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.


Living Earth School of Herbalism - Herbal Field Studies

Herbal Field Studies Introductory Class is now online!


This class is the prerequisite for Herbal Field Studies - a series of seven full-day outdoor workshops running monthly from April to October.


The Introductory Class establishes the theoretical foundation for the field workshops and provides an excellent overview of wild plant identification and ethical wild-harvesting. It is useful to any herbal student or herb enthusiast who wants to develop a more intimate knowledge of wild herbs.


Once you complete the introductory class, you will be able to attend any or all of the field workshops lead by Michael Vertolli in which you will learn how to identify, harvest and use many wild herbs that grow in Ontario or in similar ecosystems. At each field workshop you will also make an herbal preparation using herbs harvested during the workshop.


There is no prerequisite necessary to take this class and it is open to anyone with an interest in wild herb identification whether or not you continue on with the field workshops.  

Cost: $65.

For more information or to register, please click here.


Dry, Itchy Skin in the Winter

Winter is rough on the skin. Indoor heating, wind chill and low humidity all rob your skin of vital moisture leaving it itchy and irritated. Below are some simple steps to keep itchy skin at bay.  

Water: The skin holds several litres of water within its dermal layer that keeps it plumped up and healthy. Be sure to drink enough water each day to keep you well hydrated - the amount you need depends on your activity levels and body size. Our bodies need pure water to function and nothing can be substituted for it. Juice, tea, pop, even herbal teas are not water. Only water is water. Start each morning with a full glass of water. If you have difficulty drinking straight water, the best thing to do is reprogram your experience of it. As you drink your water, be grateful for the gift of life it is giving you. If drinking down a whole big bottle of water is intimidating, keep a glass of water near you throughout the day and refill it when it is empty. This gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps you keep track of how much water you’ve had. Add a slice of lemon to your water to spruce it up if you need to. Build up your water intake slowly. Be gentle with yourself and do your best.

Nutrition: Be sure to include raw, organic oils in your diet everyday which will help keep your skin moisturized from the inside out.

Indoor Humidity: In the warmer months, indoor humidity is around 35%. Anything under 30% relative humidity will cause loss of moisture from the skin. In the winter, indoor humidity is reduced to 5-10% - this is the same humidity as a desert! A humidifier is a necessity in the winter. Check out the differences between a hot and cool mist humidifier and chose what is best for you. Be sure to regularly change the water in your humidifier and give it a good cleaning often to prevent bacteria and mold from forming.

Bathing: Bathing in hot water will dry the skin by stripping it of its natural oils. The chlorine and other chemicals in the water are hard on your skin as well (and toxic to your body) so get yourself a shower filter. There are also filters that fit over your tub faucet. Take quick showers or baths and use lukewarm water if you can bear it. On those days when you need a good soak, add 1-2 tbsp of an organic, cold-pressed oil such as flax, hemp, coconut or olive oil to your bath after you get into the tub. Adding 1 cup of organic raw apple cider vinegar also helps relieve dry, itchy skin. Soap strips away your natural oils and defenses. Only use soap on your armpits, anus and feet. The skin is like a self-cleaning oven and doesn’t require harsh cleansers. If you feel you need to use something on your skin, use oatmeal. Wrap a handful of rolled oats in a washcloth and tie closed with a rubber band. Wet the cloth well and knead it until the milkiness of the oats comes out. Use this to rub all over your skin for an amazing anti-itch, exfoliating and cleansing skin treatment. After bathing, massage a small amount of the organic, cold-pressed oil of your choice into your damp skin. Try not to bathe every day, but instead use a face cloth on armpits and groin in between the days you bathe.

Moisturizing: Be sure to use an all natural moisturizer to keep your skin protected from environmental dehydration. The moisturizer you use should be food for your skin, not a blend of foreign chemicals. Any of the cold-pressed food oils can work to seal moisture in your skin. Moisture is water, so be sure to always apply your moisturizer on damp skin.

Dry Skin Brushing: Dry skin brushing before your shower or bath will keep your skin exfoliated and healthy. This simple technique helps with your skin’s elimination process by stimulating the blood and lymphatic systems and removing dead skin cells. Purchase a brush made from natural bristles that are of a medium firmness. The brush should have a removable long handle for reaching your back.


  • Brush your skin before showering, while the skin is dry.
  • Use a medium firm stroke, always towards the heart, to brush your entire body. Start at the feet and go over each body section front and back 2-3 times (strokes).  
  • The order that you do the strokes are: the soles of your feet (stroke toes to heels), top of the feet to knees, knees to hips, abdomen (use a circular, counter-clockwise stroke here), breast (brush gently over the breasts - finish with strokes towards your armpits), buttocks, lower back, upper back, hands to elbows, elbows to shoulders, neck from chin to chest (use very gentle strokes here).
  • It should only take about 2 -3 minutes to dry brush your entire body .

Wind Chill: Be sure to bundle up well and protect your face when going outside to prevent the drying, chafing effects of wind chill.

Sun Protection: Even though it can be quite cold outside, the normal precautions for excessive sun exposure apply on a sunny winter’s day.

With these few simple changes/additions to your skincare regime you can ensure that your skin in winter will be as soft, supple and itch-free as it is in the warmer months!



The Living Earth School of Herbalism Online is live!

We are now accepting registrations for Healing With Herbs, the first of our online courses.

Living Earth School of Herbalism provides quality education in Western herbalism and related subjects for those who wish to pursue a career as a professional herbalist or who want to learn about herbs and herbal medicine for their own general interest.

Michael Vertolli is the director of the school and the curriculum is based on his over 25 years experience of teaching and practising herbal medicine.

I am the Online Course Advisor for Living Earth and will be answering student's questions about course content and hosting our online forum.

Additional courses will become available on a regular basis throughout 2012. The next course to go live will be Herbal Field Studies.

To learn more about the school and to see our course offerings, please visit the Living Earth website and go to our facebook page and like us so you can be informed when courses become avilable.


Elecampane (Inula helenium)

The ground thawed enough last week that I was able to harvest my Elecampane root – phew! That’s definitely one herb I couldn’t do without for an entire year as I use it a lot in my practice.

Elecampane is a member of the asteraceae or aster family – the same family as dandelion. It has beautiful flowers that look like small scraggly sunflowers, but unlike dandelion which stays close to the ground, Elecampane can grow up to several feet in height. I love this plant (really, I love all plants). Looking at its cheerful flowers and being in its presence lifts my spirit. It’s like it radiates out a beautiful, sunny day. The stalk of Elecampane is very strong and persists into the winter. In the late fall and early winter, the dried seed heads provide food for the seed eating birds such as goldfinches, juncos and chickadees. It is such a delight to watch the birds and listen to their gentle call notes as they take turns jumping on and off the Elecampane.

The parts of Elecampane used medicinally are the herb and root. The herb is harvested early in its flowering period from early to mid July and consists of one medium sized leaf from higher up on the stem to every two unfertilized flowers. You can tell the flower has been fertilized when there is any browning of the florets; an unfertilized flower is bright yellow. The root is harvested in the fall after the aerial parts of the plant have died back.

The herb is excellent for chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is used for liver and gallbladder congestion, poor appetite, indigestion and constipation. It is an immune stimulant and is used for colds, flu, measles, chickenpox and fever. It is used for upper respiratory tract conditions such as sinus infections and hayfever. It is also an amphoteric nervine, which means that it is either calming or slightly stimulating to the central nervous system depending on whether you are in a more hyper or fatigued state.

The root is a rejuvenating tonic for the lungs. It is used to treat respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and whooping cough and chronic lung conditions such as asthma and emphysema. It is excellent for any acute or chronic conditions of the digestive system. It is an antimicrobial, aperient, anti-inflammatory, appetite stimulant, bitter, relaxant and a warming carminative. A warming carminative is a pungent, aromatic herb that stimulates the digestive secretions of the mouth, stomach and small intestines and reduces spasms, gas and bloating in the digestive tract. The root is excellent for hypoglycaemia and diabetes and provides support to the adrenals and pancreas. It also has immune stimulating properties and is used in formulation to boost the immune system and prevent infections.

The root is also an excellent vermifuge and is used to expel all manner of worms from the intestines. What follows is an old recipe for a vermifuge ‘wine’ using Elecampane root:

200g fresh chopped Elecampane root

250ml vodka

¼ cup organic, raw cane sugar

1 litre organic red wine

Macerate (soak) the Elecampane in the vodka in a mason jar for one week. Shake at least once a day and store in a dark place. Add the rest of the ingredients and macerate one month more in a dark place, shaking daily for two weeks then let sit for another two weeks. After this, strain out the herb and store the 'wine' in a dark bottle with a tight-fitting lid. To use, take 25ml before meals, 3 times a day for 3 consecutive days. Take a break for 10 days then repeat. Repeat this whole process a total of three times.

Elecampane is a very safe, tonic herb that can be used with children. It does have some mild emmenagogue properties though, so it shouldn’t be used in pregnancy.


Delicious Cilanto Pesto for Heavy Metal Detoxification

Cilantro is not only a fantastic herb that adds pizzazz to your food; it is also a very effective agent for mobilizing heavy metals from your body. We are subjected to a wide array of heavy metals such as mercury, lead and aluminum, every day which contribute to a wide array of health problems. Detoxification of these toxins from our bodies is essential. Detoxification does not necessarily mean fasting. In fact, the addition of certain foods in our diet can go a long way in protecting us from toxins or help them be excreted from the body. What follows are two delicious recipes for cilantro pesto that can be taken over three weeks to help mobilize heavy metals from the tissues. Take at least 2 tsp a day either straight or use as you would any other pesto, though it needs to be eaten raw. Use only organic ingredients.

[Note: It’s vital to remove the liberated heavy metals from the body with the use of binding agents while doing the pesto 3 week detox. I recommend using chlorella and psyllium husks. To use psyllium please see my blog on fasting. How you use chlorella depends on which chlorella product you are using – check with your local health food store. Drink lots of water. If you have any questions on using this pesto as a detoxifying agent, please talk with your herbalist or other natural health care provider].

Cilantro Recipe #1, Vegan:


Cilantro (fresh)                        2 cups packed

Garlic                                      4 cloves

Brazil nuts (raw)                      1/3 cup

Sunflower seeds (raw)             1/3 cup

Pumpkin sees (raw)                 1/3 cup

Flax or olive oil                       2/3 cup

Lemon juice (fresh)                 4 tbsp

Dulse powder                          2 tsp

Bragg’s liquid aminos              to taste

Directions: Process the cilantro and oil in a blender until the cilantro is chopped. Add the garlic, nuts, and seeds, dulse and lemon juice and blend again until you get a stiff paste or the consistency you prefer. Add the Bragg’s to taste and blend a little more. Store in glass jars. It can be frozen.

Cilantro Recipe #2:


Fresh Cilantro                         1 bunch (approximately 3 cups, loosely packed)

Parmesan cheese (grated)       1/2 cup

Pine nuts or walnuts (raw)      1/2 cup

Garlic                                      2 cloves

Lime juice (fresh)                    1 tbsp

Olive oil                                  1/2 cup

Sea salt                                   to taste

Directions: Process as above. You can alternately add the sunflower and pumpkin seeds to this recipe.




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