about_top3About the Author

debsouleDEB SOULE is an herbalist, biodynamic gardener, teacher, and author of The Woman’s Handbook of Healing Herbs. Raised in a small town in western Maine, Deb began gardening at age 16. Her faith in the healing qualities of plants and her love of gardening led Deb to found Avena Botanicals Herbal Apothecary in 1985. Five years earlier, while in college, Deb lived in Nepal near three Tibetan monasteries and was deeply moved by the Tibetan people’s commitment to ease physical ailments and mental and emotional challenges with plants, prayer, and other spiritual practices. Today, Deb tends three acres of medicinal plants using organic and biodynamic practices, teaches herb classes, studies pollinators, and consults with clients and health care providers. Her most recent inspiration is the Grow a Row Project

About the Photographs

Over 200 beautiful color photographs are represented in this 256 page book. All  have been taken in Avena Botanicals gardens except for a handful. I am especially grateful for the professional photographers G. Michael Brown, Mary Crowley, Susie Cushner, Lynn Karlin, and Stephen Orr for generously allowing their beautiful photos to be used in this book. A few of the photos were taken by Avena staff and friends. The rest were taken by me. The color images of the plants, pollinators, and people have brought the story of Avena’s garden to life. Thank you to everyone for your contributions.

I used to shoot with a borrowed Leica film camera. I now use a Nikon D50. My photos are displayed without the use of photo shop. I prefer to be in my garden than behind a computer screen.

Book Excerpt



Ever since I can remember I have loved the color green. Long before I knew that a magical woodland garden existed in my home town of South Paris, Maine, I sensed something special was happening behind a particular fence I passed on my way to school. Each morning as I gazed out the school bus window I would strain to see beyond that fence, eager for a glimpse of a flowering plant or a fairy or gnome. Years later, as a young woman, I returned to walk in this garden, which a man named Bernard McLaughlin1 had begun planting in 1936. On several occasions I had the honor of observing this old and wise gardener at work, quietly bent over a patch of bloodroot or primroses or hauling a wheelbarrow full of weeds.
I never spoke with Bernard directly. I came to his garden to breathe in the sweetness of the 50 varieties of lilacs he had planted and sip the nectar of their delicate flowers. It was here in Bernard’s garden that I first began touching plants and paying attention to color, texture, and fragrance. As a young gardener, touch became one of my most important gardening tools, one that with years of daily practice shaped my development as a gardener.

I didn’t come to gardening by way of reading books. Like many gardeners, I fell in love with the tasks and patience required — planting seeds, waiting, watching, watering, listening, praying. I learned, and keep learning, by working and being in the garden, day after day, season after season, and year after year. Thirty-eight years later, as I approach the age of fifty-three, my passion for gardening is deeply rooted in my love of nurturing seeds and soil, watching hummingbirds arrive in spring, feeling a gentle summer rain on my face, and waking to the sweet sound of singing birds.

The early morning songs of birds remind me of nuns and monks chanting. Always in my mind is the memory of when I lived in a small Nepalese village in 1980 and was awakened at dawn by the sound of Tibetan gongs calling the nuns and monks to meditation. Nepal is where I first encountered herbalists praying and chanting while making medicines, their fingers carefully mixing, rolling, and shaping green- and sepia-colored balls of herbs while they repeated healing prayers and mantras. It was during my second visit to Nepal that an 86-year-old Ayurvedic doctor gave me a prayer to say before collecting herbs. This prayer, which I repeat seven times before gathering herbs, binds me to the sacred and ancient task of collecting and preparing plants for medicine.

As a young woman my interest in gardening coincided with two deeply felt longings. First was a longing to understand what being a woman meant to me. The second was a longing to relearn the ancient tradition of using plants for healing. Noticing the womanly shapes of flowers, burls on trees, and soft mounds of moss awakened my senses. The flavors of fresh rosemary, lavender, and linden flowers intrigued my palate. A conversation with Steven Foster, the herb gardener at a Shaker village in Maine, encouraged me to plant herbs in my vegetable garden. And the gift of Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s book, Common Herbs for Natural Health, ushered me into the vast and magnificent world of medicinal plants.

My 1978 copy of Juliette’s book sits torn and tattered, well-loved, in a library overflowing with books on biodynamics, pollinators, meditation, and herbs. Juliette’s devotion to medicinal plants and my own experiences in Nepal inspired me to create Avena Botanicals’ healing gardens and herbal apothecary in 1985.

After all these years, it is still the call of a raven, the taste of a bitter root, the glimpse of a hummingbird’s shimmering body and the smell of a sweet rose that guide me to pay attention, breathe fully, look deeply, and give thanks for the beauty and mysteries life presents.

Footnote:  In 1936 Bernard McLaughlin began planting what would become one of Maine’s most beloved gardens. A century-old Maine farmstead with massive stone walls and a huge barn provided a unique background for his sophisticated collection of trees, woody shrubs, and perennials. Bernard welcomed visitors to the garden whenever the gate was open, creating a true mecca for garden enthusiasts. With no formal horticultural training, tending the garden single-handedly for most of his life, he eventually became known as the “Dean of Maine Gardeners.” Bernard McLaughlin died at age 98 in 1995. Visit the McLaughlin Garden & Homestead in person or online. www.mclaughlingarden.org

The following piece on Rose is excerpted from Chapter 5-Growing, Harvesting, and Using Medicinal Herbs. This chapter describes how to grow, gather and use twenty of my favorite medicinal plants.

Latin names: Rosa rugosa, R. damascnea, R. centifolia, R. gallica

Common name: rose

Family: Rosaceae

Place of origin: R. rugosa is originally from China. It

has naturalized itself along the coast of Maine.

Part used: flowers (whole), petals, hips

Energy of flowers: cool and moist

Flavor: bitter, pungent, slightly sweet

Cultivating: This hardy perennial prefers full sun and well- drained soil. The easiest way to establish Rosa rugosa plants is to purchase them from a reputable organic rose grower or nursery. Once planted, be sure to mulch the roses with straw, seaweed, or organic buckwheat hulls. We use straw in our circular rose garden and seaweed and organic buckwheat hulls along our hedgerow of roses (organic buckwheat hulls are available through FEDCO). Buckwheat hulls work well as a mulch and are easy to apply early in the spring once the roses have been pruned. I learned to be bold when pruning Rosa rugosa from an experienced gardener and permaculturist, Lauren Cormier, who learned rose pruning from her mother. In early April we cut our shrubs back by half. This amount of pruning encourages the roses to produce an abundance of flowers.

Avena’s roses begin blooming in mid-June. Collecting rose petals early in the morning when the air is still is one of my favorite garden tasks. The ruby-throated hummingbirds are often darting about the rose garden at dawn. Our roses bloom continuously for almost 4 weeks. Every day there are hundreds of new blooms to pick. If there have been a few foggy or rainy days when we cannot collect roses, then I nip the spent blossoms to encourage the plants’ further blooming. We prepare over 15 gallons of fresh rose petal elixir and dry as many petals as we can collect before the Japanese beetles emerge in July. (Instead of attacking the beetles with a fearful, disgusted, or warlike mentality, I am attempting a biodynamic approach of ashing the beetles. Visit the Josephine Porter Institute’s website for more information on ashing “pests.” There are very specific astronomical times for using the ashing method).

I gather the rose hips in October after the first frost, cut them in half, and lay them out to dry on screens or in a food dehydrator. I enjoy rose hip tea, especially in winter, combined with fresh ginger root and red lycii berries.

Actions: antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, aromatic, astringent, carminative, decongesting, detoxifying, nervine

Digestion: The antimicrobial activity in rose petals helps resolve infections in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Its astringent and cooling properties reduce hyperacidity, heartburn, enteritis, and diarrhea. Rose petal tea helps heal mouth and gut ulcers. Anne McIntyre recommends using rose petals to clear toxins from the gut.

Gynecology: The cooling and decongesting qualities of rose petals help relieve uterine pain and spasms, uterine congestion, and heavy menstrual bleeding, and clear vaginal infections and inflammation. Roses reduce hot flashes and premenstrual and menopausal stress, including feelings of low self-esteem. Roses ease irritability and anger and help lessen painful symptoms associated with menstruation, endometriosis, and fibroids. A pure rosewater spray cools hot flashes, PMS heat, emotional agitation, red and irritated skin eruptions, and inflamed vaginal tissue. Rose petal elixir is a special remedy for a woman seeking to understand and explore her sexuality.

Immunity: Dr. Vasant Lad, an Ayurvedic doctor and author, recommends macerating fresh rose petals in honey or raw sugar for sore throats and for healing mouth sores. Rose petal tea, tincture, and elixir help clear excess heat and toxins from the body and resolve cold and flu symptoms. Rose hip syrup has traditionally been used by herbalists to prevent infectious colds.

Nerves: Roses relax the nervous system and ease nervous depression, anxiety, agitation, and impatience. David Winston recommends rose petals for people experiencing emotional trauma (including trauma-induced depression) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Roses soothe, calm, and comfort an unsettled and grieving heart. They gently open the heart and mind and inspire a feeling of love and compassion for oneself and others.

Skin: Rose petals cleanse and astringe the face; clear acne, skin blemishes, boils, abscesses, eczema, and psoriasis; and reduce inflamed eyelids (Pole, 2006, p. 252). Rosewater is my favorite herbal water to use after I cleanse and wash my face.

Aromatherapy: A pure rose petal essential oil is uplifting and restoring to the heart and nervous system. The fragrance of rose helps lift depression; eases grief, sadness, and heart palpitations; and dispels physical and mental fatigue.

Glycerite: (1:3 or 1:5) I prefer to use fresh petals but dried can be used. Take 1⁄4–1⁄2 teaspoon, 2–3 times per day.

Honey: Completely fill a sterilized glass pint or quart jar with fresh rose petals and cover with raw honey. Let infuse for a month in a sunny window. The petals can stay in the honey indefinitely.

Infusion: Place 1–2 tablespoons of fresh or dried rose petals in 8 ounces of cool water and slowly warm. Turn off the heat and let infuse for 10–15 minutes, covered. The longer the petals infuse, the more bitter they taste.

Tincture: (1:3 or 1:5) I prefer to use fresh petals but dried can be used; 1⁄4–1⁄2 tsp, 2–3 times per day.

Rose Petal and Cardamom Cordial
1 cup fresh whole rose petals 1 tablespoon freshly chopped sacred basil leaves and flowers 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds (not pods) Place the herbs in a clean glass quart jar and cover the herbs completely with brandy, approximately 2 cups and a bit more. Place a non-BPA plastic lid on the jar, label, and place in a cool cupboard for 2-4 weeks. Strain off the herbs using a funnel and unbleached cheesecloth. I let the liquid drip through the cheesecloth. Though I am tempted to squeeze the cloth, I don’t as squeezing fresh herbs creates a cloudy cordial. Sweeten with 1⁄2 cup of maple syrup, honey, or organic sugar. 


“If you would have a lovely garden you should lead a lovely life,” is a Shaker quote long hidden in some deep cerebral crevice that leaped from my right brain as I turned each beautiful page of Deb Soule’s How to Move Like a Gardener. I nibbled at a few words which engaged my full attention. I couldn’t stop. I had to keep reading; then I returned back to each page to look again, to nibble words again. This garden of words, photos, thoughts, and feelings feeds my eyes, my mind, my spirit. I love this book. It expresses the wisdom of experience; tangible weaves with intangible—earth smells, memories, joy—beauty as it is. Here plants and people are not separate kingdoms, classes, and species. Within these pages we know that we are one family from one Mother. We are nature. Here we find the practical instructions on how to lead a lovely life in a lovely garden.
STEVEN FOSTER, author, photographer, and consultant specializing in medicinal and aromatic plants

Deb Soule is overflowing with the healing wisdom of the plant world distilled through many years of study, experience and observation. Her reverence and respect for nature and deep intuitive capacities are evident in every page of this book. What a gift!
ROBERT KARP, Director of the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association

Herbalist Deb Soule offers the reader a beautifully written, heart-centered gardening book that reads as much like a prayer as it does a practical guide for all gardeners, new and experienced; sure to awaken and inspire one to explore creative ways of tending the rich life held in a well-loved garden.

Weaving stories with sound advise, the author shares wisdom gleaned through years of cultivating not only soil and plants, but also her research and work with the pollinators, bio-dynamic practices and favorite tools used in growing simple herbal remedies to nourish the gardener as they heal the Earth. Honoring traditions, ances- tors and the sacredness of carrying on the work of the wise herbalists that came before us, Deb reminds us of the blessing of being called to this work!
KATE GILDAY, Herbalist, Woodland Essence

Like one of Deb’s hummingbirds, hovering before the inviting maw of a nasturtium, the reader will find this book endowed with glorious offerings of rich nectar. It makes me want to go out and turn the compost pile, one steaming forkful at a time, while slowly chewing a dandelion leaf that protrudes from the corner of my mouth.  Once again we find that by working within nature’s phantasmagoria of diverse life forms, us humans, unleashed from the tethers of telephones, traffic, and time, find ourselves a part of great nature, and in so doing, find freedom.
Richo Cech, Horizon Herbs

This book is astounding! It is everything you want in a book about gardening; good solid practical advice, a spiritual connection to the earth, and visually beautiful. Deb has taken her twenty-five-plus years as a professional medicinal plant gardener, her life-time love of the earth and the plant people, and come up with something very special. This is a must-have book for anyone interested in gardening or the plant people. Run, walk, drive to the nearest book store and get a copy. I promise you this book will be well read, well worn, and well loved.     –Karyn Sanders, Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine

Way beyond food, flowers, or medicine, gardening as the mindful rhythm in harmony with all living souls.



Herbal Medicine and Food
de Bairacli Levy, Juliette.  Common Herbs for Natural Health. American ed. New York: Schoken Books, 1974.

von Bingen, Hildegard. Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica: The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing. Translated from the Latin by Priscilla Throop. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1998.

Buhner, Stephen Harrod. The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2002.

Dalton, David. Stars of the Meadow: Medicinal Herbs as Flower Essences. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books, 2006.

Dawson, Adele G. Herbs: Partners In Life. Rochester, VT. Healing Arts Press. 2000.

Densmore, Francis. How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts. Formerly titled Uses of Plants by the Chippewa Indians. First edition, 1926. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1974.

Duke, James. Handbook of Northeastern Indian Medicinal Plants. Lincoln, MA: Quaterman Publications, Inc., 1986.

Erichsen-Brown, Charlotte. Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Tribes. New York: Dover Publications, 1989.

Felter, H.W., The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology, and Therapeutics. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications. 1985 reprint of  the 1922 edition. Available at www.swsbm.com/feltermm/felters-A.pdf.

Garran, Thomas Avery. Western Herbs According to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2008.

Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2012.

Grieve, Maude. A Modern Herbal. (2 volumes) New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1971.

Haas, Dr. Elson M., Staying Healthy With the Seasons. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1981.

Hoffman, David.  Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

Lad, Vasant, and Frawley, David.  The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Santa Fe, NM: Lotus Press, 1986.

Lappe, Anna. Diet for a Hot Planet. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2010.

www.smallplanet.org and www.smallplanetfund.org

McBride, Kami. The Herbal Kitchen. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press, 2010.

McIntyre, Anne. The Complete Floral Healer. New York NY: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., 2002.

The Complete Woman’s Herbal. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1994.

Herbal Treatment of Children: Western and Ayurvedic Perspectives. (2005). London: Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann, 2005.

Dispensing With Tradition. Self published with Michelle Boudin, 2012. Available through Avena Botanicals.

Mills, Simon. Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1991.

Mills S, Bone K.. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. London: Churchill Livingstone, 1999.

Mitchell, William A., ND. Plant Medicine: Using the Teachings of Dr. John Bastyr. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2003.

Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. London, UK: Gaia Books Limited, 2000.

Montgomery, Pam. Plant Spirit Healing: A Guide to Working with Plant Consciousness. Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 2008.

Pelikan, Wilhelm. Healing Plants: Insights through Spiritual Science. Vol. 1. German ed., 1988. Translated by A. R. Meuss. Spring Valley, NY: Mercury Press, 1997.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing With Whole Foods. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1993.

Pollan, Micheal. In Defense of Food. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, 2008.

Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine. London: Churchill Livingstone, 2006.

Priest, A. W., and L. R. Priest. Herbal Medication: A Clinical and Dispensary Handbook. London: L. N. Fowler & Co., Ltd., 1982. 

Reichstein, Gail. Wood Becomes Water: Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Kodansha USA, Inc., 1998.

Romm, Aviva.  Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. St Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone, 2010.

Rosenfarb, Andy. Healing Your Eyes with Chinese Medicine. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2007.

Soule Deb. The Woman’s Handbook of Healing Herbs. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing. 1995. 4th edition 2011.

Tierra, Lesley.  Healing With the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 2003.

Tiwari, Maya. Living Ahismsa Diet: Nourishing Love and Life. New York,

NY: Mother Om Media, 2011.

Treben, Maria. Health Through God’s Pharmacy. English translation. Steyr: Wilhelm Ennsthaler, 1984.

Trickey, Ruth. Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle. Victoria, Australia: Melbourne Holistic Health Group, 2011.

Weiss, Dr. Rudolf Fritz. Herbal Medicine. Translation. Beaconsfield, England: Beaconsfield, 1988.

Welch, Dr. Claudia. Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life. Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press, 2011.

Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to the Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2008. 

— The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to the New World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2009.

The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1997.

Winston, David, and Maimes, Steven.  Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2007.

Winston, David, and Kuhn Merrily.  Herbal Therapy and Supplements. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 2001.

Yance, Donald.  Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer. Chicago, IL: Keats Publishing, 1999.

Yarema, Thomas, Daniel Rhoda and Chef Johnny Brannigan. Eat. Taste. Heal: An Ayruvedic Guidebook and Cookbook for Modern Living. Kappa, HI: Five Elements Press, 2006.

Herbal Internet Resources

American Botanical Council   www.herbalgram.org

American Herb Association   www.ahaherb.com  Lists herbal schools, seminars, and correspondence courses offered in the United States.

American Herbalists Guild   www.americanherbalistsguild.com

Bastyr University Herbal Medicine Center   www.bastry.edu

Henriette’s Home Page   www.henriettesherbal.com

Medical Herbalism   www.medherb.com

Micheal Moore’s home page   www.swsbm.com

Sylvan Institute of Botanical Medicine  www.sylvanbotanical.com

United Plant Saver’s   www.unitedplantsavers.org. A nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and cultivation of endangered North American medicinal plants. A worthy organization to join.



Herbalgram  www.herbalgram.org

Herb Research Foundation  www.herbs.org

Journal of the American Herbalists Guild   www.americanherbalistsguild.com

Medical Herbalism   www.medherb.com

Plant Healer Magazine: A Journal of Traditional Herbalism   www.planthealermagazine.com

United Plant Savers   www.unitedplantsavers.org



Each of these films is very special and worth sharing in your community and gifting to your community library and health care center.

Herbal Aide   www.herbalaide.org

Juliette of the Herbs   www.julietteoftheherbs.com

Numen: The Healing Power of Plants   www.numenfilm.com

Biodynamic Resources

Berrevoets, Erik. Wisdom of the Bees: Principles of Biodynamic Beekeeping. Great Barrington, MA: Steiner Books, 2009.

Bockemuhl, Jochen and Kari Jarvinen. Extraordinary Plant Qualities for Biodynamics.

Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2006.

Gunther, Hauk. Toward Saving the Honeybee. The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 2002.

Lovel, Hugh. A Biodynamic Farm. Austin, TX: Acres U.S.A., 2000.

Masson, Pierre. A Biodynamic Manual.  Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2011.
A book I refer to often.

Pogacnik, Marko. Nature Spirits & Elemental Beings. Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Press, 2009. A book I refer to often.

Pfeiffer, Ehrenfried. Pfeiffer’s Introduction to Biodynamics. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2011.
Using the Biodynamic Compost Preparations and Sprays in Garden, Orchard, and Farm. Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 2002.

Proctor, Peter. Grasp The Nettle: Making Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Work. Auckland, NZ: Random House, 1997. A good basic book.

Schilthuis, Willy. Biodynamic Agriculture. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2003.

Smith, Richard Thornton. Cosmos, Earth and Nutrition: The Biodynamic Approach to Agriculture. Forest Row, UK: Sophia Books, 2009.  A book I refer to often.

Stella Natura.  (yearly biodynamic planting calendar) Published by Camphill Village, Kimberton, PA.

Steiner, Rudolf. Agriculture. Translated from German by Catherine E. Creeger and Malcolm Gardner. Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 1993.

Steiner, Rudolf.  Rudolf Steiner Agriculture: An Introductory Reader. Forest Row, UK: Sophia Books, 2009.

Steiner, Rudolf. What Is Biodynamics? A Way to Heal and Revitalize the Earth. Great Barrington, MA: Steiner Books, 2005.

Storl, Wolf., Culture and Horticulture: A Philosophy of Gardening. 1979. A classic that is still available and worth reading.

Wright, Hilary., Biodynamic Gardening: For Health and Taste. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2009. Beautiful photographs. A good book for someone completely new to biodynamics.

Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association www.biodynamics.com,

Josephine Porter Institute  www.jpibiodynamics.org

Steiner Books  www.steinerbooks.org


Capon, Brian. Botany for Gardeners. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 1990

Cech Richo. The Medicinal Herb Grower. Williams, OR: A Horizon Herbs Publication. 2009.
Growing At-Risk Medicinal Plants

Coleman, Eliot. Four-Season Harvest. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1999.

Conrad, Ross. Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007

Damrosch, Barbara., The Garden Primer. New York NY: Workman Publishing, 2008.

Foster, Steven. Herbal Emissaries.

Gershuny, Grace and Joseph Smillie. The Soul of Soil. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1999.

Grut, Jenny and Sonja Linden. The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives. London: Frances Lincoln, 2007.

Hemenway, Toby., Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2001.

Henderson, Elizabeth and Robyn Van En. Sharing the Harvest: A Guide to Community-Supported Agriculture. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1999.

Ingram, Dr. Elaine. Compost Tea Brewing Manual. Available at www.groworganic.com.
Visit www. soilfoodweb.com for more information about Dr. Ingram’s research.

Johnson, Wendy. Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate:  At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World. New York, NY: A Bantam Book, 2008.

Logan, William Bryant. Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 1995.

Klindienst, Patricia. The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006.

Klocek, Dennis. Climate: Soul of the Earth. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books, 2011.
Sacred Agriculture. 2013.

Moss, Nan with David Corbin. Weather Shamanism: Harmonizing Our Connection with the Elements. Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 2008.

Nabhan, Gary Paul. Enduring Seeds. Berkeley, CA: North Point Press, 1989.

Phillips, Micheal. The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011.

Ray, Janisse. The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012.

Schaefer, Peg. The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011.

Seronde, Adele. Our Sacred Garden. Sedona, AZ: Sanctuary Publications, 2010.

Shapiro, Howard Yana and John Harrison. Gardening for the Future of the Earth. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2000.

Shiva, Vandana. Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. Brooklyn, NY and Boston, MA: South End Press, 1988, 2010.
Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, 2008.

Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace, 2005.

–Water Wars, 2002.

–Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply, 2000.

–Bio Piracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, 1997.

Monocultures of the Mind, 1995.

Wilfong, Cheryl. The Meditative Gardener: Cultivating Mindfulness of Body, Feelings, and Mind. Putney, VT: Heart Path Press, L3C, 2010.

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)

MOFGA publishes an excellent quarterly newspaper and sponsors the annual Common Ground Fair.  www.mofga.org

Native Seeds/SEARCH  www.nativeseeds.org

Northeast Organic Farming Association  (NOFA)  www.nofa.org

The Orion Society  www.orionsociety.org  This journal includes poetry, science, and provocative writing and photographs about diverse topics that affect all of us.

Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply  www.groworganic.com

Slow Food USA  www.slowfoodusa.org


Buchmann, Stephen L., and Nabhan, Gary Paul. The Forgotten Pollinators. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1996.

Canadian Bidiversity Institute. Creating habitat in school grounds.

Bill Hilton, Jr., Executive Director of the Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, leads educational trips to Costa Rica, Belize, and Nicaragua, focused on the ruby-throated hummingbird. To learn more about Bill’s work with hummingbirds and other educational outreach initiatives visit   www.hiltonpond.org

Journey North. Information on migrating wildlife, including monarch butterflies, and ways to participate in the seasonal tracking program.

Monarch Watch. An educational outreach program that promotes the conservation of monarch butterflies and education activities about the fall migration. www.monarchwatch.org

Nabhan, Gary Paul. Cross-Pollinations: The Marriage of Science and Poetry. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2004.

National Academy of Science. Status of Pollinators in North America. Washington, DC.: The National Academies Press, 2007.

NatureServe. An online encyclopedia of information on more than 70,000 plants, animals, and ecosystems in the United States and Canada, including documentation on the status of rare and endangered species.

O’Toole, Christopher and Anthony Raw. Bees of the World. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc., 1999. This book is filled with color photographs and line drawing and presents comprehensive information of bee species from around the world.

Pesticide Action Network North America. Works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.     www.panna.org

Pollinator Partnership. Founder of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. Made up of conservation groups, universities, and government agencies from Canada, Mexico, and the United States.       www.pollinator.org.

Roth, Sally. Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to Your Backyard. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2001.

The Xerces Society Guide. Attracting Native Pollinators. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2011. An excellent book.

The Xerces Society, dedicated to North America’s native pollinators, is a worthy nonprofit conservation organization to support. Founded in 1971, the society protects insects and other invertebrates through advocacy, education, policy development and research projects aimed at protecting and managing critical habitat.

Meditation and Spiritual Inspiration

Adyashanti. Falling into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2011.
True Meditation, 2006.

The Way of Liberation. 2012.

Brach, Tara. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2003.
True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.  2012.

Carpenter, Judith Perry. Peacework Quilt: 365 Meditative Offerings. Rockland, Maine: Seafire Press, 2009.

Chodron, Pema. Comfortable With Uncertainty. Boston, MA: Shambala, 2002.
Pema has written many helpful books for westerners.

Hanh, Thich Nhat. The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1987. A very special teacher who has many books that are worth reading and contemplating including:
The Energy of Prayer: How to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press. 2006

–Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child. 2010.

–Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm. New York, NY: Harper One. 2012.

Halifax, Joan. Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death. Boston, MA: Shambala, 2009.

Klocek, Dennis. Seeking Spirit Vision. Fair Oaks, CA: Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1998.
The Seers Handbook. Great Barrington, MA: Steiner Books, 2005.

Sacred Agriculture. 2013.

Kornfield, Jack. A Path With Heart. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1993.
The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace. 2002.

Macy, Joanna and John Seed. Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1988.

Salzberg, Sharon. The Force of Kindness. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Inc., 2005.
Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience. New York: NY: Riverhead Books, 2002.

Schmidt, Amy. Knee Deep in Grace: The Extraordinary Life and Teaching of Dipa Ma. Lake Junaluska, NC: Present Perfect Books, 2003.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Healing Process: Spirit, Nature, and Our Bodies. Great Barrington, MA: Steiner Books, 2010.

How to Prepare Plant Medicines

An herbal medicine chest or cupboard filled with tincture bottles, flower essences, infused medicinal oils, and jars of dried herbs offers reassurance and hope to anyone in need. There are many ways to prepare herbal remedies, and each herbalist usually has her or his favorite methods. Use your intuition, knowledge, and skills and build upon your previous experiences when creating recipes and methods you like, and which work. Open your heart to the magic and surprises the plants offer.


Preparing tea is an ancient ritual. It is a simple act that adds warmth and pleasure to women sharing their life stories over a steaming cup of tea. Herbal teas are used for administering both nourishment and medicine. The process of making tea directly connects us with the elements of water, fire, air, and the green gifts from Earth, helping us realigion with nature’s healing energies.


A tea made by steeping or infusing leaves an flowers in hot steaming water is called an infusion. If you are using dried herbs that have been stored whole, gently crush the plants between your fingers to open their cellular structure. If you are using fresh leaves and flowers, you can place a few handfuls, whole or chopped (I usually leave them whole as they are so beautiful) into a glass or stainless pot, cover with cool water and a lid, and slowly warm until steaming but not boiling. Keep covered and infuse for as long as you wish. The beneficial qualities of the herb will be drawn out in 10-20 minutes. The longer herbs steep the more bitter the tea will taste because bitter and astringent tannins are being released.

For beverage teas, place 3 TBL of dried flower and leaf into a clean glass canning jar with a lid, stainless tea ball, or tea pot and pour 1 cup of hot, steaming water over the herbs. Cover with tightly fitting lid and let infuse for 10-20 minutes.

Cold Infusion teas: Are more effective for heat-sensitive constituents such as volatile oils, mucilage and for herbs high in minerals. Cold infusions are made with fresh or dried herbs and cold water, left covered 1-8 hours or overnight. Cold infusions draw out

1) the maximum aroma in scented herbal waters like rose petals, lemon balm, lavender blossoms, and rose geranium leaves

2) the maximum demulcent action from mucilage-rich herbs such as marshmallow root and violet leaf

If you are using fresh herbs for your tea, use twice the amount you would use if the herb were dry. This is because the water content in fresh herbs dilutes their flavor.  Let your hands, eyes, nose and heart guide you.


Decoctions are herbal teas made with roots or barks. They need to be simmered for 20-40 minutes in a glass or stainless pot with the lid slightly open so as to avoid boiling your tea. I recommend making a quart that will last you a few days if stored in a cold place. To make a quart tea use 6-8 TBL of dry root or bark. If using fresh roots or barks use twice as much. Simmer 20-40 minutes and drink 1-3 cups/day.

Some of my favorite roots and barks include: Astragalus root, burdock root, cinnamon bark, codonopsis root, dandelion root, and Solomon’s seal root.


The amount of chemical constituents and flavor extracted in a solar or lunar tea is less than for herbs infused in hot, steaming water. However, the sun’s rays and moon’s rays add their energy to teas as they infuse and offer special qualities only you will know.

To make Sun Tea: Place fresh or dried herbs into a glass jar, pour cool water over the herbs, cover with a lid and sit the jar in the sun or moon. I like mixing whatever medicinal and edible flowers are blooming in my garden into a glass quart jar, cover the herbs completely with water, and sip on this water throughout the day when I am gardening. I aim to fill my jar with water 2-3 times during the day to ensure I drink enough fresh water. I love


Find a good quality, raw organic apple cider vinegar as it is my favorite to use when making delicious and nutritious herbal vinegars. Use the various culinary herbs such as tarragon, basil, rosemary and thyme and a touch of the spring tonic greens such as dandelion, chickweed and nettle.  Fill a glass jar with fresh herbs and cover with vinegar. Cap with a glass or plastic lid and place in the direct sunlight. Separate the vinegar from the herbs after 4-6 weeks by pouring through cheesecloth. Store in a glass jar with glass or plastic lid in a dark, cool cupboard.


Tinctures primarily refer to an alcohol-and-water based preparation though on the market today there are tinctures made from vegetable glycerin. Glycerin is a sweet, mucilaginous liquid processed from either coconuts or beets so be sure to look for organic glycerin from the health food store or onlin. Glycerin is an effective solvent for  herbs that are rich in mucilage. Herbal glycerites are useful for children or people who cannot tolerate any alcohol.

Alcohol is more commonly used to make tinctures because it easily extracts many of the different medicinal constituents found in herbs including alkaloids, resins and volatile oils. Glycerin extracts some, but not as many of the constituents that alcohol is able to extract. Vinegar only extracts alkaloids and minerals and vitamins so is especially useful for infusing culinary herbs.

Alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar act as preservatives and therefore have a longer shelf life than dried herbs. Some herbalists say alcohol tinctures last for 8-10 years. Glycerin lasts for 1-2 years and needs to be stored in a refrigerator or cool cupboard. The shelf life of vinegars may vary depending on the quality and percentage of acetic acid of the vinegar. If any of these liquid extracts go bad they will smell funky and moldy.

Herbs ingested in tincture form are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.  Tinctures are easy to travel with and to administer in first aid situations. They are useful when someone is in bed with a flu or broken bone and cannot make tea but can reach for their tincture bottle. Tinctures are also convenient for people caretaking children, elderly people and animals. Another advantage of tinctures is they allow someone to ingest an herb that they might otherwise not because of the herb’s extremely bitter or unpalatable taste. Tinctures are also a method of preserving fresh herbs that only have medicinal value when tinctured in their fresh stage such as shepherd’s purse.

The amount of tincture drops taken internally depends on body weight. A simple guideline to follow is one drop of tincture for every 5-10 pounds of body weight. A 25 pound child or dog would get 3-5 drops and a 125 adult or goat would get 10-25 drops. Nursing infants and young children can receive the herb’s properties through their mother’s milk.

Daily dosage depends on the health condition, ie: is it an acute illness or are you using herbs for long term support such as recovery from a broken bone, post-partum or menopausal support. For nourishing and restoring strength and tone to a particular organ or system in the body such as the respiratory system, a tincture is taken 3-4 times per day for 1-2 months or longer if needed. For acute fevers, coughs, flu or sore throats, you would use the herbs every 1-2 hours in smaller doses. People who are recovering alcoholics or who are extremely sensitive to alcohol may choose to  completely avoid using alcohol tinctures and turn to herbal teas, capsules and powders.


Tinctures are simple and fun to make. When made mindfully and with good quality herbs they contain strong medicine. Fresh plants embody the vital life force (contained within all plants) and I believe this vital life force adds to a tinctures’ potency.

There are many ways to prepare tinctures. The following directions are basic guidelines to assist those of you who have never made tinctures.

After carefully gathering the plant you need, check over and compost damaged parts of the plants such as rotten sections of a root, yellow or chewed tips of leaves.

*  Wash roots if they are muddy. I rarely wash leaves and almost never wash flowers. I do finely chop roots or put them in the blender with the alcohol to expose more of the plant to the solvent. I like to tincture flowers whole and chop or grind fresh leaves.

* Fill a glass jar full of plant matter leaving an inch of space. (I prefer to tincture each herb separately and mix combinations as I need them.)  Completely cover plants with  80 or 100 proof vodka and secure the lid on tightly. Some folks use brandy for some of their herbal tinctures. Shake the bottle 50-100 times. Offer a prayer or song if you wish. I also like to bow to each freshly made tincture.

* Lable and date each tincture bottle. Include the name of the plant and part used. You might want to record your measurements in a recipe book. Also include the place you harvested from and any other interesting weather information or observations you made. I enjoy looking back year after year and seeing what the weather was like or what bird I saw when harvesting.

* Place jars in a dark closet or cupboard and let sit for a minimum of 4 weeks. Shake your bottle several times a week. During the first week of extraction, you may need to top off your jar as the plants absorb liquid. This insures the plants will stay completely covered in liquid.

After 4-12 weeks, strain the tincture through unbleached cheesecloth. An easy way to do this is to place a stainless-steel colander in a large bowl and pour the liquid through the cheesecloth. Tightly wring the cheesecloth, which contains the plant material, to get out what extra liquid you can.

Pour all your liquid into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Label and date your tincture and store in a dark, cool place. Alcohol tinctures last at least 6-8 years, even longer as alcohol is a preservative. Energetically, tinctures may have a shorter life span. This is a personal matter between you and your tinctures.


Weigh out 4 ounces of dry plant material. You can blend it in your blender with 12 ounces of vodka or brandy. Some plants may require a bit more alcohol in order to effectively blend the herb and alcohol together. A general guideline for dry plant tinctures is either using 1 part herb to 3 or 4 parts menstrum (vodka). 80-100 proof vodka works well for home tinctures as it contains both alcohol and water. An organic vodka is available on the market called Rain.


Glycerin is a sweetish, mucilaginous and thick liquid derived from plant or animal sources. 100% vegetable glycerin is available through herb stores and health food stores though you may need to have it specially ordered for you. Glycerin is able to extract plant alkaloids along with the mucilage found in some plants such as marshmallow and comfrey roots but does not extract resin type substances such as bee propolis.

Glycerin tinctures are made in the same way as alcohol tinctures. Vegetable glycerin is used instead of alcohol for the liquid.


When making glyerites from fresh plants the water content of the herb is sufficient for the water component of the menstrum, so use full-strength, undiluted glycerin.

To make a fresh plant herbal glycerite: either chop or grind a fresh plant with glycerin. Your glycerin wants to be completely mixed with fresh plant material. Add more plant material if you need. Pour into a glass jar, cover with a tight fitting lid, label and store in a dark, cool place. After 4-12 weeks, strain the tincture through unbleached cheesecloth. An easy way to do this is to place a stainless colander in a large bowl and pour the liquid through the cheesecloth. Tightly wring the cheesecloth, which contains the plant material, to get out what extra liquid you can.

Pour all your liquid into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Label and date your tincture and store in a dark, cool place. 

To make an herbal glycerite from dried plants

* Powder 4 ounces of an herb. Place in a pint glass jar. Mix 1 and a 1/2 cups of vegetable glycerin and 1/2 cup of distilled or spring water together and pour over herbs. Secure lid tightly and follow the directions above for decanting your herbal glycerite.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love. New York, NY: Harmony Books, 2012.