Hi, I am Valerian,

I belong to the family Caprifoliaceae. My genus is Valeriana.  My latin name is Valeriana officinalis.

I am an ancestral herb for many people. Don in researching his Nordic ancestors found that they often used me. As did the Greeks, Romans and Brits. He takes comfort knowing that his Viking ancestors also enjoyed my soothing qualities.

I am easily grown but you may need to protect me from cats as they love me as much as Catnip.

You can remove my beautiful flowers throughout the summer to decorate your home as that will be encouraging more of my root growth.

Most herbalists use my root, many preferring the fresh root for tincturing. Don harvests ½ of my roots one year and then the other half the next year. Dividing them with his shovel. When we are loved and appreciated by Don we do not mind being used. He often talks to us and tells us that he will be harvesting us for medicine. He also says thanks and gives an offering when he harvests us.

Many people suffer from insomnia. I am great for many sleep disorders and I have been tested many times on my effectiveness and I am happy to say that I passed, phew. I help many people to fall asleep, while others I help to stay asleep. I encourage a deeper and more restful sleep. I seldom cause morning grogginess and I am safe to use.

I have also been used successfully for anxiety. A big concern these days, even among teenagers.

Combined with my friend Johnny’s flowers (St Johnswort) we help with the blues. We make great garden companions with my wispy white flowers and Johnny’s bright yellow flowers.

I am a popular herb and readily available in many retail outlets and online. Don encourages his friends to try me earlier in the day the first time they use me as in the occasion case I cause wakefulness.

Sourdough Rye Bread

This bread turned out amazing.  Baking bread is both an art and a science so it takes a little practice and paying attention to get it to come out how you desire it.


1/2 cup rye flour

1 cup of water

Mixed together in a glass container and cover with a paper towel and put somewhere warm for three days. I use the top of the fridge.  Refrigerate after.

Rye Sour Leaven: 

1 and 1/2 cups of rye flour

1 cup of water

1/2 cup of starter

I mix them in a bowl big enough to add the flour after for making the bread. Mix together ingredients, cover with a cloth towel and put in a warm place for eight hours. I did mine overnight. 

Rye Bread: 

3 cups of sour leaven (which you just made) 

1 1/2 cups of water

2 to 3 cups of rye flour (you want a gooyey thick dough)

1 tsp sea salt

Mix all together and leave for 1 to 2 hours. I covered with a towel and put on top of my fridge.

Get the four 3 x 6 x 3“ baking pan‘s and coat well with oil.

Fill the four pans with the dough after mixing it for a while.

I feel the next step is the most important.  Put in a warm place to rise them. I put them in a pyrex casserole dish with some water in it and then covered it with another casserole pan and covered that with a towel on top of our warmer on the stove.

Important: Because this is sourdough and rye flour I let them rise for about 12 hours (overnight)

When ready, preheat oven to 450° preferably with a pizza stone.

I then placed the casserole pan with the 4 Bread pans (some water in casserole pan) directly into the oven on top of the pizza stone and baked for one hour.   You may want to cover with tinfoil for the first 40 minutes if you do not want to hard of a top crust. I did not do this and the crust was fine especially after storing it in a container. A little crunchy before storing.

Let cool on cooling racks and when ready, slice and enjoy. 






Deep Nourishment


Deep Nourishment

Last night I had a nourishing dream.

I dreamt that the herbs and foods I was eating were deeply nourishing and healing. That they had set up a healing pattern or process in my body. I could feel them working.

The two foods I remember from the dream were home made coconut yogurt (link) made with Dr. Ohira’s  probiotics and reishi mushroom.

Which deeply nourishing foods did you include in your diet this week?

How are those foods nourishing for you?




So many signals.

How can I process them all?

What are they saying?

Who is saying it?

How much am I missing?

Will it make a difference if I receive or miss some signals?

What determines my reception of signals?

The power of perception.

Perception colors what we percieve.

Nonflickering signals are sensory grounded. I experience them with my senses.

They are steady enough for me to read them. I read them as dreams, body symptoms, relationship difficulties or persistent moods. I can explore them. I can unfold them into Consensual Reality or I can enfold them into their essence.

Flickering signals are flirts that flicker at the edges of my perception. What is the energy of this before it becomes manifest? I sense something but it is fleeting. I need a different level of awareness to percieve them. I need to relax my focus and open it to the field instead of the phenomena. They barely reach the threshold of sensory awareness. The are challenging to translate into words. I can catch them easier with movement. They take me back into the dreaming out of the dream. They take me back into the river away from the bank. They reintroduce flow into my life. They sometimes heal and transform without verbal understanding. They work at a very deep level. Deeper then most people want to go. I love the depth. I love the dreaming. I love the river. We sometimes refer to them as presignals. What was the nonflickering signal before it became a steady signal? We tend to favor the solid world thinking that it is real. I suggest that you stay away from quantum physics or your sense of a solid realty may dissolve. It may feel less secure. Open yourself to the wisdom of insecurity. How much has your life changed in the last 5 years or even the last year?

We can use signals as stepping stones to Consensual Reality or back into the dreaming. Both directions may be enjoyable and entertaining. I feel the inward journey to the sentient is more powerful and transformative.


In Dreaming While Awake, Arnold Mindell defines lucidity as awareness of sentient experience, which precedes everything you think, see, hear and do.  When you are lucid, you sense tendencies as well as actualities.  Lucidity is a detached, diffuse state of mind that is essential for working with sentience.  It is adept at catching the merest suggestions of experience.  Consciousness involves writing or knowing the notes of a song, while lucidity is awareness of the feeling background that gave rise to the song. Mindell also refers to lucidity as "cloudedness" to emphasize its loose, relaxed, not knowing quality.  Like peripheral vision, is not focused on any one object or point of reference.  It does not involve working or searching for meaning: nor does it try to achieve, understand or clarify.


Blood type diet

A student asked if I have ever tried the blood type diet and what I thought about it?

I have never tried the blood type diet.

I am not big on any fixed diet as I follow the dreaming.

I do enjoy exploring what different experts say and maybe picking up some awareness that I may be lacking and possibly trying a change and seeing what kind of feedback my body gives me.

I intuitively feel that a diet that harmonizes with our prakruti (inherent nature) and our vikruti (our developed nature dancing to the day, season, weather and place) is helpful.

Lastly I feel there is something to eating foods that run in our ancestral blood. Maybe that is where the blood type comes in.

Believing in a systems approach to all aspects of wellness, our diet is related to everything else in our life, our relationships, culture, food production, ecology, spirit etc so I do not think there is an easy answer or one diet that fits all.

Tao and Dharma

Recently we hosted Arnie Lade one of the co- authors of Tao and Dharma a wonderful book about Ayurveda and TCM. It was co-written by Robbie Svaboda. This is a recording of the Q and A session. It is the first author speaking about their book to our book club that we started in Grassroots Herbalism Community. 

There are a lot of gems in the talk.

My favorite was his explanation of Prakruti, our inherent constitution and Vikruti, our constitution in the present moment. 

Probably not that valuable to watch if you have no understanding of at least one of the energetic systems of Ayurveda or TCM. I love the book and I totally enjoyed the talk. You could also buy the book, read it and then watch the video.

Book link.

Hi, I am Yarrow

Hi, I am YARROW,


I belong to the family Asteraceae. My genus is Achillia and my species is A. Millefolium.

Millefolium means thousand leaved.

In the Middle Ages, yarrow was part of a herbal mixture known as gruit used in the flavoring of beer prior to the use of hops. In Sweden I am called “field hop” and I have been used in the manufacture of beer. Linnaeus considered beer brewed from me more intoxicating than those brewed with hops. Don can attest to this.

Yarrow stalks were traditionally used for casting the I-Ching.

A number of years ago Don shared beer made from my leaves with his friend Holger (who had crafted the beer) while they casted the I-Ching with my stalks.

One of my common names is Woundwort. Wort means herb. I was carried by warriors and applied to wounds to staunch the bleeding and sterilize the wound.

I have been known to stop bleeding, both internally and externally and I can reduce excessive menstrual flow.

I am helpful for cramping and may help ease menstrual cramps.

I am one of Don’s go to herbs for fever (hot people, hot conditions - Pitta). I prevent the body temperature from rising too high while allowing the fever to run its course.

Since I am good for violent bruises, cuts and bleeding I come in handy when your body may be a bit battered from an accident. Don recommends a warm bath with me to heal your wounds and calm your spirit

Besides being helpful for fever I also am a good anti-viral and useful during colds & flus, especially when accompanied by a fever.

Moderate antibacterial activity has been documented for a tincture of me against Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtillus, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Escherichia coli, Shigella sonnei and Shigella flexnii.

As a woman’s medicine I regulate heavy or congested periods. I have been used for uterine fibroids which TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) considers stagnant blood. I am also helpful for varicose veins. For both of those conditions I am used in a sitz bath. Don’s study of the extracellular matrix validates that many herbs are more effective if used externally at the same time that they are being administered internally.

My flowers produce the dark, blue, essential oil, azulene, which is generally used as an anti-inflammatory, or a chest rubs for colds and influenza. This is the same essential oil found in chamomile.

Most herbalists, including Don, prefer the use of my flowers. My fresh or dried flowers easily surrender their healing properties to hot water and my taste, though slightly bitter, is pleasant to some.


Hi, I am Willow

Hi, I am WILLOW,

 I belong to the family Salicaceae. My tribe is called Saliceae and my genus is Salix spp. There are 4 common species of me where Don lives in the PNW, they are Pacific, Scoulers, Hookers and Sitka.

Don has a special relationship with me. In his younger days he would suffer occasionally from resentment. After using my essence in the form of a Bach Flower Remedy, however, he found that he was 90% relieved of this negative emotion.

Now he visits me regularly at one of his favourite beaches. I am a generally communicative being, so quite easy to talk to. Don and I talk often.

Don likes the thermos method of preparation. Don just cuts off some of my young branches and leaves, and places them into the hot water in the thermos. Be sure to let me know that is what you plan to do with me if you happen to be using me fresh. You can ask Don about the mysterious, broken thermos one day.

In his classes Don likes to tell a story by Rubert Sheldrake about when he was a young lad out walking with his grandfather. They came upon a row of Willow trees strung with barbed wire that was 30 feet in the air, stretching from tree to tree. Rupert looked at his grandfather in wonder and asked, “why”? His grandfather laughed and told young Rupert that these trees were once a barbed wire fence made from milled willow wood and that the wood had later sprouted and grew. Closer to home, Don has a friend whose grandfather taught him how to stick a piece of willow twig in the ground and they would grow. That was 50 years ago and today those willow trees are still growing there.

I have wonderful generative powers and some people make a rooting compound out of me.

I am important in the history of synthetic pharmaceutical medicine production as Bayer synthesized aspirin from me.  In 1838, salicylic acid was first prepared in pure form from willow bark.  In 1860, salicylic acid was synthesized.  Then acetylsalicylic acid was synthesized & aspirin was born.  

So, I contain salicin, as well as vitamin C (544 mg\100gr leaves – 10 x oranges) and protein. I was often used as a survival food. Good to know me if you get lost in the woods.

You can use my bark and\or leaves to reduce fevers, reduce the pain of rheumatism and headaches (if you respond well to aspirin you will respond well to willow).

I am helpful for stomach upset, diarrhea, painful menstruation as well as irritable bladder.

Science explains my actions this way, but that is not the whole story. They only deal with the material aspects of us herbs. We have been around, healing people, a lot longer than modern, reductionist science. Anyways this is their take on my biochemical process: the glycoside salicin, from which the body can split off salicylic acid, is the basis of the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of willow. The analgesic actions of willow are typically slow-acting but last longer than standard aspirin products.

Aspirin and related anti-inflammatory drugs are notorious for irritating or damaging the stomach.  However, when taken in standard doses, I do not appear to produce this same side effect.  This may be partly due to the fact that most of the salicylic acid in me is present in chemical forms that are only converted into salicylic acid after absorption from the gut.   Evidence suggests that standard doses of Willow bark are the equivalent of one baby aspirin per day, rather than a full dose.   It appears that other ingredients may also play a role, such as tremulacin. 

Current research has found me an effective treatment for lower back pain and helpful for the pain associated with Osteoarthritis.

My leaves are valuable food. My branches are used to make baskets, nets, forceps and furniture. 


Community Herbalist Article - Common Ground - 27/09/2008

Herbalists who put people and plants first by Don Ollsin

The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions. – George Orwell

My first herb walk was with a four-year-old on a farm in California. He led my wife and me on a walk and showed us about 20 plants. Because this child lived with these plants, he knew them intimately; this is the way it was traditionally.

I like the traditional idea of village and folk herbalists. A community herbalist uses more of a folk approach, which means a more heartfelt approach and a focus on the inter-connection between the plants, the person and the environment. A community herbalist is primarily interested in the people, the plants, the gardens and the animals. This speaks of a healing path with heart.

Allopathic medicine attempts to copy nature, trying to figure out which chemicals are in which plants and then copying them and creating a patent. A top CEO of one of the six major pharmaceutical companies earns $250,000,000 a year. That’s fine. It’s a body of knowledge and it’s useful, but it’s a little too economically focused. Community herbalists look more at the energetics of herbs – whether they’re heating you or cooling you down, whether they’re drying you out or providing moisture. At one time, community healers would visit people in their homes. In my practice, I’ve found that if I go to somebody’s home, it’s a whole different story than if they come to my office.

Community oriented healing is primarily focused on the spiritual and emotional needs of the person or community. Traditionally, the village herbalist was the shaman, someone in tune not only with the plants and body, but also with the spirits or energies of the bodies, places and plants. Their healing practices involved much more than the traditional, allopathic “treat the symptom” approach. It could be that they held someone while they wept, and they might give the person Bach flower remedies for their emotions. My philosophy of healing has always been to “treat the person, not the disease.”

Community herbalists are deeply immersed in the plant community. They know which plants can help and which ones are to be avoided. They know the basic needs of the body and the things that commonly go wrong with the body, especially in the communities in which they live. I see people growing the herbs they need to stay healthy and happy. I see community gardens where communities can collect the herbs they need. In Fernwood where I live, we have such a garden; it has stinging nettle and milk thistle, plants not normally found in community gardens. Both, however, can be used as food and are powerful healers.

In the Pacific Northwest we have a tendency toward coughs and colds throughout the winter. A community herbalist would be aware of which plants to grow and use for various common conditions. They would advise people how to use them safely and make them aware of any contraindications so that a pregnant woman, for example, wouldn’t take something that might jeopardize her pregnancy. They would encourage people to take herbal baths and use herbal poultices. If you look at many of the traditional systems, such as Ayurveda, there’s a good deal of hands-on work. I think our bodies are hungry for more physical contact with the plants and the earth. It feels wonderful to soak your tired feet in a basin of hot water that has a bouquet of herbs in it. It’s much more satisfying than merely swallowing a pill.

The idea of paradigms – the way we perceive something – is also very important. Many of the traditional methods, which I consider as community herbalism, work on an energetic model more than a chemical model of medicine. It involves practitioners being trained to work in their villages and the areas in which they live, on how to gather and use the local plants.

My vision for community herbalists is that we would have herb specialists, well trained in and connected to the plants that can be grown in their communities. I like the image of barefoot doctors, rather than white-coat clad doctors, walking in the community with the knowledge and skills to help people. They could visit you in your home or they could meet you at the coffee shop or in the park. They can listen to you and offer sound advice. It is not expected that they can solve every health problem you have, but in my experience, sometimes just listening to somebody is often a great help. Tools such as Bach flower remedies or simple herbal remedies for relaxation can complement any other therapy someone is undergoing, whether or not it’s medical. Everyone needs a healer, someone to support them. Community herbalists also work in the retail setting. Many people visit retail stores seeking help for a cough or a cold. Much healing is done over the counter. My vision for community herbalists is to give them a sense of power and place within our communities.

I also believe that the practice of community herbalism will carry on from the tradition of the elders I’ve studied with: Norma Meyers, a Mohawk medicine woman who has passed over to the other side; Dr. John Christopher, the herbalist who turned so many of us on to herbs in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. (The American Herbalists Guild is full of herbalists who originally studied with Dr. John Christopher.); Ellen White, a Coast Salish native elder from the Nanaimo band and one of my teachers. She celebrates her 86th birthday on September 13. The idea is to keep that tradition and knowledge alive. The native tradition was much more in keeping with the practice of a community herbalist. The people knew the plants intimately. They knew the spirits. They knew the energies. They knew the songs. They knew the ceremonies. My vision is to bring those aspects back into healing.

We no longer have ceremonies. Everyone goes through changes, but we have nothing to offer people to mark their changes and accomplishments. We have no rites of passage. My wife and I have done very powerful rites of passage work with young people and I have done ceremonies for people who have had major losses or upsets. I am also working with Royal Roads University and First Nations elders throughout BC on non-timber forest products, and we’ve established protection for medicinal plants in logging contracts. Again, that’s the idea of a community herbalist. It’s not just about the herbs in a clinical practice; it’s also about the herbs in your back yard and the herbs in the forests. It’s about the herbs in the community.

I also see education as a huge part of being a community herbalist – taking people from the community on herb walks, visiting people’s gardens and advising them which plants to grow for their health. Hopefully, community herbalists will be able to establish herb gardens in schools so kids can learn from an early age. In England, people can enrol in a four-year herbal program at a university, after which they receive a Bachelor of Science. I envision that being available in BC in the very near future.

Link to original article:

Hi, I am Kelp


Hi, I am Kelp, 

I belong to the order of Laminariales, my genus is Nereocystis (Mermaid’s Bladder) and my species is N. luetkeana. 

My common names include edible kelp, bull kelp, bullwhip kelp, ribbon kelp, giant kelp.

I contain ninety-two different nutritional elements. 

I contain more minerals than land plants (our land minerals are being carried to the sea by our poor treatment of our soil).

My leaves' mineral content is 25-50% and they contain all necessary trace elements.

Any salt or salty taste that comes from my dried leaves is predominantly potassium, rather than sodium, making me a good source of potassium. 

I am a rich source of natural iodine. It is difficult to get too much iodine from my natural form but this could be an issue with supplements. 

Regular ingestion of me provides energy and endurance.  

Some of people who use me find I help relieve nervous tension. I am particularly good for the dosha Vata (Ayurveda).  

Another benefit I offer is to pull excess radiation out of the body and to protect against the same.  

I am soothing to the whole gastro-intestinal tract.  

You can use 1/2 - 1 tsp., 1-3 x day of my ground powder, with meals.

Don adds about 1/2 teaspoon of my powder to his daily kefir\yogurt drink.

The leaves from one large kelp plant, when dried and powdered, will fill a small container 3 inches around and 2 inches deep. That is what Don and Sandy ended up with after drying and powdering their last harvest. I go a long ways—-that will last them about one year.

Caution: Insist on the highest quality of me harvested ethically from clean seas.  

If you want to buy some great kelp or learn more about me and my relatives, visit Don’s dear friend, Ryan Drum aka Fucus Man at his web site.