I'm so excited to launch this new "Essentials" series today! Essentials is a series that goes through some of the staples in my home and lifestyle and will cover everything from pantry stock lists and nourishing/supplement items, to body care and backpacking go-to's. Everything included will come from a holistic nutrition foundation, along with several years worth of knowledge from working in the natural products industry. Keeping my daily products as clean and sustainable as possible is always a driving force when I make decisions about what to buy, and from where. I prefer to support local small businesses, artisans and crafters, local growers and farmers and even national companies with a clean, sustainable and holistic ingredient philosophy (along with fair trade guidelines for workers and families). I've realized over the years that sometimes my biggest voice comes from how I choose to spend my money, and who I want to support. 

My Pantry Essentials is a general list of the things that are ALWAYS in my pantry stock room. Lots of dried goods, whole grains, dried beans, herbs, spices and oils. These ingredients are things I use in circulation every day, and I feel so fortunate to live in a city where all of these staples are available (thanks Ellwood Thompsons!). 
Details on a few:

  • I get most of my dried beans from Purcell Mountain Farms. They offer a great variety of delicious organic, heirloom beans!
  • Yellow Mung Dal & Kitchari Spice Mix I always source from Banyan Botanicals. This is my go-to resource for most Ayurvedic spices, herbs and dietary info. I love them to death. 
  • Herbs & Spices I often source from Mountain Rose Herbs for the things I use tons of (like ginger, sage, cinnamon or fennel). 
  • Whole grains I always buy in bulk and store in re-usable recycled glass jars with an air tight lid. 
  • Hemp seeds I source from Manitoba Harvest
This is by no means a complete list, however it's an excellent place to pull ideas if you're looking to overhaul your pantry and then make adjustments to make it your own. I love to try new sources of foods, too! If you have suggestions of great companies or farms that you like please share in the comments. 

At the beginning of every summer, Mullein is usually the first sign that the season is about to hit full swing here in the south. I can't drive down the highway without seeing mullein leaves basking in the sun every mile to two, and eventually those tall, beautiful spikes come shooting up, filled with bright yellow flowers reaching taller than me towards the sky. This is Mullein - summer basking glory that is every thru-hiker's dream to come across. It's one of the most identifiable plants out there, and also one of the most fun to play with and make medicine from. 

Two parts of mullein are most commonly used: the leaves and the flowers (and roots, occasionally). 

The leaves are harvested fresh, and may be dried in the sun to make tea (they're nice and fuzzy soft!). They have a great affinity for the lungs, and are an ideal remedy for dry, nervous coughs. Mullein is inherently moistening, so if you've got that dry, unproductive cough mullein is great at moistening up the mucus membranes to loosen things up by quieting the sensory irritation in the throat mucosa. It works well as primary herb, and even better when combine with marshmallow, wild cherry bark or coltsfoot for a fan-freakin'-tastic cough remedy. The leaves are also very high in mucilages (made from sugars and ironic acid units) which can trap water and swell to form a gel consistency. This mucilage is nice and soothing to membranes internally and also topically when applied to the skin, and have been traditional remedies for ulcers, burns, gastrointestinal inflammation (in the lower GI especially) and topical wounds. It's been shown to even have some antimicrobial and antiviral actions from both water extracts and alcoholic extracts. If you're out in the woods and need some emergency first aid, a mullein plant is a great ally.

To make a quick mullein leaf cough remedy: Combine 1 heaping tbsp dried mullein leaves with 1/2 tsp each cherry bark, marshmallow root & licorice. Simmer in 2 cups water for 15 minutes, covered with a tight fitting lid. Remove from heat and strain. Sip with a little honey to coat and soothe the throat. 

The flowers are harvested when they're in full bloom, bright yellow and covering that long stalk that sprouts up from the middle of the mullein plant. They're infused into an oil (olive oil works amazingly well) for topical anti-inflammatory, demulcent or analgesic magic. As a doctrine of signatures poster child, the stalk of the mullein plant resembles a spine, and traditionally the flowers harvested from the mullein "spine" were used to support lower back pain. This simple mullein flower oil is an all over excellent pain relieving oil that helps to reduce swelling topically. Today, the flowers are most commonly infused into an oil (along with garlic) to make an ear oil for ear infections. I've tried that remedy numerous times (especially when I was little kid, chronically plagued with ear infections) and it works wonderfully well, and usually within 1-2 days. 

To make mullein flower oil (ridiculously simple) Loosely pack a small glass jar with mullein flowers. Cover completely with a carrier oil (I like to use olive oil). Seal with a right fitting lid, and let sit out in the sun for 3 days. Strain out all of the oil using a fine cloth or thin t-shirt or bandana. Discard flowers, and save the oil in am amber glass jar for upcoming outdoor adventure. (If you don't have 3 days for the solar infusion, put the jar in a crock pot, covered 2/3 with water on LOW for about 7-8 hours. Check often as too high heat will crack the glass.)


Tea (dried leaves) up to 24 grams daily, typical dose is 5 grams at a time.

Tincture (alcoholic extract) 7-10ml up to twice daily. 

I'd love to hear your experiences with mullein (and see your self portraits with your #mulleinally) this summer! 

References (for more nerd brain reads on Mullein/Verbascum thapsus)

Turker AU, Camper ND. Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol 82.2-3 (2002) 117-25

Serkedjieva J. Combined antiinfluenza virus activity of Flos verbasci infusion and amantadine derivatives. Phytother Res 14.7 (2000) 571-4

Braun & Cohen. (2007). herbs & natural supplements; An evidence based guide. Second Edition. Elsevier Press. 

Before we get all caught up in the nitty gritty details that is formulating herbal teas, take a peek back at my previous post about the Ritual of Herbal Tea (to get you in the mood). This post is designed for the super nerdy herbal enthusiast who wants to take their tea blending a step past their "shot in the dark" kitchen formulations and get a little bit more targeted with their teas. Now there's a lot to be said for those wild and weedy concoctions from your backyard doing a lot of good for the common ailments and I'll always have a special place in my heart for those summer time foraging tea parties. And when it comes to the more clinical applications of herbal teas, we can get super specific and pretty darn effective when we know how to blend herbs to maximize their therapeutic potential. 

When I'm putting together a specialized blend for someone, I've usually spent at least an hour with them (or know them pretty well already) so I have a sense of who they are and what their constitution is. Determining which dosha is currently dominant will greatly enhance the formulation. It's important for me to not only formulate for their primary health concerns, but to match the herbs with that person (herbal allies). As I've heard my teachers say, "There is no herb for arthritis. But there are great herbs for your Aunt who has arthritis". Get to know the person you're formulating for, how they think, how they speak, what emotions are underlying, and of course what's going on physiologically/what might be a little imbalanced. "It's more important to know the person who has a disease than what disease a person has". -Hippocrates 

I'm going to primarily focus on tea blending, but the same guidelines hold true for tinctures and powder formulations too. 

Herbal Tea Formulating:

1. Monarch - Principle acting herb. Targets energetic ailment and also primary health concern (ex. Anti-inflammatory, carminative, demulcent, astringent, nevine etc). 

2. Minister - Strengthens the curative effect of the monarch (secondary acting herb). 

3. Adjuvant - Neutralizes adverse effects of the monarch + minister (balancing the energetics of the formula here. If the first two herbs are warm/hot, add a cooling herb to balance). 

4. Guide - Harmonizes the action of other herbs. Enhances absorption or uptake into specific organs. Synergist to tie the other herbs together. 

There are different schools of thought as to how many herbs should be in a formula. Chinese and Ayurvedic formulas can have upwards of 20+ herbs, western formulas may have 3-7.  I usually use between 3-6. I find that when I go beyond 6 or 7 the formula/my train of thought is too convoluted and not targeted enough. Try to focus on 1 (occasionally 2) main areas of focus, like calming their digestion (with anti-spasmodic herbs, cooling carminitves) and supporting their stress response (with calming adaptogens and adrenal supporting herbs). Then, take note of the energetic of your formula - are they cold/cooling herbs? Balance it out with a hint of heat like holy basil or ginger. Using the Guide I think comes into play once you get to know herbs well - you'll get a sense of what herbs play well together and which ones just don't jive. If you've got a formula with a bunch of misfit herbs, try adding a "guide' or synergist like licorice to unite them all together. 

Finally, there's the enjoyment factor. Whatever you put together, ideally you'll want to enjoy it while drinking. Medicinal herbs aren't really known for their delicious taste (with a few exceptions) and some can be just plain disgusting. Too bitter, too astringent, too "earthy", too aromatic...everyone has their own tastes. Once you blend a bunch of herbs together it's good to know what the dominant flavor will be. For example, if it's bitter, add a little sweetness to it like lavender. Or if it's too 'earthy", add a little aromatic action with peppermint. 

So, in a nutshell, that's the basic framework of 90% of my formulations. Herbs are SO much fun to play with and experiment with when formulating. If you're just getting started and want to learn the basics about the actions of herbs or their energetics, check out some of my favorite resources like Rosemary Gladstar, James Duke, Henriettes Herbal and Banyan Botanicals. Take a stroll through your local health food store and pick up a few boxes of herbal tea. Check out their formulas and start to notice patterns or commonly used herbs for specific ailments. Drink a bunch of one tea and notice how it's effecting your body. Taking herbs yourself is the best way to get to know them. Just like people, they can be unpredictable sometimes, but ultimately can be consistent if you know your allies well. 

Sip Consciously :)


Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.


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Richmond, VA 23220
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