Herbal formulation as a swift boat.

“To create angular momentum, you can either spin a really big flywheel with a lot of mass slowly, or a smaller one very fast.”-Michael Vatalaro

I recently received an inquiry from a client about their laundry list of inputs, with the intention of adding more. It is a frequently asked question, actually.  And my response to this is not “hey, take this!” It is actually “hey, let’s get rid of all that baggage!”

I am an herbal editor.

I think what we remove is as important as what we add.

I don’t think we are suffering, collectively, from a lack of supplements.


In this particular inquiry, the person was using/had recently used both pharmaceuticals and many popular “natural remedies” including Oil of Oregano, Grapefruit Seed extract and Colloidal Silver. These products have the power of promotion behind them, with hellish fear-based testimonials like “She was dying until she used the micro-particle colloidal silver!” and “We felt that God had led us to this information!” They are sold as forbidden cures that the government is attempting to pry from our extremely healthy hands in order to enforce BIG PHARMA HELL.

Anyway. I digress.

My suggestion is to get rid of all this crap. Forget about padding your “word count.” Like an editor, remove all the chaff and create something workable and elegant that makes sense. Because formulation is an art. Make each ingredient count.

I believe we can free the statue from the stone, if the statue is your ideal herbal protocol and the stone is an entire apothecary.

Believe me, I enjoy excess. I love a Victorian parlor filled with fainting couches, ornate gilded mirrors, murals of cherubs and mermaids, and 1,000 layers of velvet. But who is going to dust all of this crap? How can you run in that heavy dress? Some beautiful things are heavy and  can hold us back from exploration. We can love excess, yet see that we don’t want to live inside of it every day.

Simplicity in formulation is like the small boat which can change course very quickly, steer around obstacles and adapt to input. The small boat formula is adaptable. The large boat gets stuck or hits icebergs.

“We have another chance to navigate, perhaps in a slightly different way than we did yesterday.”-Jeffrey R Anderson

The great herbal formulator is an artist and a navigator.

What do these 2 paths have in common? An ability to see patterns. An ability to make connections that others are not making, to respond to your observations.  And the understanding of balance, of the aesthetics of a protocol.  When we are at sea, we must do more with less. Less but better, that is. Every drop of fresh water counts, every lime and chunk of hardtack. In design, the negative space is as important as the line. Holding back is as important as adding more.

And both are about seeing. Seeing things as they truly are. Seeing things from a different angle. Observing with your eyes, but with your whole self too.


So we can ask ourselves:

-What is the goal of this suggestion or formula or protocol?

-What are my reasons for using  a “kitchen sink” formula or protocol?

-Is this plan clear or confusing?

-is it actually realistic and achievable?

-Are we building people up or overwhelming their systems with this input?

-could we do this with less?

-is there anything I can take away?

-are my claims ethical and truthful?

-Am I selling something that replaces rest, movement, nutrition, or tension release?

-am I making the best use of my skills or relying on excess products?

-are there any ideas that I can let go of?

One can sail smart or one can sail strong, and the leakier the boat the faster we need to sail. There may be a place for the quick and dirty protocol, or the last-ditch bailout. But ultimately i think embracing simplicity, specifics, problem-solving and UN-treating may help herbalism as a whole to move forward and create exciting new paths.

It is the space in-between, and allowing for that, which creates the room for bodies to fill in the gaps. And that is what herbalism means to me–the body healing itself, supported by plants. Light enough to travel.

“A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.”-Webb Chiles

And I believe a formulator is an artist whose medium is the plants.



Medicine making as an act of Love and Resistance

I am the oldest child of 2 oldest children, and I carry the responsibility of my lineage that comes with that position. Many of the family stories have ben given to me, some through words and some through actions–as well as the old Polish-English dictionary, the well-used locksmith’s tools and the frayed old wedding dress that’s been taken in and taken out over and over like an elderly housecat. It is my deepest honor and my crushing burden, the weight of all these stories, all these photos, all this baggage, all this love and loss, all these hopes.

Buddy and Evelyn
Buddy and Evelyn

My lineage is mostly French-Canadian, Polish and perhaps a little Irish. I carry the blood of the French peasant, trapper  and Fisherman. I carry the blood of indigenous Eastern Canadians. I carry the passionate Baltic blood too, and the scrappy Irish. And I work to integrate this combination of energy within myself.

My people fished and farmed, foraged and made medicines, told stories, put out fires and made shoelaces overlooking a polluted river. My people were a long way from home, and then they were home.  My people kept it light enough to travel.

My people were amazing and brutal, drunk and joyful, lost and found. My people showed up at weddings in ill-fitting suits and drank. My people knew things, saw things I CAN. NOT. FUCKING. IMAGINE.

Around this dark time of year, going into Winter and seasons of tradition and family, fires and foods I get to thinking about my lineage and how best to honor them, process their stories, forgive them their indiscretions and make them all proud. I feel that I cannot claim  the power of my gender, bloodlines and class identity if I cannot at least try to understand them and their lives and choices, and if I cannot speak out for justice for all bloodlines.

No feathers, no firehats, no mother-tongues or pierogis without the work. The work is half heart-work and half action. Foraging. Listening. Weaving threads together. Rolling the dough. Preservation. Over and over. Do not falter. No names and no stories are really mine if I cannot at least attempt to unlock them, to understand where they came from.

Tools used to unlock things
Tools used to unlock things

I do not want to hold and draw power from the rosaries and tools and fabric of my people without fighting for all people to be heard. It is a disservice to everyone’s lineage if I can’t listen–to mine, to yours and to you.

And so I am making an elixir for each of my great-grandparents. I will connect to each one through taste this Winter, on long walks in the snow, meditating on my roots. I find taste to be grounding, a bridge across time,  and it helps me to understand people and their stories. Taste can be a voice which whispers fem the past. Taste can help me to honor those who gave me life, some of which is very bitter indeed.

Each one will be based on the person’s heritage, what I know of them and what they loved.

And I hope to hear a tiny bit of the dreams they dreamed, the anger they suppressed, the passion and  restless spirits that drove them to create.

Julia and her daughters
Julia and her daughters

I honor my lineage by healing my own heart, I can’t go backwards and help them but I’m by trying my best to stop certain ill-advised cycles that rip families apart, by sparking my own memory and trying like hell to make things right.

And I honor them by refusing to be silent, by acknowledging my privileges and contradictions, by letting history speak through me and my hands, making foods and herbs and wooly scarves. I honor them by claiming hope as my own, for myself, for my own kids.  I honor them by insisting on seeing them as real, complicated people. And most important of all, I honor my lineage by refusing to forget.

Alfred and Rena
Alfred and Rena

wonderful *early 2014-update* apothecary inventory listing!

IMG_3984honeysuckle 003Dear lovely people,
What follows is the super-exciting list of all the lovelies in Fellow Workers Farm apothecary. Tincture of fresh plant “aboveground parts” in organic grain alcohol unless otherwise stated. If the listing is followed by a * there is a limited or very limited quantity. Tinctures made with “folk method” and tend to be strong.
How can you get some? Use my Local Harvest page(link at right)-anything here can be purchased under the “special order” listing. Use MEMO or e-mail to specify your special order. I can also take orders via e-mail at fellowworkersfarm@gmail.com, I take paypal and I’m open to more creative options too-barter, worktrade, cash by passenger pigeon. ALL products are available on a sliding scale if needed! Just ask.
Tinctures are $10.00/1 oz, $16.00/2 oz or $30.00/4 oz, inquire about larger when available.

Agrimony, Agrimonia eupatorium, fresh pre-flowering leaf
Alder, Alnus glutinosa, freshly dried bark, cones, catkins
Angelica, Angelica archangelica, fresh root, dry root, seed, elixir
Anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, fresh flowering tops
Arnica, Arnica chamissonis, fresh flower
Artichoke, Cynara scolymus, fresh leaf
Aspen, Populus tremuloides, fresh bark and buds
Ashwaganda, Withania somnifera, dry root
Aster, New England, Aster novae-angliae, fresh flower
Barberry, Berberis vulgaris, fresh root and stem
Basil, Ocimum spp., fresh flowering tops of Italian basil, Mrs. Burns’ lemon, Thai, Tulsi(holy basil)-elixirs too!
Birch, sweet, Betula lenta, fresh bark and twig. tincture, oil, elixir
Blackberry, Rubus vilosus, fresh root
Black cherry, Prunus serotina, fresh bark, fresh flower elixir
Black Haw, Viburnum prunifolium, fresh bark
Blessed thistle, Cnicus benedictus,fresh flowering tops
Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, fresh root *
Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium, fresh leaf
Blue Vervain, Verbena hastata, fresh flowering tops
Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum, fresh flowering tops
Burdock, Arctium lappa, fresh root

Cacao, raw paste from Heartblood
Calamus, Acorus calamus, fresh rhizome *
Calendula, C. officinalis, fresh flower, also in oil
California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica, fresh whole plant
Catnip, Nepeta cataria, fresh flowering tops
Celandine, Chelidonium majus, fresh whole plant with roots
Chaga, Inonotus obliquus, dry fruiting body
Chammomile, C. recutita, fresh flowers
Chickweed, Stellaria media, fresh whole plant
Cinnamon, C. aromaticum, dry bark
Cleavers, Galium aparine, fresh whole plant
Cloves, Eugenia Caryophyllus, dry bud *
Cramp bark, Viburnum opulus, fresh bark
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, fresh leaf
Cottonwood, Populus deltoides, fresh bud, fresh bark, also oil
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, fresh root, leaf, flower

Echincace, E. purpurea, fresh root
Elder, Sambucus nigra, fresh flower, berry
Elecampane, Inula helenium, fresh root
Evening primrose, Oenothera biennis, fresh flowers/tops
Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, dry seed, fresh whole flowering plant*

Ginger, Zingiber officinale, fresh organic root
Ghost pipe, Monotropa uniflora, fresh whole plant *
Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis and spp., fresh flowering tops, oil too
Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, fresh root from cultivated sources *
Ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea, fresh flowering plant

Hawthorne, Crataegus spp., fresh flower/leaf, fresh berries
Heal-all/Self heal, Prunella vulgaris, fresh flowering tops
Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, fresh flower and buds
Horsetail, Equisetum arvense, fresh whole plant
Horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum, fresh husk, in witch hazel (external use) (temp.out of stock)
Hyssop, H. officinalis, fresh flowering tops
Jamaican Dogwood, Piscidia piscipula, dry bark
Japanese knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum, fresh root *
Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum, fresh root
Juniper, J. communis, dry berry
Kava, Piper methysticum, dry root

Lady’s mantle, Alchemilla vulgaris, fresh flowering plant
Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia, fresh flower, also elixir
Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, fresh flowering plant, also elixir
Licorice, Glychrizza glabra, dry root
Linden, Tilia americana, fresh flowers and leaf
Lobelia, L. inflata, fresh plant in flower and seed, tincture or acetum

Magnolia, M. grandiflora, fresh bud*
Maitake, Grifola frondosa, fresh fruiting body
Marshmallow, Althea officinalis, fresh root
Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, fresh flowering tops
Milk thistle, Silybum marianum, dry seed
Milky oats, Avena sativa, fresh milky seed, elixir too!
Mimosa, Albizia julibrissin, fresh bark and flower*
Mint, Peppermint, mentha piperata, Poleo mint, Mountain mint, Pycnanthemum virginiana, fresh plant
Mitchella/Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens, fresh whole plant*
Monarda, M. fistulosa, bradburiana, didyma, citriodora, fresh flowering tops, elixir too!
Motherwort, Leonorus cardiaca, fresh flowering tops
Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, fresh flowering tops
Mullein, Verbascum thapsus, fresh root, flower, leaf
Myrrh, Commiphora mulmul, resin
Nettles, Urtica dioica, fresh young leaf, fresh seed
Orange peel, Citrus spp., fresh
Oregano, Origanum, fresh flowering tops
Oregon Grape, Mahonia spp, fresh root
Osha, Ligusticum porterii, dry root *
Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, fresh flowering plant
Peach, Prunus persica, fresh flower, leaf, bark, pit all in brandy
Peony, Paeonia lactiflora, dry root
Pine, White, Pinus strobus, resin, fresh bark and needles, pollen
Plantain, Plantago major, fresh leaf
Poke, Phytolacca americana, fresh root
Pond Lily, Nymphaea odorata, fresh root *
Propolis, raw resin
Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, fresh flowering tops
Ragweed, Giant, Ambrosia trifida, fresh pre-flowering plant *
Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, fresh flower
Redroot, Ceanothus americanus, fresh root*
Reishi, Ganoderma spp., dry fruiting body
Rose, Rosa rugosa, Rosa multiflora, other rosa spp., fresh flowers, fresh flowering plant, rugosa flower elixir
Rose thorns, fresh *
Sage, Salvia officinalis, fresh flowering tops, elixir
Sage, Russian Perovskia atriplicifolia, fresh flowering tops*
Saint John’s Wort, Hypericum perfoliatum, fresh flowering tops, oil too
Sassafras, S. albidum, dry root*
Scullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, S. galericulata, fresh flowering tops
Schizandra, S. chinensis, dry berry *
Shepherd’s purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris, fresh whole plant
Spilanthes, S. acmella, fresh flowers
Spruce, Picea spp., fresh bark and resin, whole plant
Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum biflorum, fresh rhizome
Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina, fresh leaf and twig, elixir too
Sweet Annie, Artemisia annua, fresh flowering tops
Teasel, Dipsacus, fresh root
Thyme, thymus vulgaris, fresh flowering tops
Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris, fresh flowering tops *
Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipfera, fresh flower*
Turmeric, Curcuma longa, fresh rhizome, oil too
Usnea, U. barbata, U. spp, fresh lichen
Valerian, Valeriana officinalis, fresh root
Violet, Viola odorata,V. spp, fresh flower, fresh whole plant
Vervain, White, Verbena urticifolia, fresh flowering tops
Walnut, Black, Juglans nigra, fresh hull, dry hull, fresh leaf
White sage, Salvia apiana, fresh whole plant *
Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, fresh seed and flower
Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum, fresh root *
Willow, Salix alba, fresh bark and twig
Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginianica, fresh flower and bark *
Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, fresh flowering plant
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, fresh flowering plant
Yellow Dock, Rumex crispus, fresh root
next up: blends, herbal teas, salves, and “stuff that’s not tinctures”

lavender fiends unite!

although i thought of lavender as being “too mainstream” for far too long i have sure changed my tune. yes, every crappy shower gel shop  at the mall, battery-powered aromatherapy diffuser and glade plug-in refill features fake made-in-china lavender scent. but let’s not let that crap ruin it for the rest of us. real lavender is nothing like that stuff, and it is very good.


lavender, (lavandula  angustifolia and allied species), is in the mint family and thrives in sandy light soil in full sun, building up delightful and soothing volatile oils. originally from the mediteranean area it is one of the few plants i grow that does  not like to be very wet.  many people are familiar with the essential oil of lavender, and sure it’s nice but tricky to make and you need a lot of plant material to get a little of the highly concentrated oil.

i make a tincture of fresh flowering tops which is just super, so very soothing. to me, it is the definition of “balm”, a cooling energy mover and nervine . i love to use it as a digestive bitter-especially post-eating. the tincture moves gas and stuck digestion. it is also nice used as an elixir or dried in tea blends.  the elixir is very fun in a bit of seltzer before bed.

the tincture helps relieve tension, headaches due to tension and spasms, nervousness and anxiety. herbalist david winston gives the indication “stagnant depression” which i see often especially in winter.


additionally lavender has properties which whack bacteria,  support teeth and gums and treat mild burns. it has become one of my top wouldn’t-want-to-be-without herbs with a truly broad spectrum of application which i turn to over and over!

apothecary tour and tincture delivery

just a little announcement! yes, i have over 100 plant tinctures in my apothecary. yes, i have many oils and salves. also, other things like infused honeys, elixirs, dried herbs and blends.  the apothecary can be viewed. please make an appointment. you can touch, taste, smell and otherwise engage with the plant medicine. also, the garden is in full bloom right now. i will happily give a plant id tour of the yard, the community garden or random plants in the neighborhood.

also, a reminder: all plant medicines can be available on a sliding scale if needed.

and-most items can be delivered or mailed.

herbal tinctures

contact: fellowworkersfarm@gmail.com

yo, what’s the dose? tinctures, teas and more!

recently i have had a few lovely people who have ordered herbs ask me:

“what is the dosage?”

ah, the big and eternal question. as a seller of medicinal herb tinctures and tea blends i generally do not recommend a dosage when handing over the product-especially through mail order. why? because it is different for everyone. my assumption is that you came to purchase the herb after doing significant research and/or working with a holistic practitioner.

it depends on the person, the condition, the herb and the “magical extra”: the blending of all 3!

now i would be happy to help persons with a dosage guideline or range on inquiry, and of course i give dosage range to those i am working with as an herbalist. however, this explains why my herbal tinctures do not arrive at your house  with printed dosage. i hope this helps my wonderful customers to understand where i’m coming from, and thank you all so much for ordering from my little  herbal apothecary.

pressing goldenrod tincture