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THE WALKING HERBALIST PODCAST – EPISODE 28. The “Pay Attention to the Seasons” Herbalism & Lemon Balm Show

Marc and MIndy open the podcast by discussing hugelkultur and wonder if listeners practice the technique in their gardens. There is a nice discussion on it here. If you would like to chime in, give our voicemail a call at 617-622-3916 and we may play your recording on the podcast.

Marc’s  “Herb Nugget” talks about seasonality, and that even though we are in the midst of summer, it is actually already time to start thinking about the preparations we need for the winter months.

The “Herb of the Podcast” is Lemon Balm, or Melissa Officinalis. Marc tells us all about how lemon balm and bees are intertwined chemically. He discusses Melissa’s many traditional uses as a relaxant, antidepressant, antispasmodic, and yes, even an insect repellent. We use lemon balm tincture, and have grown a bunch of it (nearly 100 plants!) for this year’s garden. The featured photograph is of lemon balm in a container in our garden.

Mindy’s “Backed by Science” article is: Alijaniha F, et al. Heart palpitation relief with Melissa officinalis leaf ex20160621_124024tract: double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial of efficacy and safety. J Ethnopharmacol 2015; 164: 378-384. The researchers show that lemon balm is useful in decreasing the number of heart palpitations and anxiety levels in adults who suffer with benign palpitations.

20160621_124234We give up the book review this week, and try out a new segment instead: “Wildcrafting with Marc & Mindy”.  This was inspired by Michigan listener, Nicole, who left us a voicemail regarding our use (or lack thereof) of mushrooms. She suggested powdering the mushrooms and addin20160621_124627g the powder to our cooking. So we did it! See the photos for proof! We talk about foraging for yarrow, cultivating a wild raspberry plant that showed up in our yard, and snagging some urban deadfall (from basswood / linden trees) for woodcarving.

The Worldwide Herbal and Foraging News articles for this episode are this one, and this one, and this one.  Front yard food gardening is attacked in Florida, whereas Fort Worth TX is trying to pass city regulations supporting urban agriculture. Bees help a young man afflicted with fetal alcohol syndrome.

Finally, Marc and Mindy talk about the first harvest of their basal plants this season. They are dehydrating as we speak…

Enjoy the show!


THE WALKING HERBALIST PODCAST – EPISODE 27. The “Get Your Plant Walk On!” Herbalism & Catnip Show

The “Herb Nugget” focuses on getting into your Plant Walking Groove, especially now that summer is around the corner! Marc & Mindy talk about Herbstalk, and give garden updates. Does anyone know why we are getting chlorosis of our basil leaves?

Marc’s “Herb of the Podcast” is Catnip, or Nepeta cataria. Amongst other things, Marc tells us how to use catnip to keep small rodents out of the garden…by attracting cats! We use catnip in teas and tinctures, and grow some for our kitty. Nepetalactone is the chemical compound that drives cats bananas!

Mindy’s “Backed by Science” article is: Gilani AH, et al. Chemical composition and mechanisms underlying the spasmolytic and bronchodilatory properties of the essential oil of Nepeta cataria L. J Ethnopharmacol 2009; 121: 405-411. Or download a copy of the full article here. The researchers show that that catnip essential oil is effective in decreasing intestinal motility, as well as relaxing the airway, and thus its folk uses (namely for diarrhea and bronchial symptoms) are supported by science.

The “Book Review” is on Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by “Wildman” Steve Brill and Evelyn Dean. The full review can be found here. This is a forager’s must-have text!

The Worldwide Herbal and Foraging News articles for this episode are this one, this one, and this one. These talk about goats as the ultimate survivalist tool, urban farming, and sleeping trees.

Finally, we give a shout out to Josee, the newest family member, an 8 week old german shepherd mix!

REVIEW: Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places

By Mindy

Classic foraging text that belongs in the libraries of each and every herbalist and wildcrafter.

“Wildman” Steve Brill is legendary. An urban forager, Steve Brill was arrested in the mid 1980s for eating flora in Central Park. Soon after, he was hired by the NYC Parks Department to give plant walks. Read all about it here. He joined Evelyn Dean to write “Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places” (published by Harper in 1994).

Click on the photo link to Amazon.com to buy this book and we will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you!

Approximating the size of a sheet of paper (8 1/2″ x 11″) and almost an inch thick, these 336 pages along with over 260 black & white line illustrations are a meaty foraging home reference. While not a field guide per se, the botanical information for each plant can be really helpful on a hunt (provided there is enough room in your pack to take it along!). This book will not withstand water, however, so leave it home on rainy days.

The first 22 pages provide a background on foraging, including overviews on safety, conservation, equipment, botany, ecology, and seasonality of plants. A small portion of the introduction is also dedicated to medicinal uses of plants.

Chapters 2 through 6 are composed of plant monographs divided up by the season which they should be harvested. For instance, Chapter 2 talks about plants of mid-spring. The chapters are further subdivided by the ecological region of the plant, such as lawns & meadows, disturbed areas, and seashore. This arrangement means that you can search the book easily by time of year. Want to forage in July by the beach? A quick look at the table of contents will point you toward useful plants you can expect to find (particularly in the Northeastern United States).

Each individual plant monograph consists of a few paragraphs up to a few pages, and are written from Steve Brill’s point of view (exclusively as best as I can tell). The authors clearly do not worry as much about uniformity as you sometimes see in other books; they freely take up as much (or as little) space as needed to adequately describe the target plant.

A scientific description of each plant is accompanied by a very helpful annotated botanical illustration. A description of the plant’s preferred habitat, uses, and useful parts, along with anecdotal experiences with the flora follow. Medical research and chemical constituents are also discussed when relevant. A folksy, approachable, occasional tongue-in-cheek banter make it possible to read this otherwise reference book cover-to-cover.

Finally, the last two chapters of the book describe how exactly to cook with wild plants, and list dozens of recipes (such as “Autumn Olive Jam”, “Coconut-Curly Dock Curry”, and “Common Evening Primrose Leaf Burgers”). A reading list and indices follow.

“Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places” stands above many–and maybe almost all–of the foraging books on the market today. Steve Brill’s authentic voice and obvious experience is generously sprinkled throughout the pages of this wonderful tome. I highly recommend a copy for any serious wildcrafter.


Note: The Walking Herbalist is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This means that Marc will receive a small commission for each purchase on Amazon that you make after linking to it from this website. 

The Walking Herbalist has no affiliation of the authors or the publishers of this book at the time of the writing of this review. We purchased our own copy of this book for our own private use. This review is simply here to help our readers put together their own herbalism library, and other than possible commissions as an Amazon.com affiliate, we receive no compensation for this. 

THE WALKING HERBALIST PODCAST – Episode 26 (Special Edition): Live from Herbstalk!

Marc and Mindy record live from Herbstalk 2016! Join us for a cruise around this magical herbal gala, where we talk to the teachers, small business owners, and patrons that come together for the yearly festivities. We meet up with Tom & Pat Zabel and Sue Kesner (parents of HerbstaIMG_5025lk founders Steph & Henry!), and find out what they think about the big event. We stalk out Catherine Iagnemma (Herbstalk’s Assistant Organizer) and her boyfriend Ian Schaplowsky (and Marc hits Ian with some hard questions, such as “what are his favorite guitar chords and why?”) [If you want to know know more about Steph, Henry, and Catherine, listen to The Story of Herbstalk!]

The music you hear is Graveyard Shuffle by Connor Magnuson, an Herbstalk volunteer who was providing music in the front lawn. Connor also showcIMG_5028ases the artistic side of Herbstalk with a poetry reading: “I want you to have my baby, Yarrow”. In fact, its hard to throw a smudge stick without hitting a musician at Herbstalk! We got to talk with Henry’s band, The Ways and Means Committee. Listen to their music here, or check out their facebook site for an upcoming events schedule (of which they have many!). Herbalist Kim Almeida also steps out onstage with her band, the Unstables. Ian is also a guitar player. And by now, we know you are aware of Marc’s love of the strum-strum!

IMG_5074We know there are many we missed, but we did manage to corner a bunch of vendors, teachers, and attendees (all listed below). Listen to what they have to say! We sure hope you enjoy this attempt to capture the spirit of Herbstalk on The Walking Herbalist Podcast!

Natalia from Sweet and Sacred (www.sweetandsacred.com)
Melanie from Fir & Elm (www.firandelm.etsy.com)
Hannah Sparks from Hannah’s Herbals (hannahsherbals.com)
Maisie Raftery from Natural Awakenings (naturalawakeningsboston.com)
Kim Almeida from Ecotone Herbals (ecotoneherbals.com)
Madelon Hope from Boston School of Herbal Studies (bostonherbalstudies.com)
Caleb Dean from Cambridge Naturals (cambridgenaturals.com)
Liat Racin from Tamim Teas (tamimteas.com)
Katja Swift & Ryn Midura from The Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism (commonwealthherbs.com)
Iris Weaver (irisweaver.com)
Emma O’Brien from Lavandoula (lavandoula.com)
Danielle Laberge from Growing Habits (growinghabits.com)
Nina Judith Katz from Meridians of Health (meridiansofhealth.com)
Todd Danforth – Photographer (ToddJDanforth.com)
Gavin Mccarthy (GavinTMccarthy.com)
Sue from Chicago
Lynn Iverson of Eirs Garden
Bryan Rincowski

THE WALKING HERBALIST PODCAST – Episode 25 (Special Edition): Talking Herbs with Iris Weaver

This Special Edition (and Silver 25th Episode!) of The Walking Herbalist Podcast features Iris Weaver, a shamanic herbalism practitioner from the north shore of Massachusetts. You can check out her website here.  Marc and Mindy had the chance to meet up with Iris, go on a plant walk with her in downtown Beverly, MA, and then sit down with a microphone to record her fascinating decades-long story of working with the plants.

Near and dear to our hearts, Iris’ introduction to studying herbalism was a chance encounter with some influential books, namely “Kitchen Medicines” by Ben Charles Harris, and the Euell Gibbons classic “Stalking The Wild Asparagus“. (If you would like to hear an interview with Ben Charles Harris from 1976, we found one here! In fact it is rather adversarial — you can listen to the interviewer challenging Mr. Harris by saying that foraging plants are dangerous and should not be encouraged!)

We learned all about Iris’ childhood, her growing up in England, Paraguay, and the Northeastern United States. We listened while she took us down the path to her descent into depression, her trauma history, and how the plants around her revitalized her. And how she had to make it as a single mom, eventually earning her Master’s Degree and becoming a small business owner. We learned that her influences included renowned herbalists Susun Weed and Sean Donahue. And that as an herbalist, she considers herself an autodidact…a self taught person! We learned her style/brand of herbalism, and what it means to be an shamanistic herbalist. Interspersed throughout Iris’ story, we have added bits and pieces of the Plant Walk that she led, and graciously let us record. She will be leading a Plant Walk at this year’s Herbstalk as well.

We hope you will enjoy the episode, and appreciate the interesting story and sage advice from one of our local herbalist Masters! Iris is available for private consultations, plant walks, home plant identifications, and classes as well, and we are sure would delight in you reaching out to her.

THE WALKING HERBALIST PODCAST – (Mini) EPISODE 24. Memorial Day Break (with Steph Zabel & Calendula Bonus Audio!)

seedling trays 2

Marc & Mindy are taking a break from a full-length podcast in honor of Memorial Day Weekend! This truncated episode of The Walking Herbalist Podcast features Bonus Audio from the founder of Herbstalk, Steph Zabel. Listen to her talk about the featured herb of this year’s 2016 Herbstalk, Calendula! We hope to see everyone in Somerville, MA next weekend (June 4 and 5) for the big event, where we will be doing live on-scene interviews!  We will be back next week with our extra special episode, our interview with Iris Weaver. Enjoy the photos of our seedlings hardening off and fritters made from battered dandelion buds!  Happy Memorial Day everyone!

dandelion buds 2 fritters 2

THE WALKING HERBALIST PODCAST – EPISODE 23. The “Green is Good” Herbalism & Devil’s Claw Show

The “Herb Nugget” paints a beautiful picture of a riverside walk. Marc & Mindy debate whether to pronounce turmeric “TER-meric”, “TOO-meric”, or something else. They talk about the progress of their seedlings, with thyme, oregano, and basil coming up very quickly in about a week. The parsley and spinach are starting to rear up, whereas the rosemary is taking her sweet time…

Marc’s “Herb of the Podcast” is Devil’s Claw, or Harpagophytum procumbens. While Marc & Mindy have tinctured the root, and tried it on a few occasions, they do not have a lot of personal experience with this southern African native plant. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic reputation has earned it a place in the herbalist’s war chest around the world.

Mindy’s “Backed by Science” article is: Chung H, et al. Anti-osteoporotic activity of harpagide by regulation of bone formation in osteoblast cell culture and oviarectomy-induced bone loss mouse models. 2016; 179:66-75.  Using test-tube and The researchers find that harpagide, a chemical extracted from the root of Devil’s Claw, may be a useful pharmaceutical for the treatment of osteoporosis.

The Book Review is “Making More Plants: The Science, Art, and Joy of Propagation”  by Ken Druse. The full review can be found here. We are huge proponents of making as many plants as possible, and the experimental gardeners will love all of Mr. Druse’s tips (not to mention, his wonderful photography!)

The Worldwide Herbal and Foraging News articles for this episode are this one and this one. The first one talks about planting by the astrological clock. Here is a great link to a brief discussion on the nuts and bolts of astrological gardening. The other is of an herbalist who (at least as its written in this article) appears to be a charlatan.

Don’t forget that Herbstalk is right around the corner (June 4th & 5th)! Enjoy the show!