Wintertime is pretty much here in Vermont. What can we do to stay healthy?
The first thing is to make sure to stay warm and counteract dryness. Scientists aren't sure if cold weather itself can make people sick, but traditional medicine systems have long considered "cold" itself to be a cause of ailments. Studies have shown that immune response might be more sluggish in a colder environment, but how that translates to humans is inconclusive. My theory is that since the immune cells are transported in part by the bloodstream, if our circulation is impaired we're going to have less immune activity.
In any case, experience has shown generations of humans that it's best to stay warm this time of year! So yes, go outside and get things moving, but make sure to bundle up!
Dryness is important to counteract as well - the cold air holds less humidity, and indoor heating makes things even dryer. Moist mucuous membranes are a very important line of defense against germs. Stay hydrated, but also eat plenty of good quality fat to help hold in moisture.
There are two main categories of herbs that can help with the immune system:
1. Immune Tonics
These include astragalus, reishi, and shiitake. All of these basically help keep the immune system active by making the body think that there may be something to guard against.
For example, polysaccharides present in these herbs can activate white blood cells in our digestive system, causing the immune system as a whole to function at a higher level.
Take these herbs daily in soup, tea, tincture or powder to maintain a healhty immune system during the more challenging months. They are considered "food-like" due to the way that they can be incorporated into the diet.
2. Immune Stimulants
These include echniacea and elderberry. These herbs basically kick our immune systems into higher gear very quickly, making them ideal remedies when people first feel signs of sickness, are around people that are sick, are travelling, etc.
The root is the strongest part of echinacea. The best preparation of that is a tincture of the fresh root - the immune-stimulating compounds degrade afer it's been dried.
Elderberry works well in a variety of ways - syrup, tea (or decoction) or tincture are amongst the most common. Combine it with the elder flower to get a stronger effect.
Let us know if you have any questions! Join us at our "Winter Wellness" class next Monday, 12/2, 6:30-8pm to learn more. Reading this past 12/2/19? Stay tuned on our class and event page for future offerings, we often offer this class two or three times per year.
Stay warm and well out there!
How to make herbal tinctures ("folk method"):
1. Gather your herb.
2. Fill it loosely into a jar with a screw top (i.e. mason jar).
3. Pour alcohol over your herb until it covers the herb about 1/2'' or so. For dry herbs use 40-50% alcohol (80-100 proof), for fresh herbs use 60-95% alcohol (120-190 proof). Plants with a high water content (i.e. fresh roots) should use the higher alcohol percent (i.e. 95%). Vodka or grain alcohol are good choices because of their neutral flavor.
3.5. Optional step - blend the alcohol and herb together to increase surface area exposure for the herb.
4. Place the jar away from light (i.e. in a cupboard), in a cool, dry location for 4-6 weeks.
5. Shake or stir the tincture every day if possible.
6. If after a day or two the plant material expanded and is no longer submerged in the alcohol you may need to add more alcohol. Especially look for this with dry roots and fruits (may need to cover them with 1-2'' or more alcohol from the beginning).
7. After 4-6 weeks strain out the herbal material and store your tincture for use!
It's possible to get much more detailed with your tincture-making, but the above method will work pretty well for most herbs. If you want to be more precise, you can measure the weight of the herbs and the volume of the "menstrum" (alcohol). You can also look up a recipe to find an "herb:menstrum" ratio for the plant you're working with. For example, an recipe might say to tincture a fresh plant at "1:2, 80%," which means for every 1 part of plant material by weight (grams or ounces), use 2 parts of menstrum by volume (milliliters or fluid ounces), using 80% alcohol.
With more potent herbs it's best to be precise and follow a specific recipe in order to take a more precise dose of the final product. For most mild herbs, there is a great deal of room for experimentation and error - herbs like peppermint or chamomile have a wide therapeutic dose range, so it doesn't matter so much what the relative concentration of the tincture is.
The most important thing in terms of safety is to prevent fermentation, mold or harmful bacteria growth by using a high enough alcohol percent. To be on the safe side, the final alcohol percent should be above 30%. When you use fresh herbs that contain water, the final alcohol percent will be lower than the alcohol you add in, as the water in the herb will dilute the alcohol. That's why you need to start with a higher percent of alcohol with fresh herbs. If you want to be very precise, set aside some of the fresh herb, weigh it, let it dry, and then weigh it again to find out how much water was in the herb.
Thanks for reading! Let us know if you have any questions. You can reach us at 802-540-0595, email@example.com, or on our Facebook page. Want to learn more in person? Join Emma for a tincture making class as part of the "medicine making series" on Tuesday, Nov. 5th, 6:30-8pm.
Linden is a common street tree with some remarkable healing properties. Its flowers are relaxing and uplifting, like a warm glow of sunshine - and they taste quite pleasant! In this article we'll share with you more about this wonderful tree, in hopes that you may go out and find it yourself to pick some flowers or just to sit under and bask in its comforting fragrance.
"Tilia" is a genus of about 30 trees in the Malvaceae plant family. In Europe, trees in this genus often have "linden" in their common name, while in the northeast U.S. the common native species, Tilia americana, is often called basswood (though also called "American linden" at times). The species most commonly used for its medicinal effects is "littleaf linden" (Tilia cordata), a tree native to Europe.
Trees in the Tilia genus are found throughout the eastern portion of North America, Europe and Asia at moderate altitudes; they are usually not quite as low as sea level but they are also not in the mountains. The Champlain Valley provides a great ecosystem for these trees.
There are several species of linden which are common street trees in Burlington, including “littleleaf linden” (the most medicinal) along with “silver linden” (Tilia tomentosa). All of the lindens in our area likely have similar medicinal effects but differing potencies.
One way for herbalists to explain a plant's properties is the “doctrine of signatures” which looks at the shapes, colors and other visual characteristics of a plant to find correlations with its medicinal uses. For example, linden’s heart-shaped leaves are indicative of its ability to “gladden the heart” – uplifting the mood as well as physically helping the heart by gently lowering blood pressure and expanding blood vessels. These actions, in part due to linden’s aromatic volatile oils, may also relieve headaches and muscle tension.
When we drink linden tea, eat a linden flower, or even smell linden’s aroma dancing through the air, our parasympathetic nervous system becomes activated, putting us into “rest and digest” mode. This is in part because the volatile oils present in the linden flower act as a nervine relaxant, telling the body that everything is safe. Being in this state allows the body to regenerate; blood pressure lowers, breathing deepens, immunity improves, and uplifting peacefulness is created.
Linden has a cooling and moistening energy, perfect for a hot summers day, and gentle enough for every body – children and adults alike.
These are the terms herbalists use to describe linden's effects:
In the Malvaceae family, Tilias are related to okra, cotton, cacao, marshmallow and hibiscus!
The oldest known linden tree is said to be more than 2,000 years old. It lives in Gloucestershire, England.
Tolerant of urban pollution and extremes in temperature and precipitation, linden trees thrive throughout the streets of Burlington. Favored for its lush shade and aromatic fragrance wafting through the air, it is a favorite among Vermont summer dwellers. The trees can reach up to at least 130 feet tall, towering over us as we walk, blessing us with their shade and sweet smells, reminding us that nature is all around us even when we are surrounded by concrete.
Each species listed below has similar foliage with some differences in leaf color and shape. All species have characteristic light green ribbon-like “bracts” that expand from the center of the leaf, connecting a cluster of tiny yellow-white flowers with long stamens projecting out beyond each flower. These bracts are one of the key identifiers for linden. The flowers remind me of little fairy gowns, blooming for only a few short weeks between end of June and early July, before turning into fruit that looks like a cluster of little green peas.
American Linden/American Basswood (Tilia americana)
Identification: Asymmetrical, long, heart shaped, deep green, non-serrated leaves.
Habitat: Found wild in sugar maple-basswood forests throughout the northeastern United States and southern Quebec, Canada.
Medicinal uses: The flowers are not as fragrant, so may be less potent, but may have similar effects to the more commonly used species.
Silver Linden (Tilia tomentosa)
Identification: Non-serrated leaves are often asymmetrical, heart shaped, deep green with silver backs unique to the silver linden species.
Habitat: A common street tree in Burlington. Found throughout Europe, eastern North America and Asia.
Medicinal uses: May have similar medicinal properties to littleleaf linden.
Littleleaf Linden (Tilia cordata)
Identification: Distinctly heart shaped, serrated, deep green, asymmetrical leaves.
Habitat: Another common street tree. Found throughout Europe and North America.
Medicinal uses: This is the species used most commonly, and is typically what's found in commerce. It likely contains the most concentrated medicinal properties of all linden species.
When harvesting from this tree first make sure that you've identified it correctly by checking more than one credible source. Secondly, only harvest away from polluted areas - it is a common street tree, but we would not suggest harvesting it from a busy road. Quiet, low-traffic roads may be ok, but even better would be a yard or another area further removed from cars.
We harvest the flowers along with the bracts (the light-green leafy bit attached to the flower stalks). Abiding by the honorable harvest, we harvest 10% of the flowers that we see, leaving the rest for our pollinator friends to continue the tree’s life cycle.
Harvest before they've turned brown, as the older, brown flowers have been said to have more narcotic-like effects.
We stretch our arms up to clasp a flower, a handful of sun ray, reaching up into our full, expansive selves.
You can dry the flowers at home by leaving them in on a screen or a brown paper bag in a dark, dry, well-ventilated location. Once dried, linden is delightful in tea, as a hot infusion, and even as a cold infusion.
A cold infusion can be made with both dry and fresh linden flowers by pouring cold water over the flowers and letting it steep for 12-24 hours.
A sun tea can also be made this way, in a lot less time. On a hot summers day, place a generous handful of flowers in a glass container, pour cold to lukewarm water over the flowers and place in a sunny spot to steep for the afternoon.
Linden also makes a tasty homemade tincture.
Thanks for reading, and hope you can spend some time with this lovely tree!
n.d. “Species: Tilia americana.” Accessed on 3 Jul, 2018. Fire Effects Information System (FEIS), 2018. Retrieved from: <https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/tilame/all.html>
Justis, Angela. (1 Jun, 2016). “A Family Herb: Gentle Linden Flower and Leaf.” The Herbal Academy, 2018. Accessed on 3 Jul, 2018. Retrieved from: <https://theherbalacademy.com/a-family-herb-linden-flower/>
Written by Jordan Kleiman, University of Vermont student and apprentice at Railyard Apothecary, and Nick Cavanaugh, staff member at Railyard Apothecary and clinical herbalist at the Burlington Herb Clinic.
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a very common plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is native to Europe but has been naturalized throughout much of North America. It is considered a nuisance or invasive plant because it spreads rapidly, crowds out the environment preventing the growth of other plants and is very difficult to remove from an area once it has become established. It has become the dominant plant in the understory of some forested areas, reducing the diversity of all species (not just plants).
We can benefit our local ecosystems by removing this plant where it grows. Please consider identifying and removing this plant when you find it, and do so early if you notice it starting to take hold in an area. At the same time you can also enjoy an interesting wild food!
Garlic mustard is a biennial, meaning it's life cycle is two years. The first year it appears as a basal rosette of round leaves growing close the ground. It looks somewhat similar to some other plants at this stage, including ground ivy, violets and wild ginger. However the leaves have a distinct garlic-y odor when crushed.
In the second year the plant grows up to several feet high as it flowers and produces seed. The leaves on the stalk are alternate. It's small white flowers have four petals. The seed pods are thin and 20-80mm long. It's small white flowers, rounded leaves and garlic-y odor make it distinctive.
Please either have someone knowledgeable teach you or consult several good written sources before harvesting and consuming this plant yourself. Once you learn it for certain, it's easy to identify and its garlic-y odor gives it away even more so.
The good news is that garlic mustard is easy to remove by hand. The bad news is that it can grow so abundantly and that the seeds can stay viable in the soil for 5+ years. When seeking to remove it, it's important not to spread the seed further. Pull the plant up by the root - don't just cut it down as it will re-grow and go to seed later when cut at most points in its life cycle. Most people will suggest then bagging the plant and sending it to the landfill, because if it's started to flower it can potentially go to seed even after being removed from the ground. But of course, you can also eat it!
First, make sure you've correctly identified this plant (see above) and harvested it from a clean location (i.e. no roadsides or areas that have been sprayed with herbicides). The leaves are the part of the plant most often consumed. Their garlic-y, aromatic and savory properties lend itself to uses like many other kitchen herbs - adding small quantities to dishes as a spice, adding fresh leaves to salad, or making into pesto. It does have a bitter flavor as well which is not as prominent or noticeable when prepared as one of several flavoring agents in food.
A word of caution: though this plant was most likely brought to North America as a culinary or medicinal herb, has a long history of consumption and is commonly eaten as a wild edible today, it should be noted that the leaves have been found to have higher-than-normal amounts of cyanide (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17146719). It may be safest to consume only in small amounts, no more than 2 meals per week. Levels of cyanide may also be reduced by blanching the leaves before cooking. It's bitterness may make the quantity eaten at a time self-limiting in a quite natural way!
Garlic mustard pesto
Making pesto is my favorite way to prepare this plant. The slightly garlic-y flavor blends well with olive oil, nuts or seeds, cheese and other additions. Don't forget to read the caution in the paragraph above!
Please experiment and modify to your tastes! The most important thing is that it contains olive oil, some nut or seed and salt. Everything else is up to your discretion.
2 cups garlic mustard leaves, packed loosely
1/2 cup walnuts (or sunflower seeds, pine nuts)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 tsp. (or to taste) salt
2 cloves garlic (the addition of actual garlic makes the flavor more well-rounded and palatable, but is optional)
Step 1: Gathering the garlic mustard leaves
Use either first year or second year leaves of the plant. When gathering the larger, second year plants it's easy to pull off most of the leaves all at once by gripping the stem at the top and then pulling your hand down from the top to the bottom.
Wash your garlic mustard leaves thoroughly and dry, then combine in a food processor (or blender) with the walnuts and garlic. Pulse until everything has been ground up pretty well.
Add the olive oil slowly to let it blend in, then add in any remaining ingredients and blend until it is a smooth puree.
Once everything is blended together well, serve and enjoy! Does well with the traditional pasta or served on crackers or bread.
Well that's it! Hope that you now may not only be able to recognize this plant and understand it's effects on the ecosystem, but also know that you can turn what could be a nuisance into something tasty to enjoy!
Written by Nick Cavanaugh, staff member at Railyard Apothecary and clinical herbalist at the Burlington Herb Clinic. Learn more about harvesting wild plants by joining Nick for an upcoming foraging presentation at Fjall Raven on Saturday, May 19th at 5pm, or for an urban plant walk at Railyard Apothecary on Tues., May 22nd at 6pm. Learn more about Nick's work at nickherbalist.com.
It's a new year - time for new steps, changes and beginnings. For many people this means prioritizing health and well-being. We're very happy to help you meet your goals by making a wide diversity of health and wellness classes available to people in any walk of life. Our wish is that with education you will feel empowered to make the changes you envision in your life. Whether it's all new to you, or you have plenty of experience already, we have something for you.
Feeling ready to dive right into learning? We have two options for those who would like to commit more fully to their health this year:
Classes can also be attended on a one-time basis. The average cost is $20/class.
We offer anywhere from 3-5 classes/week in our classroom space at Railyard Apothecary, 270 Battery St. in Burlington. We also offer individual herbal education to address specific challenges in the form of consultations - those are available on a walk-in basis at the apothecary ($15 for 15 minutes) or by appointment with our partners at the Burlington Herb Clinic.
Check out the list of classes below:
Class categories (scroll down to find the classes in each)
Basic herbalism classes
For many people herbs are an appealing way to support health because they are natural, effective, affordable and very safe. However for most people knowing how and where to begin with herbs is a challenge. That's where we come in. With years of experience learning about herbs and teaching others, we make the wide world of medicinal plants more accessible to all with our basic herbalism classes:
January 30 - Kitchen Cabinet Know-How
January 31, February 27, March 27, April 24 - Herb Tasting Group: Honing Our Senses and Intuition
February 6, 13, 20- Medicine Making Series
February 7- Wound Care with Herbs and Intelligent Response
February 8 - Herbs for the Mind and Heart
February 22 - Beyond the Brush: Mouth Care for Greater Health
March 6 - Planning and Planting Your Garden
April 5, 12, 19 - Digestive Health Series
April 25- First Foray - A Wild Food and Medicine Expedition
Special topics in herbalism
Some people may be looking for more specific information about herbs that can help for specific groups of people or tackling specific health challenges. These classes are suitable both for beginners as well as those with experience who would like to expand their knowledge to more areas:
January 29 - Natural Approaches to Diabetes and Blood Sugar Dysregulation
February 1 - Herbs for Students: Natural Resilience, Calm and Focus
February 5 - Sexual Trauma Recovery Using Plant Medicine and Magic
March 7 - Herbal Wisdom for Pregnancy and Labor for Parents and Birth Workers
March 8 - Herbal Support for Autistics
Other wellness topics
We are very lucky to have a wide variety of practitioners bringing health and well-being to our community with a multitude of modalities. These classes with our community partners are a great way to expand your wellness repertoire:
January 17 - You Can Do This: A Mind and Body Approach to Quitting Smoking
January 21, February 18 - CBD Guided Meditation
January 23 - DIY Aromatherapy: Essential Oils + CBD
January 25 - Abhyanga: The Art of Ayurvedic Self-Massage
February 11- Parallel Narratives: Self-development through Storytelling
February 14 - Couples Massage
March 1 - Reflexology to Reduce Stress and Promote Relaxation
March 4 - The Art of Reiki 1 - Discover the Healing and Spiritual Power of Reiki
March 17 - Essential Ayurveda for Women | The 3 Vital Tools
March 31 - Reiki Level 2
Special events and activities
And lastly, we have a number of events to bring together our community with story, movies, kava and more. Check out our various special events and movie nights:
January 20 - Nature Mindfulness Walks
January 27, February 24, March 24 - Stories of Transformation - Monthly Kava Lounge
March 10 - Medicine Swap!
February 9 – Juliette of the Herbs
March 2 - Seed: The Untold Story
April 6 - Sanctity of Sanctuary
All classes take place at Railyard Apothecary, 270 Battery St. in Burlington. To arrive at the space, continue South on Battery St. past the scuba shop and into the actual railyard area. Veer left to cross into a large parking lot and you'll find a long series of buildings. We're in the last door, in the turquoise section.
Any questions? Please don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-540-0595.
Looking forward to seeing you!
Railyard Apothecary is excited to be hosting a large number of classes throughout this fall, featuring a variety of topics from a plethora of wonderful teachers. This is the time of year for harvest and abundance, and given there are so many things to enjoy we're offering package deals to access them thoroughly. See our detailed class listing by reading further or clicking here.
Season pass: for $150 you can attend an unlimited number of classes through the end of December 2017. By far the most savings, and the way to deepen your learning the most!
Monthly pass: for $70 you can attend unlimited classes for 30 days from the date of purchase.
Here's what we have to offer (keep reading below for class dates and titles):
Roots: foundational herbal workshops. These 1.5 to 2-hour classes are great for beginners, as well as for those looking for a refresher on certain topics.
Branches: raise your learning to the next level by attending a series of classes within a theme.
Leaves and flowers: special topics go further in-depth. Suitable for both beginners and those with experience.
Fruits: the culmination of our work is connection amongst people, connection with plants and healthy thriving communities all around. Join us in celebration with each other and the plants for social events, holiday-themed workshops and more.
Roots: Herb Basics
Branches: In-depth Series:
Leaves and Flowers: Special Topics
Fruits: Special Events and Holiday Activities
You can see all of our upcoming classes and events here, or on our Facebook page. Questions? Contact us at email@example.com or 802-540-0595. Hope to see you soon!
Essay by by Hannah Thorne and Katherine Elmer from Spoonful Herbals.
As the days grow longer and the sun’s rays grow stronger, so too does Vermont’s lush landscape of medicinal plants! Summer is a busy time for harvesting, as many plants have a short window of time in which they are at their medicinal peak. To take full advantage of these short abundances of medicine, Spoonful Herbals hosts gleaning events called Herb Mobs, where we gather volunteer members from the community to get outside and get harvesting with us at our partner sites- including local organic farms or others with documented safe land-use practices. One of these events took place on the morning of June 27th, where we gathered at Shelburne Farms to harvest red clover.
Red clover is a common backyard plant and Vermont's official State Flower. It’s “painted” leaves and dazzling purplish-pink flowers are often overlooked or mowed over; although this plant has a lot to give. It is one of our “nutritive tonic” herbs, providing bioavailable calcium and magnesium. It also enhances functioning of the lymphatic system, which helps the body resolve swelling and heal from injuries or surgeries. It also rivals soy as a “phytoestrogen” which is protective against breast cancer and sources of estrogen from our environment (such as BPA in plastics or growth hormone in some meats). And so, baskets in hand, we harvested the top portion of the stems of this plant: the flower along with the leaf set growing directly below the blossom. We were lucky enough to have a sunny, dry day at Shelburne; the perfect conditions for preserving our haul, and for observing the calming lake water nearby. About an hour in, our baskets were full and we consolidated the plant material into one bag that was then sold to the Railyard Apothecary to be distributed to the community as medicine. We were proud to hear from staff at Railyard that our local clover was beautifully dried to preserve it’s vibrant green and purple color and, as a result, it rivaled the quality of the best organic clover available to purchase in the marketplace!
Proceeds from Spoonful Herbals’ Herb Mobs are used in part to improve affordability and access to herbal medicine in our community. Special thanks to City Market for their generous support of our 2017 Herb Mob season and to our farm partners such as Shelburne Farms! Events like this are a great way to deepen the relationship between neighbors in Vermont (students, farmers, other community members), and to introduce them to the plant medicines available in their natural surroundings. Specifically, the aim is to show them ways that the common plants in their “backyards” can support the health and well-being of themselves and their community. Join us next time! Look for our schedule of events on Facebook at “Spoonful Herb Mobs” or learn more about our programs on our website at SpoonfulHerbals.org.
Exploring Our Inner Ecology: Understanding and caring for our bodies and the environment as unified systemsRead Now
This is an essay written by Railyard Apothecary volunteer Jessica Rich, University of Vermont senior, environmental studies major.
"I don't trust a garden, or a gardener for that matter, that hasn't any weeds..."
- Christopher Hobbes
In Taoist philosophy, nature is viewed as infinitely wise and it is believed that through the observation of nature we can learn to better understand ourselves. Taoism often draws similarities between natural landscapes and the human body and, through this observation of natural ecosystems, highlights connections to help deepen understanding of the inner body .
Railyard Healing Center is now partnering with two local businesses to expand our mission of providing medicine and healing in all its forms.
Starting in June, every Tuesday we will be hosting CSA pick-ups for Golden Well Farm. Their organic vegetable, berry, and fresh herb CSA shares are now available for purchase! They also offer add-ons of flowers, fermented foods, and APIS honey kombucha. For more information click here.
We are now selling medicinal organic bone broths made by the Simmering Bone! We are selling frozen quarts of a variety of flavors. Bone broths are an excellent way to get in easy to digest nutrition, and they are especially healing for the gut.
This winter and spring, Rural Vermont’s Community Conversation Tour will engage communities around the state in dialogue about land use, livelihood, food, and the future of Vermont. At each of the Tour stops, Rural Vermont farmer-leaders and staff will present our vision for a future where the success of our agricultural economy is measured not merely in dollars, but also by the health and vitality of all its stakeholders: our farmers, our consumers, our businesses, our crops, our animals, and our soils. Attendees will be invited to share their priorities, identify structural barriers, and suggest pathways to systemic change at the individual, community, and statewide levels.
Check out the website: www.ruralvermont.org/2017-community-conversation-tour/
Check in here to keep updated on news and activities at the apothecary.