Happy Spring everyone.  This winter seemed especially long, so I’m grateful that we’re transitioning seasons.  But before all common sense flies out the window, it’s time to remember to take care of the body.  First tea, then tank tops, if you know what I mean.  You don’t?  Well, have you ever noticed how many folks get sick around seasonal transitions?  Or how an unnaturally beautiful patch of weather in early spring leads to lots of extroverted behavior which leads to a hacking cough and calling out sick?  Right.  Here is your remedy…

Find these dry herbs at your local herbarium.   Put them in a pot, and boil the love out of them. I mean it.  One small handful of burdock root (Arctium lappa), one small handful of dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), one smaller handful of orange peel (citrus sp.), plus 5 tongue depressor-shaped sticks of Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus).  Add some leftover elderberries (Sambucus nigra) that you find in the back of your cupboard.  Or perhaps you need to sweeten your mix up with some licorice or some cinnamon.  Channel your inner herbalist.

For each teaspoon of herbs, use 1 cup of water.  Once you have your water and herbs in a pot, bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer away.  For the maximum medicinal benefits, cook these herbs for at least one hour.  Two hours if you’re nasty.  Strain, and drink hot or cold.  Sweeten with honey or another natural sweetener if you must.  Stash your leftovers in the refrigerator and drink throughout the week.

Why should you do this? Well, Astragalus mobilizes the immune system (kicking out lingering winter bugs), dandelion and burdock refresh and renew the liver (think of wringing out a washcloth) and perk up digestion in general.  (Remember the holidays?  So does your liver.)  Orange peel balances the formula and provides a Vitamin C kick.  This tea is your spring tonic.  Let these herbs literally “clean house” for you.  Your body will be ready for Spring in that classic “out with the old and in with the new” sense.  In Northern California speak, this tea will shift the energy of winter (1st gear) into second gear~the energy of early spring.  (You can’t go successfully from 1st to 3rd, can you?)

Enjoy the unfolding of the season…

Journey into deep winter…

February 21, 2011

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go
To take the time
To bless your going forth
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you …
John O’Donohue

I love John O’Donohue….what a way with words.

I must admit, the winter inner “ballast” feels very heavy indeed after slogging around in the pouring rain this past week trying to “stage” a client’s garden.  (I think it was fine the way it was.)  There is this sense of a heavy cold body, and then there is the actual heaviness of cold wet dirt turning to mud that must be moved across white carpet without leaving a trace.  (I wish I were kidding.)  And the spirit begins to follow suit…sodden!

Where is the compass of my discouraged soul pointing after such work?  Toward my bathtub!!  I could soak for hours to try to recover the warm that was lost and it still wouldn’t feel like enough.  I realize this is a personal problem.  Anyway…

A useful realization occurs to me while I am soaking:  Now is the time for careful resolve~for determination, and grit, and visioning the sunshine again.  All of you who live in “grey-sky-snowed-in-land” you know what I mean.  I used to live there too.  We must go on! We must imagine the equinox on March 20th.  We must treasure how dry we are inside our rainsuits and snowpants.  We must feel grateful when circulation moves back into our numbed hands and feet.  (Ah, feel the literal burn!)  It reminds me of the energy moving back up the tree, promoting bud break and leaf growth.  That too is coming.  For some of us it’s already here.  We must look up, no matter how heavy the winter heart ballast.  As John says, perhaps its weight has measure we should attend to before Spring.

Every once in a while, when you’re really lucky, you go to a place that helps you feel whole again.   It never matters how you get to this gifted landscape.  It certainly doesn’t have to be far from home.  It can even be inside yourself…a lucid dream, a reality check on “what is,” a sense that despite being a fragile human in a weird world, you are not that broken.  Or rather, despite the perceived brokenness/broke-ness/ whatever, you can handle this thing called life.

Where ever it is, you can feel it~your senses come alive and a silky peaceful sense drops in…you are home.  Sometimes the landscape is far away, martian territory.  Sometimes not so much.  Either way, the place has hopeful words for you.

Maybe the landscape looks austere and washed out, punctuated with the occasional really bright pink cactus spine.   Maybe the charred remains of a yucca beg you to reconsider your take on “how life is.”  (Fire is strange and dramatic like that.)

Maybe you visited Joshua Tree during the winter like I did.  Now I know why my friend Jacks makes an annual winter pilgrimage to the desert.  I get it now.

I hope you have a beautiful New Year, filled with feelings of home.  May your heart be the oasis.

Here they are–your last-minute Hanukkah gifts and Stocking Stuffers…

Flower Power

Solstice Survival Flower Essence: I have customized this blend for the holidays, as they have a knack for bringing unresolved emotional drama to the surface.  Let this be a tool in your toolkit to help you handle the holidays with grace and authenticity.

1/2 oz. for $10.00

Elderberry Cordial: My family’s favorite for keeping the colds and flus at bay.  I use this delicious syrup as a preventative.  Elderberry’s immune properties are widely known and in combo with some other very special herbs this formula is a literal virus stopper.

2 oz. for $15.00

Elderberry Immune Tonic

Herbs meet Water:  Custom Herbal Infusions are lovingly blended for you to give as gifts.  Something special in mind to stuff that stocking?  Honey likes citrus but isn’t a fan of mints and she needs an energizing tea…no problem!   I absolutely love creating a tea for a specific person or purpose.   1 oz of custom tea is $15.00

Hands make tea...

Gift Certificates for Western Herbal Consultation and Reiki are always available in any dollar amount.

Please call 415-613-7010 or email me at wiseleafherbal@gmail.com to place your orders before December 20th, 2010.

May you have a very blessed, very loving holiday season.

Happy New Year!


Words can be fertile ground…(a garden fairy tale come true.)

Some of you will remember a post about my friend Marion.   Marion and I were planting a medicinal herb garden at her home in Piedmont, CA this spring when she passed away suddenly.  This was a very sad happening, and her family wondered what to do with the herbs that she had planted.  There was much consternation, and then her husband Zafiris said the magical words “Take them away.  I don’t know what to do with such things.”  Really?!?  (Tears watered the soil beneath Marion’s oak tree.)

And so I bravely dug those happy plants out of their home dirt, and ferried them across the Bay Bridge to land in their new location–an under-utilized garden in the Inner Richmond.   A vast landscape of quick-draining soil, amended with homemade compost.   Hip hop music blasting in the background.  Old relics of the past garden lying around.  Woodchips from the trees that used to stand on site.  In other words, a blank canvas, a new beginning.

Forgive for a moment a narrator’s interruption:  I want to be clear.  I’m not the hero of this story.  I’m just the dopey sidekick.  The plants are the brains.  And despite all the unpredictable variables of their new destiny, and in spite of the gardener within that keeps saying “we’ll see…” they are looking really good!  Like sticks of a plant, with brand new basal growth where dirt meets aerial parts!  New growth!

And this gardener is so happy I could spit.  Honestly.  I’ve been waiting for this moment for such a long time:  sunny San Francisco location meets herbal medicinals.  An herb garden of my own!  To share with others, eventually.  First we’ve got some growing to do.

Sticks and stones get moved around to host Solidago, and Chamomile, Blue Vervain, and a ton of Grindelia…

Take a peek.  It may not look like much, but come next Spring and Summer, these baby plants will be usefully engaged in soothing your sore throats, calming your fried nerves, and pepping up your tired bones.

For now they look like sticks among the stones.  We are moving toward the winter solstice.  It’s cold and dark, it’s raining.  But eventually the rains will stop.  And then the plants will be lush.  And I’ll pick some of their leaves, and make you a tea.   See?

A deep thank you to Mary and Ted


I’ll miss you.  It was too much fun and and work as usual.  But who’s complaining?  The pictures speak for themselves.

The summer began with a hay fort house. Stick becomes art. Men become boys.

In July, the wild fields of my parents’ new land on Washington Island, Wisconsin are filled with Queen Anne’s Lace, Red Clover, Evening Primrose.  Turns out it’s an herbalist’s paradise.

One of my favorite medicinal tea ingredients...a big part of the healing is in its beauty.

Did you know that Queen Anne’s Lace is an old herbal remedy for dropsy (edema), chronic kidney disease, and bladder infections? (It’s a diuretic.)  Also good for breaking up kidney stones.  The seeds help with digestive distress, farts, and chronic cough.  But before you go harvest your own, make sure you aren’t trying to get pregnant, as it’s historically been used to (effectively) control fertility.  Also make sure you have the proper plant, as it’s sometimes confused with Poison Hemlock, the plant by which Socrates met his end.

Steve with Queen Anne's Lace

And then there’s Camp Mather.  We are all so addicted to it’s jumble of beauty and dusty fun.  What could be more amazing than a mountain-watered swimming hole?

I Love this picture of Uncle Jessie’s hat-it just kind of sums up summer…

And who can forget the sun washed landscape of Hetch Hetchy?

Destined for drinking...

Autumn brings it’s own special blend of soft light and crisp nights to the the Bay Area.  It’s actually sunny and hot and nice for us this time of year, and it tricks us into thinking that summer will indeed last forever.   And yet the rains have mysteriously started.  And so have the fall colds…I suppose it’s time to talk about a whole new set of herbs to get us going on staying healthy for Fall and Winter.  Next post.

Sweet and Spicy Herbal, Caffeine free…

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.”   Horace Walpole

I’m not really sure how to take this little quote that I found dangling from the end of my tea bag string.

In fact,  I don’t think I believe  it.  However, I do believe in this particular tea.  All the Good Earth flavor, none of the caffeine.  A ‘Debbie Downer’ with all the richness of a caffeinated beverage.

I am going to overlook the “natural flavors” aspect for this post.  I still love this tea.  It is steaming with deep and lovely spices:  clove, cinnamon, fennel, ginger.  I feel these spices.   (And this is not a tragedy.)

Maybe you will too.

I’m writing this short post to let you know of a wonderful class happening in San Francisco.

Redroot blooming her head off...

If you’re in the Bay Area, California, this course is your Introduction to Herbal Medicine.

It’s offered by the Ohlone Herbal Center:


I promise you will walk away with some incredibly useful herbal information you can use to take good care of yourself and your loved ones.

This four part class will be co-taught by Anna and yours truly. We’re looking to fill a few more spots, so please consider it!  The plants need you as much as you need them.

Peace, kt

Weekly posts?  Wow.  I would like to believe I have some sort of disciplinary streak, just that it’s more artistic and less like a straight line.  But who am I really kidding?

It’s possible I’m not cut out to join the legions of fabulous, consistent, weekly blogs. Not that all those things necessarily go together, but still…

The real question that comes up for me is what the hell have I been doing in the last few weeks? I myself wish to simply remember, not recommend.  This is not like my list of fav cookbooks of all time, nor a trip through my top ten digging tools.  You don’t have to find any of this cool.

This is an exercise in memory.    I’ve been “busy”, but “busy” doing what?  And more importantly, does this late Spring early Summer “busyness” measure up to anything worthwhile and meaningful?  Or is it simply a code word for berserk?  (Or Bay Area, perhaps?)

Let’s give it (remembering!) a whirl:

~ As many of you know, I am a gardener by trade…so in the last few weeks I’ve been trying to remember to turn on everyone’s irrigation control boxes.  Whenever we move from wet to dry here in the Bay Area, California, things get a little dicey for the transitioning plants.  Remembering to turn on the false rain god is a good idea.

Pandora's (irrigation) box

~ So, once the irrigation is on, then “one” attempts to fix and streamline the irrigation. I like to disassociate for this part and refer to myself in the third person.  Keeping the irrigation repairs in the sidecar of my brain makes me feel better.

For example:   Shovel-swiped (broken) 1/2 inch lines!  Fun with malfunctioning, clogged sprinklers! Digging holes around sprinklers, only to have to test them to see what is wrong with said sprinkler, then water fills hole and one can’t find the top let alone the bottom of the sprinkler to diagnose problem.  Then mud.  Good times.  (Jen (my garden helper) and I affectionately call the irrigation the irritation.   Ah, but we are clever gals…)

Devil in disguise

~But it’s not all berserk!  I confess to  playing with my family when the weather is prime. Definitively a worthwhile endeavor.  My little guy is going to Grandma and Pop pop’s house for a whole three weeks without me.  This is very strange, and I’m feeling sentimental.

I'm going to miss this snaggle tooth on the loose!

Here is something rather profound I have discovered through parenting:  I feel much less overwhelmed by life when playing.  Also~water fights rule, and for the record I have reconsidered my position on plastic guns that load water.  I will allow my son to have one as long as I am able to defend myself in my own backyard and have a slightly better one (not bigger, just better).  I do realize that I have just slid down some slippery parenting slope.  I also know it’s not the most eco-friendly activity, but at least the plants get splashed…

~The next bit:  I have been working on this ridiculous fountain project I inherited.  It’s a long story, riddled with problems.   The short story is that it involves a lot of speculation, phone calls (poor Eli!) and sheets of slimy algae swimming around in approximately 150 gallons of water.

~I have managed to fit in a good book these last couple weeks:   Novella Carpenter’s “Farm City:  The Education of an Urban Farmer.” This is a “great summer read!”  It has all the urban farmer suspense and drama that one could ask for.  Please read this book.


~Dodging bumble bee nests! Yikes.  Those little guys get aggressive when you get between them and couple of nice flowers.

~Hosing down the back yard plants and endlessly moving pots around in my puzzle of a back yard.  (The staircase comes down smack dab in the middle of the yard space, so everything must go around and around!)

~All this berzerkedness means of course that I have been stalling out on my Wiseleaf website and marketing project. Who can concentrate on such (droll) things when there is a six year old begging you to have a water fight with him? Perhaps I’ll get that momentum back when the rains (or the fog) come again. 

For now, there’s too much to do in the garden.  Or maybe it’s simply time to eat some ice cream on the back steps.

Now, many are under the impression that all gardeners are potheads.  Especially Norcal gardeners…but it’s not true.  Case in point:   I am way more into Kava, personally.  Or Valerian.

Kava!  The talk-talk herb of the South Pacific, Hawaii and Polynesia.   The herb of negotiation, and conversation.  Ingesting Kava is very different than getting stoned…have you ever stopped to think what a weird metaphor “getting stoned” is ? (At least it is for me, coming from my ex-Catholic persuasion.   Martyrs were stoned to death.  Most herbs are friendlier than that, no?)

Think, dear reader, of how different your social life would be if instead of getting stoned, you got conversational….?????

Regardless, this lovely herb called Kava plays a predominant role in Yogi Kava Stress Relief tea.  And it does its job well.  My mouth is tingling slightly (characteristic of Kava), and my cares are melting away.   (Just like they promised on the package~you can drink as much as you want (as long as you’re not liver compromised or pregnant) and can even use TWO teabags for extra-stressful moments.  Packaging can be so helpful!)

If I had spasming muscles, I think they might have stopped after 2 to 4 cups of this tea (also a lovely effect created by Kava.)

If I had to complain a little, this tea is a tad too licorice-y (too sweet in the back of my throat) for me personally, but otherwise I like it very much.  Carob pod and hazelnut (flavor) only help~mmmmm…

A special thanks to Mieze for prompting my interest in this  tea..

Check it out:      www.yogitea.com