I invite you to send me any questions you have on health and wellness, herbs, herbal medicine, plant spirit medicine, natural skincare, and anything else that comes to mind that I may answer. I can’t diagnose or treat over the internet, but I welcome suggestions on what you might want to read in my blog.


Home Remedies for Coughs, Colds & Flu

Living Earth School of Herbalism has just released a one hour video lecture called Immune Support and the Natural Treatment of Colds and Flu. Here are some simple home remedies for coughs, colds and flu that you can do as well. These remedies are safe for pregnant women as well as children, though remember not to use honey with children under 1 year old.    

First of all, at the first sign of illness, simplify your daily activities and get lots of rests. Take a sick day from work if possible and give yourself some TLC. Also, be sure to keep warm and don’t let yourself get chilled. Next, use the following treatments and remedies to stimulate your immune system:

The Wet Sock Treatment:

The wet sock treatment is an easy way to boost your immune system quickly. I know it sounds bananas but you’ll have to trust me on this one. I’ve done it several times myself and can attest to its powerful healing abilities. Cold on your feet initiates the fever response which is the body’s natural way of fighting off cold and flu infections and increasing the circulating levels of white blood cells. It increases the circulation and decreases congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat. It is very effective for fever, sore throat, upper respiratory infections and congestion, coughs and bronchitis, ear infections, headaches and migraines. It also has a sedating action and improves sleep quality.


Ingredients: 1 pair 100% cotton socks; 1 pair thick wool socks

  1. Make sure your feet are warm first. If need be give them a soak in warm water or do this after a bath.
  2. Soak the cotton socks in very, very cold water and then wring them out thoroughly so that they aren’t dripping. Put them on your feet.
  3. Put the wool socks over the cotton socks and get into bed for the night immediately.
  4. Keep the socks on over night. In the morning they will be bone dry.
  5. Repeat this procedure for 3 nights in a row.

To enhance this whole process, sip a cup of ginger tea after getting into bed.

Ginger Tea & Friends:

Ginger tea and friends is an excellent remedy that can be used by everyone in the family. It will enhance your immunity, increase circulation, decrease congestion, and reduce a fever. You will feel very hot when you drink this tea because the blood is going to the surface of the skin to help dispel the fever.

[Caution: Ginger in large amounts (more than 1-2 grams of dried ginger per day) has been associated with miscarriage. Do not exceed the recommended dosage and avoid altogether in the first trimester if you have a history of miscarriage].

Ginger root is excellent for colds and flu because it stimulates the immune system, brings down a fever and helps clear toxins and congestion. It clears phlegm in the lungs and is good for infections of the lower and upper respiratory tract. At the onset of a cold finely chop fresh ginger root (a piece that measures from the last knuckle to the end of your thumb) and steep it in a cup of boiled water for 15 minutes covered. Strain and drink every couple of hours.

For greater kick and immune stimulating properties add a pinch of powdered cayenne to the ginger tea, one teaspoon of honey and the juice of half a small lemon (see my blog on lemons to learn more about their healing potential). To ratchet this tea up yet another notch, add one clove of crushed raw garlic. Garlic is one of our best natural antibiotics and is excellent for any infections in the body. Its essential oils are expressed through the lungs which is great for any lung infection.

Onion Soup: Cut 1 large yellow onion in small pieces; cover with 2L of water; simmer for ½ hour. Strain and add honey to taste. Drink 2 cups ever 2 hours until your flu is gone.

Reducing Fever:

Any of the above treatments will reduce fever. Also sipping a few cups of lemon balm, catnip, or chamomile tea throughout the day will bring your fever down.

Decongesting the Sinuses:

Mustard Foot Baths:

Hot mustard foot baths are used for congestion in the sinuses and lungs, a chest cough, headaches, and are an old recipe for throwing off colds. The blood flows away from the over-congested area and rushes to the feet. The body soon sends the blood back through normal channels, and proper circulation is restored. Mix 1 tbsp of dry mustard powder into 2L of hot water and soak your feet for 10 minutes, twice daily. Cover your head with a hat to increase body heat.

Salt Decongestant:

Use a saltwater in the nose to decongest the sinuses. Dissolve ¼ tsp of sea salt in one cup of warm water. Use a tablespoon to sniff the solution up your nostrils one at a time. Place a tbsp of solution under one nostril, block off the other nostril with your finger and sniff. Spit out the solution, do not swallow it. Repeat in the opposite nostril, and then repeat the procedure all over again. After, gently blow your nose. Do this 3-4 times a day.

Sore Throat:

Echinacea Tincture: Gargle with 30 – 60 drops echinacea tincture in 30mls warm water for a few minutes and then swallow in small amounts while tilting your head side to side and back and forward so that the Echinacea washes over your entire throat.

Salt Water and Sage: Ingredients: 1 cup boiled water; 2 tsp sage leaves (dried; or 3 tsp fresh); ¼ tsp salt

Pour boiling water over the sage, cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add salt and stir. Gargle when cooled to a comfortable temperature. Gargle repeatedly (4 times or so). Spit out tea. Do this at least 2 times a day (preferably 3).


Onion or Garlic Cough Syrup: Fill a glass jar ½ full with peeled and chopped garlic or onion. Poor warmed honey over the garlic or onion and put the lid on. In the morning, strain out the garlic or onion (you may need to liquefy the honey again). To use: hold the honey in the mouth and let it slowly trickle down the throat. For a child take 1 tsp as needed; for adults use 2-3 tsp. This honey must be used up within a week.

Garlic and Honey Cough Syrup: Peel and mince 6-8 cloves of garlic. Add to 1 cup of raw honey and let stand for at least 2 hours. Take a tsp of the syrup and garlic bits when cough acts up. This honey must be used up within a week.

Lemon and Honey Fever and Cough Syrup: Roast one to many big, juicy lemons on a pan at 350F until they split open. Squeeze out the lemon juice and add ½ the amount of raw honey and blend well. Take 1-2 tsp every ½ hour until the cough is under control. Lemons have long been used to control minor and major fever attacks. Lemon is a refrigerant (cooling). It is useful in all inflammatory and feverish conditions. Use up the syrup within a week.

Garlic Cough Syrup: This syrup is expectorant and is very useful for relieving spasmodic coughs and lung congestion.

Mince 90g of fresh Garlic. Add to 250mls of raw apple cider vinegar. Macerate for 4 days, shaking often. Strain and press. Add 500g of liquefied raw honey. Shake vigorously until well blended. Bottle in small dark bottles and store in the fridge.

White Pine Bark Cough Syrup: The dried inner bark of white pine is expectorant and diuretic and is used for coughs and congestion. Put ½ cup of coarsely ground bark in a jar and cover with 2/3 cup boiling water. When cool, add ½ cup whisky, seal the jar, and let it soak overnight – shake the jar occasionally. The next day, strain it, and to the liquid add 1 cup honey. Shake until homogenous. Transfer to a sterilized amber round bottle. Dose: 1 tbsp for adults and 1 tsp for children as needed.

Tincture and Honey Cough Syrup:

To make a quick and easy cough syrup combine 1 part herbal tincture to 3 parts raw honey. Liquefy the honey by placing the jar in hot water, stir in the tincture. Bottle in dark sterilized bottles. The adult dose is 1 tsp as needed; for a child use ¼ to 1/3 tsp.

Herbal tinctures to Use for Coughs/Lung Congestion: Use one or a combination of any of the following herbs as a tincture to make up a simple cough syrup depending on your cold/flu symptoms:

Stimulating Expectorant: elecampane, white horehound, white pine needles

Relaxing Expectorant: comfrey leaf, coltsfoot, hyssop, licorice, milkweed root, mullein

Anti-spasmodics:  aniseed, garlic, hyssop, onion, mullein, thyme, wild cherry bark

Anti-catarrhal: coltsfoot, echinacea, garlic, hyssop, mullein, onion

Anti-microbials: aniseed, echinacea, elecampane, garlic, onion, thyme, white pine needles

Anti-inflammatories: aniseed, coltsfoot, hyssop, licorice,

Demulcents: comfrey leaf, coltsfoot, mullein, licorice

Immune Stimulant: Echinacea, elder flower, elecampane, garlic, ginger, plantain


Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)

I harvested Trametes versicolor or Turkey Tail in early November. This is the first time I’ve made a tincture of Trametes and I’m really looking forward to getting familiar with its medicine.

Trametes has been calling to me for at least the last 3 years, and this year I made the commitment to harvest it. I’ve been hesitant to harvest Trametes for two reasons. Firstly, because I already harvest at least 150 different herbs and adding more to my apothecary is not something I do lightly! And secondly, because Trametes is so light and airy I thought it would be a gruelling process that would take ages of concentrated patience. I already have several herbs that fit that description and wasn’t eager to add another. When a plant (or in this case a fungus) calls out to me or catches my eye, I know I’m being given medicine for an important reason and I’m expanding as a healer. So, quite frankly, all my machinations are for naught and I always do as I’m instructed. So, off I went to harvest Trametes, prepared for hours of patient harvesting, and I was pleasantly surprised! I found several large logs that were totally covered with Trametes and it only took me a short while to get enough to make 1½ litres of tincture.

Trametes versicolor is called Turkey Tail because it looks like a wild turkey's tail...simple! Trametes is a polypore mushroom and a decomposer of wood. It recycles the nutrients and minerals in the wood of fallen trees, making them available to other forest inhabitants. It is one of the fungi that are being investigated for possible use in ‘biopulping’ which involves using a fungus to convert wood chips to paper pulp while reducing energy use and pollutants. Nice.

Medicinal Properties:  Adaptogen, antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, antimicrobial, antineoplastic, antioxidant, antiviral, antihepatotoxic, hypocholesterolemic, hypolipidemic, immune tonic.

Trametes is a very deep acting medicine that is great for anyone with a compromised immune system. It increases the adaptive response of the immune system to all types of stressors. It is used for several different kinds of cancers such as cervical, breast, lung, stomach, liver, colon, prostate, esophageal cancers, etc. It is also used for all manner of chronic diseases. It is used for hepatitis B and C; malaria; impetigo; infection and inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, the urinary tract and the digestive tract; lupus; viral infections of any kind including genital herpes and HIV; and chronic fatigue.

The ISRN Oncology Journal recently published a study entitled "Phase I Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer" demonstrated that Trametes is an effective adjunct to conventional chemotherapeutic medicines and radiation therapy for breast cancer.

Trametes isn’t the tastiest mushroom around. Its flavour is rather bland and ever so slightly mushroomy, but it can be added to soup stock to make a nutritious, immune boosting soup.

Right now my Trametes versicolor tincture is macerating in my apothecary and should be ready to use in a few months. I’m very excited to start working with it and deepening my understanding of this powerful, local medicine.

If you aren’t all stoked yet about the power and importance of fungus, please watch this excerpt from the feature documentary, "Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit", by Louie Schwartzberg on mycologist Paul Stamets as he discusses the important role mushrooms play in the survival and health of the earth and the human species.


Chocolate Bomb Lip Therapy

It’s winter and it’s dry and you can feel desiccated inside and out. For tips on how to deal with dry itchy skin in the winter, please go to my blog http://dreamingwillow.ca/blog/2012/1/19/dry-itchy-skin-in-the-winter.html. But what about your lips? They need some extra attention too at this time of year. Here’s my recipe for Chocolate Bomb Lip Therapy. A delicious way to keep your lips happy!

Coco Butter                 10 gramsLips : Female seamless background with lips

Shea Butter                  10 grams

A blend of Oils*           50 mls

Beeswax                      10 grams

Vitamin E                     5 capsules 400IU

Cooking Chocolate      20 grams

Peppermint Essential Oil    10 drops

*Use a blend of oils such as olive oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, coconut oil, or a herbal infused oil for added healing qualities.

Preparation: In a double boiler melt the beeswax, coco butter, shea butter and chocolate. When melted add the fluid oils. When everything is melted into a liquid, take off the heat and add the vitamin E by snipping a cut in the capsules and squeezing out the contents. Lastly add the peppermint essential oil. Stir well and put into lip balm jars or tubes immediately.


Natural Toothpaste

I do not use store-bought toothpaste. In fact, I do not use any store-bought personal care products with the exception of Dr. Bronner’s Almond Pure-Castile Soap. But that aside, I have been making my own toothpaste for many years and I have very healthy, happy teeth. I would never use a conventional toothpaste ever…maybe one from the health food store in a pinch. Please check out the ingredients of two of Crest’s toothpastes to see all the crazy, carcinogenic ingredients used in conventional toothpastes:

Crest Cavity Protection - Regular Paste: Active Ingredient: sodium fluoride. Inactive Ingredients: sorbitol, water, hydrated silica, sodium lauryl sulfate, trisodium phosphate, flavor, sodium phosphate, cellulose gum, carbomer 956, sodium saccharin, titanium dioxide, blue 1.

Crest Vivid White - Invigorating Mint:  sodium saccharin, titanium dioxide, cellulose gum, sodium hydroxide, sodium lauryl sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, PEG-12, sorbitol, water, hydrated silica, glycerin, sodium hexametaphosphate, propylene glycol, flavor, poloxamer 407, xanthan gum, carbomer 956 and polyethylene oxide.

Cripes! I don’t want that leaching into my bloodstream. For a really well-researched understanding and definition of what all these chemicals are in your personal care products please get Adria Vasil's book 'Ecoholic Body'. If you aren’t already familiar with the dubious use of fluoride in toothpaste and water please go to this website: http://www.fluoridealert.org/issues/dental-products/toothpastes/. Again, no thank you!

Toothbrush : Tooth smilingBelow is my recipe for Cinnamint Toothpaste. You can customize your toothpaste anyway you want!

Dry Ingredients:

Baking Soda (non-alum)         10 ml

White Clay                              30 ml

Arrow Root Powder                 15 ml

Ester C Supreme (Sisu)            Contents of 2 capsules

Organic Cinnamon Powder      5 ml (or you can use ginger root, etc.)

Wet Ingredients:

Dr. Bronners Soap                   10 – 15 ml (the more the foamier)

Peppermint Essential Oil         15 – 20 drops (or use any other mint EO)

Stevia                                      30 – 50 drops (however sweet you want)

Water                                       Enough to make a paste

Optional Ingredients:

Silica Gel (optional)                 15 ml   

Herbal Tinctures:                     5 mls each

Possible tinctures for gingivitis, plaque, stains, etc.: Echinacea, St. John’s Wort, Plantain, Coltsfoot, Horsetail, Comfrey, Sage, Calendula, Bloodroot

Combine all the ingredients in a jar and stir well until a paste is achieved that you are happy with. Use like regular toothpaste and enjoy!


Cheery New England Aster

Where has the summer gone? Where have I been??? It’s been a very busy summer of adventure and harvesting. I have several litres of fresh plant tinctures quietly macerating and becoming my medicine in my home. My apothecary was quite depleted, so I had a lot of herbs to collect…and still do! It’s soon root season and I’ve got lots more herbs I need to harvest!

This past weekend I harvested Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, or New England Aster (NEA). I use the herb of this plant which consists of the upper 20 – 30% of the aerial parts, harvested early in its flowering period in late summer. The root has also been used historically, but I only use the herb.

Every plant has its particular nuances when it comes to harvesting and processing and NEA is no exception. It’s one of those easy to harvest but grueling to process plants.

NEA grows in open fields and enjoys lots of sunshine. The day I harvested was beautiful and sunny, and the field was ablaze with the gold of goldenrod and the purple of NEA – gorgeous! I slowly meandered through the field carefully selecting plants in perfect flower. It was so lovely and relaxing. I felt awesome! And then the processing began…Hours of carefully striping the gazillion side branches of its leaves and flowers to get enough plant material for 2 litres of tincture. By the end my fingers were black and sticky with resin and the sun had gone down ages before. Wow, what a study in patience! But that is the lot of the wildcrafter – perseverance, stamina and lots and lots of patience. But what a wonderful, rewarding life! I feel so rich after my herbs have been processed and excited to share the medicine with my clients.

NEA isn’t a well-known herb and you’d be hard-pressed to find it in an herbal, but it is an amazing healing plant. It is used primarily for conditions of the epithelial membranes, respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular systems. It is also a primary emmenagogue and can be used for female reproductive system conditions such as PMS, amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. It is has anti-inflammatory, antiulcerogenic, astringent, demulcent and vulnerary properties and is used for inflammation of the mucus membranes of the body such as sore throats, gastric and duodenal ulcers, colitis and leucorrhea as a douche. Historically, it was used internally and externally as a remedy for eruptive skin diseases and rashes caused by poison ivy and poison oak. It is used for conditions of the upper and lower respiratory system such as sinusitis, hayfever, asthma and dry, tight coughs. As a nervine it is used for stress-related conditions including anxiety and tension headaches. It also has depurative, cholagogue and lymphatic properties and is good for chronic rheumatic and inflammatory skin conditions. Because of its nervine, relaxant properties, this is a great plant to use in a detox formula for someone with stress and anxiety. For cardiovascular conditions it is used for poor peripheral blood circulation, varicosities and hemorrhoids.

There has been some scientific research out of Germany on NEA’s antiviral and anticancer properties. Of course, this study involved isolating certain chemical constituents which has little to do with the action of the whole plant, but there is a lot more this plant has to offer us than it is currently being used for, for sure.

Though this plant is gentle and tonic, is should not be used with pregnancy because of its emmenagogue properties.

I had a bit of the herb left over after making my tincture, so I’m drying it now to add to my ‘heal-all’ ointment that consists of whatever plants I have gathered that are excellent for external wounds, abrasions, bruises, cuts and rashes. I usually use fresh plants to make my oils, but because NEA has mucilaginous properties I’m wilting it until it’s almost dry to prevent my oil from spoiling.