Do you experience weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, hormonal imbalances, sleep problems, gut imbalances, high cholesterol and/or blood pressure, digestive problems, chronic headaches, regular illness, depression, anxiety, pain, or autoimmune conditions? Have you sought help for these issues and nothing helped, or perhaps even told you were a difficult patient or that your symptoms were “all in your head?”

Chances are you are experiencing adrenal and/or thyroid challenges in what Dr. Aviva Romm calls, SOS, or Survival Overdrive Syndrome. This is a state of being in repeated or chronic stress, which puts the body into “survival mode” to protect itself. Because the brain doesn't differentiate between a perceived danger or threat (that endless to-do list and deadlines) and a real one (life-threatening situations), it instructs the body to react in the same way with both.

The results are chronic inflammation, under-functioning of the internal detoxification systems, poor sleep, dietary allergies, blood sugar imbalances, disruptions in gut health, autoimmune conditions, and even viral infections. Dr. Romm divides these further into SOS-O – being caught in constant activity overdrive – and SOS-E – when you hit the wall and are deeply exhausted.

Whichever it is, when we are stuck in unrelenting stress, our protective mechanisms get stuck, too, causing a mass of symptoms such as those listed above. In time we don't recognize the source problem as being chronic stress but search for other answers. Many find results with herbs and natural remedies but most end up on endless medications.

This and more is dealt with by Dr. Aviva, a 30 year herbalist and mid-wife – and East West graduate – who decided in her 40s to become a medical doctor. Her marriage of Western medicine sciences with herbalism and natural remedies gave birth to her newest creation, The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, (HarperOne, 2017).

In this book, Dr. Aviva provides a thorough and easy to understand explanation of how the body responds to stress and what to do about it. It also demystifies the crucial roles of the adrenals and thyroid in the stress response and their impact on health. And it shares how to deal with the many symptoms that result, along with even more importantly, their five root causes.

This book is packed with informational charts, questionnaires to decode your SOS types, and multiple solutions for a number of related health problems, all personally tailored to fit your unique symptoms and needs. It takes the holistic perspective of replenishing “cell to soul” to outline in detail a three-week SOS program following the five approaches of reboot, reframe, repair, recharge, and replenish. It addresses the all-important microbiome gut repair along with how to get a good night’s sleep as well as boost immune support, detoxification, and hormone balance.

Written not in a preachy manner but from a very supportive perspective of one woman to another (although I believe this book is important for men, too), it is clear, easy to understand, and thorough in its explanations and resources. It provides a lifestyle approach rather than a “quick fix” plan for lasting health changes and benefits.

List upon list of herbal and natural remedies are provided for different root cause conditions along with multiple day-by-day guides, charts to track your patterns and progress, a self-care repair kit, shopping lists, sample menus, and recipes for all dietary approaches. The entire three-week plan is completely laid out so there is no guesswork. Dr. Romm even provides charts on various lab tests with guidance for how to read and understand them.

Beyond that, there is an entire chapter on how to hit the pause button, one of the hardest things to do when living with chronic stress. As well, her remedies address the root causes for lasting results rather than giving short-term cures. This book is especially for those who want to take charge of their own health and lives, who have not found the final answers from traditional Western medicine, or who want to find natural alternatives to multiple medications.

The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution provides women with a way to think about their symptoms and medical conditions as well within their power to control – not as something beyond their control with life limitations, medications, and the downward decline Western medicine likes us to think is inevitable without dependence on medications. It teaches women to recognize, address, and reverse the five root causes of diseases that affect metabolism, hormones, mind, mood, immunity, and inflammation with natural tools that are within our hands. It also provides a blueprint for MDs and other professional who want to change their approach to be more woman-centered and chronic disease prevention savvy.

I have personally seen in my own over 33 years clinical experience how such a whole-person approach can bring renewed health and change people’s lives. If you follow The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution’s guidance, it can definitely change your health and your life. I give it a highest recommendation!


Gluten or dairy intolerant? You may not need to give up wheat and dairy, says Dr. John Douillard, DC, in his book Eat Wheat (Morgan James Publishing, 2017). Backed by years of clinical experience helping people who previously were unable to digest wheat and dairy, Dr. Douillard employs traditional thousands-of-years-old Ayurvedic principles backed by more than 600 scientific studies to develop the methods described in his book for gut health.

His conclusion? Most who claim to experience varied and myriad symptoms of discomfort as a result of eating dairy, wheat and other glutinous grains is the result of a toxic condition that has weakened their digestion.

Based on my own clinical experience, I agree that, with the exception of the less than 0.5 to 1% who actually have lactose intolerance and celiac disease (the latter being a serious conditions that can be medically diagnosed through simple clinical tests) should absolutely avoid consuming these foods. However, the rash of symptoms attributed to eating dairy and wheat ranging from simple bloating, heavy dull feeling and lethargy after eating, to a wide range of metabolic to mental and emotional conditions may do better if they view these as symptoms that may benefit from treatment rather than a primary handicap.

Thus I appreciate that this is not just another theoretical book but one that lists numerous cases of his patients who were suffering from various degrees of gluten and dairy sensitivities and intolerances and who, after undergoing recommended detoxification cleanses, reported that not only were they able to eat these foods again, but with better digestion and a more lasting improvement of health and well-being overall.

All systems of natural healing believe that the foundation to health is a healthy gut, meaning the ability to break down and assimilate vital nutrients and efficiently eliminate metabolic wastes. I agree with Douillard’s thesis that the underlying causes of gluten sensitivity-intolerance is a toxic, weak digestive system. In fact the symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity-intolerance are common to all traditional healing systems. The Western herbal tradition addresses this with the use of digestive bitters such as Angostura bitters commonly sold in liquor stores throughout the world and originally designed to relieve digestive problems by stimulating hydrochloric acid and biliary secretions. Then there is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with dietary and herbal treatment its most common diagnoses: Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver-Spleen Qi Stagnation and diseases caused by Phlegm. Finally Dr. Douillard’s specialty, Ayurvedic medicine, has a wide range of treatment and herbs for specific digestive problems and the elimination of deep-seated toxins called ‘ama’ which is related to the TCM concept of invisible Phlegm, or the lymphatic system which according to Douillard is lodged in the fat cells.

In fact, Douillard describes how the most  recent research has discovered a direct connection of the lymphatic system between the GI tract and the brain.  This explains the Chinese description of schizophrenia and psychosis as “invisible Phlegm masking the brain” and the relationship between gluten sensitivity-intolerance and the brain in Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain. However, merely eliminating gluten not only deprives us of the pleasure derived from these foods but also a wide range of associated vital nutrients they contain, including fiber, iron, zinc, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, Vitamin B12, and phosphorus.

With approximately 21% of the population currently adopting a gluten-free diet and a $9 billion gluten-free food industry (in 2014) to support it, there has been little interest in finding a deeper cause or cure. In fact, Douillard exemplifies how the condition he calls "toxicity impaired digestion" (TID) is best treated with traditional medicine, diet and herbs. 

His approach is to eliminate all processed and refined food from the diet, engage in periodic cleanses which he describes and are freely available on his website, and adopt a seasonal approach to foods based on regional availability which is described in his book and his previous book, The Four Seasons Diet, also based on traditional Ayurvedic dietetics.

On a recent vacation in Kauai, my wife, Lesley and I underwent Douillard’s four-day cleanse based on taking increasing spoonfuls of ghee first thing each morning and eat no other fat throughout the rest of the day; and the traditional Ayurvedic healing food kichari, consisting of split yellow mung beans and white rice, with traditional healing spices of turmeric, coriander and cumin prepared without ghee, three times each day. In addition warm water is sipped every 10 or 15 minutes and certain Ayurvedic herbs such as triphala for eliminating metabolic waste were taken.

The fast was remarkably easy to follow and adhere to and there was little hunger for other foods. You can download the details of Dr. Douillard’s short cleanse or even embark on his 28-day cleanse. There are three levels of foods to use besides the basic kichari and ghee, which is the foundation. One is to add vegetables and fruit to the regime and another, especially for those with low blood sugar, to add white meat such as chicken.

The most unusual and a key component of the diet was the morning intake of ghee – pure butter fat. Ghee is considered one of the most healing foods in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine. Like all fat, it satisfies hunger but uniquely it cleanses and heals the walls of the intestines, stimulates the production of new bile for the liver and gall bladder, strongly strengthens the immune system, and encourages eliimination of old “ama” -- difficult to discharge, toxin-laden fat from the body – literally consuming good fat to eliminate bad.

We both felt significant benefit from this short cleanse and it did seem to ‘reset’ our digestive systems. We look forward to repeating the cleanse.

For many, reintroducing grains and dairy back into the diet may have to be a gradual process, beginning with yogurt, cheese or ‘scalded’ organic whole milk; with glutinous grains such as wheat, and occasional small servings of whole grains.

Douillard's point, in short, is that sensitivity-intolerance to these foods is not the cause but a symptom of deeper digestive imbalance, which if left untreated can be a precursor to more serious diseases later in life.  

Dr. John Douillard is the author of six books, numerous articles on natural health and fitness and the creator of a respected source for Ayurvedic health and wellness.

With an overly stuffed plateful of responsibilities sandwiched between a week-long seminar of East West students and a month-long trip for which to prepare, I had no business reading a book. But when Becky Lerner, one of our East West students at the seminar, mailed me a copy of her first book, Dandelion Hunter, I opened the cover to read:

The Stranger walked across her front lawn to meet me at dusk. She waded through a wall of weeds as high as her hips, parting the sea of greens like a post-modern Moses.

"Hi," I said, standing on her driveway. "I'm your neighbor, and I’d like to eat your weeds." 

I was hooked. I just had to read her book!

So stealing time from myself to do other needed things, I dived into Becky’s book with gusto and was absolutely delighted. Ironically, this came on the heels of my previous two impromptu blogs on dandelion, my favorite spring herb. While Dandelion Hunter (Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, 2013) is not about dandelions per se, it is the archetype weed for what Becky shares with us – how the magic and healing power of nature is right in our own backyards.

A journalist now turned nature educator and healer, Becky begins Dandelion Hunter with the premise of meeting a challenge to survive solely on the wild food she could forage in Portland for a week. What unfolds from there is a story full of fascinating facts, plant wisdom, and planetary welfare. I was alternatively enlightened, intrigued, and entertained as she took me on a journey of discovery through many trials and training around learning the local plants and all they have to offer.

Decades ago, we had an East West student living in New York City who complained she couldn’t complete the preparation assignments for our correspondence course because there were no weeds in NYC. After much encouragement, she began what became a captivating discovery of the many plants that grow in sidewalk cracks, window boxes, empty lots, and street ditches throughout the city. She was so inspired that she wrote an entire dissertation entitled, The Concrete Jungle.

I have never forgotten her experience and this book reminded me of that as I forayed through the many new tidbits I learned while reading Becky’s story. For instance, I didn’t know that eating red clover blossoms healed bloat, yarrow was found in a 60,000 year-old Neanderthal cave, or that corn roots make clicking sounds, which their neighbors can hear and respond to. I also learned about bioswales, pokeberry juice used to write the U.S. Constitution, and the foraging expert, Steve Brill, who got arrested for the simple fault of picking a dandelion in Central Park.

Along with great details on healing weeds, Becky includes humorous stories, Portland historical information, local ecology, zoopharmacognosy, and a fascinating history of the pre-Portland American Indians, all served up with lots of local color and intriguing residents. Her book is loaded with such topics as rich survival information, plant harvesting, identification tips, and even doggy herbalism.

Becky covers global and crucial topics as well, such as the impact of Roundup today, our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the various problems encountered while foraging, plant consciousness, and our general separation from nature. I especially found the connection between trees, pollution, crime, and health quite fascinating.

At the end of Dandelion Hunter, I discovered many intriguing recipes as well (recipes with stories – double yum!) and to my delight, the first one was a variation of dandelion coffee I’d never seen – it’s concocted with spices and flavors to make a sort of dandelion chai – so this is the first recipe I’ll try.

With raising a family, writing books, teaching, travel, and clinic, my herbal usage over the last 30 years has transferred from the garden to the clinic and then writing/teaching. I use herbs all the time, but not as often from the yard to the kitchen anymore. This book has put me right back into the wilds, re-inspiring my days of harvesting, preparations and the joyous fulfillment they bring.

So many thanks to Becky for her rich and rewarding journey into the forager’s world. I am so happy she quit journalism and transformed her life from survivalist forager to medicine woman, as it’s a tremendous gift to us all!

Signed copies may be purchased directly from Becky at her website, As well, check out her herbal blog!

So many of us are removed from our herbs these days since we generally choose faster methods of consumption such as pills, capsules, tablets, powdered extracts, and tinctures since they fit our busy lifestyles. Because of this, many have lost connection with the art of tea making and the relaxing, conversational and meditative ways this preparation provides.

Healing Herbal Teas MarsBut no longer! Brigitte Mars has brought us back to the garden with her book, Healing Herbal Teas, A Complete Guide to Making Delicious, Healthful Beverages, (Basic Health Publications, Laguna Beach, California, 2006). If you haven’t yet read this book, it’s a good one to peruse as you concoct an experimental infusion in a jar, French press, or refrigerator.

Healing Herbal Teas reminds us what the Chinese have said for thousands of years: that taking herbs in tea form assimilates very efficiently and so is the most effective method of administration. This book covers many methods of making teas as well as a variety of ways to flavor them, which is especially useful for the more bitter ones. It also describes the difference between an infusion and tisane, in case you’re wondering!

Healing Herbal Teas profiles 45 common herbs including their medicinal use, herbal properties, traditional applications, constituents, contraindications, wildcrafting, and cultivation. As well, she provides wonderful wine tasting-like descriptions of each herb’s flavors. Much historical information and uses of each herb in different countries is included. Yet, the book never loses sight of using herbs in tea form by including various recipes and flavoring approaches.

A special chapter covers using teas topically in such applications as baths, compresses, eyewashes, facial steams, hair rinses, foot baths, hand baths, mouthwashes, gargles, sitz baths and steam inhalations. Teas really do provide us with a complete medicine kit!

On top of this, there are pages and pages of herbal tea formulas for all sorts of conditions and purposes. These include such tame names such as "Headache Tea" all the way to whimsical ones like, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road Tea." Now wouldn’t you like to try that last one??? As if that’s not enough, there’s even a chapter on herbal food recipes, including a tea party menu.

If there’s someone you know starting on the herbal path or beginning to use herbs, this is a great hands-on book to delight their senses along the way. And if you have lost your hands-on approach with herbs, then this will guide you back into the garden and kitchen to enjoy unusual herbal combinations and flavors and remind you of the potency and wide application of herbal teas. 

Steven Horne is one of the leaders the herbal renaissance which began with only a few of us during the mid 20th century. He has had a distinguished career and powerful impact on the course of herbal medicine for the last 45 years, and is a past president of the American Herbalists Guild.

Thomas Easley is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild and has been in full-time clinical practice for the last 12 years.

Their monumental new book Modern Herbal Medicine has taken over four years to bring to publication and is an important contribution for any and all who are interested in herbs as medicine. The book should be a welcome contribution to the herb consumer, herbal retailer, or professional herbalist. Unlike other books that may on the surface seem similar, this book was written by herbalists with decades of clinical experience. That in itself should be enough of a reason to obtain a copy for your herbal reference shelf.

It begins with a well-considered introduction to the principles of herbal prescribing and use. From there, it discusses hundreds of health conditions in considerable detail, providing disease descriptions as well as possible causes. It then offers the best herbs that are in commerce that would be useful for treatment. Other therapies such as affirmation, visualization, aromatherapy, colon hydrotherapy, allergy-eliminating diets, different nutritional approaches, metal cleansing, important strategies for stress management, and many more are also offered. A compendium of herbal formulas categorized by action and a materia medica of key herbs are also included.

Finally, a unique aspect of the book is mentioning by name high quality specific companies and herbal formulations that one can use for treatment. No other book has done this. In fact, it is illegal for companies to identify any of their products as effective for any specific ‘named’ disease, which is the way most people relate to herbal usage. While this regulation helps to safeguard the rights of pharmaceutical companies who place a tremendous burden and hardship on the public and health care of this country with their exorbitant fees for prescription drugs, it also creates misleading challenges and difficulties for the health consumer and retail stores to find the appropriate herbal treatment formula or product.

If a company alters the formulation of one of the products mentioned by name in the book, it will be recorded in an online database companion to the book.

This is a unique and worthwhile book to keep on hand as a reference. Every herb or health store should have a reference copy for sure. 

Numen: The Nature of Plants

A film about the healing power of plants

This is the most beautiful film yet produced on what we herbalists are all about. It runs 75 minutes long and features many of our herbal teachers as spokespersons. I especially appreciate the extended eloquent presentations of Dr. William Mitchell, naturopath of Bastyr College, and one of the finest herbalists of our generation. This film is a real feast for the eye and soul and the only regret I have is that somehow I was not one of the numerous herbalists featured. 

I echo Dr. Tieraona Lowdog MD’s description of the film:

"From the use of plants as medicine to the impact of environmental toxins on human reproduction—Numen is a beautiful and thought-provoking film that explores the deep relationship that exists between nature and human health. Weaving history, ecology, and modern pharmacy with the very essence of what it means to heal, this visually stunning film should be part of all medical, nursing and pharmacy training programs and/or libraries."

You can purchase your own copy of the DVD and purchase the rights to have a showing in your community.

Botanica Poetica – Herbs in Verse

by Sylvia Seroussi Chatroux, M.D.

Published by Poetica Press toll free 1-877-POETICA

This is a wonderful book that every herbalist should have in their library. Chatroux offers a short poem for 111 herbs, from aloe to yerba santa. Each one describes most of the properties and uses for each herb in a fun and memorable way. I believe that it is important for healers to maintain their aesthetic sensitivity through the arts, be it music, writing, painting, sculpture, or poetry. Inspiration and creativity is always in play when we are working with patients. While we may be inspired when encountering herbs in nature, a lot of that is dulled by hours of research, study and computer work. This book offers the opportunity to combine both learning and artistic inspiration. True "poetry" may be too eloquent a description of what is contained in this book; I think they could be better described as "useful doggerel."

Here’s a sample:


If you go out to the Battlefield

As in the days of old

Put Yarrow in your knapsack

It’s worth weight in gold

Yarrow for your bleeding wound

A poultice for your knee

Or for a painless hemorrhage

You’ll want to drink the tea

For diaphoresis it’s the King

The stem, the leaf, the flower

Reduce your fever, sweat full fling

We’re talking Yarrow power!

Achillea Millefolium

An astringent disinfectant

A urinary healer

Hemostatic and protectant

It’s an aromatic bitter

If you lose your appetite

Have spasmodic ailments

Or your tummy is uptight

If it’s good enough for Achilles

Of Greek mythology

To stop his bleeding wounds

Why, it’s good enough for me!

Doesn’t that say nearly all? Think of a Western herb and you quite likely will find it in this little book. At only $18 plus $3 postage it will make a wonderful stocking stuffer for yourself or for that herbalist among your friends and family.

Incidentally, Chinese doctors trained in the old ways were known as "singing doctors" and learned their material medica via songs and poetry. I always liked that idea and here it is created for Western herbalists by Sylvia Seroussi Chatroux, M.D, physician-herbalist, mother of two daughter and with a family medical practice in Ashland, Oregon. Chatroux also has written books in a similar vein: Medica Poetica: Malady in Verse and Materia Poetica: Homeopathy in Verse. I like them all very much.

Grace of Necessity

by Samuel Green

Carnegie Mellon University Press

Toll Free: 1-800-421-1561

I first heard of poet Sam Green when Lesley and I visited the composer Alex Shapiro on San Juan Island. Another truly great composer and resident of both Waldron and San Juan islands off the coast of Washington State, Morten Lauridsen is the composer of one of the greatest choral works of our time, the sublime Lux Aeterna (Eternal Light). At a public screening of a film about Lauridsen and his music, he gave a talk describing his love of poetry and mentioned Washington state poet laureate Sam Green who happens to be his friend and neighbor. I became curious about Sam’s poetry and upon reading it, some of it clicked very profoundly as a poem should, when you find the words echoing deep in your heart.

My favorite book of Green’s is his most recent one, entitled The Grace of Necessity published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Inevitably, most of us arrive at that time in one’s life when we become more acutely aware of death, first of parents’, our own, and others’. I think it is within our imagination to sometimes be able to make of death something of beauty. The first group of poems in this beautiful collection is entitled "In the Dark’" and I think more times than not, it does capture the poignant beauty of the final passing. The second group is Sam’s wonderful "Postcard Poems" which is a challenge he made to compose a poem each day, with no editing, on a postcard which he then sent to a friend. Here is Sam Green reading some of his postcard poems:

Here is one of my favorite poems in the book:


Miserere: That We Might Keep Her Present Among Us

For Taryn Hoover


Now, when the apples she might have picked against winter

are falling, let us recall her, let us pick them & eat.


Let us recall her as the leaves start their turning,

as seed pods of maples spin & drift in the fickle wind.


As long vowels of rain spill from the sky’s dark sack,

let us bring her back – not as a burden,


no knapsack of grief that will bend us –

But a velvet presence come from the spun cocoon of pain.


Let us recall her because we can, it is easy, the memory

collective, each story shared like bread, elemental as salt.


Let the stories gather as tiny birds

add themselves one & one to the flock,


their small throats gathering the One

Great Song that is more than themselves alone.


Now in the shortening days when light unbraids

too early, let us astonish each other


with love, as though, through us, we channel her desire.

Let us summon her here that she be present


among us, because the true burden is absence

because joy, O my neighbors,


can be grafted to loss and bring fruit everbearing.


                                                            so that


though there is grieving,

there is never true separation, never a leaving.


You can also buy Grace of Necessity on Amazon.



My son turned me onto this app, and many of you undoubtedly must use it already. Spotify makes the music of the world available to everyone either for free or with a modest monthly subscription.


If you feel a bit melancholy and want to resonate with a piece of music, get a copy of the translation of Goethe’s poem Aber Abseits Wer Ist’s? and follow it as you listen to the comforting angelic voice of the late but unforgettable Kathleen Ferrier as she sings Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody:

You might also enjoy Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde also sung by Kathleen Ferrier:

Premio-10 Electro-Moxa

I’m a great advocate of moxibustion in my clinic. While acupuncture with needles basically moves existing Qi in the body, moxa  which uses heat from the burning fluff of the mugwort plant not only moves Qi but puts energy into the meridians. Because it doesn’t puncture the body, it is a technique that herbalists can learn to administer to their clients directly, usually providing more immediate and sustaining results than can be expected from herbs alone. The two modalities together are highly complementary and will greatly enhance one’s practice.

Premio-10 is an electro-moxa tool that generates the same far infrared heat as moxa herb without any of the negative aspects associated with its use. 

At $1200, Premio-10 is a wonderful business expense that will greatly enhance your clinical practice.

It is available from LHASA Oriental Medical Supplies at

You may need to find a licensed acupuncturist to purchase it for you.

I decided it was high time again to introduce you to a few of my favorite things (I can’t believe it’s been five years since the last time I did this!). As I tend to focus on healing and not just herbs, you’ll find all sorts of items here, however tune in on Dec. 15 for my latest four favorite herbs. Enjoy!


Drinks by Zenergy Naturals

Someone really got the right idea going when they created these drinks. Made of both Western and Chinese herbs, these products are tasty substitutes for coffee and caffeine in general. The best way to purchase them is via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This is a small company, so give them time to respond! You can set up automatic monthly delivery as well. For more information go to:

Original Zen

My favorite, Original Zen, is not only good for you, but delicious as well. It is comprised of U.S. grown cordyceps plus astragalus, eleuthero, dandelion root, chicory root, barley extract, and rye extract. It increases immunity, energy, stamina, memory, focus, and athletic performance. You can make it into all sorts of drinks just by adding protein powder, milk or cream, vanilla, or other flavorings.


Zenopause is the same idea as Original Zen but made specifically for menopausal symptoms. It contains lycii (goji) berries, rehmannia, white peony, dioscorea, ophiopogon, cordyceps, eleuthero, astragalus, dandelion root, and barley extract. It not only enhances immunity, but prevents hot flashes and night sweats, and supports memory, vision, and libido.


Earth From Space DVD

This is an enthralling two-hour long DVD that gives you an overview of the entire planet. You’ll learn amazing facts about the interconnection of various continents and climates and how they work together to sustain life on earth. For instance, I was stunned to learn our oxygen source didn’t come from the forests in the Amazon, but start with the desert dust from Africa that fertilize the Amazon basin and in turn lead to plankton blooms in the ocean. Learn the roles of lightning and the underwater "waterfall" off Antarctica in sustaining our planet. A NOVA special on PBS, you can purchase several places on the web, including


Swimmer's Eardrops

I’ve been a swimmer my whole life and learned first hand the pain of ear infections. I learned about these natural eardrops from a colleague and have used them ever since. Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol with white vinegar. Use after swimming by inserting 5 drops into each ear, allowing the liquid to settle in the ear for 30-60 seconds.


Glass Tea Tumbler

This is the perfect make-tea-and-go tumbler. Made of double-layered thick glass, it keeps tea warm for a long time without burning your hands. Because it’s glass you can see inside to make your desired strength – or leave all day. AND there’s a strainer at the top so you can drink without getting herb bits in your mouth. The only drawback is that it is ultimately breakable, but I prefer to drink from glass rather than plastic. You can find different models of this on, for all under $20.


Herb Grinder

Finding a strong and adequate grinder to process herbs can be challenging. This one is the most powerful herb grinder I’ve used. It quickly minces most all herbs, even the hard ones, although it’s best to break those up first with a Chinese "bonger" or a hammer. Well, the grinder info is in Chinese so google industrial strength herb grinders – but be careful because many of them are for the "weed" type of herb!!! This one looks just like ours:






The Japanese always seem to improve other people’s devices. This is true with moxa. Choseikyu moxa is a little moxa "candle" (as I call it) that easily sticks onto the body and thoroughly warms the desired area or point. It is easy to use, hands-free, not as messy as other methods, and yet creates the intended heat without burning (caution on people with sensitive skin!). Moxa "candles" do cause the normal smoke and smell and build up ashes, but the latter are conveniently contained on their sticky base. If this moxa feels too hot, you can lightly run your fingers along the skin on either side of the "candle" to disperse this sensation. Choseikyu moxa can be purchased online at Chinese medical suppliers.





Atlas of Chinese Tongue Diagnosis by Barbara Kirschbaum (Eastland Press, Seattle, 1998)

Atlas of Chinese Tongue Diagnosis Volume 2 by Barbara Kirschbaum (Eastland Press, Seattle, 2002)

I have long loved tongue diagnosis for its effective and detailed reflection of the body’s health. These books include detailed teaching, photos and case examples. I am always learning more here! I give them my highest recommendation for learning tongue diagnosis, beginning to advanced!




A Kid's Herb Book by Lesley Tierra (RD Reed, 2000)

What can I say? This is still a favorite book of mine and apparently of many others around the world, for it is now also published in Japan and Estonia! This book grew out of a vision I had in the early '90s when our son was young to introduce the next generation to herbs and keep the herbal fervor alive. It is also great for adults as a simple and fun introduction to using herbs. It highlights 17 herbs and includes tons of recipes, preparations, stories and songs. There is also information on planning a tea party, kitchen medicine, a first aid kit, and plant ecology along with much more.



Metaphor-phosis: Transform Your Stories from Pain to Power by Lesley Tierra (Balboa Press, 2013)

This is my latest book and addresses the power we have to heal ourselves. I’ve learned from over 30 years of clinical experience that most people’s health problems stem from deeper emotional, mental or spiritual sources. Metaphor-phosis helps you to dig deep into the root cause of your health conditions and heal them through the multiple tools and techniques included. This, with my Healing with the Herbs of Life, comprise a complete healing system.

easychairNow that you know how to be and find a hospital advocate, what about the advocate herself? How does she get her much-needed support? Being a caregiver can be a staggering job and consume your mental, physical and emotional energy. Yet there are many ways that you can be supported at this time. This not only applies to hospital advocates, but all caregivers as well.

Herbalists are caregivers, too. In fact, there are many ways to give care: emergency care as I just did with my mom in the hospital, care for someone who is dying, elder care, child care, handicap care, Alzheimer’s/dementia care, and of course everything in between.

Caregivers: Earth Element Types

There’s a distinct caregiver personality archetype. This is someone who tends to nourish, give and do for others, often regardless of whether it’s needed or wanted. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), this is called an Earth Element type.

We are currently in the Earth Element "time of year," the two-and-a-half month period when its energy should flourish and thrive. This means that caregivers may find themselves with an especially strong drive to give and care for others, even to the point of over-giving, or they may find that even though they want to give, it’s more difficult or tiring now than usual.

Caregivers need support and help themselves because as one reader of my recent blog said, "Disordered Shen is catching!" Being an advocate can be intense to say the least, so it’s not unusual for caregivers to become exhausted, ill, or even develop symptoms of Shen disorder – insomnia, anxiety and agitation. Caregivers are notorious for giving to everyone but themselves, and this is what leads to their illness and decline.

Regardless of whether you are a caregiver professional, caregiver archetype, in a position where you normally give care, or your care is needed now, the situation is the same: you must also care for yourself in order to stay strong so you can continue to give.

So how does the advocate or caregiver get cared for, too?

The key is – GET HELP!

If you are not taken care of, you will not be able to care for others. The same goes for the person taking care of you – if they aren’t cared for, they can’t give you the care you need. So it’s essential that the caregiver gets good rest, food, water, exercise, and help as needed. No excuses here! No buts or what ifs, and I especially mean that for those of you who give and give and give at the expense of your own needs or health.  You know who you are!

There’s no guilt that can be inferred or adopted here because if you do not take care of yourself, then you are not truly serving the one you are caring for. You are also setting up a future need of care for yourself from others – and this often appears in the form of cancer for you folks. Plus, if you don’t get help, your patient will suffer as a result and your need for care will take from them. So whether you avail yourself of help from family members, friends, neighbors, or outside help, take the self-care train and get on board!


About Getting Help

  • Write down your needs: Often writing down all your specific needs makes it more obvious what type of help you seek. You may actually require several different types of help such as medical, sitters, personal care, shoppers, financial planning, and so forth. List all of these along with their detailed points.
  • Make people aware: Often, people don’t know you need help but think you have it covered. If you are acting like Superman or Wonder Woman, people will think you don’t need help. That’s the fast track to a breakdown or burnout. Others may want to help, but they don’t know what to do so it’s necessary that you ask for the help you need.
  • Be specific: When you ask for help, or others offer help, provide definitive times, days and tasks. Give advance notice. If someone can sit with the person to give you a break, offer suggestions as to what they can do together.
  • Accept what is offered: Allow others to help as they can and as they offer, even if it’s just one time or a small task. Be grateful for the small things, as they do add up.
  • Share the help wealth: Don’t overburden a few people with many jobs but include many people with simple duties.
  • Don’t make demands: Make requests for what you’d ideally like to have happen and then graciously accept what does happen.
  • Be respectful: If people say no to your request, respect that. Find out what they can do and accept their limitations.
  • Get creative: If one thing doesn’t work, try another. Use your imagination. For instance, try new approaches for those who can’t read such as giving the person an iPod with recorded books. This not only provides them enjoyment, but gives you a break, too.
  • Financial Help: There are many resources available for obtaining the needed finances to care for your patient. Consider trade, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term health insurance, federal and state government agencies, volunteer programs, church groups and family members.
  • Outside help: There are many resources available where you can obtain outside help. Often the patient’s doctor sets these up, so put in your request. Consider social workers, home health care, skilled nursing, nursing homes, home health aids, personal care aids (for dressing, bathing, eating, changing beds, laundry and light chores), foster homes, boarding homes and hospice. Know that hospice is also for palliative care, not just terminal conditions, plus it offers more than home health care and covers more expenses, too. As well, be sure to check available local programs to see what they offer and how they might meet your needs.
  • Ideas for help: Keep your requests reasonable, specific and timely. Consider sharing telephone calls, staying in close touch, doing research for you, talking to the doctors or practitioners, driving, grocery shopping, picking up medications, bringing meals or other needed items, providing a listening ear, giving you breaks, walking or exercising with you, and taking on the job of finding the help you need.

Care for the Caregiver – Things You Can Do to Help Yourself

  • Eat well: Keep your diet simple. Emphasize protein, vegetables and fruits as appropriate for your body’s needs. Eat three good meals a day with perhaps one or two snacks. Keeping your blood sugar balanced increases your energy, stamina and immunity. It also helps you sleep better. When you are stressed, the body has less tolerance for internal stressors. Challenging foods such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol create internal stress and so often cause health symptoms during stressful times (including menopause) when they seemingly don’t otherwise. Foods that cause liver congestion are also less tolerated during stress. These include fried and fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants (maté, chocolate), cheese, nuts and nut butters, chips of all kinds, and excessive intake of turkey. 
  • Get sleep: Grab what sleep you can including naps. Post "do not disturb" signs and take them down when you may be disturbed. Sleep when the patient does. Most hospital rooms have a recliner or couch for visitors, so take advantage of it.
  • Exercise frequently: Even if you can only take 5-10 minutes off at a time, exercise as possible. Include frequent stretching and take the stairs.
  • Feed your spirit: Engage in meditation, prayer, spiritual contemplation, reading, and other activities that juice your spirit, even if just for five minutes at a time.
  • Delegate tasks: You don’t have to do it all. Truly. Determine what is key for you to do and get help with the rest.
  • Set priorities: You don’t have to do everything right now. Really. Set goals and solve problems one at a time. Pace yourself! 
  • Talk with others: Share your experiences, feelings, ideas and thoughts with others. Talk with more caregivers. Seek counseling if needed. Avoid isolation!
  • Maintain humor: Laughter and humor can lighten many a difficult situation and improve everyone’s energy.
  • Plan ahead: Bring food, water, snacks, blankets, layered clothing, music, books, drawing or writing materials, a journal, and other items to care for all your needs. Look to the next day or two and plan accordingly.
  • Take frequent breaks: It’s essential that you "get away" from the caretaking situation. If you can’t get blocks of time off, take frequent short breaks. Do what you can and be creative about it. Walk, take the stairs, go outside, call a friend, read a book – you get the idea.
  • Be informed: The more you know about the person’s condition and needs, the better prepared you will be and the less stressed as a result. Ask for help in researching proposed medications, procedures, the patient’s condition, local resources and so forth. 
  • Have back up: I know I keep harping on the get help part, but at the very least have others bring you good quality food and water, guard the door to protect everyone’s sleep, and bring requested items.
  • Emotionally release: Appropriately express and release your emotions so they don’t build up inside. Long-term suppressed emotions stagnate your energy and blood, leading to a myriad of health issues over time. Thinking about how you feel doesn’t work because it keeps you locked in mental and emotional loops that only intensify your feelings. Instead, write them down or talk with a friend or professional. 
  • Self-nurture: You know best what you need so take care of yourself. If you require specific types of food, regular exercise, or certain hours of sleep, be sure you maintain them however you can. 
  • Treat yourself: Include in your self-care plan periodic treats that nurture you. Avoid food teats as these usually make you feel worse in the long run. Instead, buy something for yourself, watch the sunrise/sunset, get take-away food, or listen to favorite music or sports.
  • Be gentle with yourself: It doesn’t help anyone to beat yourself up for forgetting or not doing something in time. Know you are under extreme stress and allow for how this affects you. Do what you reasonably can first and then seek help for the rest as you work toward the larger tasks.
  • Let go: Your normal life may well be on hold so let go of expectations, deadlines, extra duties and so on.
  • Thisis your service: Know that being a caregiver IS your service. THIS is your service, your gift and focus. Like raising a child, your patient takes precedence over everything else, except your own physical needs. Realize the gift you are giving IS your work in the worldat this moment in time. Surrender to this and know it is a gift for you as much as it is for your patient. 
  • Take herbs: Herbs are powerful. While most are gentle, they also support your body-mind complex to assist in stressful times. Herbs can increase immunity, help sleep, calm the mind and emotions, and treat issues such as anxiety, depression and disturbed Shen, all of which can easily arise during stressful caretaking situations. Herbs are also easy to find and take. Look for them in health food, herb shops or alternative markets. Even mainstream drug stores and groceries now carry common herbs. Take them as needed in the simplest forms possible – tablet, capsules or tinctures.


There is so much that can be said on the subject of caregiving that entire books have been written on it. One great book, although written for Alzheimer’s and dementia, is actually quite useful for any person needing long-term or end-of-life care. I highly recommend it: The 36-Hour Day by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 5th edition 2012).

Botany300HMany years ago, Montana resident Thomas J. Elpel dropped off a manuscript entitled Botany in a Day at my office. Over the years many people have submitted manuscript copies of their book to me in the hopes that I would provide some sort of endorsement that could be used for future marketing. Unfortunately, not all were worthy of my endorsement, but this one caught my eye for several reasons.

As the founder and director of the most successful herb course in North America – in terms of numbers of enrolled students and numbers of students who have distinguished themselves professionally in the growing field of herbal medicine, I immediately recognized that Botany in a Day was perfect for herbalists and new students of herbalism.

I contacted Elpel and told him so, and further, that I wanted to make it one of the core textbooks of the East West Herb Course. I think it was 1996-98 or so when this occurred and the first edition of this remarkable book was published. Since that time to the present the book has gone through a total of six editions and has sold over 50,000 copies. Not bad for a self-published and self-distributed book, I’d say. While this is impressive it hardly reflects the true value of such a book to anyone who has an interest in plant identification. The book covers a comprehensive description of plant families of the northern latitudes, especially North America and Canada, but is applicable to most parts of the world above the equator as well as plants on every continent.

It starts out identifying the various parts and patterns of plants with a tutorial on plant names and a section on the evolution of plants that allows one to understand the big picture of plant botany. Following is a segment on "Learning Plants by Families" that teaches the reader to recognize the basic characteristics of the eight most common plant families (Mint, Mustard, Parsley, Pea, Lily, Grass, Rose, and Aster). This covers 45,000 common medicinal herbs and plants one is likely to encounter most frequently. With a basic understanding of these, one is ready to go on to learn the many other families one is likely to encounter.

While not intended as a medicinal herb book, perhaps it is my bias to see it as preeminently a book intended for herbalists, herb students and wild food foragers. As such, it references common biochemical, medicinal and nutritional characteristics.

For most of us, a lengthier and more formal training in botany would promise a long, perhaps dull study with no intended practical application other than learning to identify and classify plants. But Thomas Elpel’s book is a painless approach to the same subject specially tailored to the needs of herbalists and lovers of plants. It approaches the otherwise heady subject of botany on a somewhat limited but totally useful scale with the same sense of satisfaction and fun one might expect from working and solving a crossword puzzle. The end result is a deeper relationship with the plants we know and the possibility of making new plant friends.

Earlier editions of this book were printed in black and white. For the same price, the newly expanded sixth edition has a colorful cover and color depictions of the plants throughout the book.

Click here to purchase the new edition on the Botany in a Day page on Elpel’s website, and don’t forget to check out his other works.

I don’t know what it is about the holidays and me, but when this time of year comes around I think about spices. It’s probably because of the season – winter, colder weather, Kidney time – and spicing up meals enhances all three of these. So once again I give you something about spices, although this time with a different twist -- I’ve found a perfect book not only for your kitchen, but as a lovely gift option as well.

Titled, Healing Spice: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Diseases, this fabulous book by Bharat B. Aggarwai with Debora Yost (Sterling, 2011) does exactly what it says: presents 50 spices along with their health uses, science, how to buy and use them, and my favorite part – recipes!

I was so inspired by this book that I completely restocked our spice cabinet, throwing out a lot of old stuff, cleaning up the mess and bringing in just those spices we wanted and would use. Now when I open the spice cabinet I can easily grab the ones I want. It has become a delight to use them rather than a burden to find them. As well, this book inspired me to create my own spice blends (another great gift idea, by the way).

How often do we think of spices as medicine? How many people know that our "lowly" kitchen spices are some of our most potent healing herbs? According to Aggarwai, "(W)orldwide scientific research has linked spices to the prevention and treatment of more than 150 health problems, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s."

Many people know that ginger aids digestion and treats motion sickness, and turmeric is good for pain and arthritis. But how many know that caraway is a folk remedy to prevent and control blood sugar problems and that its daily intake for two weeks normalized blood sugar in rats? How many cooks know that a compound in star anise is used as the "starter ingredient" for Tamiflu, the most commonly prescribed drug for flu? How many realize that a vanillin-derived drug significantly reduced the percentage of sickle cells in rats, becoming a potential new agent for those with sickle cell anemia?

Do you cook with fennel, fenugreek, asafetida, juniper berry, ajowan or tamarind? All of these highly flavorful herbs also have tremendous health benefits. Many of these spices aid digestion, improving appetite and eliminating gas and bloating. Of course just a dash of spice won’t heal your arthritis, but continued use of these spices does have beneficial effects on health and prevents disease.

So go ahead – spice up your life this holiday and help others to do so, too! Here’s a spice recipe I love that you may enjoy, too. I made this so often recently that I decided to combine all the spices in one large batch for easy use in the future. However, if you choose to do so, keep the seeds separate from the powders; they brown at different rates. 



  • 1-2 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil or sesame oil
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground clove
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


1) Heat ghee or oil in a large pan and add fennel and fenugreek seeds. After heating for a few seconds, add the remaining spices. Cook for two minutes over medium-low heat, stirring, until browned.

2) Mix in onion and garlic and sauté on medium heat until onion is near translucent.

3) Place yogurt and salt (and red pepper if desired) in blender. Cool spice/onion/garlic mix and then blend with yogurt/salt until smooth. Add yogurt to thin as needed.

4) Stir into or pour over warm, cooked meat (chicken, beef, lamb), and vegetables (I like to use one carrot, halved and sliced, 1 cup cauliflower florets, 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces and/or one red bell pepper cut into pieces). Garnish with parsley.

5) Enjoy!

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