Herban Homeschool: Week 5

Seeds this past week. Seeds and squirrels and the changing of seasons.


Life in a basil seed we harvested and stored for next year.



And the parts of a tree.


We narrated a squirrel with a seed.  The chosen title is below, along with a little something dad left up for the next day.


We continued to gather things for the seasonal basket.


And enjoyed every day out in the changing weather.


Hopefully this week finds us out every day as well.



Pica & Herbs (A Personal Account)

I just finished my fourth pregnancy, and for the first time in my life I experienced what many call “pregnancy pica”.  Pica loosely translates into someone craving non-food/non-nutritional substances to eat.  The issue spans geography.  It can be experienced by children, the mentally handicapped, the elderly, the pregnant, and the iron-deficient.  It is experienced for a lifetime or a season.  There are correlations, but not definite causation.

I first noticed it when I would put laundry detergent in the washer.  For some reason the strong scent brought out a type of craving impulse.  I did not exactly want to eat the detergent, but I did notice the scent gave off a distinct internal signal.  I felt it deep within my gut.  It was a similar feeling as to when I nurse, I get the urge to drink water.  My mouth does not go dry, for I do not experience any symptoms of dehydration. I am not dehydrated at all.  But I feel it in my gut, this deep craving for a glass of water.  I could point it to the microbiome, which is where my mind goes, but I am untrained to share such knowledge if there was any to begin with.

Weeks went by, each time I attempted to pinpoint what aromatic chemical was causing such a reaction.  It wasn’t until I decided to eat a few mint leaves right after putting in a new load of wash that I noticed the craving was sufficed.  It was definitely an ah-ha moment.  Mint is highly astringent, and for some reason beyond my current training it satisfied the deep craving initiated by the aromatics of the detergent.  I have lemon balm throughout my yard and tried that as well.  It also sufficed the craving.  We eat both herbs throughout the seasons and my body is used to their chemicals, but this was different.  It was a distinct astringency that met the pica craving.

I hope to dig deeper into the chemical components of these lamiaceae family herbs and see just where the connection lies. Beyond the aromatic response I am hoping to see a specific chemical connection. Traditionally herbs in the lamiaceae family are known as gentle digestive aids.  But to limit an herb to one ailment, or even one chemical to one response, is often amateur and short sighted.  I’ll attempt to look deeper into this as the weeks go on and will link to this any information I find.



Pica – Clinical Methods 3rd Edition 




Herban Homeschool: Week 3

This past week we went through three letters (and corresponding fairy tales).


We read Jordan & Maria, a tale of two children who forage for food and find a kind herbalist who teaches them to survive by eating from the woods.  The kind herbalist makes them a peppermint tisane to cure their stomach aches.  We picked our own ginger mint (mentha x gracilis) and made some fresh hot tisane for the morning.





Later in the week we did both letters E (The Golden Key) and F (The Fisherman’s Son).  We were not quite as intrigued in these stories but they still gave us lots to talk about.




We also got out a paper doll that was gifted to us from a friend.  The box says 1978 on it, so I attempted to get across how old this toy was and how gentle we needed to be with it. I told them how I used to cut up my mom’s JC Penney catalogs and make my own paper doll scenes at the dinner table. Now the girls both asked for paper dolls for Christmas.



It is still quite hot here for September.  Our leaves are still green.  Soon it will cool off and we will find ourselves outside more collecting leaves and acorns for science. Off to week four.


Growing Chinese Herbs in the US

Photo Credit: Herbalogic.com


I took a holiday job at a local bookstore this season which just recently came to an end.  One fun part of the job was conversing with the customers that came up to the register.  I was able to discuss many different topics and ideas as their books showed their personal interests.  One topic that came up quite often with customers and co-workers alike was where the medicinal herb market was heading in the US.

Being a student of Western herbalism I often start sharing how easy it is to grow herbs that are native to Northern Indiana soil.  There are plenty of helpful herbs that often get mowed over or destroyed simply because they become invasive and do not look as tidy as grass.  Equipped with the knowledge of recognizing these helping plants and being able to properly asses their quality, most people would find that they are already growing something in their yard they could use.

But many times when I talk on herbalism I find that Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is what initially comes to people’s minds.  They think of wild ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, L) which actually grows in North America but is used in TCM, or other herbs that are grown in China and brought over to the US.  There is a bit of romanticism about it, getting foreign herbs to aid healing when “modern medicine” won’t do the trick.  It also helps when beneficial techniques such as the practice of Thai Chi are used along with herbal supplements.  The package deal is unique and interesting.

With rising quality issues concerning supplements from other countries, it is no wonder that there are more American herb farmers interested in growing specific herbs for TCM. These herbs have been well documented for years and carry quite the reputation.  And focusing on a sustainable, local source for these gems is phenomenal.

I’m intrigued with how this will go as people become more interested in herbal supplement use for health in general.  If we use our lands for herbs that do not naturally grow here, I wonder what the outcome will be.  The quality may be better, similar, or worse.  It could also lead to interest in native herbs, many that have the same helpful properties as those purchased from other countries.  An educated customer keeps herb quality in check.

*Edited to add a recent study showing that American ginseng tisane protects cellular DNA within 2 hours from consumption. (Sept 2015)

Anyway, another article popped up on a social network today that got me thinking about a balance of trends.  As we find ourselves interested in securing our own sources for herbs used in TCM, China has just opened a fancy new McDonald’s that rivals anything I have seen here.  In fact, if I had one of these new “McDonald’s Next” close by, I am sure I would visit.  What trends and what sells at each moment is quite interesting, huh?

Some recognizable herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine by Common Name*

Mulberry Leaf
Honeysuckle Flower
Reishi Mushroom
Angelica Root
Astragalus Root
Liquorice Root
American Ginseng
Cassia Seed

*These herbs could be recommended in common name, scientific/Latin name, or Chinese name. It is best to double check with the scientific/Latin name to make sure you are getting exactly what was recommended.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners in Indiana

Essence of China Acupuncture & Herb Clinic, Carmel IN
Dr. Angelica Kokkalis, O.M.D L.Ac., Lafayette IN
Munster Medical Acupuncture & Wellness, Munster IN