Herbs for Tea Dyeing

I love to experiment with herbs and egg dying seemed to be a fun way to see how some of our medicinal plant friends can actually color eggs.  I had been thinking about which herbs would actually dye an egg. My experience with specific herbs like turmeric would certain lend some color to the white oblong canvas.  So this got me thinking about other teas that would color eggs for Spring. I thought about some of my favorite herbs like hibiscus and elderberries. I had been introduced to another colorful tea, butterfly pea, at my market booth.

So I thought about how to best dye these eggs. Do I boil the tea and then put the eggs in a cup of tea with a shot of vinegar?  This is the more traditional way of dying eggs. I tried this and the color wasn’t bad but I had another idea. I thought about boiling the eggs and while making the tea.  So I did that as well. I prefer this way as I did not have to use vinegar. I did not however drink the tea!

The turmeric turned the white of the egg shell a lovely golden color. I was very pleased with the varying shades of gold and mustard.  The eggs also had a natural kind of stripe to them left by the hen who laid them.

I decided to use hibiscus because the tea is a lovely rich purple red color.  My first attempt was to make a cup of tea, add a splash of white vinegar. The color seem to bubble off the egg so I took a paper towel and wiped off as much as I could.  It gave it an interesting designed. My husband liked it as well and thought I had done something creative. Hah! Not really. But it does look pretty neat. So, I decided to boil the egg as I made the tea.   I did learn in graduate school was how to properly boil an egg. Apparently, I had been hard boiling eggs incorrectly for 30 years. Who knew? I brought the herbs, water and egg to a boil, turned off the flame and left it steep.  

I repeated this same process with the butterfly pea tea which makes a gorgeous blue tea. I decided to use the same two methods to see which egg would best be dyed.  I discovered as before that both eggs were the same hue. It didn’t matter whether I added the vinegar or not. I also added one of the turmeric eggs into a cup of the Butterfly Pea tea to see if I can get a green color. I did get a light pastel green.

Still to be consistent, I did the same with the elderberries. The color was very deep purple almost a dark gray.  

I did read about some other plants which could be used to dye eggs. Spirulina, if you can handle the smell, could be use for a blue color.  And of course, beet powder or juice could be used for red. I had a lot of fun working with these teas. I hope this endeavor of mine inspires you to explore and consider better ways to dye eggs.

Turmeric Gold Rush



Turmeric, Curcuma longa, has been used for centuries as a culinary and medicinal plant. Pots, dating back to as early as 2500 BCE, were found near New Delhi and contained the residue of turmeric, ginger and garlic (Avey, 2015). It’s more recent and rapid climb to fame is due to the remarkable effects it has on the body. Curcumin, a polyphenol, found in the plant, has been marketed to reduce inflammation and pain (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). Research indicates that it works just as effectively as common pain relievers like ibuprofen. Turmeric can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions like metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia. Turmeric can also improve the recovery of muscles aches and pain from exercise induced inflammation and enhance performance for athletes and active individuals (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). It takes a small amount of turmeric to reap the huge benefits of this potent rhizome.


Herbal Actions

Turmeric has numerous herbal actions which makes it an ideal plant to use daily. Turmeric works as an antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, radioprotective, and digestive (Prassad & Aggarwal, 2011). Phytochemical analysis of turmeric has revealed a large number of compounds, including curcumin, volatile oil, and curcuminoids, which have been found to have potent pharmacological properties (Prassad & Aggarwal, 2011). We are going to focus on two of its actions as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory.

  1. Antioxidant – Curcumin, a polyphenol of turmeric, improves how our body responds to oxidative stress. Most of the research samples of curcumin were combined with piperine. Piperine (black pepper) makes curcumin more bioavailable in the body. So the body can use more of the plant more effectively. Turmeric increase the activities of our body’s antioxidants like superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD’s job is to neutralize the free radicals in our body (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). Free radicals are atoms that are unattached and looking for a home. Unfortunately, they will create trouble like inflammation and disease when they connect themselves to receptors intended for other atoms. Turmeric can also influence the actions of other antioxidants like catalase, glutathione peroxidase (GSH) and lipid peroxides. In essence, curcumin generally with the assistance of piperine, can increase the activity levels of our antioxidants to help them seek out many kinds of free radicals including lipid based, neutralize them or even keep them from forming, and send them out of our bodies. In doing so, we will have less inflammation which bring us to the second herbal action.
  2. Anti-inflammatory – Oxidative stress and inflammation develop in very similar
    pathological ways in the body and can easily induce each other. Actually,  inflammation will free certain types of free radical species at the sight of the inflammation (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). Also, reactive oxygen/nitrogen free radical species can prompt a signaling cascade that creates a proinflammatory response from the body. Ouch! Inflammation has been indicated in the beginning of the pathological process for many chronic disease and conditions from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to cancer and arthritis to a whole host of other chronic conditions and diseases (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). One major determinant of inflammation is tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α).   While generally a good agent in the body, TNF-α ,when overstimulated, can lead to an overly inflamed state in the body. This heightened increase will produce an almost perfect environment for chronic illness. Essentially, the body begins to break down from
    being on constant alert for invaders and putting out the home fires of inflammation. TNF-α is also regulated by another transcription agent in the body, nuclear factor (NF)-κB. NF-κB is also activated by most inflammatory cytokines, gram-negative bacteria and various viruses, pollution, poor diet, all types of stress, radiation, cigarettes and a host of other detrimental elements. So any agent that can down regulate or decrease the actions of TNF-α & NF-κB has the ability to stop the overproduction of inflammation and, potentially, disease in the body. Curcumin has been shown to block NF-κB activation (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). Curcumin has also been shown to suppress inflammation through many other different mechanisms as well.


These two herbal actions make turmeric an ideal plant for arthritis, metabolic syndrome and hyperlipidemia as well as many other conditions. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials completed by Daily, Yang & Park (2016), concluded that about 1 gram or 1000 mg of curcumin daily was just as effective at relieving pain and inflammation-related symptoms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, as analgesics and NSAIDS and without the side effects. Another group of researchers determined that 1000 mg of turmeric plus 10 mg of piperine daily reduced the risk of cardiovascular events in individuals with metabolic syndrome and those with type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia (Qin, et al., 2017; Panahi, et al., 2017).


Safety and Toxicity

Turmeric is totally safe. However, super high doses can cause GI issues. Some caution may be used for folks with kidney stones as oxalates are high in turmeric. So, if you are prone to kidney stones, use no more than a teaspoon of turmeric a day, or take curcumin capsules (Greger, 2015).

Complimentary Herbs

  1. Black pepper – piperine is the major active component of black pepper and, when combined in a complex with curcumin, has been shown to increase bioavailability by 2000% (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017).
  2. Reishi mushroom – Reishi mushrooms themselves have their own strong anti-inflammatory and anti-metastatic actions (Barbieri, et al., 2017). Combining with turmeric makes for an incredibly potent supplement to combat inflammation.


Suggested uses

As always, it is best to check with your healthcare practitioner but also with an herbalist who understands how plants work in the body.

1) Food – By all means, incorporate turmeric into your daily diet. Add a teaspoon to your soups, sauces, meat and poultry, rice, broth, and baked goods. A word of caution – wear an apron – turmeric is also used as a dye for clothing and for the occasional Easter egg. Branch out in your culinary experiences and try a mild curry.

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2) Tea – Many herbal medicine are delivered by make a simple tea. For a turmeric tea,
you will want to simmer the rhizome for 15 minutes. Feel free to make it with ginger
or into a chai – don’t forget the black pepper.

3) Golden Milk – there are many recipes online. Find one that you like. Here’s one that is
published by one of my herb suppliers, Frontier, in their free Gold Rush recipe booklet:

Turmeric Golden Milk
Serves 2
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 ½ teaspoon grated whole turmeric root (or ground turmeric), plus extra for serving
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon honey

In a small saucepan, whisk together all of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to two mug. Sprinkle with turmeric and serve.

4) Tincture – alcohol extract – You can make your own or buy from a reputable company.

5) Capsules – Again, it is best to check with your healthcare provider but the research
indicates that 1000 mg daily with 10 mg piperine is a therapeutic dose for
alleviating symptoms.




Avey, T. (2015). The History of Turmeric. Retrieved February 8, 2019, from http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/.

Barbieri, A., Quagliariello, V., Del Vecchio, V., Falco, M., Luciano, A., Amruthraj, N. J., Nasti, G., Ottaiano, A., Berretta, M., Iaffaioli, R. V., … Arra, C. (2017). Anticancer and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Ganoderma lucidum Extract Effects on Melanoma and Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Treatment. Nutrients, 9(3), 210. doi:10.3390/nu9030210

Daily, J. W., Yang, M., & Park, S. (2016). Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of medicinal food, 19(8), 717-29.

Greger, M. (2015). Who Should be Careful about Curcumin? Retrieved 2/27/19 from https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/02/12/who-should-be-careful-about-curcumin/

Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 6(10), 92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092

Panahi, Y., Khalili, N., Sahebi, E., Namazi, S., Reiner, Ž., Majeed, M., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). Curcuminoids modify lipid profile in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized controlled trial.
Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 33, 1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.05.006. Epub 2017 May 29

Prasad, S. & Aggarwal, BB. (2011). Turmeric, the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/

Qin, S., Huang, L., Gong, J., Shen, S., Huang, J., Ren, H., & Hu, H. (2017). Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition journal, 16(1), 68. doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0293-y

Pregnancy & Nausea


I have no trouble remembering my first pregnancy and will tell any who inquire about my experience that it is amazing that I had four more children. It was the worse. I lost forty plus pounds during that first time. I could not stand the smell of food and was so nauseous, any tiny whiff had me gagging. The first trimester was spent on my couch as far away from the kitchen as possible. By the last trimester, I slowly was able to function again and to avoid being put in the hospital. Even now – 26 years later! – I shake my head thinking about it.  If I were more informed, I may have had a better time of it.

I recently was speaking with a friend who was having similar nausea with her first pregnancy, making it hard for her to go to work, take care of her pets and be a reasonable human being.  I wrote a recommendation sheet up for her. Here are some of the suggestions:

  1. Listen to your body.
  2. Rest and sip nutritious warm fluids like tea and low salt broth. Solicit the help of family and friends to manage your responsibilities. I recommend seeing a clinical herbalist to formulate a tea specifically for your needs but I also like Traditional Medicinals  teas & almost any organic broths. 
  3. Drink Raspberry leaf tea throughout the day. Forgo the coffee if you can. Try and eventually drink up to three cups. Raspberry leaf is a great overall uterine tonic and has been found to decrease pre & post gestational deliveries. 
  4. Drink Nettle tea throughout the day as well. I suggest altering weeks with the Raspberry. Nettle tea is another great all around pregnancy tonic and is very nutritive to your tissues as your support your baby.
  5. Drink Ginger tea but small amounts. If you can manage it, try a ginger lozenge, slowly chew a small piece of crystallized ginger or a tiny bit of ginger root. You can also try and sip real ginger ale.  I adore ginger. Research has shown that ginger will, at the very least, decrease nausea if not stop vomiting, when taken regularly. 
  6. When you can tolerate food, try and increase calcium intake. Good sources include fish like salmon, mackerel & sardines, dairy (if you use dairy), seaweed (especially kelp), sesame salt (gomasio), tahini and dark leafy greens such as turnip tops, beet greens and kale.  I suggest very small portions initially and increase as tolerated.
  7. Supplement with B6 at the direction of your healthcare practitioner.

As always work with your healthcare practitioner and a clinical herbalist when addressing these issues.  The information above is not intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment, and should be considered for your interest and educational purposes only.

Happy pregnancy and congratulations!


Lindblad, A. J., & Koppula, S. (2016). Ginger for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician, 62(2), 145.

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

Parsons, M., Simpson, M. & Ponton, T. (1999). Raspberry leaf and its effects on labour: safety and efficacy. Australian College of Midwives, Incorporated Journal 12(3).

Viljoen, E., Visser, J., Koen, N. & Musekiwa, A. (2014). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting. Nutrition Journal 13(20).

Weed, S. (1986). Wise Woman Herbal, Childbearing Years. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing.



When my tooth starting hurting this week, instead of calling the dentist right away, I reached for my herbals.  I was curious to find out how herbs could help my tooth. I found there were several little green gems that could help me. I take good care of my remaining teeth. I am a dedicated flosser and brush my teeth with baking soda and My Magic Mud toothpaste. So, I am disappointed and a little annoyed that I have a toothache. But there are other factors that can influence tooth issues. For me, sometimes, when my body is battling a virus just like an old injury, my mouth will be sensitive and hurt. Fortuitously, I am enrolled in a Materia Medica class through MUIH and am reviewing the plant, prickly ash, Zanthoxylum clava-herculis.


Prickly ash, commonly known as the Toothache tree, was used by many Native American tribes to combat pain and digestive issues (Garrett, 2003).  Other eclectics and modern herbalists also recommend prickly ash for toothaches. I have included some dosages and preparations below. The bark and berries are used generally as a tincture and a poultice.

Please note that this information is for educational purposes only and I will always recommend seeing an herbalist or your prepared healthcare professional for medical conditions. 

Alexander and Straub-Bruce (2014) recommend a poultice made from the powdered form of equal parts slippery elm and prickly ash. The poultice is applied directly to the tooth and gum area and would draw out infection and give relief.  They offer the following preparation and dosages:

Decoction: 1 teaspoon in about 8 oz. water, simmer ten minutes steep 30 minutes, drink 2 ounces three times daily

Poultice: topically for tooth pain as a plug or quid

Tincture: Dose .5 to 2 ml (10 to 40 drops) 3-4 times daily: tincture preparation 1:5, 70% alcohol.

Garrett (2003) notes the Native Americans chew the bark to alleviate toothache. It also been used as salve mixed with bear grease for treating wounds and boils.

Whelan (2011) suggest soaking a cotton wad in a small amount of Prickly ash tincture until saturated and applying directly to the tooth (Whelan, 2011).  Whelan (2011) also suggested using prickly ash powder on a piece of white bread. He recommends spreading the bread with some peanut butter, sprinkling the herb on the bread and then molding it around the tooth. (I would suggest brushing your teeth and flossing thoroughly before applying the bread mold and after the pain has relented. The sugars in the bread and possibly in the peanut butter may contribute to further issues.)

So, what did I do for my tooth and more importantly, did it work? I used a tincture that was part of my lab kit from the university and applied it directly to the area, holding the liquid in my mouth for a time. I found it did relieve the pain for at least several hours. Last night when I went to bed, I had no pain and awoke this more morning with no pain. I am still going to schedule an appointment with the dentist – I am due for a cleaning anyway – but I can wait pain free until then.  I am also going to try using the poultice of slippery elm powder and prickly ash recommended by Alexander and Straub-Bruce (2014).


Alexander, L. & Straub-Bruce, L. (2014). Dental Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Garrett, J.T. (2003). The Cherokee Herbal. Rochester, VT: Bear and Company.

Whelan, R. (2011). Prickly Ash. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from http://www.rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/prickly_ash.html

Flower Power

The Power of a Flower


Nature has many elements of power. We can see nature’s force in the crashing current of a waterfall, in the fierce fervor of a forest fire, and in the bullying bluster of the wind. These elements offer power to tap for energy. But nature also demonstrates purposeful power in more diminutive forms like the excretion of a bacteria, the bite of a small ant or the petal of a common flower. Calendula, or as more commonly known as the marigold, has more subtle strength than the rushing currents, frantic fire or rowdy wind. Calendula has the power to heal and to protect the human skin, the human intestinal tract, and the human brain.  Calendula is a wonder herb and has many healing properties. Bringing nature into healing and into supporting our bodies makes environmental and fiscal sense. You can easily grow your own medicine in your own space.

     Calendula flower extracts has been shown to help heal the skin. Research indicates that extracts of calendula acts as antioxidant agents on our skin when the tissue is damaged. The calendula in our soap, lotion or salve will take up all the extra radical oxygen and protect our skin (Alnuqaydan, Lenehan, Hughes & Sanderson, 2015).  Not only does Calendula heal skin cells, it has been determined to manage the inflammation of the stomach lining by inhibiting specific reactions (Colombo, 2015). These flowers may also help protect the brain against degenerative diseases like Huntington’s disease (Shivasharan, 2013). By drinking marigold tea, tossing some petal into soup, or using a tincture infused with calendula, we can support and protect not only our stomach but also our brain from current and potential future damage.

            Calendula has many more wonderful therapeutic applications. Grow a pot of marigolds, harvest some of the flowers, and enjoy the amazing gifts this powerful little plant has to offer.


Alnuqaydan, A. M., Lenehan, C. E., Hughes, R. R.,& Sanderson, B. J. (2015). Extracts from    Calendula officinalis Offer in Vitro Protection Against H2 O2 Induced Oxidative Stress    Cell Killing of Human Skin Cells. Phytotherapy Research,29(1), 120-124.      doi:10.1002/ptr.5236

Colombo, E., Sangiovanni, E., D’Ambrosio, M., Bosisio, E., Ciocarlan, A., Fumagalli, M., &       …  Dell’Agli, M. (2015). A Bio-Guided Fractionation to Assess the Inhibitory Activity           of Calendula officinalis L. on the NF-κB Driven Transcription in Human Gastric       Epithelial Cells.  Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (Ecam), 20151-8.

Shivasharan, B. D., Nagakannan, P., Thippeswamy, B. S., Veerapur, V. P., Bansal, P., & Unnikrishnan, M. K. (2013). Protective effect of Calendula officinalis Linn. flowers against 3-nitropropionic acid induced experimental Huntington’s disease in rats. Drug & Chemical  Toxicology, 36(4), 466-473. doi:10.3109/01480545.2013.776583



Those Awful Cold Sores

UGH! Not another cold sore


Nothing like a cheerful morning “Screw you!” from the universe. You look in the mirror, feel that painful bump as you brush your teeth. You watch in mounting horror as the bump becomes a cluster of blisters which erupt and eventually, scab over right in front of your eyes as the day progresses. Congratulations, you have a cold sore… AGAIN. If the pain isn’t insulting enough, the unsightly blemish certainly is. The anxiety of going out in public? Mortifying. People look at you as if you have leprosy. A fact to keep in mind is that at least half the populations in America have the virus before they are 20 years old (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017). You are not alone in your miserable state. So, why does it happen? And more importantly, how can I get it off my face as fast as possible?

The brief science nerd part

Cold sores are an ugly expression of Herpes Simplex I. This virus is passed from person to person who are involved in close contact like when kissing (MFMER, 2017). The virus can be contracted at any time and can lie dormant for years in the skin or nerve ganglia near the original infection site (de Vries, 1996). An eruption of the virus on the skin can occur at any time but seems to occur more often during times of higher or accumulated stress on the body whether emotional or physical. The body works continuously to keep all systems balanced within itself and to keep all our viral and bacterial loads in check. So when stress is increased or new stress is introduced, the body may have to take some of its little fighting armies to go and assist in those battles, leaving the herpes virus to flair and explode on your face. If you tend to be anxious and are facing a challenge like an exam, an interview, an illness or a new exercise regime – anything that is a change from your normal routine, you may want to keep a few herbs on hand. Lucky for you, several herbs are known to lessen the length of the herpes outbreak.

      A brief word about food allergies and herpes. Any allergy will cause the body to act because our bodies are always working to heal themselves. This will cause stress on the body. So, food allergens like peanuts can trigger a herpes outbreak as well (Ferreira, et al., 2014).

Herpes responds to tannins found in certain herbs (Hoffmann, 2003). Tannins are astringent and will bind to all types of molecules, including the molecules of the virus. They invade the DNA and RNA of the herpes virus cells, causing it to stop reproducing itself. Thereby, stopping the spread of the virus and minimizing the outbreak. Pretty great, right? Tannins will also create a drying effect on the infected area and reduce the swelling and inflammation. Tannins are found in all parts of the plant. These constituents protect the plant from bacterial pathogen invasions. Tannins can do the same for us. Amazing! Licorice has been shown to permanently stop the activation of the herpes virus by invading the DNA and RNA of the virus (Hoffmann, 2003). It’s like the zombie apocalypse for your cold sores, minus the chainsaws, of course…

A few herbs that will use their tannins to help with your cold sores are Lemon Balm, Saint John’s Wort, Licorice, Tea Tree, Peppermint and Calendula. There are many more but I am endeavoring to keep this brief so I’ll stick to the heavy-hitters! Lemon Balm has the bonus effect of anti-viral properties, possibly due to the polyphenolics like rosmarinic acid (Hoffmann 2003; Schnitzler, Schumacher, Astani & Reichling, 2008). Another option is an infusion of St. John’s Wort, Elderflower and Soapwort which was shown to inhibit the activity of herpes simplex I (Hoffmann, 2003). Tea tree oil, balm oil and peppermint oil have also shown to be effective in treating a herpes outbreak (Schnitzler & Reichling, 2008).

Ok, so it wasn’t super brief but I could so write pages and pages about this until your eyes bleed and my name becomes a curse word upon your lips.



The cool healing part

First things first. I am a functional herbalist and a nutritionist. I have two master degrees for both fields of study and can only offer recommendations based on those fields of alternative medicine. Choosing which herbs would best suit your body and situation depends on several factors and should not be done without considerable thought. These factors include the pharmaceuticals or medications which you are prescribed, any other physical and mental conditions which you are experiencing, and your constitution. It would be in your best interest if you have any questions, concerns or complicated situations to find a local herbalist or you can contact me if you like. I am best reached by email (ahedgewitchsapothecary@gmail.com) and we can schedule an appointment over the phone or via Skype.

Secondly, there are thousands and thousands of plants all over this beautiful planet. Many of them have healing properties and can be used to treat the same conditions. I will discuss the ones that I adore and are most familiar. These plants are my allies in treating the body. Herbal medicines come in many forms and can be used for a multitude of ailments. Herbal medicine works on the whole body and targets the causes, not just the symptoms. So, let’s dig in!

Let’s look at the safest and easiest form of herbal medicine for treating cold sores. Using topical medicine will treat the specific area and are easy to apply. Several herbs come to mind and are available in teas, oils and salves. The simplest form of herbal medicine is a tea.

Lemon balm steeped in hot water for fifteen minutes and then applied directly to the infected site with a cotton pad three times a day is so simple and a whole lot easier on the wallet than some of the other medications available to treat herpes. The warmth of the tea is soothing and the rosmarinic will begin to stop the spread of the virus and dry out the sores by containing the virus to one spot and destroying the “brain” and communication pathways of the virus (yes, the zombie thing again).

Saint John’s Wort is an amazing herb and combines to create a wonderful synergy with other herbs like calendula and elderflower. It has such a rich history of healing which will have to be saved for another blog. The beauty of Saint John’s Wort is that it can be taken internally as well as applied as a topical when dealing with herpes simplex. However, SJW has to be used with some caution when taking with prescribed pharmaceuticals. Seeking out an herbalist to minimize any unwanted interactions is the best practice here. [Hint, hint! ;)]. Nevertheless, SJW can be taken regularly to help the body contain the virus and when an outbreak occurs can be doubled to control the spread of the virus. Combined in a ointment, oil or salve with calendula, SJW can be applied directly to the sores. Beautiful flowers that have the power to heal our faces! Plants vs. Zombies – Plants win!

Finally, a few oils can be applied directly to the infected area. Tea tree oil and peppermint oil have been shown to be helpful in containing the outbreak and drying up the sores. Tea tree oil should be used with care and it can be caustic. I recommend just a drop or two to the affected area. Make sure you have something to squeeze when applying tea tree oil. I have very little experience with using peppermint oil for herpes but who doesn’t love the smell! A little “aromatherapy” certainly wouldn’t hurt the situation! 🙂


Astani, A., Navid, M. & Schnitzler, P. (2014). Attachment and Penetration of Acyclovir-resistant Herpes Simplex Virus are Inhibited by Melissa officinalis Extract [ABSTRACT]. Phytotherapy Research 28(10).

Ferreria, D., et al. (2014). Peanut allergy as a trigger for the deterioration of atopic dermatitis and precursor of staphylococcal and herpetic associated infections – case report. Annual of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine 22(3):470-2. doi: 10.5604/12321966.1167716.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medicinal Herbalism. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017). Cold Sore. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cold-sore/symptoms-causes/syc-20371017

Schnitzler, P. & Reichling, J. (2008). [Efficacy of plant products against herpetic infections]. HMO 59(12):1176-84. doi: 10.1007/s00106-010-2253-0.

Schnitzler, P., Schumacher, A., Astani, A. & Reichling, J. (2008). Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesvirus. Phytomedicine 15(9).

Integrating Traditional Principles and Practices of Pennsylvania Dutch Powwowing and Western Medicine

      When space is created amongst two or more medicinal constructs, the healing practices of each can positively influence the others and provide expanded opportunities for healing.  Pennsylvania Dutch Powwowing can offer Western Medicine some principles and practices that could prove very beneficial to positive outcomes for individuals who are seeking better health.  Powwowing not only addresses the physical expression of illness but also the emotional and spiritual whereas Western medicine has historically relied heavily on the physical manifestations of disease.  Three principles or practices of client focused care, rituals and herbal medicines, in particular, stand out for application to Western medicine. However, these are not without barriers to integration into Western practices.

    First, the relationship of the healer and the client is of particular importance in the powwowing tradition. Most Western medicine practitioners interact with a large volume of clients on a daily basis.  This type of flow of care can lack warmth and can create assumptions about a particular client with the seemingly similar presentation of physical symptoms as other clients. Generally, the same treatment or medicines are prescribed for each client with similar presentations.  In contrast, powwow healers spend a great deal of time with their clients and generally have a relationship outside of the health event. Powwowers tend to be part of community and go to the same grocery store or church, use the services of the same plumber, hairdresser, etc. (Dieffenbach, 1975; Kriebel, 2007).  Powwowers also look at what is also occurring in the individual’s life other than the physical symptoms.  It is not uncommon for a powwower to address any emotional or spiritual conflict that may be occurring for the individual (Kriebel, 2007; Wentz, 1993).  Western practitioners could potentially increase positive outcomes for their clients by spending more time with their clients, hearing their stories and considering other causes of presenting problems.  For example, a client presents with high blood pressure and insomnia. Upon hearing that the client has changed jobs and is caring for an ailing partner, the practitioner might suggest breathing exercises, daily walking and valerian instead of a statin and Ambien, as a first level of treatment.

  Second, the PA Dutch powwower uses rituals to potentiate the healing environment. A powwower believes that their healing power comes directly from God and the objects they use such as a powwow chair or a piece of red yarn, represent certain aspects of these beliefs (Donmoyer, 2017; Kriebel, 2007).  They may also have a particular room where they see clients as well.  They may also pray before seeing a client or use a charm or talisman to protect the area from negative influences (Kriebel, 2007). The western practitioner can also infuse within their healing practices, a sense of comfort and familiarity by warming up their exam rooms with pieces of their own selves – photos, trinkets and mementos given to them from family, friends, and clients, things which are special to them – a chair, a pillow, a shawl, etc. By bringing this personal and positive energy into the room, a client will feel comfort and a sense of importance to the practitioner. The western practitioner can also pause before stepping into the exam room, take a cleansing breath, say a prayer, or some kind of meaningful ritual that prepares them to see the next client in that client’s space while minimizing the leftover energies of the previous encounter.

  Finally, the use of native plant medicines in the healing traditions of the PA Dutch healing tradition can certainly influence western medicinal practices. Powwowers generally use prayer and odd charms to provide healing. However, some powwowers will also use medicinal herbs.  Many PA Dutch gardens had a medicinal section that was purposefully planted to provide a first wave of treatment options to the family in treating everyday maladies and illnesses (Body, 1968; Hyde, 1981; Lusch, 2014; Shaner, 1965; Wieand, 1961).  Powwowers may offer a tea of specific herb to be taken over several days or weeks for a particular ailment along with prayer and “trying” sessions (Dieffenbach, 1975; Kriebel, 2007).  One particular and sainted powwower among the PA Dutch was Mountain Mary (Gerhart, 2013).  She was renowned for medicinal herb gardens and treated people from her garden. She was a botanist and devoted much of her life to providing comfort and healing to others.  Western practitioners could certainly incorporate herbal medicines into their repertoire of treatments. Herbal medicines in many first world countries like Germany, are the some of the first lines of treatments. In the west, practitioners tend to prescribe pharmaceuticals for physical symptoms which could be remedied with less expensive botanicals, and with less side effects.  Herbal medicines are typically available without a prescription and can be found or grown in one’s back yard.

    Despite the simplicity of integrating client focused interactions, rituals and herbal medicines into western medicinal practices, there are several barriers.  Money driven healthcare as well as training and acceptance of alternative types of care are clearly obstacles for western practitioners to incorporate or even consider powwowing practices.

    First, healthcare in this country is money driven (Mahar, 2006). Healthcare has shifted from being a community based practitioner who holds the welfare of his or her patients as the ultimate standard, to corporate base which holds the interest of its shareholders as of primary importance. Most western practitioners are part of a practice which tends to be part of a large corporate group.  For example, when I first returned home, I went to a family practice. East Berlin Family Medicine was a small practice in a very small town. It was easy to get an appointment and time in the waiting room was minimal. Over the last several years, the family practice was swallowed up by a large hospital group, York Hospital. This past year, York Hospital was absorbed into Wellspan Health. My fees to see a doctor increased as well as my wait time in the waiting room and the exam room.  Because profits have become an important main goal in the delivery of healthcare, western practitioners are bound to their employers and their liability insurance providers to maintain steady cash flow. This means less time with patients, over scheduling appointments, and more reliance on labs, procedures and generalized standards of care which in turn, increase costs. For example, if I call my PCP office and say I have some mild and intermittent chest pain but do not have any other cardiac symptoms, the first response is to go to the hospital. Granted, if I am having a cardiac event, this is where I want to go. However, if I am not exhibiting other symptoms and go to the ER, I will acquire huge bills by the time I am finished to simply find out that I am experiencing digestive issues related to stress.  I will be prescribed an acid inhibitor which does not help my problem in the long run and I will still not be well. Overall, a money driven healthcare system is about the profits of the shareholders which will always outweigh the comfort and care of clients.

    The second barrier to integration is training and acceptance. Though in the last several years there does seem to be a shift due to client demand and the profits that are generated by CAM practices.  This shift has been evident in acknowledgement of non western medicines and further research. CAM services are now being offered as part of a treatment plan. Many western practitioners spend a lot of money and time in preparation to become a western medical doctor. Adding more coursework and rotations in CAM protocols and practices may be feasible but not profitable to corporate healthcare due to time and money. However, the biggest barrier is the acceptance that other healing traditions which are not necessarily or obviously based in germ theory or overt scientific evidence have value in healing individuals.  Praying a specific charm over someone to remove the pain from being burned may seem as credible or perceived to be helpful as a prescribed topical.

    Overall, some of the principles and practices of Pennsylvania Dutch Powwowing could have a place in Western medicine. Western doctors could choose to practice truly client focused medicine by spending more time with patients, hearing their stories and listening to what outcomes they would like to experience. Western doctors could also express their beliefs and personal energies into their practice by creating warmer exam rooms embedded with their own mementos and charms as powwowers do. Finally, Western doctors can gain an understanding about the use of herbal medicines as a first line treatment and prescribes these themselves or make referrals to an herbalist or powwower.  


Body, A.P. (1968). The Medical Plants of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania           Folklife 18(1).

Dieffenbach, V. (1975). Powwowing among the Pennsylvania Germans. Pennsylvania    Folklife 25(2).

Donmoyer, P., curator (2017). “Powwowing in Pennsylvania: Healing Rituals of the     Dutch County.”  Glencairn Museum. Retrieved October 26, 2017     from  https://glencairnmuseum.org/newsletter/2017/3/2/powwowing-in-pennsylvania.

Gerhart, T., ed. (2013). Der Reggeboge. Journal of the Pennsylvania German Society 47(1).

Hyde C. (1981). An Early Pennsylvania Dutch Garden Revisited. Pennsylvania Folklife        30(4).

Kriebel, D. (2007). Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch. University Park, PA:    The     Penn State University Press.

Lusch, R. (2014, April 6). The Nine Sacred Herbs of the Braucherei and the Urglaawe      [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.blanzeheilkunscht.com/2014/04/the-nine-sacred-herbs-of-braucherei-and_6.html.

Mahar, M. (2006). The High Cost of Money-Driven Medicine. Medscape General Medicine, 8(3), 9.

Shaner, R. (1965). Uni Day’s Herb Garden. Pennsylvania Folklife 14(3).

Wentz, R. (1993). Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Spirituality.  Ephrata, PA: Pennsylvania       German Society.

Wieand, P. (1961). Folk Medicine Plants. Mechanicsburg, PA: Remembrance Press.