Out with the old and in with the new...the circle of herban life! 

This past year marked a personal milestone for me.  It is hard to believe that I have made my career in the world of herbs for ten years now.  While I hesitate to date myself, it truly has been a journey. In some ways the herb industry in Canada has come a long way since those early days for me. However, it hasn't been without its curve balls and right hooks.  Recently, we have heard the echoing moans of disappointment throughout this country as many herb ventures have thrown in the towel. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton canceled their perennial Herb Faire after many years in the running. Some businesses that I considered allies over the years have since closed their doors. Some folks returned to their day jobs and others are reinventing themselves. For most of us in the herb industry, change is the common theme. 

Over the years, I was involved with several efforts that fizzled and faded, such as the York Durham Chapter of the Herb Society of America.  And failure has never been due to lack of members or interest, but most efforts fall on the shoulders of a few good, dedicated souls who eventually get burnt out and find renewed energy in another worthy cause. I say "cause", because unlike other industries, sectors or even hobbies, if you will, herbs for the most part seems to be a cause in Canada.  

At times, the Canadian climate seems too cold and the country too big for any type of effort or unity but without it, I am afraid that Canada will always lag behind other countries when it comes to having a lead role or national identity in herbs. Distance is always a consideration, even with new technology such as email, making networking opportunities a real effort.  

While some businesses will deeply miss those national lifelines, others will be encouraged to establish new ties within this industry, that will lead them down new pathways to the Canadian public. The herb industry is walking a fine line between the horticulture/agriculture industries and the alternative health industry, all of which are very established but herbs are special. Some businesses find their niche more closely tied with the tourism sector and others have joined ranks in the environmental movement. Much like the country itself, "herbs" is still a young concept. 

On the topic of "young", this past fall, the Ontario government introduced a new subject under the recently reformed curriculum for high school students.  Now in "Science and Technology" classes across this province, herbal medicine is being introduced to this brand new generation. I was pleased to have been involved with the local high school. For me this class represented a whole new age group to add to the list of herbally-curious audiences that I have had the pleasure of sharing my herbal enthusiasm with over the past decade.  

These kids were really enthusiastic and enjoyed the practical labs on the processes of making their own tinctures, decoctions, creams, and infused oils.  This two week introductory course on Alternative Therapies took the students through subjects encompassing, not only herbal medicines but also traditional Chinese medicine and several other complimentary therapies. 

Perhaps this introduction to herbs at the school level will be the catalyst for a new group of herbal entrepreneurs, herbalists, growers, crafters, retailers, hey, even GP's here in Canada.  

And that's my perspective!  

Enjoy the latest updates to the ezine and best wishes for a Merry Holiday to all of our readers.  

Janette Oliver-Rodgers

Rose Trivia 
What's in a name? That which we call a rose 
Would by any other name smell as sweet.  
              - Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet 
Here is some trivia about roses that you may not know!
  • In Greek mythology the rose is governed by Aphrodite, the goddess of love. It is said that she used rose oil to anoint the slain Hector. 
  • Galen the Greek physician is credited with making the first cold cream using the oil of roses with a little rose water and white wax. 
  • Today, young women are advised to not read too much into that bouquet of yellow rose buds. Your gentleman caller may not be as fluent as his Victorian counterparts when signifying "jealousy." 
  • At the famous Malmaison, it is said that the fragrance of roses still lingers after Josephine saturated the private rooms with her love of the flower. 
  • Almost every religion has a reference to a rose through ceremony or legend. For example, it is said that the white rose in the garden of Eden turned pink as it blushed with pleasure when Eve kissed it.
And I will make thee beds of Roses 
and a thousand fragrant posies. 
           -Christopher Marlowe
Celebrate the rose!

The Encapsulated History of Medicine 
By Katherine Glynn

Who first used plants as medicine we do not know. But someone - or more possibly, many different people - discovered that some plants are good to eat and still others have healing properties. This was a first step in a lengthy process of trial and error in which man built up his vast knowledge about plants. The following is a digest starting from what we know to be the earliest recordings of medicinal herbal use to present day conventional medicine. 

2750 BC Imhotep, whose name means “the one that comes in peace” is known as the first Egyptian physician. He serves Djoser, a Third Dynasty Pharaoh and is renowned for his healing powers. His reputation lives on long after his death and eventually he is transformed into a god.
2700 BC Emperor Huang-ti writes a treatise on medicine.
1500 BC In India, good health is seen as the responsibility of the individual, hence, Ayurvedic Medicine. The term “Ayurveda” comes from two Indian words: ayur, meaning life   and veda, meaning knowledge. Thus, it is described as a “knowledge of how to live”. It is believed the Hindus had the highest surgical skill in antiquity.
460 BC  Hippocrates, from the island of Greece, is the first to develop a scientific system for medicine. By discovering that poor environmental conditions cause disease, rather than it being a punishment from the gods he earns the title of  “The Father of  Medicine”.
1 AD Dioscorides, another Greek physician, assembles a vast knowledge of medical information in his work De Materia Medica and is accredited as being the first medical botanist. His work mentions some 600 plants. For fifteen hundred 
years his   Materia medica is the standard reference work on the medicinal application of plants. Aulus Cornelius Celsus writes an encyclopedia of medicine and Galen on Pergamum provides information on infectious disease 
and pharmacology.
9 AD  Herbalism is kept alive by monks cultivating Physic Gardens. Europe’s oldest surviving herbal The Leech Book of Bald, dates from the first half of the tenth century. Medical schools spread throughout Europe and the most famous, at Salerno, is considered the first Western school of medicine.
100 AD  Opium is used as a pain-killer.
900 AD  al-Razi, an Arab physician, is first to identify smallpox and measles (910 AD).
1500 AD  With the advent of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century classical knowledge of herbs spreads to cloisters to compliment folk medicine. Paracelus, a Swiss physician who is the founder of chemotherapy, promotes The Doctrine of 
Signatures in Europe. He maintains that the outward 
appearance of a plant gives an indication of the ailments it will treat. At times, the theory is surprisingly accurate (eg. Ginseng) John Gerard published in 1597.
1600 AD  The circulation of the blood is discovered by William Harvey in 1628. In 1632, quinine is discovered in cinchona bark. Nicholas Culpeper, publishes his herbal work  The Complete Herbal in 1649, and is the last proponent of  The Doctrine of Signatures. His decision to publish is because previous herbals are written in Latin and contain information on too many imported herbs (to England) and, therefore, these herbs are difficult to obtain. Nicholas Culpeper enjoys enormous popularity for his books.
1700 AD Carl Linnaeus, the founder of modern botany, develops the precise system of  identification of plants and their properties. Although his system has been continually modified, it remains the basis of today’s internationally applicable system. British   physician Edward Jenner discovers the principle of vaccination as a preventative measure against smallpox. The study of drugs emerges as a distinct profession.
1800 AD  Friedrich Surturner, of Germany, isolates and extracts white crystals from the crude opium poppy to create morphine (still considered to be one of the world’s best  analgesics). Similar techniques soon produce aconite from Monkshood, emetine from Ipecacuanha, atropine from Deadly Nightshade, and digitalis from Foxglove. 

Salicin, an analgesic and identified as one of the active ingredients in white willow bark is synthesized. In 1899, it is launched into the marketplace as Aspirin by the Bayer company of Germany. Diseases such as Addison’s, Bright’s, Hodgkin’s, Parkinson’s and Graves’ is discovered. The development of the field of bacteriology   and the accidental discovery of X-ray as a diagnostic tool also occurs during the nineteenth century.

1900 AD Paul Ehrlich discovers penicillin in 1928. In the 1930's vaccines for many viruses are   created. Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins in 1951 discover deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). In the 1970's gene altering appears. The 1980's leads   to even more vaccines by use of genetic engineering. There are huge advances in   surgical techniques. With extensive research and development literally thousands of  pharmaceuticals bring about a virtual revolution in medicine. The last quarter of the   twentieth century is what might be termed as “Chemical Medicine” is dominant in Western Society. Public pressure for informed consent regarding pharmaceuticals   begins making headway in Western society, primarily caused by the side effects of   “the pill” in the 1970's. As the contraindications for chemical medications is acknowledged and with the growth of public awareness to the possible dangers of   synthetic or isolated chemicals a resurgence of interest in healthy life-styles,   preventative medicine and herbal remedies is slowly realised.
While no one is suggesting the clock be turned back and the advances of modern medicine be ignored (we are, after all, enjoying the longest of life-spans ever known) neither should we ignore the wisdom accumulated and found effective for many centuries. However, it may be  interesting to speculate where the 21st Century will take us.  

Universities are now beginning to require medical students to study at least one course in an “alternative therapy”. Herbalism has gone from a small, innocuous industry to an industry commanding a lot of attention and millions of dollars in growth each year. MD’s are also becoming ND’s. The powerful US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is in a whirlwind, trying to control the sale of these herbal remedies. Canada is attempting to create a new department, separate from drugs or foods. Pharmacies across the Western world are combining the sale of pharmaceuticals with the sale of herbs and their essential oils. 

Public interest is intensifying. It seems we can expect that over the next twenty years we will truly have a “complimentary” health care system, rather than an “alternative” system. No longer will there be an “us” and “them” mentality but instead, an incredible accumulation of knowledge and expertise in all areas of human health -  providing  us with the healthiest conceivable life. 


Katherine Glynn is a herbarist in her thirteenth year operating The Fragrant Garden Canada, a mailorder company serving all of North America.


Artemis - Goddess of the Herbalist! 
By Susun S. Weed
 Artemis - Goddess of the herbalist - gives her name to a genus of  marvelously aromatic, safely psychedelic, highly medicinal, dazzlingly decorative, and more-or-less edible plants in the Asteraceae family. I love Artemis, and I love her plants.  

Who is Artemis?  

Amazonian moon goddess. Goddess of the hunt. Goddess of the wild things. Goddess of the midwife. Goddess of the herbalist. Mother of all Creatures. Great she-bear. Diana. Selene. Ever Virgin; owned by no man. We will visit her sacred wood on a shamanic journey. Who knows what will happen then.  

How do Artemisias grow in your garden? 

Most Artemisias are perennials and grow best from cuttings, not seeds. Sweet Annie is the exception, being a self-seeding annual. Although you can buy tarragon seeds, you can't grow true tarragon from them. Wormwood and southernwood and tarragon (the last not winter-hardy in many places) are woody perennials which regreen each year on last year's new wood; I prune only dead wood from them. Cronewort is an invasive perennial that creeps underground; it dies back to the ground each year and can be heavily harvested (clear cuts are ok) without damage to its further prolific productivity.  

Most Artemisias require little care. Lack of soil nutrients and lack of water do not faze them. Many are native to deserts, and know how to thrive in hot dry weather. Except for tarragon, all can overwinter without fuss. 

Flowers are usually small and green, in other words, nearly invisible.  

What do Artemisias contain?  

bitter principals: wormwood 
coumarins: cronewort, tarragon 
essential oils (complex, variety specific, with hundreds of components per plant): cronewort (high in camphor, thujone), tarragon, wormwood (high in camphor, thujone) 
flavonoids: cronewort, tarragon 
glycosides: cronewort, tarragon 
hormones: cronewort (sitosterol, stigmasterol) 
sesquiterpene lactones: cronewort 

 How are Artemisias used? 

Artemisias, with their grey-green or white-green foliage bring beauty to the garden throughout the growing season. They also make long-lasting, aromatic and beautiful indoor decorations: bouquets, wreaths, swags. They are popular strewing herbs, too.  

Those which are high in essential oils are thereby antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial. They also improve digestion and appetite if taken in small doses.  

Any Artemisia growing beside the door - or painted on it - was, in days of old, the sign of the midwife, the herbalist. Magical and folkloric uses are numerous. 

    "Mugwort possesses both natural and supernatural qualities. [It] excels as a woman's herb, easing the pain of labor, menstrual cramps, and effectively treating various uterine complaints." 
Gai Stern (1986) 
Cronewort/mugwort = smudge, dream pillow, moxa, birthing steam, vinegar of roots and young leaves, salad green when young, mugwort noodles, mugwort mochi. American colonists used the sundried leaves as a tea substitute. Formerly a popular beer flavoring (hence the name mugwort). Controls worms in goats. Urinary tonic. Uterine tonic. Digestive tonic. Nerve tonic.  Circulatory tonic. Cronewort eases pain and fever, comforts grief and depression, eases irritability and burdened joints, brings peace and sleep, and reassures the nerves.  

Wormwood = tincture, oil. Ingredient in absinth. Stimulates mid-brain activity and increases creativity, but repeated use disturbs the central nervous system. Prevents giardia, dysentery, amoebas. Cholagogic, digestive, appetite-stimulant, liver-stimulant, wound healer. Caution: Use can lower seizure threshold; interacts adversely with seizure-reducing medications. 

Sweet Annie = capsules, in fairly large daily dose, to prevent malaria; source of antimalarial drugs. A strong tea, taken frequently, kills giardia and amoebas. 

Tarragon = vinegar, seasoning. Appetite stimulant according to Herbal PDR. 

Southernwood = dream pillow, sachet, charms. To see the beloved.  


Some of the many Artemisia species that herbalists and gardeners use: 

A. abrotanum (southernwood) 
A. absinthium (wormwood) 
A. afra (African wormwood) 
A. annua (sweet Annie, qing hao)  
A. camphorata (camphor-scented sothernwood) 
A. drancuncula (tarragon, estragon, little dragon) 
A. frigida (fringed sagebrush) 
A. lactiflora (ghost plant) 
A. ludoviciana (silver queen) 
A. pontica (Roman wormwood)  
A. schmidtiana (silver mound) 
A. stellerana (old woman, dusty miller) 
A. tridentata (sagebrush; three-toothed sagebrush) 
A. vulgaris (cronewort, mugwort) 

Susun Weed has been living the simple life for over 30 years as an herbalist, goatkeeper, homesteader, and feminist. Vibrant, passionate, and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings, and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges conventional medical approaches with humor, insight, and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine. Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.  

Susun is one of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine and natural approaches to women's health. Her four best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists and well-known physicians and are used and cherished by millions of women around the world. She lectures world-wide as the voice of the Wise Woman tradition and directs the activities of the Wise Woman Center, where she trains apprentices in the shamanic arts and plays with the fairies.


A Medley of Mints  

Undoubtedly, mints are the coolest of the herb world and often overlooked as a refreshing addition to the indoor herb garden. Until now that is! 

Some say there really is no such thing as an indoor herb garden. So many culinary perennials do much better with a dormant period, so I guess for the most part that could be true.  In fact, that is why I leave some of my pots at the side of the house until winter has officially arrived and then bring them in.  The rosemaries and other tenders come in first before a heavy frost but they too benefit from a little cooler weather. My windowsills get crowded with my favourite herbs that think spring has sprung and it is not uncommon for me to have lavender and rosemary blooms at Christmas. Chives are the most robust when defrosted gently but the mints do quite fine. It is important to make the transition gradually, just as you would when they go back outside in the spring.  

During the winter months you can grow mint on your windowsill, however they do tend to get pot bound quickly so start with a freshly potted small plant and be prepared to repot it a couple of times as the roots will start to wander.  If your mint indoors gets a little dried out or is not receiving sufficent light, it will send out runners under stress.  Keep your mints trimmed for optimum leaf growth. Mints do not require as much light as other herbs like basil so they tend to do much better with the shortened days of winter.  

Having a few mint plants on hand over the winter means fresh sprigs for flavouring, garnishes and cooking.  All you need is a couple of leaves at a time for fresh flavouring.  Unlike some herbs for cooking like basil and parsley, that would require a quantity to have sufficient flavour, mints can be used sparingly - just a couple of leaves go a long way!  

Here's some ideas for using your mint: 

Mint Butter 
A couple of fresh leaves chopped finely in butter goes wonderfully with peas and carrots. Soften the butter first and blend in the mint. form into balls and chill until needed. 

Fruit Dip 
Blend one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of finely chopped mmint leaves into a cup of plain yogurt. Chill for two hours and serve with sliced fruit such as peaches for dipping. Strawberries and cherries whole are nice as well. 

Mint Brownies 
Simply add a few leaves, finely chopped to your batter before baking. Peppermint is the most popular mint for using with chocolate. Or flavour the icing by heating the milk first and infuse a leaf or two in it to flavour. Let it cool first before blending into your icing. 

Don't forget you can always make refreshing, sinus clearing tea by infusing a leaf or two in a cup of boiling water or use a leaf to flavour hot cocoa.  

What Mint goes with what? 

Peppermint - Mentha x piperita   
The most widely used flavouring and medicinal mint. 
The flavour of this mint goes best with chocolate but blends well with fruits, lemon and orange especially for drinks and desserts.  

Spearmint - Mentha spicata and Mentha spicata "Crispa"  
This mint is easily recognized by the spear point of the leaf. Curly mint is also a variety of the spearmint. Spearmint goes well in vegetable dishes such as the butter above. It is also widely used in jelly to accompany vegetable and meat dishes, especially lamb. Spearmint is also used for making herbally-infused vinegar for cooking.  

Depending upon your personal taste, mints can be added to salads and dressing, an especially cool combo is mint with cucumbers! Plus fruit dishes, cocktails and candied garnishes.  Other culianry mints to try include Orange Mint, a favourite of mine for tea, Ginger mint, especially nice with butter for veggies, and fruity Pineapple and Apple mints for tea and fruit dishes.  

There are so many varieties of mints and some are much nicer than others for culinary uses. I tend to shy away from some of the "new" varieties which sound more like a botanists' fantasy or a reinvention of the wheel. If I wanted basil or bananas in my tea, then maybe, but for me some are not so refreshing,  just a little over-rated when it comes to culinary uses and they are better suited for a novelty garden. But if I only had room for one, it would have to be the orange mint! 


The World of Herbs 

You can't go to Turkey without ever being served a cup of hot tea!  

Turkey is described as the center of the world, where East meets West, and where ancient history meets modern society. This fascinating country steeped in Islamic tradition is where a cup of tea is served to customers, tourists and guests in shops, police stations and even banks on every busy street corner. You can't go to Turkey without ever being served a cup of hot tea!  

Here too, is where herbs for thousands of years have been used to dye fabrics for Turkish rugs that are famous the world over. Rich colours are still obtained from roots and spices today by some traditional rug makers who have maintained their ancient art. 

Turkish cuisine that often employs spices such as cardamom for Turkish coffee bridges the gap between the cuisine of the Far East and the Mediterranean. No single dish is regarded as the Turkish specialty, in fact regional dishes are as unique as the varying terrain throughout the country. Dishes primarily consist of yogurt, meats and vegetables which are delicately flavoured with herbs, spices and olive oil. Eggplant is a favourite vegetable and visitors to Turkey are known to comment on the many ways it is can be prepared.  

Turkey is home to the candy-like fondant "Turkish Delight" which sometimes contains almonds and pistachios.  The flavouring of this sweet comes from the country's famous rose essential oil, which is supplied all around the world. Rose is a popular flavouring for Turkish cuisine, however it is said that Turks prefer to use flavourings sparingly so the flavour of the main ingredient is not overpowered. Rose water is also used in cooking and is an ingredient in Turkish coffee. 

Turkey also plays a major role in supplying world demands for thyme, sage and oregano essential oils from crops grown in southern regions where the climate is most suitable for oil production. But it is the rose essential oil that Turkey is most known for. 

Rose flavouring in North America may not be as widely used but the love of roses is equally shared by both cultures, however we can be envious of their rose blooms this time of year. 

The winter for most of us is a good time to appreciate a cuppa hot tea, or how about a cup of warm spicy tea?  Chai Tea or Chai Spice Tea is popular in Turkey and throughout the Middle East.  It is usually served hot and milky but is described by one traveler as "it sure tastes good hot when it's cold out. And as a cold drink when it's hot out."   

Chai Spice

Chai Tea is becoming a popular drink world wide. In North America people love to add vanilla to this combination of spices. Blend your own spicy chai and have it on hand for guests or give it as a gift. 
The spice blend may be added to black tea and steeped as usual or added to flavour coffee or even hot milk. The spices can be added to the ground coffee in your filter. There are as many variations to this blend as there are countries that have adopted the flavour of chai for tea. 

Place all the spices in a plastic bag first and crush gently to break them up. Blend the following ingredients together in a jar. Use a teaspoon per cup of tea or milk.  Place the spice blend in the tea pot with your black to steep. Strain and serve.  Some people enjoy this blend of spices in desserts such as rice puddings as well. 

1/2 cup green cardamom pods (do not use white or brown for this recipe) 
10 6 inch cinnamon sticks 
1/4 cup star anise 
2 Tbsp whole cloves 
2 Tbsp whole allspice 
2 Tbsp orange peel, dried 
1 Tbsp coriander seeds 
1 Tbsp black peppercorns 
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and cut into half inch pieces 


Fairy Chimney Photo by MaryAnn Oxendale, Victoria, BC 
Tea Photo Courtesy of Morgue File.

The Culinary Arts 

What's Cooking with Herbs? And What is Gnocchi? 

Much like perogies, Gnocchi is a pasta-like potato dumpling dish made with herbs and cheeses and served with sauces. The combination of herbs and cheeses with sauces is endless. One of the most popular combinations is ricotta and parmesan blended with basil in the dough and served with a tomato sauce. Instead of stuffing the pasta like ravioli, the additions are blended right in.  Cheddar and sage gnocchi is great served with left over turkey and smothered in gravy. Some people enjoy garden greens like parsley, watercress, spinach and even nettles. Gnocchi can even be made from squash, beets, pumpkin and other vegetables on hand once you get the knack of it.   

The key to a good gnocchi is in the blending of the ingredients. As simple as it sounds care must be taken to not over mix to keep the dumplings fluffy. Once the dough has been prepared it is rolled into sausage like lengths and cut into about 1 inch pieces. traditionally Gnocchi is then rolled using the grooved Gnocchi board or butter paddle. A fork can also be used to help form shapes such as balls or twists.  

Gnocchi is gaining popularity because it is so easy to prepare for a busy family and yet is nice to serve to guests with a little wine and some fresh sprigs.  

Gnocchi Combinations

Herbs Cheese Sauce/Topping
Dill Cottage Cheese Lemon Butter
Oregano Parmesan Pesto
Basil Ricotta Tomato
Sage Cheddar Gravy or Cheese
Oregano, Basil Asiago Parsley in Olive Oil 
Chives, Onion Cheddar Sour Cream
Basic Gnocchi Recipe

Take one and a half pounds of boiled potatoes that are still warm and mash by hand. Turn out onto a floured surface and blend in half a cup of flour and two egg yolks.  Add the flour just a little at a time until the dough firms up. Add in your cheese and herbs, finely grated and chopped. Gently fold to mix the ingredients and do not over work the dough to keep the gnocchi light and fluffy. Divide the dough into 4 or 5 sections and work with one at a time. Roll out the dough to form a sausage like shape and cut into one inch lengths. Use a fork or paddle to roll into balls. Lightly dust with flour. The gnocchi balls should not be sticky, nor too firm and dry.. Cover the balls with a damp tea towel and let sit for an hour. 

To cook the gnocchi, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and gently place the gnocchi in. Stir once or twice to keep them from sticking together. Turn down the heat to a simmer and once the gnocchi rises to the top they are done. This only takes about 3 to 4 minutes. 

Lift out the gnocchi and toss in a bowl with olive oil and herbs or place on dish and cover with sauce and add a little grated fresh cheese to the top. Serve hot. This recipe will serve 4 to 5. 

Gnocchi boards are available from specialty kitchen shops. In North America they are sold as butter paddles