting outside these bounds is considered poaching and likely to garner you a $5,000 fine, 6 months in federal prison, or both.

 

Stealing, on the other hand, is even more sinister than poaching. Ginseng thieves seem to grow in numbers as quickly as viewers of shows like Appalachian Outlaws boom. An $8,000 patch of personal ginseng cultivated by a retired physician recently disappeared outside of Asheville – and all because of a hole in a barbed wire fence. Diggers attempting to harvest on private land must have written permission from the land owner on their person, or risk a felony charge.

 

In the Smokey Mountain National Park, the ginseng situation has gotten so serious that the park rangers have now micro-chipped and dyed over 13,000 ginseng roots, many of which were recovered from thieves, moved back to the park land, and replanted. The dye enables the law-abiding dealer to examine the root and tell immediately whether or not it is stolen property.

 

This plant is one of the few valiantly protected at both the state and the federal level. With a volatile market combined with the unpredictability of mother nature, the collapse of this multi-million dollar ginseng industry never seems too far outside the realm of possibility. People reach for ginseng because of its acclaimed longevity powers and tonic health benefits…but even if we’re all ginseng-high and living for 120 years, don’t we still want our children to be able to experience the wonders of the root as well?

 

To Harvest Is to Kill…Or Is It?

 

Harvesting the root kills the ginseng plant. What many people don’t realize is that these standard practices of killing ginseng during harvest weren’t always like this. Earlier in the game, before ginseng cultivation was getting started and most of the harvest was wild-crafted, ginseng could be harvested and grow back.

 

The ginseng root must have three ‘prongs’ or four buds when harvested, meaning that it’s at least five years old and typically around seven or eight. In the old days, the root, shaped like a little man with a taproot torso and two scrawny legs, was dug up and the harvester typically broke off one leg (the shorter of the two) and replanted it. Almost all the ginseng that was sold in those days was just so, the main larger root with one ‘leg’, not two. One day, that all changed. Dealers decided they would only accept the whole root in its pure, unadulterated form. This was when ginseng harvests took a turn; from then on, to harvest would mean to kill.

 

“I grow ginseng as a perennial. I harvest the roots but I don’t kill the plants. When it gets to be 8-10 years old, it frequently starts making new roots around the neck.” Joe Hollis, a god amongst herb cultivators who specializes in Chinese herbs, recommends harvesting the existing roots and leaving the new rootlets in the ground, which would then produce a new root in the next couple years. Unfortunately, because of regulations as they stand, you can’t sell ginseng root without the neck. But for value-added products (and perhaps eventually a new wave of more sustainable regulations), the perennially cultivated ginseng is a largely untapped market.

 

We export between 94% and 97% of our organically wild-harvested ginseng to the Eastern markets, while we simultaneously import their highly sprayed, chemical-laden Asian ginseng to be used in our adaptogen formulas and Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics. Buyers pay nearly 90% more for the wild-harvested root as opposed to the cultivated, and it is thought to be about twice as effective as the cultivated. But no amount of effectiveness is worthwhile if we’re eliminating the ginseng from the woods.

 

As Below So Above: A Vote for the Leaf

 

The Wise Woman tradition values whole plant extracts in which all the synergistic constituents of a plant are included. This way of making medicine is holistic, inclusive, and broad. It is the direct opposite of pharmaceuticals, which isolate one chemical compound and extract, manipulate, and concentrate it.

 

With our feet firmly grounded in the fertile soil of the Wise Woman tradition, we want to make a case for the leaf of ginseng as an undervalued aspect of the whole plant’s medicine. Worshipping at the feet of the root of this ‘king (or queen) of the forest’ and ignoring the rest of the plant has done us no good. That said, what if there were more to ginseng than just its root? It turns out that there is.

 

According to clinical research done by a group of scientists on the bioactive compounds and pharmacology of ginseng leaf and stem, “Extracts from ginseng root and leaf-stem have similar multifaceted pharmacological activities.”[2] This covers all of the properties we know and love about ginseng - its anti-fatigue, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-obesity, anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-aging properties. They are all present and accounted for in the ginseng leaf. What’s considered the active ingredient in ginseng, the magic bullet, the ginsenosides, are fully present and active in the leaf. All those delightful polysaccharides, antioxidants, flavonoids, volatile oils, peptides, and amino and fatty acids that we love about the root? You better believe they’re active in the leaf, too.

 

Studies have shown that ginseng leaf extract improves learning and memory capabilities, preserves the cardiac and vascular systems, and exhibits anti-diabetes effects…just like the root. In one particular study, the leaf was shown to have significant hypoglycemic effects and prove extremely beneficial in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.[3]

 

It’s in terms of costs and sourcing, though, that ginseng leaf and stem presents the greatest advantages to the exclusive use of ginseng root. Henriette Kress, a wonderful and vastly knowledgeable herbalist in Finland, tells it like it is: “The leaf of American ginseng is as good as the root. It's also much cheaper, but next to nobody sells it because next to nobody knows about it.”[4] She explains that the tradition of using only the roots of ginseng is a relic of the storage limitations of the old-fashioned herb trade. Dried root kept in burlap bags would last in barns for years, whereas the leaf would not. Now that we’ve moved beyond the limitations of that era, isn’t it time to move onto a new era of ginseng leaf as truly sustainable medicine that grows back year after year?

 

Another answer to the maze of questions that is ginseng sustainability was introduced by Joe Hollis, who brought gynostemma or ‘southern ginseng’ into the US and touts this weedy plant as a similarly five-leafed curiosity comparable to ginseng. Gynostemma, which chemically contains the same active compounds as ginseng, is, “The most valuable plant you can grow for your own health,” according to Hollis.[5] The entire plant is used medicinally, but particularly the aerial part.

 

If Sustainable Medicine Is Our Goal, Why Are We Devastating Our Ginseng Root?

 

It’s not uncommon that we here at Red Moon Herbs get a request for ginseng. We are, after all, an herb supplier, so why shouldn’t we carry this most sought after herb? On the large scale, we hope to soon nationally pioneer a tincture of the leaf and stem, an effective, well-studied, underdog adaptogen of the herbal world that is truly sustainable. Locally, we will begin be offering a limited edition ginseng leaf and local honey elixir at the Ginseng Expo coming to UNCA this December. We are choosing to take a stance on behalf of the plant – the whole plant, leaf included. We are choosing to stand up for the complexities of ginseng as a living, growing botanical, as well as a valuable medicine that deserves to remain a growing part of our Appalachian heritage.

 

Want to learn more? Come speak ‘sang this December at the International American Ginseng Expo on December 4th and 5th on the UNC Asheville campus. A rare gathering of the global leaders in all things ginseng, the expo is well stocked with classes, panels, networking opportunities, and round tables. Join buyers, growers, dealers, researchers, herbalists, and marketers from far and wide to delve into the world of the most famous medicinal root in the world.

 

 

[1] http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/home/?cid=STELPRDB5387328

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2770043/

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14643691

[4] http://www.henriettes-herb.com/blog/ginseng-leaf.html

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlL1ZiaruAc

November 29, 2015 — Heather Wood Buzzard

Allergy Alert: Support in Season

We all know it’s coming – some of us may already be in the thick of it. The congestion, the bleary eyes, the runny nose, the headaches, the pains, the stuff. Allergy season is in prime time at the moment, and it happens to fall right at the time of year when the dogwoods are exploding into blossom, the birdsong is melodious, and all we want to do is be outside. “What a cruel joke nature plays!” we may think to ourselves while sniffling and gazing longingly out the window. We’ve heard of all the natural remedies: local honey, bee pollen, and locking yourself indoors until summer…but have you met the nettles?

Know Your Nettle

NettlesStinging nettles, Urtica dioica (and also wood nettles or Laportea canadensis, which can be used fairly interchangeably), are an incredible green ally for those with persistent allergies and seasonal symptoms. On top of using locally produced bee by-products like honey, royal jelly and pollen to combat allergies, incorporating nettles as a superfood and super-infusion can give springtime allergies a kick in the pollinated pants. Mineral rich, incredibly high in iron and chlorophyll, and densely nutritious, nettles are a food-herb and can be consumed in abundance with absolute safety. Mid-late spring is the optimal time to harvest nettles, when their formic acid content is lower and they are more tender and less fibrous than their summer or autumn selves.

In her book Healing Wise: The Wise Woman Herbal, Susun Weed advises that “Nettle is an ally which – combined with the Wise Woman ways – can help the gradual healing of a person with a condition such as hay fever, allergies etc… Try a cup/250 ml of nettle infusion, or a half cup/125 ml cooked fresh greens and pot liquor, or a teaspoonful of the juice every nice spring day for at least a month.”

Nettles are best used as a tonic herb for chronic allergy sufferers. Expect to use nettles regularly for one week to one month before realizing significant improvement and relief. See Susun Weed’s website for more on this juicy food and medicine. Need nettles?

Rusty on the exact process of making a full-strength medicinal herbal infusion? Lucky for you, it takes less than the time it takes to brush your teeth, and we’ll remind you how simple it is in this article in one of our earlier newsletters. Check out our archived newsletter for a recipe for a rich Russian Nettle Tonic to get even more nettles into your life.

Osha: An Ocean of Possibilities

Osha Root

While nettles is one of our best green allies for allergies over the long-term, a wise woman surrounds herself with not one but many friends. Sweet, spicy osha (Ligusticum spp.) is another one of these allies that are useful in soothing the redness and inflammation of the allergy season. But unlike nettles, osha is fast-acting to support at the scene of the issue.

In the form of a potent low-dose botanical, the aromatic osha root assists in allergic reactions and anaphylactic situations until one can seek medical treatment should an acute situation arise. On an allergy that manifests itself through redness, irritation and inflammation on the skin such as hives and rashes, osha tincture can be used both topically and internally in tandem to support the body’s extreme histamine response. Got an itchy throat from allergies? Osha is helpful for soothing the esophageal passages.

If you or someone you know has an allergy – whether bee sting or nut butters – it’s a wise investment to have a bottle of osha tincture on hand for those unexpected reactions. As a bonus, osha is also excellent for use on any painful, swollen insect or animal bites or stings that you might experience. Don’t be caught without this powerful root medicine, and may the osha and the nettles help you to enjoy an allergy-less spring singing with the birds!

April 29, 2015 — Heather Wood Buzzard

New Wild Cherry Bark Syrup!

Our new Wild Cherry Bark Syrup supports healthy respiratory function and is just the thing for soothing raspy coughs and sore throats from winter colds or allergies. We tested several formulas and found that this blend of elecampane root, wild violet leaf, slippery elm bark, and wild cherry bark extracts mixed with local raw honey offers the most relief for a variety of coughs.

Fresh local elecampane root is an expectorant to make coughs more productive while violet’s demulcent qualities help coat agitated areas. Wild cherry bark is traditionally used by Natives for aches and calming cough and slippery elm bark soothes internal inflammations and sore throats. And the raw mountain honey makes the syrup yummy and smooth.

The adult dosage is only 1 teaspoon per serving so a little goes a long ways. Add some to your medicine cabinet today to be ready for the next cold or sore throat.

December 07, 2014 — Jeannie Dunn

Honoring Grandmother’s Wisdom with Poke Root

by Corinna Wood

Growing up in the Northeast, I loved playing with the purple pokeberries, painting designs on my skin. My parents allowed this, though they made it clear that I shouldn’t eat the berries of this “poisonous, invasive weed.” The huge poke plants were such a bane in their garden that they would actually tie a rope around the roots and use a Jeep to pull them out!

Poke salve and oil have traditionally be used for lymphatic support when applied externally or on lymph glands, lumps, bumps, growths and tumors.

Poke root is best dug up in the fall, after the plant has died back for the winter. This is when the plant is the most medicinal and the least toxic.

Once you’ve dug up the root (and parked the Jeep), the next step is drawing out those medicinal properties. . .

 

Making Poke Oil & Salve

Making poke oil:

1) Wash the root

2) Chop it into small pieces (Important: wear gloves to protect  skin from absorbing the medicine.)

3) Leave it out to air dry in a warm place for a few hours, until it is dry to the touch.

3) Fill a jar with the chunks of root, and add oil to cover the roots. (Note: Any oil works. Olive oil resists rancidity.) 

4) Leave on your counter for six weeks, topping off the oil level as needed to cover the roots.

5) After six weeks, strain out the roots.

Making poke salve:

1) Grate a tablespoon of beeswax for each ounce of infused oil.

2) Warm the oil on low heat, add the grated beeswax, and stir until melted.

3) Pour liquid into jar and allow to cool and solidify.

(Note: if consistency is too hard, remelt and add more infused oil, if too soft, remelt and add more wax.)

 “[Poke] speaks to our blood…What a perfect maturity it arrives at! It is the emblem of a successful life…What if we were to mature as perfectly, root and branch…like the poke!” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Herbs: Short vs. Long Term Use

by Jackie Dobrinska

Herbs are used in two distinct ways. One is in acute situations, providing relief for things like an upset tummy or menstrual cramps. The other is to nourish and regulate organs and systems, revitalizing the body’s own ability to maintain overall good health.

The first way is fast. The second often takes time. A robust herbal medicine chest contains both types of herbal remedies.

Herbs like yarrow, skullcap, plantain, wild lettuce, motherwort, and lemon balm are usually used for acute situations.  It is best to take them immediately at the on-set of the issue and at regular intervals to have the most desired effect.

Tonics such as elder, hawthorne, vitex, astragalus, and reishi are helpful for more long term support for the immune system, the heart, the hormonal system and others. A tonic works best when taken consistently on a daily basis, over three to six months.

Some herbs are both tonics and fast acting. For example, St. Johnswort (also known as St. Joanswort) is both a tonic that supports the nervous system and an herb that is used acutely for viral infections and burns.

Knowing the manner in which to use an herb will help determine how much to have on hand. Taking two full droppers of an extract a day, a 1 ounce bottle will last approximately 20 to 25 days.  This is probably enough for most acute situations.  Since tonics need to be taken for at least three to six months to see results, a 4 or 8 ounce bottle helps keep the herb at hand, and also cuts down on cost and waste.

To learn more about choosing the appropriate sizes for your needs, please visit our FAQ page.

Know that herbal tonics require a commitment to reap the rewards, and immediacy helps with acute situations.  Both are important for herbal remedies to work their magic best.

October 01, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs