Category Archives: herbs

Licorice Root & Hibiscus Tea (Another Cold Remedy)


The last few weeks have been rather eventful.

First and foremost, I married the love of my life. We had a huge elaborate wedding planned, but it started to get out of control. One day, we looked at each other and said “why are we doing this to ourselves?” And with that we decided to elope. In the blink of an eye, we were in a chapel in Las Vegas and became husband and wife. It was absolutely perfect. But I’ll save that for another post.

So with all the wedding planning, eloping and everything else, I never really got to tell you about my new venture. When I have more time, I will do just that. Because right now, unfortunately, I’m sick as a heck. The cold started a few days after we got back from Las Vegas, and about 4 other friends/family also became sick. I’m not sure if it was the smoking in the casino, the drinking, the lack of sleep, something else or all of the above, but as of right now, I’ve lost my voice and can’t eat.

I’ve been drinking a tea for the last few days along with taking some OTC meds. Really, I’d prefer not to take store bought meds, but nothing knocks you out at night like Nyquil. FYI, I will apologize now for the pictures. I can’t find my camera so I’ve been taking pics with my cell phone. And now then…The tea I’ve been taking is a mixture of:

-Licorice Root: This herb has been used for centuries to treat coughs and sore throats. It’s very soothing and calming on the throat and it also works as a phlegm expectorant. Licorice can be used for a variety of ailments, from internally to externally, so do your research to see if it’s something you want to try. Licorice is not intended for long term use, but for coughs and colds, it’s not too bad. You can chew the root or make it a tea like I do.

-Hibiscus: Full of vitamin c and great at decreasing inflammation, hibiscus is a tart and tasty herb you’ll want to keep in stock. Unlike licorice, you drink hibiscus tea long term. I’ve also read it’s really great for colds, but I suspect it’s because of it’s high concentration of vitamin c.

-Honey: I’ve said it many times, honey tastes great! Also, it’s very soothing on a sore throat, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial.

Something to note about hibiscus and licorice root is that they are both mildy diuretic. You will find that you use the bathroom more than usual when drinking this tea. Also, if you have some elderberry on hand, you could add this to the brew as well. Generally I would, but I’m not feeling flu-ish yet. Mainly just tons of congestion and major sore throat.

I prepare my teas the same way I make tinctures. I let them simmer down until I’m left with half the water I started with. With any types of root herbs, I’ve found that I get better concentration of the herb when I let it simmer a good long while. Also, I follow the Chinese tradition of using the herbs in 3-4 rounds of teas. Meaning, when I drink up my first batch, I use the same herbs again in a new batch. But, I only use the herbs the same day, I don’t carry them over to the next day.

I realize these look like ordinary branch twigs. But that’s just an illusion as these are herbal wonders.


1. Break 1-2 twigs in smaller pieces in a pot. Add 1-2 teaspons of hibiscus. Add 4 cups of water.

2. Bring all 3 ingredients to a boil.

3. When the mixture is boiling, turn down to a simmer. Simmer until about half the water is gone. For me, this is about 20-30 minutes. You can really drink your tea any time, but let it simmer awhile.

Whats left of the herbs after they’ve been simmered for about 30 minutes.

4. Once you get the tea the concentration you like, strain and pour into a mug. This is where I add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of honey.

This is my brew after it’s boiled down half way. It’s a rich purple color and is about as thick as rich red wine.

5. Drink and enjoy.

The lower you let the water boil out, the thicker the tea will be. You can’t go wrong with any amount of tea you end up with, so don’t feel like you have to boil it as long as I do.

Bottoms up!


Hand Mixed Tea Blend for Gifts


Fernando asked me to start making more tea in an effort to decrease all the juice and other sugary filled drinks that we normally consume. Having a room full of herbs to pick from, I was more than happy to oblige. As I filled a jar full of things I love to drink, I realized how pretty it looked and how nice it would be to receive something like this as a gift.

And here it is all mixed up.

And here it is freshly poured in my cast iron.

I let the whole mix brew for about 10 minutes and then I let it sit in the pot another 20. Why, I don’t know. I think I was being lazy. After all that laziness, I strained it and then let it cool in the fridge. The mix was a beautiful purple color, tart, fruity and flowery at the same time. And the smell? Heavenly!

Look at that pretty purple color.

If you’re interested in making this blend as a gift , the cost is very affordable. For this blend, the cost of all the herbs was about $32. For that price, you get a lot of material to work with. I purchase the majority of my herbs from San Francisco Herb Co. They have a store on the outskirts of the Mission in S.F. and I like to see what I’m buying. Here is a breakdown of the tea blend costs and sizes if you were to buy them from SFHC.

Herb Cost Oz
Orange Peel (California cut)  $      4.50 16
Hibiscus (whole flowers)  $      7.55 16
Chamomile Flowers  $      6.90 16
Elder Berries  $      5.85 16
Peppermint Leaf (8 oz)  $      2.30 8
Rose Petals (red with buds)  $      4.45 16
Total  $    31.55 88

If you filled mason jar with 8 ounces, you’d get 11 jars for $3.94. I usually buy The Republic of Tea and Tazo teas anywhere from $6 – $15 and on average they are only 1 ounce to 3 ounces full. Not only that, who knows how old the tea is? When you make your own blends, you control the ingredients and the quality.

Can you tell I’m an advocate of making your own teas here?

You can take it even a step further, and get sealable tea bags and fill them yourself.  It would not be as pretty as loose tea in a jar, but would make it less messy for whomever you give the gift too.

At Home Facial Pt. 3


The last step to my el cheapo at home facial series is steaming.

These are my favorite herbs to steam my face with. The mix includes roses, jasmine, calendula and lavender. Their benefits are:

a. Roses not only smell amazing, but they are a major skin rejuvenator.

b. Jasmine has calming qualities when taken internally as well as used externally. It’s believed that jasmine also helps with relief to skin afflictions.

c. Calendula is full of anti oxidants and is used in many anti-aging creams.

e. Lavender is antiseptic but also is good for healing skin irritations.

Steaming your skin is insanely easy.

1. Grab a pot and fill it with water.

2. Dump the herbs in and bring to a boil. I used a heaping tablespoon of each. You can eyeball how much you want to use.

3. Go wash your face so there is nothing between you and the steam.

4. Check on the pot. Once the herbs and water start boiling and steam is rising, turn off the stove and put the pot on a trivet or something that will protect the counter or table where you will be steaming.

4. Put your face over the steam and using a towel, cover your head like a tent.

5. Wait 5 minutes. Take breaks if you need to. Done.

I love steaming because it opens up your pores and all the good herbal essences from the herbs get in them bad boys and clean house. The best part is that you don’t really need to use herbs, but it’s nice to have some because you get extra benefits from steaming. I mean, you could have just stood in the shower and absorbed the steam too right?

So check out my el cheapo 3 step at home facial. I noticed a significant difference once I started doing this regiment weekly after about 2 weeks, but you may have different results.

Mighty Mighty Nettles


Now that summer is officially here, I’ve been spending a lot of time outside. In fact, I recently dragged Fernando to hike Black Diamond Mines in Antioch, CA. We had an awesome time, but let me tell you, the grass and tree pollen count was extremely high. We were barely in the park when both of our eyes started to water and we both started sneezing. Faster than you could say “gesundheit!” we were both in the middle of a dreaded hay fever attack.

Any Bay Area native knows that once the first sneeze comes, it’s time to stock up on benadryl and claritin because you’re going to need it. And while these over the counter drugs do work, they come at a price. Drowsiness, dried out nasal passages, etc., the adverse side effects are there. So instead of loading up on drugs, I went and checked my herb notes for things to take (or do) to help combat our hay fever symptoms.

What did I decide to use?


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Nettles grow wild here in California and is native to Europe and Asia as well. Another herb teacher I studied under told us how in her native France, when someone was sick, they would collect nettles and make a soup from it. The soup would nourish the sick individual and also help them move their cold out of their body. In my Medicine Woman class, we talked about nettles being served in the spring time as detoxification from all the heavy winter foods we normally eat. We also spoke about it being a good alternative to combating seasonal allergies.

So what did I do?

Drank nettles tincture of course!

I don’t know why I always take crooked pictures. 😦

Add 40 drops to a glass…

Add a little water and drink up!

I did try to grow nettles myself from seed, but managed to kill it. Don’t ask me how, I just did. Which is why we are talking about tinctures. Hmph.

Anyway, nettles did help both Fernando and I to cut the hay fever attack short. Normally I’d suffer at least a week, but with nettles I was back to 100% within a day. I continued to take the tincture twice a day for the whole week, and have been allergy free since. You should be able to get nettles tincture at any health food store or as always Whole Foods. I bought mine from Good Earth Grocery Store in Fairfax, CA. You could also probably order them from online. Herb Pharm is my favorite brand producing tinctures, but you can try different companies to see which one you like.

There are some things that I do need to pass on…

1. Nettles is actually called “stinging nettles.” They have tiny microfiber stingers on them and they hurt like a @#!@$. If you find them live or grow them, watch out for this. Wear gloves when handling or hold them against the fibers. I can still remember the pricks I got before I managed to kill the plant. *ahem*

2. Nettles can be used long term, but double check to make sure it will not interfere with any medications you may be taking currently.

3. Nettles is also a diuretic. I don’t know why I didn’t write this down in my notes during class. Fernando and I both found out the hard way when all of a sudden we were both running to the bathroom.

I think I just shared too much.

But I am allergy and hay fever free.

And since it’s getting insanely hot, here’s a little picture I just came across from my Alaska trip in 2009. I saw this little guy floating through the glaciers and fell in love with him. Just looking at this picture cools me down.

Random, yes, I know. But I feel myself cooling down. And I just like this picture because this little birdy is so dang cute.

Love and mighty mighty nettles,



Swamp Tea Cold Remedy


Remember I mentioned I was sick? I had a chest cold with hard heavy mucus, a super sore throat and I could barely speak. I was exhausted and frustrated I couldn’t cough anything up. Of course, my beloved Fernando went to the store and got me all kinds of Nyquil and other cough syrup expectorants. Guess what? Other than putting me to sleep, none of them worked. Why in my time of need, did I forget I was a medicine woman?

Being as sick as I was, I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive around looking for any fancy herbs. I went back to my herbal class notes and Kami’s new book The Herbal Kitchen (which I HIGHLY recommend) to remember which ingredients I had at home to help me get over this cold.

What did I pick?

Here’s a rundown of my selections.

Honey: It helps stuff taste better and it helps with sore throats. Plus, being anti-bacterial, I needed all the help I could get with killing germs.

Cinnamon: To help break down the mucus and as an expectorant. Also it just tastes and smells good.

Garlic: In Kami’s book, The Herbal Garden, she mentions some thing about garlic that I didn’t remember from class. Garlic boosts the production of white blood cells. If that’s not reason to eat it, drink it, slather yourself in it, I don’t know what is. But beyond that, garlic just helps get rid of colds. And it tastes good.

Cayenne Pepper: Now I know that it’s also like cinnamon, as it helps break down mucus and an expectorant. Plus it just gets your blood moving!

Ginger: My family believes  in the medicinal properties of ginger. If I felt naseaus, my grandpa would give me preserved ginger to suck/chew on. If I had a stomach ache, here came more ginger. Plus, he cooked a lot with it. For me, I don’t care that I don’t know how it works. All I know is that this is a staple in our house. Oh yeah and it tastes good too.

Did you notice a theme about stuff tasting good here?

What I love about this tea, is not only did it kick my cold’s a$$, but really, it’s stuff we all have in our house. And this tea was insanely easy to make. For the most part, I don’t use measurements, but I’ll try and give you approximates.

First, cut off a small piece of ginger and grab a clove of garlic. Dump them both in a pot of water and bring to a boil. I usually let the water boil down a little bit, but you can decide how strong you want this mixture.

While this is boiling, get your other ingredients in the cup.

Generally, I put in enough cinnamon to thickly coat the bottom of my mug.

Then add a dash of cayenne. (Or more if you like)

And lastly, a little honey. In this picture, it’s probably about a teaspoon, but you can add more to your taste.

After you’re done boiling your garlic/ginger water, add it to the cinnamon/cayenne/honey mix.

Now stir, stir, stir! And there you have it. Swampy, murky looking water that tastes almost like real Mexican hot chocolate. This stuff had me up and moving again within a day of drinking it. I started coughing things up, sweating like crazy and within 3 days, I was able to go back to work. I still sounded like crap, and not everything had come out, but I was able to finish a whole day at work without being overly exhausted.

I don’t know why I forgot to make my own medicinal teas at the onset of my cold, but believe you me, it won’t happen again.

P.S. As always, I’m not a doctor and use your own judgement when it comes to your health. But let me know if you try this tea and if it works for you too.



Weeds, Seeds and Caddyshack. All Happening in the Garden.


Hey everyone!

A couple of things have happened lately that took me out of the game awhile. One, I got super sick and two, I switched to a new alternative work schedule. This long weekend is the first in long time that I’m able to do things like blog and work in the yard.

Speaking of the yard, with the crazy weather we’ve just had, ours is out of control. Since yesterday was sunny and somewhat warm, I went out with shears in hand to clean up and harvest. Check out what I’ve found.

Crawling Rosemary

Initially I had this planted in the ground, but our resident gopher is treating the yard like a buffet. I came out one day and the gopher had eaten one of my rosemary plants. Then I found he’d eating my african tall grass. And a few other plants. Yes, I am currently wearing a Rambo style head band and clenching a knife in between my teeth. How did you know?

Roses and Rosehips

We had a week before the snow (yes I said snow) came that was in the 70s, so my roses started blooming. These are the last two that aren’t completely gone.

I have a lot of rosehips (above) in the yard now. I’m getting ready to process them now and will take lots of pictures for you.

At the same time, even with the hot weather, because of the rain, a lot of my roses had rust on them.

See the orange spots? Thats rust. Meh. So I spent a lot of time removing all the rusty leaves.


My yarrow (also known as achillea) has completely dried out so I finally took the dried blossoms from the yard. They actually looked really pretty dried. Oh yeah, and ignore the weeds in the background. Thanks.


Yes, lavender infused oil is coming soon. And I mean like REALLY soon. I can’t wait to harvest this. Last year when I transplanted this into the ground, I was really unsure if it would take. I am so happy to see it green and vibrant.


Okay, so these aren’t blueberries, but this is one of my blueberry plants. Fernando bought these for me last year and I almost killed them. Luckily, I got smart, moved them to another spot in the yard and now I have blooms coming. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for berries this year.


For the last month, my raspberry plant has been growing quite a bit. I’ve been lazy on harvesting so I’ve been feeding the bugs and critters with my raspberries. I’m okay with that.

Rose Geranium (Attar of Roses)

If you can believe it, this plant was originally a quarter of it’s current size and I’ve only had it for about 7  months. I’ve done almost nothing to this plant, other than watering occassionaly and pulling weeds. (Except for the ones you currently see of course – just ignore them. Thanks!) It amazes me how even with some neglect this plant has just thrived. It’s even got flower buds coming out.

This particular geranium is “Attar of Roses” and it truly does smell like a rose. All you have to do is rub a leaf between your fingers to get the fragrant oils on your skin. I am still debating how I will process this plant. Infused oil? Fresh tea? Lotion blend? I dunno.

Of course, I left out all the weeds. Except for the one I’ve been munching on.

When I was a kid we called it sour grass but there many different names for this weed. I love how cheery they are and how tart and refreshing they taste. Somebody told me that too much can be poisonous, so I try not to eat too many of them.

Well, thats all for today. Any good things growing in your yard?




Insanely Good Tea Blend


Last weekend I went crazy in my local herb store. My initial reason for buying herbs was to fill the lavender sachets I made for Raquel. Instead of just buying lavender, I came home with bags of other herbs. With them, I put together this insanely tasty tea blend.

What’s in it you ask?






Here it is put together.

Pretty huh? It’s nicely tart, with a light berry taste and I actually like it better cold than hot.

Most of these herbs are available at a herb or health food store. And of course, you can always order them online. For this particular blend, I just included about equal amounts of each herb. Try it yourself and see what you like best.